The Gazette: Suthers, Lamborn get a seat at the Supreme Court

March 28, 2012
In The News



A pair of Colorado Springs politicians were two of the few privileged onlookers Tuesday as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the controversial national health care law.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn watch the case firsthand and both believe the law will be overturned.

"Most of the legal observers think it’s the most important legal case since Brown v. Board of Education," said Suthers, referring to the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that desegregated public schools.

"That may well be the case."

The Supreme Court justices on Tuesday heard arguments on the "individual mandate" portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. The "mandate" is a requirement that all people buy health insurance by 2014, and is at the heart of the law.

"Today was the big enchilada. This is the essence of it," said Suthers. And he said he was "very, very heartened" at what he heard from the justices.

Lamborn said he happily watched as the justices hammered Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who defended the law. He was impressed when justices cut no slack for plaintiffs’ lawyer Paul Clement, who attacked the law. The justices, he said, asked "penetrating" questions.

"There was a lot of give and take. It was fascinating," Lamborn said. He added that if he had to guess, he’d say the law would be overturned on a 5 to 4 vote, split along political lines.

Among other things, the law requires all citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. It also prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health-care plans until they are 26, and is designed to cut Medicare spending.

But the "individual mandate," as it is typically called, has long been the sticking point for many conservatives. The 26 states, including Colorado, that signed onto the 2010 lawsuit against the government, claim that the measure is unconstitutional, and that it violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

The reason the individual mandate is so important, Suthers said, is because it would set a precedent for allowing the federal government to require citizens to buy certain products.

"They’re abandoning the carrot and taking out the stick, which is a fundamental change of the relationship between the government and the individual," Suthers said. "Global warming is a national problem, so therefore could they make you buy a particular car?"

Solicitor General Verrilli, however, argued that health care falls outside the Commerce Clause because though many find it necessary, they can’t always pay for it. He also argued that the federal government is regulating an industry that everyone in the country already takes part in.

Final arguments on the law are scheduled for Wednesday. The court is expected to rule by the end of June.

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