A health care reform supporter protests in front of the U.S. Supreme Court as the court begins hearing arguments on the constitutionality of President Obama's health care bill in Washington, D.C. on March 26, 2012. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo
WASHINGTON, March 29 (UPI) -- Democrats have begun assessing the potential impacts if the U.S. Supreme Court throws out a key provision of President Barack Obama's healthcare legislation.
As oral arguments ended, legal scholars and others said it appeared a majority of the justices were leaning toward striking down the law's mandate that all Americans obtain health insurance, The Washington Post reported.
White House officials aren't talking publicly about what happens if the court strikes down the law, but U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said it would be a great loss. "The status quo with respect to the health insurance system was unacceptable to the American people," he said. "This was an answer to a very real problem."
Political analysts say the stakes are high as the court weighs the law and is expected to rule by June.
Obama has "mortgaged his presidency, at least his first term, on healthcare," said George C. Edwards, a historian at Texas A&M University and the author of a new book on Obama called "Overreach." The law "would have restructured a major aspect of life in America. It would have been a major, major legacy for the president. If that is thrown out, he has much less to show for it," Edwards said.
Observers differ on the possible political implications of the court's ruling.
Some suggest if the court throws out the law, it could rally voters who are strong backers of healthcare reform and allow Democrats to paint the Supreme Court as partisan.
"If [justices] overturn the individual mandate and undermine the central element of this bill a few months before the election, it will anger Democrats and rile up the base," said Neera Tanden, president of the left-leaning policy group Center for American Progress. "People will see it for what it is: an activist court rendering a partisan decision."
Some healthcare law backers also say GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney wouldn't be able to capitalize on a decision to throw out the law, given his support as governor for Massachusetts healthcare reform, including an individual insurance mandate.