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Supreme Court case not about health; 'Alamo' for federal control

Monday - 3/26/2012, 10:38am  ET

SupremeCourt.jpg
Minh Chau Levan of Arlington, Va., prays with other members of Christian faith organizations in front of the Supreme Court as part of ''Encircle the Court in Prayer,'' on the eve of the Supreme Court arguments on President Obama's health care legislation, in Washington, on Sunday, March 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

'Obamacare' Goes to the Supreme Court

Jonathan Turley, public interest law professor at George Washington University

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WASHINGTON - Arguments before the Supreme Court beginning Monday are less about the legality of President Obama's health care reform bill and more a trial over federalism itself, one expert says.

Many states have argued the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which the president signed into law in March 2012, is unconstitutional, particularly the requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance. Professor Jonathan Turley, who teaches public interest law at George Washington University, believes the Supreme Court ruling could forever change the federal government's ability to claim jurisdiction over state issues.

"The real, major question is not the end of national health care legislation, but the means," says Turley, "and whether the federal government has stepped beyond their authority."

"For states' rights advocates, for federalism advocates, this is really the Alamo," he says.

The question truly posed of the court, he says, is to what extent Congress and the president can claim that a person who doesn't get health care in Richmond, Va., for example, is creating a problem upon which the federal government can claim jurisdiction.

A ruling that this federalist approach in Congress and the White House has overreached could forever change their authority, he says.

"If they lose here, I don't see what would remain for them," Turley says.

Learn more about why this session is really a "court of two," according to Turley, and which justice could have the most sway from the bench by listening to the full audio at right.

WTOP's Paul D. Shinkman contributed to this report. Follow Paul and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)