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Day one

"Day one" Continued...

The faith rally turned ugly when Santorum showed up, along with his daughter Elizabeth and son Daniel. One man yelled, "How can you not give healthcare to a child, Santorum? That's not Christian!" Another yelled, "Would Jesus take away your healthcare?" The crowd chanted, "Healthcare is a human right!" drowning out Santorum's comments, in which he criticized in the same breath the new healthcare law and the Massachusetts healthcare law under then-Gov. Mitt Romney.

What happened outside the court was all theater-what mattered was inside. The justices indicated that they were willing to move forward and decide the merits of the law, but several of the justices wondered why the government had gone back and forth on its position on whether the penalty was a tax or not.

"Today you are arguing that the penalty is not a tax," Justice Samuel Alito said to Solicitor General Verrilli. "Tomorrow you are going to be back and you will be arguing that the penalty is a tax."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg added, "It seems to me that this is arming the government by saying [the Anti-Injunction Act is] waivable at the government's option."

Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked whether people who don't buy health insurance and pay a penalty are in violation of the law-meaning for example that those on probation who pay the penalty would have their release revoked.

"That is not a correct reading of the statute," Verrilli responded. "The only consequence that ensues is the tax penalty."

Then Justice Elena Kagan followed up, asking whether someone who had paid the penalty would have to respond "yes" to a question about whether he or she had violated federal law. Verrilli said no, but "if they don't pay the tax, they violated a federal law. … If they pay the tax, then they are in compliance with the law."

Justice Stephen Breyer stopped Verrilli, asking, "Why do you keep saying tax?"

"If they pay the tax penalty, they're in compliance with the law," Verrilli corrected himself.

"Thank you," Breyer said. "The penalty."

"Right," said Verrilli.

Chief Justice John Roberts seemed ready to move forward and concluded after 90 minutes, "We will continue argument in this case tomorrow."

Read Emily Belz's Web Extra reports on the second and third day of arguments.

Listen to a report on the Supreme Court hearings on WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.


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