It was a typical Supreme Court argument – although the stakes are anything but typical – in that the justices asked tough questions of both sides. Seven justices’ votes seem pretty secure: The four liberal justices will likely vote to uphold the law, while three of the conservatives—justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito—appear ready to strike it down.
That leaves Chief Justice Roberts and, especially, Justice Kennedy, the perennial swing vote. Justice Kennedy’s early comment that the government carried a “heavy burden of justification” showed considerable sympathy for the challengers. But toward the end, one of his questions suggested that people who don’t carry health insurance are still engaged in the health-care market—which is the central pillar of the government’s case.
The ruling is likely to come toward the end of June. For three months, people are going to be chewing over those questions by Justice Kennedy. One of them likely holds the key to the outcome—but which one?