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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bondi encouraged after first day of health care arguments



The delicacy and challenge of the Obama administration's argument before the Supreme Court was summed up today by Justice Samuel Alito when he told the solicitor general: "Today you are arguing that the penalty is not a tax. Tomorrow you are going to be back and you will be arguing that the penalty is a tax."

The words comforted Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who scribbled them onto a sheet of paper from her seat in the courtroom. During a news conference, she told reporters the moment was "very telling."

"Here's why that is important because tomorrow is the (individual) mandate and whether the federal government can mandate and force us to purchase a project simply by being alive," Bondi told reporters during a news conference at the Florida House behind the high court. "The way they can do that is by saying we are engaging in commerce, which of course we are not, and simply by sitting your couch they can force us to purchase a product or by saying they have the authority to do it under their taxing power. Tomorrow, we anticipate the federal government will change their argument and argue for purposes of the mandate they can do this under their taxing power."

Monday's 90 minute session dealt with whether the Supreme Court could even decide the case. That's because the penalty for not carrying insurance has been deemed by some as a tax and under an obscure law, a court cannot take up a tax issue until it goes into effect. That would be 2015.

But both sides in the challenge agreed today that it was a "penalty" and the case should proceed. The court appeared to agree.

Bondi and other state attorney generals, all Republicans, said they believed the law is unconstitutional but that if upheld, they would honor the decision.

"If something is legal is passed, even though I may disagree with it, even though it may cost our state multi-millions, we're going to follow the law," she said. "But it has to be done in a legal way."

A transcript from today plus audio is available here.

[Last modified: Monday, March 26, 2012 4:16pm]


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