Senate healthcare leaders from both parties are reacting cautiously to the direction of arguments at the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of the 2010 federal healthcare law. They also are reluctant to discuss legislative contingencies to the eventual decision.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who authored a large part of the law and attended the court's Tuesday arguments, urged caution before assuming the court's actions would require more legislation—such as might be needed if the court strikes down the law's mandate that most people have insurance coverage.
“Let's wait and see what they decide,” Baucus said in a brief interview Wednesday night.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Finance Health Care Subcommittee, attended an hour of the court's arguments Wednesday and was briefed on the direction of arguments by Republican lawyers. He noted the questions of Justice Anthony Kennedy—seen as the crucial swing vote on the law. But legal interpretations of which way the court might decide—based on the oral arguments—continue to vary, he said.
“Whether they declare it unconstitutional or not, nothing is going to happen on comprehensive healthcare reform until after the presidential election,” Grassley said in an interview.
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a senior member of the Finance Committee, said he has considered possible outcomes of the various court challenges to the law that may require a legislative response.
“Anybody smart ought to be thinking about what-ifs,” said Kerry, who witnessed arguments Tuesday. But it's too soon to think about specific legislation, he said “because you don't know what's in and what's out.”