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Inside the Boiler Room: Tackling Your Health Care Questions

NBC's Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Chief Justice Correspondent Pete Williams discuss how the recent health care reform arguments affect the 2012 presidential race, and if the Supreme Court's decision could change the Massachusetts health care law.

Thanks to newdayDAWNING...RETURNED, winemaker-4308406 and Nathan-1680585 for their questions!

Video edited by NBC's Morgan Parmet.


MARK MURRAY: Welcome to Inside the Boiler Room and Domenico, after the Supreme Court's oral arguments on health care, the issue of that and the politics are big for a lot of our viewers. We've got two questions.

One from newdayDAWNING who asks, "If the Justice rule against the healthcare law, which side benefits in the upcoming election?"

We got a related question from winemaker who asks, "If Obamacare is found to be unconstitutional, what does this legislation do for the image of the President?"

DOMENICO MONTANARO: Yeah, I think the politics of this are actually pretty tough to figure out. I think there's no question that if you put your historian hat on and this is struck down, that that's a body blow to the President's legacy.

The fact is that this is the signature accomplishment, the signature achievement. Now, but does that mean that he won't win reelection? That's the complicated part of this. I think the fundamental question, the reset, for us to be able to say I'm not sure how much it will actually impact because we're losing sight of the fact that the most important issue is the economy. 

Unemployment, it is still is, all this other stuff that's happening below the surface. If unemployment is headed in a direction that appears to show that it's going down, that the economic indicators continue in a right direction for the country, then that's good for the President.

If it's the other way, then he's in a real fight and with a body blow on healthcare, maybe that deflates the base. 

MARK MURRAY: Domenico, I think you nailed it. Absolutely. I think it hurts his image. Of course, it actually hurts the whole Democratic Party’s image as well. This is something they’ve spent an entire year on. That members of their caucus ended up losing in the midterm elections because of it.

If the Supreme Court were to strike it down, it would be a huge blow to the progressive community. It's pretty much the liberal left which over the last 40-50 years has been trying for universal healthcare. But the politics, I don't think we have any idea. 

There also is the argument too on can Mitt Romney  actually seize on this politically against President Obama since he actually also supported a mandate in his own state. That mandate that Romney had in Massachusetts actually is a question that we ended up getting from Nathan who wants to know, "If the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, does that pose any danger to the Massachusetts health care law?"

We're actually going to turn to our Justice Correspondent, Pete Williams, who has an answer on that to you Nation. Pete, take it away.

PETE WILLIAMS: If the US Supreme Court were to strike down the Federal health care law, it would probably have very little effect on Massachusetts laws and for two reasons. 

First, the federal law is being challenged under the US Constitution. The question is whether congress had the authority to pass it. The challengers say the constitution's commerce clause gives the government broad power to regulate commerce, but not to regulate people not engaged in commerce. 

They say that somebody who doesn't have insurance isn't in commerce and can't be regulated. The Obama administration says what it's regulating isn't the insurance market, it's the healthcare system and everybody's involved in that.

Now by contrast, the Massachusetts system was passed by state law. So there's no issue of the Congressional commerce clause because it wasn't passed by congress. 

And by the way, the state law has already survived a challenge in state court based on state law. 

There's a second reason. The state's generally have broader regulatory authority. They're actually called police powers. Then the federal government does. That's because under our constitutional system, all power not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states. 

For those reasons, whatever the Supreme Court does, it probably won't mean much to the Massachusetts system.