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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) ---Thursday's news will be dominated by the long-awaited Supreme Court judgement on whether the recent Health Care Affordability Act and its controversial individual mandate is constitutional and can continue on its path to change healthcare in America.

That individual mandate requires most Americans to pay a penalty if they do not buy health insurance, and one of the threshold questions for the Court is whether that penalty amounts to a tax.

"There is a very old law that says no one can go to court to stop the government from collecting tax revenue, and that was passed a long time ago ( in the 19th Century) in order to ensure that the Treasury didn't run out of money because people were suing to stop tax collection," said Lyle Denniston, a veteran Supreme Court who is now writing for SCOTUSblog.

"If they say we have the authority, then they will move on to decide whether the mandate is constitutional or not.

"If they decide it is unconstitutional, then they have to decide what the remainder of the law can do," Denniston said, referring to other provisions of the law that, for example, prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage, or charging higher rates, to those with pre-existing medical conditions.

Denniston has covered the Court for decades and believes, contrary to the convictions of may partisans, that the Court does not issue its decisions on political grounds.

"This is an institution that, in many ways, is really kind of naive about politics. I don't think the justices pay a whole lot of attention to the ebb and flow of politics, and that's because they have all grown up in a system where they have learned to keep their focus
on a legal record, and political noise exists outside of a judicial record.

"Now, people can believe- and many do- that the justices, when they put on a robe, are simply politicians in a different form of public apparel, but I happen to believe, and I think history shows this, that justices are capable of taking the robe and becoming devoted to the law and legal principle and legal precedent .

"Oftentimes I think they are forced by their judgement of what the law is to vote against what their private political preferences would be," Denniston told 9News Now.

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