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US court set to rule on health care reform

WASHINGTON -- With the U.S. Supreme Court set to rule within days on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's health care reforms many Americans are fearful of the political fallout of the decision.

While the nation's nine top justices are meant to base their decisions on the framework provided by the centuries-old U.S. Constitution, many believe the divided bench could be swayed by their own political leanings.

“What they're afraid of is that the subjective impulse of the judge, rather than something more objective, will control the decision,” Justice Stephen Breyer told AFP.

The high court is expected to render its decision on the centerpiece of Obama's political legacy by the end of June as the nation gears up the November elections.

The Democratic president is fighting to win a second White House term as his Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who has vowed to repeal the health care reforms, erodes the gap in the polls amid the sour economy.

The court will decide if the core of the law, which obliges all Americans to purchase health care insurance or face penalties, is constitutional, and if not, whether the rest of Obama's reforms hold up.

Since oral arguments were heard in March, experts have been trying to read the tealeaves to offer up predictions on which way the court will lean.

Many were surprised by the reactions of the conservative judges, the largest bloc on the bench, who seemed inclined to overturn the law, which aims to provide health insurance to 32 million Americans.

“A lot of us were shocked because most of the experts thought even though we have a fairly conservative court ... we thought it was very unlikely that the law would be struck down,” American University law professor Danny Marcus told AFP.

Overturning the law would deal a blow to Obama — a trained constitutional lawyer — and offer a golden opportunity for Republicans to hammer him on his credibility and leadership qualities ahead of November's vote.

Politics are “incompatible with the role of a judge, 100 percent incompatible,” insists Justice Breyer, one of four progressive top court judges who has refused to comment publicly on the case.

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