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Conservative justices question insurance mandate

Jesse j. Holland, Associated Press

Amy Brighton from Medina, Ohio, who opposes health care reform, rallies in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, as the court continues arguments on the health care law signed by President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sharp questioning by the Supreme Court's conservative justices has cast serious doubt on the survival of the individual insurance requirement at the heart of President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul.

Arguments at the high court Tuesday focused on whether the insurance requirement "is a step beyond what our cases allow," in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

He and Chief Justice John Roberts are emerging as the seemingly pivotal votes.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito appeared likely to join with Justice Clarence Thomas to vote to strike down the key provision. The four Democratic appointees seemed ready to vote to uphold it.