The Supreme Court has finished the first of three days of arguments on the fate of the Obama administration's overhaul of the nation's health care system. The justices appear unlikely to allow an obscure tax law to derail the case.

In active questioning over 90 minutes on Monday, no justice appeared to embrace the view that the case has been brought prematurely because a law bars tax disputes from being heard in the courts before the taxes have been paid.

Under the new health care law, taxpayers who don't purchase insurance will have to pay a penalty on taxes due in 2015.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., defending the health law, urged to court to decides what he called "the issues of great moment" at the heart of the case.


Santorum argues his own case outside Supreme Court

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has appeared outside the Supreme Court, where the justices are hearing arguments over whether President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is constitutional.

Santorum pressed his own argument that he's the best candidate to challenge Obama on the health care issue in the fall.

He says GOP rival Mitt Romney essentially is disqualified because he put in place a similar law in Massachusetts when he was governor, including a requirement that all residents buy health insurance.

A similar so-called "individual mandate" in Obama's law has drawn the ire of conservatives, including Santorum.

Appealing to conservatives, Santorum said: "If you really want Obamacare repealed there's only one person who can make that happen."

Santorum won Louisiana's primary Saturday but continues to lag behind Romney.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)