A first report from today's oral argument about the applicability of the Anti-Injunction Act to the Obamacare litigation. Kevin Russell says that there was "skeptical questioning from at least 5 Justices." They all seemed to want to get over the purported threshold barrier and on to the substantive merits of the case, though they seemed to who were offering different theories about why they should go forward with the case.
According to Russell, Justices Breyer and Sotomayor focused on the idea that the penalty for failure to buy insurance is not a tax. Justice Scalia gravitated toward a rule of statutory construction: jurisdictional limits are usually construed narrowly. Justice Alito looked at the government's failure to raise the Anti-Injunction Act bar, which could constitute a waiver of the bar that would be effective as long as the Act isn't considered a jurisdictional limitation (that is, a limit on the judicial power that the courts must observe whether the parties want them to or not).
The Chief Justice asked the Solicitor General (representing the U.S. government) to waive the Anti-Injunction Act (which would be effective only if the bar is not jurisdictional), but he refused. The Chief pressed him: Why would it not be in the interest of the United States to waive the Act? From Russell's report, it sound like the SG's answer stress the importance in other cases of having the act work as a jurisdictional bar. (That is, it helps the U.S. collect taxes if it lacks the power to waive the limitation, because in those other cases, the government's lawyers may fail to raise the bar in time to avoid waiver and then later want to invoke it.)
UPDATE: You can listen to the oral argument and read the transcript here.
UPDATE 2: On page 35 of the transcript, I detect eagerness in Justice Ginsburg to say that the Act does not apply in order to avoid the question whether the act is jurisdictional. When the SG agrees with her that the question could indeed be avoided, Justice Kennedy says "Don't you want to know the answer?" and gets a laugh. Kennedy then bears down: You just said "it would be very troubling to say that it's not jurisdictional," but why don't you think the opposite: That it would be good to know that the Act is waivable? The answer is that the government wants to be able to use the act as a bar in cases where the government's lawyers may have inadvertently waived it. (This point is in the original post, and I think Russell or the transcript misidentifies the Justice asking the questions. Was it Roberts or Kennedy?)