The Obama administration’s health insurance mandate faced severe skepticism Tuesday from conservatives on the Supreme Court during a pivotal morning of oral arguments on the landmark legislation.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s most consistent swing vote, repeatedly voiced doubts about the mandate’s constitutionality, suggesting he could side with the court’s four staunch conservatives to overturn President Obama’s healthcare law.

“That changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in a very fundamental way,” Kennedy said.

While the court’s four liberal justices at times gave a more vigorous defense of the law than the government’s lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., the sense of a possible election-year defeat in the courtroom for the president’s signature domestic achievement was unmistakable.

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