The Obama administration Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to settle the constitutional question over the 2010 health-care law this term, meaning that the decision will probably come next summer in the thick of the presidential campaign.
The Justice Department asked the justices to review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which is the only appeals court to say Congress exceeded its power in passing the law. The law requires almost every American to have health insurance.
“Throughout history, there have been similar challenges to other landmark legislation such as the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act, and all of those challenges failed,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “We believe the challenges to Affordable Care Act — like the one in the 11th Circuit — will also ultimately fail and that the Supreme Court will uphold the law.”
The suit is brought by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Those two groups have also asked the justices to accept the case, because while the appeals court panel struck down the individual mandate for health insurance, it upheld other parts of the law.
Appeals courts that have considered the law are split. In June, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati upheld the health-care law in a separate case.
Earlier this month, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond turned down a challenge to the law brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia and others.
The decision on when to seek Supreme Court consideration has caused much political discussion, because the law is one of the most noticeable ways President Obama differs with his Republican challengers. A Supreme Court decision either way could have significant political impact.
Under the court’s normal procedures, it must accept a case by January in order to rule by its traditional conclusion of the term at the end of June.
Already pending at the court is a petition from the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian-oriented law firm in Michigan that brought the case decided in the 6th Circuit.
The two judges in the 11th Circuit majority said the law’s individual mandate was a “wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority.” The 6th Circuit majority, however, found the coverage requirement “a valid exercise of legislative power by Congress under the Commerce Clause.”
The 4th Circuit judges threw out the challenge brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II on the grounds that the state did not have the right to challenge the law.