A conservative-leaning panel of federal appellate judges on Tuesday upheld President Barack Obama’s health care law as constitutional, helping set up a Supreme Court fight.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a split opinion upholding the lower court’s ruling that found Congress did not overstep its authority in requiring people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty on their taxes, beginning in 2014. The requirement is the most controversial requirement of Obama’s signature domestic legislative achievement and the focus of conflicting opinions from judges across the country. The Supreme Court is expected to decide soon, perhaps within days, whether to accept appeals from some of those earlier rulings.
The suit in Washington was brought by the American Center for Law and Justice, a legal group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson. It claimed that the insurance mandate is unconstitutional because it forces Americans to buy a product for the rest of their lives and that it violates the religious freedom of those who choose not to have insurance because they rely on God to protect them from harm. But the court ruled that Congress had the power to pass the requirement to ensure that all Americans can have health care coverage, even if it infringes on individual liberty.