WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear arguments next March over President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul – a case that could shake the political landscape as voters are deciding if Obama deserves another term.
This decision to hear arguments in the spring sets up an election-year showdown over the White House‘s main domestic policy achievement. And it allows plenty of time for a decision in late June, just over four months before Election Day.
The justices announced they will hear an extraordinary five-and-a-half hours of arguments from lawyers on the constitutionality of a provision at the heart of the law and three other related questions about the act. The central provision in question is the requirement that individuals buy health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty.
In the modern era, the last time the court allotted anywhere near this much time for arguments was in 2003 for consideration of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. That case consumed four hours of argument. This argument may spread over two days, as the justices rarely hear more than two or three hours a day.
The 2010 health care overhaul law aims to extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans, through an expansion of Medicaid, the requirement that individuals buy health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty and other measures. The court’s ruling could decide the law’s fate, but the justices left themselves an opening to defer a decision if they choose, by requesting arguments on one lower court’s ruling that a decision must wait until 2015, when one of the law’s many deferred provisions takes effect.
A White House spokesman said, “We are pleased that the court has agreed to hear this case.”
“We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree,” communications direct Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called the law an “unprecedented and unconstitutional expansion of the federal government into the daily lives of every American.”
“In both public surveys and at the ballot box, Americans have rejected the law’s mandate that they must buy government-approved health insurance, and I hope the Supreme Court will do the same,” McConnell said.
Republicans have called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional since before Obama signed it into law in March 2010. But only one of the four federal appeals courts that have considered the health care overhaul has struck down even a part of the law.
The federal appeals court in Atlanta said Congress exceeded its power under the Constitution when it adopted the mandate. The federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the entire law, as did appellate judges in Washington, DC, in recent days.
The case could become the high court’s most significant and political ruling since its 5-4 decision in the Bush v. Gore case nearly 11 years ago effectively sealed George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential election victory.
Continue Reading: Supreme Court will hear health care case this term
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