The Department of Justice on Wednesday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case concerning President Obama’s centerpiece health-care reform legislation. If the court agrees, as it likely will, arguments will be heard in the spring and a decision could come by June, right in the middle of the 2012 presidential campaign.
At issue is the provision in the law that would require individuals to buy health insurance by 2012 or be penalized. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the mandate, but the 6th Circuit upheld it. The White House says the mandate is a necessary and cost-saving measure because taxpayers will ultimately have to pay for the uninsured when they turn to hospital emergency rooms for treatment, which in 2008 cost the federal government $43 billion.
Twenty-six states and a coalition of small businesses have also filed a plea with the court asking it to strike down the entire law.
“The department has consistently and successfully defended this law in several courts of appeals, and only the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled it unconstitutional. We believe the question is appropriate for review by the Supreme Court,” DOJ said in a statement.
“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. 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.”
Having the case heard is a political gamble for the White House. If it is upheld, Obama would be vindicated, but the ruling would rally members of the Tea Party and other conservative groups who angrily protested the bill’s passage to seek revenge at the polls. If the court rules against the administration, it would be a major blow but could also be the push that his dispirited base needs to rally behind him and fight for his re-election.
(Photo: United Stated Department of Agriculture)
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