The United States Supreme Court announced Monday that it has scheduled oral arguments for next March on the numerous pending appeals challenging the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's massive and controversial health care overhaul. The Court’s current term, which started in October, will end in late June of 2012. Predictably, this means that a decision on the fate Obama’s major legislative accomplishment will be announced just four months before next Presidential Election Day. It will doubtless become one of the central issues in the presidential campaign.
Kentucky’s senior senator, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, released the following statement on the Supreme Court’s announcement today that it had agreed to hear a challenge to President Obama’s health care law:
“Throughout the debate, Senate Republicans have argued that this misguided law represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional expansion of the federal government into the daily lives of every American. Most Americans agree. 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.”
The Court announced the scheduling of an extraordinary five-and-a-half hours of arguments from lawyers on the appeals, challenging the constitutionality of the requirement that individuals buy health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty.
White House communications direct Dan Pfeiffer 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.”
To date, six separate appeals challenging Obamacare have been filed with the Supreme Court. At the District Court level, the rulings generally followed the political affiliations of the district judges; judges appointed by Democratic presidents tended to uphold the constitutionality of Obamacare, while Republican-appointed judges tended to find the law violative of the constitution. At the Court of Appeals level, one court in Atlanta found that the law exceeded the powers of the federal government granted by the constitution, and one in Cincinnati upheld the law.
There have been calls for two of the justices—conservative Clarence Thomas and liberal Elena Kagan—to recuse themselves from considering the Obamacare case. Thomas's wife, Virginia, previously worked for a group opposed to Obamacare, and Kagan served as solicitor general in the Obama administration when the law was being drafted. Historically, justices choosing to recuse themselves make their intentions known at the time the Court announces it will consider a case. Since neither Thomas nor Kagan made such an announcement today, it appears that the full Court will decide the fate of Obamacare next Spring.
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