White House Asks the Supreme Court to Consider Health Reform

BY Jason Kane  September 28, 2011 at 6:29 PM EST


Supreme Court; photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court Wednesday to decide whether the president’s landmark health care law is constitutional.

In a White House blog post Wednesday afternoon, Stephanie Cutter, a deputy senior adviser to the president, announced that the Justice Department would appeal the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that the government cannot mandate that Americans buy health insurance.

“The Obama administration will ask the Supreme Court to hear this case, so that we can put these challenges to rest and continue moving forward implementing the law to lower the cost of health care and make it more secure for all Americans,” she wrote. “We hope the Supreme Court takes up the case and we are confident we will win.”

The Justice Department itself issued a statement that it has “consistently and successfully defended this law in several courts of appeals, and only the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled it unconstitutional.”

Throughout history,” the department’s statement said, “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 challenge to health reform “will also ultimately fail.”

On the other side of the aisle in the 11th Circuit case — in two separate petitions — 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses are arguing that the federal government does not have the authority to force Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine.

Both cases began in Florida, where a district-level judge ruled that the entire law should be struck down. The 11th Circuit said that the mandate alone violates the Constitution but argued that the rest of the law should be allowed to stand. All parties now want the Supreme Court to be the judge.

“This case offers this court an ideal vehicle to resolve pressing and persistent constitutional questions arising out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” said the lawyers for the states. “It represents an unprecedented challenge — involving over half of the states in the nation — to an unprecedented legislative initiative.”

Now that both sides of the 11th Circuit case have asked the Supreme Court to weigh in, the matter is a likely contender for the Supreme Court.

In recent weeks, the Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the law and the Thomas More Law Center asked the nation’s highest court to reverse the decision.

The Fourth Circuit in Richmond threw out two cases on technical grounds earlier this month, with two of the judges saying they otherwise would have ruled to uphold the mandate. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli vowed at the time to petition the decision to the Supreme Court.

Legal watchers expect the Supreme Court to take up at least one of the cases this fall, with arguments by spring and a decision by June — just months before the presidential election.