ObamaCare Headed for Election Year Showdown at Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will hear arguments next spring in a pivotal case concerning the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the Court will hear arguments in March, 2012, and will render a decision in late June, just four months before Election Day. The justices announced that they will hear an extraordinary five-and-a-half hours of arguments from lawyers on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which requires citizens to buy health insurance beginning in 2014 or pay a penalty.

The Court will also consider three other issues concerning the Act.

First, it will decide if the health reform law can remain in effect if the mandate is found to be unconstitutional. One side of the issue believes the mandate is so central to the Act that without it, the entire reform program will collapse.

Second, the Court will look at the expansion of the joint federal-state Medicaid program that provides health care to poorer Americans. Florida and 25 other states say the law goes too far in coercing them into participating by threatening a cutoff of federal money. The states contend that the vast expansion of the joint federal-state Medicaid program and the requirement that employers offer health insurance violate the Constitution.

Third, the justices will consider whether arguments over the law’s validity are premature because a federal law generally prohibits challenges to taxes until the taxes are paid – which would put off this challenge until 2015.

Regardless of their decision, Court watchers say the ObamaCare ruling will be the most significant political ruling since its 5-4 decision in the Bush v. Gore case in 2000, and is expected to have a major impact on the 2012 presidential election.

In a statement issued on Monday, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said: “We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.”

But Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, which opposes Obamacare, said in a statement: “This is the day we have been waiting for. It was clear that Obamacare would ultimately be decided by the high court when it was signed into law nearly 20 months ago. By taking these cases, the high court can bring clarity and end the confusion about a law that most Americans have consistently opposed.

“We have argued from the beginning that Obamacare, including the individual mandate, is unconstitutional. We will be representing more than 100 members of Congress and tens of thousands of Americans in our amicus brief urging the high court to reject this flawed healthcare law.”

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