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Supreme Court to hear fight over health care

November 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The Supreme Court will decide whether President Barack Obama's health care law is constitutional. The high court's decision is expected just months before the presidential election.

Arguments will likely be heard next March, setting up an election-year showdown over the White House's main domestic policy achievement.

The White House said in a statement that it is confident the health care law will be upheld.

"We are pleased that the court has agreed to hear this case," White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said.

In Hawaii on Monday, President Obama made no mention of the court's announcement.

Republicans have argued the law is unconstitutional since before Obama signed it into law last year, but only one of four federal courts has struck down even a part of the law. The central provision in question is the requirement that individuals buy health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty. Its goal is extending health insurance to more than 30 million Americans,

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell calls the law an unprecedented and unconstitutional expansion of federal government into the daily lives of every American.

If arguments are heard in the spring, it allows plenty of time for a decision before Election Day.

The justices will hear more than five hours of arguments from lawyers. The last time the court allotted anywhere near this much time for arguments was in 2003, for the consideration of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform. That case consumed four hours of argument.

"One of the issues that the court specifically chose to address when it issued the orders granting arguments in this case is whether or not the law or some of the law can be upheld if they strike down the requirement that individuals carry insurance. So they are devoting 90 minutes to that one issue in the oral argument," said David Cruz, a USC law professor.

Cruz said the five-and-a-half hours set aside for arguments is an indication of how seriously the justices take the arguments over the health care overhaul. They will also look at a mandatory expansion of the state participation in Medicaid for poorer Americans.

However, 26 states say the law goes too far into forcing them into being part of the program. They say the expansion and requirement that employers offer health insurance are unconstitutional.

The White House, though, touts it as a victory for American families.

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, one million more young Americans have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventive services without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket. And insurance companies have to spend more of your premiums on health care instead of advertising and bonuses," the White House said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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