The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to review President Obama’s health care law, saying it will rule on whether Congress overstepped its constitutional authority by requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014.
The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to review the law in September, and it was widely assumed the nation’s highest court would do so at some point. Twenty-six states have asked that the law be struck down.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is due by next July. Oral arguments are expected to begin in March.
Known as the individual mandate, the provision requiring Americans to purchase health insurance will be a major issue in the 2012 elections. All the Republican candidates for president have in some way promised to repeal the law, including Mitt Romney, who implemented a similar law during his time as governor of Massachusetts.
Legal scholars expect the Supreme Court’s vote to be close, Reuters reports. It may come down to the decision of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate who often casts the decisive vote.
As to the legal merits of the challenges, law scholars are predictably split along ideological lines, much like the Supreme Court.
Left-leaning legal scholars say the individual mandate is within the scope and precedents of the Commerce Clause. On the other hand, conservative and libertarian scholars contend that upholding the mandate would essentially give Congress unlimited power over Americans’ everyday lives.
“It is high time for the high court to strike down this unconstitutional, unworkable, and unpopular law,” said Randy Barnett, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory Georgetown Law. “Upholding the individual mandate would end the notion that Congress is one of limited and enumerated powers, and fundamentally transform the relationship of Americans to their doctors and their government.”
Courts, even those that have upheld the individual mandate, have noted the Obama administration has not articulated any limits on Congress’ ability to regulating commerce. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Obamacare in a 2-1 decision, acknowledged “some discomfort with the Government’s failure to advance any clear doctrinal principles limiting congressional mandates that any American purchase any product or service in interstate commerce.”
“The Government concedes the novelty of the mandate and the lack of any doctrinal limiting principles; indeed, at oral argument, the Government could not identify any mandate to purchase a product or service in interstate commerce that would be unconstitutional, at least under the Commerce Clause,” the ruling said.
The White House released a statement today saying it was “pleased” the Supreme Court decided to review the law.
“We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said.