WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department said Tuesday it intends to appeal to a U.S. District Court judge's ruling declaring a key part of President Obama's health care law unconstitutional.
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals would get the case that originated in Virginia when the state filed a lawsuit saying the individual mandate is unconstitutional.
Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled Monday that the provision requiring people to buy health insurance violates the Commerce and General Welfare clauses. He called for the provision to be severed, but allowed the rest of the law to remain intact.
Citing similar cases in which judges ruled for the U.S. government, a Justice Department spokeswoman said the department is confident the law will be kept whole once it goes to a higher court.
"This is one of a number of cases concerning the Affordable Care Act pending before courts around the country, including four in which challenges to the law were unsuccessful that are already being heard by courts of appeals, including one by the Fourth Circuit," reads a statement from spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler.
Expecting the appeal, some who back Virginia's suit have called for the case to go directly to the Supreme Court, skipping the appeals court level, but the Justice Department said it wants to see the case through the entire court hierarchy.
"Virginia's suit is based on a state statute that is not applicable nationwide, and the Department believes this case should follow the ordinary course of allowing the courts of appeals to hear it first so the issues and arguments can be fully developed before the Supreme Court decides whether to consider it," Schmaler said.
"As Judge Hudson noted in denying an injunction, the individual responsibility provision does not go into effect until 2014, so there is more than sufficient time for the courts to consider this case in their normal course of business," Schmaler continued.