Virginia's attorney general has asked the Supreme Court to fast-track his state's legal challenge to the federal health care overhaul, saying state governments and businesses deserve to know the fate of the law as soon as possible.
The unusual request comes three days after a Florida judge struck down the law over concerns about its requirement that people buy health insurance. A Virginia judge had earlier ruled that the so-called individual mandate was unconstitutional, though that judge did not invalidate the entire law.
The Department of Justice is appealing both rulings to the federal appeals courts. But Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli says he thinks the legal dispute has become so important that the Supreme Court should take it up immediately.
"This is an extraordinary remedy, but it is a case that fits their qualifications," he told Fox News on Thursday. "They absolutely have the authority to do this."
Though the Obama administration repeatedly has expressed confidence in the constitutional legitimacy of the law, Cuccinelli said the Florida ruling suggests it is "entirely reasonable" to expect a similar outcome from the Supreme Court. He said Virginia is spending between $20 million and $30 million just preparing to implement the law and needs to know whether it will all be for naught.
"We want to eliminate the uncertainty in both our governmental budgets and in the private sector," he said. "We want to eliminate at least the uncertainty associated with health care."
However, Cuccinelli acknowledged that the Supreme Court rarely grants such requests. The Supreme Court often relies on the decisions of the lower appeals courts to frame the cases they hear.
After Cuccinelli announced his request, the Department of Justice urged the Supreme Court to reject the petition, saying there's plenty of time for the appeals courts to have their say.
"The department continues to believe this case should follow the ordinary course of allowing the court of appeals to hear it first so the issues and arguments concerning the Affordable Care Act can be fully developed before the Supreme Court decides whether to consider it," spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said.
"As (Virginia federal Judge Henry 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 this case to proceed first in the court of appeals," Schmaler said.
But conservatives are already preparing for a Supreme Court showdown, whether it happens soon or many months from now.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who wants the Supreme Court to fast-track the case, said he thinks the high court's most recent appointee should recuse herself when the time comes. He told Fox News on Wednesday that because Justice Elena Kagan was solicitor general -- and the Obama administration's chief legal advocate before the Supreme Court -- at the time the law was passed, she should sit this one out.
Hatch suggested her absence could lead to an indecisive split decision, but then said he's not sure the final ruling would be that close. "I actually believe there are justices like (Stephen) Breyer and (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg, and of course (Anthony) Kennedy, who will go with the four justices who are considered a little more conservative," Hatch said.
Democrats are urging the law's critics to move on. Lawmakers say Republicans should stop trying to dismantle the law and instead start trying to work toward improving the existing system.
"The time for fighting old battles is behind us," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement Wednesday.
As the legal battle over the health care law continues to develop, the legislative post-battle is ongoing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., this week succeeded in bringing the House-passed repeal proposal to the Senate floor, but it failed Wednesday on a 51-47 vote.
A separate amendment to a Federal Aviation Administration bill did pass. It would repeal the 1099 requirement on businesses to report all purchases exceeding $600. House lawmakers must approve similar legislation for it to go to President Obama's desk. He has said he supports a repeal of that single provision.
But GOP lawmakers are looking for more than clips at the edges. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, released a statement Thursday calling on the House to instead move to block funding for the law's implementation in "every spending vehicle that comes up."
"In the short-term, the House needs to protect its strong position on repeal by blocking any funding from going to this unconstitutional law," King said.