Published September 28, 2011
Critics of President Obama's health care overhaul are asking the Supreme Court to make a quick ruling that strikes the entire law down.
One request comes from 26 states that oppose the law. The other comes from a business group, the National Federation of Independent Business.
Both ask that the court strike down the entire law, not just the part that requires individuals to purchase health insurance.
The filings ask the justices to rule before the 2012 presidential election. And that's a request that is supported by retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. He says voters would be better off if they knew the fate of the law before casting their ballots next year.
Stevens says the justices would be doing the country a service by getting rid of that uncertainty before the election.
A federal appeals court in Atlanta struck down the individual insurance requirement, but upheld the rest of the law -- which the states and the business group say would impose huge new costs.
"This health care law is an affront on Americans' individual liberty, and we will not allow the federal government to violate our constitutional rights," said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
"Our country urgently needs a final ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. This case is paramount in our history and will define the boundaries of Congress' power as set forth in our Constitution," she said. "We must defend Americans' rights and freedoms and prevent us from being forced into purchasing anything."
The business filings came the same day the Obama administration filed an appeal with the high court, asking the justices to uphold the constitutionality of the law and throw out the ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
"Throughout history, there have been similar challenges to other landmark legislation, such as the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act, and all of those challenges failed," the Justice Department said in a statement. "We believe the challenges to Affordable Care Act -- like the one in the 11th Circuit -- will also ultimately fail and that the Supreme Court will uphold the law."
In court papers filed Wednesday, the NFIB said the individual insurance mandate was at the heart of the health care law's "carefully crafted compromise."
The administration itself said in the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that reforms in the insurance market, including requiring insurers to cover people without regard for pre-existing health conditions, would not work without the mandate.
The insurance requirement is intended to force healthier people who might otherwise forgo insurance into the pool of insured, helping to reduce private insurers' financial risk.
The business group also stressed the importance of resolving the overhaul's constitutionality as soon as possible, which under normal court procedures would be by June 2012. While a decision in that time frame would come in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign, the NFIB said it is more important to resolve uncertainty about costs and requirements than drag out consideration into 2013 or beyond.
"When you talk to our members and other small-business owners about what is the biggest problem they're facing, they say uncertainty," said Karen Harned, executive director of the NFIB's legal division. "When you ask what, one of first answers is the health care law."
In addition to the competing rulings on the law's validity, a federal appeals court in Richmond ruled that it is premature to decide the law's constitutionality. Citing a federal law aimed at preventing lawsuits from tying up tax collection, that court held that a definitive ruling could come only after taxpayers begin paying the penalty for not purchasing insurance.
The federal appeals court in Washington also heard arguments in yet another lawsuit against the overhaul last week. That court has no timetable for its decision.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.