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Supreme Court could decide on health reform by June 2012

In June, three judges on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. For those of you scoring at home, here’s the appellate court tally:

  • 11th Circuit- ruled the mandate unconstitutional
  • 6th Circuit- ruled that the mandate is constitutional
  • 4th Circuit- ruled that it can’t make a decision until 2014, when the mandate’s tax penalty takes effect

The White House could have asked for a hearing before the entire 11th Circuit Court. That’s what most people expected since it would delay the inevitable Supreme Court decision until 2013, giving more time for the popular benefits of the new law to kick in. Instead, it looks like the Justice Department will take the case straight to the Supreme Court. This means that a final ruling will likely come next June– just months before the presidential election.

So why didn’t the administration try to delay the decision until after the election? In an excellent article, The Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff identifies three possible reasons. Here’s the first:

The Obama administration will definitely handle the case. Delaying a ruling until 2013 came with a big risk: a Republican administration could be in power, and arguing the case. It’s pretty hard to see a President Rick Perry or Mitt Romney asking his attorney general to defend the health reform law given that both have pledged to overturn the legislation. “That hypothetical Republican administration could have decided to do what the Obama Justice Department did with the Defense of Marriage Act — offer no defense of the law at all,” my colleague Stephen Stromberg wrote in an excellent post making this point. A ruling in spring 2012 means the Obama administration will be the one defending its signature legislative achievement.

Go here for the other two reasons.

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