The Obama administration decided against asking for further review by the entire 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of a panel’s earlier ruling that invalidated a portion of the Affordable Care Act. A ruling in August by a divided three-judge panel held that Congress overstepped its authority when passing the individual mandate. The decision makes it more likely that the Supreme Court will hear the case during the court’s term staring next month and render its verdict in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign.
The 11th Circuit decision is at odds with a 4th Circuit ruling that dismissed similar challenges on the law as well as a ruling from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that upheld the individual mandate in June. A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard oral arguments over the law last Friday but has not issued a ruling yet.
In order to hear and decide the case by late June when the court’s term typically ends, the justices will need to accept a petition and schedule the appeal by about January. Typically appeals filed at the court take several months from the time of filing until the justices decide whether or not to hear it.
Had the Obama administration sought a further review from the 11th Circuit they would only be delaying the inevitable trip to the Supreme Court and given Republicans open season on speculating about how that ruling will go. Instead, they’ve decided to take their chances with a Court that has, in the past, been willing to recognize the very broad powers Congress holds to tax, spend and regulate interstate commerce. It’s a move that shows confidence in the law and in the rule of law, not to mention a degree of political swagger that seemed missing from this administration several months ago.
Photo from steakpinball via flickr.