The administration called upon the justices to review the decision of a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which is the only appeals court to say Congress exceeded its power in passing the law. The law requires almost every American to have health insurance.
“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 the Affordable Care Act — like the one in the 11th Circuit — will also ultimately fail and that the Supreme Court will uphold the law.”
The law, enacted when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, has roiled national politics and prompted calls for repeal from the Republican presidential candidates running to replace Obama.
The political consequences of whether it is better or worse for Obama’s reelection chances to have the case decided before the election have been debated with little consensus. But the administration put aside options that could have created a delay, and its petition Wednesday ensures a quicker decision by the court.
A Justice Department official authorized to speak only on background said a consensus existed within the department that there is much to do on behalf of the federal government, states and the private sector to implement the act by 2014 and that a final decision by the court was needed.
The historic split the law has provoked is evidenced by the very lawsuit at hand: It was brought by 26 objecting states.
“It represents an unprecedented challenge — involving over half the states in the nation — to an unprecedented legislative initiative,” Paul D. Clement, solicitor general under President George W. Bush, wrote in a petition to the court on behalf of the states.
The states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which joined the challenge, also filed petitions with the court Wednesday. They, too, want Supreme Court review of the decision, because while the panel voted 2 to 1 to strike the individual mandate, it upheld other parts of the law.
The Obama administration has won in the other appeals courts that have considered the law. In June, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati upheld the health-care law in a separate case.