Why a Fast Supreme Court Ruling on Health-Care Law Might Benefit Obama

Article excerpt

The Obama administration says it did not consider politics when it asked for a ruling from the US Supreme Court on its health-care law. To be sure, both parties will hope to spin a positive story from the result.

The Obama administration says it did not consider politics when it asked for a ruling from the US Supreme Court on the constitutionality of health-care reform.

But the reality is that Wednesday's unexpectedly quick request for the high court to review an appeals court ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could propel the issue front and center at the height of the 2012 presidential campaign.

The Supreme Court is now expected to hear the case (and possibly other, similar cases) after the new year, and likely hand down a decision in June.

The ruling at issue came from a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in August, which struck down the mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance but did not invalidate the entire law.

The Obama administration could have asked the entire 11th Circuit to take up the issue. But analysts see the 11th Circuit as a conservative court, and thus may well have upheld the three-judge panel's decision.

In a statement Wednesday, the Justice Department sought to include the health-care law in the lofty company of high-profile cases that have survived Supreme Court scrutiny.

"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 department said. "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."

It's hard to predict how the high court's ruling might affect the political calculus in 2012. To be sure, both parties will hope to spin a positive story from the result.

If the high court rules in June and strikes down all or part of the law, it would deal a major blow to Mr. Obama just a few months before the November election. The health-care issue has faded of late; the economy and jobs dominate voters' concerns. …