The U.S. Justice Department declined to have a federal appeals court further review a three-judge panel's decision that said in August that the healthcare reform law was unconstitutional. Monday was the deadline for seeking a full panel of judges on the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to review the case, according to Bloomberg.
With a new Supreme Court term starting in October, a ruling could be reached by June 2012, Tthe Wall Street Journal reported. It is unclear when the administration's lawyers will file an appeal to the Supreme Court. A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
A Supreme Court ruling during campaign season could drastically alter the race, as President Barack Obama will be defending one of his major legislative achievements while Republicans rip into the law as their nominee vies to deny the president a second term.
A Decision That Could Affect 2012 Election
William Carrick, a Democratic campaign consultant, told Bloomberg that the Supreme Court justices would really send the political debate in a whole new direction.
But in which direction remains to be seen. The Supreme Court could weigh in on the entire law or nix other provisions, such as the individual mandate requiring most Americans to have coverage or face a tax penalty. Another issue is whether striking down parts of the law would invalidate it entirely.
The case the Justice Department declined to further appeal was a challenge from 26 Republican attorneys general. In a 2-1 decision Aug. 12, the 11th Circuit decided that Congress exceeded its authority in mandating healthcare coverage, but left the rest of the law intact.
Obama's health care law has had mixed results on the appellate courts. The 6th Circuit in June backed the individual mandate and the 4th Circuit had rejected a challenge from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for lack of standing to sue.
The D.C. Circuit Friday became the fourth appellate court to hear arguments, but has yet to issue a ruling, according to the National Journal.
Like many of the healthcare law challenges, an attorney arguing against the law said that requiring Americans to have health insurance was outside the bounds of Congress' constitutional authority, while the government contended that the mandate was part of efforts to regulate the insurance market, the National Journal reported.