U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 35 members of the GOP caucus said the U.S. Supreme Court must overturn the health care reform law if the justices rule that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

A group of Senate Republicans Friday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the entirety of President Barack Obama's health care law, arguing that the Affordable Care Act must be tied to the insurance mandate.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, 36 senators in the Republican caucus, including their leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, stressed that Congress purposefully tied the Affordable Care Act to the mandate requiring most Americans to carry health insurance. If the Supreme Court deems the individual mandate unconstitutional, the justices must invalidate the entire law based on Congress' intent, Republicans said.

The Court cannot stray from that intent and drastically alter the law through deletion of an essential component, leaving in place a statute which the governing majority would not have chosen, the brief said.

This issue is one of several the justices will hear in the case over the Affordable Care Act. Lower courts have split on whether Congress intended to make the health care law dependent on the individual mandate.

The Atlanta, Ga.-based Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a case brought by 26 states the individual mandate was unconstitutional, but decided that it could be severed without dealing a fatal blow to the rest of the law. A federal judge in Florida had tossed out the Affordable Care Act after striking down the insurance mandate.

Like the Republican senators, the parties challenging the Affordable Care Act argue against letting the law stand without the individual mandate.

The Obama administration has similarly said the mandate is essential to health care reform, but noted that only certain parts of the Affordable Care Act can fall with the mandate, such as popular provisions requiring insurance companies to offer coverage even for consumers with preexisting conditions and prohibiting higher premiums for policyholders based on medical history.

Without anyone to argue in favor of allowing the mandate to be severed from the law without killing it, the Supreme Court tapped Covington & Burling attorney Robert A. Long to make the case.

Republican senators cite proponents of the Affordable Care Act who said the individual mandate was essential to their support. Without the mandate, as some supporters have suggested, the Obama administration will fall short of its goal to insure millions currently without coverage and that the health insurance system will be unsustainable without a pool of healthy individuals.

We believe the mandate is not severable from the [Affordable Care Act] because the law will not function as its Congressional proponents intended or achieve their objectives without the presence of the mandate, the senators wrote.