JONATHAN COHN NOVEMBER 14, 2011
It's official: The Supreme Court is going to hear the case against the Affordable Care Act. And it's going to hear the case this term.
The Court just announced that it would consider two of the lawsuits challenging the law, one each from the states (led by Florida) and the National Federal of Independent Businesses.
Translating and interpreting legal language is not my specialty, but SCOTUSblog -- the best source around for this kind of analysis -- tells me that the Court basically agreed to hear all of the major questions surrounding the law's constitutionality, including whether the anti-injunction act bars the court from ruling on the case.
The Supreme Court also granted extensive time for oral arguments, as a weighty case like this surely deserves. The justices have set aside five-and-a-half hours, divided into four separate sessions to discuss four separate issues: Whether Congress can impose an individual mandate, whether it can demand that states comply with Medicaid provisions, whether it's possible to leave parts of the law intact if the Court rules others are invalid, and whether the Anti-Injunction Act gives the Court the power to rule on the case.
According to Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog, the time allotment is a record for the modern era. The court could decide to divide the arguments over two days. The first question -- whether the requirement that everybody of means pay for health care, by getting insurance or paying a fee -- will get two hours, more time than any other issue.
Technically speaking, last week's Circuit Court decision upholding the law didn't factor into this decision. The justices met to discuss the cases on Thursday and that case was not among those they officially considered. But the decision came from Judge Laurence Silberman, a well-known conservative, and was sweeping in its rejection of the lawsuit. So I imagine the justices were at least aware of it. (For more on that case and its significance, I'd highly recommend an article by attorney Bruce Brown that ran at TNR over the weekend.)
I'll have more analysis later, once qualified legal minds have had a chance to analyze the order and what it means. For now, all you need to know is that Obamacare is going to get its day in court -- and it's going to happen smack in the middle of the presidential campaign.
What, you thought this saga was going to end any other way?