The Supreme Court announced today it will hear a challenge to President Obama’s signature healthcare overhaul, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which barely passed through Congress in March of 2010. The Affordable Care Act consumed much of Obama’s first year as president and exacerbated the heated political divide in Washington and in communities around the U.S.
Since Obama signed the hotly contested legislation into law, Republicans and some conservative Democrats have used the controversial measure–which mandates that all U.S. citizens purchase health insurance by the year 2014–as firepower in an on-going debate detailing the role of government in the everyday lives of American citizens. A number of federal courts have already ruled on the Affordable Care Act as recently as last Tuesday, when a conservative judge upheld the law in a Washington appeals court. Rulings have largely been mixed and tend to fall along party lines.
The Supreme Court was expected to hear a challenge to the law after President Obama himself requested it do so before the end of 2012. The hearing may come as soon as March of next year, with a ruling in June. Implications for the 2012 presidential race are unclear, when Barack Obama will battle for a second term in what will likely be an extremely close election. Some say a defeat, or partial defeat, would be just as beneficial for Obama as a victory.
A defeat–or a victory–will likely recast the race relatively late in the game. If the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate, a partial defeat may indeed help Obama, since components of the legislation remain popular among the public in isolation. A wholesale defeat, it seems to me, might prove positive as well if Obama is able to shape the conversation around Republicans’ refusal to deal with the country’s ongoing health crisis. It will also rob any of the G.O.P. presidential candidates of a major goal– to eliminate the law altogether. A defeat for Obama may also be a defeat for the Republican Party, since it will necessarily re-focus the debate on other issues, which may be less pressing to the conservative base.
Do you think the law will be upheld? If not, what implications will it bear for Obama’s run for re-election next year? Leave us a comment below.