A federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, on Tuesday (May 10) will consider whether the "insurance mandate" at the center of the Obama administration's new health care law is constitutional. The judges will examine a pair of conflicting lower court rulings on the question, marking an important next phase in the long-running battle between the federal government and many states over health care.
Tuesday's case will be heard by a three-judge panel at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, just down the street from the Virginia Capitol. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has been a key player in the lawsuit so far, scoring a victory at the trial court level last year when a federal judge in Richmond agreed that the insurance mandate exceeded Congress' authority. But a separate federal judge in Lynchburg, Virginia, upheld the mandate.
Both the Obama administration, which is defending the health care law, and state officials such as Cuccinelli expect the legal fight to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. But the results at the appellate court level will have much to say about how the case is perceived once it reaches the high court.
"We want to win as many of these as we can," Cuccinelli, a Republican, tells The New York Times
. "If we have nothing but wins all the way up to the Supreme Court, there is an element of momentum, I think, where the justices consider what has gone on before the case came to them."
If 4th Circuit and other federal appeals courts hearing similar cases act quickly, The Times
notes, the question could reach the Supreme Court in the heat of the 2012 presidential campaign.