WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court declined Monday to bypass the lower courts and take up an immediate challenge to the constitutionality of the national health care overhaul law and its requirement that all those who can afford it have medical insurance by 2014.
The announcement concerned only the timing of a decision on the health care law and said nothing about how the court may finally rule. The justices rarely skip over the lower courts before taking up a constitutional question and have said they will do so only if a case is of such "imperative public importance" as to "require immediate determination" by the high court.
The justices without comment turned down an appeal from Virginia's attorney general, who insisted the Affordable Care Act has "roiled America" and left employers and citizens "mired in uncertainty."
The court's brief order apparently spoke for all the justices, since there was no indication that Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself. Some conservative activists have suggested that Kagan should not take part in the health-care case since she served as U.S. solicitor general before joining the court.
The court's action almost certainty puts off a ruling on the health-care law until at least next year.
Oral arguments for the U.S. Department of Justice's appeal of a Florida judge's ruling that the law is unconstitutional are set for June 8 before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Florida filed the suit shortly after President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law. Twenty-five states and the National Federation of Independent Business joined the suit.
Kenneth Cuccinelli, Virginia's attorney general, filed a separate suit in Richmond. He won before a federal district judge who declared the mandate to be unconstitutional. The Obama administration, as expected, filed an appeal, and the case is to be heard by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 10.