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VOL. 126 | NO. 247 | Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Court Schedules Health Care Arguments

By JESSE J. HOLLAND

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WASHINGTON (AP) – The Supreme Court announced Monday, Dec. 19, that it will use an unprecedented week’s worth of argument time in late March to decide the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul before the 2012 presidential elections.

The high court scheduled arguments for March 26 to 28 over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which aims to provide health insurance to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans. The arguments fill the entire court calendar that week with nothing but debate over Obama’s signature domestic health care achievement.

With the March dates set, it means a final decision on the massive health care overhaul will likely come before Independence Day in the middle of Obama’s re-election campaign. The new law has been vigorously opposed by all of Obama’s prospective GOP opponents. Republicans have branded the law unconstitutional since before Obama signed it in a March 2010 ceremony.

In an extraordinary move, the justices are hearing more than five hours of arguments over the health care overhaul. In the modern era, the last time the court increased that time anywhere near this much was in 2003 for consideration of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance overhaul. That case consumed four hours of argument.

The court also will look at the expansion of the joint federal-state Medicaid program that provides health care to poorer Americans, even though no lower court called that provision into question. Florida and 25 other states argued unsuccessfully in lower courts that the law goes too far in coercing them to participate by threatening a cutoff of federal money. The states contend the law violates the Constitution.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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