It might be the most eagerly anticipated decision in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court. It is certain to be, as suggested in a Washington Post news story, the “most high-profile ruling since Bush vs. Gore in 2000.”

We all remember that one.

Americans from coast to coast on pins and needles for weeks trying to guess who won the 2000 presidential election — and then the Supreme Court steps in and calls off the vote recount in Florida, giving the White House to George W. Bush and early retirement to the crown prince of coulda-shoulda-woulda, Al Gore.

Now the court has agreed to take on another political hot potato, President Barack Obama’s much-heralded, much-maligned health care program, the Affordable Care Act — known in some circles as “Obamacare.”

Yes, we know. The president doesn’t call it Obamacare, nor does anyone else who thinks it’s a good idea.

That’s a purely pejorative term used more or less exclusively by critics of the program and opponents of the president. But “Obamacare” is what all the Republican candidates for president have been calling the Affordable Care Act in their televised debates and campaign ads so, like it or not, it’s part of the political vernacular these days.


The Supreme Court’s primary task will be to rule on the legality of the law’s most controversial and arguably most important provision: the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance, whether they want it or not.

Opponents of the law insist the requirement is unconstitutional. Lower court decisions on various legal challenges to the law have differed, but an appellate court in Atlanta found Obamacare unconstitutional and that’s how it ended up in the nation’s highest court.

The justices are expected to hear arguments in the case next March and issue a ruling in June, which will plop the hot potato right into the 2012 presidential campaign.

If the justices uphold the law, Obama will surely use the decision to fend off his opponent’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act, while the GOP nominee, whoever it turns out to be, will tout it as one more compelling reason to elect a candidate who is committed to repealing Obamacare.

If the Supreme Court rules the health care law unconstitutional, the presidential candidates will argue about what, if anything, should replace it.

Either way, it puts the Supreme Court right in the middle of the presidential race.


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