WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the federal health care overhaul sooner rather than later, with the Justice Department announcing Wednesday that it will file a petition asking the court to take the case.
The department is appealing from a decision last month by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta that held that the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that all Americans purchase health insurance is unconstitutional.
Earlier this week, the department declined to seek review of the full appeals court of that decision, signaling that it was ready for the case to be heard by the justices.
Technically, the administration had several weeks before it had to file its petition to the Supreme Court and the accelerated timetable suggests that it's eager for a final determination on the legality of the controversial law.
"The department has consistently and successfully defended this law in several court of appeals, and only the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled it unconstitutional. We believe the question is appropriate for review by the Supreme Court," the Justice Department said in a statement Wednesday.
"Throughout history, there have been similar challenges to other landmark legislation such as the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act, and all of those challenges failed. We believe the challenges to Affordable Care Act -- like the one in the 11th Circuit -- will also ultimately fail and that the Supreme Court will uphold the law," the department said.
Earlier Wednesday, lawyers for 26 states challenging the act also pressed the court to hear the case.
In June, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati upheld the constitutionality of the so-called individual mandate. And another appeals court, in Richmond, Va., held earlier this month that the state of Virginia lacked the legal right to challenge the law in court.
It requires four votes of the justices for a case to be accepted for review.