When the Supreme Court this morning announced plans to hear a challenge to the 2010 health care overhaul, it set the stage for a high-stakes showdown over the most controversial policy initiative of the Obama administration — an initiative that lined the pockets of K Street lobbyists in the run-up to passage of the Affordable Health Care Act.
The Supreme Court order announced that justices will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of the linchpin provision of the legislation — the mandate that all individuals must have health insurance or face fines. The high court will also examine whether the health care law can be implemented absent the so-called individual mandate.
Court watchers say oral arguments will probably take place in March, with a decision likely in late June, as the stretch run begins for the 2012 presidential election campaign. The decision will no doubt be one of the most watched debated in the court’s history, because it speaks to both the limits of Congress and personal liberty, and for the influence it could have on the election.
Four U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals have already ruled on the law—two declaring it unconstitutional. The Supreme Court decision is rooted in an appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, which struck down the individual health insurance mandate section of the law.
The Supreme Court ruling could be the endgame to a policy struggle that dates back to the earliest days of the Obama administration, a battle that resulted in a boon to K Street lobbyists. In 2009 alone, iWatch News found that more than 1,750 individual companies and organizations hired more than 4,500 lobbyists — eight for each member of Congress — to influence the outcome of health reform legislation. Health care reform was particularly profitable to Washington lobby firms because few industries are untouched by its provisions, leading to major expenditures not only by health-related companies, but also by a wide range of businesses ranging from Campbell’s Soup to Dunkin’ Donuts.