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Appeals court hears challenge to health care law

•  Recent Cases     updated  2011/09/24 09:32


A conservative-leaning panel of federal appellate judges raised concerns about President Barack Obama's health care overhaul Friday, but suggested the challenge to it may be premature.

The arguments at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington over a lawsuit against Obama's signature domestic legislative achievement focused on whether Congress overstepped its authority in requiring people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty on their taxes, beginning in 2014.

But Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a former top aide to President George W. Bush who appointed him to the bench, said that he has a "major concern" that courts might not be able to rule on the law's constitutionality until 2015. That's because a federal law bars most challenges to tax-related legislation before the tax or penalty is paid.

A federal appeals court in Richmond cited that law in throwing out another challenge to the overhaul. Two other appeals courts have reached differing conclusions — one declaring the law unconstitutional and the other upholding it. The Supreme Court is expected to weigh in and could possibly even decide to review the law before the Washington circuit issues an opinion.

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