ATLANTA - The latest round in the ongoing fight over President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is being heard Wednesday in the federal appeals court in Atlanta.
A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments on whether to reverse a Florida judge's ruling that struck down the law.
Some 26 states opposing the law and an alliance of small businesses are set to argue that Congress didn't have the power to require virtually all Americans to maintain health insurance. The Justice Department says the legislative branch exercised its "quintessential" right.
There's considerable legal firepower on both sides of the argument. Former U.S. Solicitor Paul Clement represents the challenging states and current U.S. Solicitor Neal Katyal will speak for the government.
It will unfold in what's considered one of the nation's most conservative appeals courts. But the randomly selected panel includes two appointees of President Bill Clinton, and observers say it's hard to predict how they'll decide. The Clinton appointees are circuit Judges Frank Hull and Stanley Marcus, while Chief Judge Joel Dubina was tapped by President George H.W. Bush.
Two similar lawsuits are pending in Virginia. Three federal judges have upheld the law and two have invalidated it.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Florida went the furthest. It not only struck down a requirement that nearly all Americans carry health insurance, but it also threw out other provisions ranging from Medicare discounts for some seniors to a change that allows adult children up to age 26 to remain on their parents' coverage.
The 11th Circuit is preparing for crowds. The court is expecting a crush of people for the arguments, and is opening an adjoining courtroom for the spillover crowd. It also plans to sell $26 audiotapes of the arguments to those who want recordings of the court sessions.