The White House insisted Tuesday that the implementation of President Barack Obama's landmark health care law will not be affected by a negative federal court ruling, and the Justice Department said it would appeal.
"There's no practical impact at all as states move forward in implementing ... the law that Congress passed and the president signed," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said that, as expected, the department would appeal Monday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson in Virginia. Hudson declared that a central provision of the law — the requirement for nearly everyone to carry health insurance — was unconstitutional.
The ruling by the Republican-appointed judge in a high-profile lawsuit by Virginia's Republican attorney general was a setback for the Obama administration, but not a surprise. Two other district court judges, both Democratic appointees, have found the law constitutional.
Obama administration officials noted that consultations with states on implementing the law were moving forward. Later this week officials from all but a handful of states are expected to travel to Washington to meet with the Health and Human Services Department to discuss setting up the state-based insurance marketplaces, called exchanges, required by the new law.
These include officials from many of the 20 states that are simultaneously suing to overturn the law in a fourth case which begins oral arguments Thursday in Florida. Many state officials have concluded that it's better to participate in discussions on implementing the law than not, even if they don't support it. Even so, Republican members of Congress seized on Hudson's ruling to caution states against moving forward.
Central provisions of the law including the exchanges and the requirement for everyone to be insured don't take effect until 2014 anyway. By then the Supreme Court will likely have weighed in with the final verdict on the health law.
Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, a Republican, urged the Obama administration Tuesday to join him in seeking to take the cases straight to the Supreme Court, bypassing the appeals process, in order to provide certainty for states and businesses. Such a course is highly unusual, and the Justice Department weighed in against it.
"The department believes this case should follow the ordinary course of allowing the courts of appeals to hear it first so the issues and arguments can be fully developed before the Supreme Court decides whether to consider it," Schmaler said.
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