Twenty-six states and a small business group appealed Wednesday to the Supreme Court seeking to strike down all of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law while the administration defended it.
The states and National Federation of Independent Business argued the entire law should be invalidated because Congress exceeded its powers requiring that Americans buy health insurance or face a penalty.
They urged the high court to quickly decide the issue in its upcoming term, which begins next week and lasts through June 2012.
The Obama administration filed its own appeal in which the Justice Department argued the so-called individual mandate was constitutional and said the issue was appropriate for Supreme Court review.
"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," the Justice Department said.
"We believe the challenges to Affordable Care Act ... will also ultimately fail and that the Supreme Court will uphold the law," the department said in a statement.
White House adviser Stephanie Cutter said the administration asked the Supreme Court to hear the case "so that we can put these challenges to rest and continue moving forward implementing the law to lower the cost of health care and make it more secure for all Americans."
At issue was a ruling by a U.S. appeals court in Atlanta in August that declared unconstitutional the individual insurance requirement, but refused to strike down the entire law.
The ruling by the appeals court in Atlanta conflicted with rulings by other appeals courts that have upheld the law or have rejected legal challenges, including a lawsuit by the state of Virginia that was dismissed earlier this month on procedural grounds.
The law, passed by Congress and signed by Obama in 2010 after a bruising political battle, is expected to be a major issue in the 2012 elections as Obama seeks another four-year term. Republican presidential candidates oppose it.
Obama, a Democrat, has championed the law as a major accomplishment of his presidency and as a way to try to slow soaring healthcare costs while expanding health insurance coverage to the more than 30 million Americans without it.
The Supreme Court long has been expected to have the final word on the law's constitutionality. The dispute has important legal, political and financial implications for companies in the healthcare field.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said the states sought Supreme Court review of their lawsuit.
"This health care law is an affront on Americans' individual liberty, and we will not allow the federal government to violate our constitutional rights," she said.
Legal experts have said the nine-member Supreme Court, with a conservative majority and four liberals, most likely will be closely divided on whether the individual mandate requiring insurance purchases exceeded the power of Congress.
The Obama administration earlier this week said it decided against asking the full U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit to review the August ruling by a three-judge panel of the court that found the insurance requirement unconstitutional.
That decision cleared the way for the administration to go to the Supreme Court.
The states in their appeal also argued the law's expansion of Medicaid, a federal-state partnership that provides health care to low-income Americans, was unconstitutionally coercive, forced upon the states. (Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky and Karen Pierog in Chicago, Editing by Will Dunham and Jackie Frank)
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.