Supreme Court declines to fast-track Obamacare appeal

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court declined Tuesday to put the legal challenge to Obamacare on a fast track, meaning the court — even if it later decides to take up the case — will not hear it during its current term that ends in June just as the presidential campaign heats up.

Nineteen blue states, led by California, asked the Supreme Court earlier this month for a quick decision on whether to take the case. They're appealing a ruling late last year by a federal appeals court that said Obamacare's individual mandate is unconstitutional. The ruling said the rest of the law could not survive without it.

The states defending the law said the appeals court ruling created uncertainty about the future of the entire Affordable Care Act, which "threatens adverse consequences for our nation's health care system, including for patients, doctors, insurers, and state and local governments."

They asked the court to take the case and hear it on April 26, the last scheduled day for oral argument this term, or to add an extra argument day in May, something the court does only rarely. Tuesday's order rejected that request.

Supreme Court Justices
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Supreme Court Justices

John Roberts, Chief Justice

Born: 1955

Joined Supreme Court: 2005

Appointed by: George W. Bush

Votes: Conservative

US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is followed by Elena Kagan on her way to take the Judicial Oath to become the 112th US Supreme Court justice, in Washington on August 7, 2010. (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Born: 1933

Joined Supreme Court: 1993

Appointed by: Bill Clinton

Votes: Liberal

(Photo by Dennis Brack/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Anthony Kennedy

Born: 1936

Joined Supreme Court: 1988

Appointed by: Ronald Reagan

Votes: Conservative/Center

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy listens to opening statements during a Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Clarence Thomas

Born: 1948

Joined Supreme Court: 1991

Appointed by: George H.W. Bush

Votes: Conservative

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas testifies during a hearing before the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee April 15, 2010 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Stephen Breyer

Born: 1938

Joined Supreme Court: 1994

Appointed by: Bill Clinton

Votes: Liberal/Center

United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer speaks at the Harvard University Institute of Politics John F. Kennedy School of Government John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum on November 6, 2015 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

Samuel Alito

Born: 1950

Joined Supreme Court: 2006

Appointed by: George W. Bush

Votes: Conservative

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito speaks during the Georgetown University Law Center's third annual Dean's Lecture to the Graduating Class in the Hart Auditorium in McDonough Hall February 23, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sonia Sotomayor

Born: 1954

Joined Supreme Court: 2009

Appointed by: Barack Obama

Votes: Liberal

Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States Sonia Sotomayor discusses her book 'My Beloved World' presented in association with Books and Books at Bank United Center on February 1, 2013 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Vallery Jean/FilmMagic)

Elena Kagan

Born: 1960

Joined Supreme Court: 2010

Appointed by: Barack Obama

Votes: Liberal

Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Elena Kagan speaks onstage at the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit on October 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for FORTUNE)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch participates in taking a new family photo with his fellow justices at the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The heath care law, known as the Affordable Care Act, was challenged by Texas and 17 other red states. They argued that the individual mandate, which requires all Americans to buy insurance or pay a penalty on their income tax, was unconstitutional. By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agreed.

Tuesday's brief Supreme Court order does not indicate whether the court intends to hear the case, after the normal time for the opposing sides to submit their legal briefs, or allow it to continue working its way through the lower court appeals.

But even if the justices do decide to take it up, the case would not be heard until the court's next term, which begins in October and any decision would not come until after Election Day on Nov. 3.

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