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Appeals Court Rejects Part Of Health Care Law


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg joins us now. And Nina, this now means conflicting rulings on this from federal appeals courts. It all but forces the Supreme Court to weigh in, doesn't it?

NINA TOTENBERG: Yes. That's right. Earlier this summer, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati upheld the health care law, including the individual mandate. And now, the 11th Circuit in a case involving a challenge by Florida and many other states has struck down the mandate, so there's really no possible way for the Supreme Court to duck the issue.

BLOCK: And that earlier 6th Circuit decision that you mentioned, Nina, got a lot of attention because the principal opinion that upheld the law was written by a highly respected conservative Republican appointee who is a leading advocate of states' rights. What about this decision? Any surprises there?

TOTENBERG: There was a third judge on the panel who dissented and would have upheld the mandate. Judge Stanley Marcus was appointed to the federal bench first by President Reagan and then promoted to the appeals court by President Clinton in 1997, when the Republicans controlled the Senate. Judge Marcus, at the time, was viewed as someone who could win confirmation from Republicans, but who was acceptable to Democrats.

BLOCK: Now, if you look briefly at today's decision, what did the judges say?

TOTENBERG: Judge Marcus, in dissent, accused the majority of disregarding longstanding Supreme Court precedent by striking down a comprehensive regulatory scheme adopted by Congress to ensure that those who need it get health care and that those who can pay for it rather than having taxpayers pick up the tab for those who choose not to carry health insurance, but end up still needing health care.

BLOCK: So in the end, a victory for those opposed to the health law's mandate, but I understand it does come with a caveat.

TOTENBERG: So he struck down the whole thing, but the court today disagreed with that decision and upheld the rest of the law.

BLOCK: Okay. NPR's Nina Totenberg, thank you very much.

TOTENBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As special correspondent and guest host of NPR's news programs, Melissa Block brings her signature combination of warmth and incisive reporting. Her work over the decades has earned her journalism's highest honors, and has made her one of NPR's most familiar and beloved voices.
Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.