Updated at 2 p.m.
As expected, the Supreme Court Monday morning granted review of selected constitutional and legal issues raised by the Affordable Care Act. In announcing the review, the Court laid out an argument schedule that will give an extraordinary 5 1/2 hours for the airing of the issues raised by the health reform law. Arguments will likely take place in March.
The Court will devote most of the argument time -- two hours -- to the most controversial part of the law, namely the individual mandate that requires most people to purchase at least a minimum level of health insurance. That has been attacked as an unconstitutional overstepping of congressional power.
The justices will also hear 90 minutes of arguments over the severability issue -- whether the rest of the law survives if the individual mandate is found unconstitutional. An hour will be reserved for questions raised by the Anti-Injunction Act, which bars the filing of suits to prevent enforcement of tax laws before the tax is paid. Under the health law, no one who refuses to buy minimum coverage will be penalized until 2015, and some judges have interpreted that penalty to be a tax. If that interpretation prevails, the individual mandate could not be challenged until 2015. Finally, the Court will hear an hour of arguments on whether the expansion of Medicaid under the law unconstitutionally intrudes on state authority.
Significantly, the Court's orders on the health care cases contained no indication that any of the nine justices is recusing. Advocates on one side of the issue have called on Justice Elena Kagan to bow out, because of her role as solicitor general during and after passage of the law. On the other side, some have said Justice Clarence Thomas should step aside because of his wife Virginia's role with conservative groups that oppose the law. The Court's order to accept or deny review in a case is usually the first occasion for a justice to signal his or her recusal.
Reaction to the Court's action is already coming in. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer welcomed the Court's action, stating, "We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree." The National Federation of Independent Business, one of the challengers to the law, was also pleased. "For the small business community, this comes not a day too soon," said the federation's CEO Dan Danner.
Check back later here and at NLJ.com and the Supreme Court Insider for more on today's Court action.