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White House, GOP senators file health care law arguments

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer
updated 8:53 PM EST, Fri January 6, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Administration, GOP senators file briefs with U.S. Supreme Court
  • Obama insists officials have power to require minimum health care coverage
  • Republicans argue against individual mandates

Washington (CNN) -- The Obama administration Friday filed papers with the U.S. Supreme Court outlining its arguments in favor of the minimum coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act — the latest move in a high-stakes legal battle playing out in the heat of the presidential campaigns.

Justice Department lawyers essentially mirrored their arguments from cases in appeals courts.

The government insists officials have the power to require minimum health care coverage, and that individuals who do not carry it will owe the government a penalty, which the Justice Department calls a tax.

The legal brief filed with the Supreme Court asserts that the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of the interstate commerce clause.

Meanwhile, like ships passing in the night, 36 Republican senators filed a brief regarding their arguments over what they call "Obamacare."

Led by minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the senators assert that the "individual mandate" for health coverage is unconstitutional, and if that argument prevails then the whole health care law must be thrown out.

The individual mandate requires nearly all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties.

"We believe the mandate is not severable from the [law] because the law will not function as its congressional proponents intended or achieve their objectives without the presence of the mandate," the Republicans argue.

Oral arguments are scheduled for mid-March and a ruling is expected by June.

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