Court schedules week of health care arguments

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will use an unprecedented week's worth of argument time in late March to decide the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul.

The high court scheduled arguments for March 26th, 27th and 28th over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which aims to provide health insurance to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans. The arguments fill the entire court calendar that week with nothing but debate over Obama's signature domestic health care achievement.

With the March dates set, that means a final decision on the massive health care overhaul will likely come before Independence Day in the middle of Obama's re-election campaign. The new law has been vigorously opposed by all of Obama's prospective GOP opponents.

Republicans have branded the law unconstitutional since before Obama signed it in a March 2010 ceremony.

In an unprecedented move, the justices are hearing more than five hours of arguments over the health care overhaul.

They will start the week of arguments that Monday with one hour on whether court action is premature because no one yet has paid a fine for not participating in the overhaul. Tuesday's arguments will take two hours, with lawyers debating the central issue of whether Congress overstepped its authority by requiring Americans to purchase health care insurance or pay a fine. Finally, Wednesday's arguments will be split into two parts, with justices hearing 90 minutes of debate over whether the rest of the law can take effect even if the health insurance mandate is unconstitutional and an extra hour of arguments over whether the law goes too far in coercing states to participate in the health care overhaul by threatening a cutoff of federal money.

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