The Justice Department has until 1 p.m. ET Thursday to answer fundamental constitutional questions dealing with the health care law championed by President Barack Obama in an escalating political battle that has embroiled all three branches of government.
Administration officials said Wednesday they were deciding how to respond to an order from a three-judge appeals panel that is hearing a challenge to the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Department lawyers were told by the judges to explain whether federal courts could intervene and strike down congressional laws as unconstitutional. Such a power has been guaranteed since the Supreme Court's landmark 1803 ruling in Marbury v. Madison.
The appellate panel's order came after one of the three judges appeared to be deeply concerned by the president's comments this week, in which Obama challenged the Supreme Court not to take what he called an "unprecedented" step of overturning the health care law.
The White House tried to defuse the ideological firestorm Wednesday, saying the president's words were misunderstood.
The three judges are Republican appointees from the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, meeting in Houston. They were hearing a challenge to the health care law from physician-owned hospitals, despite the fact the Supreme Court is deciding constitutional questions in separate cases.
The high court's rulings expected in June would take precedence over any other courts hearing similar appeals.FULL STORY