Telling a court that its key provision is grounded in Congress' right to regulate commerce, attorneys for President Barack Obama on Wednesday sought to stave off the biggest legal challenge yet to his landmark healthcare reform.
Senior administration lawyer Neal Katyal argued that the Affordable Care Act does not violate the constitution, as 26 states seeking repeal of the law have argued. They contend that individuals cannot be required to buy health insurance as the law requires.
Katyal defended the 2010 law before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta and said it is grounded in three separate constitutional principles.
"Those three findings set up three different independent constitutional bases for the act and each becomes even weightier still when viewed alongside the current standard rule that a strong presumption of constitutionality inheres to acts of Congress," Katyal said in his opening remarks.
The act requires Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or face a fine equal to 2.5 percent of their income.
Former Solicitor General Paul Clement, representing the 26 states seeking repeal, said that provision punishes inactivity and exceeds the authority the constitution grants Congress to regulate interstate commerce.
"For 220 years, Congress never saw fit to use this particular power," Clement told a three-judge panel.