Why did the Obama administration, after dragging out the various court challenges to ObamaCare, suddenly step on the gas?
The administration surprised court watchers by passing up a chance to slow down ObamaCare's long march to an eventual Supreme Court ruling. In failing to request a hearing by all the appeals court judges of the 11th Circuit -- to overturn an anti-ObamaCare decision by three of its members -- the administration now puts the matter on a faster track to the Supreme Court.
The court will likely agree to hear the case because two appellate circuit courts, the 11th and 6th, have issued contradictory rulings -- one striking down the individual mandate as unconstitutional, and the other upholding it. This confusion practically guarantees a hearing by the top court, probably months before next year's election.
What provoked the administration's change of heart?
Obama supposedly did not want a Supreme Court decision so soon because, pro or con, the ruling figures to play large as a re-election issue. On the other hand, ObamaCare already is an issue, with the President's opponent undoubtedly planning to hammer him with it.
But if the court strikes down ObamaCare -- especially with a 5-4 split -- Obama can argue that with his re-election, the next opening gets filled with another Sotomayor/Kagan-like liberal who would have supported ObamaCare. If the vacancy comes from the conservative side, Obama can fulfill a liberal dream of switching the court's majority from center-right -- four conservatives and the Anthony Kennedy "swing" vote -- to a left-wing majority.
Obama's new faster-track tactic might also turn on this: Obama expects the Supreme Court to side with him. If the President wins in court, his Republican opponent will still argue against the merits of ObamaCare. But he or she could no longer flatly call it "unconstitutional," since the court would have just ruled otherwise.
So how would a Supreme Court defeat make Obama lucky in his bid for a second term?
ObamaCare remains unpopular, with a plurality of Americans wanting it repealed. Unlike major historic safety-net legislation like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, ObamaCare received no opposition party Senate votes -- none. A majority of state attorneys general either filed or joined lawsuits to overturn the mandate that requires practically all Americans to purchase health insurance.