WH must decide: Seek Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare before or after election?

The Justice Department could ask the full U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to reconsider a 2-1 decision in August that declared the law’s mandate that all Americans must have health insurance unconstitutional. But seeking the full court review could take weeks, or even months, and probably push back a Supreme Court ruling until 2013.

Or government lawyers could opt to skip the full review in the lower court and appeal directly to the Supreme Court this fall. That in turn will probably lead to a constitutional ruling on President Obama’s healthcare law by next summer…

The fate of Obama’s healthcare overhaul figures to be at the center of next year’s presidential race. Republicans have been running on a promise to “repeal Obamacare.” If the Supreme Court were to strike down Obama’s signature law as an unconstitutional overreach by the president and a Democratic Congress, it could deal a damaging blow to the president’s campaign for reelection.

However, if the justices were to uphold the law as a reasonable regulation of the nation’s health insurance market, their decision would give a powerful endorsement to Obama’s crusade for healthcare reform just when he most needs it. A pro-Obama ruling by the court would also badly undercut claims by “tea party” activists who contend federal regulation of healthcare is outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution.