That's why today's news is particularly significant. In a lawsuit brought by a conservative legal center, a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled in the law's favor. One of the two judges in the majority, Judge Jeffrey Sutton, was appointed by President George W. Bush, and even clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the leader of the court's conservative wing. It marks the first time that a judge has ruled against the party that appointed him on the law's constitutionality--as well as the first time an appeals court has ruled on the issue.
"No one is inactive when deciding how to pay for health care," wrote Judge Sutton, rejecting a key argument of the law's opponents. They claim that forcing people to pay a fine for not buying insurance amounts to regulating inactivity, something, they argue, that's not covered as a legitimate target of regulation under the Constitution's Commerce Clause.
The ruling was a victory for the Obama administration, but it could turn out to be short-lived. Nearly everyone expects the dispute ultimately to be resolved before the Supreme Court, and court-watchers say it's difficult to predict which way the justices will rule.