WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Monday cleared the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide in its 2011-12 term the president's signature healthcare law that requires Americans to buy insurance or face a penalty.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said it decided against asking the full U.S. Appeals Court for the 11th Circuit to review the August ruling by a three-judge panel of the court that found the requirement unconstitutional.
The decision not to seek review by the full appeals court will likely speed up consideration of the matter by the high court in its 2011-12 term that begins next week. A ruling could come by late June, in the middle of the presidential campaign.
The Supreme Court has long been expected to have the final word on the legality of the individual mandate, a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's healthcare law. A big uncertainty has been over when the court would decide the issue.
The law's fate before the nine-member court, closely divided with a conservative majority and four liberals, could come down to two Republican appointees, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, legal experts have said.
The law, adopted by Congress in 2010 after a bruising battle, is expected to be a major political issue in the 2012 elections as Obama seeks another four-year term. All the major Republican presidential candidates oppose it.