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Supreme Court won't fast track Va. challenge to health law

From NBC's Pete Williams
The Supreme Court has rejected a request from the state of Virginia to take up a challenge to the Obama health care law on a fast track.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli asked the court to let the state bypass the normal federal appeals process and take the case directly to the justices. While the court's rules allow for this, such a rapid review is granted only very rarely. The Justice Department opposed the request to put the case on a fast track.

The court's decision means the issue will continue working its way through the federal appeals courts. Several cases are pending, including challenges to the law from Virginia, Florida, and 25 other states.

They claim that the centerpiece of the law -- requiring virtually all Americans to buy health insurance -- is unconstitutional. Two federal judges, in Virginia and Florida, have agreed with the states.

Three other judges, also in Virginia and in Michigan and Washington, DC, have found the law constitutional.

The cases are moving quickly through the appeals courts. The two Virginia cases will be heard by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on May 10th. The Michigan case will be heard by the 6th Circuit on June 1st, and the case from Florida, with the challenges from over half the states, will be argued before the 11th Circuit appeals court on June 8th.

*** UPDATE ***  In today's brief one-sentence order rejecting the Virginia request, there's no indication that any justices were recused.

When the issue reaches the Supreme Court, as it is expected to during the term that starts in the fall, it appears that all nine justices will hear it. (Some conservative groups were calling on Elena Kagan to bow out, claiming she was involved in some early calls when she was solicitor general about who in her office should handle the issue.)

*** UPDATE II *** In a staetment, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said he is "disappointed" that the case will not be expedited.

"The court's refusal to hear this case now will force states and businesses to incur increased costs and expend significant effort to begin preparations necessary to ensure compliance with this law, which ultimately may be ruled unconstitutional," he said.