Republican governors urge quick resolution to legal challenge against health law

Republican Govs. Haley Barbour (Miss.) and Gary Herbert (Utah) urged Congress Tuesday to press for the Supreme Court to quickly resolve the legal challenges against the healthcare reform law.

"We already have conflicting opinions at the district court level," Barbour said. "Conflicting decisions from different circuits would just compound the problem. So, for those of you who have any influence on that, we would like to have that question answered sooner rather than later."

"Speaking for Utah, it's kind of like we're sitting on shifting sands," Herbert said, adding that as more time passes it's going to be increasingly difficult to determine which elements of implementation would need to be unwound if the whole law is struck down. "The uncertainty is really a problem for us, to know which way to go and what to do."

The governors made the remarks while testifying in Congress about the healthcare reform law's costs to the states.

Three federal district judges have ruled that the law's individual mandate is constitutional, while two have struck it down. One of those judges, Florida's Roger Vinson, ruled Jan. 31 that the whole law is unlawful because the mandate is central to its functioning.

The White House has appealed the adverse rulings to two appeals courts rather than asking the Supreme Court to review the contradictory rulings in an expedited manner. At that rate, Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) said, it could be June 2012 before the Supreme Court rules.

The Obama administration has also asked Vinson to clarify whether he meant to freeze implementation of the law with his ruling.

Vinson could rule as early as today. If he declares that implementation should stop until higher courts rule, the administration is almost certain to seek a stay.

This post was updated at 12:20 p.m.