Supreme Court adds more time for oral arguments on Obama healthcare law

The Supreme Court on Tuesday added even more time for oral arguments in the landmark case over President Obama's healthcare reform law.

The justices added an extra 30 minutes to hear arguments over whether they have the authority to decide whether the law's individual mandate is constitutional. That brings the case to a total of six hours. It was already set to be the longest argument in the court's modern history.

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Twenty-six states and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) filed the challenge to Obama's healthcare legislation, though the Supreme Court has had to appoint third parties to argue certain positions.

The court will now spend an hour and a half determining whether it can make a ruling before the mandate takes effect in 2014. A separate federal law, known as the Anti-Injunction Act, bars lawsuits over new taxes until those taxes have taken effect.

The states, NFIB and the Obama administration all say the Anti-Injunction Act should not stop the court from ruling on the healthcare mandate. But in part because a lower court cited the law, the justices have to consider it.

The court will hear from a third-party attorney for 40 minutes and the Justice Department for 30 minutes. NFIB and the states will get 20 minutes.

The justices will then hear two hours of arguments over the core question of whether the insurance mandate is constitutional. After that come two and a half hours over whether other provisions of the healthcare law — or perhaps all of it — have to fall if the mandate is unconstitutional.

On the last day of arguments, the court will spend an hour on the states' challenge to the healthcare law's Medicaid expansion.

The court will hear oral arguments in March, setting the stage for a decision in the summer — the midst of the 2012 elections.

The lengthy hearing underscores what's at stake as the White Houses braces for the possibility its signature domestic achievement could be found unconstitutional before the election.