The road to the repeal of President Obama’s signature healthcare law has been long, tedious and very expensive. Twenty-six states joined together to sue the federal government on the basis that it is unconstitutional for the U.S. government to require individuals to purchase a product, in this case health insurance. The battle has been waged from district courts to appeals courts, with small skirmishes won by each side along the way.

The State of Virginia, led by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, went at the government independently, winning on the argument that the federal government could not require the citizens of the state to purchase insurance.

Ultimately all 27 states battling the U.S. government knew the matter would not be resolved until the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, ruled. Cuccinelli had already requested the court step in because of the different rulings from the lower courts and because the state was being forced to expend money to prepare for the Obamacare mandated insurance exchanges, but to this point the Supreme Court had refused to step in. That all changed today.

The Supreme Court agreed today to hear arguments and rule on the fate of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, though the timing for the president could not be worse.

The Supreme Court said that oral arguments would be heard in March for a total of 5-1/2 hours. The court would deliver a decision during the spring session, which means a ruling would come no later than June of 2012, smack dab in the middle of the presidential campaign.

The court will hear from the group representing the 26 states opposing the law, but Virginia’s case will not be included. Since Virginia’s case generally mirrors the work of the other 26 states a ruling would be expected that would address the key issues brought in Cuccinelli’s suit.

The key issue before the court will be whether the U.S. Congress overstepped its powers by requiring all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, better known as the individual mandate.

While legal experts have opined that the decision may be close with 5 conservatives and 4 liberals, it may not be the tough decision some are suggesting. At least one of the liberals on the court, Elena Kagan, will be forced to recuse herself because she was an advocate for Obamacare during her term as the Solicitor General. Even the liberal justices aren’t likely to agree with the administration on the right of the federal government to force individuals to purchase health insurance as the ramifications would be widespread and cannot be directly linked to any federal rights delineated in the Constitution.

If the court strikes down the law it’s expected to be a major blow to the president. His landmark law is one of the few positives he can take to his liberal base and it’s believed that should it fail many liberals will sit out the next election. Yet there may be reason for the president to believe that even if the court finds the mandate unconstitutional it may allow the remainder of the law to remain; however without the mandate paying for the program it becomes financially impractical.

While the White House released statements saying they were pleased the court took the case, the fact is the White House was praying it would not make it into the spring session. If the court had held off till the fall session oral arguments would not have occurred till after the 2012 election. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said, “We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.” The administration’s response is little better than painting lipstick on a pig – if the court rules against them it crushes their base. If the law were upheld it would fire up the Republican base and the majority of Independents that oppose the law, creating a wave that would likely sweep the president from office.

The National Federation of Independent Business, which has partnered with the 26 states opposing the law, released a statement saying, “We are confident in the strength of our case and hopeful that we will ultimately prevail. Our nation’s job-creators depend on a decision being reached before the harmful effects of this new law become irreversible.”

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose state is leading the challenge to the law, said: “We are hopeful that by June 2012 we will have a decision that protects Americans’ and individuals’ liberties and limits the federal government’s power.”

If the Supreme Court were to uphold the individual mandate it would truly represent a landmark case. While the government will argue that Medicare and Social Security were both laws challenged because they required individuals to submit taxes to cover future use of health and retirement benefits, both were upheld based on the government’s right to assess and collect taxes. Obamacare, as written, does not impose a tax that the government uses to invest for future use, but rather issues a penalty if an individual fails to purchase health insurance that meets the minimum requirements set by the Department of Health and Human Services. While the government initially argued that the penalty was not a tax, they have made a 180 degree about-face when it became clear without the “tax” label the mandate had virtually no chance of standing. The government is now faced with the job of convincing the Supreme Court justices that the penalty is a tax, but a tax that is only imposed if you fail to buy insurance on your own and therefore is not universal.

The real question is not whether the justices will render the individual mandate null and void, but whether they will leave the remaining clauses intact. The law did not include a severability clause, most likely because without the revenue from the individual mandate the law collapses, requiring the Congress to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars to sustain the remaining portions of the law at a time the U.S. simply doesn’t have the money for another entitlement.

It should make for a very entertaining summer in D.C.