US President Barack Obama speaks to employees of AT&T, PepsiCo,...

US President Barack Obama speaks to employees of AT&T, PepsiCo, UPS and Verizon in Landover, Maryland. (April 1, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

ATLANTA — The Obama administration has appealed a judge’s ruling that found the federal overhaul of the health care system unconstitutional.

The Justice Department filed a 62-page motion Friday to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta that said there’s clear and well-established precedent that Congress acted within its authority in adopting the overhaul. It said Congress made “detailed findings establishing a foundation” for exercising the authority.

Florida and 25 other states filed the lawsuit that said Congress exceeded its authority by requiring all citizens to purchase health insurance or face tax penalties. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, a Republican appointee, agreed in a Jan. 31 ruling that said Obama’s entire health care overhaul is unconstitutional. It is considered the most sweeping ruling against the health care law.

Some states, including Alaska, have cited the decision in refusing to cooperate with the health care law. But Vinson issued another ruling in March ordering states to continue implementing the law while the case makes its way through the courts.

Either way, the broad challenge seems certain to be resolved only by the Supreme Court. Two other U.S. district judges have previously upheld the law, both Democratic appointees to the federal bench.

Vinson’s rulings have found that lawmakers do not have the power to penalize citizens for not doing something. But he has acknowledged that the 11th Circuit could disagree with him.

“It is likely that the Court of Appeals will also reach divergent results and that, as most court-watchers predict, the Supreme Court may eventually be split on this issue as well,” Vinson wrote in the March 3 ruling.

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