If the Obama administration had any doubt that its signature healthcare law faces a severe challenge in court, it was erased soon after Chief Judge Joel Dubina opened the proceedings here.

“I can’t find any case like this,” Dubina said. “If we uphold this, are there any limits” on the power of the federal government?

Judge Stanley Marcus chimed in: “I can’t find any case” in the past, he said, where the courts upheld “telling a private person they are compelled to purchase a product in the open market…. Is there anything that suggests Congress can do this?”

After nearly three hours of argument Wednesday, the three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals seemed prepared to declare at least part of last year’s law unconstitutional.

The current case has gathered the most attention because it involves 26 state attorneys general — all Republicans — who jointly challenged the law. In addition, the 11th Circuit is considered among the most conservative of the federal appellate courts. If any of the appeals courts strikes down the law, the case almost certainly would land at the Supreme Court, perhaps during the election year. The 11th Circuit has been seen by legal experts as one of the more likely to rule against the administration.

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