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Should Kagan recuse herself from health-care case?

The Supreme Court’s current session is likely to prove one of the most important in many years. At the heart of a case the justices will consider is the individual mandate in President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which requires every American to purchase health insurance. If the Supreme Court upholds the individual mandate, it will set a precedent for future Congresses and expand the federal government’s reach into our everyday lives.

But the outcome of the case is not the only issue of concern to the American people. Interest groups on both sides are calling for the recusal of two Supreme Court justices.

While we don’t know whether these justices should recuse themselves, it is clear that not all of the allegations are equal. For example, some groups allege that Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself because of his wife’s involvement with groups opposed to the health-care law.

But concerns about the job or personal views of a justice’s spouse are not the same as concerns that a justice may have been involved in a matter before it reached the high court.

Specifically, Justice Elena Kagan may have played a role in the development and defense of the president’s health-care law during her tenure as U.S. solicitor general. Despite claims from Obama administration officials that Kagan was not involved in the health-care discussions, emails released last month indicate that there may be more to the story.

The Obama administration has a responsibility to fully disclose any information about what role Kagan played in the review of the Affordable Care Act. The validity of the outcome at the high court depends on the impartiality of the justices.

This case is far too important for the White House to refuse to provide the facts to the American people.

Smith, R-Texas, is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.