The Trump administration on Thursday night argued in a legal brief filed with the Supreme Court that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be invalidated.
The legal filing, while expected, formalizes the Trump administration’s position in the Supreme Court against the healthcare law months before the election, at a time when Democrats are hitting President TrumpDonald John Trump The Trump administration asks the Supreme Court to defeat ObamaCare Trump says there will be ‘retribution’ for those who disfigure the monuments of the White House task force that tracks coronavirus spikes even when Trump says the virus is ‘disappearing’: MORE report about his position in health care.
Reversing the ACA would eliminate health insurance coverage for some 20 million people, and the stakes are even higher given the effects of the current pandemic.
The report argues that because the law’s requirement for health insurance was upheld in court as a tax in 2012, and since then Congress has repealed the financial penalty for violating that requirement, in 2017, it is no longer a tax and is therefore no longer constitutional.
The administration says that because this provision is invalid, the rest of the law is so intertwined with this provision that the entire law should also fall.
“Therefore, the entire ACA must comply with the individual mandate, although the scope of the relief entered in this case should be limited to provisions that have been shown to harm plaintiffs,” writes the Justice Department.
Legal experts on both sides have widely criticized this argument as weak, saying Congress’s intention in the 2017 tax law was clearly only to repeal the mandate sanction, not the entire Affordable Care Act.
Democrats quickly took advantage of the decision.
“President Trump and the Republican campaign to rip the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act amid the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” he said. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump’s administration asks the Supreme Court to remove the ObamaCare House passes a police reform bill that faces a dead end in the Senate. Pelosi predicts that Trump will accept the election results if he loses, but says ‘get ready for everything’ MORE (D-Calif.) He said in a statement.
The Justice Department released the report late Thursday night, and many Republicans see the continuing lawsuit as a political headache.
Vulnerable Republican lawmakers for reelection have largely sidestepped questions about their positions in the lawsuit, as defending ACA Democrats helped the party win back the House in 2018 amid the law’s growing popularity.
The case won’t be decided until after the elections, probably in the spring of 2021, meaning it will be suspended during the campaigns until November.
Most legal observers think that the current makeup of the Supreme Court would rule to uphold the law, especially given that Chief Justice John Roberts has already confirmed it in two previous ObamaCare cases, but nothing is certain in the higher court.
And if Trump has a chance to appoint another judge, the calculation could change.
The case against the law is being led by Texas and a group of states led by the Republican Party. California and a group of Democrat-led states are defending the law after Trump’s very unusual decision by the Justice Department not to defend it, given that the Justice Department traditionally defends federal laws in court.
“For them to understand, ObamaCare is a disaster,” Trump told reporters last month, adding: “What we want to do is end it and provide excellent medical care.”
While Trump supported the Republican Party’s failed plans to revoke and replace in 2017, he has not come up with an ObamaCare alternative of his own.
Updated at 12:41 am