The Supreme Court has begun the review of the latest Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act, reviving the partisan battle over health care that was central to the presidential contest and the confirmation of the newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett
The court is reviewing a decision that found part of the law, also known as Obamacare, unconstitutional. The case raises questions about the fate of health insurance for millions of Americans.
The lawsuit was brought by Republican state officials and is backed by President Trump’s administration, which has prioritized abolishing the law.
Chief Justice John Roberts said simply that if Trump and Republicans wanted to kill the law, they could have done it.
“I think it’s hard for you to argue that Congress intended the entire act to fall if the mandate was struck down when the same Congress that lowered the penalty to zero did not even try to repeal the rest of the act,” Roberts told the attorney representing Texas, one of the states fighting the law.
“I think, frankly, that they wanted the court to do that, but that’s not our job,” Roberts added.
President-elect Biden has criticised Republican efforts to throw out the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as the law is formally known, amid the coronavirus pandemic and hopes to buttress legislation after taking office on January 20.
In 2018, Texas-based US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that the legislation was unconstitutional as currently structured in light of a Republican-backed change made by Congress in 2017.
In 2019, the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals partially upheld that ruling, saying the law’s “individual mandate,” which required people to obtain insurance or pay a financial penalty, ran afoul of the Constitution. The ruling stopped short of striking down the law.
The case represents the latest Republican legal attack on the 2010 law, which was the signature domestic policy achievement of former President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president.
The Supreme Court in 2012 and 2015 ruled against previous Republican challenges to it.