The Department of Justice asked the Supreme Court not to expedite the case–and it seems politics may be the cause.
The Supreme Court rejected a request by Democrats to expedite a challenge to a lower court’s ruling against an integral aspect of the Affordable Care Act.
The Hill reports that the House of Representatives, backed by a coalition of blue states, asked the justices to fast-track an appeal to a ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. At stake was the circuit court’s decision to rule Obamacare’s “individual mandate” unconstitutional. The panel then sent the case back to a federal judge in Texas, instructing him to consider much of the Affordable Care Act could survive without the individual mandate.
That judge, notes The Hill, had ruled the entire act illegal.
To preserve the core tenants of Obamacare, the House and its state-level allies—led by California—petitioned the Supreme Court, asking it to bypass what might otherwise be a lengthy legal battle.
“Under the current state of affairs, there is considerable doubt over whether millions of individuals will continue to be able to afford vitally important care,” the House wrote in its filing. “If the Court does not hear the case this Term, that uncertainty will likely persist through next year’s open enrollment period.”
Tuesday’s ruling, says The Hill, makes it unlikely there’ll be any verdict on the individual mandate or Obamacare before November and the upcoming presidential election.
An actual repeal of Obamacare would, after all, have wide-ranging effects. If the act’s coverage expansions and protections were eliminated, whether through legislation or the judiciary, at least 20 million Americans would likely lose insurance. The removal of other Affordable Care Act provisions would might also lend to increase in prescription medication costs, among other changes.
So far, the Department of Justice and Republican states backing the conservative side of the suit have urged the Supreme Court to act slowly.
“The lawfulness of the act is undoubtedly a matter of the utmost national importance, but the current petitions do not justify immediate, emergency review by the court,” said a Republican brief, filed earlier this January by the attorney general of Texas.
Politics aide, Vox suggests the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act is convoluted for other reasons. Vox states the case, simultaneously styled as California v. Texas and House of Representatives v. Texas, “is widely viewed as absurd even by many conservative legal advocates who backed previous efforts to undercut Obamacare through federal litigation.”
“In essence,” Vox writes, “the Texas plaintiffs argue that the entire Affordable Care Act should be repealed because a provision of the law—that literally does nothing—is unconstitutional.”
However, conservatives have managed to win a string of favorable rulings. Their success is due, largely, to the case having only been heard by “very conservative” panels and judges. But if the case were to reach the Supreme Court, it’d be unlikely to find favor among the majority five justices it’d need for a favorable outcome.
But—and it’s a big but, posited by Vox—conservatives could come out on top if Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 86, or Justice Stephen Breyer, 81, retire or otherwise leave the court. And that, along with politics, may be one reason Republicans aren’t keen to see the case expedited.