The U.S. Supreme Court ruled out the latest Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act, keeping Barack Obama’s cutting-edge health care reforms in an important victory for Democrats.
In a 7-2 opinion released Thursday, the nine-member tribunal denied an attempt to invalidate the Affordable Care Act that provided health coverage for tens of millions of uninsured Americans before.
Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion, joined by two other Liberals, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as four Conservatives: Chief Justice John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Samuel Alito was dissident, joined by his conservative Neil Gorsuch.
Thursday’s decision marked the third time the nation’s highest court has rejected challenges to the ACA, following decisions in 2012 and 2015. The latest case was brought by a group of 18 states led by the Texas and by two individuals. Donald Trump White House had presented a brief amicus in support of the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs had targeted the controversial “individual warrant” that originally required all Americans to have health insurance or pay a financial penalty.
In his 2012 decision confirming the ACA, the Supreme Court stated that the penalty for not having insurance could be characterized as a tax, which makes it a constitutional use of the powers of Congress.
However, Congress later reduced the penalty to zero. Texas-led plaintiffs have cited suit, arguing that the mandate was no longer constitutional, and that the entire law should be overturned.
But the majority found that the plaintiffs had not suffered any harm that gave them reasons to sue.
“To stand, a plaintiff must” allege sufficiently traceable personal injury for the allegedly unlawful conduct of the defendant and likely to be remedied by the relief sought, “Breyer wrote. “for the” allegedly illegal conduct “disputed here.”
The decision in California vs Texas is one of the first high-level decisions since Barrett entered the bench last October, tipping the balance sheet of the nation’s highest court, 6-3, in favor of lawyers appointed by Republican presidents.
Some progressives have been asking Breyer, who at 82 is the oldest justice, to retire in recent weeks, so Democratic President Joe Biden may nominate a Liberal replacement while his party controls Congress. Supreme Court judges are nominated by presidents for life-long appointments, but their appointments must be confirmed by a simple majority in the Senate.
Thursday’s decision, however, stressed that judges do not always rule on ideological lines. Only two Republican-nominated lawyers, Alito and Gorsuch, opposed the decision.
“Today’s decision is the third part of our epic Affordable Care Act trilogy, and it follows the same pattern as rates one and two,” Alito wrote in his dissent. “In all three episodes, with the Affordable Care Act posing a serious threat, the court has taken an unlikely rescue.”
The ACA, often referred to as “Obamacare,” was signed into law in 2010. The legislation has divided public opinion but has become increasingly popular among U.S. voters in recent years. He has resisted many legal challenges since his passing, as well as Republican-led efforts to repeal the law in Congress.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic spokeswoman for the House of Representatives, said Thursday’s decision was “an important victory for Democrats ‘work to defend protections for people with pre-existing conditions against Republicans’ relentless efforts to disassemble them “.
His comments were echoed by Chuck Schumer, the first Senate Democrat, who promised to build on existing legislation. Democrats have called for an expansion of Medicaid – public health insurance for low-income Americans – among other health care reforms.
“Let me definitely say: the Affordable Care Act has won, the Supreme Court has ruled, the ACA is here to stay. And now, we’re going to try to make it bigger and better,” Schumer said. “What a day.”
The White House did not immediately comment on the decision. Ron Klain, White House chief of staff, said on Twitter, “It’s still a BFD,” an apparent reference to a time in 2010, when Vice President Biden was heard whispering to Obama at the signing of the ‘ACA in law: “This is a big fucking affair.”