Supreme Court Won’t Decide Obamacare’s Fate Before The Election

The US Supreme Court is seen in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

The Supreme Court denied Tuesday a request that it fast-track a review of a Texas lawsuit seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. The rejection the request, made by the legal defenders of the law, means that Obamacare’s fate won’t be decided before the 2020 election, taking political pressure off of President Trump and Republicans.

The Republican lawsuit argues that the 2017 tax law made Obamacare’s individual mandate unconstitutional by zeroing out the tax penalty for not having health insurance. It also alleges that if the mandate is unconstitutional, the whole law — including its Medicaid expansion and protections for pre-existing conditions — must be invalidated.

Already, a federal judge has agreed with the challengers — who are being supported by Trump’s Justice Department — on both points. An appeals court recently backed the finding that the mandate was unconstitutional, but ordered the the trial judge to re-examine his finding on whether the rest of the law could be severed from the mandate.

That process could take several months, prompting the Obamacare’s defenders — which in the case include blue states and the U.S. House of Representatives — to seek an immediate Supreme Court intervention.

While the Supreme Court may ultimately agree to take up the case, Tuesday’s order means that the justices won’t expedite their consideration of whether to do so. Under the typical, slower timeline, the earliest the case, if granted, could be heard is next term.

It takes only four votes to take up a case, meaning the court’s liberal wing might still have the votes to grant review of the lawsuit. However, five votes were necessary to get the case fast-tracked.

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