DOJ Doesn’t Want SCOTUS To Hear The Texas Obamacare Case 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)
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January 10, 2020 5:04 p.m.

The Justice Department and several red states urged the Supreme Court on Friday not to expedite its consideration of a major anti-Obamacare lawsuit coming out of Texas, as Democratic state attorneys general and the U.S. House requested last week.

The Friday filings argued that the Supreme Court should hold off intervening in the case until an appeals court came to a final decision on whether the Affordable Care Act must be dismantled now that Congress has eliminated the individual mandate’s tax penalty.

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit side with the Trump administration, Texas and other red states in ruling that the mandate was now unconstitutional due to the 2017 GOP tax law. However, the appeals court ordered the district court to re-examine its decision on how that effected the rest of the health care law; U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, siding with the Justice Department, had previously ruled that the whole law must be go down with the mandate.

The appeals court ruling had the effect of delaying any major blow to Obamacare for at least several more months, taking political pressure off of President Trump and Republicans to come up with a replacement before the 2020 election.

The Justice Department’s filing Friday essentially told that the Supreme Court it shouldn’t do anything to get in the way of that timeline.

After arguing to the lower courts that the Affordable Care Act was unworkable without the mandate’s tax penalty, the DOJ on Friday said that there was “no present, real-world emergency” created by the appeals court decision, which effectively maintained the Obamacare status quo.

The red states, meanwhile, in their filing mocked the Democratic petitioners for having previously argued “that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate impacts no one in any way.”

“Yet now, they claim that a decision declaring that mandate unconstitutional is so consequential to the Republic that this Court must upend its rules, rush the briefing and argument, truncate its own consideration of the complex questions presented, and hastily render a decision,” the GOP attorneys general filing said.

The requests from the House and blue states that the Supreme Court expedite its consideration of the case was filed last Friday, at the same time they filed their broader petition that justices review the 5th Circuit’s recent decision. Their proposals laid out a briefing schedule that would let the Supreme Court hear and decide the case by the end of this term.

It takes only four justices to decide to take up a case, meaning the liberal wing of the Supreme Court, without the support of any conservative justices, could grant review.

However, five votes would be necessary to speed up that review.

Read the DOJ’s and Republican states’ filings below:

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