The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld ObamaCare against the latest Republican challenge, preserving the landmark law and its key protections for millions of people with preexisting health conditions.
The justices ruled 7-2 that the GOP challengers lacked standing to sue, in a decision that marks the third major challenge to ObamaCare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), to be rebuffed by the Supreme Court in roughly a decade.
The case arose after 18 Republican states brought a legal challenge in 2018 aimed at striking down the ACA.
Led by Texas, the GOP challengers focused on the ObamaCare tax penalty meant to induce the purchase of health insurance by most Americans. They argued that former President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Carolina Senate passes trio of election measures 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Border state governors rebel against Biden’s immigration chaos MORE’s 2017 tax cut, which zeroed out the penalty, made that provision unconstitutional.
Without the tax penalty, they argued, ObamaCare effectively lost its constitutional footing, requiring its invalidation by the court.
But the justices did not even address those issues in their decision.
“We do not reach these questions of the Act’s validity, however, for Texas and the other plaintiffs in this suit lack the standing necessary to raise them,” Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden on Putin: ‘a worthy adversary’ McConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight Senate confirms Garland’s successor to appeals court MORE wrote for the majority.
Breyer was joined by fellow liberal justices Elena KaganElena KaganSupreme Court confounding its partisan critics Gorsuch, Thomas join liberal justices in siding with criminal defendant The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Democrats’ agenda in limbo as Senate returns MORE and Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorSupreme Court unanimously rules certain crack offenders not eligible for resentencing Supreme Court confounding its partisan critics Gorsuch, Thomas join liberal justices in siding with criminal defendant MORE, as well as four of the court’s more conservative members: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasMcConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight Supreme Court unanimously rules certain crack offenders not eligible for resentencing Supreme Court confounding its partisan critics MORE, Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughThe ACLU’s civil war over old values: Free speech only for the woke? McConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight Supreme Court confounding its partisan critics MORE and Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden on Putin: ‘a worthy adversary’ McConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight McConnell signals GOP would block Biden Supreme Court pick in ’24 MORE.
Two of the court’s staunchest conservatives, Justices Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoMcConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight Gorsuch, Thomas join liberal justices in siding with criminal defendant Supreme Court narrows cybercrime law MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSupreme Court confounding its partisan critics Gorsuch, Thomas join liberal justices in siding with criminal defendant Supreme Court justice denies Colorado churches’ challenge to lockdown authority MORE, wrote in dissent.
The lower courts had largely sided with the Republican states but agreed to delay enforcement of the ruling while appeals played out. ObamaCare’s defenders, comprising a coalition of 20 blue states and the Democratic-led House, appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Justice Department under Trump backed the GOP states in urging the justices to strike down the law. But the Biden administration reversed course.
ObamaCare is credited with expanding Medicaid for poorer Americans and making private health plans more affordable for lower-income families. Health experts say the law has provided a crucial backstop for those who have lost job-based coverage during the pandemic.
Updated at 10:44 a.m.