Arguments were heard Wednesday in a federal district court in Baltimore over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), where the Obama-appointed judge is certain to find every aspect of the law completely viable and constitutional. The same lawsuit seeks to unseat acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on grounds that his appointment was unconstitutional.
The legal action was filed in September just as Ft. Worth U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor was hearing anti-ACA arguments stemming from a 20-state lawsuit led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. On Dec. 14, Judge O’Connor declared the entire ACA unconstitutional now that there is no tax penalty for those who fail to buy health insurance.
If U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander rules in favor of the law, the conflicting decisions — if they survive appeal at the circuit court level — would have to be reconciled by the U.S. Supreme Court, where the five justices who approved Obamacare in 2012 are still active. If she declares Whitaker’s appointment invalid, the government would appeal the decision while the Senate considers President Trump’s nomination of William Barr to be U.S. Attorney General.
The dual-pronged Baltimore lawsuit was brought by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. Department of Justice attorney Hashim Mooppan was present at the hearing yesterday to argue that Maryland lacked standing to file the suit because the ACA is still in effect and no harm has come to the state.
Tom Goldstein, one of two attorneys arguing for Maryland, countered the state was injured by the fact that an official illegitimately appointed is presumably presiding over Obamacare’s future.
Mooppan told Judge Hollander that, if Maryland wanted to defend the constitutionality of Obamacare, it could have joined the 14 other states that intervened in the Texas case to protect the law.