While a district judge in Texas weighs the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), an appeal to the Supreme Court to review the circuit court ruling that struck down the ACA’s individual mandate has been rejected for this term. The court could choose to take it up come next October, but this effectively means that Judge Reed O’Connor — whatever he may decide — is the sole remaining arbiter of the ACA’s constitutionality before the November election.
On Dec. 18, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision from a July 9th hearing on Judge O’Connor’s 2018 ruling that the entire law is unconstitutional. The three-judge panel, however, agreed only with the judge’s ruling that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. It then ordered him to review the law in greater depth and forward his findings about what’s valid and what’s not. So the circuit court in New Orleans still holds sway over whatever he decides.
Early in January, the House of Representatives and 20 Blue State attorneys general (AGs) asked the Supreme Court to fast track their appeal of the circuit court’s ruling. Today, the high court rejected the appeal.
The issue stems from a lawsuit filed by Red State AGs, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, that claimed the ACA was no longer constitutional after Congressional Republicans did away with the tax penalty associated with the individual mandate. That lawsuit in turn was based on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts’s ruling in 2012 that the ACA mandate was constitutional because it was a tax.
Judge O’Connor agreed with the lawsuit in December 2018 and issued a nationwide injunction against the ACA, but put it on hold while appeals were filed and heard.