The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday to confirm the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act by a 7-2 margin, with 4 conservatives justices joining the court’s three liberals to protect the landmark achievement of former President Barack Obama’s two terms.
The case, California v. Texas, hinged on an argument made by Republican governors and attorneys general, and supported by the Trump administration, that following Republicans’ successful effort in 2017 to eliminate penalties for not maintaining health insurance, the entire law must be struck down. The majority of the court said, however, that the mandate itself could be severed from the broader law without needing to overturn it entirely.
The argument follows from a 2012 case against the ACA mandate that all Americans get insured, or else face a monetary penalty. In a 5-4 decision, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by the court’s four liberals, then wrote an opinion ruling the law was constitutional because the mandate was actually a constitutional exercise of the government’s right to tax, not an unconstitutional requirement that all Americans must purchase a product on the marketplace. With the erasure of the penalty for those lacking insurance, supporters of California v. Texas say the previous justification for the law’s constitutionality has been eliminated.
The decision will be a boon for President Joe Biden, who campaigned on expanding the program to provide higher subsidies for those who purchase insurance on the Obamacare exchanges and to increase the standards of insurance plans to be subsidized.
The case was a major issue in the leadup to last year’s presidential election, as Republicans confirmed now Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Oct. 26 2020, just eight days before the Election Day last year on Nov. 3. The 26 days between President Donald Trump’s nomination of Barrett and Election Day is the shortest period of time between a presidential nomination for the Supreme Court justice hand a presidential election in U.S. history.
Democrats argued last year that the conservative Barrett would vote to overturn Obamacare, in an effort to put pressure on Republicans to refrain from confirming her until after the election, and so let the victor nominate the next Supreme Court Justice. Her final confirmation vote was 52-48, with one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine voting against Barrett’s accession to the highest court in the land. In the end, Barrett voted to uphold the law.
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