A Wednesday deadline for any change in legal tactics is looming in yet another fight between several states and the federal government concerning the future of Obamacare. For the third time, the United States Supreme Court will hear a constitutional challenge to the federal Affordable Care Act. Arguments are likely to come this fall. However, legal positions must be solidified by the middle of this week, and the appearance of the novel coronavirus has the attorney general worried about the hard-line stance of the Trump Administration that the law should be wiped off the books.
Attorney General William Barr, in a Monday meeting, pressed the Trump Administration to back down on Obamacare, CNN has reported, citing “four sources familiar” with the gathering. In attendance were, according to CNN, “Vice President Mike Pence, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, members of the Domestic Policy Council, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and several other officials.”
No clear decisions emerged, CNN reported.
“Barr and other top advisers have argued against the hard-line position for some time, warning it could have major political implications if the comprehensive health care law appears in jeopardy as voters head to the polls in November,” per CNN. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, a ruling against Obamacare “could cause substantial disruptions to the health care of millions of Americans,” CNN noted in its description of Barr’s position.
However, many in the Administration argued staying the course as a quotient of ideological purity, notwithstanding the consequences:
Trump’s domestic policy aides have resisted any change in the Trump administration’s legal arguments at this point, contending that the legal position should move forward without changes because Republicans have campaigned on repealing Obamacare for a decade. Those aides have brushed off the possibility of any new political repercussions, and pushed back on Barr in the meeting Monday.
Barr’s suggested argument to keep Obamacare partially intact has in the past been joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, CNN noted, saying the rift in the administration’s opinions surrounding the law has been present for some time. The pandemic has sharpened some of the arguments.
The Affordable Care Act has landed before the high court twice before. First, the court determined the individual mandate for health coverage fit the legal definition of a tax. Second, the court ruled that the exchange’s tax credits were available in both state and federal exchanges.
Trump has claimed he supports protection for preexisting conditions while his administration has championed legal changes which would erase or weaken them.
The newest challenge argues that the entire law must fall because the individual mandate — the “tax” being the nail upon which the law was constitutionally hung — was set to zero in 2017 when Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate. Texas and other states have sued under the basic argument that the Affordable Care Act is no longer a “tax” and therefore is no longer a constitutional use of congressional power. The Trump Administration has wholeheartedly supported the Texas argument; lower courts have also held in favor of Texas. Now, the Supreme Court must determine which side wins.
[Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images.]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]