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Now We Know When Supreme Court Will Hear Oral Arguments on Obamacare’s Fate

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday released the calendar for October Term 2020, revealing when the high court will hear oral arguments in the Trump administration’s bid to eliminate Obamacare.

The calendar, pictured below, shows that there will be 1 hour for oral arguments in the consolidated cases California v. Texas and Texas v. California on Nov. 10, which is exactly one week after the 2020 election.

The Trump administration previously asked the U.S. Supreme Court to completely invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In an 82-page brief, the Justice Department argued that because the law’s individual mandate was ruled unconstitutional the “entire ACA must fall.”

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Former U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who resigned from his post in June, argued in the brief that when Congress reduced the individual mandate penalty to zero with the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)–a move the Trump administration emphatically backed—the individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional as an application of the legislature’s taxing power. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled 2-1 in Dec. 2019 that the ACA individual mandate was unconstitutional because “it can no longer be read as a tax, and there is no other constitutional provision that justifies this exercise of congressional power.”

Francisco noted that the high court only upheld the ACA by reasoning that the mandate effectively acted as a tax, concluding that the court’s previous holding no longer justified upholding the law “as merely a predicate for tax liability.”

The case before SCOTUS will raise important questions of law, namely: whether the ACA’s individual mandate constitutes a proper use of congressional authority—and, if not, whether the rest of the law can stand without the individual mandate (i.e., severability analysis).

The Trump administration’s push to end Obamacare amid the coronavirus pandemic was supposedly a bridge too far for Attorney General Bill Barr, who reportedly advised a different course of action ahead of election season. President Donald Trump, for his part, was clear about his administration’s goals: “We want to terminate health care under Obamacare.”

Democrats and Republicans can probably agree on one thing: Obamacare is on the ballot this year.

Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.

[Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.