The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the latest Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act, preserving Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reforms in a major victory for Democrats.
In a 7-2 opinion released Thursday, the nine-member court dismissed an attempt to strike down the broad affordable care law, which provided medical coverage to tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans.
Stephen Breyer wrote the Majority Opinion, joined by two other Liberals, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as four Conservatives: Chief Justice John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Samuel Alito expressed his dissent, joined by his conservative colleague Neil Gorsuch.
Thursday’s ruling marked the third time the nation’s highest court has dismissed ACA’s challenges, following rulings in 2012 and 2015. The latest case was brought by an 18-state group led by Texas and two people. that of Donald Trump White House had filed an amicus brief in support of the applicants.
The plaintiffs had targeted the controversial “individual mandate” that originally required all Americans to have health insurance or pay a financial penalty.
In his 2012 decision upholding the ACA, the Supreme Court ruled that the penalty for not having insurance qualified as a tax, making it a constitutional use of the powers of Congress.
However, Congress subsequently reduced the penalty to zero. The Texas-led plaintiffs sued, arguing the tenure was no longer constitutional and the entire law had to be overturned.
But the majority concluded that the plaintiffs had not suffered any prejudice which would give them grounds to bring an action.
“To have standing, a plaintiff must ‘allege personal injury sufficiently attributable to the defendant’s allegedly unlawful conduct and capable of being remedied by the relief sought,” “Breyer wrote. “No complainant has demonstrated that such harm was ‘sufficiently attributable’ to the ‘allegedly unlawful conduct’ challenged here. “
The California v Texas ruling is one of the first high-profile decisions since Barrett joined the bench last October, tipping the scales at the nation’s highest court, 6-3, in favor of lawyers appointed by Republican presidents .
Some progressives have in recent weeks called on Breyer, who at 82 is the oldest judge, to retire so Democratic President Joe Biden can appoint a Liberal replacement while his party controls Congress. Supreme Court justices are appointed by presidents for life appointments, but their appointments must be confirmed by a simple majority in the Senate.
Thursday’s decision, however, underlined that judges do not always rule along ideological lines. Only two lawyers appointed by Republicans, Alito and Gorsuch, opposed the decision.
“Today’s ruling is the third installment in our epic Affordable Care Act trilogy, and it follows the same pattern as installments one and two,” Alito wrote in his dissent. “In all three episodes, as the Affordable Care Act faced a serious threat, the court managed an unlikely rescue. “
ACA, often referred to as “Obamacare,” was enacted in 2010. Legislation has divided public opinion but has become increasingly popular with American voters in recent years. It has withstood several legal challenges since its passage, as well as Republican-led efforts to repeal the law in Congress.
“After more than a decade of attacks on the Affordable Care Act by Congress and the courts, today’s ruling – the third major challenge to the law that the United States has. The Supreme Court rejected – it’s time to move forward and continue to build on this landmark law, ”Biden said in a statement after the ruling.
Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, called Thursday’s decision “a historic victory for Democrats ‘work to defend protections for people with pre-existing conditions against Republicans’ relentless efforts to dismantle them.”
His comments were echoed by Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, who pledged to build on existing legislation. Democrats have called for an expansion of Medicaid – public health insurance for low-income Americans – among other health care reforms.
“Let me say definitively: the Affordable Care Act won, the Supreme Court has ruled, the ACA is here to stay,” Schumer said.
Ron Klain, White House chief of staff, wrote on Twitter: “He’s still a BFD,” an apparent reference at one point in 2010 when then-Vice President Biden was heard whispering to Obama upon signing the ACA: “This is a big deal.