The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Thursday to reject a challenge to the Affordable Care Act from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and 17 other Republican attorneys general on the grounds that the Republican AGs did not have standing to challenge the Constitutionality of the law’s individual mandate, its prohibition on lifetime benefit caps, and its guarantee of protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
“The states had argued that the law’s individual mandate was unconstitutional once it no longer carried a penalty because it had been justified as falling under the congressional power of taxation,” Fox News reported. “They also claimed that the rest of the law could not survive without the mandate.”
The two other provisions, the state AGs argued, could not exist without an individual mandate that required all Americans to purchase health insurance in some form.
The Court did not rule on the questions the Republican AGs posed and did not make a determination on whether the Affordable Care Act — also known as “Obamacare” — was itself constitutional; the Court ruled that the AGs did not have legal standing to sue the federal government to force a decision on the law’s Constitutionality.
“We do not reach these questions of the Act’s validity, however, for Texas and the other plaintiffs in this suit lack the standing necessary to raise them,” Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote for the seven-justice majority, said in the opinion.
The Court rationalized its decision, ruling that the Republican AGs had not suffered specific harm from the provisions they challenged and that American taxpayers were not in danger from the individual mandate because “Congress has reduced the penalty for failing to buy health insurance to zero,” according to CNN.
“[W]e conclude that the plaintiffs in this suit failed to show a concrete, particularized injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct in enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional,” Breyer wrote in his decision for the majority. “They have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision.”
Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented from the ruling, suggesting that the Court had used the concept of standing to sidestep their responsibility to rule on ObamaCare’s Constitutionality.
“Today’s decision 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 the dissent. “In all three episodes, with the Affordable Care Act facing a serious threat, the Court has pulled off an improbable rescue.”
“No one can fail to be impressed by the lengths to which this Court has been willing to go to defend the ACA against all threats,” Alito added in a veiled swipe at a previous decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts. “A penalty is a tax. The United States is a State. And 18 States who bear costly burdens under the ACA cannot even get a foot in the door to raise a constitutional challenge.”
“So a tax that does not tax is allowed to stand and support one of the biggest Government programs in our Nation’s history. Fans of judicial inventiveness will applaud once again,” Alito added. “But I must respectfully dissent.”
The ruling may make it more difficult to challenge the Affordable Care Act in the future. The Court’s decision essentially blocks AGs and some individual plaintiffs from raising concerns about the law.
The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.