The Supreme Court’s Latest Obamacare Case Is a Massive Troll of Chief Justice Roberts
Throughout the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Democrats repeatedly warned that Barrett would be a threat to the Affordable Care Act, and thus to the health insurance of millions of Americans. The Trump administration was backing a lawsuit attempting to overturn the law, and arguments were scheduled for right after the presidential election. Confirming Barrett, the argument went, would result in a Supreme Court more likely to overturn the health care law.
“Health care coverage for millions of Americans is at stake with this nomination,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Ca.), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That argument was central to the Democrats’ argument against Barrett. “My colleagues and I will focus on that subject.” Others were even more blunt. Senate Republicans were “rushing” to confirm Barrett “in time to ensure they can strip away the protections in the Affordable Care Act,” warned then-Sen. Kamala Harris, now the vice-president elect. “If they succeed,” Harris said, “it will result in millions of people losing access to health care at the worst possible time in the middle of a pandemic.” As of this morning, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) was still issuing similar warnings.
Right this minute, Justice Barrett and the Supreme Court are hearing the case that could overturn the ACA. Republicans want to rip away your health care, but health care is a basic human right. Democrats will fight on. https://t.co/GYZra3IDDx
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) November 10, 2020
There was reason to see such claims as politically motivated fearmongering during Barrett’s confirmation, as Reason‘s Jacob Sullum wrote at the time, Democratic warnings that Barrett would doom Obamacare were implausible and confused. There is even more reason to see it that way now.
Barrett was eventually confirmed. She now sits on the Supreme Court, which today heard the administration-backed challenge to the health law. And based on those arguments, it looks very much like the Court will uphold the law in essentially its current form, regardless of how Barrett votes.
This morning, the High Court heard arguments in California v. Texas. At the heart of the case is a challenge to the law’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance, which serves as a platform for a challenge to the entire statute. That challenge is based not only in the history of Supreme Court challenges to the law, but in modifications to the statute.
When the law passed in 2010, it contained a mandate to purchase health insurance or face a tax penalty. At the time, Congress including signing statements to the effect that the mandate was essential to the proper functioning of its regulatory scheme, which includes provisions guaranteeing that anyone can purchase health insurance regardless of
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