The justices in a 7-2 opinion dismissed a challenge from Texas and 17 other GOP-led states to the constitutionality of former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.
The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the Affordable Care Act in a huge victory for Democrats and supporters of the 2010 health care law, preserving coverage for tens of millions of Americans as the court ruled that states don’t have legal standing to challenge it.
In a 7-2 opinion, the justices dismissed a case brought by Texas and 17 other Republican-led states about the constitutionality of the ACA because the individual mandate, the requirement that people purchase health insurance or pay a penalty, was zeroed out by Congress in 2017. The landmark case became even more significant after former President Donald Trump backed the lawsuit, making it a top issue heading into the 2020 elections.
The Republican challengers argued that the individual mandate is such a key part of the law that if it were rendered unconstitutional, the rest of the provisions couldn’t stand and, therefore, the court should undo the entire law. But the justices didn’t rule on the merits of the case, declining to consider whether the ACA could survive without the individual mandate.
“A plaintiff has standing only if he can ‘allege personal injury fairly traceable to the defendant’s allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief.’ Neither the individual nor the state plaintiffs have shown that the injury they will suffer or have suffered is ‘fairly traceable’ to the ‘allegedly unlawful conduct’ of which they complain,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion.
Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented, arguing that because the individual mandate is no longer enforceable, it cannot be severed from the rest of the ACA and, therefore, the rest of the law couldn’t stand on its own. If the court ruled that the states had standing to sue, then the issue of “severability” – the ability to extract a provision without disrupting the rest of the law from functioning – would likely have been at the heart of the case.
“In this suit … Texas and the other state plaintiffs have standing, and now that the ‘tax’ imposed by the individual mandate is set at $0, the mandate cannot be sustained under the taxing power,” Alito wrote. “As a result, it is clearly unconstitutional, and to the extent that the provisions of the ACA that burden the States are inextricably linked to the individual mandate, they too are unenforceable.” ReadMore
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