On Wednesday, the Department of Justice formally reversed the federal government’s position in a court fight against the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. Despite the fact that they had no comprehensive replacement ready to go, the Trump administration backed a lawsuit seeking the invalidation of the entire health care law on the grounds of an allegation that the individual mandate no longer had appropriate legal standing because of the decrease of the penalty for failing to obtain health insurance down to zero dollars. The effective elimination of this penalty eliminated any tax-based authority for the law, certain Republicans claimed.
The great legal untangling continues: DOJ officially changes positions in the SCOTUS Obamacare fight, saying (unsurprisingly) that the Biden admin's position is the law is constitutional, and if the court disagrees, the section at issue can be severed https://t.co/ZrWqozupm2 pic.twitter.com/CHv6Binpxk
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) February 10, 2021
Now, Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler — whose job responsibilities include relaying the federal government’s position to the U.S. Supreme Court — told the nation’s highest court that after “the change in Administration, the Department of Justice has reconsidered the government’s position in these cases,” adding that the government “no longer adheres to the conclusions in the previously filed brief of the federal respondents.” In other words, the federal government officially no longer supports the judicial invalidation of the Affordable Care Act. If the Supreme Court were to decide that the individual mandate is unconstitutional under present circumstances, then “it can be easily separated from the rest of the law,” as POLITICO summarized Kneedler’s stance.
The court already heard oral arguments in the case, and a decision could come soon. When the court heard these arguments on November 10, a “majority” of the justices “seemed inclined to preserve much of the law,” POLITICO reports, and at the time of arguments, Trump’s third nominee for the court, Amy Coney Barrett, was already in place.
Although the court currently has a conservative majority, it’s already repeatedly rebuffed right-wing efforts to use this majority to their political advantage. After the 2020 presidential election, the court — where three of Trump’s own nominees currently sit — repeatedly refused to advance challenges to the election outcome. In a case in which a coalition of Republican state Attorney Generals and the Trump campaign itself sought the invalidation of Biden’s win in certain states, not a single justice indicated that they were interested in granting the demand.
Meanwhile, on a similar note, Biden also formally reversed the Trump era national emergency declaration over the southern border situation on Thursday. The Trump administration used this declaration as an excuse to divert billions of dollars in government funds towards construction of southern border barriers.