Trump Still Wants to Take Away Your Healthcare—But After the Election

The Department of Justice sees no need for the Supreme Court to hear a hugely important Obamacare lawsuit before November.
January 10, 2020, 10:35pm
Saul Loeb/Getty Images

Update 1/22/20: The Supreme Court has denied a motion asking for an expedited hearing of a case that could overturn the Affordable Care Act. That means the case won't be resolved until after the November election. Vox's Ian Millhiser described the decision as "a double victory" for Republicans because "it leaves open the possibility that Obamacare will be killed by a judicial decree, but spares Republican candidates from the media spotlight that would come from a high-profile Supreme Court fight involving a challenge to the Affordable Care Act."


The Trump administration would very much prefer that Americans go to the polls this November with zero updates on the lawsuit that would overturn the Affordable Care Act and revoke health insurance from millions of people.

At least, that's the implicit message in the Trump administration's response to the coalition of Democratic-led states and members of the House which asked the Supreme Court to review the Obamacare lawsuit during the high court's current term, which ends this summer.

To back up for a second: Yes, there's an active lawsuit threatening Obamacare. After Congressional Republicans tried and failed to repeal the landmark law without a replacement in 2017 (remember John McCain's thumbs down?), they decided to zero-out the penalty for not having health insurance in the massive tax bill passed in December 2017.

A group of states led by Texas filed a suit arguing that without that penalty, the entire ACA was unconstitutional and should be overturned. The Department of Justice, instead of defending current laws in court as is practice, chose to support the Texas lawsuit. On December 18, the Fifth Circuit court of appeals struck down part of the law, but sent it back to a lower court to figure out what to do with the rest of it. Following that, a group of Democratic Attorneys General asked the Supreme Court to take up the case during this session. California AG Xavier Becerra said "We’re asking the Supreme Court to swiftly resolve this repeal lawsuit for the sake of saving lives and ending uncertainty in our healthcare system.”


So that's how we get to today, when, in a filing to the Supreme Court, the DOJ's Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote of the Democratic challenge:

"Petitioners’ requests to expedite consideration of their petitions for writs of certiorari should be denied. Neither the court of appeals’ decision nor the district court’s underlying judgment presents any current exigency that warrants accelerated interlocutory review; to the contrary, the decision below eliminated any such exigency."

Francisco went on to say that the appeals court ruling "creates no present, real-world emergency."

Or in layman's terms: this isn't an urgent matter. Nothing to see here, keep it moving, we're definitely not holding a ball behind our back.

We still don't know if the Supreme Court will actually take up the case this session (they have a few more weeks to decide), but the Trump administration's argument is telling. They absolutely don't want a ruling on this case before the presidential election because a ruling of any kind would be bad news. If the Supreme Court overturns Obamacare, Republicans are the party that took away healthcare. If the Supreme Court upholds the law, Republicans are still the party that wanted them to overturn it.

Voters did not forget the fervor with which Republicans tried to repeal Obamacare without a replacement in 2017: In the midterm elections the following year, Democrats ran on healthcare and regained control of the House for the first time in almost a decade.


Start with continued efforts to take away healthcare, add in a historically unpopular first-term president who's also been impeached, and Republicans have got themselves a big, big problem.

Trump seems to know this. In April, he suggested that Republicans would have a great plan with lower costs (narrator: there is no plan), but you have to reelect him first:

There are other things the Trump administration doesn't want people to learn before the election, including how much taxpayers are paying for all of Trump's travel to HIS OWN PROPERTIES and what's inside his tax returns. The fate of Obamacare makes three—a trendlet!

Democrats running for president (and even ones who aren't) should be reminding people every day what the Trump administration is hiding.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

Follow Susan Rinkunas on Twitter.