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The Democrats rode voters’ frustrations with the GOP over healthcare to a resounding win in the 2018 midterms. A decision by the Supreme Court just saved Republicans from the worst-case scenario in 2020.
The case, fought between two coalitions of states led by California and Texas, centers around the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, an unpopular part of the Affordable Care Act that was repealed as part of the GOP tax law in 2017. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court denied a motion by a coalition of Democratic attorneys general and the House of Representatives to expedite its review of the case before the election.
Now, the Supreme Court won’t decide the case before the November election, which saves Republicans, including President Donald Trump, from a campaign fought on grounds where over 20 million people just had their healthcare taken away by a conservative Supreme Court.
The case has so far seen two tough losses for supporters of the ACA, which was passed during former President Barack Obama’s first term. In a December 2018 ruling that was heavily criticized by both ACA supporters and opponents in the legal arena, a federal judge in Texas struck down the law on the grounds that the reduction of the individual mandate’s penalty to $0 made it unconstitutional, and thus the rest of the law was invalidated. One year later, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals — one of the most conservative in the country — also found the mandate unconstitutional but sent it back down to the lower court to rule on how much of the rest of the law should be invalidated.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice argued — contrary to the pro-ACA states, led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra — that there was no reason to expedite the case before the election. In its decision Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed.
The nation’s highest court didn’t completely rule out a review of the case, however, and a spokesman for Becerra told Politico that the Democratic coalition is “cautiously optimistic” the Supreme Court will take up the case by the next term.
The Texas case is just the latest in a long line of legal battles over Obamacare. In a 2012 ruling, the Supreme Court found that the individual mandate was a tax while striking down the federal government’s attempt to force states to expand Medicaid to their low-income citizens. Three years later, the Court upheld an IRS regulation in ruling that people living in states which don’t operate their own health insurance exchanges are eligible for subsidies from the federal government.
It’s likely that healthcare will still be a big point of contention in the general election, due to Democratic candidates’ promises to expand coverage, Trump’s continued criticisms of the ACA, and the cost of rising insurance premiums. Given the Republicans’ failure to repeal Obamacare even with unified control of government, however, Trump and other vulnerable Republicans facing re-election this year are breathing a huge sigh of relief: The Obamacare can has, once again, been kicked down the road.
Cover image: President Donald Trump gives thumbs up as he steps off Air Force One as he arrives Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)