An Obamacare sign is seen outside the Leading Insurance Agency, which is offering plans under the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) on January 28, 2021 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
The Justice Department informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it no longer considers Obamacare to be unconstitutional. This is the last reversal of the department since President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January.
The Supreme Court is considering contesting Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act, filed by Texas and other Republican-led states. The Justice Department under former President Donald Trump supported Texas in legal pleadings and verbal disputes in November.
California and other blue states are defending the law that gave 20 million Americans health insurance.
“After the change in administration, the Department of Justice has rethought the government’s position in these cases,” wrote Edwin Kneedler, assistant attorney general, in a letter to Scott Harris, the clerk of the court.
The reversal of Biden’s Justice Department was expected. Biden played a role in the implementation of monumental legislation by Congress in 2010 while serving as Vice President under then-President Barack Obama.
The case concerns Obamacare’s individual mandate provision that requires most Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.
The Supreme Court previously upheld the individual mandate as lawful under the tax powers of Congress. After the Republicans in Congress set the penalty at $ 0 in 2017, Texas raised its challenge, arguing that the mandate was no longer a tax.
The Trump Justice Department agreed that the mandate was unconstitutional. The department also argued that if the Supreme Court scraps the individual mandate, it will have to scrap the entire Affordable Care Act.
Kneedler wrote that under Biden the Justice Department had reversed its position on both issues. The department, he wrote, believes the individual mandate determination is lawful and that the provision can be removed if the court does not find it while the rest of the law persists.
During the hearing in the case, it appeared unlikely that the judges would scrap the legislation entirely, although it was not clear whether a majority would find the individual mandate unlawful. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, both Conservatives, suggested they support the separation of individual mandate provisions from the rest of the sweeping law.
Kneedler, who has served in the Justice Department under the presidents of both major political parties for more than 40 years, wrote in the letter that the ministry had not attempted to file further briefs on the case. A decision is expected in the summer.
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