The Supreme Court seemed likely Tuesday to leave in place the bulk of the Affordable Care Act, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh signaling that they weren’t prepared to dump ObamaCare in its entirety during oral arguments about the landmark health care law.
A number of Republican-headed states, led by Texas and the Trump administration, are arguing that Congress’ elimination of the penalty for not having health insurance in 2017 means the entire law is unconstitutional.
“I tend to agree with you this a very straightforward case for severability under our precedents, meaning that we would excise the mandate and leave the rest of the act in place,” Kavanaugh, who was appointed by President Trump, told a lawyer defending the 10-year-old law.
Roberts said Congress had the opportunity to repeal the law when it took action on the monetary penalty.
“I think it’s hard for you to argue that Congress intended the entire act to fall if the mandate was struck down when the same Congress that lowered the penalty to zero did not even try to repeal the rest of the act,” he told the attorney representing Texas.
“I think, frankly, that they wanted the court to do that, but that’s not our job,” Roberts added.
The ACA, better known as ObamaCare, provides health coverage to about 20 million Americans. It has survived two previous challenges in the Supreme Court.
But this time, with the addition of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed last month, the court has a 6-3 conservative majority.
A ruling is not expected until spring.
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