Hoyer Statement on Texas v. U.S. Oral Arguments

10 July, 2019, 12:26 | Author: Sherman Richardson
  • U.S. Senator Bob Casey argues against a federal court appeal which would effectively strip millions of Americans of quality affordable healthcare

Federal appeals court judges expressed skepticism Tuesday that the almost decade-old law that refashioned the nation's health-care system should remain intact after Congress eliminated a tax penalty for Americans who fail to carry health insurance.

ACA supporters argue, however, that federal lawmakers kept all other provisions of the ACA after the tax penalty was pulled - and that O'Connor's decision "conflicts with the plain intent of Congress and would create chaos and harm tens of millions of Americans".

An appellate ruling declaring Obamacare unconstitutional could prompt an appeal to the US Supreme Court, opening the door for the top court to take up the issue in the middle of the 2020 US presidential election.

But after Trump signed a tax bill that reduced the penalty to zero, a coalition of GOP-led states sued, alleging the penalty's elimination rendered Obamacare unconstitutional. They also said that Congress did not eliminate the penalty but simply lowered the amount to zero - an assertion challenged by the panel's Republican appointees.

Texas Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins warned the judges that "congressional intent is not monolithic, and it's a very hard and unsafe game" to try to second-guess what Congress really meant.

"The Affordable Care Act's individual mandate was a bad policy experiment that fell short of its goals", Duffy said in a statement to NewsChannel 7 on Tuesday.

The case is Texas v. U.S., 19-10011, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (New Orleans). The third and only Democratic appointee on the panel, Judge Carolyn Dineen King, a former chief judge of the court who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter, was silent during the 90-minute-plus hearing. The Supreme Court has twice upheld its constitutionality, in 2012 and 2015.

US District Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth, Texas, agreed in December 2018, saying the individual mandate was unconstitutional because it no longer triggered a tax. California argues that all of the law is separate from the mandate, and Texas argues that none of it is, as the result of what Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins characterized as "an inseverability clause".

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The case's outsize significance was evident from the television crews outside the marbled courthouse in downtown New Orleans and the lines standing in the heat, hoping for a seat in the courtroom, as well as from the broadsides issued from Washington in the hours before the hearing. On the other side, conservative groups proclaimed that an end to the ACA would usher in a new era of more-affordable insurance and greater choice of health plans.

The Republican governors and attorneys general argue that, since the Supreme Court upheld the health care law as a valid exercise of Congress' taxing authority, taking the tax away makes all of the law unconstitutional.

Obamacare, the signature domestic achievement of Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, has been a political flashpoint since its passage. Engelhardt questioned whether the judiciary should be "taxidermist for every legislative big-game accomplishment that Congress achieves".

On Tuesday, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held up signs with the faces of Americans who they say would be hurt if Republicans succeed in their efforts to overturn the ACA. Either court could decline to hear the case.

Justice Department attorney August Flentje, facing questions about the administration's approach, said the government would enforce it until a final decision comes. "That argument goes against well-established legal principles", Weiser said. Traditionally, an administration - even one that did not work to pass the law in question - defends existing law in court.

Employers could return to placing annual and lifetime limits on employees' health care or not providing it at all, and preventative care no longer would be assured by federal subsidies. This spring, the administration changed its position mid-appeal, with the Justice Department telling the 5th Circuit it now agrees with the district court that the entire law is invalid.

Tuesday's arguments are the latest in a lawsuit filed by Republican officials in 18 states, led by the Texas Attorney General's Office. The House of Representatives intervened after Democrats won control in the November midterm elections, during which many focused their campaigns on defending Obamacare.

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