Sessions explains to Congress rationale for not defending ObamaCare

Sessions explains to Congress rationale for not defending ObamaCare
© Greg Nash

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump attack on Sessions may point to his departure Hillicon Valley: Trump's exclusive interview with Hill.TV | Trump, intel officials clash over Russia docs | EU investigating Amazon | Military gets new cyber authority | Flynn sentencing sparks new questions about Mueller probe Sessions in Chicago: If you want more shootings, listen to ACLU, Antifa, Black Lives Matter MORE sent a letter to Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanElection Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Nancy Pelosi: Will she remain the ‘Face of the Franchise’? MORE (R-Wis.) on Thursday defending the Department of Justice's (DOJ) rationale for not defending the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

"As you know, the Executive Branch has a longstanding tradition of defending the constitutionality of duly enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense," Sessions wrote.

"But not every professionally responsible argument is necessarily reasonable in this context," he continued, adding this is "a rare case where the proper course is to forgo defense" of the law. 

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The department argued in court on Thursday that key components of the Obama-era law are unconstitutional, siding in large part with a challenge to the law from 20 GOP-led states.

The DOJ points to the Supreme Court's ruling in 2012 that upheld ObamaCare's individual mandate — that people have insurance or face a tax penalty — as constitutional under Congress's taxing power.

After Congress repealed the mandate penalty as part of last year's tax bill, the GOP-led states and the DOJ argue the mandate itself is no longer a tax and is now invalid.

They also argue that key pre-existing condition protections cannot be separated from the mandate and should be invalidated, while the remainder of the law can stay. 

Sessions's move marks a break for the DOJ, which typically defends federal laws when they are challenged in court. 

The move shows the Trump administration is not willing to defend the law, which it strongly disagrees with.

However, this is not the first time an administration has broken with precedent.

Former President Obama's Justice Department declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, in 2011. 

Peter Sullivan contributed.