A Louisiana-based federal court of appeals on Thursday agreed to let House Democrats join a fight to save the Affordable Care Act, but refused to expedite an appeal.
Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick, on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, denied a request filed by Democratic states’ to fast track the appeal of a lower court's ruling that ObamaCare is unconstitutional.
The House last month asked the court if it could intervene as a defendant alongside 16 Democratic states and the District of Columbia in the lawsuit Republican states brought challenging the law.
In December, a federal district court judge in Texas ruled the ACA’s individual mandate was unconstitutional and inseverable from the rest of the statute.
Because the Trump administration joined the 20 GOP-led states in attacking the law, the House under Democratic control said it had a right to intervene.
“Indeed, federal law provides that the Attorney General has a right to intervene in litigation to defend the constitutionality of an Act of Congress, and it empowers the House and/or the Senate to intervene to defend a statute on the rare occasions in which the Attorney General fails to do so,” the House argued.
Though Southwick called the House’s argument questionable, he said a ruling on whether the House has a right under federal law to intervene in the case is unnecessary.
“In the absence of any other federal governmental party in the case presenting a complete defense to the Congressional enactment at issue, this court may benefit from the participation by the House,” he said. “In the context of this case, the motion to intervene was not untimely. Further, intervention will not unduly delay or prejudice the rights of the original parties.”
The Democratic States had asked the appeals court to hear their case as soon as possible.
"The ACA restructured nearly one-fifth of the nation’s economy, and is a central pillar of our healthcare system,” they argued in court documents. “A wide range of fiscal, regulatory, and individual decisions depend on the outcome of this appeal.”
Southwick, a George W. Bush appointee, denied that request without explanation.