2 Republican AGs urge appeals court to overturn ObamaCare ruling

Two Republican state attorneys general want a federal appeals court to overturn the ruling from a Texas judge that declared the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

In a brief filed Monday with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the attorneys general of Montana and Ohio argued that District Judge Reed O’Connor overstepped his authority in his original ruling.

"No sound application of neutral rules and precedents — whether based on the Constitution’s original public meaning or Supreme Court precedent — could lead a court to strike down an entire congressional act based on the unconstitutionality of a single, inoperative provision within it," the states wrote.

The brief argues that ObamaCare’s requirement that everyone in the country purchase health insurance or pay a fine — the individual mandate — is unconstitutional and should be separated from the underlying law.

The intent of Congress was clear, the states said in the brief. When Congress passed the tax reform law in 2017 and eliminated the mandate’s penalty, lawmakers intended to effectively repeal the mandate but leave the rest of the law intact.

"Congress would have been crystal clear if it had wanted to do something as extreme as making the entire Act rise or fall with the constitutionality of a completely inoperative provision," the states wrote.

The case against the law was brought by a group of 20 Republican state attorneys general, led by Texas. O’Connor in December ruled in their favor by declaring the entire law unconstitutional. The case was appealed to the 5th Circuit.

The Trump administration previously argued in court that the law's pre-existing condition protections should be struck down. But in an abrupt shift, the Justice Department last week argued the entire law should be invalidated.

Montana and Ohio are not affiliated with the lawsuit. However, the states said they felt the need to act because of the widespread impact if the verdict were upheld.

"The court’s decision, if affirmed, will deprive millions of non-elderly Ohioans and Montanans of coverage for pre-existing conditions. It will also negatively affect countless others who organized their affairs in reliance on the Act’s many unrelated provisions," the states wrote.

The states also argued that even ObamaCare’s opponents should want the decision overturned on appeal.

"It is understandable that some who dislike the Affordable Care Act would cheer the result below. But they should remember that what goes around comes around. If allowed to stand, the decision ... will be used to invalidate any number of federal and state laws," the brief said.