Trump administration wants Supreme Court to delay hearing on ObamaCare case

The Trump administration on Friday said it would be premature if the Supreme Court decided to expedite a review of a lawsuit seeking to overturn ObamaCare.

The administration said that a lower court first needs to rule before the Supreme Court can take up the case.

“The Fifth Circuit’s decision itself does not warrant immediate review because it did not definitively resolve any question of practical consequence,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“The prospect that the parties challenging the law may prevail does not justify intervening before the district court has ruled,” Francisco wrote.

The court filing was made in response to an effort by Democrats to convince the Supreme Court to speed up a challenge to a lower court ruling that struck down the law’s individual mandate penalty.

The House and a group of Democratic states are seeking to have the Supreme Court uphold the law, and overrule a decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals from December, which found the law’s mandate to have insurance to be unconstitutional. 

But the appeals court punted decisions about the rest of the law down to a district court judge in Texas, who previously ruled that since the mandate was unconstitutional, the entire law was, too. 

The Democratic-led House and the blue states asked for the Supreme Court to take up the case in its current term and hand down a decision before leaving in June. 

They argued that urgency is necessary to remove the uncertainty hanging over the health care system and the millions of people who get health insurance from ObamaCare by resolving the case soon.

ADVERTISEMENT

The administration, however, argued that since the appellate court declined to rule on the rest of the law, there is no urgency or immediate threat that needs to be resolved. 

“As the case comes to this Court, no lower-court ruling exists on severability or the appropriate remedy. Far from being urgently needed, this Court’s review thus would be premature,” Francisco wrote.  

“Absent any operative ruling invalidating the ACA’s other provisions in the interim, the accelerated review petitioners seek is unnecessary,” Francisco wrote of the Affordable Care Act. 

The lawsuit against ObamaCare was brought by a coalition of Republican attorneys general, led by Ken Paxton of Texas. In their own filing Friday, Paxton and the attorneys general offered a similar argument to the administration.

"There may come a day when this Court’s review is appropriate, but it is after the issue of severability is decided," they wrote. "There is no emergency justifying that departure from the ordinary course. The district court has stayed its judgment, and that stay remains in place today. If this were really an emergency, petitioners would not have waited 16 days to bring it to this Court’s attention."

It takes only four votes at the Supreme Court to grant review and five to expedite an appeal, but legal experts aren't sure if the court would defy its usual precedence and take up a case that isn't final.

Most experts say the case will not be decided until after the 2020 election.

Democrats have been using the lawsuit to argue Republicans are a threat to the 20 million people who rely on ObamaCare for health insurance. 

The ruling could also energize 2020 Democratic candidates, who have been focused on debating the merits of "Medicare for All" versus a public option rather than defending ObamaCare's protections for people with preexisting conditions.