Supreme Court denies blue states' effort to expedite ObamaCare challenge

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an effort by Democrats to expedite a challenge to a lower court's ruling striking down a key tenet of ObamaCare, narrowing the possibility that the court takes up the contentious case this year.

The House of Representatives and a group of blue states had asked the court to fast-track their appeal after the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is unconstitutional.

The panel of judges then sent the case back to a federal judge in Texas — who ruled the entire law unconstitutional in 2018 — to reconsider how much of it could survive without the individual mandate. 

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The House and coalition of Democratic states, led by California, asked the Supreme Court to take the case in an attempt to bypass what is likely to be a lengthy legal battle that continues into next year. 

"Under the current state of affairs, there is considerable doubt over whether millions of individuals will continue to be able to afford vitally important care," the House wrote in a court filing earlier this month.

"If the Court does not hear the case this Term, that uncertainty will likely persist through next year’s open enrollment period."

Tuesday's order makes it unlikely that the high court will rule on ObamaCare before the November presidential election, where health care policy is sure to play a prominent role.

It's still unclear whether the Supreme Court will decide to hear the challenge. Now that the justices have chosen to adhere to a normal briefing schedule, that decision will likely not come until March at the earliest.

California Attorney General Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraOvernight Energy: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on 'forever chemical' manufacturers | California sues Trump over water order| Buttigieg expands on climate plan California delivers swift suit after Trump orders water diversion States sue Trump administration at record pace MORE (D) in a tweet Tuesday urged the court to hear the case.

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"We hope that the Court will grant review of our defense of the ACA because the lower court’s decision is wrong and creates uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act," Becerra tweeted. "The health and wellbeing of millions of our loved ones who rely on the ACA for healthcare is too important. We will do everything in our power to keep fighting for them."

The 5th Circuit's ruling delivered a victory for the coalition of conservative state attorneys general challenging the Obama administration's signature achievement.

The Trump administration has declined to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, and the president has cheered on legal efforts to dismantle it.

“This decision will not alter the current healthcare system,” President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE said in a statement last month.

“My Administration continues to work to provide access to high-quality healthcare at a price you can afford, while strongly protecting those with pre-existing conditions. The radical healthcare changes being proposed by the far left would strip Americans of their current coverage. I will not let this happen.”

Updated at 5:15 p.m.

Jessie Hellmann contributed.