The Supreme Court on Monday announced it will take up a case seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act, returning the health care law's fate to the high court.
The major announcement means that the case will loom over the November elections and could make the Affordable Care Act an even bigger issue in the presidential race.
The case will be heard during the court's next term, which starts in October, meaning that a decision is not expected until after the elections. It is unclear when the court will hear arguments, but those could come in October, before the election.
The case threatens to blow a major hole in the health care system and overturn coverage for roughly 20 million people if the Supreme Court overturns ObamaCare.
But legal experts in both parties say the challengers' legal arguments are weak and view it as unlikely that the high court will strike down the law.
The case was brought by a group of GOP-led states and is supported by the Trump administration.
Democrats immediately seized on the decision with a flurry of press releases to highlight the stakes for the election, while Republicans were mostly silent.
"This case is a stark, life-and-death reminder how much is at stake this fall and what’s on the ballot right now: Democrats must nominate the candidate whom they know can beat Trump and bring along the Senate, to ensure we can protect our health care for generations to come," former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDearborn office of Rep. Debbie Dingell vandalized Pfizer to apply for COVID-19 booster approval for 16- and 17-year-olds: report Coronavirus variant raises fresh concerns for economy MORE said in a statement.
A spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called the lawsuit the "single most important issue in Senate battlegrounds across the country."
The GOP challengers in the case argue that the health law's mandate for everyone to have coverage is now unconstitutional, because Congress repealed the financial penalty associated with it in the 2017 tax law, so the mandate can no longer be upheld under Congress's power to tax.
The next step in the argument is where legal experts especially become skeptical, though. The GOP challengers argue that because the mandate is unconstitutional, the entire rest of the health law should also be struck down because it is inseparable. Even conservative legal experts who supported previous ObamaCare challenges, though, have argued that it is clear Congress intended for the rest of the ACA to remain standing, because lawmakers only repealed the mandate penalty and left the rest untouched.
While much of the Democratic primary has focused on a debate over Medicare for All, the lawsuit could return attention to the ACA, to the relief of some mainstream Democrats who think that is more favorable ground to fight on.
If Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo This week: Congress starts year-end legislative sprint Restless progressives eye 2024 MORE (I-Vt.) in particular is the nominee, Republicans are sure to counter by pointing to Medicare for All and its elimination of private health insurance coverage.
"A vote for a Republican is a vote to take protections away from people with pre-existing conditions," tweeted Dan Pfeiffer, a former top aide to President Obama, after the announcement on Monday, summarizing the Democratic message.
A conservative district court judge in Texas struck down the entire ObamaCare law in December 2018, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals partially agreed in December 2019.
That has led the Supreme Court to now step in, granting the calls of Democratic-led states to end the uncertainty hanging over the system, and rebuffing the Trump administration, which had called for letting the lower court process play out further.
Chief Justice John Roberts has already ruled to keep ObamaCare intact twice and is largely expected to do so again, combining with the four liberal justices to provide at least a five-vote majority to uphold the law.
But as time goes on and there are possible changes to the Court's makeup, that calculus could change, which is part of the reason some Democrats wanted the Court to take up the case as soon as possible.
Updated at 3:49 p.m.