Supreme Court Rejects GOP Effort to Overturn the Affordable Care Act
The Supreme Court announced Thursday that it has rejected a lawsuit filed by a group of Republican-led states and the former Trump administration that sought to overturn the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
In a 7-2 vote, the court ruled that the plaintiffs lacked the legal standing to bring the suit because they had not been harmed by the law. Accordingly, the ruling does not address the merits of the case.
In their dissent, Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch argued that the plaintiffs had in fact been harmed financially and administratively. “The States have clearly shown that they suffer concrete and particularized financial injuries that are traceable to conduct of the Federal Government,” Alito wrote. “The ACA saddles them with expensive and burdensome obligations, and those obligations are enforced by the Federal Government. That is sufficient to establish standing.”
The ruling in the case, California v. Texas, marks the third time the court has taken up a case that could overturn the ACA, and the third time it has declined to do so.
What the case was about: Republican officials in Texas and 17 other states sued the federal government in 2018 seeking to overturn the ACA, arguing that the law became invalid in its entirety when the individual mandate – the penalty for not purchasing health insurance – was reduced to zero by Congress in 2017 as part of its overhaul of the tax code. The Trump administration backed the suit and filed a brief in 2020 urging the Supreme Court to strike down the law.
Supporters are relieved: Democrats cheered the court’s ruling. President Joe Biden said the “Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land,” while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said the decision means that “the ACA is here to stay.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California took aim at the GOP, saying, “We will never forget how Republican leaders embraced this monstrous suit to rip away millions of Americans’ health care in the middle of a deadly pandemic.”
The American Medical Association also expressed support for the ruling. “With yet another court decision upholding the ACA now behind us, we remain committed to strengthening the current law and look forward to policymakers advancing solutions to improve the ACA,” Gerald Harmon, the organization’s president, said in a statement.
The roughly 31 million Americans who now have health insurance as a result of the ACA, as well as millions more who are covered by its provisions, including rules governing pre-existing conditions, are probably breathing a little easier, as well. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could have resulted in millions of people losing their coverage and regulatory chaos throughout the health care system.
Looking ahead: “With the threat to the ACA's existence now in the rearview mirror, attention turns to how to fill in its gaps,” tweeted Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, citing temporary premium assistance, incomplete Medicaid expansion and high health care costs as issues that need to be addressed.
“I'd say the decade long debate over whether the Affordable Care Act should exist is over,” Levitt added. “We can now return to the longstanding ideological debate over the role of government in restraining health care costs and providing coverage to people.”
Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan Gains More Support
The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal being hammered out in the Senate got a boost Wednesday as 21 Democratic and Republican senators publicly backed the framework.
“We support this bipartisan framework that provides an historic investment in our nation’s core infrastructure needs without raising taxes,” the senators said in a joint statement. “We look forward to working with our Republican and Democratic colleagues to develop legislation based on this framework to address America’s critical infrastructure challenges.”
Within reach of the magic number: The announcement more than doubles the support base for the emerging deal being crafted by 10 senators — and because 11 Republicans have signed on, the compromise could, at least in theory, win the 60 votes needed to pass in the evenly divided Senate. “Their public support indicates that Republicans feel the urgency to reach a deal on popular physical infrastructure measures soon or risk Democrats cutting them out of the process,” NBC News’s Sahil Kapur, Dartunorro Clark and Frank Thorp V wrote.
Yet even as the bipartisan proposal gathers momentum, it still faces challenges in reaching the 60-vote threshold given that progressives including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ed Markey (D-MA) announced this week that they won’t back a bill that doesn’t address Democratic priorities like climate change. And key details of the bipartisan framework, including the potentially divisive specifics about financing the new spending, are reportedly still in flux.
Biden and congressional Democrats continue to work along two tracks, pursuing a bipartisan deal while also preparing to go it alone on a broader or separate package of investments for Democratic priorities such as child care, elder care and education.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) met Wednesday with Democratic senators on the Budget Committee to advance that process, with the aim of having votes in July. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said the Budget Committee was crafting a package that “gives us a latitude to do what we need to do — we can shrink it if there’s a bipartisan deal, we could do the broader deal if there isn’t.”
Democrats still face obstacles in trying to bypass the GOP and passing a package via budget reconciliation, as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said Wednesday he won’t commit to backing a reconciliation bill later in exchange for securing other Democratic votes on a smaller, bipartisan bill now. Some Democrats had sought assurances that Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) would support a second infrastructure package if lawmakers agreed to a smaller bipartisan deal.
Sanders seeking a $6 trillion package: Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, told reporters that he’s working on a $6 trillion budget reconciliation package that would include lowering the eligibility age and expanding benefits coverage for Medicare and a plan to lower prescription drug costs. That plan faces resistance from centrist Democrats.
Who’s on board: The Republicans who endorsed the bipartisan plan on Wednesday are Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
The Democrats backing the plan are Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Manchin, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Sinema and Mark Warner of Virginia. Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, also signed the statement.
Number of the Day: 412,000
The number of initial filings for unemployment benefits at the state level rose to 412,000 last week, an increase of 37,000 from the week before and the highest total since April. The disappointing results were above estimates, but most analysts said they expect the increase to be a temporary blip.
“The big picture is that while we are not back to a ‘normal’ level yet of initial claims, they are no longer astronomically high,” economist AnnElizabeth Konkel of the Indeed Hiring Lab said, according to the Associated Press. Most experts peg the normal weekly claims number in a range between 200,000 and 250,000.
Fed Chair Jay Powell told reporters Wednesday that the pandemic is still having a pronounced affect the labor market. “Factors related to the pandemic, such as care-giving needs, ongoing fears of the virus, and unemployment insurance payments appear to be weighing on employment growth,” he said. “These factors should wane in coming months, against a backdrop of rising vaccinations, leading to more rapid gains in employment.”
Quote of the Day
“If the I.R.S. started staffing up now, it would take them at least a decade to catch up. They don’t have enough I.R.S. agents with enough knowledge to know what they are looking at. They are so grossly overmatched it’s not funny.”
— Former I.R.S. attorney Monte Jackel, quoted in a New York Times analysis of how the $4.5 trillion private equity industry reduces its tax burden. “The industry has perfected sleight-of-hand tax-avoidance strategies so aggressive that at least three private equity officials have alerted the Internal Revenue Service to potentially illegal tactics,” the Times’ Jesse Drucker and Danny Hakim say. “But the I.R.S., its staff hollowed out after years of budget cuts, has thrown up its hands when it comes to policing the politically powerful industry.”
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