Rule of Law

Friends of Court Draw Battle Lines Ahead of Health Care Arguments

By Marcia Coyle


Like armies mustering their best weapons, supporters and opponents of the Affordable Care Act once again have turned out at the U.S. Supreme Court to battle over a critical element of that health insurance law.


Fifty-two amicus briefs—21 supporting the challengers and 31 backing the Obama administration—are on record in King v. Halbig, which the justices will hear on March 4. The political, economic and social stakes are huge. If the challengers prevail, the law itself, enacted in 2010, could collapse.



On the challengers’ side, conservative-libertarian legal and political organizations dominate. Also supporting that side are six states, a number of legal scholars and 15 Republican members of Congress. On the other side are national health, insurance, hospital, education and labor organizations; Nobel economists; 22 states; nearly 100 state legislators; and U.S. House and Senate Democratic leaders.



House-Senate Democratic leaders and 100 state legislators


These include Democratic leaders involved in drafting the ACA and state lawmakers who debated whether to establish state exchanges. They point to evidence in the legislative record; reports by the Congressional Budget Office; and statements by the Joint Committee on Taxation, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other members of Congress indicating that they all understood that subsidies would be available on state or federal exchanges. Elizabeth Wydra of the Constitutional Accountability Center is counsel of record.