Rule of Law

Latest ACA legal challenge comes up far short

By Steve Benen


After the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act in 2012, it seemed “Obamacare” was safe from legal challenges intended to tear down the law. Those assumptions, of course, were wrong: the ACA went back to the high court last year, and prevailed once more.


But just as House Republicans have voted 62 times to repeal the reform law, litigious conservatives aren’t satisfied with two Supreme Court defeats. The justices themselves, however, don’t seem especially interested in keeping this going. The L.A. Times reported yesterday:


The Supreme Court declined on Tuesday to take a third swing at the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. It was the right call because the case – Sissel vs. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – was built on a fanciful vision of how Congress should operate.


We could discuss in detail what this bizarre case was all about – it stems from a strange interpretation of the Constitution’s Origination Clause – but let’s just not bother since it’s now a moot point anyway.


What is worth appreciating, however, is how excited Republicans were, largely behind the scenes, about the promise of this case. It didn’t get a lot of attention, but several GOP senators, including presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, urged the Supreme Court to use this case as a vehicle to tear down “Obamacare” altogether.


At least one prominent Republican pundit singled out this case as an important opportunity – and proof that the ACA is “doomed.”


So much for that idea.


Given the justices’ lack of interest, Obamacare proponents can probably breathe a little easier about the ACA’s legal stability. There’s little doubt more cases will be filed, but there’s no reason to believe the Supreme Court wants another bite at the apple.


Constitutional Accountability Center Chief Counsel Elizabeth Wydra noted in a press release, “It is hardly surprising that the Court has refused to hear this case…[T]he ultimate outcome of challenges like this one aren’t in doubt. They are simply meritless. The Court upheld the ACA for the second time just last June, with Chief Justice Roberts picking up a sixth vote to send a clear signal that he’s had enough of what has become a blatant ideological crusade. One questions whether anti-Obamacare legal activists have gotten the message.”