Supreme Court refuses to take another Obamacare case

Plaintiffs said law started in wrong chamber of Congress


By Tom Howell Jr. 


The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to take up an appeal that says Congress flouted the Constitution by kick-starting Obamacare in the wrong chamber.


Justices have already weighed in on the Affordable Care Act’s mandates, government subsidies and birth control rules, but declined to wade into a bid by a conservative group to scrap the entire law based on the origination clause drafted by the Founding Fathers.


The Pacific Legal Foundation said the Affordable Care Act of 2010 raises hundreds of billions in taxes, making it a revenue bill subject to the founders’ vision for which chamber should act first.


Since the key language of Obamacare came from the Senate, opponents said it violated another part of the Constitution that requires money bills to begin in the House.


Lower courts said the main purpose of the law was to get more Americans insured — not to fill the Treasury’s coffers — and that Congress used an acceptable maneuver to bypass the clause, anyway.


The origination question has been in doubt since Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s surprise decision three years ago saying that while Obamacare’s individual mandate wasn’t allowed under Congress’s powers to control interstate commerce, it was valid as an exercise of its taxing power.


The Pacific Legal Foundation had said its plaintiff in the case, Matt Sissel, doesn’t want health insurance but is being forced to get it under the mandate, which imposes an increasingly painful tax penalty on those who shirk coverage.


Mr. Sissel is an Iraq War veteran and small business owner who pays his own medical bills and “objects on financial, philosophical, and constitutional grounds to being ordered to purchase a health plan he does not need or want,” the foundation said.


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected his suit in August, saying the primary purpose of the law wasn’t to raise money. Other judges on the panel said Obamacare should be labeled a revenue bill, but that Congress didn’t violate the origination clause, because the Senate inserted text into a legislative shell from the House.


So far, the overhaul’s opponents haven’t had much luck before the high court. The justices upheld the law as constitutional in 2012, although the court said states could choose not to expand Medicaid under the law.


Last year, plaintiffs in King v. Burwell said the law’s text limited the subsidies to the handful of states that set up their own exchanges.


But Chief Justice Roberts reasoned the law, when read in its entirety, allowed qualified Americans to qualify for the tax credits no matter where they live.


The Constitutional Accountability Center said Tuesday “the ultimate outcome of challenges like this one aren’t in doubt,” so Obamacare’s opponents should give it a rest. 


“They are simply meritless,” its chief counsel, Elizabeth Wydra, said of the challenges. “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.”