The Supreme Court on Thursday rescued Obamacare again – using a technicality to reject a claim that the fact that the individual mandate’s penalty was reduced to $0.00 means the entire law has to fall.
The high court first rescued what apparently was a failing law that Barack Obama pushed through Congress with zero support from Republicans when it first came before the justices.
That was when the justices concluded Congress did not have the power under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to demand that consumers buy a specific product – health insurance – but Congress could demand that same procedure on its “taxing power.”
So, at the time, Chief Justice John Roberts essentially changed the law’s references to a “penalty” and made that a “tax” instead.
The latest dispute was because Congress reset the penalty, now re-assigned the moniker of a “tax,” to $0, beginning in January 2019. A series of states led by Texas, along with the Trump administration, subsequently filed suit, believing that the change makes the mandate no longer a tax and therefore unconstitutional.
Instead of ruling on that issue, the Supreme Court, 7-2, ruled “plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge [the] minimum essential coverage provision because they have not shown a past or future injury fairly traceable to defendants’ conduct enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional.”
The plaintiffs had argued, and the district court agreed, they had standing. The lower court also found the provision unconstitutional and not severable from the rest of the law, requiring the entire statute – which allowed the federal government’s essential takeover of health care decision-making across the country – to be canceled.
Since the “penalty” for not following government demands to buy insurance at $0.00, the court ruled, “Unenforceable statutory language alone is not sufficient to establish standing.”
The court admitted it did not “reach [any] questions of the act’s validity,” because it claimed the plaintiffs lack standing.
The penalties – changed to “taxes” by the earlier court decision – had depended on the income of the personal who failed to buy the “minimum” insurance demanded. But when the penalty was eliminated, there no longer even was a requirement for people to report whether they bought what the government told them to or not.
The court admitted not even considering the real question of whether the government can demand consumers buy specific products, impose a penalty, then remove that penalty and still mandate the requirement.
“We proceed no further than standing,” they wrote.
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