GOP States Respond to Supreme Court Ruling, Say Justices Ducked on Key Question

June 17, 2021 Updated: June 17, 2021

Several Republican-led states on Thursday accused the Supreme Court of ignoring whether Obamacare is unconstitutional or not after the high court handed down a favorable ruling upholding the law.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, alleged that the Affordable Care Act “was sold on a lie to the American people” and said the “individual mandate … was unconstitutional when it was enacted and it is still unconstitutional.”

“Yet,” he added, “seven justices decided to avoid the question of the constitutionality by limiting its decision to a ruling on standing.”

Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to reject a lawsuit filed on behalf of more than a dozen GOP-led states led by Texas. The court, in handing down its ruling, rebuffed an argument that the law’s “individual mandate” for health insurance, which Congress ended during President Donald Trump’s first year in office.

The Affordable Care Act was enacted into law in 2010 without one Republican lawmaker voting for it. The law has seen frequent legal challenges over the past decade, resulting in two previous Supreme Court rulings.

But on Thursday, the Supreme Court didn’t rule on the nature of whether the law was constitutional or not, instead arguing that the plaintiffs lacked the standing to file their legal challenge.

“We do not reach these questions of the Act’s validity, however, for Texas and the other plaintiffs in this suit lack the standing necessary to raise them,” said the majority opinion, written by Justice Stephen Breyer.

The justices further stipulated that there is no harm to the plaintiffs because Congress has reduced the penalty for not buying health insurance to zero.

“For these reasons, we conclude that the plaintiffs in this suit failed to show a concrete, particularized injury fairly traceable to the defendants’ conduct in enforcing the specific statutory provision they attack as unconstitutional,” Breyer wrote. “They have failed to show that they have standing to attack as unconstitutional the Act’s minimum essential coverage provision.”

Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch were the two justices who dissented.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, said his state was “deeply disappointed that the court ducked the question about the unconstitutionality of the individual mandate.”

“This case was always about: one, ensuring that individuals could not be coerced into purchasing health insurance against their will; and, two, making the insurance system far more affordable for hard-working Americans,” Morrisey said. “Too many West Virginians have suffered from skyrocketing premiums and need better, more affordable health care options. We will keep fighting for affordable coverage and against coercive, individual mandates that represent the opposite of freedom.”

“At no point in today’s decision do the Supreme Court justices address the merits of our argument that ObamaCare is unconstitutional,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. “Arkansans deserve better, and I will continue to urge Congress to establish a comprehensive health care law that will allow states to be flexible while ensuring coverage for pre-existing conditions.”

Democrats largely praised the Supreme Court decision, with President Joe Biden saying he would expand the Affordable Care Act.

“After more than a decade of attacks on the Affordable Care Act through the Congress and the courts, today’s decision—the third major challenge to the law that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected—it is time move forward (sic) and keep building on this landmark law,” Biden said in a statement Thursday released by the White House.