The sentence order only said that the court would not address the case in an unusually fast order. He did not rule out a full review of the case at a later date.
In deciding to remain immediately out of the fray, the judges sided with the Trump administration and the group of red states that lead the Obamacare challenge. They opposed an immediate review of the case by the Supreme Court, arguing that there was no “emergency,” even when the Democrats argued that prolonging the uncertainty surrounding Obamacare harms the millions of people who depend on the law to obtain insurance. It could take years for lower courts to resolve the lawsuit.
The result means that Trump will face less pressure to articulate an Obamacare replacement plan during the campaign. Republicans did not reach an agreement on a replacement for Obamacare when they had complete control of the federal government in the first two years of Trump’s presidency, and have not developed a new plan since then. A health care proposal developed by Trump’s Medicare chief, Seema Verma, was rejected last summer because of his colleagues’ concerns that he would have actually strengthened Obamacare instead of replacing him.
The persistent threat of the Obamacare lawsuit exposes Trump to attacks he is still trying to gut popular protections of the law for people with pre-existing conditions. Democrats took advantage of voter demand and concerns about health coverage to secure large profits in the interim periods of 2018, retaking the majority of the House. Still, they worry that Republicans can dodge political consequences if Obamacare is finally defeated after the November elections.
The Supreme Court does not reveal how each judge votes by accepting individual cases, so it is unclear who rejected the request of the Democrats to expedite the case. Five judges are needed to grant an expedited review, which means that at least one liberal judge still did not want to comment on the case.
The lawsuit was considered a remote possibility when it was filed almost two years ago, but since then it has become a major threat to Obamacare.
Those who challenge the law argue that Obamacare was invalidated when Congress at the end of 2017 eliminated the tax fine of the law for not having health insurance, but left the rest of the coverage requirement in the books. They maintain that this measure made Obamacare unconstitutional, since the Supreme Court previously confirmed the individual mandate only as a legitimate exercise of the fiscal power of Congress.
A panel of three judges of the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit declined last month to decide if any part of the law could be maintained after Congress eliminated the tax fine. Instead, they sent the case to the federal judge in Texas to decide which parts of the law could remain in effect.