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Obamacare survives after Supreme Court rejects latest Republican challenge

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against Texas and other Republican-led states seeking to strike down Obamacare in the law’s latest test before the nation’s highest court.The top court voted 7-2 to reverse an appeals court ruling that had struck down the law’s individual mandate provision.Justice Stephen Breyer, who authored the opinion of the court, said that Texas and the other states that challenged the law failed to show that they were harmed by it. In legal terms, the states failed to demonstrate that they had standing.”Neither the individual nor the state plaintiffs have shown that the injury they will suffer or have suffered is ‘fairly traceable’ to the ‘allegedly unlawful conduct’ of which they complain,” Breyer wrote.The decision is a major victory for the legislation, which former President Barack Obama signed in 2010. The law has since become a crucial element of the nation’s health-care system, responsible for the coverage of tens of millions of Americans. President Joe Biden, who served as Obama’s vice president when the law was signed, has vowed to expand its reach.The decision marks the third time that Obamacare, officially known as the Affordable Care Act, has survived a challenge before the Supreme Court. Defenders of the law worried that the panel, which now has a 6-3 majority of Republican-appointed justices, would scrap the legislation, which has long been criticized by conservatives.”Each time, in each arena, the Affordable Care Act has prevailed,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor minutes after the latest ruling came down. “Let me say definitively: The Affordable Care Act has won, the Supreme Court has ruled, the ACA is here to stay. And now, we’re going to try to make it bigger and better,” Schumer said.”What a day,” he added.Several of the court’s conservatives, including Chief Justice John Roberts, joined Breyer’s opinion on Thursday. The others voting with Breyer were Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.Kavanaugh and Barrett are appointees of former President Donald Trump, whose administration had unsuccessfully attempted to overturn Obamacare throughout his one term in office. However, Congress as part of the 2017 tax bill effectively eliminated Obamacare’s so-called individual mandate penalties by reducing them to $0.Texas and more than a dozen other Republican-led states then filed suit, arguing that that change to the law rendered it unconstitutional. The Supreme Court had previously upheld the mandate under Congress’s power to tax, but the GOP-led states argued that the tax justification was no longer valid if the penalty was nonexistent.Those states, backed by Trump’s Department of Justice, argued that the entire Affordable Care Act should be erased if the individual mandate provision was found to be unlawful.The case made its way through federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which agreed that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. But 20 Democrat-led states, led by California, asked the Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court’s judgment, arguing that with the mandate reduced to zero Americans have the choice whether or not to buy insurance.The Supreme Court in March 2020 agreed to hear the case.A spokeswoman for Trump did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the court’s ruling. Democrats had warned during Barrett’s confirmation hearings that she was likely to cast a vote in the case that would jeopardize Obamacare.Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, both conservatives, dissented from the court’s majority opinion.”Today’s decision is the third installment in our epic Affordable Care Act trilogy, and it follows the same pattern as installments one and two,” Alito wrote in a dissent that was joined by Gorsuch. “In all three episodes, with the Affordable Care Act facing a serious threat, the Court has pulled off an improbable rescue.”The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the ruling. But numerous Biden administration officials were quick to celebrate the decision on social media Thursday morning.White House chief of staff Ron Klain tweeted “It’s still a BFD” — an apparent reference to Biden’s infamous hot-mic comment at the signing of the bill in 2010, when he whispered to Obama, “this is a big f—— deal.””Today is a good day,” tweeted Sabrina Singh, deputy press secretary for Vice President Kamala Harris.White House communications official Karine Jean-Pierre highlighted that the ruling marked the third time Obamacare survived a challenge in the high court.

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