supreme court

Supreme Court to Delay Arguments on Obamacare Case Until After Election

The Supreme Court gave Trump and his party a small gift before ending the current term. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The term of the United States Supreme Court that just concluded was generally not a funfest for Republicans who expected more from their 5-4 conservative majority on the bench. Decisions affirming coverage of LGBTQ rights in anti-discrimination laws, striking down a popular state abortion restriction, and contradicting Trump’s sweeping assertions of presidential power were all nasty surprises for many of the president’s friends and allies.

But on the way to their vacation haunts, the justices did give Republicans a small and unobtrusive gift, as reported by SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe:

Today the Supreme Court released its calendar for the October argument session, which begins on Monday, Oct. 5, and continues through Wednesday, Oct. 14. The justices will hear 10 hours of oral argument over five days; they will not hear argument on Monday, Oct. 12, which is a federal holiday. All of the cases scheduled for argument in October had originally been scheduled for oral argument in March or April of this year but were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift of the spring cases to the October argument session also means that the challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate will not be argued until the court’s November argument session at the earliest. That session begins on Nov. 2, the day before Election Day.

Democrats had avidly anticipated that oral argument as an opportunity to reinforce the huge gap between the two parties on health-care policy, made more acute, of course, by the COVID-19 pandemic, as I observed when the Trump administration formally joined the appeal to SCOTUS just a few weeks ago:

The Supreme Court is reportedly already planning oral arguments on this case for the fall, likely before the November elections, making it excellent fodder for Democratic claims that Trump and the GOP are determined to strip Americans of health-care coverage. In fact, congressional Democrats and several Democratic-governed states tried unsuccessfully in January to expedite Supreme Court consideration of the case so that an actual decision would precede the elections. All that activity, of course, was prior to the coronavirus pandemic breakout, which has threatened health-care coverage for the many millions of people who are losing their jobs, and made health care a top-tier issue for nearly all voters.

This last point really is important. Just today a new study came out estimating that 5.4 million Americans lost their employer-based health insurance between February and April. It would be a really bad time for the Obamacare-Medicaid safety net for the uninsured to be shredded by the courts at the behest of Donald Trump and the Republican Party, particularly since they still do not have an alternative health-care program to offer after all these years of frantic attacks on Obamacare.

So Republicans would just as soon change the subject from health care to almost anything else before voters go to the polls in November. And if Democrats do succeed in ejecting Trump from power and taking control of both chambers of Congress, perhaps the endless GOP vendetta against the Affordable Care Act will become nothing more than a bad memory.

Supreme Court Delays Obamacare Arguments Until Post-Election