Supreme Court to Obamacare Haters: Give It Up!

The US Supreme Court rejects another challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

Obamacare supporters outside the US Supreme Court waiting for the court's decision on the law in June 2015.AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

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The US Supreme Court now has twice heard major challenges to the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, and twice it’s come down on the side of the Obama administration and upheld the law. But that hasn’t kept opponents from trying again—and again and again. Today, the court refused even to hear the latest challenge to the law, a sign that the justices are perhaps ready to move on.

The case, Sissel v. HHS, involves an artist and National Guard reservist who, like other anti-ACA plaintiffs, really doesn’t want to buy health insurance. Represented by the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, Sissel “prefers to devote his resources to building up his art business rather than buying health insurance,” according to his petition for certiorari.

 

 

Matt Sissel

Obamacare challenger Matt Sissel Courtesy Pacific Legal Foundation

Unfortunately for Sissel, that’s no longer an option thanks to Obamacare, which now requires him to get some health insurance or pay a fine to the federal government. So in 2010, he sued the US Department of Health and Human Services, arguing that the law should be invalidated because the fine he’s subject to is actually a tax, and that tax was created by the US Senate and not the House, as required by the Constitution’s Origination Clause.

Sissel’s challenge is backed by none other than GOP presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who filed an amicus brief in the case with fellow Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Texas) and Mike Lee (Utah), arguing that the Senate overstepped its authority in crafting the ACA. Cruz and the others write in their brief:

[W]hile it may seem odd that sitting Senators would speak out in support of enforcing restrictions on the authority of their own chamber to initiate bills for raising revenues, their duty is first and foremost to “support and defend the Constitution,” not to aggrandize power for themselves and their Senate colleagues.

Bunny drawing by Supreme Court petitioner Matt Sissel Matt Sissel/Wikimedia Commons

Cruz’s emphatic support notwithstanding, the lower courts have firmly rejected Sissel’s arguments, stating that the ACA was not a revenue-raising bill under the definition of the Origination Clause, largely because its primary purpose was to extend health insurance coverage to lots of Americans, not to raise taxes. Besides, the DC Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit said the tax provision did originate in the House. The Senate merely amended it, something it does all the time without controversy.

 

The Supreme Court seems to have agreed, which was not unexpected. The high court is not fond of Origination Clause challenges, viewing them as largely political questions, not legal ones, and it has never overturned a law based on one. As Constitutional Accountability Center Chief Counsel Elizabeth Wydra noted in a press release Tuesday, “It is hardly surprising that the Court has refused to hear this case…[T]he ultimate outcome of challenges like this one aren’t in doubt. They are simply meritless. The Court upheld the ACA for the second time just last June, with Chief Justice Roberts picking up a sixth vote to send a clear signal that he’s had enough of what has become a blatant ideological crusade. One questions whether anti-Obamacare legal activists have gotten the message.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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