by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Obamacare faces a three-judge panel Tuesday in New Orleans that will weigh whether the healthcare law is unconstitutional and should be struck down.
The timing of the case means that a decision from the court, and a potential appeal to the Supreme Court after that, could bring Obamacare’s future to the center of political debate ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Such an outcome would put President Trump on the spot to argue his vision for an alternative while congressional Democrats would accuse Republicans of being uncommitted to Obamacare’s protections for the sick, as they did ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
The lawsuit, Texas v. United States, has the support of the Trump administration and was waged by Republican state officials who say that Obamacare must be thrown out as a result of the law’s fine on the uninsured being zeroed out in the 2017 tax law. They argue that the fine, known as the “individual mandate,” was central to making the rest of the law work and that without it the entire law should crumble.
The case heads Tuesday to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considered one of the most conservative appeals courts in the U.S. Judges Carolyn Dineen King, Jennifer Walker Elrod, and Kurt Engelhardt will hear the oral arguments. They are appointees of President Jimmy Carter, President George W. Bush, and Trump, respectively.