Rutledge’s Statement on SCOTUS Hearing to Invalidate Obamacare
November 10, 2020
Says, ‘we are one step closer to righting the constitutional wrong of the individual mandate and also providing Americans much-needed clarity when it comes to their healthcare’
LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued a statement following today’s oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, during which it considered the claim of an 18-state coalition including Arkansas that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional.
“The Obamacare arguments are finally behind us, and we are one step closer to righting the constitutional wrong of the individual mandate and also providing Americans much-needed clarity when it comes to their healthcare,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansans have long demanded better, and they deserve it. I continue to call on Congress to work together to create a comprehensive healthcare law that will work with states and provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.”
In 2012, a majority of the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare against a constitutional challenge because it said the individual mandate was a valid exercise of Congress’s tax power. But a different majority also held that Congress did not have the power to impose the individual mandate under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. As Chief Justice Roberts explained, and the four-justice dissent agreed, the Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate commerce — but not to compel it, which is what the individual mandate does.
In 2017, Congress eliminated the tax portion of the individual mandate as part of President Donald J. Trump’s tax overhaul. Rutledge then joined a multistate lawsuit filed in a Texas federal court, arguing that Congress rendered Obamacare unconstitutional by doing away with the tax penalty.
Judge Reed O’Connor of the Texas federal court agreed and ruled that the individual mandate was no longer valid under Congress’s tax power. Applying the Supreme Court’s 2012 holding that the Commerce Clause could not support the individual mandate, Judge O’Connor struck it down as unconstitutional. He then ruled that Congress would not have passed Obamacare without the individual mandate because it was an essential part of the law. Therefore, he also invalidated the entire law.
A group of states led by California had joined the lawsuit to defend Obamacare, and they appealed Judge O’Connor’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In December 2019, however, the Fifth Circuit rejected California’s arguments and agreed instead with those made by the 18-state coalition including Arkansas: that Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court cases are California v. Texas, No. 19-840, and Texas v. California, No. 19-1019. More detail on the states’ arguments is available in the parties’ court filings, which can be found here on the Supreme Court’s public docket.
In addition to Arkansas, the coalition – led by Texas – includes the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.