5th Circuit hears Obamacare appeal
by Kyle Ziemnick
Posted 7/10/19, 11:16 am
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard arguments Tuesday challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Fort Worth, Texas, ruled in December that former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law became unconstitutional when Congress eliminated the individual mandate, a tax on those without insurance, in 2017.
The three-judge appellate panel asked questions Tuesday about the enforcement of the law and whether the courts were the appropriate body to choose what parts of the policy survive. Two of the judges, Jennifer Walker Elrod and Kurt Engelhardt, were appointed by Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump, respectively. The third judge, Carolyn Dineen King, is an appointee of Democratic President Jimmy Carter and asked no questions during the hearing.
Lawyers defending Obamacare argued that Congress did not intend to strike down the entire law when it cut the individual mandate. But judges Elrod and Engelhardt were skeptical of that contention. “Why would the Senate not also be here to say, ‘Oh, this is what we meant when we wrote this’?” Engelhardt asked during the hearing. “They’re sort of the 800-pound gorilla that’s not in the room.”
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in 2012 by a 5-4 decision.
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