The appeals court heard arguments on whether Congress effectively invalidated the Affordable Care Act when it zeroed out the tax imposed on those who chose not to buy insurance.
The fate of the Affordable Care Act is again on the line Tuesday, as a federal appeals court in New Orleans takes up a case in which a lower court judge has already ruled the massive health law unconstitutional. She and the other GOP appointee, Judge Kurt Engelhardt, named by President Trump a year ago, repeatedly noted that the law was written without an explicit feature guaranteeing that if one part were ever removed by Congress or the courts, the rest would remain in place.
If successful, the Texas lawsuit would strip coverage from as many as 20 million people and eliminate scores of other health care protections, including prescription drug assistance for seniors who rely on the Medicare Part D program.
An appellate ruling declaring Obamacare unconstitutional could prompt an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, opening the door for the top court to take up the issue in the midst of the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Obamacare has come under frequent fire since it was passed in 2010.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who did not appear in court Tuesday, said that success in the lawsuit would be "a victory for all Americans".
"Can't they do this tomorrow?" asked the former Louisiana trial judge, who joined the appeals court a year ago.More news: Singapore wants more details on Facebook Libra before deciding on regulatory response
Administration lawyers are nonetheless pushing the appeals court in New Orleans to scrap the law.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is part of a coalition of Democratic attorneys general attempting to defend the law. Elrod peppered both sides with questions.
The administration has promised to continue to enforce the law while the lawsuit makes its way through the federal court system.
With no tax penalty now in effect, the Texas lawsuit argues, the individual mandate is unconstitutional and the entire law must fall without it. Texas-based U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor agreed in a December ruling.
Bush appointee, asked how the plaintiff states how they would argue the mandate could not be considered separately from other provisions in the far-reaching healthcare law, such as restaurant calorie guidelines.
Commentary: Today, on the first day of oral arguments in the Texas v.More news: Justice demanded for teen killed for listening to rap music
Pro-ACA groups warned of the peril to consumers if the law were struck down. Pat Toomey balked at the notion that the GOP is against helping people with pre-existing conditions retain insurance coverage.
This new case could be the most consequential test of Obamacare yet.
Obamacare, the signature domestic achievement of Trump's Democratic predecessor has been a political flashpoint since its passage. "Why does Congress want the Article III Judiciary to become the taxidermist for every legislative big game accomplishment that Congress achieves?" The tax bill eliminated the penalty in the ACA for not having health coverage.
Numerous points and counterpoints laid out at the hearing have been part of the case since it began.
Douglas Letter, arguing for the now-Democratic controlled House of Representatives, later jumped on Flentje's ambiguous responses, saying that the Justice Department's position makes no sense. Now, his core argument is helping power a Republican-led legal challenge that threatens to sweep away the entire law. Although the federal government initially said some parts of the ACA might be worth keeping, the Trump administration shifted in March and said it would no longer defend any part of Obamacare in court.
The intervening states have argued that repealing the ACA would cost them a combined $650 billion via multiple revenue streams such as Medicaid, insurance marketplace subsidies and the Prevention and Public Health Fund.More news: China's producer prices stall in June, fuel deflation worries
The Trump administration announced that it would not defend the law in the district court.
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