The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, saying it won't hear a case that alleges the law should have originated in the House instead of the Senate.
Washington artist Matt Sissel argued that the healthcare law was unconstitutional because it is a revenue-raising measure that started in the Senate instead of the House, which holds the “power of the purse.” Democrats say the bill technically originated in the House as legislation focused on first-time homebuyers' credit for military members. That bill ultimately became the ACA.
Timothy Sandefur, a principal attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which was behind the lawsuit, called the court's decision case “disappointing.”
“By allowing Congress to use procedural tricks to evade the constitutional rules, the Court has opened the door to Congress further evading democratic accountability for the laws it passes,” Sandefur said in a statement.
But Nick Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor, said he's not surprised the court declined to hear the case given there was no split of opinion among circuit courts on the issue.
“I think it's safe to say the broad constitutional and critical statutory challenges to the Affordable Care Act, they've now petered out,” Bagley said. A federal district court is still considering U.S. House of Representatives v. Burwell, a case in which House republicans allege the administration is illegally spending money that Congress never appropriated for the law's cost-sharing provisions. But Bagley said he believes that case will ultimately be dismissed on appeal, and even if it isn't dismissed, it doesn't present the same level of threat to the ACA as some previous cases.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against Sissel in 2014, saying the ACA's purpose was not to raise revenue. That court also rejected Sissel's request to rehear the matter before a full panel of judges. In that decision, a majority of the court's judges said the Supreme Court has never found a law in violation of the Constitution's origination clause.
Many legal experts had predicted the case would be a long shot for Supreme Court hearing, especially following the Supreme Court's decision last year in King v. Burwell, in which it upheld insurance premium subsidies under the ACA for Americans in all states. Some have said that Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion in King v. Burwell seemed to indicate the court has no interest in unwinding the ACA.
In that opinion, Roberts wrote: “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”
At least one other case, Hotze v. Burwell, made the same argument as the one in Sissel. But a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiff didn't have standing to sue in that case. The appeals court denied the plaintiff's request for a rehearing before a full panel of judges. The plaintiff in that case has also asked the Supreme Court to hear it.
Bagley said the Hotze case has even less chance of being heard than Sissel because of issues related to whether the plaintiff in that case even had standing to sue.