The Trump administration and a group of Republican states on Friday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject Democratic states' request for a quick review of a court decision that struck down part of the Affordable Care Act.
A speedy review is "premature" because the ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December affirming that the individual mandate is unconstitutional "creates no present, real-world emergency," the U.S. Justice Department wrote in its response to the blue states' motion to expedite the case.
A coalition of Democratic-led state attorneys general had asked the high court to immediately review the case to resolve uncertainty over the case, Texas v. U.S., which they said could cause problems for individuals, state and local governments and health insurance markets.
The coalition hoped the court would rule on the case before its current term ends in June 2020—a few months before the next presidential election in November. They feared that prolonging the litigation would protect Republicans from the consequences of a decision that toppled the ACA.
Their request came after the 5th Circuit sent the case back to a Texas District Court to redo its flawed analysis on what other parts of the ACA must fall with the mandate — the legal term for this is "severability" — and to figure out the appropriate remedy. A federal judge in Texas in 2018 wiped out the requirement that most Americans buy health insurance and declared the rest of the ACA unconstitutional by extension, but that ruling was stayed pending appeal.
The Justice Department argued in its brief, written by Solicitor General Noel Francisco, that the Democratic states sought expedited review based on questions not yet decided by the 5th Circuit.
Should the Supreme Court take up the issue now, "it would have to confront the severability of statutory provisions spanning 900 pages without the benefit of any decision from the court of appeals on that question, or of a decision from the district court applying the more granular analysis that the court of appeals prescribed."
The Republican states challenging the ACA likewise argued that review of the case is premature. They wrote in a brief Friday that Democrats would have filed a petition earlier if there were a true emergency requiring expedited consideration. They further said that undecided issues must be resolved before heading to the Supreme Court.
"There may come a day when this Court's review is appropriate, but it is after the issue of severability is decided below," they wrote.