WASHINGTON: From the very beginning, nearly every Republican and most Democrats knew that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed in 2010, would need to be changed. The GOP always thought a complete repeal and replace as necessary, while Dems thought they could tweak the law over time. Now, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) just dealt a knock-out punch to the Dems in the fall election and concerning the issue of health care.
Most opponents of the ACA believe the law will not withstand a challenge to its constitutionality. Surprisingly in a 2012, 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the law. The opponents said that it is illegal for Congress to force any American to purchase a product, which the ACA did by forcing every American to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.
This was known as the individual mandate. Therefore the law is not constitutional.
In 2012, SCOTUS concluded the ACA was constitutional.
The SCOTUS logic in 2012 was that the individual mandate was not necessarily forcing an individual to purchase a product. Rather Congress has the right to levy a tax. Once levied it must be decided who pays the tax. The ACA levied a tax on all Americans who do not purchase health insurance.
In this way, the court reasoned, the ACA individual mandate was constitutional. Therefore the entire law was constitutional.
But in 2017, Congress passed a tax cut. In that law, Congress repealed the tax/penalty associated with the individual mandate. As such, Americans no longer must purchase health insurance. Since Congress made no changes to the ACA, opponents of the ACA argued that the law is now unconstitutional.
In December 2018, the court agreed with opponents. The court found that the entire law is unconstitutional. Appeals were filed and now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.
The Dems thought SCOTUS would hear the case in the early spring of this year and render their decision in June. If SCOTUS agreed the law was unconstitutional, health care would be a primary issue in the 2020 elections in November.
A SCOTUS decision before the election would have helped the Dems.
Democrats thought this would be a big plus for them because they believe that the American voters favor their approach to health care policy. The Democrats believe that it was health care issues that played a significant role in their Congressional wins in the 2018 election.
The Democrats asked the SCOTUS to fast-track the ACA appeal case, reaching a decision before the 2020 election. Last week SCOTUS rejected the Democrats plea, meaning the case will be heard after the election this fall.
This is a major blow to the Dems chances in 2020.
After the December 2018 court decision, Democrats and Republicans in Congress should have gotten together to come up with a new health care law or at least a significant revision of the current law.
But with the toxic divisions between the parties, that is not possible.
That is a big mistake for the Democrats. Currently, the Democrats hold the majority in the House of Representatives, while Republicans hold the majority in the Senate. Under normal conditions, the House would seek input from representatives on both sides to come up with a compromise each party would be able to accept. They likely would get some input from the Senate to see what they could accept.
Because the Democrats in the House have spent months attempting to impeach a president for what looks like an unimpeachable act, they have little time for moving the country forward. They are missing a huge opportunity.
If the impeachment ends with an acquittal for the president, which is the likely outcome and if the Democrats do poorly in November, a new health care law could be implemented with little or no Democratic input.
Recall the 2010 ACA had absolutely no Republican support.
One scenario in November is Trump’s re-election with a super majority.
The country is so fed up with the lack of progress by the House Democrats, that the house flips back to a Republican majority. Trump’s coattails will help with this.
Republicans may not only hold onto their majority in the Senate but they could increase it. That means the Republicans will be in complete control of any new health care law.
The Democrats, focusing on Impeachment, will have missed a wonderful opportunity to come up with a bipartisan bill. It often appears that President Trump has the mind of a Republican but the heart of a Democrat. As such, the Democrats in the House could have come to an agreement with the GOP controlled Senate and Trump would have signed a compromise bill.
Now that they have raked the president over the coals, he will be in little mood to compromise.
And that’s a big problem for the Democrats, not only for the election but leading the country after the election, especially when solving the health care mess.
- Headline image: Cartoon by Branco. Reproduced with permission and by arrangement with Legal Insurrection.