President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice (DOJ) reversed former President Donald Trump’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Wednesday, telling the Supreme Court that the government no longer believes the law is unconstitutional.
The Trump-era challenge argued that the 2017 removal of the tax penalty rendered the ACA’s coverage mandate unconstitutional, by extension making the entire ACA unconstitutional.
Biden and Democrats have long opposed Trump’s argument, and the new administration was expected to make the reversal. The DOJ argued in a letter both that the ACA’s coverage mandate is constitutional and that it is severable, meaning if SCOTUS were to deem it unconstitutional it would not doom the rest of the ACA.
“Following the change in Administration, the Department of Justice has reconsidered the government’s position in these cases. The purpose of this letter is to notify the Court that the United States no longer adheres to the conclusions in the previously filed brief of the federal respondents,” the DOJ letter read. (RELATED: The ACA Is Likely To Survive Even With A Justice Barrett, Experts Say)
Critically, the DOJ’s new stance does not withdraw the case from the Supreme Court. The Trump administration had joined onto the challenge with 18 Republican state attorneys general. The case was originally headed up by Texas and will remain before the highest court.
The Trump administration first made court filings seeking to overturn the ACA in June. The administration’s case faced a tough road to success, however. Many justices signaled that even if the coverage requirement was deemed unconstitutional, the best remedy would not be to void the act entirely, but merely excise the requirement from the law.
The Biden administration made the policy change before the president’s nominee for attorney general, Merrick Garland, had been confirmed in the Senate. Garland’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for February 22 and 23.