Supreme Court signals it won't consider Obamacare challenge before election

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In this Jan. 24, 2019, file photo, the Supreme Court is seen at sunset in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is unlikely to consider the fate of the Affordable Care Act before the 2020 presidential election after denying a request Tuesday from supporters of the law to fast-track consideration of the case.

Last month, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Obamacare’s individual mandate was unconstitutional, but sent the case down to a Texas federal court to decide the fate of other provisions of the sprawling law.

Lawyers for the Democratic-led House of Representatives, as well as California and other Democratic-led states, seeking to keep the law intact, immediately appealed to the Supreme Court, saying the justices need to step in immediately given potential for the “profound destabilization of the health care system,” as California’s brief put it.

Following that move, the Trump administration said in a filing that it didn’t want the justices to act quickly on the case since the key issue — how much of the law should remain in effect — is still being litigated. The administration is siding with Texas and several GOP-led states in arguing the law should be struck down.

“By refusing to expedite the ACA case, the justices are basically saying that they’d rather not decide this case until they absolutely have to — which, depending on how the November elections go, may be never,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

“They may still choose to hear the current appeal, or wait for the case to go back to the district court before taking it up, but either way, the earliest we’d get a decision from the court about the fate of Obamacare would be the middle of 2021. Thus, in a term that is already full of high-profile cases with major potential political ramifications, the court decided to sit this one out, at least for now.”

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