The Department of Justice (DOJ) has changed its position in the pending Supreme Court case that holds the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the balance.
The Biden administration submitted a letter (PDF) to the court Wednesday that argues the ACA's individual mandate remains valid, and, even if the court determines it is not, the rest of the law can remain intact.
"Following the change in administration, the Department of Justice has reconsidered the government’s position in these cases," the DOJ wrote. "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 debate at the center of the case is whether the individual mandate can be excised from the rest of the law. Red states and the Trump administration argued that Congress' decision to zero out the mandate's penalty in 2017 rendered the rest of the law invalid as well.
Blue states and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives joined the suit in defense of the law, arguing that even if the mandate is invalid, the rest of the ACA should stand.
Under the Trump administration, the DOJ backed eliminating the ACA in full.
The case wound its way through lower courts before making its way to the Supreme Court in November, when the justices heard oral arguments. Legal scholars said the high court appeared likely to strike down the individual mandate but that the discussion indicated they'd determine the remainder of the law severable.
Legal experts did caution, however, that questioning isn't a precise indicator of where they could land, as justices do at times play devil's advocate.
A ruling in the case is expected in short order, as soon as this month.