Blue states file opening salvo in Supreme Court battle over ACA

Supreme Court
Opening briefs in the Supreme Court case over the fate of the Affordable Care Act were filed Wednesday. (Getty/BrianPIrwin)

Blue states leading the defense of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) laid out their arguments for the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Parties in the case were on a deadline to file opening briefs by the end of the day.

In a filing (PDF) led by California officials, the states argue that the central question in the case—severability—requires "no extended analysis." The red states that filed the initial case argue that because the individual mandate penalty was negated, the entire law has been negated as well.

The blue states, however, charge that the individual mandate is severable from the rest of the ACA, nixing the mandate but leaving the rest of the law intact.

"It is plain that Congress would have wanted the remainder of the Act to stand without an enforceable requirement to maintain coverage—because that is precisely the arrangement that Congress itself created," the blue states wrote.

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in December elected to strike down the mandate but did not make a determination on severability, instead remanding the question to a lower court. The decision was quickly appealed to the Supreme Court.

The House of Representatives echoed the blue states in its own filing (PDF) Wednesday, arguing that if Congress intended to eliminate the ACA in full, it would have done so.

"The 2017 amendment rendered the provision inoperative as a practical matter, and Congress at the same time chose to leave the remainder of the Act in place," the House said. "Clearer evidence of what Congress intended is difficult to imagine. And even if the evidence were not so clear, the ACA plainly can continue to operate in the manner Congress intended if [the mandate] is declared invalid."

The Trump administration and red states had not yet filed their briefs at the time of publication.