A federal appeals court Tuesday rejected a request to delay next week’s hearing on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Eighteen Republican-dominated states opposed to the law said they needed more time to prepare answers to complex issues the appeals court raised in a recent filing as they prepared for the hearing.
States supporting “Obamacare” had opposed the delay, saying it would contribute to uncertainty for insurance companies, regulators and people who need health care coverage.
Arguments remain set for next Tuesday afternoon at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The main issue in the case is a federal judge’s December ruling that the law was rendered unconstitutional in 2017 when Congress zeroed out the tax penalty for people who don’t have insurance.
Twenty mostly Democratic-led states and the U.S. House of Representatives want the 5th Circuit to overturn that ruling, which is on hold pending appeals.
The 18 GOP-dominated states want the circuit court to uphold the ruling. Those states asked the appeals court Monday evening for a delay. They said they need more time to prepare briefs on questions the appeals court asked last week. Those questions include whether the House and the states supporting the law have legal standing to appeal. Another issue raised by the appellate judges: whether there is a legitimate “live case or controversy” to be decided, and what the “appropriate conclusion” of the case should be if nobody involved can legally appeal the December ruling.
The lead attorney for the Affordable Care Act opponents, Kyle Hawkins of the Texas attorney general’s office, said the issues raised could affect each state differently and merit a response that represents the “cohesive views” of all the states. “As of today, it appears unlikely that any such response will be completed by the Court’s July 3 deadline,” he wrote.
Hawkins asked for a 20-day delay to provide briefs and a delay in the hearing until after those briefs are filed.
But in its Tuesday order, the 5th Circuit only granted a two-day delay for briefs, making them due Friday. The court denied the request for a delayed hearing.
Support for a delay had not been unanimous among the law’s opponents. Hawkins’ letter said the Trump administration, which unsuccessfully attempted to get Congress to repeal the law and is not defending it in court, opposed a delay.
Leading the coalition of states supporting the law is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. Lawyers for his office wrote that a delay would complicate budget proceedings in states that receive health care funds allocated through the Affordable Care Act, the setting of insurance rates by companies working with states’ regulators and decisions by individuals who need health care coverage “in deciding whether to move, change jobs, or start a family.”