THE BIG IDEA: President Trump couldn’t kill Obamacare legislatively. So now he’s trying to do so in a court of law, hoping that conservative judges might do what a Republican-controlled Congress would not.
In a triumphant mood on Tuesday, Trump touted the Justice Department’s unexpected request for an appellate court to fully strike down the Affordable Care Act.
“The Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care,” he told reporters at the Capitol before lunching with GOP senators. “You watch.”
The reactions to his decision from the political and legal worlds highlighted how elusive Trump’s goal could be.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit is preparing to hear an appeal in a case challenging the law’s constitutionality after a district court judge in Texas, Reed O’Connor, ruled in December that the law is null and void because Republicans eliminated penalties for not carrying health insurance as part of their 2017 tax bill. That’s what prompted 20 GOP state attorneys general to file the suit.
This isn’t some dry academic debate. Court watchers say it’s within the realm of possibility that the very conservative 5th Circuit could strike down Obamacare in toto.
“I’ve been a student and a watchdog of the 5th Circuit for upwards of 50 years. I have great respect for the court, but the 5th Circuit can be a very wild card,” said Louisiana State University law professor Paul Baier, noting that it was this court that declared the Gun-Free School Zones Act unconstitutional. “Sometimes the 5th Circuit sticks its judicial neck out. … It certainly will depend on the panel.”