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Supreme Court to hear challenge to Obamacare on Nov. 10, a week after Election Day

Affordable Care Act supporters hold up signs outside the Supreme Court as they wait for the court’s decision on Obamacare on Thursday, June 25, 2015.

Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call | Getty Images

The Supreme Court announced on Wednesday that it will hear arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of the landmark health care legislation known as Obamacare on Nov. 10, one week after Election Day.

A decision in the case, which could disrupt the health care coverage of tens of millions of Americans, is expected by June of 2021. 

The announcement comes in the middle of the Democratic National Convention, which has featured criticism of the president’s muddled health care promises, and could provide a boost to liberal efforts to target Trump on the issue.

But the move to hear the case after Election Day also pulls the notoriously opaque Supreme Court out of the electoral spotlight somewhat, ensuring that the arguments themselves will not influence November’s contest.

Joe Biden, who played a role in the Affordable Care Act’s passage as vice president, was officially named the Democratic nominee for president on Tuesday. 

The case was brought by Republican attorneys general led by Texas who allege that the legislation’s individual mandate provision was made unconstitutional when its penalty was set to $0 under President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul.

The argument relies on the Supreme Court’s reasoning in the 2012 case that upheld the Affordable Care Act, which found at the time that the law was an appropriate use of Congress’s power to tax. 

The Republicans argue that if the court strikes down the individual mandate provision, the entirety of the sprawling legislation must also be scrapped. 

Trump, via his Department of Justice, has sided with the GOP states in urging the justices to wipe out the law. Democratic states led by California are asking the top court to uphold it.

A federal appeals court ruled late last year that the individual mandate provision was unconstitutional, but did not issue a decision on whether the whole law would be required to fall as a result. 

Conservatives have long sought to repeal the legislation, which is formally known as Obamacare, but have not been successful.

Trump has frequently promised to present a plan to replace the Affordable Care Act but has never produced such a bill. Earlier this month, he said he was working on an executive order related to preexisting conditions. Obamacare prevented insurance companies from denying coverage to those with such conditions. 

The top court released its schedule for November arguments on Wednesday. It had previously released its schedule for October, but it was not then known whether it would hear the Obamacare case before Election Day, which is Nov. 3. The court is hearing arguments in separate cases on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3. 

The Supreme Court currently has a 5-4 conservative majority. Chief Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee who has served as the swing vote in recent pivotal cases, authored the court’s 2012 opinion upholding Obamacare. 

The case is Texas v. California, No. 19-1019. 

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