Demonstrators support the Affordable Care Act in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on November 10, 2020. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
June 17 (UPI) -- For the third time in recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an effort by a coalition of Republican-led states to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, voting overwhelmingly to let the Obama-era healthcare law remain in its entirety.
Despite the high court's solid conservative majority, justices voted 7-2 to dismiss the claim that the 2010 law is unconstitutional.
Eighteen Republican-led states argued that the ACA, also known as "Obamacare," became unconstitutional when congressional Republicans eliminated the individual mandate -- a requirement for all uninsured Americans to buy coverage or face a tax penalty.
Chief Justice John Roberts, and justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett voted to reject the effort. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch voted in dissent.
The court's decision overturned a 2018 opinion from U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Texas, who concluded the ACA is unconstitutional. That ruling was upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
The Supreme Court reasoned that Texas, the lead state in the effort to invalidate the law, failed to establish standing in the case. In other words, it said the plaintiffs, which included two private individuals, had no business bringing the issue before the high court.
"A plaintiff has standing only if he can 'allege personal injury fairly traceable to the defendant's allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief,'" Breyer wrote for the majority.
"Neither the individual nor the state plaintiffs have shown that the injury they will suffer or have suffered is 'fairly traceable' to the 'allegedly unlawful conduct' of which they complain."
In their dissent, Alito and Gorsuch argued that the court had chosen to avoid larger issues of the case.
"Instead of defending the constitutionality of the individual mandate, the court simply ducks the issue and holds that none of the act's challengers, including the dissenting states that think the act saddles them with huge financial costs, is entitled to sue. Can this be correct?"
Nearly two dozen Democratic-led states challenged the original federal appellate ruling, arguing that Congress removing the tax penalty didn't fundamentally change the constitutionality of the ACA.
President Joe Biden, who was vice president when the ACA was signed into law, hailed the Supreme Court ruling as a "victory for every American."
"Today's decision affirms that the Affordable Care Act is stronger than ever, delivers for the American people, and gets us closer to fulfilling our moral obligation to ensure that, here in America, healthcare is a right and not a privilege," he said.
Tens of millions of people in the United States have acquired health coverage through the ACA since it was enacted in 2010.
Thursday was the third time the Supreme Court has turned away major Republican efforts to strip down the landmark healthcare law or remove it entirely since it was signed into law a decade ago.
Members of the U.S. Supreme Court pose for a group photo at the court in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Seated, from left to right, are Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Standing, from left to right, are Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett. Pool Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo