In a decision authored by liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, the Supreme Court rejected Republican efforts to overturn Obamacare, safeguarding a law that has provided healthcare coverage for millions of Americans.
The ruling came as a disappointment to Republican lawmakers and the former Trump administration, who had hoped the court would overturn Obamacare. Nonetheless, this ruling leaves open the possibility of another legal challenge.
Justice Samuel Alito
On Thursday, the Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. The justices determined that Republican attorneys general lacked standing to sue over its individual mandate provision.
Alito, a conservative, voted against the challenge. In his dissenting opinion, Alito wrote that the court’s decision “relies on an absurd distortion of our standing jurisprudence.”
Though the health care law has already weathered two previous challenges, its supporters remain anxious about potential repercussions from today’s ruling. If it upholds the challengers’ arguments, millions of Americans could lose their health insurance coverage.
Justice Clarence Thomas
Thomas, the second-most senior justice on the court, was raised in a poor neighborhood of Savannah, Georgia and attended segregated Catholic schools. Afterwards he attended College of the Holy Cross and Yale Law School, where he developed an intense passion for civil rights issues.
He eventually abandoned his ambition of becoming a priest and pursued a career in law. While attending Yale Law School, he became one of the first black students admitted under their racial preference program.
Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1991 and soon after experienced the kind of rigorous Senate hearings he had hoped to avoid as a young lawyer. Yet this judicial experience, combined with his conservative viewpoints, have cemented Thomas’ place as an influential judge on the court today.
Justice Stephen Breyer
On Thursday, the Supreme Court unanimously held that the Republican-led effort to overturn Obamacare was unconstitutional, maintaining health insurance for millions of Americans. Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett wrote the opinion in favor of leaving the Affordable Care Act unchanged.
Breyer was a highly pragmatic justice on the Court, often opting for practical solutions rather than strict interpretations of the Constitution. Additionally, as part of its liberal wing, his opinions often supported civil rights issues.
In the case of Obamacare, Breyer was one of the leading opponents to the individual mandate that required all adults to purchase health insurance or face a fine. He maintained that plaintiffs did not have standing to sue because their penalty for not having insurance had been reduced to zero and that the government was no longer liable to them.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina and third woman to serve on the Supreme Court, making her tenure on the bench an influential one. Her dedication to justice and passion for equality have made her tenure as a jurist highly praised by those within and outside of academia alike.
She typically votes with the liberal justices, though she has also joined conservative justices on some cases. She has supported affirmative action and criminal justice reform, among other matters.
Sotomayor was born in the Bronx, New York on June 25, 1954 to Juan and Celina Sotomayor. Her father worked as a tool-and-die worker while her mother worked as a nurse. She has one brother and five nieces.
Justice Elena Kagan
Justice Elena Kagan is a staunch Democrat who received her Supreme Court appointment from President Barack Obama. If she decides to hear challenges to the Affordable Care Act, that could do serious damage both to Obama’s reelection campaign and that of the Democratic Party as a whole.
Kagan had every right to recuse herself from this case last Thursday, yet she chose instead to join Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority opinion that declared unconstitutional a major component of the health care law: its expansion of Medicaid coverage.
However, she sided with conservatives on other key issues like the individual mandate, which required people to purchase health insurance or face a fine. Furthermore, she supported liberals when asked if states can make their participation in the program voluntary.