The decision to schedule oral arguments after the country votes ensures that an issue that has dominated American politics for the last decade will remain a central focus of the presidential campaign, even though a final opinion in the case will only be rendered sometime next spring.
The court’s decision to schedule the cases after the campaign season also may reflect a desire to keep any potential audio from the oral argument from becoming part of campaign ads or news broadcasts.
In 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts cast the key vote in the 5-4 decision upholding the Affordable Care Act’s holding that the individual mandate was valid under Congress’ taxing power.
President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other Republicans have consistently called out Roberts for that ruling, emphasizing the need to add more conservatives to the bench.
In 2017, the Republican-led Congress cut the tax penalty for those who lacked insurance to zero as part of the year-end tax overhaul.
Texas and other Republican-led states sued, arguing that since the mandate was no longer tied to a specific tax penalty, it had lost its legal underpinning. They also argued that because the individual mandate was intertwined with a multitude of other provisions, the entire law should fall, including protections for people with preexisting conditions.
The Trump administration filed briefs siding with Texas for the most part, although they have made a relatively new argument that the entire law should fall but the ruling should only apply to the 18 states that brought the challenge.
In December, a federal appeals court held that the individual mandate was unconstitutional. But critically, the court punted on whether the rest of the massive law — even provisions unrelated to the mandate — could remain on the books. Over 98 pages, the 2-1 appeals court asked a district court to review that issue — infuriating supporters of the law. They contend the two Republican appointees in the majority were attempting to delay a decision that could gut the law until after the election.
California and other Democratic-led states have asked the Supreme Court to step in this term to review the decision.