In a letter to House Speaker Ryan, Attorney General Jeff Sessions affirmed that the Justice Dept will no longer defend the constitutionality of Obamacare.
Sessions writes that the DoJ believes the law's individual mandate - the provision the Supreme Court upheld in 2012 - has become unconstitutional.
Notably, the three-page letter begins by saying that Justice adopted its position "with the approval of the President of the United States."
Specifically, Sessions writes that the mandate cannot be interpreted as a tax “because it will raise no revenue as Congress has eliminated the monetary penalty,” the department said in a brief filed in the Federal District Court in Fort Worth.
As Axios reports, the Justice Department almost always defends federal laws when they're challenged in court. Its departure from that norm in this case is a major development - career DOJ lawyers removed themselves from the case as the department announced this shift in its position.
The ACA's individual mandate requires most people to buy insurance or pay a tax penalty. The Supreme Court upheld that in 2012 as a valid use of Congress' taxing power, but as Axios details below, that is all about to come to a head as Democratic attorneys general have been granted permission to defend the ACA in this case...
When Congress claimed it repealed the individual mandate last year, what it actually did was drop the tax penalty to $0.
So the coverage requirement itself is still technically on the books.
And a group of Republican attorneys general, representing states led by Texas, say it's now unconstitutional - because the specific penalty the Supreme Court upheld is no longer in effect.
The Justice Department agreed with that position in a brief filed Thursday night.
DOJ said the courts should strike down the coverage requirement, as well as the provision of the law that forces insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions.
And before the left gets out its outrage machine (and Nancy Peolsi decrying the number of children that will die due to Jeff Session's opinion), while it is rare for the Justice Department to stop defending a federal law, it is not unprecedented: the Obama administration did it with the Defense of Marriage Act.
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Full letter from AG Sessions to Speaker Ryan: