Federal appeals court rejects request to delay arguments in ‘Obamacare’ lawsuit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal appeals court on Tuesday denied a request to delay oral arguments on the legal standing of former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The court order was in response to a request by a coalition of Republican states, including West Virginia, to delay the arguments to prepare supplemental briefs.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering a challenge to a December ruling on “Obamacare,” in which a federal judge struck down the law in light of Congress’ repeal of the individual mandate in the 2017 tax law.

A group of 18 Republican-led states wants the decision to be upheld. Attorneys general from more than a dozen Democratic states in addition to the U.S. House of Representatives are intervening in the lawsuit and challenging December’s decision. Oral arguments are scheduled for July 9.

The GOP states, led by Texas, on Monday asked the appeals court to push back the deadline to prepare additional briefs the court requested on June 26. The court’s questions were first due July 3, and involved whether the states supporting “Obamacare” and the Democratic-controlled House have the authority to enter the lawsuit.

The court asked the question in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in which justices determined the Virginia House of Delegates could not intervene in a case involving gerrymandering.

“These important and potentially dispositive questions merit a thorough response that represents the cohesive views of all Plaintiff-Appellee States and their respective Attorneys General,” wrote Kyle Hawkins, a counsel with the Texas attorney general’s office.

“As of today, it appears unlikely that any such response will be completed by the Court’s July 3 deadline.”

Hawkins asked the court to move the deadline for the briefs to July 23 and push oral arguments until after the briefs were filed. He added the Justice Department — which said in March it supports Judge Reed O’Connor’s December verdict — opposed any delay that would affect oral arguments from being held next Tuesday.

The court said supplemental briefs could be filed on July 5 — a two-day delay — but denied the request to move the arguments.

The court on Monday identified the three judges who will hear the arguments: Carolyn King, Jennifer Elrod and Kurt Engelhardt. The Senate confirmed Engelhardt in May 2018. U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito were among the senators who voted for his confirmation.

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