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US Justice Department files supplemental brief in ‘Obamacare’ lawsuit

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Department of Justice says there is a “live case or controversy” involving its support of a decision striking down former President Barack Obama’s health care law because the government continues to enforce the statute.

Department attorneys on Wednesday filed a supplemental brief in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in the lawsuit on “Obamacare.”

Multiple Republican-led states, including West Virginia, are arguing the law is unconstitutional because of Congress’ repeal of the individual mandate in the 2017 tax law. The individual mandate required people to purchase health insurance or be penalized.

A federal judge in Texas ruled in favor of the states last December. The Department of Justice in March came out in support of Judge Reed O’Connor’s decision.

A group of Democratic states and the U.S. House of Representatives are intervening in the lawsuit in defense of “Obamacare.”

The court last week asked for supplemental briefs on if the Justice Department’s support of the original verdict “mooted the controversy and no other defendant has standing to appeal,” as well as if the House and blue states have the authority to enter the lawsuit.

In Wednesday’s letter brief, the department said a controversy exists because its support of the December decision is happening while the government enforces the Affordable Care Act.

“Although the government agrees that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, it continues to enforce the ACA — including the insurance-market regulations that are the source of plaintiffs’ injury — and will continue to do so pending a final judicial determination of the constitutionality of the individual mandate as well as the severability of the ACA’s other provisions,” the department said.

In regards to intervening parties, the Justice Department wrote the House of Representatives and the states do not have the authority to intervene in the lawsuit. According to the department, past precedent prevents the House from getting involved as it is a single chamber of a bicameral body. The department added the Democratic-led states have to show how the impact of December’s verdict in the other states would affect them.

Oral arguments are scheduled for Tuesday. The other parties in the lawsuit have until Friday at 6 p.m. to file briefs answering the court’s questions.

The court on Tuesday rejected a request from the states challenging the law to delay the supplemental briefs until July 23. The delay would have also pushed back arguments until after those briefs were filed.

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