Don’t look now, but ObamaCare is headed back to the Supreme Court. Even though many of us thought the decision upholding the constitutionality of the individual mandate — the heart of President Obama’s health care law — was the end of the story, a legal challenge by Liberty University, a Virginia-based Christian college, on religious grounds has brought ObamaCare back into focus.
Philip Klein has the story:
When Obama signed the national health care legislation into law in March 2010, Liberty University launched a multi-leveled suit against the federal government. This past June, the U.S. Supreme Court already ruled that the law’s individual mandate was constitutional, but did not address two other issues raised by the suit. Specifically, Liberty had challenged the constitutionality of the law’s requirement that employers with over 50 employees either offer acceptable health insurance or pay a penalty and also argued that the law forces the funding of abortion, thus violating the First Amendment’s clause barring Congress from interfering with the free exercise of religion.
When Liberty had argued its case to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond last year, the judges essentially punted. They determined that a statute called the Anti-Injunction Act, which bars challenges to a tax until somebody has paid it, prevented the court from considering the suit at that time. But as part of its June ruling on the health care law, the Supreme Court said that the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply in this case. (This confused many, because justices also separately ruled that the individual mandate was a constitutional exercise of Congress’s taxing power.)
Given that the Supreme Court ruled that the AIA did not apply, Liberty filed a petition for their case to be reheard by the Fourth Circuit, so that the merits of its challenges to the employer mandate and abortion funding could be considered. And that’s what the justices granted [yesterday].
This isn’t going to bring ObamaCare down, but it would be a victory for social conservatives, and it’s also one with which libertarians could agree because of the religious liberty implications, if the Supreme Court ultimately rules in Liberty University’s favor.
Of course, there is always the danger of this coming back to haunt Republicans, much like it did last year when the contraceptive issue received so much attention. This eventually led to the “war on women” meme that was frequently played up by Democrats. However, I really doubt that’ll be the case because we won’t be in an election year when the case is ultimately decided.