Nearly six years after defending the Affordable Care Act at the Supreme Court, former U.S. Solicitor General Don Verrilli is diving back into the fight to defend the Obama-era law.
Verrilli is among a team of lawyers representing the newly Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives. The House moved Thursday toward stepping in as a defendant in Texas v. United States (Case Number 4:18-cv-00167), a lawsuit that could nullify the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the main part of the Affordable Care Act statutory package.
Members of the House voted 234-197 today to approve a House rules resolution section that lets the House speaker intervene in the Texas v. USA case and other ACA cases.
The House now has 234 members who are Democrats and 198 who are Republicans. Three of the Democrats crossed party lines to vote against the rules measure, and three Republicans crossed party lines to vote for it.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and officials from other Republican-led states brought the suit in February, in an effort to overturn PPACA.
Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled in favor of Texas and the other Republican-led states December. The ruling is being appealed to the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals.
The House, backed by Verrilli and the newly hired House counsel, Douglas Letter, has filed a motion seeking court permission to intervene in the lawsuit in Texas.
The 116th Congress opened for business Thursday. Democratic lawmakers now have a majority in the House, and they have repeatedly vowed to step in to defend the ACA. The filing of the motion to intervene in Texas v. USA is one of the new Democratic House majority’s first major acts.
The filing is also the first big move on the job for Letter, a 40-year veteran of the Justice Department’s Civil Appellate staff. He left his post at the Georgetown Law Center in late December 2018 to join the House as its top counsel.
Verrilli, now a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson, isn’t stepping into entirely new territory: He successfully defended the ACA in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 ACA case NFIB v. Sebelius.
The “individual shared responsibility” section of the PPACA requires many people to hold what the government classifies as “minimum essential coverage,” or solid major medical coverage, or else pay a penalty. The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) zeroed out the PPACA individual mandate penalty.