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Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Supreme Court Thursday morning tossed aside conservatives' latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, rejecting the Trump administration’s bid to get the entire health care law thrown out.

Why it matters: The 7-2 ruling will allow the ACA, which covers some 20 million people and has been the law of the land for 11 years, to continue operating. It also shows there are some limits to how much of the Republican agenda can be accomplished through the courts, even with a solid conservative majority.

Details: The court said Republican attorneys general did not have the legal standing to bring their lawsuit, which aimed to get the entire ACA struck down. It's the third time the Supreme Court has saved the law.

How we got here: The ACA required most Americans to either purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty. When the law first passed, that mandate was seen as essential to making the law’s other provisions work, particularly its protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

  • In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the mandate as an exercise of Congress' taxing power. The federal government couldn't simply require people to buy insurance, the court said, but it could tax their decision not to do so.
  • In 2017, as part of the GOP's tax cut package, Congress zeroed out the penalty for being uninsured, nullifying the individual mandate.
  • A group of Republican attorneys general then sued. The tax penalty was now gone, and all that remained was the part that said Americans had to buy insurance. So, they argued, the mandate had become unconstitutional — and the rest of the law had to fall along with it.

But the court ruled on Thursday that the states that brought the suit could not show that they'll suffer any injury from the fact that some form of the mandate is still in effect, and threw out the lawsuit as a result.

  • Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority decision. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented.
  • The states' lawsuit should have been able to proceed, Alito argued. The shell of the mandate is "clearly unconstitutional, and to the extent that the provisions of the ACA that burden the States are inextricably linked to the individual mandate, they too are unenforceable," he wrote.

What they’re saying: "A big win for the American people," President Biden tweeted. "There’s no better day than today to sign up for quality, affordable health care at HealthCare.gov. With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD. And it’s here to stay."

Read the full opinions.

Go deeper

Estimate: Revenues would drop before increasing under Dems' tax plan

Democratic Rep. Richard Neal, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has submitted a draft proposal on raising taxes. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Democrats plan to raise $1 trillion over 10 years by making the federal income tax code more progressive. But they won't get the money quickly — their plan actually decreases total income tax revenues in 2023. And when the money does come, it will come from the very rich.

Why it matters: Estimates released by the bipartisan Joint Committee on Taxation on Tuesday show the House Democrats' plan raising $12 billion less than the current tax regime in 2023. But it will raise $133 billion more in 2029.

Judge agrees to consider temporarily blocking Texas abortion ban

Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar via Getty Images

A federal judge will hold a hearing on Oct. 1 to consider temporarily blocking enforcement of Texas' restrictive abortion ban after an emergency request from the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The hearing comes after the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit last week against Texas over the new law, which bans nearly all abortions and awards at least $10,000 to anyone who successfully sues a person that helps a pregnant person access an abortion after six weeks.

Judge denies Trump's request to delay defamation suit

A defamation suit accusing former President Trump of rape will move forward as planned, a federal judge said Wednesday.

Why it matters: E. Jean Carroll sued Trump for defamation after he branded her a liar for publicly alleging that he raped her in the mid-1990s. Trump's legal team had requested that the judge delay the suit while an appeals court determines whether the United States can be substituted as the defendant in the case.