Four Supreme Court justices give Trump a big gift, punt on hearing Obamacare case

In case anyone is wondering if Chief Justice John Roberts will be assisting in having a fair and transparent impeachment trial of Donald Trump, look to what just happened at the Supreme Court on behalf of Trump: The justices denied a request by House Democrats and Democratic state attorneys general to expedite the Affordable Care Act case, a denial Trump's Department of Justice requested. It takes four justices to deny consideration of a case, and while we don’t know who those four were, it's a pretty safe bet that they looked to Roberts for guidance, if indeed he wasn't leading the conservatives in this.

They could still grant a hearing later in the year, and hear the case in the fall, when they could withhold a decision until next year, well after the election. Don't forget: Trump has argued that the entire law needs to be struck down on the specious grounds that the individual mandate penalty in the law was zeroed out by his tax scam of 2017. The Trump case has been panned by legal scholars left and right, but the extremely partisan Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit agreed with an even more partisan federal district court judge that the mandate was unconstitutional. The 5th Circuit, however, played its own bit of politics in remanding the case to that judge to consider what parts of the law might still stand. Since that judge, Reed O'Connor, already ruled once that the entire law should be tossed, it's not going to be a huge surprise when he decides he was right all along.

But that will likely be months away, now that we're actually in an election year and no Republican wants to rely on Trump to come up with a replacement plan for Obamacare. That's exactly what he'd have to do, and they all know it. Health care is going to be one of the major issues—if not the issue—of the 2020 election. This case is still going to loom over it, with or without a Supreme Court decision, because Trump is arguing that the entire law be tossed. That includes protections for 130 million people with pre-existing conditions. It includes coverage for people up to age 26 on their parents’ plans. It includes no limits on what insurance has to cover in a person’s lifetime in the event of a medical catastrophe. It includes affordable premiums for millions of people who were previously uninsured. And it includes the Medicaid expansion that's covered more millions.

But for now, the denial of consideration takes the worst of the pressure off of Trump, which seems to be what Roberts and crew want most. So don't expect any heroics from Roberts on behalf of the country and Constitution during this impeachment trial.