Three attorneys for the government withdrew from the case just minutes before the Justice Department's filing in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, which signaled an internal rift within the administration over its role in defending US law, according to University of Michigan Law Professor Nicholas Bagley.
In a brief filed in a federal court in Texas, the department said a tax law signed a year ago by President Donald Trump that eliminated penalties for not having health insurance rendered the so-called individual mandate under Obamacare unconstitutional. The states argue that after Congress eliminated the penalty for the individual mandate, effective in 2019, as part of last year's tax reform bill, it destabilized other sections of the law.
Texas and other GOP-led states have filed suit to strike down the entire law, with Congress recently repealing a provision that subjected those who failed to obtain health insurance to a fine, according to reports.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions highlighted the two provisions in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan. It also says the provisions shielding people with medical conditions from being denied coverage or charged higher premiums also fall.
These consumer protections proved enormously popular with Americans and are among the reasons why efforts to repeal Obamacare in Congress failed past year.
It backs up their contention that the ACA provision requiring most Americans to carry health insurance soon will no longer be constitutional. In the meantime, the existing law will likely remain.
The crux of the argument goes back to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.'s 2012 ruling upholding the constitutionality of the individual mandate as a valid use of Congress's taxing power.
"Justice Department attorneys don't withdraw from cases simply because the government is making an argument the lawyers think the courts should or would reject", he said.
The mandate in Obamacare was meant to ensure a viable health insurance market by forcing younger and healthier Americans to buy coverage.
Timothy Jost, law professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University in Virginia said the Trump administration is trying to persuade the court to do what it was unable to achieve in Congress previous year - essentially, repeal key parts of the Obama health law.
"It's just one more part of the story of trying to politicize the Justice Department", said Jost, a supporter of the health law.