Solicitor General Who Won Obamacare Cases to Step Down

Donald B. Verrilli won key cases to keep intact the Affordable Care Act. With his winning argument in the 2015 case to extend marriage equality to all states, same-sex couples could no longer be denied the right to cover a spouse on an insurance policy or be named next-of-kin for medical decisions.

Donald B Verrilli Jr. is not a household name, but the cases he won in 5 years as US Solicitor General are known to virtually every American: cases to uphold and then keep intact the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the case to give same sex partners a Constitutional right to marriage, which paved the way for many spouses to share insurance plans.

Verrilli, 58, will step down at the close of his 5-year term on June 24, 2016, according to a statement from the White House. In a statement, President Barack Obama wished him a “well-deserved vacation.” News outlets reported Verrilli has no immediate plans.

The 2012 decision to uphold the ACA, known to millions as Obamacare, came down to a 5-4 vote that hinged on an argument embraced by Chief Justice John G. Roberts: the law’s mechanism for requiring Americans to buy health coverage is a tax, not a forced purchase. In 2015, he appeared again to preserve the ability consumers in states without their own healthcare exchanges to retain the law’s tax subsidies in King v. Burwell.

While many criticized Verrilli’s performance in arguing the 2012 case, NFIB v. Sebelius, his handling of King was praised. Attorney and court watcher Ian Millhiser, on the blog ThinkProgress, called it “the single best argument I have ever seen.”

“Thanks to his efforts, 20 million more Americans now know the security of quality, affordable healthcare,” Obama’s statement read, adding that, “our children will grow up in a country where everyone has the freedom to marry the person they love.”

Again, it was Verrilli’s second bite at the issue in 2015 that drew the most praise. Verrilli cast the importance of states granting marriage rights to same sex couples as a matter of “human dignity,” stating that a ruling against such unions would force thousands of couples to “live out their lives and go to their deaths without their states ever recognizing the equal dignity of their relationships.”

Among the benefits same-sex couples could be denied before they gained the right to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges was to cover a spouse on an insurance policy or be named the next of kin in a medical emergency. And a partner covered under another person’s health plan could be required to pay a state tax because it was considered income.