Justice Department asks for delay in Obamacare case due to shutdown

The Justice Department has asked a federal judge in a case regarding Obamacare for an extension of a filing deadline because of the ongoing partial government shutdown.

While the latest filing is unlikely to delay the case substantively, it represents the latest example of how the shutdown is affecting government operations.

Last week, newly empowered Democrats in the House moved to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit to defend Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act. A coalition of Democratic state attorneys general is currently defending the law.

The moves came after federal District Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas issued an opinion last month declaring the landmark health care law’s individual mandate unconstitutional and saying that the rest of the law could not stand. O’Connor, however, said the law would remain in effect pending appeal.

The federal government opposes the move by congressional Democrats, but in its new filing, the administration said it has been unable to prepare its opposition because “absent an appropriation,” Justice Department attorneys are prohibited from working even on a “voluntary” basis except in very limited circumstances.

“Although the Federal Defendants would like to be heard before the Court rules on the Motion, they are unable to prepare their opposition at this time due to the lapse in appropriations,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt in court papers filed on Friday but added to the docket Monday morning.

Hunt added that the Justice Department “does not know when funding will be restored” by Congress.

Hunt said that although he “greatly” regrets any disruption, he was formally requesting an extension of the filing deadline.