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Government & Politics

GOP, Prepare for SCOTUS's ObamaCare Ruling

The fight isn't over once the Supreme Court rules in King v. Burwell.

Jim Harrington · May 27, 2015

If the Supreme Court rules against the “Affordable” Care Act in King v. Burwell sometime in late June, it could leave the act in deep water, or it could leave Republicans with the dilemma of fixing a problem they didn’t create. So says conventional wisdom.

SCOTUSblog.com writer Amy Howe discusses the case: “There are three key parts to the ACA. The first is the ‘non-discrimination’ rule… The second is the individual mandate, which the Court upheld three years ago… Third, because everyone has to buy insurance, there are tax subsidies to make sure that lower- and middle-income Americans can afford to comply with the individual mandate by buying insurance.”

David King is the primary plaintiff in King v. Burwell. He and three other Virginians, for their own reasons, decided they did not want to buy insurance. Virginia, incidentally, joined the federal marketplace, and King has insurance that would cost him $648 per month, but with his subsidy, costs $275. His suit was tossed out of a lower court, but with the help of the American Enterprise Institute he got a writ of certiorari, and he and his fellow plaintiffs’ case was picked up by the Supreme Court.

The fight is about four words — “established by the State” — just a few found in the 2,700-page act.

Now pundits and party operatives are scrambling to figure out what will be the outcome if the plaintiffs win or lose. Popular opinion sides with Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, a health care reporter for the Associated Press, who thinks it’s “Republicans — not White House officials — who have been talking about damage control. A likely reason: Twenty-six of the 34 states … most affected by the ruling have Republican governors, and 22 of the 24 GOP Senate seats up in 2016 are in those states.”

He cites Sandy Praeger — a Republican — saying the fallout of SCOTUS striking down the law will be “ugly.” Praeger said, “People who are reasonably healthy would just drop coverage. Only the unhealthy would keep buying health care. It would really exacerbate the problem of the cost of health insurance.”

Alonso-Zaldivar also cites a crucial issue: This decision is “bad timing.” Governments’ fiscal years are ending, and state legislatures are readying their summer recesses. Arranging a quick fix would be very difficult, and Obama will veto any Republican bill.

But New Yorker staff writer Jeffrey Toobin sees it differently. If the plaintiffs win, 13 million people in 34 states will be profoundly affected. “[I]t’s likely that most of them will no longer be able to afford their insurance,” he says. Toobin then paraphrases Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn axiom. (Many of us know it as: You break it, you bought it.)

Toobin writes, “Obama will have broken health care, so he owns it. To the vast mass of Americans who follow politics casually or not at all, Obamacare and the American system of health care have become virtually synonymous … The scope of the Affordable Care Act is so vast, and its effects so pervasive … if millions lose insurance, they will hold it against Obamacare, and against Obama.”

But one problem Toobin ignores is the Democrats’ twin propaganda mills — the schools and the media. Republicans will have to toughen up for this popularity contest.

How did four words undo the greatest legislation in America? According to The New York Times, there were two different Senate committees working on writing the law. Now for some excuses:

“I don’t ever recall any distinction between federal and state exchanges in terms of the availability of subsidies.” —former Republican Sen. Olympia J. Snowe

“As far as I know, it escaped everyone’s attention, or it would have been deleted.” —former Democrat Sen. Jeff Bingaman

“I remember meeting after meeting in which we went through the language of the legislation line by line. I do not recall any discussion of a distinction between federal and state exchanges for the purpose of subsidies.” —Robert D. Greenawalt, former senior tax advisor to Sen. Harry Reid

Obviously, we have trouble with members reading “line by line.” We know there wasn’t a handful in Congress that even read the bill before it passed. Oh, that’s right! Republicans didn’t get a chance to. This is a classic study of Big Government’s incompetence and corruption.

However SCOTUS decides, Obama will still be in the driver’s seat. With his veto pen in hand, he can keep Republicans at bay.

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