The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down a ruling later this month that could have devastating consequences for Obamacare. The badly misnamed Affordable Care Act, which established Obamacare, states very clearly that federal subsidies for health insurance would be offered only to people who signed up through state exchanges.
But when 37 states refused to establish state exchanges for the federally mandated health insurance, the federal government agreed to provide subsidies to people who got their coverage through the federal exchange. As a result, an estimated 6 million people are getting federal subsidies who otherwise would not qualify for them.
This is the basis of King vs. Burwell, the lawsuit now before the Supreme Court. At a news conference on Monday, Obama displayed an interesting bit of bravado when he declared, “There is no reason why the existing exchanges should be overturned through a court case.” Why, of course there is, Mr. President. It’s called obeying what the law says, not what you wish it said.
Trying to sound more optimistic than he probably is, the president went on to say, “This should be an easy case.” In fact, he added, “It probably shouldn’t even have been taken up,” by the court.
Hmmm, telling the nine justices on the Supreme Court that they shouldn’t even have agreed to hear the case in the first place probably isn’t the best way to get them on your side. But Obama said he is so optimistic that the Supreme Court will rule in his favor that his administration hasn’t even discussed a back-up plan, in case the court rules against the policy. Besides, he added, “Congress could fix this whole thing with a one-sentence provision.”
Of course, that is not going to happen. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.), who is the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, said: “Let’s be clear: If the Supreme Court rules against the administration, Congress will not pass a so-called ‘one-sentence’ fake fix.” And he added, “Instead of bullying the Supreme Court, the president should spend his time preparing for the reality that the court may soon rule against his decision to illegally issue tax penalties and subsidies on Americans in two-thirds of the country.”
We’ll know by the end of this month how the Supreme Court will rule. But remember, this is the same Court that said Obamacare was constitutional because it is a tax — despite the fact that Obama was adamant it was not. This wouldn’t be the first time the court turned logic and plain language upside down in one of its rulings.
Still, I suspect the president’s bravado is because his advisers have warned him that the court is likely to rule against him. Otherwise, why would he try to browbeat the court before it issues its ruling, with comments like this one:
I think it’s important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who’ve looked at this would expect them to do.
Sounds like somebody whistling past a graveyard, doesn’t it? If Obama were really confident that the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the federal subsidies, he’d skip the smug comments and just smile for the cameras.
Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that the president played fast and loose with the truth. Shame on us if we’d expect anything else from him.
Until next time, keep some powder dry.