Conservatives Want Obamacare Do-Over

Antonin Scalia - Nazi OfficerThere was one moment in the oral arguments for King v Burwell that stood out to me. Alito and Scalia were from the beginning arguing for the plaintiffs. At one point, Alito entered into some grand apologetics for how the states themselves could fix any problems that the conservatives so want to create in the healthcare law. And then Scalia came in with a brilliant point, “What about Congress? You really think Congress is just going to sit there while all of these disastrous consequences ensue?” This led to a big laugh when Solicitor General of the United States, Donald Verrilli responded, “Well, this Congress, your honor?”

The point is that Alito and Scalia want to kill the law and then claim that it isn’t their fault — the legislature could fix the problem if it wanted. But the point is that the legislature doesn’t want to fix the law. It wants to kill the law, but it doesn’t have that power. And so the conservatives on the court are only too happy to help out. They already did that when they made the Medicaid expansion optional. And they think they have the final blow here. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if the conservatives on the court would just admit to the fact that they are nothing but political hacks in robes.

What was Samuel Alito Thinking?But notice the reasoning here. Scalia is basically demanding that Obamacare be passed twice. And he does this knowing that getting it passed once was an amazing example of legislative ballet. My understanding is that those ominous four words that this case is all about would have been changed if it hadn’t been for the fact that Teddy Kennedy died and they couldn’t make changes. So Scalia is helpfully traveling back in time and performing a filibuster to destroy the law.

I understand the annoyance of conservatives. The kind of majority that the Democrats had during the first half of 2009 was amazing. They got to do a couple of things they actually wanted. But Republicans have had the same ability in the past, but they have used it almost exclusively for evil. We Democrats haven’t spent the last three decades looking for ways to undo Reagan’s union busting. (Sadly, only too many Democrats seem to think it was great.) And no one talks about raising the top marginal tax rate back up to 75%. We move on. But that seems to be something that Republicans — and conservatives more generally — can’t do.

These are the people, after all, who still want to destroy Medicare and even Social Security. They want to take the United States back a hundred years to when the country faced a decent chance of revolution. What’s Glenn Beck’s big issue? Social Security? The income tax? No! Direct elections of Senators. That’s right: the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913. How terrible that the people actually get to elect their Senators rather than leaving it to the corrupt system of bribery in the state legislatures. So conservatives never give up. Even if we went back to John Adams’ aristocratic vision of the country, they would want to go back further. “The Magna Carta is a socialist document!”

So the people voted in a whole lot of Democrats in 2008, and regardless of how it has been spun since then, they did more or less what the people wanted. The conservatives want a do-over. Now that the political landscape is to their advantage, they want another opportunity for an Obamacare vote. And Alito and Scalia (and I assume Thomas) are eager to give them one.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “Conservatives Want Obamacare Do-Over

  1. “So the people voted in a whole lot of Democrats in 2008” – and if I recall correctly more people voted Democratic in each election since then, including the mid-terms? Including last year?

    • Those stats sound familiar. But that isn’t actually true. In particular, the turnout in 2010 and especially 2014 was awful. Only 76 million people turned out in 2014 and 84 million is 2010. Both 2008 and 2012 were a tad shy of 118 million. But those numbers tell you everything you need to know about the state of our politics. If we could get turnout up, we might be able to turn this country around. But with midterm turn out — which is also when most governors are elected — at 2/3 presidential election levels, we are just going to continue limping along until the Republicans get full control and screw things up enough to give control back to the Democrats. Of course, then we will elect another milquetoast like Obama. And we’ll start the whole process over again.

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