I think that the Supreme Court will find for the government in King v Burwell — the silly case where four words in the Obamacare law are supposed to trump everything else said and implied in the law. I just don’t think that any reasonable person could could find the challenge to be anything but laughable and that is why I think only three justices on the Supreme Court will find for the plaintiffs — because three of the justices of the court are unreasonable (and unreasoning) ideologues. But that’s just what I think. What I know is that I can’t predict what the Supreme Court will do — especially in such politicized cases. Who could have predicted the Supreme Court would decide to take Bush v Gore — much less that it would decide as it did.
On Monday, Jonathan Bernstein wrote a compelling argument about what would happen if the court does decide to end subsidies on the federal exchanges, How the Obamacare Subsidies Battle Could Play Out. He thinks that the Republicans will put together a bill that fixes the problem but add to it some kind of poison pill that damages the law. My bet would be that it would be a repeal of the medical device tax. The Republicans hate it, even though it is a very fair tax, given that the medical device manufacturers are getting a government sponsored increase in sales. But if it isn’t this tax, it will be something else. And then the Republicans will “dare the president to veto it.”
But as Bernstein noted, it is very likely that the Republicans won’t even manage to do that. They have shown themselves to be incapable even of passing legislation to embarrass the president, because such a large number of them don’t think any given act of embarrassment is enough. In this case, many Republicans won’t want to do anything to help the healthcare law, even if on balance, they manage to hurt the law. The Republicans are, after all, the party of all or nothing. “Some Republicans, on the other hand, would prefer chaos, even if they take the blame…” Meanwhile, the Republicans do nothing.
Over the weekend, Jonathan Cohn wrote, The Clock Is Ticking and Republicans Still Have No Serious Obamacare Alternative. He puts it in his usual understated but clear manner:
But what have the Republicans done in the six months since the Supreme Court first announced that it would take King v Burwell and potentially deprive health insurance from eight million people? To quote Cohn, “Zero.” He speculated that the Congressional Republicans may talk about fixing the problems just for cosmetic purposes. I don’t think there is any speculation: they aren’t serious about fixing this problem. If they were, they wouldn’t be supporting the lawsuit.
As I’ve written before, the Republicans have backed themselves into a corner. Obamacare is as conservative a plan for healthcare reform as there is. So the moment they labeled their own idea of an individual mandate as a communist plot, they were doomed. So the only thing they have to offer is a pretense of caring “to insulate the party from a political backlash should millions of people suddenly lose health insurance.” But what is really going on is that the Republicans do not care and will do something only in the event that they absolutely have to. In this case, I hope they don’t have to.