GOP Rumble Grows As Obamacare Legal Arguments Commence
Republican lawmakers began presenting the political case against Obamacare Wednesday– just as lawyers began presenting their legal arguments on the law to the Supreme Court.
The case of King v. Burwell hinges on a provision of Obamacare stipulating that only plans purchased through state-based exchanges are eligible for subsidies, which President Barack Obama has ignored by offering subsidies for plans purchased through federally established exchanges.
Obama and his supporters contend that the restriction is a simple linguistic oversight, but lawmakers who participated in the law’s creation say it was very much intentional.
Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who attended the legal arguments, said in a statement that, “The plaintiffs made very strong arguments that exposed how the IRS … usurped Congress’s authority to write laws and appropriate taxpayer money.”
“Regardless of how people feel about Obamacare,” he opined, “no one wants to give the IRS the power to write laws. The court has the authority to stop this latest power grab by the Obama administration.” (RELATED: Supreme Court Set to Hear King v. Burwell Next Week)
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch penned an analysis of for the Heritage Foundation as well as delivering remarks about the case on the Senate floor.
“President Obama’s open defiance of clear statutory text and utter disregard for the balance Congress struck is an affront to the separation of powers and to the rule of law,” Hatch said in his Senate speech, explaining that the limitation was “absolutely fundamental to accomplishing Congress’s purpose of incentivizing states to establish exchanges.”
In his Heritage analysis, Hatch elaborates on that argument, noting that under the Constitution, “The federal government cannot command the states to do something any more than one state can command another state to do something.”
“What the federal government can do, however, is incentivize states to act,” he writes, “and that’s precisely what Congress attempted to with Obamacare. If a state fails to establish an exchange, its citizens lose out on millions—perhaps even billions—of dollars in subsidies.”
“Obamacare’s proponents quite reasonably thought this would lead states to set up exchanges,” he added, because they realized that “if subsidies were available under both state and federal exchanges, states wouldn’t have an incentive to create their own exchanges.” (RELATED: Do King v. Burwell Plaintiffs Have a ‘Nutty,’ ‘Stupid,’ or ‘Screwy’ Interpretation of the Law?)
Without that provision, Hatch claims, “the end result would have been a federally run health care market, a result unacceptable to several key Obamacare supporters,” and the law would likely not have been passed.
“Ultimately,” he predicts that, “the Supreme Court is going to side with us,” but he warns that a favorable ruling will also create new problems, specifically, what to do about the millions of individuals who will lose subsidies they depend on to comply with Obamacare’s individual mandate.
“Obamacare has already inflicted a lot of damage on our nation’s health care system,” he says, adding, “I don’t think we can stand by and simply let the shortcomings of the law harm millions more.”
Hatch asserts that while “the only permanent solution” is to repeal and replace Obamacare, Congress still needs to provide “a reasonable and responsible transition for those who may lose their subsidies” in the meantime. (RELATED: Congress Planning Legislation After King v. Burwell Supreme Court Decision)
According to Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, “states will have two options for the 6 million Americans who today receive tax credit subsidies” in the event the Court rules “that the law means what it says”: The first option would be to simply set up a state-run exchange, but Alexander says that, “Republicans in Congress will provide a better option,” offering financial assistance for those Americans hurt by the ruling and giving states “more flexibility in offering lower cost insurance policies to their citizens.”
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