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President Barack Obama delivers a statement announcing the nomination of three candidates for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 4, 2013. Nominees from left are: Robert Leon Wilkins,
Be very glad for filibuster reform and that these judges were confirmed.
Back in January, Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed one of the more frivolous challenges to the Affordable Care Act, one that said a plain reading of the law says that subsidies should only be available to people who are getting insurance on the state exchanges, not in the federal exchanges—which have been established for nearly three dozen states. Judge Friedman pointed out that the interpretation of the law central to the challenge "runs counter to this central purpose of the ACA: to provide affordable health care to virtually all Americans," and "would violate the basic rule of statutory construction that a court must interpret a statute in light of its history and purpose."

Clearly, the intent of the full legislation was, and is, to provide affordable health insurance to everyone, no matter what state they lived in. But it turns out, on appeal, that that intent isn't clear to two Republican-appointed judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, who were part of a three-judge panel that heard the appeal.

One member of the appeals court panel, Harry T. Edwards, a senior circuit judge, agreed with [the government's] argument. Judge Edwards said “it seems preposterous” to suggest that subsidies should not be available in the federal exchange, which serves states with about two-thirds of the nation’s population.

That interpretation of the law he said, would “gut the statute.”

Another member of the panel, Judge Thomas B. Griffith, asked questions indicating that he was skeptical of the Obama administration’s argument. And the third member of the panel, A. Raymond Randolph, a senior circuit judge, sounded downright hostile to the government’s case.

Democratic congressional leadership, and the authors of the law, filed briefs with the court describing the intent of the law, but apparently to no avail with the conservative judges. Should this three-judge panel rule against the government, the good news is that the matter would certainly be taken up en banc, before the full court. The other good news is that filibuster reform restored balance to the court, with the approval of Obama nominees Patricia Ann Millett, Nina Pillard and Robert L. Wilkins. Even so, with the caliber of Obamacare challenge that meets muster with the Supreme Court, this ridiculous case could end up there.

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Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed Mar 26, 2014 at 11:58 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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