In the coming days, two federal courts will rule on the most laughable of challenges to Obamacare. Or they would be laughable, if the Supreme Court majority hadn't already proven that it's perfectly willing to make bullshit decisions about the law. This one, though, is different because what's at stake is the insurance 4.7 million people obtained this year through the federal exchange.
The theory in these suits is purely resting on semantics, that the language of the law does not allow for health insurance subsidies to go to people who buy their insurance on the federal exchange. They contend that the drafters of the law specifically said that the subsidies were only available "through an exchange established by the state," and by "state" they meant one of the 50 states. It's an interesting interpretation, since it was news to the drafters:
It was so secret that it was never mentioned in any of the voluminous debates or hearings on the act. Indeed, not even the heads of the House and Senate committees in charge of the legislation knew of it, as they have stated in briefs filed in the courts. It was, rather, hidden deep in the statute for someone some day to find and use to bring down the law and the protections it offers to uninsured Americans.The problem is, we've seen how little the Supreme Court cares about congressional intent in Hobby Lobby. The drafters of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act filed a brief explaining that the law did not apply to for-profit corporations, and look how seriously the Supremes took that. But before these cases come to the SCOTUS, they have to make it through the appeals level, and there we're looking at kind of a mixed bag.
The three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit who heard Halbig v. Burwell seemed split along party lines in the oral arguments, with one judge Judge Thomas Griffith, a George W. Bush appointee, leaning toward the challengers. If this panel decides for the challengers, the administration will undoubtedly ask for a ruling from the entire DC Court, which (thanks to filibuster reform) will surely reverse it.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is pondering an identical complaint, and from those oral arguments, seems more than likely to toss it as the ridiculous stunt that it is.
“You are asking us,” Judge Davis capped off an especially testy exchange near the end of the session, “to kick millions of Americans off health insurance, just to save four people [Carvin’s four individual plaintiffs] a few dollars.”One really doesn't want to believe that the SCOTUS would look at the previous rulings by appeals courts and even consider taking this case, which undoubtedly will go to them on appeal, because these people are intent on destroying the law. Since this one doesn't have anything to do with icky sex, maybe they'll deny to hear it, but no one should be holding their breath on that.