Among the many lessons Republicans learned from the midterms is that they can get away with pretty much anything, however outrageous, as long as they do it at least a year before an election and as long as they manage to distract the voters by saying, "Look what those evil Democrats just did yesterday!" Think of Scott Walker and Rick Scott. Think of the government shutdown. Voters just forgot what made them so mad in each case.
That's why the Supreme Court is going to eviscerate Obamacare in 2015, more than a year before the next presidential election:
The Supreme Court, moving back into the abiding controversy over the Affordable Care Act, agreed early Friday afternoon to decide how far the federal government can extend its program of subsidies to buyers of health insurance. At issue is whether the program of tax credits applies only in the consumer marketplaces set up by sixteen states, and not at federally operated sites in thirty-four states....The Supreme Court wants to leave the Affordable Care Act wounded and bleeding, tiptoe away from the crime scene, and pin the death on Obama:
By adding the case to its decision docket at this point, without waiting for further action in lower federal courts, as the Obama administration had asked, the Court ensured that it would rule on the case during the current Term. If it decides to limit the subsidies to the state-run "exchanges," it is widely understood that that outcome would crash the ACA's carefully balanced economic arrangements.
The Affordable Care Act gives states a choice whether they will set up their own health exchange where consumers can buy health insurance or whether to allow the federal government to do so for them. This lawsuit alleges that subsidies helping individuals buy health insurance are only available in exchanges run by a state, not by the feds. If it succeeds, the likely result will be a "death spiral" where higher premiums cause healthy consumers to drop out of the insurance market, which will cause higher premiums, which will cause more consumers to drop their insurance. Eventually, many states' individual insurance markets are likely to collapse if this lawsuit prevails.On Twitter, Harold Pollack has suggested (seriously? facetiously?) that Republicans who are claiming that they want to work together with Democrats on governing could show good faith by agreeing to a legislative correction of the wording errors that led to this lawsuit:
If GOP wants to reach out to Dems, House cld pass short bill strictly attending to Halbig issue. Wld make @ron_fournier happy. How 'bout it?— Harold Pollack (@haroldpollack) November 7, 2014
That's either intentionally or unintentionally hilarious. It will never happen.
Everyone in Washington knows that crafters of the bill intended to give subsidies in every state, not just in the ones with state-run exchanges. Everyone in Washington knows that the courts should defer to legislative intent when there's ambiguity. Everyone in Washington knows that the Republicans on the Supreme Court are doing this just because they can.
Or am I looking at this all wrong? Is John Roberts going to save the law a second time because its continued existence is a huge motivator for Republican voters?
I think it might be too late for that. If the law survives two more years, crazy GOP base voters will at least partly blame the crazy Republicans they just elected to kill the law. Plus, the longer it's in place, the more we're going to get used to it. So it has to be killed.
And it should be killed soon. These guys know that, in contrast to Republican voters, who never forget anything that makes them angry, liberal and moderate voters barely remember their anger at Republicans as long as the cause is something that happened a while ago. So the law will be mortally wounded in the first half of 2015. The death spiral will happen after that. Maybe Republicans and Democrats will agree to a mercy killing by veto-proof majorities, to put the law out of its misery (or maybe Republicans will let it twist slowly in the wind, so their president can finish it off). In any case, by 2016, the typical voter will forget that the fingerprints on the murder weapon were those of five Republican judges. Republicans will have framed the whole Obamacare era as a Democratic fiasco, and that's what voters will think.