Monday, March 02, 2020


When it looked as if the Supreme Court might rule on Obamacare before the 2020 election, I predicted that the program wouldn't be invalidated -- John Roberts would join with the Court's four liberals to preserve the program again because, as a Republican, he wouldn't want Democratic voters enraged before an election, and he wouldn't mind if the Republican president were campaigning on a message of "See? We need even more right-wing judges on the Court in order to get what we want."

But this changes the calculus:
The Supreme Court said Monday that it will take up a legal challenge to Obamacare, agreeing to hear the case in its new term that begins in October. That means the program will continue for at least another year.

It also means the justices won't be handing down a ruling on the contentious issue of health care in June, just as the presidential campaign heats up. That may be good news for Republicans, who would prefer to avoid the issue in an election year.
I don't see much hope for the program under these conditions, no matter who wins the Democratic presidential nomination and no matter who wins the election.

If any Democrat wins, whether it's Sanders, Biden, or Bloomberg, the plan is to deprive millions of people of insurance coverage on that president's watch and let the new president clean up the mess. If a Democrat wins the presidency, he'll almost certainly have a Democratic House, but the Senate will be either Republican or barely Democratic, and in the latter case, Joe Manchin will be the swing vote. Whether the presidents wants Medicare for All (Sanders) or doesn't (the others), his voters will be divided over that course of action, and the M4A supporters will be furious when it can't happen. But the makeup of the Senate and restrictions imposed by the ruling will ensure that Democrats can't even pass a plan that's as good as Obamacare.

It's possible that Roberts will decide not to be the fifth vote to strike down Obamacare if Trump is reelected, just because he doesn't want to dump the chaos in the lap of a Republican -- but the right wants the law gone, so he'll comply. As a replacement, Republicans will put forth some horrible form of McConnell/Trumpcare -- porous "junk" coverage for anyone who can't afford anything better, and probably a preexisting conditions provision that's full of loopholes. Democrats who oppose it will be accused of being the ones responsible for denying coverage to millions of Americans.

The only way out of this, I'd say, is to begin calling John Roberts on his plans now. Accuse him of bad faith (of not "calling balls and strikes"). Accuse him of legislating from the bench. And don't let up no matter how the election turns out.

He's a partisan hack and a fraud, but he's wily enough to have persuaded a lot of people that he's neither of those things. He genuinely seems to care about maintaining his reputation. So challenge him not to be a hack. It's the only thing that might make him back down.

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