WASHINGTON, July 3, 2015 – The tension was palpable in the weeks leading to the latest decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. The latest decision was about the constitutionality of the exchanges that are designed to fund those who are regarded unable to afford paying the entire cost of coverage themselves. Most states (34, to be exact) did not create such exchanges.
Opponents of Obamacare argued that the law makes it clear that without the exchanges, the federal subsidies were illegal.
Again, Chief Justice John Roberts came to the rescue of the struggling healthcare law. His colleague Antonin Scalia has described the decision as political, but not necessarily legal. In a scathing dissent, he attacked the contortions the 6-3 majority had to perform in order to “save” this law.
Representing the minority opinion, Scalia wrote, “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.”
As noted by Business Insider,
“The case revolved around the interpretation of a phrase that stated that healthcare exchanges must be ‘established by the State’ in order to receive tax credits. Scalia said that he was baffled that the majority of the justices could interpret this to mean that the federal government could give tax credits in states where exchanges weren’t established by the state.”
Conservative critics are seeing a bit of Orwellian logic in this decision.
Sure, it is the “state” that is providing the exchanges, but not Texas, Indiana or the many others in contention, but the ominous “STATE” known as the oppressive government.
Regardless where conservatives and other critics stand on the decision, it passed the Supreme Court’s muster. Response by Republicans in general, and the presidential candidates in particular, have been predictable.
We will hear many of them say, “If you elect me I can make this terrible thing to go away.” However, this predictable backlash actually sets the stage for a GOP that might actually be relieved by the Supreme Court decision for at least a couple of reasons.
First of all, Republican gains in the U.S. House in 2010, 2012 and in 2014 (also picking up the U.S. Senate that year) are directly linked to their ability to make Obamacare a referendum issue. If they had won this court decision, the perception would be (whether true or not) that the Affordable Care Act was history.
Sadly, after being out of the White House since the elections of 2008, the GOP is still a single-issue party. What on earth would they do if that single issue were to disappear?
Second, if this had been overturned, the decision could have created a great deal of chaos as Republicans tried to respond to the turmoil that such a turn would take. Remember, the GOP is in charge of both houses of Congress and, although Republicans give a tough talk about the need to abolish Obama’s healthcare program, there is nothing to replace it that has widespread consensus (although there are many debate-worthy bills).
Imagine if GOP White House contenders had to defend the chaos that Obamacare’s overturn would create? Imagine how difficult it would be for the GOP to hold both the House and Senate if the vacuum that would be created by Obamacare’s overturning would be filled with chaos?
One could not help noticing that the steps of the Supreme Court had far more proponents of the law than opponents. Part of the reason for this is that the GOP has not offered any serious and comprehensive reforms to replace ACA.
Momentum is usually for the side with a plan. Any plan.
With the lack of preparation that the GOP is so famous for, what should be a sad day for those who oppose Obamacare is a day for a collective sigh of relief. With a single-issue party, without a plan to replace that policy in the wings, is it any wonder many doubt the GOP’s ability to win back the White House in 2016?