Republican-appointed judges on the D.C. Circuit today took a step towards gutting the Affordable Care Act, ruling that consumers that receive coverage through the federal exchange marketplace are ineligible for subsidies. If the ruling stands, the effects on "Obamacare" could be catastrophic, which is why it matters that the ruling may not stand.
While we wait for the appeals process to continue -- the status quo of the ACA will remain in place as the case continues -- the politics of today's developments are worth appreciating.
When the right supports tax hikes
Conservatives are absolutely delighted today for reasons that are rather twisted -- for the right, it's terrific news that millions of families, many of them in red states, are poised to lose tax breaks. After all, by contemporary Republican rules, if Americans are receiving a tax subsidy, and policymakers try to take that subsidy away, that effectively constitutes a tax increase.
So let's pause to note the oddity of the circumstances: Republicans nationwide are thrilled by the prospect of millions of working-class families facing a tax hike that may push basic medical care out of reach.
Too often, "judicial activism" is little more than a lazy criticism -- a euphemism of sorts that means "court ruling I don't like." But when a couple of Republican-appointed jurists, who sounded like Fox News pundits during oral arguments, decide to gut the American health care system based on their interpretation of a drafting error, "judicial activism" seems like the only fair assessment.
The D.C. Circuit duo ignored the context of the statute, ignored Congress' intent, ignored the administration's position, and ignored the findings of lower courts. Since conservatives generally claim to find such activism offensive, I'll be eager to see how many on the right concede today's decision was ridiculous.
An elusive moral center
The right is cheering the prospect of soaring premiums, families facing financial hardship, and more Americans lacking access to basic medical care, all because of the ambiguity of a possible drafting error. If your values guide you towards celebrating others' hardship -- if your character tells you to rejoice at the misfortune of working families -- it's probably time for a long look in the mirror.