The rationale behind the King v. Burwell case at the Supreme Court – the final Republican effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act – has slowly unraveled in recent weeks, but just over the last couple of days, the entire anti-ACA argument has effectively become gibberish.
Consider some of the news from the last 24 hours:
* From Greg Sargent: “Several state officials who were directly involved at the highest levels in early deliberations over setting up state exchanges – all of them Republicans or appointees of GOP governors – have told me that at no point in the decision-making process during the key time-frame was the possible loss of subsidies even considered as a factor. None of these officials – who were deeply involved in figuring out what the law meant for their states – read the statute as the challengers do.”
* From Sahil Kapur: “With Obamacare under the legal gun yet again, the government is using the words of the dissenting justices [from 2012] to suggest they themselves interpreted the statute then as the White House does now when it comes to the core question in the new case.”
* From Simon Maloy: “[F]or the first half of 2011, [Republican Sen.] John Barrasso (like the rest of Congress) clearly operated with the understanding that health insurance subsidies would be paid out through all the state exchanges, regardless of who set them up….But now that he and the rest of the GOP spy another chance to have the Supreme Court dismantle the law, he’s arguing that it’s ‘very clear’ that those same subsidies were never meant to exist in the first place.”
* From former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.): “ ‘I always believed that tax credits should be available in all 50 states regardless of who built the exchange, and the final law also reflects that belief as well,’ Nelson wrote in a letter to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) who sought Nelson’s view.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R) previous positions prove the case is ridiculous. Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) previous positions prove the case is ridiculous. The Senate Republicans’ work on the 1099 provision proves the case is ridiculous. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R) previous positions prove the case is ridiculous. The Congressional Budget Office’s own research proves the case is ridiculous.
All of this is just from the last week, leading to a painfully obvious question: at some point, can we please act like grown-ups and acknowledge reality?
There’s a honest way for anti-healthcare voices to approach the debate. They could, if they were at all sincere, simply state what is plainly true: “We know this case is idiotic – we’re not morons – but it’s our last chance to destroy the law. We’re not blind to reality; we’re just taking a final Hail Mary pass.”
It’s cynical, obviously, but it would at least be honest. Keeping up the pretense that the lawsuit is serious is just insulting to everyone involved in the debate.
Brian Beutler added today:
In light of that evidence, the legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act in King v. Burwell now rests on an argument that has crossed the fuzzy line dividing revisionist history from X-Files-style conspiracy theory.
Yep, one of the architects of the genuinely pathetic litigation, who continues to argue that ACA architects intended – on purpose – to deny subsidies to every American consumer who purchased insurance through healthcare.gov, would now have us believe everyone involved in the policymaking process was “clueless” to the secret version of reality that he’s uncovered.
It’s important to understand what he’s saying here. Democrats, Republicans, executive branch officials, legislative branch officials, the CBO, the OMB, state lawmakers, governors, insurance industry officials, Supreme Court justices, and journalists – everyone was “clueless,” the argument goes, unaware of the hidden reality that only King v. Burwell supporters understand. According to the folks behind this lawsuit, even the people who wrote the law didn’t know what they were writing.
Left with no evidence or connection to reality, the people supporting this lawsuit – which is to say, the people who pretend to believe the lawsuit has merit – have resorted to an alternative-universe theory in which they see a reality no one else can see.
My appeal to these craven litigants: Just stop. Admit that you don’t take your nonsensical talking points seriously, because they’re literally unbelievable.
I’m 41 and I’ve been involved in political debates my entire adult life. I’ve never seen anything quite so maddeningly stupid as this case.
Update: Charles Gaba’s summary rings true:
Here’s a list of people who–to the best of my knowledge–have now been proven not to ever have the slightest inkling, hint, suggestion or thought that federal tax subsidies weren’t supposed to go to states which didn’t establish their own ACA exchanges at any point throughout the many-year process of the law being crafted, drafted, printed, read, debated, argued about, voted on or signed into law:* Any members of the U.S. House of Representatives, regardless of party* Any members of the U.S. Senate, regardless of party* Any staff member of any member of Congress* Anyone working at the White House* Anyone working at the Dept. of Health & Human Services* Anyone working at the Internal Revenue Service* Anyone working at the Treasury Department* Anyone working at the Department of Justice* Anyone working at the Congressional Budget Office* Any Governor or State Legislator, or any of their staff members, regardless of party* Anyone working for any of the insurance companies or hospital corporations who were involved in the process
I mean, really. How long must we keep up the charade?