"Obamacare" supporter Margot Smith (L) of California pleads her case with legislation opponents Judy Burel (2nd R) and Janis Haddon, both of Georgia, at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 28, 2012.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Anti-healthcare Supreme Court past the point of no return

There’s a certain irony underpinning the anti-healthcare case pending at the Supreme Court: as oral arguments in King v. Burwell draw closer, optimism among those hoping to see the lawsuit succeed is going up, even as the credibility of the case itself goes down.
When we last checked in on the breathtakingly dumb litigation, one of the plaintiffs in the case seemed to suggest she hopes her side loses. Upon further inspection, it seems none of the plaintiffs have standing, raising the possibility that the case itself should be thrown out and reinforcing the impression that the entire ACA challenge is turning into “an absurdist comedy.”
But given all of the latest developments, that’s really just the start. Congressional Republicans have quietly let the Supreme Court know that the justices can gut the ACA system with impunity because far-right lawmakers will step in with legislative fixes to ensure families don’t suffer. Last week, however, GOP members of Congress reversed course, accidentally telling the truth.
When asked on Friday at a meeting with reporters, House Ways & Means Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), a key figure overseeing U.S. health policy, said there was no desire among Republicans to tweak the law to defuse the case.
“No,” Ryan said…. “The idea is not to make Obamacare work better,” he said, adding that the goal would be to give states more freedom “to get out of Obamacare.”
Let’s not rush past this too quickly. If Republican justices start the fire, we now know with certainty that Republican lawmakers are content, if not eager, to simply watch the system burn. All the chatter from the GOP about the party acting quickly if consumer subsidies vanish was meaningless.
Indeed, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who’s fiddled with a woeful, far-right alternative to the Affordable Care Act, recently conceded that his party wouldn’t coalesce around an official GOP plan until, at the earliest, 2017. That many families would suffer in the interim apparently wouldn’t affect the timetable. Other Republican senators have offered similar assessments.
In related news, Brian Beutler reported last week that the man spearheading the entire King v. Burwell case is already admitting that a favorable high-court outcome will effectively deliver to Republicans the repeal endgame they’ve wanted all along – a victory they’ll savor and refuse to fix.
To improve their odds in a Supreme Court case that threatens Affordable Care Act subsidies in 34 states, Republicans in Congress have been trying to foam the runway for any conservative justices concerned that a decision against Obamacare might land badly with the public. Their latest effort: a promise to provide an alternative or stopgap measure. […]
Their theory hinges both on making real legislative progress and on conveying confidence that Congress will be ready to act, come what may. But one of the architects of the King vs. Burwell case is undermining the latter objective.
At a Georgetown University law school debate on Wednesday, Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute explained, persuasively, why a smooth landing is so unlikely if the Court rules in favor of the King petitioners.
I think this is called “giving away the game.”
In case this weren’t quite enough, Jonathan Cohn dug through his email archive and found real-time proof from a Capitol Hill staffer in 2010 that ACA architects intended to extend subsidies to all consumers, regardless of federal or state exchanges. The King v. Burwell case, meanwhile, wants us to believe the fiction that these architects fully intended to do the opposite, reality be damned.
All of this might even be amusing if the right weren’t actively trying to destroy the American health care system, stripping millions of families of access to medical care, on purpose, because they have an ideological ax to grind.
Which really isn’t funny. The right already seems to be celebrating, assuming Republican justices will soon side with Republican plaintiffs, which may very well happen, catastrophic consequences notwithstanding. But that doesn’t change the fact that when it comes to the basic tenets of reality, this case has unraveled, bit by bit, leaving nothing but a transparent scam.
Following up on our discussion from a month ago, what I’d really like at this point in the debate is some candor. Anti-healthcare voices could, in theory, act like grown-ups and acknowledge what is plainly true: “We know this case is idiotic – we’re not morons – but it’s our last chance to go after a law we hate for reasons we can no longer remember. 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.
My appeal to craven litigants is simple: Just stop. Admit that you don’t take your nonsensical arguments 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.