The New York Times asked Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) the other day what he intends to do if the Supreme Court takes health care benefits from Hatch’s own constituents. The Republican said Republicans are “going to have to have an approach,” but it won’t be “some simple approach” – such as a straightforward technical fix that would protect families’ existing coverage.
And why not? “Obamacare is going to bankrupt the country,” Hatch said.
This is plainly silly. Whether the Utah Republican knows this or not, the Affordable Care Act lowers the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next couple of decades. There’s simply no way to argue coherently that this is a recipe for national bankruptcy.
As for Hatch’s preferred approach, with just two days remaining until the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the Republican senator joins Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) today in coauthoring a new Washington Post op-ed. The headline reads, “We have a plan for fixing health care.”
Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about whether the Obama administration used the IRS to deliver health insurance subsidies to Americans in violation of the law. Millions of Americans may lose these subsidies if the court finds that the administration acted illegally. If that occurs, Republicans have a plan to protect Americans harmed by the administration’s actions.
It’s not clear which Obama administration “actions” the senators are referring to – it’s Republicans, not the White House, who hope to take away Americans’ access to medical care – but more important is the fact that when these Republicans claim to “have a plan,” there’s a problem with the boast. Specifically, they don’t actually have a plan.
As Ezra Klein explained, after some vague assurances, the GOP senators fail to offer much of anything to the public.
There are no more ideas to be found; no more detail to be had. This isn’t a plan. It’s the barest possible sketch of some nascent ideas that could, one day, be used as the basis for a plan.
Making matters worse, of course, is that last week helped prove that even if Hatch & Co. had a plan – which they don’t – there’s clearly no way this Congress could pass major health care reform legislation.
So why publish a misleading op-ed like this? Probably because Republican members of Congress are trying to fool Supreme Court justices. “Side with the plaintiffs in this genuinely pathetic lawsuit,” GOP lawmakers are signaling, “and we’ll take care of everything else.”
The point is, Republican justices on the high court may think twice about tearing down the American health care system, given the scope and scale of the consequences for families, hospitals, insurers, physicians, etc. It’s up to GOP politicians, then, to add fiction on top of fiction – the first falsehood is that ACA architects intended to deny subsidies to healthcare.gov customers; the second falsehood is that a Republican Congress will protect those customers from adverse consequences if the Supreme Court guts the law in a few months.
It is a transparent scam, but if GOP justices are looking for an excuse, that may not matter.
Back here in Realityville, however, consequences matter. Legislative intent matters. Context matters. History and textualism matters. Standing matters. Whether or not litigation is based on “fairy tales” and “provable fiction” matters.