Last week, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska acknowledged what is plainly true: if the Supreme Court's GOP justices gut the Affordable Care Act, the impact on many families' lives will be devastating: "Chemotherapy turned off for perhaps 12,000 people, dialysis going dark for 10,000. The horror stories will be real."
Naturally, Sasse's op-ed blames the Obama administration. "Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell claimed in Senate testimony earlier this month that the administration has no plan to help the seven million citizens who could lose their coverage in the weeks following such a ruling," he complained.
This is a surprisingly familiar tack. Congressional Republicans are outraged that the White House has not yet unveiled a backup plan on what to do if the Supreme Court takes a sledgehammer to the American health care system. The whining is built on a curious foundation -- Republicans used to say, "We're outraged you reformed the healthcare system." Now these same Republicans are adding, "We're also outraged you didn't create a backup plan for what happens after we tear down the healthcare system."
It's all the more reason to take note of President Obama's response to the GOP criticisms.
President Barack Obama on Monday said he thinks there is no "plausible legal basis" for the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down a key plank of Obamacare, defending his administration's lack of a contingency plan. [...] "Look, this should be a pretty straightforward case of statutory interpretation," Obama said.
In the same Reuters interview, the president added, "There is, in our view, not a plausible legal basis for striking it down. And what if the Supreme Court takes an implausible path?
"If they rule against us, we'll have to take a look at what our options are. But I'm not going to anticipate that. I'm not going to anticipate bad law," Obama told Reuters.
It's a perfectly defensible posture. There's no reason for this president -- or any president, really -- to craft sweeping policy proposals in anticipation of ridiculous court rulings that defy the law, history, and common sense. Health care reform is extraordinarily difficult; the notion that the White House will just whip together a new plan to cover 7 million consumers, presumably without congressional approval, is plainly silly.
Indeed, it takes a breathtaking amount of chutzpah for Republicans to demand an "Obamacare Plan B" from the president and his team in the first place. GOP lawmakers want to set fire to the nation's health care system and they want a White House plan to put the fire out? Please.
But there's also a legal strategy at play.
Administration officials insist that any steps they could take to prepare for the potential crisis would be politically unworkable and ineffective, and that pursuing them would wrongly signal to the justices that reasonable solutions existed. The do-nothing strategy is meant to reinforce for the court what White House officials believe: that a loss in the health care case would be unavoidably disastrous for millions of people.
We are, in other words, flying without a net. If Republicans on the Supreme Court take away health care benefits for millions of families, there is no readily available solution to protect their health care security. Those Americans will suffer for no reason, simply because five justices say so.