WASHINGTON – Conservatives appeared to smell blood in the water after a big ruling by a federal court against Obamacare, and they unleashed a fresh torrent of scathing indictments of the beleaguered law.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said the adverse ruling exposed Obamacare as a “bureaucratic nightmare” that “has been a disaster since Day 1,” and it is clear “Americans do not want this socialistic-driven agenda.”
Obamacare actually scored both a win and a loss Tuesday, with two federal appeals courts reaching opposite conclusions after looking at one set of facts.
But that makes the glass half-full for many conservatives, and a cause for celebration, because the contrary rulings mean the health-care law is now almost certain to go to the Supreme Court for another big showdown.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., zeroed in on the significance of the discrepancy, saying, “The very fact that we could have two contradictory outcomes on the same day is testament to how overly complicated and convoluted the Obamacare law is.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also saw the divided opinion as a sign the law cannot stand, saying the conflicting rulings “reaffirm my belief that this law ultimately will fall apart.”
As do many conservatives, Rubio believes the law is doomed because it “was poorly conceived, poorly written, and has been poorly executed by an Obama administration that believes it can just make up and change the rules as it goes.”
The stage was set today when, first, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the federal government can give subsidies only to people enrolled in the state run health-care exchanges, not the federal health-care exchanges.
Just hour later, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, came to the opposite conclusion, ruling the subsides are legal.
A full 4.7 million of the 8 million people the administration claims have signed up for Obamacare are using the federal exchange and receiving billions in subsidies. But the appeals court ruling wouldn’t just affect them; it would also prevent tens of millions from being able to afford Obamacare under the employer mandate when it kicks in at the end of this year.
Bachmann called it a “bombshell day for Obamacare” because the appeals court ruling showed it was “written by a lawless president for politically desired outcomes,” and she expressed hope that the day would mark “the beginning of the end of this unworkable, unaffordable law.”
Also calling the law unworkable, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said the ruling was “a clear reminder of why legislation should never be shoved through Congress without input from both parties and a clear understanding of what exactly is in the bill.”
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said, “With today’s rulings the courts have dealt yet another blow to Obamacare – this time relating to federal subsidies. The Obama administration’s double-speak on enforcing this law might finally be coming to an end. This law is coming apart at the seams. The D.C. Circuit Court was clear in its determination that the IRS rule making went beyond their authority and it is looking more and more like this will go to the Supreme Court, where we believe that opinion will prevail.”
A broad front of GOP lawmakers, from the House to the Senate, focused like a laser on what they saw as the law’s shoddy design.
“Democrats did an awful job writing this law – and have done an even worse job implementing it … The court rightfully refused to allow the president to continue ignoring and redefining his signature law,” opined Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.
He added, “The president and Democrats in Congress have no one but themselves to blame for the ongoing legal implications of their decision to force this unpopular and unworkable law upon the American people. ”
The D.C. Appeals Court did “exactly what our judicial system is meant to do,” according to Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz, because, “Their ruling highlights the sloppy drafting that went into crafting the law.
“The Obamacare ‘death spiral’ will continue to get worse until this law is replaced with a free-market, patient centered health care system free of government overreach,” he added.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was thrilled, calling the decision “a repudiation of Obamacare and all the lawlessness that has come with it.”
“This decision restores power to Congress and to the people and if properly enforced, should shield citizens from Obamacare’s insidious penalties, mandates, and subsidies,” he added.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said the ruling is another instance of the courts holding the Obama administration accountable for ignoring the rule of law, because the president has “has demonstrated time after time his desire to unilaterally change the laws passed by Congress.”
“We need to set politics aside” and scrap this law, said Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., noting that, “Just weeks ago we learned the government awarded billions of dollars in subsidies without any way to verify eligibility.”
“It is time for the nonsense to stop. This administration is too busy doling out dollars to see the train wreck ahead for American families.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the ruling exposed just another example, in which, “As it has on so many occasions, the Obama administration simply ignored the law and implemented its own policy instead.”
Also focusing on the president’s penchant to act without Congress, Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said the ruling meant, “The Obama administration cannot unilaterally ignore or change the plain wording of laws passed by Congress.”
House Speaker John Boehner focused on the big picture, calling the ruling “further proof that President Obama’s health-care law is completely unworkable. It cannot be fixed.”
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, made a unique legal argument, stating it was critical to understand the purpose of the challenge.
“[T]he plaintiffs sued to prevent an illegal tax from being collected. In order to prevent the illegal tax from being collected, the illegal subsidies had to end. By ruling that the subsidies are illegal, the Court is simultaneously ruling that the taxes are illegal.”
If the Supreme Court were to tackle that argument, it could give Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts an opportunity to revisit his pivotal opinion, reviled by conservatives, that Obamacare imposes a tax, not a penalty.
It was Roberts’ decision to call the penalty imposed by those who do not sign up for Obamacare a tax, and that allowed him to join the liberals on the high court in finding the individual mandate in the health-care law to be constitutional.
In an interview with Radio America’s Greg Corombos, Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, said, “This is a hugely important decision. The government has now lost a case that really addresses the heart and soul of what this law is supposed to do.”
She added, “The law specifically says, at least seven times, that the subsidies are only allowed through an exchange established by a state. It was part of Congress’ coercion to try to get the states to set up their own exchanges. The states basically called their bluff and said, ‘Nope, we’re not doing this.’ So when the law says seven times that tax credits for health insurance can only be distributed through an exchange created by a state, the court said, ‘The law must mean what it says and we’re going to rule that way.’ Congratulations to them for upholding the rule of law.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Grace-Marie Turner:
The administration is appealing the decision of the three-judge panel to the full D.C. Circuit, which includes seven Democratic appointees and four selections by GOP presidents. According to Turner, precedent suggests the full, or en banc, court will not be interested in second-guessing three of their colleagues, but she said there is a tinge of politics on the bench that did not exist until recently.
"The judges really respect each other. They don't want to overrule one another, although the Obama administration has been stacking this court with several new appointees. They very likely would have the votes to overrule the three-judge panel, but it would look very, very political and would likely discredit future decisions," said Turner, who noted it is vital for one full appeals court to rule in line with the three judges.
"It is consequential, because in order for this to go to the Supreme Court, you would then have to have different rulings in the different appeals courts. There are four similar cases going through the courts. So you'd have to have another court decide the same as the D.C. Circuit Court panel has today for the Supreme Court to hear it. If there are no conflicts in the appeals courts' decisions, then the Supreme Court would less likely take it up," Turner said.
If the Supreme Court were to declare subsidies obtained through the federal exchange illegal, Turner said it would give great incentive for lawmakers to take a smarter approach to health-care reform.
"Congress would then have to go back to the drawing board. I think people that opposed this law all along would actually have more bargaining power now to be able to move to a place where we can actually get subsidies that are structured the right way, not this 'mother may I,' 159 new government rules and commissions that are basically running our health sector," Turner said.
She said urgent action would be needed to help people trapped in a system where they had to buy health insurance but could not get any help in paying a much higher than expected price tag.
"They're not going to leave the millions of people who've been thrown out of their coverage out in the cold," she said. "They're going to try to figure out how to come up with a better solution, but one that gives people and doctors choices, not government bureaucrats and politicians."
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter@DCgarth