WASHINGTON – The congressman’s voice was calm but there was exasperation in his words, and an implicit concern that Republicans were poised to snatch defeat from the jaws of a major victory.
Referring to a Supreme Court decision, due any day now, that could effectively overturn Obamacare, U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, lamented, “I think there is some fear in some circles in the Republican Party that if this decision goes our way that it’s actually bad for us.”
Sounding incredulous, he told reporters on Capitol Hill, “And I’m having a hard time understanding that, because, if it goes our way, then it will be exactly as we’ve been saying: that the way it was passed was wrong, that it was illegal and there might even be some constitutional issues with it.”
The dilemma perceived by some in the GOP is, if the Supreme Court does rule in King v. Burwell that the federal health-care exchange was set up illegally, Republicans will get the blame when as many as 6.4 million Americans suddenly have no subsidies to pay for their insurance.
“If anybody loses their subsidies, it’s going to be because the president and his party decided to write the law in a way that was wrong,” insisted Labrador. “And to enforce the law in a way that was outside the law.”
WND asked: Does the Republican Party have a plan to effectively counter the blame that is sure to come from Democrats and the mainstream media?
The congressman paused and looked down briefly, as if choosing his words carefully.
“It’s amazing that we don’t have a strategy right now, as a party. We’ve known that this was coming,” he stated plainly.
Labrador stressed the importance of sticking together as a party when responding to the decision.
“What I am concerned about is that I don’t know we’re going to be able to have a unified voice because of the voices who are afraid we are actually going to win this thing.”
He compared those in fear of victory to the dog that doesn’t know what to do when it catches a car.
“I don’t feel that way at all,” he said. “I think this is good, for us as a party, if we can show that the president illegally gave subsidies to certain individuals – which is what we’ve been saying all along.”
It’s not just good for Americans and the prospect for market-based health insurance reforms, but for the GOP as well, because that’s the message that gave the party “two of its biggest election victories in history,” in 2010 and 2014.
“So, we shouldn’t be afraid of victory,” he said. “We should actually embrace the victory and show the American people how we would do it better, as a party. But there seems to be a clear lack of direction on how to approach this, and I think that’s unfortunate.”
The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell claim subsidies issued by Obamacare should be provided only by a health-care exchange “established by a state,” which is the plain wording of the law.
That would mean the federal government could not subsidize policies bought on the federally run exchange used by customers in the 36 states that didn’t set up their own exchanges.
And that would likely cause Obamacare to virtually collapse.
The Supreme Court will announce its decision before the end of the month.
After the court heard oral arguments in March, WND reported Justice Anthony Kennedy, the somewhat conservative justice usually considered the swing vote on a court otherwise evenly divided four-to-four, expressed reservations about whether ruling for the plaintiffs would cause “serious constitutional problems” of coercion.
His concern was, if the plaintiff’s interpretation of the law was correct – that federal subsidies should be available only in the 16 states (and the District of Columbia) that established their own insurance exchanges – that would amount to a potentially unconstitutional coercion upon the other states to set up their own exchanges.
That was actually the intent of the law, according to Obamacare consultant and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who said in January 2012 that tax-credit subsidies available for health insurance were only available in states that set up their own exchanges.
Emphasizing that it was meant to coerce states to set up exchanges, Gruber said, “I hope that that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges.”
Asked to explain that when his comments became publicly known, Gruber instead said, “I honestly don’t remember why I said that. I was speaking off-the-cuff. It was just a mistake.”
Gruber also was the Obamacare adviser who famously said the law was passed thanks to the “stupidity of the American voter.”
WND reported recently that Obama was accused of trying to “bully” the Supreme Court ahead of the decision.
The president was in Europe for a summit when he claimed it was a case the high court “should never have taken up.”
Obama also claimed it has been well-documented that Congress never intended to exclude people who got their insurance through the federal exchange.
But Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice told Bill Hemmer in a Fox News interview: “I think this is almost like a bullying technique. The president here is upset because the Supreme Court took it. Well, there was a conflict in the circuits and when the circuits are in conflict with each other the Supreme Court resolves the conflict.”
Sekulow said the president “keeps saying, well, it’s just four words,” “established by the state.”
But it’s four words, he said, “that carry billions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars of subsidies with them and it affects the way his law’s being implemented, and IRS – this is the part that everybody forgets – the IRS was the one who changed this rule.
“It’s like a political campaign against the Supreme Court here. … This president has shown a pretty consistent disregard for the Supreme Court when he doesn’t like their opinion,” Sekulow said.
“I think here’s what he’s doing. He’s trying to say if the Supreme Court upholds the law as it’s actually written … then you, the American people, blame the Supreme Court. The correct response is maybe someone should have read this law before they passed it.”
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