At Tuesday’s White House daily briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest fielded several questions about the federal appeals court ruling that struck down the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies for health insurance purchased on the federal exchanges. (Hours later, a separate federal appeals court upheld them.)
In response to The Associated Press‘ Julie Pace, Earnest offered some words of comfort for those freaking out over the ruling, pointing out that several other cases at the district level had turned in favor of the Affordable Care Act, and noting “for those keeping score, we’re still ahead 2 to 1, here.”
This is the same sort of thing the White House said in the run-up to the Supreme Court decision that upheld the individual mandate, but also made Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion voluntary. Earnest also defended the legal foundation of the law, saying, “You con’t need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credits that would lower their health care costs, regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who were running the marketplace.”
Later in the briefing, it was Fox News’ Ed Henry’s turn to dance on Obamacare’s grave, a pastime that’s only surpassed in popularity at his network by #Benghazi hearing fetish porn. Let him have it, Ed!
“It seems like conservatives are even acknowledging that the Affordable Care Act is likely to survive this, but will you acknowledge that it could be a bit messier?”
Well, shit, Ed sounds almost as optimistic about Obamacare as Earnest does. Maybe this really will all be okay!
Or maybe not, if ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl has his way. “If this ruling is upheld, does it effectively gut Obamacare by eliminating up to 5 million subsidies?” Karl asked.
Earnest thanked Karl for pointing out how many millions of people are benefiting from Obamacare, and again expressed confidence in the administration’s legal position. Even though Earnest had twice declined to respond to hypotheticals about the ruling, Karl took the chance to paint a narrative picture, anyway.
“If this decision is upheld, and you were just slapped down by a circuit court,” Karl noted, “does it effectively gut Obamacare, for instance the President can no longer say that people can have access to health care for the price of a cellphone bill, this is going to wipe away, right now, 4.7 million people’s subsidies.”
Earnest again expressed confidence, and again declined the hypothetical. Karl wasn’t done yet, though, offering his own legal analysis:
“The law very clearly states that the subsidies are available to those who enroll through state exchanges. Does the letter of the law matter to the White House?“
Karl’s prosecution and Earnest’s scorekeeping aside, that’s not how any of this works. The Justice Department, as Earnest noted, has announced that it will request a review by the full D.C. Circuit Court, and the argument that Earnest references has a great chance of succeeding, unless it doesn’t, and who the hell knows what this Supreme Court will do if they ever get this case? We’ll be lucky to escape without Scalia giving himself prima nocta.
What this ruling does illustrate is, once again, the importance of always voting, even if you’re not that impressed by your party’s choice. The two judges who made this ruling, Judge Raymond Randolph and Judge Thomas Griffith, were appointed by Presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush, respectively, while the dissenting opinion came from a Jimmy Carter nominee. The full court that’s set to hear the next step in this case is tilted 7-4 in favor of Clinton/Obama appointees, but then the case goes to our total shitshow of a Supreme Court, where we’re just as likely to end up giving free health care to the owners of Walmart.