Republicans: Hazardous to Their Health

Just about everything they are doing manages to backfire politically: the threatened government shutdown, Trump trying to lie his way out of an increasingly likely impeachment, and now health care.

On Friday, a federal judge in Texas, Reed O’Connor, who was appointed by George W. Bush, decided to overrule the Supreme Court and hold the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. He ruled that because the individual mandate was unconstitutional, the entire law is unconstitutional. Very ingenious. The only problem is that this very argument was considered by the Supreme Court in 2012, and rejected.

Since then, two conservative Republicans on the Court have replaced two other conservative Republicans. In the high court’s 5-4 ruling in June 2012 striking down the mandate and some of the state Medicaid expansion, but upholding most of the rest of the ACA, the conservatives voted to kill the ACA altogether. But Chief Justice Roberts had the support of the four liberals to keep the ACA alive. So the change in the court’s composition changes nothing.

The high court ruling will stand. Indeed, Roberts is likely to be quite offended by the effrontery of a district court judge presuming to overrule a recent decision of the Supreme Court.

The Texas decision is a double gift to Democrats. For starters, it reminds voters that Republicans are still trying to kill the ACA. But in the recent midterm blow-out, defending the ACA was good politics for Democrats.

The district judge’s ruling also reminds Democrats that the ACA, as a complex hybrid, is constitutionally vulnerable in a way that a simple Medicare expansion is not. This just adds to the momentum for Medicare for All.

It’s hard to know who is politically dumber—Judge O’Connor, the Republican governors and attorneys general who brought the lawsuit against the ACA, or President Trump, who gleefully bragged in a tweet late Friday night,

As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.

In fact, as a White House statement later admitted, the Texas decision means nothing substantively. The ACA will continue as before, until O’Connor’s ruling is appealed and unceremoniously overruled. In the meantime, Republicans’ antagonism to providing health insurance for all Americans stays usefully in the spotlight.

Keep it up, Republicans!

By |2018-12-18T00:25:46+00:00December 18th, 2018|Kuttner on TAP|0 Comments

About the Author:

Robert Kuttner is co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect as well as a Demos Distinguished Senior Fellow. He was a longtime columnist for Business Week, and continues to write columns in the Boston Globe. He co-founded the Economic Policy Institute in Washington and serves on its executive committee.

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