health reform

Terrific (Heroes and Villains)

#SomethingTerrific | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

“While the leaders of the ruling political party have convinced themselves that they are heroes, in reality they are villains and enemies of the American people.”

Chauncey DeVega

What? He’s got a point. Salon:

As the Republicans voted to steal away health insurance from the sick, children, pregnant women, the poor, elderly, babies and people with pre-existing medical conditions in order to give millionaires and billionaires like themselves more money, they reportedly played the theme song to the movie “Rocky” and found inspiration from George C. Scott’s Oscar-winning performance as Gen. George S. Patton. On one hand, these are just curious details that help to paint a picture of what happened that day in Congress. But they also tell us a great deal about how the Republicans who voted to overturn the Affordable Care Act see themselves in history.

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Image note: Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.

DeVega, Chauncey. “Despite their twisted fantasies, Republicans are nothing like Rocky or George Patton—they are political terrorists”. Salon. 8 May 2017

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Terrific (Whip It)

#SomethingTerrific | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Detail of photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.

Coming ’round the circle, Lindsey McPherson and Erin Mershon of Roll Call:

House Chief Deputy Whip Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina said Monday evening that Republicans are “very close” to winning the support needed to pass their health care overhaul. One place he might want to look: his own whip team. At least seven members said Monday they remain undecided.

That list includes Republican Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York, David Valadao of California, Kevin Yoder of Kansas, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

Oh, yeah. Downhill from there.

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Your Quote of the Day (Mix for the ACA)

President Barack Obama (D) smiles during the 2012 State of the Union Address. (Photo: Unknown)“I mean, we have been promised a lot of things these past five years that didn’t turn out to be the case: death panels, doom. A serious alternative from Republicans in Congress.”

President Barack Obama

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Obama, Barack. “Remarks by the President Marking the Fifth Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act”. White House Office of the Press Secretary. 25 March 2015.

Morbid Hilarity (King v. Burwell Throwback Mix)

That King v. Burwell has even made it to the Supreme Court becomes even more of a mystery; the cynicism of the case is plainly apparent; even Justice Scalia is reduced to cheap politicking.

Perhaps, then, we ought not be surprised at Ian Millhiser’s report for ThinkProgress, which runs under the lovely title, “The Lawyer Telling The Supreme Court To Gut Obamacare Explained Why He Should Lose In 2012”, should surprise nobody:

On Wednesday, a lawsuit seeking to defund much of the Affordable Care Act appeared to hit a roadblock when Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed concerns that the plaintiffs’ reading of the law is unconstitutional. Though Michael Carvin, the lead lawyer challenging the law, attempted to extract himself from this roadblock, he quickly ran into an entirely different obstacle — his own past writings.

Attorney Michael Carvin, who argued King v. Burwell before the Supreme Court of the United States, 3 March 2015, on behalf of plaintiffs hoping to overturn the Affordable Care Act, in an undated photo.  (Image credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)Carvin claims, in a case called King v. Burwell, that Obamacare should be read to deny tax credits that enable millions of Americans to afford health insurance in states that elected not to set up their own health exchange (under the Affordable Care Act, states have “flexibility” to decide whether to set up their own exchange or to allow the federal government to do so). During oral arguments on Wednesday, however, several justices raised concerns about the catastrophic damage Carvin’s reading of the law could inflict on those states’ insurance markets ....

.... Carvin tried to downplay the risk that consumers would simply stop buying plans in the law’s health exchanges if the tax credits were cut off, claiming that these consumers would still be attracted to exchange plans by the fact that the exchanges offer “one-stop shopping” for people looking to buy insurance. He also claimed that Congress wasn’t worried about the risk of death spirals if the tax credits get cut off. According to Carvin, “there’s not a scintilla of legislative history suggesting that without subsidies, there will be a death spiral.”

But Carvin himself sang a very different tune three years ago. Indeed, Wednesday was not the first time he’s stood in the well of the Supreme Courtroom and asked the justices to gut the Affordable Care Act. Carvin was also one of the lead attorneys in NFIB v. Sebelius, the first Supreme Court case attacking the law.

In a brief filed in NFIB, Carvin explained that “[w]ithout the subsidies driving demand within the exchanges, insurance companies would have absolutely no reason to offer their products through exchanges, where they are subject to far greater restrictions.” And, contrary to his more recent suggestion that Congress never envisioned any danger if the tax credits are cut off, Carvin wrote in 2012 that “the insurance exchanges cannot operate as intended by Congress absent those provisions.”

In a subsequent brief, Carvin elaborated that “the federal subsidies are the incentive to participate in the exchanges, and without those subsidies, there will be no mechanism to sustain the exchanges.” He also seemed to contradict his central claim that different states are treated differently depending on whether their exchange is operated by a state or the federal government. The Affordable Care Act, according to the Michael Carvin of 2012, “enables uniform and acceptable federal premium subsidies”.

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The One About How Nine Justices Walk Into a Bar ….

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia testifies before the House Judiciary Committee's Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee on Capitol Hill May 20, 2010 in Washington, DC. Scalia and fellow Associate Justice Stephen Breyer testified to the subcommittee about the Administrative Conference of the United States. (Photo: Stephen A. Masker)

“Congratulations, Congress, you’ve literally sunk to the level of a punch line.”

Steve Benen

The proposition that Congress is a punch line strikes few as new material. Even the idea that a Solicitor General would take the shot is not so strange. Yet Steve Benen makes the point about Justice Scalia’s blithe view of the 114th Congress:

Scalia wasn’t kidding. “I don’t care what Congress you’re talking about,” he added. “If the consequences are as disastrous as you say, so many million people ­­ without insurance and whatnot – yes, I think this Congress would act.”

On a purely theoretical level, this is not ridiculous. Major new laws have routinely needed minor technical fixes for generations, and many of these corrections are intended to bring clarity to ambiguous phrases. Under normal circumstances, the King v. Burwell case wouldn’t even exist because Congress would have clarified the ACA structure years ago.

And, again in theory, if the Supreme Court were to decide in this case that the statute needs clarification, a sane, mature, responsible legislative branch would simply add a few words to the ACA law and ensure that consumers receive the same insurance subsidies they’re receiving now.

But that’s all the more reason to understand exactly why Scalia is wrong.

Perhaps it is Justice Scalia who is the punch line. Then again, neither is that news.

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More on King v. Burwell

The Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.

A thematic question: At this point, how is it still a question?

There is a bit somewhere in a book about the Universe asserting what seems nearly circular, that we know what we know is right because it is what we know. That is, of course, an insufficient paraphrase, a memory of how the point felt, but it is also true that if what we think we know is that wrong, there would be no satellite communications. Try a simpler version. If you know a football coach, test a proposition; there is only so long one can hear people say a professional athlete “sucks”. Not a good day, maybe in a larger slump, but you don’t distill in the process and elevate to that valence if you suck. One might think similar things of, say top-tier electoral politics, but no, it doesn’t work that way. It is supposed to, or so we might imagine, except Sarah Palin was nominated to run for vice-president once upon a time, and we all watched Mitt Romney’s disastrously ill-executed campaign for the presidency in two years ago.α

Certes, such comparisons are notoriously vague, but here is the theme: At some point, we cannot maintain confidence if certain properties remain variable and unresolved; if questions of a particular nature and context remain in effect, how is the larger paradigm expected to function at a given valence?

Or perhaps we should simply start with standing. A juristic context. We considered the issue briefly, yesterday, but something about awestruck disbelief seems to have gotten the better of us.

Point being that one might wonder how standing could remain a potentially affecting question when a case reaches the Supreme Court.

Just sayin’.

However, Louise Radnofsky and Brent Kendall bring the question back to focus for The Wall Street Journal:

One of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case against the Affordable Care Act listed a short-term-stay motel as her address when she joined the lawsuit, potentially calling into question her basis for suing.

Rose Luck is among four plaintiffs suing the Obama administration to eliminate tax credits under the law that make health insurance cheaper for millions of Americans. They say the wording of the 2010 law allows consumers to tap the credits only in states that run their own insurance exchanges, and not their home state of Virginia, which is one of as many as 37 states that use the federal enrollment system.

And at this point it’s easy enough to make a point about how this sort of technicality shouldn’t matter; after all, the case has survived, anyway, and has achieved SCOTUS valence.

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A Benchmark … Maybe?

The Mississippi Loser

Given the unpredictability of politics, such suggestions might seem somewhat naïve; yet one might legitimately wonder if, on the Republican side of things, you know some abstract limit has been violated when Jennifer Rubin comes out swinging:

As I’ve written previously, the far right’s reaction to Sen. Thad Cochran’s defeat of their pet tea party candidate Chris McDaniel in the Republican primary for U.S. senator from Mississippi has been unhinged and at times downright racist. Even the less hysterical voices are up in arms that Cochran’s tactics were unseemly or that the “establishment” betrayed them again.

Among the “sins” Cochran is accused of is finding African American leaders to help turn out the African American vote. (The nerve!) Unearthing egregiously offensive comments McDaniel made on his radio show (no!) and skewering McDaniel for campaign gaffes on everything from Katrina relief to support for the inane shutdown (mercy me!). The attitude that the “establishment” doesn’t have to crush the poor tea party folk every time, suggests, I guess, that there needs to be a mercy rule of the inept tea party (if they lose 10 races they get a freebie?).

I mean, really. Damn.

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