The Supreme Court will rule against the Obama administration in the King v. Burwell case later this year, gut the Affordable Care Act and open the door to a conservative alternative to President Obama’s domestic achievement: This appears to be taken as an article of faith by many of the speakers at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), taking place today and tomorrow outside Washington.
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), one of the most conservative members of Congress, even suggested that this might, ultimately, be part of the president’s grand plan.
The King case relies on a section of the law that says that only those who buy coverage from state health care exchanges are eligible for federal subsidies. Stripping them away, as a finding for the plaintiffs would do, could be fatal to the law as a whole.
That’s a problem Congress could fix if it chose to, of course. Barrasso said it won’t.
If the court rules against the administration, as Barrasso is predicting, the president “is going to call them a partisan court, and say … ‘This is the solution. Just take everything I’ve done and make it legal.’”
Barrasso said, “We’re not prepared to do this. We want to use this as an opportunity to get this out of Washington and back to the people.” On Thursday, however, it remained unclear exactly how Republicans would replace Obamacare.
Barrasso and others were more than happy to outline what they won’t pass.
“As conservatives, we actually don’t think big government does big things well,” he said. “You’re not going to see us coming down to the Senate floor with a wheelbarrow and a 2,000 page bill. Because we know it’s best to get these things done on a step-by-step basis.”
But there was less agreement on what they should pass.
As Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) pointed out, the party hasn’t exactly coalesced behind an alternative. “We have 163 different bills that would deal with the replacement of Obamacare … addressing liability reforms, addressing portability, opening up the insurance marketplace,” she said.
Jim Capretta, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, suggested possible alternatives from the Republican Study Commission, a group of senators including Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Fred Upton (R-MI), as well as proposals from outside groups.
When asked to sum up, Blackburn said, “I think it is important for the House and Senate to lay out what we are for.” On Thursday, at least, no one did.
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