By now you’ve probably read lots about State Rep. John Lamping’s (R-24) lame attempt to launch the latest Missouri Republican attack on Obamacare. If you haven’t, you’ll find a good description of the bill and the issues it involves in this write-up by Gloria Bilchik at Occasional Planet, while Blue Girl here at SMP puts Lamping’s legislative chops into perfect perspective – as in “I loathe scum like Lamping with every fiber of my being and can’t imagine what it must feel like to be so empty inside, so bereft of humanity and kindness, so meanspirited, venal and utterly contemptible, so vapid, insipid, petty and trite”. I’m pretty sure she disapproves.
Blue Girl also acknowledges something else we all know which is that this exercise in radical rightwingery hasn’t a ghost of a chance of passing in even our GOP-heavy legislature – there are actually a few constitutional realists among the GOP crazies in Jefferson City – or being signed by our reasonably sane Democratic Governor should the unthinkable occur. And the case against the legislation’s viability was further bolstered by a judicial decision handed down today by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Lamping’s bill, SB546 (and companion House legislation introduced by Rep. Keith Frederick (R-121), HB1314), was inspired by the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon, who has encouraged lawsuits
arguing based on the argument that the subsidies offered to low and middle income Americans on the federal exchange violate the law as it is written. As Ezra Klein notes:
The dispute settles around a single sentence: The Affordable Care Act’s defining a health insurance exchange, in Section 1311, as a “governmental agency or nonprofit entity that is established by a state.” Since the law says subsidies only go to people buying insurance “through an Exchange established by the State under 1311,” Cannon and some others argue that the federal exchanges, though specifically envisioned in the law, can’t receive subsidies.
Today’s verdict is the first to come down and it, tellingly, doesn’t endorse Cannon’s logic:
Judge Paul L. Friedman called that argument “unpersuasive,” saying it didn’t pass legal muster and ran counter to the central purpose of the Affordable Care Act.
“Plaintiffs’ proposed construction in this case – that tax credits are available only for those purchasing insurance from state-run Exchanges – runs counter to this central purpose of the ACA: to provide affordable health care to virtually all Americans,” Friedman wrote in a 39-page decision. “Such an interpretation would violate the basic rule of statutory construction that a court must interpret a statute in light of its history and purpose.”
His reasoning? The federal exchanges — which the Obama administration is constructing for 34 states that declined to build their own — “would have no customers, and no purpose” if the challengers’ logic were adopted.
Of course, this is just the first verdict in one of several lawsuits, but it doesn’t look too good for folks who think they’ve found the perfect, last-ditch, anti-Obamacare wriggle.
What this means in practical terms for Missouri progressives, as far as I’m concerned, is that John Lamping has given the state’s Democrats a big, fat, no-risk gift right before the mid-term elections. While Blue Girl notes that SB546 is “going nowhere, except in our file of stuff to use against the neoconfederates next election cycle,” we shouldn’t underestimate the good we can do with that file or just how potent this particular bit of GOP chicanery could prove to be when it comes to next fall’s elections.
At the end of December 33,138 Missourians or 5.04% of the estimated eligible population had enrolled in private plans through the federal Website, Healthcare.gov. That number will undoubtedly grow massively in the next three months – in spite of statewide GOP efforts at obstruction – and, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted about earlier numbers, many of these new enrollees will also be eligible for the subsidies that Lamping says he wants to take away.
Lamping must think he’s got a winner here, but if I were one of those folks getting acquainted with Obamacare via my first-time healthcare coverage and finally learning how empty the last three-years of GOP scare-tactics were, I wouldn’t feel too friendly toward jerks who were trying to make sure that I couldn’t afford to pay for it. It could be a relatively short jump from John Lamping to the entire Missouri GOP – particularly in view of their past, desperate anti-Obamacare rhetoric. We’ve just got to get the word out about who it is who doesn’t care if Missourians live or die.
3rd paragraph edited slightly for clarity: (see striken test), and for accuracy: “federal” added before exchange.