Thursday, June 25, 2015

SCOTUS Saves the GOP's Bacon

Yes, really.

The Republicans don't have a very good shot at the White House in 2016, and a ruling against ObamaCare's subsidies in states that don't have their own exchanges would have made it a longer shot yet. It would also have likely cost the GOP its Senate majority, and possibly even the House.

Let me explain:

  • The Republicans make their political hay by complaining about ObamaCare, not by actually doing anything about it. They've controlled the US House of Representatives since 2011. That means not one thin dime has been spent on ObamaCare, or anything else, without Republican support. ObamaCare is still in place because they want it to remain in place. Which shouldn't be that surprising since its key element, the "individual mandate," was first proposed by a Republican president (Richard Nixon), later offered as an alternative to "HillaryCare" by a future Republican House Speaker (Newt Gingrich) and a Republican think tank (the Heritage Foundation), and implemented at the state level by a Republican governor (Mitt Romney).
  • The way the law was written clear but clever: Residents of states that implemented their own exchanges (in other words, Democratic states) would get subsidies. Residents of states that didn't implement their own exchanges (in other words, Republican states) wouldn't get subsidies. Which firmed up the Democrat vote in blue states and only cost them in states they didn't control anyway.
  • The piece de resistance: Instead of actually implementing that "spoils to our states, middle finger salute to your states" language, the executive branch went ahead and delivered the subsidies in red states as well, counting on the Republicans to be the ones to complain about it. Which they did.
If SCOTUS had ruled against the subsidies, it would have constituted a message to every low-income voter in a red state: "The Republicans just bent you over and had at you without lube. Vote Democrat."

Obama himself won either way -- he either got a ruling that affirmed his own stated policy, or he got a ruling that would erode the Republican vote in Republican states. But the GOP dodged a bullet.

Update, 06/26/15: Matt Dixon of Politico agrees.

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