Politics & Policy

Obama Hits Supreme Court For Agreeing to Take King v. Burwell in the First Place

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

President Obama took a shot at the Supreme Court today for even agreeing to hear King v. Burwell — the pending lawsuit challenging the legality of how his team has implemented Obamacare —​ in the first place.

“This should be an easy case,” Obama said during a press conference in Germany. “Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up.”

The case pertains to whether the IRS acted illegally by deciding to provide health insurance subsidies to people who enrolled in Obamacare through the federal government exchange. The text of the law makes the subsidies available to people in “exchanges established by the state.” Obama asserted that Republicans and Democrats agreed on the intent of the law — former Senator Susan Collins (R., Maine), for instance, said recently that the subsidies were not supposed to be restricted to state exchanges — and called for the court to uphold the law on that basis.

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Jonathan Gruber, one of Obamacare’s architects, famously contradicted that assertion in 2012, flatly admitting that the law had been designed to withhold subsidies from those who purchased coverage through the federal exchange in an attempt to prod states to set up their own marketplaces.

“What’s important to remember politically about this is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits — but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill,” Gruber said.

Yet when asked today to say how states should prepare for the prospect of the court adopting that reading, Obama was dismissive of his opponents legal reasoning, and the idea that any well-informed jurist could be swayed by it. “I think it’s important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who have looked at this would expect them to do,” he said. “I’m optimistic that the Supreme Court will play it straight when it comes to the interpretation.” 

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#related#The commentary wasn’t as harsh as Obama’s comments on the Supreme Court in 2012, following oral arguments about the constitutionality of Obamacare’s individual mandate that had left Democrats dispirited.

“I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench is judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law,” he said. “Well, here’s a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this court will recognize that, and not take that step.”

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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