Corporate Accountability

The importance of setting Sessions straight

By Steve Benen

 

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a largely overlooked hearing yesterday on health care, which became notable for one very specific reason.

 

As much of the political world wait for the Supreme Court to issue its ruling in the King v. Burwell case, Republicans at least pretend to believe that the Affordable Care Act was written in such a way as to deny subsidies – on purpose – to consumers who enrolled through healthcare.gov.

 

To that end, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) thought he was making an important point yesterday, addressing the Constitutional Accountability Center’s Elizabeth Wydra:

 

“I think maybe, Ms. Wydra, the statute could have just been written, ‘Our goal is to make available health care for all Americans.’ That wasn’t what the law said, however.”

 

Soon after, Wydra had a chance to respond.

 

“Sen. Sessions joked that the statute should have been written to say to health care ‘should be available for all Americans.’ Well, point of fact, Title I of the act is titled, ‘Qualify, affordable health care for all Americans.’

 

“So that is the stated purpose of the law and it wouldn’t make any sense for Congress to have written the tax-credit eligibility to defeat that purpose.”

 

Well, look at that. We just saw the entire King v. Burwell controversy get resolved in 41 seconds. Someone let the justices know their input is no longer required. The whole thing was caught on video.

 

The New Republic’s Brian Beutler described the exchange as a “succinct, pithy demolition” of the “bad faith” arguments behind the King v Burwell case.

 

I couldn’t agree more. As literally everyone involved in the process already knows, the purpose of the law was unambiguous: consumers would be eligible for insurance subsidies based on income levels. Republican opponents of the law are now pretending they don’t understand that, going through the motions as if the law secretly intended to deny subsidies – on purpose – to every consumer who gained coverage through the federal exchange.

 

As Sessions put it yesterday, if the law’s authors – who are still walking around, telling anyone who’ll listen exactly what the law was designed to do – wanted to make affordable care available to everyone, they should have put that language in the Obamacare statute itself.

 

But that’s what makes Wydra’s response so brutal: the ACA’s authors did put that language in the Obamacare statute itself.

 

Just once, I want to hear an ACA critic admit what is plainly true: King v. Burwell is a brazenly stupid con, but they’re playing along with the charade because they really hate the president and his signature domestic policy initiative.

 

Pretending the case is anything but a laughingstock is, at this point, simply impossible.

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