Order Defunding Obamacare Withdrawn By Federal Appeals Court

Order Defunding Obamacare Withdrawn By Federal Appeals Court

Yes, I think the GOP's continuing attempts to keep people from getting affordable health care are really going to make an impression on voters. And I'm sure they will keep fighting this horrible injustice, even though their chances of success are increasingly slim. Still, they fight the good fight! Think Progress:

In July, two Republican judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit handed down a decision defunding much of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This effort to implement Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) top policy priority from the bench waswithdrawn on Thursday by the DC Circuit, and the case will be reheard by the full court — a panel that will most likely include 13 judges.

In practical terms, this means that July’s judgment cutting off subsidies to consumers who buy insurance plans in federally-operated health exchanges is no more. It has ceased to be. It is, in fact, an ex-judgment.

The reason why this matters is because the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, known as Halbig v. Burwell, are hustling to try to convince the GOP-dominated Supreme Court to hear this case, where they no doubt believe that they have a greater chance of succeeding than in the DC Circuit, as a majority of the active judges in the DC Circuit are Democrats. The Supreme Court takes only a tiny fraction of the cases brought to their attention by parties who lost in a lower court — a study of the Court’s 2005 term, for example, found that the justices granted a full argument to only 78 of the 8,517 petitions seeking the high Court’s review that term. The justices, however, are particularly likely to hear cases where two federal appeals courts disagree about the same question of law.

Two hours after the divided DC Circuit panel released its opinion attempted to defund Obamacare, a unanimous panel of the Fourth Circuit upheld the health subsidies that are at issue in Halbig. Thus, so long as both decisions remained in effect, Supreme Court review was very likely. Now that the full DC Circuit has vacated the two Republican judges’ July judgement, Supreme Court review is much less likely.


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Although it is possible that the full DC Circuit could agree with the two judges who voted to cut off health subsidies to millions of Americans, this outcome is unlikely. The plaintiffs’ arguments in this case are weak and are unlikely to move judges who do not have a partisan stake in undermining the Affordable Care Act.

The litigants seeking to undermine Obamacare through this lawsuit — Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), who filed a brief supporting the plaintiffs in this case, admitted in aWall Street Journal op-ed that the purpose of this lawsuit is to cause “the structure of the ACA” to “crumble” — waged a two front effort trying to convince the full DC Circuit not to vacate their two GOP colleagues’ decision.

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