Politico has an amazing profile of Gregory King, the Virginia man who is the lead plaintiff in the King v. Burwell lawsuit, which could gut Obamacare subsidies for millions of people across the country. Let’s just quote from it:
The man who could cripple Obamacare isn’t shy about telling the world that he thinks the president is an “idiot,” posting altered images of the First Lady in Middle Eastern clothing and expressing his hatred for the “Democraps” who enacted the health care law.
David M. King, 64, is the lead plaintiff on the Supreme Court case that challenges the government’s right to grant tax subsidies to millions of Americans in certain states to make health insurance more affordable. When the case is argued on March 4, King — friendly, with graying hair and a mustache — will become the public face of King v. Burwell, the most significant threat to the Affordable Care Act since the 2012 Supreme Court case that put the law’s individual mandate on the line.
“This case is about the IRS illegally rewriting the law. It’s not about anyone’s political beliefs or what is on their Facebook page. Our plaintiffs simply want their day in court,” said Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which says it is “coordinating and funding” the Supreme Court case. Kazman declined to explain how the plaintiffs were chosen.
King has not spoken publicly, but Thursday morning he welcomed a reporter into his ranch-style home in a middle-income section of Fredericksburg. He is skeptical of the media — offering to let a reporter in only to “get the chill off” a cold February morning — and wouldn’t discuss the origins of his case.
A couple points about this. First, it’s fascinating that King is less than a year away from qualifying for Medicare. As it happens, Politico reports that two of the other four challengers are 64 and 63, also putting them very close to qualifying. Remember, this lawsuit is all about the plaintiff’s objection to being subjected to the individual mandate’s requirement that they get insurance. The plaintiffs are claiming injury because Virginia is on the federal exchange, which, they say, means they should not be getting the subsidies which are necessary under the law to require them to get insurance under the mandate. Yet three of the challengers are very close to having the mandate canceled for them by Medicare. (One, it should be noted, is 56 years old.)
It would be really interesting to know what these challengers think of Medicare, given their role in a lawsuit that could go a long way towards gutting the coverage guarantee for millions of Americans.
Second, neither King nor the conservative think tank which says it is helping coordinate the lawsuit will comment on its genesis.
All of this adds to the general circus-like atmosphere that is increasingly enveloping this lawsuit, and once again raises the question: Why, given how high the stakes are for this lawsuit, isn’t it getting more attention from the top-shelf reporters at the major news organizations?
Now, none of this necessarily has legal significance. These plaintiffs can legitimately claim standing, and at any rate, there are other, similar lawsuits out there that could have advanced if this one didn’t. There are plenty of people who also can legitimately claim injury under the subsidies-mandate structure. And the genesis of the lawsuit doesn’t have any direct bearing on the legitimacy of its arguments or, it should be added, its chances of success, which I continue to believe are very real.
But the lawsuit’s origins and chief drivers, and the basic facts surrounding the legislative history of the ACA, which are out there for anyone who cares to examine them, still matter. They go to the heart of what is really being attempted here.
* ANOTHER GOOD JOBS REPORT: The January numbers are in, and note those upward revisions:
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 257,000 in January, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 5.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today…The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for November was revised from +353,000 to +423,000, and the change for December was revised from +252,000 to +329,000. With these revisions, employment gains in November and December were 147,000 higher than previously reported.
Thanks, Mitch, for engineering the GOP takeover of Congress that made this happen!
* MEDICAID EXPANSION MOVES FORWARD IN ARKANSAS: The Arkansas House has given final approval to reauthorization of the state’s version of the Medicaid expansion, which is now headed to the desk of Governor Asa Hutchinson, while a task force examines alternative ways of continuing the program. This comes after Tennessee rejected the expansion; conservatives continue to succeed in stalling Obamacare’s implementation in some places, but it is proceeding in others.
Arkansas’ expansion has helped produce one of the most dramatic drops in the uninsured rate in the nation, making this a rare version of the law’s successful implementation in the south, so it’s good to see that it will likely continue.
* REPUBLICANS STRUGGLE WITH IMMIGRATION MESS: The Post reports that Democrats are intensifying attacks on Republicans over their insistence on only funding the Department of Homeland Security while also defunding Obama’s executive deportation relief. The problem for Republicans is that Senate Republicans can’t move the House GOP bill, but GOP leaders don’t believe a clean bill funding DHS could pass the House:
“The only way that a clean bill would pass the House would be with a handful of Republicans and all Democrats, and I don’t think that the speaker, especially, thinks that is without political peril for him,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.).
Well, okay. But this is exactly what we heard in advance of other previous Boehner caves. Barring an outcome in which the courts block Obama’s actions, which remains very possible, we all know how this movie will end.
* REPUBLICANS DEEPLY FRUSTRATED OVER IMMIGRATION MESS: More behind-the-scenes color from Senate Republicans enraged over the predicament they are now in:
The stalemate between the two GOP-led chambers was all the talk of a nearly two-hour long Senate Republican meeting on Thursday that boiled over with frustrations about Congress’ predicament. Many of the senators concluded that it’s up to the House to figure out what legislation can pass both chambers — because blowing this Congress’s first major deadline is unacceptable, especially given recent terrorist attacks and the terrible optics of lawmakers failing to pay for the nation’s premier anti-terrorism department.
The problem, in a nutshell, is that Senate Republicans can’t get any DHS funding that does roll back Obama’s actions past a Democratic filibuster, but House Republicans can’t pass any DHS funding that doesn’t roll back those actions. Unless, of course, they just do it with Democratic help.
* QUOTE OF THE DAY, DEFINITION-OF-INSANITY EDITION: Republicans increasingly worry they’ll take the blame for any shutdown of Homeland Security. Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson, however, isn’t giving up:
“I’m hoping public opinion starts to recognize that it’s not Republicans who are objecting or obstructing…Time out. We wouldn’t even be discussing this if President Obama hadn’t done what he did.”
But, again, government shutdown fights institutionally favor the president over Congress, and anyway, didn’t Republicans say precisely the same thing — Obama, not Republicans, is the one shutting down the government — the last time we went through this?
* THE GOP’S OBAMACARE ‘ALTERNATIVE’ HAS A PURPOSE: Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young have a good piece explaining how the new GOP Obamacare alternative falls well short of the ACA in terms of expanding coverage and protecting consumers. This is key:
Congressional Republicans want Americans — especially the nine on the Supreme Court — to think the GOP can do in less than five months what it took Democrats decades to achieve: enact comprehensive health care reform legislation. But given that Republicans have been unable to reach consensus on much beyond repealing Obamacare in the last five years, that’s an ambitious timeline.
Right! This is likely a bait and switch. Meanwhile, see Philip Klein on why the debate over Obamacare’s replacement, and the debate over what Republicans should do if the lawsuit succeed, will expose key fault lines inside the GOP that could resonate into the 2016 GOP presidential primary.
* GOP SENATOR: NO ALTERNATIVE UNTIL 2017: Meanwhile, GOP Senator Richard Burr, one of the architects of that Obamacare alternative, is candidly admitting that Republicans are unlikely to form a consensus behind it, and may not be able to pass any alternative until 2017. That would be six years after Republicans first vowed to pass their alternative, in the wake of the 2010 elections.
* REPUBLICANS HINT AT LINK BETWEEN MEASLES AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: Some Republicans are hinting there may be some kind of connection between the latest outbreak of Measles and illegal immigration. Glenn Kessler recaps some recent Republican quotes along these lines, and digs into the facts of the matter, noting that (get this!) part of the problem is the failure to get vaccinated in the first place. Conclusion:
Thus far the CDC has not traced this most recent outbreak — or previous ones — to illegal immigration…when raising the possibility that illegal immigration could spread disease, politicians also have an obligation to note that the evidence of any such link, thus far, is rather slim or even nonexistent.
Bwahahahahahaha! Of course they don’t have any such obligation!