Friday, February 20, 2015

The libertarians behind the Obamacare challenge

Libertarian group launched backup plan to Obamacare - - Joan Biskupic, Reuters:

February 20, 2015 - "The U.S. Supreme Court case that could shatter President Barack Obama’s healthcare law this year was launched as a backup plan by a libertarian group and a powerful Washington lawyer frustrated by the slow progress of their original lawsuit.

"Their success in persuading the court to take the ideologically driven case owes to a combination of canny legal tactics and the willingness of at least four justices to hear it in unusually swift time. Oral arguments are set for March 4....

"At stake now are the tax-credit subsidies that have allowed low- and moderate-income Americans to buy insurance. The plaintiffs say the government unlawfully extended credits to states that did not create local insurance exchanges.

"The plaintiffs’ lead lawyer, Michael Carvin, represented some of the challengers in 2012. He and the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), bankrolling the current lawsuit, began planning the new attack soon after that bid failed....

"The new challenge originated at a conference by the conservative American Enterprise Institute in 2010, where an employee-benefits lawyer highlighted an ACA provision allowing tax credits through exchanges 'established by the state'....

"Carvin filed first in May 2013 in a District of Columbia federal jurisdiction, where the government is based and where the appeals court was dominated by Republican appointees.

"When four months passed without much action, Carvin tried a gambit that would become decisive. He turned to a Virginia federal judicial district nicknamed the “rocket docket” for its speed in moving cases....

"The Virginia district court judge sided with the government in February 2014 and an appeals court affirmed in July.

"By early 2014 the D.C. case was moving. A judge ruled for the government, but then a panel of the D.C. Circuit reversed the decision, on the same July day as the Virginia ruling. That split gave Carvin ammunition for the high court, which typically waits for a division in appeals courts before hearing a dispute....

"In November, over the objections of U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the conservative-leaning Supreme Court granted Carvin’s Virginia appeal. It takes only four of the nine justices to agree to hear a case. The vote was in secret, and the justices, as is their practice, did not explain the order."

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