Here is the state of play:
Today’s ruling was in Pruitt v. Burwell, a case brought by Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt.
These cases saw two appellate-court rulings on the same day, July 22. In Halbig v. Burwell, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered the administration to stop. (The full D.C. Circuit has agreed to review the case en banc on December 17, a move that automatically vacates the panel ruling. In King v. Burwell, the Fourth Circuit implausibly gave the IRS the thumbs-up. (The plaintiffs have appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court.) A fourth case, Indiana v. IRS, brought by Indiana attorney general Greg Zoeller, goes to oral arguments in federal district court on October 9.
Today, federal judge Ronald A. White issued a ruling in Pruitt that sided with Halbig against King, and eviscerated the arguments made by the (more senior) judges who sided with the government in those cases.
…and, as a refresher: the question here is whether the IRS has statutory authority to set up Obamacare subsidies in states that did not set up a state exchange, given that the actual law in question only authorizes subsidies for states that did set up their own exchange. The Left likes to pretend that the failure of that option to appear in the law is in no way a stick with which to beat recalcitrant states; they largely get away with it because their base both doesn’t have a clue about how often the government goes to that particular well (go look up sometime what sins have been committed in the name of ‘keeping state access to federal highway funds’), and because, frankly, the Democrats’ progressive base refuses to read. Or watch things.
It’s assumed that the en banc review mentioned above is going to end up reversing Halbig; but Pruitt is now going to go up the judicial food chain in the 10th Circuit, and at some point the Supreme Court is going to jump into this one. There’s just been too much disagreement over this, and the Democrats have simply been too nakedly partisan in the process. Getting the Supreme Court to just settle this would be marvelous, thanks.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
PS: By all accounts, the judge in this case ripped into the people – and judges! – screaming about what this decision will do to Barack Obama’s policy objectives. As opposed to whether something was lawful or not.
PPS: Do note that if federal subsidies for Obamacare do go away for states lacking their own exchanges, then there will be an immediate and sustained push to browbeat those states into getting them. The demagogy will be epic. Whether or not it will be compensated for by the IRS promptly going out and demanding retroactive back taxes (with interest!) from millions of sudden tax delinquents is an issue for another post.