History may be poised to repeat itself. For the second time in the last five presidential elections, the U.S. Supreme Court may well decide who will sit in the Oval Office.
The Court has accepted for review another challenge to the Affordable Care Act. The question before it—does the law permit federal government subsidies to the needy in states that do not have their own health exchange programs. In those states the federal government has stepped in to provide subsidies (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/08/us/politics/supreme-court-to-hear-new-challenge-to-health-law.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0).
If the Supremes declare the subsidies to be illegal, Obamacare may tumble down from lack of sufficient funding. It also would mean millions would lose health care coverage. It’s pretty certain the four justices who voted against Obamacare two years ago would do so again, meaning Chief Justice John Roberts would be the deciding judge. Again.
If Roberts blocks the subsidies and the ACA ultimately succumbs to a Republican-led attack, universal health care once more would become a key campaign issue in 2016. As they have championed it for decades, Democrats, most prominently their presidential candidate, would benefit from such an outcome.
Given a June 2015 court decision, Republicans would have just over a year to forge an acceptable alternative to a law that has extended health coverage to more Americans than at any other time in our history. That’s unlikely to transpire given the venomous reaction many conservatives have to such a program.
A negative decision and Republican antipathy toward a replacement ACA might also provide incentive to voters to elect more Democrats to the Senate and even possibly return the Dems to the majority in the House.
It’s an intriguing state of affairs. Having injected itself into state election law in Florida and chosen George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000, the Supreme Court may wind up influencing who gets elected to the White House in 2016.
Ah, I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Democratic leadership meetings as they discuss what would be better for the party, and the country, come next June.