clock menu more-arrow no yes

King v. Burwell: the most surprising thing about the Supreme Court term so far

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Supreme Court will rule this month on King v. Burwell, a case arguing that Obamacare's insurance subsidies are illegal. A decision in favor of President Obama's health-care law could solidify its place in history — but one against would throw the insurance expansion into chaos.

Up until the ruling, Vox will collect the most important news, commentary, and thoughts on what could happen — and what it means for the Affordable Care Act.

It's Friday, Friday, got to get Supreme Court decisions on Friday The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will issue decisions this coming Thursday and Friday. The smart folks at SCOTUSBlog — arguably the only Supreme Court speculators worth listening to — are gearing up for a possible Friday ruling in King:

What to send to your friend who literally just started paying attention to King this week — this.

What to send to your friend who literally just started paying attention to King this week and really likes dogs — this.

The surprising leftward lean of this Supreme Court term An awesome graphic from the awesome folks at the Upshot shows that while the Roberts Court leans conservative, "the current term is leaning left as it enters its final two weeks."

More from Alicia Parlapiano, Adam Liptak, and Jeremy Bowers:

The court has issued liberal decisions in 54 percent of the cases in which it had announced decisions as of June 22, according to the Supreme Court Database, using a widely accepted standard developed by political scientists. If that trend holds, the final percentage could rival the highest since the era of the notably liberal court of the 1950s and 1960s led by Chief Justice Earl Warren. The closest contenders are the previous term and the one that started in 2004 and ended with the announcement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement.

As for what this means for King, you could probably read it either way. That the Roberts Court leans liberal this term could indicate more willingness to save a major health insurance expansion. Or it could be bad news, as the Court could be looking to offset this liberal lean in its highest-profile decisions.

States aren't doing much planning for a King win — Abby Goodnough reports in the New York Times:

In the vast majority of states that rely on the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, there is little or no evidence that anyone has a plan to preserve the subsidies that help more than six million residents of those states afford their insurance premiums. Most of the affected states have Republican governors, and many, including Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Scott of Florida and Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, insist it is Congress’s job to come up with a remedy if the subsidies disappear.

Health insurers, who have even less they could do to prepare, are also in a wait-and-see mode. Reed Abelson writes more about that here. And another good read from the Times on King: Michael Shear looks at how the case puts Obama's legacy on the line.

Parsing the politics of a pro-King decision — Kaiser Family Foundation's Drew Altman thinks "Republicans would feel the heat much like they did after the government shutdown."

Ryan faces flak for his King fix plan Libertarian economist John C. Goodman critiques the House Budget chair's proposal, which would extend Obamacare subsidies in return for repealing other provisions. "In Wednesday’s message to his fellow House members, Paul Ryan’s position was little more than waving the white flag of surrender," Goodman writes for Forbes. "As much as I hate to admit it, the latest Republican proposal is nothing more than a smokescreen, designed to give ObamaCare two more years of life."

Goodman's piece, as well as Rep. Paul Gosar's (R-AZ) bill to prevent the extension of subsidies, point toward a growing divide between establishment Republicans, who are looking at King fixes, and the more conservative wing, who want Obamacare gone completely.

Where have we seen this Republican divide before? Oh, right.

Peter Suderman dives into why Republicans can't come up with an Obamacare replacement. Think vaporware.

Tweet of the day

Chart of the day

This chart shows how we ended up with the King case at the Supreme Court — and where lower courts have come down on it and similar challenges. You can read more about the history of the legal challenge to Obamacare's subsidies here.

From the department of speculation: who is writing King? Another fun (er, "fun") guessing game attempting to figure out which justice is writing which opinion, looking at the caseload of opinions they've written so far. David Kendall takes a stab at it in the Wall Street Journal:

Three justices representing a range of ideological leanings haven’t written opinions from the session in which the health-care case was considered: Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Only one other case besides the health care matter remains pending from that session, a closely watched dispute about whether states can use independent redistricting commissions to prevent lawmakers from drawing congressional maps to maximize their partisan advantage.

Want to see dogs recreate the Supreme Court's King v. Burwell arguments? Of course you do.

That's all until next time. Well, except for this (hat tip to Vox's Dylan Matthews for suggesting this delightful pun, and stock art company Shutterstock for providing a surprisingly robust collection of drunk dogs. Also, credit to National Journal's Sam Baker, who has such an on-point pun game he came up with this idea months ago.).

slurwell

(Shutterstock)