Is SCOTUS’s gambit to wreck healthcare unprecedented?

Linda Greenhouse says it is — and that next to SCOTUS’s decision to put Obamacare on the choppping block, Bush v. Gore was nothing.

There was no urgency. There was no crisis of governance, not even a potential one. There is, rather, a politically manufactured argument over how to interpret several sections of the Affordable Care Act that admittedly fit awkwardly together in defining how the tax credits are supposed to work for people who buy their health insurance on the exchanges set up under the law.

Further, the case the court agreed to decide, King v. Burwell, doesn’t fit the normal criterion for Supreme Court review. There is no conflict among the federal appellate circuits. (Remember that just a month ago, the absence of a circuit conflict led the justices to decline to hear seven same-sex marriage cases?) In the King case, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., unanimously upheld the government’s position that the tax subsidy is available to those who buy insurance on the federally run exchanges that are now in operation in 36 states.…The absence of a circuit conflict and an imminent rehearing by the country’s most important court of appeals would, in the past, have led the Supreme Court to refrain from getting involved.

So no, this isn’t Bush v. Gore. This is a naked power grab by conservative justices who two years ago just missed killing the Affordable Care Act in its cradle, before it fully took effect. When the court agreed to hear the first case, there actually was a conflict in the circuits on the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate. So the Supreme Court’s grant of review was not only unexceptional but necessary: a neutral act. The popular belief then that the court’s intervention indicated hostility to the law was, at the least, premature.

As Greenhouse notes, it takes four justices to call a case to the court. She assumes the four who did so likely include the four who tried to kill ACA in its crib two years ago; they failed only because Chief Justice John Roberts failed to vote along with them, as he often does. The healthcare of tens of millions may soon depend on how John Roberts views a few clumsily written phrases.

The link and excerpt above are part of today’s edition of my almost-daily Read Two newsletter,  which you can get by signing up here or in the box at right.  Also in today’s Read Two were stories by Alex Horton on How Three Veterans Uncovered the Iraq War’s Biggest Untold Story, Frank Swain on  tuning his hearing aid to WIFI, and Ed Yong on Why Some Microbiome Studies May Be Wrong.