A recently surfaced 2010 quote from one of the major funders behind the latest legal challenge to Obamacare perfectly encapsulates the ends-justify-the-means ethos that is driving the litigation.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is helping to pay for the lawsuit, Halbig v. Burwell, which seeks to invalidate Obamacare’s tax subsidies being offered on the federal health insurance exchange, HealthCare.gov. In 2010, CEI chairman Michael Greve made plain that anything should be done to stop the law. “I do not care how it’s done,” he said at the time. “I don’t care who does it.”
Here is what Greve said at a 2010 conference hosted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, where Greve is an adjunct scholar, as The New York Times’s Linda Greenhouse reported this week:
“This bastard has to be killed as a matter of political hygiene. I do not care how this is done, whether it’s dismembered, whether we drive a stake through its heart, whether we tar and feather it and drive it out of town, whether we strangle it. I don’t care who does it, whether it’s some court some place, or the United States Congress. Any which way, any dollar spent on that goal is worth spending, any brief filed toward that end is worth filing, any speech or panel contribution toward that end is of service to the United States.”
The quote seems particularly revealing in the wake of the Halbig lawsuit, which most dismissed as a legal long shot until a federal appeals court ruled in its favor last month. It could now head to the Supreme Court, putting the law’s fate in the hands of the nation’s highest court for the second time since its passage.
It was considered a long shot because almost everybody who was there at the time — reporters, legislators and accountants — agreed that the rationale behind the lawsuit was absurd. The challengers argued that Congress had always meant to prohibit subsidies on the federal exchange, which would now strip more than 4 million people of financial help. The evidence — aside from some admittedly poor drafting — seemed negligible to non-existent in many observers’ eyes.
Those advancing the lawsuit, and some of their allies in the conservative media, have contorted their own understanding of the law into something that seems unrecognizable to those who spent months creating and covering it. It has left a number of liberal commentators baffled. But in the context of Greve’s professed vendetta against Obamacare, it makes a bit more sense.
One other comment from Greve during that 2010 panel seems particularly prescient. Back then, the individual mandate was the top legal target for those seeking to stop Obamacare. But Greve encouraged opponents, even before the Supreme Court upheld the mandate in 2012, to focus on “bits and pieces” of the law to stop it. And now, what many regard as a typo or poor drafting threatens to undo Obamacare.
“I think this is the right way to go,” Greve said, “to concentrate on bits and pieces of this law beyond the mandate.”
Image via this video of the AEI conference. Greve’s comments begin around the 1-hour, 30-minute mark.