GOP Senator Explains GOP’s Biggest Fear If Obamacare Goes Down In Court

J. Scott Applewhite

In a little-noticed radio interview, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) articulated the GOP’s biggest fear if the Supreme Court wipes out Obamacare tax credits for millions of Americans who buy insurance from the federal HealthCare.gov exchange.

The fear: President Barack Obama and Democrats will be ready with a
one-page bill to restore the subsidies, as well as a slew of attack ads
telling horror stories about “individuals that have benefited from
Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer” and lost their coverage, the Republican said.

Here’s the transcript from the April 14 interview radio interview, in which Johnson is asked a question by host Jay Weber about King v. Burwell.

JOHNSON: Unfortunately, President Obama’s response to an adverse decision — in other words one that actually follows the law — would be really simple. Just a one-sentence bill allowing people’s subsidies to flow to federal exchanges and/or offer the governors, ‘Hey, we know you got those federal exchanges. Just sign the bottom line. We’ll make those established by the state.’ And of course, he’ll have the ads all racked up with the individuals that have benefited from Obamacare on the backs of the American taxpayer. He’ll have all those examples as well so…

WEBER: And the sad sack stories about who’s dying from what and why they can’t get their coverage.

JOHNSON: Right.

WEBER: Oh yeah.

Below is audio from the interview, which was clipped by the pro-Democratic opposition research group American Bridge.

Johnson’s point was that Republicans must be ready with an effective response if the Court sides with their interpretation of the law and restricts the subsidies to state-run exchanges. So far, GOP leaders have sketched out ideas to mitigate the damage in such a scenario but appear short of a legislative solution that could unite the party. A ruling is expected by the end of June.

Johnson, who’s seen as one of the most vulnerable senators facing reelection, expounded on those fears in an April 13 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, which some Republican aides and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) have also expressed.

“What will happen next is predictable: A deluge of attacks on Republicans for supposedly having caused this,” Sasse wrote in a Feb. 25 op-ed for the Journal. “Daily White House emergency briefings. Liberal interest-group ads of wheelchairs going over cliffs. President Obama’s cheerleaders in the media screaming that ideologues are killing patients.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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