Senate GOP Leaders May Not Have A Health Care Bill By SCOTUS Ruling

March 3, 2015 3:15 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders wouldn’t commit Tuesday to having health care legislation ready by June to avert a potential crisis if the Supreme Court wipes out Obamacare subsidies for millions of Americans.

One day before Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, TPM asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at his weekly Capitol press conference if the GOP would have bill ready to mitigate the potential health care crisis.

The short answer: We’re working on it, but won’t commit to anything.

“Well, we won’t know what the Court is going to decide probably until June,” McConnell said, before turning the mic over to Senate Republican Policy Committee Chair John Barrasso (R-WY), his point person on health care.

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Barrasso said, “We’re working on a temporary transition for people who may end up losing their insurance as the Supreme Court shows that the president has acted illegally. I don’t think anyone really clearly fully anticipated what the Supreme Court was going to do last time. So we have to see exactly what the Supreme Court rules.”

The justices will meet privately this Friday to cast their votes in the case, and a final ruling is expected by the end of June.

Barrasso said he hopes the Supreme Court rules for the challengers that the language of the Affordable Care Act only allows subsidies for those enrolled on state-run exchanges and not the federal exchange which serves about three-dozen states.

The Wyoming Republican, a doctor, pointed to various op-eds written by leading Republicans in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post sketching out some ideas for a potential “fix” if Obamacare loses, such as protecting those who would lose their coverage and giving states flexibility to opt out of Obamacare.

The task of writing legislation, of course, is much more complicated than offering broad ideas. It would involve difficult trade-offs on policy matters and would be scored by the Congressional Budget Office for impacts on the uninsured and the budget. It is one reason Republicans have struggled to put forth an alternative in the five years since Obamacare was enacted.

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