“This ruling does not have any practical impact” for now, Earnest said.
The 2-1 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Halbig vs. Burwell adhered to the text of the law — that subsidies are allowed on state-based exchanges — potentially causing costs to skyrocket for millions in the 34 states that have relied on the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov. “The legal basis for our case is strong,” Earnest said. “The intent of Congress was to ensure that every eligible American … would have access to tax credits.”
The White House isn’t expecting Congress to fix the law to overturn the ruling.
The president “is willing to work with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to make improvements to the law,” Earnest said. But given the efforts made by Republicans to repeal it, “the prospects of the kind of legislative fix that might actually improve the law seem unlikely.”
Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, tied the suit to his own plan to have the House sue over the delay in the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate in a statement:
“For the second time in a month, the courts have ruled against the president’s unilateral actions regarding ObamaCare. The president has demonstrated he believes he has the power to make his own laws. That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. That’s why the House will act next week to authorize a lawsuit to uphold the rule of law and protect our Constitution. This isn’t about Republicans versus Democrats; it’s about the Constitution versus unconstitutional and unilateral actions by the Executive Branch, and protecting our democracy.”
Earnest said the White House expects the Department of Justice will appeal the case to the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Last year, Senate Democrats used the “nuclear option” in part to fill vacancies on that court with Obama’s appointees.
But the case could ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.