Tom Miller: Halbig v. Sebelius: Courtside notes

AEIdeas, March 26, 2014

March Madness moved to another arena on Tuesday morning at the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. The legal matchup involved private individuals and employers who are challenging an Internal Revenue Service rule issued in 2012 that authorized the distribution of federal tax credits for insurance premium assistance in the health exchange established by the federal government under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Obama administration was back in court, playing defense against claims that it had failed to enforce the law as it was written and enacted by Congress. Its lawyers were trying to uphold their previous victory in a lower court last January, or at least run out the legal clock while the ACA exchange provisions are implemented and become harder to dislodge.

Yesterday morning, supporters of the IRS rule faced a less favorable set of referees: a three-man crew that included a pair appointed by Republican presidents (Bush (41) and Bush (43)).

The quick takeaway: Judge Harry T. Edwards (1980 Carter appointee) and Judge A. Raymond Randolph (1990 G.H.W Bush appointee) appeared to be pretty committed to opposite sides of the argument. Judge Thomas B. Griffith (2005 G.W. Bush appointee) is the swing vote, and by the end of yesterday’s hearing, he appeared to be swinging toward the appellants (the plaintiffs who had lost in federal district court).

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