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Monday, March 24, 2014

ObamaCare's Latest Legal Challenge -- Review & Outlook, The Wall Street Journal

Can the White House simply declare that the federal government is the 51st state? 

A defining feature of President Obama's second term is his willfulness in defying limits on executive power to suit his political goals, and no more so than with the Affordable Care Act. The judiciary is the last check on those abuses, and this week it will have another opportunity to vindicate the rule of law.

On Tuesday the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear one of the more important legal challenges to ObamaCare's lawless implementation. Unlike the challenge to the individual insurance mandate, Halbig v. Sebelius involves no great questions of constitutional interpretation. The plaintiffs are merely asking the judges to tell the Administration to faithfully execute the plain language of the statute that Congress passed and President Obama signed.

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The Affordable Care Act—at least the version that passed in 2010—instructed the states to establish insurance exchanges, and if they didn't the Health and Human Services Department was authorized to build federal exchanges. The law says that subsidies will be available only to people who enroll "through an Exchange established by the State." The question in Halbig is whether these taxpayer subsidies can be distributed through the federal exchanges, as the Administration insists.

Prior to passage, Democrats were divided over the structure of the exchanges, with liberals favoring a national clearinghouse and moderates state control. The federalists won and conditioned the subsidies on state-based exchanges.
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