The Supreme Court is hearing arguments right now in King v. Burwell, a case that could thoroughly wreck Obamacare by nixing the insurance subsidies provided by the law for Americans in the 37 states that didn’t set up their own health care exchanges. Earlier this week, I noted that a number of Republicans were getting nervous about the political ramifications of such a decision and were suggesting that Congress pass a “transitional” bill to keep the subsidies alive temporarily in order to avoid voter outrage over nightly news stories about sick people losing their coverage. If the justices gut the law, I argued, political expedience might save it for a while.
I might have spoken a little too soon. According to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, just 54 percent of Americans say they want Congress to pass a law fixing the subsidies should the court strike them down. Thirty-five percent said Congress definitely should not. The rest said “it depends” or weren’t sure. But crucially, there was a severe partisan split: Eight in 10 Democrats want lawmakers to restore the subsidies, while only 1 in 4 Republicans want them to. Since House GOP members are by far most concerned with placating their base and avoiding primary challenges, that suggests they won’t have much reason to take action in the wake of a court ruling against the administration. Maybe public opinion will shift once voters actually witness the results of eliminating the subsidies, but that’s obviously a hypothetical.