The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell this Wednesday, and once again the fate of the Affordable Care Act will be in the nine justices’ hands. Unlike National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius, the 2012 case that affirmed the ACA’s individual mandate but gutted its expansion of Medicaid, King turns not on the act’s constitutionality but rather on an statutory issue variously described as “bordering on frivolous,” “nested in a fictional history of Congressional intent,” and “fluff.” But like the prior case, whose result effectively denied health insurance to half of the 17 million intended to have been covered by the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, King, if decided against the government, could leave another 8.2 million uninsured and, effectively, send the ACA into its oft-cited “death spiral.” Naturally, the Kochs are pulling more than their fair share of strings.
The Kochs and their affiliated groups spent vast sums to try to stop the Affordable Care Act from passing in the first place; to unseat those that backed the law over the course of several election cycles; and more recently, to stymie the law’s implementation (e.g., killing Medicaid expansion in Tennessee last month). And the influence of the Koch network pervades nearly every part of the challengers’ case in King v. Burwell.
As Mother Jones noted last month, “The King case started out as a legal theory hatched by a group of conservative lawyers in 2010 at a conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, the right-leaning think tank.” AEI, of course, is a very large recipient of Koch cash, and David Koch co-chairs its National Council. One of the speakers on that AEI panel was Michael Greve, now a law professor at George Mason (where the “staunchly anti-regulatory,” Koch Industries–funded Mercatus Center is located). “This bastard has to be killed as a matter of political hygiene,” Greve said about the Affordable Care Act during the AEI panel. “I don’t care how this is done, whether it’s dismembered, whether we drive a stake through its heart, whether we tar and feather it and drive it out of town, whether we strangle it. I don’t care who does it, whether it’s some court some place, or the United States Congress. Any which way, any dollar spent on that goal is worth spending, any brief filed toward that end is worth filing, any speech or panel contribution toward that end is of service to the United States.” Greve has continued to comment on King v. Burwell, including when he recently compared health reform to the Holocaust.