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Wonkshop by Doktor Zoom

Were you horrified yesterday when you read that the Trump Justice Department was noping out of its legal obligation to defend Obamacare in court? That they're only too happy to yank the foundation out from under the superstructure of America's healthcare system and watch the entire edifice come crashing down? That these heartless lunatics are craven enough to take Medicaid away from 12 million people and deprive American citizens of coverage for pre-existing conditions just to get rid of a law nicknamed after a black president?

OH, BUT IT GETS WORSE. Turns out that Attorney General Bill Barr knew damn well that the Justice Department had an obligation to defend the law. And Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, "Hey, guys. Do not do this! If you win, it will cause absolute chaos." (Allegedly.) But Budget Man/White House COS Mick Mulvaney and his goons said, "Let's just do it and be legends, man!" (Probably.) Then Trump said DEEEEERP, MCCAINGHAZI OBUMMERCARE HILLARYGATE. And that's how it all went down, according to Politico:

The Trump administration's surprising move to invalidate Obamacare on Monday came despite the opposition of two key cabinet secretaries: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General Bill Barr.

Driving the dramatic action were the administration's domestic policy chief, Joe Grogan, and the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vought, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the decision. Both are close allies of White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who helped to engineer the move.

So much for Bill Barr the institutionalist, defender of the Justice Department and its proud traditions, and man of unimpeachable integrity. As University of Michigan law professor Nick Bagley put it in the New York Times:


The irresponsibility of this new legal position is hard to overstate. It's a shocking dereliction of the Justice Department's duty, embraced by Republican and Democratic administrations alike, to defend acts of Congress if any plausible argument can be made in their defense.

Gives ya that extra boost of confidence that Barr is being square with Congress about the Mueller report, don't it? YEAH, NOT SO MUCH.

Secretary Azar's representative insists that he "fully supports the Administration's litigation position in the ACA case." You bet!

For their part, Republicans in Congress have settled on a coherent response and it is ... to praise Trump for his infinite wisdom and sagacity in destroying the American healthcare system.

Okay, that's actually totally incoherent. Are they really saying that Trump putting a gun to the head of 12 million Medicaid recipients and threatening to pull the trigger is exactly the motivation Congress needs to gut the nation's healthcare system? And now that Democrats control the House, they're totally going to vote to repeal Obamacare this time, for sure?

Holy shit, that really is what they're saying!

"Congress needs to do its job and find a solution," said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who faces a tough re-election campaign. But Senate Republicans have no apparent plan to act if the law is struck down.

Other Republicans eager to see their party take another crack at health care said Trump was shrewdly pressing them into action.

"We shouldn't avoid this. And he's not going to let us," said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.).

Trump could offer these craven hacks a glass of warm piss, and they'd all swear it was the finest chardonnay. All except for Susan Collins, who is doing her very best Susan Collins.

Yes, Susan Collins is pulling out her most fearsome weapon: a letter to the editor. That'll show them!

So, to recap: Bill Barr and Solicitor General Noel Francisco will not use their considerable prestige to force the president to abide by his lawful obligation to defend a duly enacted congressional statute. Proximity to power and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to pack the judiciary are just too delicious, and they know that Democratic state attorneys general will almost certainly get this patently incorrect trial judge's ruling overturned. So Barr and Francisco will sacrifice the Justice Department's independence and integrity -- not to mention their own reputations -- on the altar of Trump's sniveling insecurity, which makes him an easy mark for anti-tax cranks like Mick Mulvaney, who are delighted to foist junk policies on the poor if it improves corporate profitability by a nickel.

So, fine. If they want to make 2020 about healthcare again, no complaints on our end.

Okay, Poppy. But maybe not in exactly the way you think.

[Politico / NYT]

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