(Bloomberg Politics) — Senate Republican leaders are seriously considering legislation that would extend Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) health insurance tax credits through the 2016 election even if the Supreme Court invalidates them later this year.
Three top Republicans told Bloomberg Politics on Tuesday they are preparing a legislative response in case their party gets what it is wishing for: A Supreme Court ruling that would eviscerate a central tenet of PPACA by declaring tax credits on the federal exchange illegal.
While such a ruling would represent a political victory for Republicans who have contended that PPACA is an overreach, some party leaders acknowledge that the real-life consequences could make it a Pyrrhic one.
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Senate Republicans were “close to a consensus” that would “not leave 6 or 7 million Americans in the lurch” if they lose their insurance tax credits.
He pointed to a bill proposed by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, one of the most politically vulnerable Republicans facing reelection in 2016, as a template. The bill would preserve the PPACA tax subsidies available through the federal exchange, the legality of which are at stake in the case before the Supreme Court, through August 2017. It has 31 Republican cosponsors.
“Senator Johnson has developed a lot of support for his idea,” Alexander said in an interview. “And basically it says if you like your health care plan you can keep it. And if you want more freedom you can have it. And so the Republican response is likely to be implementing those ideas.”
The Johnson legislation—which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and his four top lieutenants have cosponsored—would also repeal the health care law’s individual mandate and employer mandate. It serves as political cover for Johnson as well as the Republican presidential nominee against possible Democratic attacks for helping bring about a decision that abruptly took away subsidies from millions of Americans.