Could Obamacare Be Wiped Out Completely on a Technicality?

It’s been three years since Congress rammed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act down our throats, and the legislation remains wildly unpopular. According to a Kaiser Health Tracking Poll last month, nearly two-thirds of Americans still have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare.

The law made its way through the court system, with the Supreme Court eventually upholding it as constitutional last June, on the grounds that it was a tax, and not a mandate. In other words, it was decided that the government isn’t forcing Americans to buy a product they may or may not want -- it is just taxing them if they don’t.

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There have been several challenges to Obamacare since, mostly around the birth control issue, as religious employers want exemption from having to provide birth control to their employees when it goes against their convictions.

Now there’s a lawsuit that might overturn Obamacare in its entirety. The Pacific Legal Foundation is challenging the law under the Origination Clause of the Constitution.

Here’s where it gets complicated and potentially shady.

The Origination Clause says that any bill that raises revenue (taxes) must originate in the House. If Obamacare originated in the Senate, as the Pacific Legal Foundation claims, the whole enchilada could be deemed unconstitutional and thrown out.

The Justice Department is arguing that the bill began as House Resolution 3590, which was originally called the Service Members Home Ownership Act. It was then sent to the Senate, where it was completely gutted and replaced with the contents of what became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

So the question is: Where did the bill originate? If HR 3590 was a “shell bill” that had its contents completely replaced and even its title changed, did it really originate in the House, as the Justice Department says? Does the Senate have the power to turn something about home ownership for service members into an expansive health care entitlement program? If not, then could we reasonable argue that the legislation itself began in the Senate, even if the resolution number was the same?

Only one thing seems certain: We haven’t seen the last of the legal challenges over Obamacare.

Do you think the Pacific Legal Foundation has a case here?


Image via Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

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