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4 Worst Ways Halbig Truthers Have Spun Obamacare Architect’s Comments

One of Obamacare’s architects was caught off message this week. Way off message. Defenders didn’t handle it so well.


This week saw a major victory for attorneys who’ve argued that, according to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it’s illegal to give federal subsidies if insurance plans aren’t part of a state-based Obamacare exchange. The D.C. Circuit Court ruled that the legislation does not authorize such subsidies. Another court gave a somewhat muddled and mixed ruling on the matter that said such subsidies are ok, basically saying that Congress could have or would have been ok with it. The good news, for the attorneys fighting this battle, is that the mixed rulings make it more likely that they’ll be able to argue their case at the Supreme Court.

In any case, when that first “Halbig” ruling came down, progressive fans of Obamacare continued to argue that it was insane to think that this was a clear reading of the legislation. And they were doing all right advancing this argument, or trying to, until late Thursday. That’s when video came out showing Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber making exactly the same argument made by the attorneys fighting this issue. The comments were from back when Obamacare proponents were trying to force states to set up exchanges and before most states declined to, to the shock of a deeply out-of-touch Congress. Whoopsie! Kind of hard to call your opponents crazy when they’re merely quoting the law …. and agreeing with the guy who wrote the law. At least they agreed with him in 2012. In recent days, he’d backtracked on his claim and joined in calling this interpretation crazypants. Again, most likely because fans of the behemoth legislation are trying to salvage it even though states didn’t share Nancy Pelosi’s naive enthusiasm for it.

Now, in the hours since that video release, we’ve had a few updates. Gruber went to The New Republic to plead his case that he’d merely had a “speak-o,” which he defined as being like a typo but in verbal form. (I am not joking.) You have to see the video to see how extensive and thought-out the speak-o was, but either way it played better before another video came out showing him making the same “speak-o,” this time in prepared remarks.

But when it was just one instance of the worst possible thing happening to progressive talking points, the spin was interesting to behold. Here are some of the worst examples of progressive journalists trying to retain a busted talking point.

Vox is just another word for ignoring those who disagree

There’s not really much to say in response other than this, from one of the chief lawyers fighting the case:

And to show how wrong Ezra is on his point 4:

Whoopsie again!

Has Congress heard about a place called Kentucky?

Here we have a Washington Post pundit grasping for anything to hold onto in the aftermath of the MacGrubering. Greg Sargent tries to show that legislation is super-confusing and therefore Halbig was an inside job, or something:

Which would be, you know, a fantastic argument except that Congress wasn’t born yesterday:

Why read laws?

After the Halbig ruling came down, progressives tried to claim that no one had ever imagined that the legislation said what it did. When Obamacare-architect-author-guide Gruber himself contradicted that claim, they sort of threw up their hands and said, “yeah, but did anyone else?” Here’s Chris Hayes:

To which one journalist responded:

Of course others pointed to this Senate debate, which doesn’t help:

Wait, Congress sometimes puts incentives in legislation? Are you sure?

We should be easy on Mr. Beutler. He’s had a tough week. But still, if you are a journalist who covers federal politics, you should know that there are things that the federal government tries to encourage states to do using some combination of carrots and sticks. Such as setting up state exchanges to help bear the cost of super-chaotic legislation that nobody outside of corporate lobbyists read before passing. Or as Sean Davis puts it:

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