White House says it is 'quite pleased' with ObamaCare defense
© Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday said it is “quite pleased” with the administration’s defense of ObamaCare at the Supreme Court.

While press secretary Josh Earnest said it was "unwise to draw conclusions on the ruling based solely on the questioning of the justices," he praised the performance of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.

"I can say generally that the administration was quite pleased with the performance of the solicitor general in making a strong case to the court about the constitutionality of the law and the clear reading that we believe is there," Earnest said.

Verrilli on Wednesday was called upon to defend ObamaCare at the high court for the second time in three years. He came under fire for his arguments in 2012, with some wrongly speculating he had lost the case for the administration with a halting performance.


The Supreme Court justices appeared split during oral arguments Wednesday in King v. Burwell, which centers on whether federal tax subsidies for ObamaCare can legally be distributed to those in 37 states that have not set up an insurance exchange. 

Conservative Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito appeared to be supportive of the plaintiff's argument that ObamaCare clearly stipulates subsidies can only be distributed through exchanges “established by the state.”

Liberal justices on the court argued ruling against the law could strip health insurance from millions of people. Verrilli said that a ruling against the subsidies under the law would "revoke the administration's promise" of providing health insurance to all Americans.

Earnest accused the plaintiffs in the case of twisting the law.

"The law is really clear that you really have to take four words entirely out of context in a 900-page law to contort it to mean what the plaintiffs in this case want it to mean," Earnest said.

"It has been clear from the beginning, throughout the congressional debates, that what the law envisioned was that every American, in all 50 states, would be eligible to collect tax credits to make their insurance more affordable if they qualify," Earnest added.

Earnest also took a shot at Congress, saying lawmakers "struggle mightily to do the simplest" things, pointing to recent battles over funding the Department of Homeland Security. He said legislative path to remedy the law's wording over health subsidies was "not available."

Replying to Alito's argument that it was "not too late" for states to set up their own exchanges and become eligible for subsidies, Earnest stressed that the administration has no plan B.

"I think as a practical matter it's important for people to understand that there is no contingency plan that could be implemented to prevent the catastrophic damage that would be done" by striking down the subsidies.

White House counsel Neil Eggleston and a handful of other officials attended the hearing Wednesday and briefed President Obama on opening arguments, Earnest said.