Cruz slams Obama officials for refusing to testify

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed the Obama administration on Thursday for refusing to send witnesses to a hearing he held about a healthcare dispute now before the Supreme Court. 

{mosads}Cruz, the chairman of a Judiciary Committee subpanel, as well as  a presidential candidate, held a hearing Thursday on the IRS’s decision to allow ObamaCare subsidies to flow into federally run marketplaces in addition to state-run marketplaces. 

The question of whether subsidies can be used in the federal exchanges is now before the Supreme Court in the case of King v. Burwell. A decision in the blockbuster case is expected later this month, and could cut off subsidies for 6.4 million people if the court rules against the president’s signature law.

Cruz had invited Treasury Department officials to testify on the rule-making process, but the administration declined to send them, citing the pending case before the Supreme Court. 

“I want to take a few minutes to discuss the empty table before us,” Cruz said to open the hearing. “It is a symbol for what little regard the Obama administration seems to have for the American people.”

As he also did in a May 27 letter to the Treasury Department, Cruz raised the possibility of subpoenas. 

Republicans argue that ObamaCare’s text referring to marketplaces “established by the state” makes clear that subsidies are only available on state-run marketplaces, not the federal ones. 

“The statutory text is straightforward and at the end of the day is not a complicated question,” Cruz said in pointing to the phrase.

The Obama administration and its backers argue that Republicans are taking one phrase out of context, in contradiction to the rest of the law, which makes clear that subsidies are meant to be available in all states. 

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said he found it “unremarkable” that the administration did not send witnesses, given the pending court case. 

Democrats noted that Republicans could invite the witnesses back once the case is decided. 

“It is my hope that we will move past this political theater and back to the substance of the Judiciary Committee,” Coons said. 

On the substance of the issue, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said that when ObamaCare was passed “everybody understood” that subsidies would be available in all states. 

“The Act simply would not have worked any other way,” he added.

Supporters of the law have pointed to statements from figures like the Congressional Budget Office director at the time, Douglas Elmendorf, who said that no one at the time questioned his agency’s assumption that subsidies would be available on both federal and state marketplaces. 

Republicans are now working on backup plans in case the court invalidates the subsidies. One option is to temporarily continue the ObamaCare subsidies until 2017, when a Republicans hope a member of their party will be president and can fully repeal and replace the law. 

Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler said last month that Cruz will wait until the decision to come down before taking a position on the question of temporarily extending the subsidies.

Tags Chris Coons Richard Blumenthal Ted Cruz
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