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September 04, 2014 11:59 AM D.C. Circuit Panel’s Halbig Decision Goes “Poof!”

By Ed Kilgore

In breaking news this morning, the full D.C. Court of Appeals vacated a three-judge panel’s earlier decision in the Halbig case challenging the statutory authorization for health insurance subsidies for policies purchased on Obamacare’s federal exchanges, and agreed to hear the case en banc, which means the whole Court.

That massively increases the likelihood that the D.C. Circuit will reach a different conclusion in the case. And perhaps just as importantly, it eliminates for the time being the argument that the Supreme Court needs to step in to resolve crucial disagreements between different circuits (the 4th Circuit dismissed a similar suit).

As ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser notes, conservatives can be expected argue that the unusual nature of the full D.C. circuit’s intervention in the case justifies Supreme Court review even if the inter-circuit disagreement rationale goes away. So the bottom line may actually come down to how badly the Supremes do—or don’t—want this case.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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