“That was their option within the law, but now the IRS and Treasury's rule has invalidated my state's decision, harmed many employers and workers in my state and added to the federal deficit.”
Emily S. McMahon, a Treasury Department official who was involved in the IRS rule-making, said repeatedly on Wednesday that the department's interpretation essentially equating federal exchanges with state exchanges was “consistent with the statute as a whole.”
Lankford said there was no evidence the department carefully considered the question.
Simon Lazarus, a constitutional attorney, testified that the law's purpose was to provide nearly universal health care coverage. In context of the law and its goal, he said, the interpretation by Pruitt and others in regard to the exchanges was “highly implausible.”
Objection to hearing
Democrats on the subcommittee blasted the hearing as improper, considering Pruitt's ongoing case.
Rep. Jackie Speier, of California, the top Democrat on the subcommittee, told Lankford that he should steer the panel away from asking questions that could jeopardize a fair trial.
“Otherwise, I believe you may, intentionally or not, permit the legal process to be tainted by political interference,” Speier said.
Moreover, she said, “If Mr. Pruitt's lawsuit were to prevail, all he would achieve is making health care unaffordable to over 300,000 Oklahomans who would no longer be able to receive premium tax credits to help them buy health insurance in Oklahoma.”
A legal victory for Pruitt, she said, would be “a terrible loss for the lower-income people of Oklahoma who pay the attorney general's salary and whose taxes are even underwriting the very lawsuit that would deny them benefits.”