Hunkering down

The Obama admin­is­tra­tion appears to be hun­ker­ing down for a long fight to defend its health care law. The fight will sap the administration’s energy just as it pre­pares for a reelec­tion campaign.

A pair of fed­eral judges are hint­ing that they may strike down part of the 900-plus–page law. Earlier this week, the admin­is­tra­tion reminded one of the judges he only had to strike down part of the law if he ruled that some por­tion of the law was uncon­sti­tu­tional. The administration’s lawyers help­fully sug­gested that if the mandatory-​​coverage pro­vi­sion had to go, the guaranteed-​​issue and community-​​rating pro­vi­sions would too, but not the pro­vi­sions like those for “improv­ing women’s health” and “improv[ing] demen­tia and abuse pre­ven­tion train­ing.” (More on that later.)

The health-​​care law has proved unpop­u­lar. Republicans and Democrats both think that it was key in the GOP’s vic­tory in the House and win­ning a larger pres­ence in the Senate. That’s why Republicans are falling over them­selves to repeal some or all of the act when the new mem­bers take their seats in January.

Facing down law­suits from 20 states—plus more when newly-​​elected offi­cials opposed to the health-​​care law are sworn in—can’t be an excit­ing prospect for the admin­is­tra­tion. Although it will surely empha­size the law’s more-​​popular pro­vi­sions, this is not a sub­ject that the admin­is­tra­tion needs in the head­lines as it crafts its argu­ment that it deserves another 4 years.