Lobbyists await verdict on Obamacare after big-budget spending war

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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The Supreme Court is set to issue a ruling on the constitutionality of Obamacare on Thursday, and groups and lobbyists representing both sides of the debate are waiting to see if their efforts during the past two years will pay off.

More than 130 groups filed briefs in the case, and 16 reported spending millions of dollars lobbying on Obamacare.

Numbers from the Sunlight Foundation show that organizations supporting the Obamacare spent more than $62 million lobbying this cycle, and opposition groups spent nearly $42 million during the same period.

The AFL-CIO, which spent $29.7 million on lobbying this cycle, was Obamacare’s biggest backer. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has said a decision overturning Obamacare “would stand the country on its head.”

The American Hospital Association (AHA) and the AARP each spent nearly $13 million on lobbying this cycle in their efforts to see Obamacare upheld.

“While the legislation is not perfect, it would extend coverage to millions more Americans,” AHA argued in its amicus brief. “To undo the ACA now would be to maintain an unacceptable status quo — a result that is neither prudent nor compelled by the Constitution.”

AARP’s CEO, A. Barry Rand, wrote in a bulletin that Obamacare was vital for the nation’s seniors.

“The Affordable Care Act will help millions of Americans afford insurance coverage, will strengthen Medicare and will add new benefits and protections that will help you and your family,” Rand wrote. “That’s why AARP strongly opposes efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.”

SEIU and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund are among other groups that have heavily lobbied this cycle: SEIU spent $1.2 million, and the NAACP Legal Defense unloaded $353,920 on lobbying. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s parent organization, the NAACP, lobbied on the health care bill and are opposed to its repeal.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent nearly $30 million lobbying for a variety of causes, including the overturning or repeal of Obamacare.

“The Chamber was the leader in the fight against this particular bill,” the federation’s president, Thomas J. Donahue, said during his annual address in January. “And thus, we support legislation in the House to repeal it.”

Insurers are also worried about the ruling. If the individual mandate is struck down, but the rest of the law is allowed to stand, they would likely be stuck with increased insurance coverage mandates, which would raise costs.

America’s Health Insurance Plan (AHIP), an insurance company trade association, has spent $6 million this cycle. The group maintains it was not the intent of Congress to let the law stand without the mandate, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

The American Benefits Council agreed in its amicus brief, which argued that the individual mandate is not severable from the rest of the bill.

“[T]he Council contends that the employer mandate is also inseverable from the individual mandate, as the former could not function as Congress intended or advance the objectives for which it was enacted if the latter were invalidated,” the brief reads.

For its part, the National Restaurant Association pointed to how severability might affect restaurant workers.

“The demographics of the restaurant workforce and the characteristics of most restaurant employers means the industry would be subject to a particularly negative impact if the individual mandate is severed from the rest of the Act,” the organization wrote in its amicus filing.

The National Restaurant Association sided with the 26 states and the National Federation of Small Businesses in their suit against Obamacare.

UPDATE: The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has spent $353,920 on lobbying, not necessarily towards the Affordable Care Act. It’s parent organization, the NAACP, lobbied on the ACA and is opposed to its repeal.

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