Some King v. Burwell Links

by Don Boudreaux on June 26, 2015

in Health, Law, Legal Issues

David Berstein (my GMU colleague from over in the law school) writing at the Volokh Conspiracy.  A slice (coming after David documents the legislative malfeasance that Congress committed to rush a bill through to passage along starkly partisan lines):

King v. Burwell represented the best hope that the Supreme Court would take the appropriate posture on all this, which is that those who rush through a law they haven’t even read or understood and with no political support from the other side have to live with the consequences when inevitable mistakes arise. Instead, the majority took the position that its job is to help out the other branches when it turns out that such a law is unworkable as written. Too bad.

Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett writing at SCOTUSblog.

George Will writing in today’s Washington Post.  A slice:

Conservatives are dismayed about the Supreme Court’s complicity in rewriting the Affordable Care Act — its ratification of the IRS’s disregard of the statute’s plain and purposeful language. But they have contributed to this outcome. Their decades of populist praise of judicial deference to the political branches has borne this sour fruit.

Michael Cannon writing at Cato@Liberty.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal.  (gated)  A slice:

Chief Justice Roberts has now become a co-conspirator in this executive law-making. With the verve of a legislator, he has effectively amended the statute to read “established by the State—or by the way the Federal Government.” His opinion—joined by the four liberal Justices and Anthony Kennedy—is all the more startling because it goes beyond normal deference to regulators.

Chief Justice Roberts concedes that the challengers’ arguments “about the plain meaning” of the law “are strong.” But then he writes that Congress in its 2010 haste bypassed “the traditional legislative process” and thus “the Act does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation.” So because ObamaCare is a bad law, the Court must interpret it differently from other laws.

Ilya Shapiro writing at Cato@Liberty.  A slice:

Of course, Roberts explains his transmogrification by finding it “implausible that Congress meant the Act to operate in this manner,” to deny subsidies to millions of people as part of legislation intended to expanded coverage. But it’s hardly implausible to think that legislation that still says that states “shall” set up exchanges—the drafters forgot to fix this bit after lawyers pointed out that Congress can’t command states to do anything—would effectively give states an offer nobody thought they’d refuse. It was supposed to be a win-win: states rather than the federal government would run health care exchanges (yay federalism!) and all those who need subsidies to afford Obamacare policies would get them (yay universal healthcare!).

But a funny thing happened on the way to utopia, and only 14 states (plus D.C.) took that too-tempting offer, perhaps having been burned too many times before by the regulations that accompany any pots of “free” federal money. And that’s why we ended up with King v. Burwell: Obamacare the reality doesn’t accomplish Obamacare the dream. That may not be the absolutely, 100-percent correct reading of the Affordable Care Act. But it’s nothing if not plausible.

That should’ve been the end of the story: the clear text of the statute produces a plausible result, so courts should enforce that “natural meaning.” Alas, as Justice Scalia put it, “normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.”

The Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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