The Supreme Court upheld federal tax subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, delivering a major victory to the Obama administration and a major defeat to critics of the healthcare law.
In King v. Burwell, the law’s opponents argued that its wording, specifically, a section that mentions healthcare exchanges “established by the State,” prevents the federal government from establishing such exchanges.
However, the High Court ruled that while the text of the law may have been confusing, Congress’ intent was clear.
“In this instance, the context and structure of the Act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority. “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”
Predictably, the Court’s three most conservative members, Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas, dissented.
“Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is ‘established by the State,’“ Scalia wrote. "It is hard to come up with a clearer way to limit tax credits to state Exchanges than to use the words ‘established by the State.’ And it is hard to come up with a reason to include the words ‘by the State’ other than the purpose of limiting credits to state Exchanges.”
But as MSNBC’s Irin Carmon points out, the dissenting justices had previously conceded that federal exchanges were intended by Congress, a point that was not lost on Roberts.
Roberts trolls the dissenters by pointing out their own words in Sebelius pic.twitter.com/lWoLbYwsou— Irin Carmon (@irin) June 25, 2015
However, as long as we’re looking for hypocrisy, Justice Elena Kagan wrote in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community that the "Court has no roving license, in even ordinary cases of statutory interpretation, to disregard clear language simply on the view that… Congress ‘must have intended’ something broader.” Yet in King v. Burwell, she sided with the majority who seemed to be arguing the exact opposite.
So while you may or may not be happy with today’s ruling, at least you can take comfort in the fact that justices from both sides of the political spectrum are basically full of shit.
(Source: CBS News)