Never one to mince words, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's dissents always make for interesting reading. His dissent in the King v. Burwell decision announced today was no exception.
Scalia was confounded by the majority's twisted logic, writing that the court "accepts that the 'most natural sense' of the phrase 'Exchange established by the State' is an Exchange established by a State" but then "continues, with no semblance of shame, that 'it is also possible that the phrase refers to all Exchanges—both State and Federal.'" This analysis Scalia dubbed, "Impossible possibility, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act!"
Here are the top 15 quotes we pulled from his scathing rebuke of the Roberts court's ruling that saved Obamacare's federal exchanges. It is Scalia at his Scaliaiest (emphasis added):
No. 1: ‘SCOTUScare’
"We should start calling this law SCOTUScare."
No. 2: Supreme Court Plays Favorites
"But this Court’s two decisions on the Act will surely be remembered through the years. The somersaults of statutory interpretation they have performed ('penalty' means tax, 'further [Medicaid] payments to the State' means only incremental Medicaid payments to the State, 'established by the State' means not established by the State) will be cited by litigants endlessly, to the confusion of honest jurisprudence. And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites."
No. 3: Making a ‘Parody’ of The Federalist Papers
"Just ponder the significance of the Court’s decision to take matters into its own hands. The Court’s revision of the law authorizes the Internal Revenue Service to spend tens of billions of dollars every year in tax credits on federal Exchanges. It affects the price of insurance for millions of Americans. It diminishes the participation of the States in the implementation of the Act. It vastly expands the reach of the Act’s individual mandate, whose scope depends in part on the availability of credits. What a parody today’s decision makes of Hamilton’s assurances to the people of New York: 'The legislature not only commands the purse but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over . . . the purse; no direction . . . of the wealth of society, and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL but merely judgment.'"
No. 4: ‘Quite Absurd’
"The Court holds that when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says 'Exchange established by the State' it means 'Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government.' That is of course quite absurd, and the Court’s 21 pages of explanation make it no less so."
No. 5: ‘So Obvious’
"This case requires us to decide whether someone who buys insurance on an Exchange established by the Secretary gets tax credits. You would think the answer would be obvious—so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it."
No. 6: ‘Pure Applesauce’
"The Court claims that the Act must equate federal and state establishment of Exchanges when it defines a qualified individual as someone who (among other things) lives in the 'State that established the Exchange.' … Otherwise, the Court says, there would be no qualified individuals on federal Exchanges, contradicting (for example) the provision requiring every Exchange to take the '"interests of qualified individuals"' into account when selecting health plans. … Pure applesauce."
No. 7: Court’s ‘Overriding Principle’
"Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved."
No. 8: ‘Not Our Place’
"This Court holds only the judicial power—the power to pronounce the law as Congress has enacted it. We lack the prerogative to repair laws that do not work out in practice, just as the people lack the ability to throw us out of office if they dislike the solutions we concoct. …
"Trying to make its judge-empowering approach seem respectful of congressional authority, the Court asserts that its decision merely ensures that the Affordable Care Act operates the way Congress 'meant [it] to operate.' … [T]he Court forgets that ours is a government of laws and not of men. That means we are governed by the terms of our laws, not by the unenacted will of our lawmakers. …
"Even less defensible, if possible, is the Court’s claim that its interpretive approach is justified because this Act 'does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation.' … It is not our place to judge the quality of the care and deliberation that went into this or any other law. A law enacted by voice vote with no deliberation whatever is fully as binding upon us as one enacted after years of study, months of committee hearings, and weeks of debate. Much less is it our place to make everything come out right when Congress does not do its job properly. It is up to Congress to design its laws with care, and it is up to the people to hold them to account if they fail to carry out that responsibility."
No. 9: ‘Interpretive Distortions’ Ignore the Constitution
"The Court’s decision reflects the philosophy that judges should endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes in order to correct a supposed flaw in the statutory machinery. That philosophy ignores the American people’s decision to give Congress '[a]ll legislative Powers' enumerated in the Constitution."
No. 10: ‘Jiggery-pokery’
"The Court’s next bit of interpretive jiggery-pokery involves other parts of the Act that purportedly presuppose the availability of tax credits on both federal and state Exchanges."
No. 11: Increasing SCOTUS’ Power
"The Court’s insistence on making a choice that should be made by Congress both aggrandizes judicial power and encourages congressional lassitude."
No. 12: ‘Unheard Of’
"Ordinary connotation does not always prevail, but the more unnatural the proposed interpretation of a law, the more compelling the contextual evidence must be to show that it is correct. Today’s interpretation is not merely unnatural; it is unheard of."
No. 13: ‘Feeble Arguments’
"Faced with overwhelming confirmation that 'Exchange established by the State' means what it looks like it means, the Court comes up with argument after feeble argument to support its contrary interpretation."
No. 14: ‘Why Context Matters’
"Context always matters. Let us not forget, however, why context matters: It is a tool for understanding the terms of the law, not an excuse for rewriting them."
No. 15: SCOTUS Cannot ‘Rescue Congress’
"Perhaps sensing the dismal failure of its efforts to show that 'established by the State' means "established by the State or the Federal Government,' the Court tries to palm off the pertinent statutory phrase as 'inartful drafting.' … This Court, however, has no free-floating power 'to rescue Congress from its drafting errors.'"
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