Statement on King v. Burwell

June 25th, 2015
Once again, the Chief Justice has elevated the aspirations of Obamacare over the plain text of the statute, and rewritten the Affordable Care Act. The Court recognized that the statute at issue was “ambiguous”–not crystal clear as supporters argued–and found that the “this is not a case for the IRS” to resolve by executive action. Rather, that duty fell to the Justices. In the end, the Court referred to the pivotal language–“established by the State”–as “inartful drafting,” and was content to construe it as “surplusage” that was unnecessary to the law as a whole.  The Chief Justice reached this conclusion, even as he noted that “Congress wrote key parts of the Act behind closed doors” and the use of the reconciliation process “limited opportunities for debate” on “such significant legislation. In yet another saving construction, the government’s atextual reading of the statute was upheld, as it could “fairly be read consistent with” what the Court viewed as Congress’s intent. However, the intent here is clear. As Justice Scalia noted in his dissent, “words no longer have meaning” for the “overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.”