‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
Apparently, this is no problem for our SCOTUS.
The question before the court revolved around the words “an Exchange established by the State”. You see, Zero care explicitly states exchanges established by the state would have the enrollees qualified for tax credits. The same provision was not included for exchanges set up by the Federal Government. As Justice Scalia notes, congress made the distinction between exchanges established by the states and exchanges established by the federal government several times throughout the law. The question before the court was if the enrollees in exchanges set up by the federal government qualified for the tax credits, or not.
The SCOTUS decided that the words “an exchange established by the state” didn’t really mean “an exchange established by the state”, but, rather, it meant “an exchange established by the state and/or the federal government”.
Justice Scalia authored the dissenting opinion. You can read the case here, including Scalia’s dissent.
Scalia is 100% correct. I won’t repost his entire dissent, but, it’s a beautiful take-down of the majority’s rationalizations. But, here’s the important part …..
Today’s opinion changes the usual rules of statutory interpretation for the sake of the Affordable Care Act.That, alas, is not a novelty. In National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U. S. ___, this Court revised major components of the statute in order to save them from unconstitutionality. The Act that Congress passed provides that every individual “shall” maintain insurance or else pay a “penalty.”26 U.S.C. §5000A. This Court, however, saw that the Commerce Clause does not authorize a federal mandate to buy health insurance. So it rewrote the mandate-cum-penalty as a tax .567 U.S., at ___–___ (principal opinion) (slip op., at 15–45). The Act that Congress passed also requires every State to accept an expansion of its Medicaid program, or else risk losing all Medicaid funding .42 U.S.C. §1396c. This Court, however, saw that the Spending Clause does not authorize this coercive condition. So it rewrote the law to withhold only the incremental funds associated with the Medicaid expansion .567 U.S., at ___–___ (principal opinion) (slip op., at 45–58). Having transformed two major parts of the law, the Court today has turned its attention to a third. The Act that Congress passed makes tax credits available only on an “Exchange established by the State.” This Court, however, concludes that this limitation would prevent the rest of the Act from working as well as hoped. So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere. We should start calling this law SCOTUScare. Perhaps the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will attain the enduring status of the Social Security Actor the Taft-Hartley Act; perhaps not. 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 [Medi-caid] 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.
This is most discouraging.
For those celebrating this decision, remember, these interpretive rulings will apply to future laws written.