For the Tea Party and small government types everywhere, a 5 to 4 loss in King v. Burwell (i.e., the ObamaCare court case whose decision was released by the Supreme Court yesterday) would have been bad enough, but with swing-vote Justice Kennedy’s juridical philosophy about as reliable as a drunk’s mid-bender promise to be home at a decent hour, such a setback was a distinct possibility. But for that same group of conservatives, yesterday’s 6-3 outcome was more than a defeat, it was a betrayal, with the supposedly conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by a clearly bamboozled George W. Bush, siding with the court’s liberal faction (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan).
On the run from Tea Party operatives, Roberts is rumored to have sought refuge in Berkeley, CA, where he will complete his voluntary liberal indoctrination therapy.
Viewed in the simplest way, the case was a matter of statutory interpretation, i.e., does the language of the ObamaCare law allow the issuance of subsidies in exchanges established by the federal government (in addition to the subsidies explicitly allowed in state exchanges)? In his dissent, Justice Scalia asserted the case was straightforward (and essentially a waste of time):
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. In order to receive any money under §36B, an individual must enroll in an insurance plan through an “Exchange established by the State.” The Secretary of Health and Human Services [BFN: that is, the federal government] is not a State. So an Exchange established by the Secretary is not an Exchange established by the State—which means people who buy health insurance through such an Exchange get no money under §36B.
Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is “established by the State.”
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.
When pressed for comment, Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard, head of the Confederate wing of the Tea Party, told Bud Fox News:
Of course there’s no bounty on the Chief Justice’s head. But to get him more acquainted with the health care system that he seems to love so much, we are interested in giving him a hospital job.
If the Tea Party does dish out a “hospital beating” to the Chief Justice and he winds up needing medical attention, he’ll be fine. After all, he’s too smart to have ObamaCare; he probably gets his health insurance from FEHBP.