SCOTUS at the Front Lines of a Partisan War in Obamacare Case

Linda Greenhouse: “The new Affordable Care Act case, King v. Burwell, to be argued four weeks from now is … a case of statutory, not constitutional, interpretation. The court has permitted itself to be recruited into the front lines of a partisan war. Not only the Affordable Care Act but the court itself is in peril as a result.”

“The precise statutory issue is the validity of the Internal Revenue Service rule that makes the tax subsidies available to those who qualify by virtue of their income, regardless of whether the federal government or a state set up the exchange on which the insurance was bought.”

“But other parts of the complex and interlocking description of how the subsidies work suggest no such limitation. They point strongly in the opposite direction.”

“Statutory interpretation is something the Supreme Court does all the time, week in and week out, term after term … Every justice subscribes to the notion that statutory language has to be understood in context.”

“So will the Affordable Care Act survive its second encounter with the Roberts court? … The fate of the statute hung in the balance then and hangs in the balance today, but I mean more than that. This time, so does the honor of the Supreme Court. To reject the government’s defense of the law, the justices would have to suspend their own settled approach to statutory interpretation as well as their often-stated view of how Congress should act toward the states.”

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