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Oklahoma Federal Court Rules IRS Attempt to Save Obamacare's Subsidies for Federal Exchange Enrollees "Arbitrary, Capricious, an Abuse of Discretion, and Otherwise Not In Accordance with the Law" | Main | Josh Kraushaar: Obama's Pass-the-Buck Presidency
September 30, 2014

More: The Judge in Pruitt Scolds the Obama Champions of the Judicial Branch

Gabe pointed this out as noteworthy, and I think he's right.

In concluding his ruling, the judge in Pruitt takes time to note the "apocalyptic language" used by the dissent in Halbig (the DC circuit case in which the majority found similarly that the IRS had acted lawlessly).

He notes that a lot of these objections have little do with the actual law or the actual guidelines judges follow when interpreting Congress' law.

A lot of their objections just seem to be of the flavor, "Well if we let these monsters win, Obama's policy goals will be thwarted!"

The judge here chides them for assuming the posture of a political advocate, concerned not with the law but with "helping" certain people (and, coincidentally I'm sure, certain Presidents).

The court is aware that the stakes are higher in the case at bar than they might be in another case. The issue of consequences has been touched upon in the previous decisions discussed. Speaking of its decision to vacate the IRS Rule, the majority in Halbig stated "[w]e reach this conclusion, frankly, with reluctance." Other judges in similar litigation have cast the plaintiffs' argument in apocalyptic language. The first sentence of Judge Edwards' dissent in Halbig is as follows: "This case is about Appellants' not-so-veiled attempt to gut the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ('ACA')." Concurring in King, Judge Davis states that [a]ppellants' approach would effectively destroy the statute . . . ." Further, "[w]hat [appellants] may not do is rely on our help to deny to millions of Americans desperately-needed health insurance. . . "

Of course, a proper legal decision is not a matter of the court "helping" one side or the other. A lawsuit challenging a federal regulation is a commonplace occurrence in this country, not an affront to judicial dignity. A higher-profile case results in greater scrutiny of the decision, which is understandable and appropriate. "[H]igh as those stakes are, the principle of legislative supremacy that guides us is higher still. . . This limited role serves democratic interests by ensuring that policy is made by elected, politically accountable representatives, not by appointed life-tenured judges."


This is a case of statutory interpretation. "The text is what it is, no matter which side benefits." Such a case (even if affirmed on the inevitable appeal) does not "gut" or "destroy" anything. On the contrary, the court is upholding the Act as written.

Congress is free to amend the ACA to provide for tax credits in both state and federal exchanges, if that is the legislative will. As the Act presently stands, "vague notions of a statute's 'basic purpose' are nonetheless inadequate to overcome the words of its text regarding the specific issue under consideration. It is a "core administrative-law principle that an agency may not rewrite clear statutory terms to suit its own sense of how the statute should operate."

...

"If Congress enacted into law something different from what it intended, then it should amend the statute to conform to its intent."

(All internal citations omitted -- quoted language is from other cases, obviously, but I didn't feel like formatting all that crap.)

Oh and I meant to note this earlier, but forgot: Remember Jon Gruber, who declared that it was "absurd" that that Congress could possibly intend to withhold subsidies from states that didn't set up their own exchanges?

And then was found talking at conferences stating that that was in fact Congress' intent, and that it all made perfect sense?

He gets name-checked in a footnote:


And I have to correct something: A "circuit split" occurs when the circuit courts of appeals split.

I misinterpreted Gabe. We do not have a circuit split yet, as I think only one appeals court (the Fourth Circuit) has has ruled on this on the circuit level, the appeals level. And there, they claimed that the law could be stretched as Obama liked.

All of the other rulings are from the originating (trial) courts.

Gabe's point was that he doesn't expect the Supreme Court to wait for a bona-fide split, but will probably take an appeal earlier, given the importance of the cases.

That error was mine, not Gabe's.


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posted by Ace at 02:17 PM

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