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Author Topic: Supreme Court upholds ACA subsidies
hobsen
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So in this case the Supreme Court was faced with a faulty piece of legislation which did not specify whether subsidies could be given to persons buying insurance through a federally established exchange. The Court ruled in effect that the Democratic majorities passing the legislation would have specified such an outcome had they noticed the language justifying it was missing, and in accordance with what had been done administratively since the ACA went into effect. Doing otherwise might have required the government to collect back the subsidies from those who purchased insurance, meaning millions of persons would have in effect purchased insurance at far more than the agreed price. Similar inequities do occur when our government collects back benefits paid in error, but such an outcome generally creates disrespect and hatred for the government agencies which make such a mistake. Personally I am glad this did not happen.
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Greg Davidson
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quote:
The House avoided this outcome by rubber stamping the Senate version and sending it to the President for signature, even if the legislation was known to be a rough draft and possibly unconstitutional.
Agree with the roughness of the draft, disagree with the insinuation that this was approved with the notion that it was possibly unconstitutional (except in the purest sense that everything is theoretically possible - heck, for a hundred years no one would have thought that it was constitutional for Corporations to have free speech rights, but it turns out that according to the Roberts Court in Citizen's United, prior limitations on campaign funding were unconstitutional).
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Seriati
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I agree with the dissent, and I'll go further, I think the majority opinion will be looked back on in one of two ways, either (1) as a branching point after which the courts began to increasingly ignore the actual laws in favor of contrivances to allow their views on what the law should be (a horrible result) to take effect or (2) with absolute disdain. There were ways they could have written the opinion that would have been justifiable, yet they chose not to.

And for those who seem to believe that we're chicken little and the sky hasn't fallen, you're being naïve about the time scale over which these kinds of changes occurred. Go back and look how long it took for the court to take on the unconstitutional power of judicial in Marbury v. Madison before they actually began using it. These kind of changes, if they're not repudiated, establish sea changes in how the law works.

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NobleHunter
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I think (1) occurred a rather long time ago. It's just more visible now because the Court is more willing to make decisions that run against the interests of certain elites.
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Greg Davidson
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Seriati, I know from your previous comments that you are an intelligent person. So I can't understand your position. There were multiple references in the bill that indicated that the subsidies were provided under all circumstances and one potentially contrary phrasing. There's a large body of case law for addressing circumstances where there is ambiguity and contradictions in legislation. There's a principle that Republicans have shouted pretty loudly when it favored their causes of not having "activiist judges" overrule the clearly intended legislative intent.

And a wacky theory for the challengers that, even though no one on either side actually said that the intent of the legislation was to deny subsidies to states that used the federal website to set up their exchanges, that's what the legislative intent clearly was.

This is one of the most clear cut major cases in recent years, not the sign of civilization collapsing.

I must be misunderstanding something here

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Seriati
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quote:
Originally posted by Greg Davidson:
Seriati, I know from your previous comments that you are an intelligent person. So I can't understand your position.

Out of curiosity, did you read my write up from before the decision about why there were rules of construction that could work for either outcome? Re-read the dissent, Scalia is absolutely right about what the court did where they read explicit language in a statute to mean other than what it'd been defined to mean. There's no real precedent for this, there's no good reason it should happen and it truly is a dangerous precedent. Have you ever heard the expression, good cases make bad laws. This is one of those times, where a court made bad law to save a result.
quote:
There were multiple references in the bill that indicated that the subsidies were provided under all circumstances and one potentially contrary phrasing.
Which actual "contrary phrasing" was in the operative clause for the subsidy. There was no actual conflict in reading the clause as written, it wasn't even implausible, and if only one or two Republican states had refused to implement and exchange I'd bet you a thousand dollars this administration would have asserted it was plain as day they could deny the subsidies.

To point out the absurdity, if we had a Democratic congress right now, I'd be willing to bet the court would have reached the opposite result and let Congress fix it. That thought should terrify you.
quote:
There's a large body of case law for addressing circumstances where there is ambiguity and contradictions in legislation.
First, there was no ambiguity or even necessary contradiction so the case law is inapplicable. Second, this decision was inconsistent with that case law.
quote:
There's a principle that Republicans have shouted pretty loudly when it favored their causes of not having "activiist judges" overrule the clearly intended legislative intent.
No there's not. "Legislative intent" is one of the hallmarks of judicial activism. Judicial activism is nothing more than picking a result and then using whatever arguments support it as controlling regardless of merit. This was a blatant case of judicial activism.
quote:
This is one of the most clear cut major cases in recent years, not the sign of civilization collapsing.
Is that your legal analysis? I don't agree that this case was clear cut, see my argument from before the decision. But the result we got was no where near reasonable.
quote:
I must be misunderstanding something here
I never really know how well people understand legal matters. Can you for instance understand why people think that Roe v. Wade was poorly reasoned, even if you are pro choice? Can you read Bush v. Gore and understand why it turned on a quirky bit of Florida law?

Here the majority legal analysis was to assert black is really white. That's not legitimate under any of the existing case law and it really is a horrid precedent.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
if we had a Democratic congress right now, I'd be willing to bet the court would have reached the opposite result and let Congress fix it. That thought should terrify you.
No, it shouldn't. As noted repeatedly over the years, law cannot be decided in a vacuum; its effects must be considered as well as its principles. It is to the Court's credit that it is not willing to let people suffer for no good reason, just because Congress is dysfunctional.
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D.W.
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While I like the result, for the exact reason Tom points out, it IS a terrifying precedent. They SHOULD have just told Congress to "fix it" but they knew that it wouldn't get fixed. Not sure they reached a good solution to that problem. At least for the long term.
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TomDavidson
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Well, to be fair, they note in their decision that there is indeed precedent for exactly that, and that the preferred solution would be one that would result in workable law handled by a responsible Congress. It's a weaker precedent than Seriati fears for precisely that reason; it's written more narrowly than he thinks.
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DonaldD
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Is there anything (aside from a Presidential veto) stopping the current congress from rewriting the portions of the law that conflict with the way Seriati interprets the 'by the state' line?
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Rafi
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
if we had a Democratic congress right now, I'd be willing to bet the court would have reached the opposite result and let Congress fix it. That thought should terrify you.
No, it shouldn't. As noted repeatedly over the years, law cannot be decided in a vacuum; its effects must be considered as well as its principles. It is to the Court's credit that it is not willing to let people suffer for no good reason, just because Congress is dysfunctional.
I suppose this is true if the idea of the judiciary assuming legislative authority is something you like - clearly you do. Any rational person will be deeply concerned.
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TomDavidson
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I don't like it, but I like it better than law being broken because the legislature is broken. Given the two options, I'll choose a functional society every time.
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Greg Davidson
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Let me confess to one aspect of this issue that I never did understand. Even if you stipulate the premise of the losing argument that it was only exchanges set up by the state that were eligible for subsidies, why was the website considered "the exchange" when people could get coverage without going to the website, and the coverage offered in every state was different? Doesn't that suggest that the "exchange" was a unique marketplace in each state, and that the website was merely one way of accessing coverage available in that state's unique marketplace/exchange? I understand this is not a valid analysis, I just don't recall the reason why not.
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Greg Davidson
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Rove v. Wade was a very flawed verdict, and a much better example of a Supreme Court majority trying to find what they felt to be a just solution without much specific guidance from previous decisions (ie; the opposite of what I would consider to be a clear-cut case such as the ACA one).
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Re-read the dissent, Scalia is absolutely right about what the court did where they read explicit language in a statute to mean other than what it'd been defined to mean.
Not at all- he goes out of his way to pretend that private exchanges don't exist to give his false assertions the veneer of truth. You're right that there's no ambiguity- the clause is very clearly intended to prevent the use of subsidies on private, employer based exchanges, not ones where the States used the default option to contract HHS is create one on their behalf. By your logic, no state that hired a private contractor to implement their exchange system should get subsidies either, because in those cases the respective states didn't establish them, but rather the contractor who was hired did.
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