Congress May Have “Unintentionally” Lost Their Current Coverage by Voting for ObamaCare — What Do the “Intentionalists” Have to Say About That?
The New York Times reports that Congress may have “unintentionally” voted for its own health coverage to change when it voted for ObamaCare:
It is often said that the new health care law will affect almost every American in some way. And, perhaps fittingly if unintentionally, no one may be more affected than members of Congress themselves.
In a new report, the Congressional Research Service says the law may have significant unintended consequences for the “personal health insurance coverage” of senators, representatives and their staff members.
For example, it says, the law may “remove members of Congress and Congressional staff” from their current coverage, in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, before any alternatives are available.
The confusion raises the inevitable question: If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?
I think it raises a different and more important question: when a bunch of yahoos vote to ratify a law they haven’t even read, how is that law to be interpreted?
I recently published a post titled Why “Intentionalism” Is Not Always Compatible with the Rule of Law. In it, I asked:
If a legislature passes a law that says one thing, but the legislature really meant something else, how should the law be interpreted? According to the plain language of the law? Or according to the intent of the legislature, even if it contradicts the statute’s plain language?
It turns out that my question was not idle or abstract. With ObamaCare, we may be faced with a concrete example. What if ObamaCare says that members of Congress lose their current coverage — even if, as the article suggests, they did not “intend” this?
Do we interpret the law by looking to the clear text, the way those out-of-touch, formalistic lawyers uniformly insist that we do when the text is unambiguous?
Or do we to look to the unexpressed intent of the ratifiers of the law, the way the “intentionalists” would insist we do?
Put simply: if the clear language of the law screws up the Congresscritters’ health coverage, but they didn’t intend this, what governs? The language of the law they passed? Or their unexpressed intent?
I anxiously await the intentionalists’ reply.
P.S. As with the last time I discussed language interpretation, I am implementing a harsh rule for commenters. Comments are expected to be strictly about ideas, with absolutely no personal comments whatsoever. As before, the moderators and I are going to be very, very strict about enforcing this. Comments that do not follow this rule will be summarily deleted. Comments that blatantly violate the rule may earn the offending commenter a time-out or a ban.
Given my restrictive rules, I will accept comments from banned commenters, as long as they follow the rules I have set forth. No personal digs are allowed, no matter how small — but any articulation that hews strictly to the expression of ideas will be allowed.