The long-awaited Halbig decision is out, and the result is bad for Barack Obama and his oppressive ObamaCare law. The panel has voted 2-1 that Congress did not authorize subsidies for plans bought on exchanges established by the feds:
Because we conclude that the ACA unambiguously restricts the section 36B subsidy to insurance purchased on Exchanges “established by the State,”we reverse the district court and vacate the IRS’s regulation.
I told you on July 7: “I am now convinced that the judges on the panel will rule 2-1 against Obama.” Always trust content from Patterico.
Here’s what the controversy was about. The text of the ObamaCare law makes subsidies available only to one who enrolls in a health plan “through an Exchange established by the State under [section] 1311.” The ObamaCare law says that if a State does not establish the exchange, “the [HHS] Secretary shall . . . establish and operate such Exchange within the State.” The HHS Secretary is not a “State” — as a State is defined in the ObamaCare law as “each of the 50 States and the District of Columbia.” So when the exchange was established by the Secretary, it was not established by a “State.” Meaning subsidies and tax credits are not available.
Plain meaning. Textualism. Ain’t it great?
For now, temper your enthusiasm. The decision will certainly taken up by the entire D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals en banc, and with all the new Obama-appointed judges there, it doesn’t look good for today’s decision to be upheld. (But you never know.) Then the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court, and who knows what they’ll do?
But for now, it’s a good day. Conservatives actually win one for a change.
The decision should drive a stake through the heart of the dangerous philosophy that legislative “intent” can and should trump the clear language of a law. This has always been a tactic of the left. You can’t discern an “intent” from a law cobbled together by hundreds of people with differing opinions — except by reading the words that they ultimately produced. Period. Full stop. Conservatives, I expect, understand that now.
I am still making my way through the opinion. More updates as I read the decision.
UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, the opinion is written by Judge Griffith, with a dissent from Judge Edwards. Judge Griffith focuses primarily on the plain meaning of the language in the law, examining legislative history only as a backup, to show that the legislative history wouldn’t make any difference. The concurrence by Judge Randolph captures exactly what I have been saying here in recent weeks:
As Judge Griffith’s majority opinion—which I fully join—demonstrates, an Exchange established by the federal government cannot possibly be “an Exchange established by the State.” To hold otherwise would be to engage in distortion, not interpretation. Only further legislation could accomplish the expansion the government seeks.
The only way you could get to the interpretation/distortion that Obama advocates is by ignoring the “plain meaning” repeatedly cited by the majority, and by desperately clawing at some “intent” not apparent in the words of the statute.
This is how leftists try to undermine the rule of law. Today, it did not carry the day. We’ll see what happens going forward.