Hoo-boy. If you had any doubts about why you look at the words of a statute rather than some inchoate “intent,” this ought to dispel those doubts lickety-split.
So this morning, we saw how the chief architect of ObamaCare, Jonathan Gruber, had said, “if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.” D’oh! Looks like the Halbig plaintiffs didn’t make up that concept!
A lefty writer from the New Republic asked him why on earth he said that, and his answer was that it was an off-the-cuff remark — not a “typo,” but a “speak-o”:
I honestly don’t remember why I said that. I was speaking off-the-cuff. It was just a mistake. People make mistakes. Congress made a mistake drafting the law and I made a mistake talking about it. . . . But there was never any intention to literally withhold money, to withhold tax credits, from the states that didn’t take that step. That’s clear in the intent of the law and if you talk to anybody who worked on the law. My subsequent statement was just a speak-o—you know, like a typo.
Well. As it turns out, it was a “mistake” very much like Congress’s “mistake” in limiting subsidies to plans bought on exchanges “established by the state.” Namely: it wasn’t a mistake at all. How do we know this? Meet “Speak-o Part Two: The ‘Prepared Remarks’ Version”:
The key passage:
Through a political compromise, it was decided that states should play a critical role in running these health insurance exchanges.
. . . .
Now, I guess I’m enough of a believer in democracy to think that when the voters in states see that by not setting up an exchange the politicians of a state are costing state residents hundreds and millions and billions of dollars, that they’ll eventually throw the guys out. But I don’t know that for sure. And that is really the ultimate threat, is, will people understand that, gee, if your governor doesn’t set up an exchange, you’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars of tax credits to be delivered to your citizens.
Funny thing about this other "off the cuff" Gruber comment, it was part of his prepared remarks. Weird.
— Morgen (@morgenr) July 25, 2014
Morgen is the fella who found this clip, by the way. The best part?
Asked over email whether those remarks were a mistake, too, Gruber wrote back, “same answer.”
First: I don’t generally like to call people liars. But when Gruber says he was making the oral equivalent of a typo, Gruber is lying — and this is exactly what lefties are doing by claiming that the “established by the state” language is a typo. Isn’t it funny how all these supposed errors say the same thing? — namely, that subsidies are available only on exchanges being run by the states. When Congressmen and women say the written language of the law is a mistake, they are lying, just as surely as Gruber is lying when he describes his repeated and prepared point as a “speak-o.”
Second: I know I keep saying this, but it’s important: This is why you can’t allow the interpretation of a law to be government by intent. It’s easy to lie about intent, and not so easy to lie about the wording of the law — because, there’s the wording, right there in black and white.
Third: in listening to other interviews with this guy, it has become more and more clear that tying subsidies to state establishment of exchanges was deliberate. Not only was it a “political compromise” (as Gruber says in the quote above), but it is consistent with his oft-repeated talking point that ObamaCare did not represent a federal takeover of health care. If you listen to any extended interview with him, he makes that point again and again. The people who wrote this law really thought all the states would set up these exchanges, and that bad assumption explains everything.
UPDATE: Oh, I forgot point four! Four:
Another point that comes up in one of Gruber’s interviews is another reason that federal exchanges would have been created even though they didn’t offer subsidies. Namely, the exchanges are cited by Gruber as being part of a cost-containing measure. He says that Blue Cross is able to charge more just because they’re Blue Cross. On an exchange, where all the insurers’ prices are placed side by side, the direct comparison will lead to lower prices — or so the theory goes. Again: this is yet another reason that the Halbig decision makes sense.