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Real Life Overtakes Satire, Again

I have noted several times on this blog how satirists sometimes imagine preposterous things and later someone really does or says what was once so absurd as to be funny.  Chief Justice Roberts gave us an example today in the health care decision, although he did not explicitly state the last part, instead expecting that everyone knows it.  He was explaining why some of the usual canons of statutory interpretation do not apply to this law because it is written so very badly.

The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting. (To cite just one, the Act creates three separate Section 1563s. See 124 Stat. 270, 911, 912.) Several features of the Act's passage contributed to that unfortunate reality. Congress wrote key parts of the Act behind closed doors, rather than through "the traditional legislative process." ... And Congress passed much of the Act using a complicated budgetary procedure known as "reconciliation," which limited opportunities for debate and amendment, and bypassed the Senate's normal 60-vote filibuster requirement. ...  As a result, the Act does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation. Cf. Frankfurter, Some Reflections on the Reading of Statutes, 47 Colum. L.Rev. 527, 545 (1947) (describing a cartoon "in which a senator tells his colleagues 'I admit this new bill is too complicated to understand. We'll just have to pass it to find out what it means.'").
In the 1940s, that fictional senator's statement was so absurd that a cartoonist made it up for laughs, but in 2010 the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said it for real. 


Roberts' opinion is laughable. What all the gobbledy-gook means--the lack of legislative action on the part of the states made the statute unworkable, so therefore the court gets to fix the problem. That's balderdash, and real people have to pay real taxes that aren't enacted by Congress.

There is a name for that: tyranny.

This decision should be the subject of abject derision.

Decency evolves: No. The dissents position is risible. In whatever other case would it make sense to construe a statute in direct opposition to the contemporaneous understanding of those legislators who draft led and opposed it? There was a segment of Seinfeld in which George Costanza attempted to win a game of trivial pursuits by insisting that The Moops, rather than The Moors, invaded Spain in the Eighth Century because a misprinted card said so. The arguments urged by the plaintiffs in King were akin to that. The case never should have gotten as far as it did. Were it not for the political motives of lawyers and judges who want to "interpret" the ACA out of existence, they wouldn't have had any success at all.

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