Blind Ideological Justice | Commonweal Magazine:
by E.J. Dionne
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens captured our ideal when he wrote of the judge as “an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”
By effectively gutting the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, two members of a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals showed how far right-leaning jurists have strayed from such impartiality. We are confronted with a conservative judiciary that will use any argument it can muster to win ideological victories that elude their side in the elected branches of our government.
Fortunately, the D.C. Circuit ruling is unlikely to stand. On the same day the D.C. panel issued its opinion, a three-judge panel from the 4th Circuit ruled unanimously the other wayand upheld the law.
There is a good chance that the eleven-judge D.C. Circuit will take the decision away from its panel -- something it is usually reluctant to do -- and rule as a full court to affirm the ACA as commonly understood. It is virtually certain that a majority of the court’s members disagree with the panel’s convoluted reading of the law and that they want to avoid creating a needless conflict in jurisprudence with the 4th Circuit.
When Congress wrote the health law, it envisioned that the states would set up the insurance exchanges where individuals could purchase coverage. But knowing that some states might not want to set up these marketplaces themselves, it also created a federal exchange for states that bowed out. There are thirty-six states under the federal exchange.
The law includes a mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance and subsidizes those who need help to pay their premiums. The law falls apart without the subsidies, which go to its central purpose: providing insurance for those who cannot afford it.
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