Scalia Slams the Obamacare Decision: "We Should Start Calling This Law SCOTUScare"


The Supreme Court upheld a key portion of the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, ruling in a historic 6-3 decision that states without state-run health care exchanges are eligible for federal subsidies under Obamacare.

Chief Justice John Roberts issued the opinion for the majority, with Justice Anthony Kennedy and the four liberal justices rounding out the six votes in favor of upholding the law. 

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a blistering dissent, arguing that the text in the law was clear and the court should stick to what Congress wrote and the president signed. In his writing, Scalia lays out his case, sticking to the strict textual interpretation of the law and blasting the majority for twisting the language of the ACA to save the law.

It's a lengthy dissent, so we pulled out the best lines and linguistic flourishes from the court's preeminent conservative justice. The key line: "We should start calling this law SCOTUScare." 

Scalia begins by calling the majority's reasoning "absurd."

Supreme Court

He continues, arguing that the court never should have heard the case in the first place: "You would think the answer would be obvious — so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it."

"Words no longer have meaning if an exchange that is not established by a state is 'established by the state.'"

Supreme Court

"[N]ormal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved."

Scalia then hits on his major critique: that the court is desperate to save Obamacare by any means necessary.

Supreme Court

"Let us not forget, however, why context matters: It is a tool for understanding the terms of the law, not an excuse for rewriting them." 

Scalia addresses the argument that the four words at issue in King v. Burwell should be read in the context of the entire law:

Supreme Court

He goes on to argue at length that Congress meant to make a distinction between federal and state exchanges, and any reading otherwise is nonsense.

Scalia then calls the court's interpretation "interpretive jiggery-pokery."

Supreme Court

...and "pure applesauce."

Supreme Court

"We should start calling this law SCOTUScare."

At the end of his dissent, Scalia reiterates his key critique: that the court has now twice twisted itself in legal knots to preserve the ACA. He suggests another name for Obamacare:

Supreme Court

Unfortunately for Scalia (but fortunately for the 6 million people who can keep their tax credits for health care), he found himself on the wrong side of this argument yet again. Obamacare was saved by his colleagues, and is clearly here to stay.