Chief Justice John Roberts remained nearly silent. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy did not. And, at the end of the day, those hoping for a clue as to how the U.S. Supreme Court may rule on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s subsidies in King v. Burwell were with only speculation Wednesday.
According to The National Journal, the rest of the court divided sharply along partisan lines in its third high-profile case over ObamaCare.
Associate Justice Elena Kagan and the court’s other Democratic appointees came out swinging against the challengers, arguing that they’re interpreting the Affordable Care Act too narrowly and focusing on one small section at the expense of the law’s broader intent. The liberal justices also said the text in question could not have given states a clear enough warning that they could risk the stability of their entire insurance markets by letting the federal government set up their exchanges.
Alito and Justice Antonin Scalia took up the conservative cause Wednesday, focusing primarily on the “established by the State” language. If that phrase doesn’t exist to draw a distinction between state and federally established exchanges, Alito asked, why is it there?
An exchange established by the Health and Human Services Department and an exchange established by a state government cannot be the same thing, Scalia argued, even if that distinction would undermine the law’s functioning.