Earnest isn’t alone, progressives in politics and the media immediately started insisting this was a “drafting error” Democrats meant to fix after the law was signed. Only they made it consistently throughout the bill and didn’t address this issue, they didn’t “fix” it. And the IRS didn’t bother attempting to “fix” it until 2011, 16 months after passage. If it was so important and obvious, why wait that long?
As Nancy Pelosi put it at the time, “We have to pass the bill, so you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy.” The fog has lifted, we see what is in it, and it is an unpopular and unequivocal mess.
Of course it was never meant be “fixed” because it was not a mistake. It says what Congress meant – it says subsidies apply only to state exchanges and was written to pressure states to comply. It was a game of chicken Democrats consciously chose to play, and they lost.
Another appeals court ruled the opposite way on the same day, so this all eventually will be resolved by the Supreme Court (yet again). But the reaction of progressives, especially the White House, to the D.C. court is both amusing and telling.
Earnest’s interest in the “intent” of Congress is particularly amusing considering just a couple of weeks ago the administration went all-in on the concept of following the letter of the law on immigration when it comes to unaccompanied illegal alien kids flooding the southern border.
On the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, the Obama administration is following the law as written, not as intended. As I wrote at the time, “The children the law intended to protect – potential victims of perverted sex traffickers – are not who is flooding the border now, and the administration knows it. Still, it is using its provisions to slow the process and keep illegal aliens on U.S. soil.” But the administration is applying it as written – slowing the process to increase the odds they stay in the country permanently.
Even the author of the legislation, Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said, “That law already provides the administration with flexibility to accelerate the judicial process in times of crisis. The administration should use that flexibility to speed up the system while still treating these children humanely, with compassion and respect.”
But no. The Obama administration, remember, follows the letter of the law, not its intent.
The Obama administration has a long history of picking not only which laws it will enforce, but how it will enforce them. That the president’s spokesman is now citing the intent of a law after ignoring others in the past means they either have a newfound respect for it, or they simply don’t give a damn about anything beyond their agenda.