Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia threw a bit of a tantrum yesterday in King v. Burwell, outraged that six justices considered legislative intent, legislative history, and context. “[The six-member majority] rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere,” Scalia complained. “We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,”
Soon after, as the Washington Post reported, a House Republican announced new legislation to force the high court’s justices to use the Affordable Care Act. It’s called the “SCOTUScare Act of 2015.”
Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) introduced a bill, piggy-backing off Justice Antonin Scalia’s sarcasm, that would require all the justices and their clerks to get their health coverage through an Obamacare program as members of Congress and their staffs already do.“By eliminating their exemption from Obamacare, they will see firsthand what the American people are forced to live with!” Babin said in a statement.
What Babin doesn’t like about the ACA is not altogether clear. (If his name sounds at all familiar, the far-right Texan, less than a month into his first term in Congress, announced his belief that President Obama, without a doubt, “deserves impeachment.”)
For what it’s worth, the Republican freshman wasn’t just blowing smoke – he actually introduced this bill yesterday. The proposal picked up a bill number (H.R.2905), and was quickly endorsed by two co-sponsors: Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) and Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.).
It’s too soon to say whether the bill will gain any real traction, but either way, there’s something oddly perfect about the proposal.
To a very real extent, the “Scotuscare Act” is emblematic of a broader point, which has been widely underappreciated: congressional Republicans haven’t been prepared to respond to a court ruling in a serious, constructive way – and they sill aren’t. GOP lawmakers like, want, and propose gimmicks, not policy solutions. They see value in bumper-stickers that take legislative form.
And in general, that’s tolerable. Just so long as Americans don’t actually need Congress to do actual governing, stunts like the “Scotuscare Act” are harmless wastes of time. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that bills like these help demonstrate the degree to which some congressional Republicans aren’t interested in governing in any meaningful sense.