The Supreme Court spent the first part of the morning debating the “severability” question, and as Lyle Denniston reported, we learned a bit from the proceedings – most notably what the justices think of Congress.
The Supreme Court spent 91 minutes Wednesday operating on the assumption that it would strike down the key feature of the new health care law, but may have convinced itself in the end not to do that because of just how hard it would be to decide what to do after that.
A common reaction, across the bench, was that the Justices themselves did not want the onerous task of going through the remainder of the entire 2,700 pages of the law and deciding what to keep and what to throw out, and most seemed to think that should be left to Congress. They could not come together, however, on just what task they would send across the street for the lawmakers to perform. The net effect may well have shored up support for the individual insurance mandate itself.
Of particular interest was the justices’ opinions of Congress – it turns out, American voters aren’t the only ones who hold lawmakers in low regard – which was characterized as an institution incapable of creating a new health care law. Denniston added, “Scalia noted the problems in the filibuster-prone Senate. Kennedy wondered whether expecting Congress to perform was a reference to “the real Congress or the hypothetical Congress.”
I’d also note that Kagan complained at one point about “the complex parliamentary shenanigans that go on across the street.”
How dysfunctional is Congress? The legislative branch is now being openly and repeatedly mocked by Supreme Court justices during oral arguments – eliciting laughter from those in attendance.
Congress, they were laughing at you, not with you.