Congress Case Comment

Affordable Convergence: “Reasonable Interpretation” and the Affordable Care Act

Vol. 126 No. 1 The constitution of the United States is to receive a reasonable interpretation of its language, and its powers, keeping in view the objects and purposes, for which those powers were conferred. By a reasonable interpretation, we mean, that in case the words are susceptible of two different senses, the one strict, the other more enlarged, that should be adopted, which is most consonant with the apparent objects and intent of the constitution . . . . – Joseph Story (1833) That the Court was sharply divided was not a surprise. The contrasting briefs – including a record 136 from amici – laid out the dispute. Over the extraordinary six hours of oral argument, the Justices actively interrupted the advocates, with Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan directing considerably more words to the challengers, and Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Alito the mirror image, directing far more of their words to the government. So it was not a surprise to find that the Justices produced two starkly warring opinions. One would strike down as unconstitutional the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and another would entirely uphold the same law; the two opinions embodied distinctive approaches to the issues at hand, to constitutional interpretation, and indeed, to how to view the world.