Obama: 'You Interpret a Statute Based On...Intent'

Susan Jones | June 9, 2015 | 7:31am EDT
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President Barack Obama addresses Obamacare at a news conference following the G-7 summit in southern Germany on Monday, June 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(CNSNews.com) - The intent of Obamacare is clear, and the law "doesn't need fixing" President Obama told a news conference in Germany on Monday.

"There is no reason why the existing exchanges should be overturned through a court case," he insisted, just days before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on a case that could eliminate subsidies for people who fot their insurance through the federal exchange.

Obama, a former constitutional law professor, said laws should be interpreted based on their "intent":

"And under well-established statutory interpretation approaches that have been repeatedly employed, not just by liberal Democratic judges, but by conservative judges like some on the current Supreme Court, you interpret a statute based on what the intent and meaning and the overall structure of the statute provides for," Obama said.

"And so this should be an easy case. Frankly, it probably shouldn't even have been taken up. And, you know, since we're going to get a ruling pretty quick, I think it's important for us to go ahead and assume that the Supreme Court is going to do what most legal scholars who've looked at this would expect them to do."

The Supreme Court case focuses not on intent, but on the plain language of the Affordable Care Act.

The question is whether the Internal Revenue Service, by regulation, can extend tax credit subsidies to people who purchased health insurance on the federal exchange.

Four words in the law specify that only exchanges "established by the State" may offer subsidized health insurance. But most states let the federal government set up their exchanges for them.

Obama said eliminating subsidies for people who enrolled in the federal exchange is a "bad idea."

"It's not something that should be done based on a twisted interpretation of four words, in, as we were reminded repeatedly, a couple thousand page piece of legislation."


"I must admit, with all due respect to the president, it's somewhat mind-boggling to me that he actually used to teach law," Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) told Fox News's Neil Cavuto on Monday.

"The statute is pretty clear that, in order to receive the subsidies in question, you have to be part of a state exchange.

"And now the president is saying, well, we really didn't mean that. And so this is what we really meant. Well, unfortunately, the English language gets in the way. And, again, this is the president eroding the rule of law. And if I was on the Supreme Court, I would be a little bit offended."

Hensarling noted that this isn't the first time Obama has lectured the Supreme Court, whose job is to "interpret the law."

He also said Republicans are working to provide an "off-ramp" to Obamacare "that gets us where we need to go."

Obama said on Monday he does not have a back-up plan if the Supreme Court doesn't agree with him.

"I'm optimistic that the Supreme Court will play it straight when it comes to the interpretation. And, B, I should mention that if it didn't, Congress could fix this whole thing with a one sentence provision."

Obama described the Affordable Care Act as a model "where all the pieces connect," and "if somebody does something that doesn't make any sense, then, it's hard to -- it's hard to fix."

Also See:
WH: 'No Contingency Plan' If SCOTUS Rules Against Obamacare Subsidies

Republicans Ask HHS, What If SCOTUS Guts Obamacare?

Burwell: HHS Cannot 'Undo the Damage' Administratively If SCOTUS Guts Obamacare

Treasury Sec'y Ducks Question: What Will You Do If SCOTUS Guts Obamacare?


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