During oral arguments of the Burwell Obamacare case before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, a possible resolution seemed to rear its ugly head when Chief Justice Roberts questioned U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli over the contested ambiguity of the application of Obamacare subsidies. Verrilli made the case that the “court should defer to the interpretation of the Internal Revenue Service, which said the tax credits apply nationwide.” This reasoning is absolutely the worst possible solution — but of course not entirely unexpected from the federal government.
The idea of “deference” refers “ to “Chevron deference,” “a doctrine mostly unknown beyond the halls of the Capitol and the corridors of the Supreme Court. It refers to a 1984 decision, Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., and it is one of the most widely cited cases in law. Boiled down, it says that when a law is ambiguous, judges should defer to the agency designated to implement it so long as the agency’s decision is reasonable.”
Given the current catastrophic state of the Internal Revenue Service, the courts must run from this idea as quickly as possible. The IRS has proven overwhelmingly in the last few years that no decision it makes is “reasonable” and therefore cannot be trusted as an unbiased, independent agency capable of carrying out a professional opinion on this or virtually any manner. IRS officials engaged in targeting of conservatives, “lost” official emails, mislead Congress and investigators about their existence, and corresponded with agencies such as the FBI, the House Oversight Committee, the DoJ, and the White House in 2509 documents over a multi-year period.
No wonder the federal government requests deference to the IRS to sort out the language and spirit of Obamacare subsidies. It’s like the fox guarding the hen house!
The IRS is no more capable of making such a determination in the first place as the FCC was in implementing net neutrality or the EPA rules changes on limiting carbon dioxide emissions. Agencies have repeatedly exceeded their statutory jurisdiction. SCOTUS would be wise to ignore this suggestion to put the onus back on the IRS to sort out the mess. The IRS has never answered satisfactorily for its repeated scandals, and therefore cannot be considered non-partisan or capable of any prudent judgment, via “deference”, at this time.