During the oral arguments over the health-care law, Justice Scalia got big laugh lines when he expressed horror that anyone would actually expect them to read the 2,700-page law:
“You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages? And do you really expect the Court to do that? Or do you expect us to — to give this function to our law clerks? Is this not totally unrealistic? That we are going to go through this enormous bill item by item and decide each one?”
Seriously, this is the biggest case in years (decades?), and he’s horrified that he might actually have to spend a few days reading it? This is about what the typical law student reads every week. And Justice Scalia can’t be bothered? He can’t even delegate it to his clerks?
Let’s remember what’s at stake here:
To be clear, the Affordable Care Act is a very long bill, and it includes far more than just a provision requiring people to buy insurance. It has expanded insurance coverage for millions of people by allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until 26, and it prevents insurance companies from denying someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Scalia is brushing off a bill that could dramatically expand affordable health insurance to the 50 million Americans who are currently uninsured — that is, so long as the Supreme Court does not strike down the entire law. (source)
So yes, Justice Scalia, actually, we DO expect you to read the bill.
Now to be fair, many members of Congress have likely not read the bill either, and I can’t say for sure whether the President has himself.
Megyn Kelly brought this point up when I talked about this on Fox News today (scroll down for video), and I think it’s a fair point. Why should Justice Scalia be expected to read it when the members who voted for it didn’t?
Now, I’ll agree, it would be ideal if all the members and the President read the full complete bill. But I do think there’s a big difference, because the members and the President spent the better part of an agonizing year crafting, debating, and voting on all kinds of components of the bill. Thus, while they might not have read the final bill line by line, they’d gone over its components again and again and again.
We can’t say the same about Justice Scalia. I assume he paid some attention to the process, as did many other intelligent, interested Americans. But he simply wasn’t anywhere near as involved as the members themselves. And in fact, he demonstrated his ignorance of the final bill when he referred derisively to a part of the law, the so-called “Cornhusker Kickback,” that wasn’t actually IN the final law (something I’m willing to bet the Members and President surely knew when they were deciding its fate).
So yes, before Justice Scalia rules on what might be the case of the century (well, maybe excluding Bush v Gore), I actually DO think he should at least know what he’s ruling on. And if that’s too much trouble, then he should frankly recuse himself. Seriously, we’re talking about a few days of reading. Is it really asking that much?