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Time to stop talking about the Senate bill

A reader gently corrects me:

Your posts today keep referring to it as the health-care reform "bill." But it isn't a bill any longer--it's the LAW! So you might want to try to adjust your mindset.


By Ezra Klein  |  March 24, 2010; 10:54 AM ET
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and we can shift to "Health Care Reformed"

Posted by: bdballard | March 24, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Is it actually a law until reconciliation is complete, in the sense that it can be put into action or enforced? Or is it a quasi-law that must be basted with amendments and and steeped in hot reconciliation before it sets up into a fine fully legal casserole?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 24, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse


When Obama signed his name yesterday, it became the law. It is in force right now. It will be altered if and when reconciliation passes, but until then, it is the law (exactly as originally passed in the Senate on Christmas Eve).

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 24, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

BTW, you've been falling down on the job with the recipes, Ezra. I don't know what you think people come here for, but it's not for the erudite policy wonking.

No apricot glazed chicken with peaches and raisins? No barley risotto with chicken and parmesan? No buckwheat with roasted eggplant? Has something more important been going on?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 24, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse


Thanks much for the answer. The timer's popped out and the roast is done. Let's eat!

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 24, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Exactly. Once it's established that this stuff is law, the burden of persuasion (and all the political baggage this issue brings with it) falls on Republicans. Good luck with that...

Posted by: Chris_ | March 24, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

The Act is a "statute" at this point... purists would contend that a statute becomes a law only after being sustained by the Courts. See Calder v. Bull, 3 US 386 (1798) at page 388 [an early decision by the Court which makes the distinction between statute and law].

Posted by: rmgregory | March 24, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

For easy reference, here's the text from Calder v. Bull, 3 US 386 (1798) cited above:

An ACT of the Legislature (for I cannot call it a law) contrary to the great first principles of the social compact, cannot be considered a rightful exercise of legislative authority. The obligations of a law in governments established on express compact, and on republican principles, must be determined by the nature of the power, on which it was founded. A few instances will suffice to explain what I mean. A … law that takes property from A and gives it to B: It is against all reason and justice, for a people to entrust a Legislature with SUCH powers; and therefore it cannot be presumed that they have done it.

Posted by: rmgregory | March 24, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Well I am no lawyer but on my reading that Calder v. Bull does not hold that a passed piece of legislation is not in fact a law, instead it just seems to be an attempt to grope towards what would later be established in Marbury vs Madison, that there actually can be something that is an 'illegal law' even though that might seem to be a contradiction in terms. The key seems to be not the review itself but instead the "contrary to the great first principles" piece.

The U.S. Code is stuffed with statutes that may never have come up for any kind of judicial review at all.

Posted by: BruceWebb | March 24, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

"BTW, you've been falling down on the job with the recipes, Ezra. I don't know what you think people come here for, but it's not for the erudite policy wonking."

Kevin, this absolutely, unequivocally made my day.

Posted by: metricdisco | March 24, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

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