By Doug Porter
There may be more symbolic votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the House of Representatives, but the days of broad challenges to the Obama administration’s signature health insurance reform legislation are over.
The Supreme Court today rejected a challenge (6-3, King v Burwell) constructed by conservative groups to eliminate the mechanism for insurance subsidies in states opting out of setting up their own exchanges. The stated aim of this litigation was to “to drive a stake through [the ACA’s] heart.”
Chief Justice Roberts was joined by the court’s liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as Anthony Kennedy in defending the intent of the law.
A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would have left millions of people in 34 states unable to afford health insurance. Republicans in those states led a mini-revolt in the wage of the law’s passage in 2009 by refusing to set up on-line state-run marketplaces.
A Big Loss for the Right
Backing the fight against implementation of the Affordable Care Act at the state level were the Cato Institute (a conservative think-tank), Americans for Prosperity (Koch brothers money) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
ALEC is a right wing “bill mill,” crafting boilerplate legislation for state legislatures and a source for ready made advocates to testify for conservative causes. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, by the way, (along with Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee) will be a featured speaker at the ALEC national convention in San Diego next month.
At this point most observers agree Obamacare is here to stay for a while. The inability of the GOP to craft an alternative plan for insurance reform combined with the reality of a large constituency benefiting from ACA leaves no obvious path for repealing.
Here are some reactions to the ruling, via Vox.com:
“This Court challenge [was] the last point at which it seems really like the law could completely go away,” says Larry Levitt, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Politically, momentum to repeal Obamacare is waning. Legally, Obamacare opponents are simply running out of ideas. And perhaps most importantly, Obamacare now has a large and growing constituency: an estimated 10.2 million Americans get coverage through the health law’s marketplace (and millions more through Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion).
“It’s a monumental step,” says Ron Pollack, executive director of the pro-Obamacare advocacy group Families USA. “It means that the ACA is a permanent part of the American health-care system.”
This case was the right wing’s best shot and they failed.
An Unexpected Civil Rights Victory
The Supreme court also turned back a challenge to the Fair Housing Act. From USA Today:
A deeply divided Supreme Court delivered an unexpected reprieve to civil rights groups on Thursday, ruling that housing discrimination need not be intentional in order to be illegal.
The justices said people objecting to lending, zoning, sales and rental practices only need to show that they had a disparate impact on blacks or other minorities under a federal fair-housing law.
The court’s 5-4 decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was an unlikely conclusion to a years-long effort by opponents of the civil rights-era law to reduce its effectiveness against housing policies and practices used by many builders, lenders and insurers. Twice before, the justices had agreed to hear a challenge to the law, only to see the cases withdrawn or settled before reaching court.
Supreme Court Decisions Yet to Come
There will be additional Supreme Court decisions made public over the remaining days in June.
- Environmental Regulations: A major rule requiring coal- and oil-fired power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants hangs in the balance. The central issue in the case is whether the Environmental Protection Agency should have considered the nearly $10 billion annual cost in relation to the potential benefits before approving the regulation. Several states are asking for the rule to be sent back to the drawing board.
- Lethal Injections: The court is being asked to rule on a relatively new method of execution, involving the use of a sedative called midazolam as part of a three-drug cocktail used by several states, including Oklahoma, where three death-row inmates are challenging its use. Unlike stronger barbiturates that are in short supply, the drug has failed in some cases to block pain and suffering during the lethal injection process.
- Redistricting: The justices will decide whether nonpartisan commissions can replace state legislatures in drawing congressional district maps every 10 years. California is among seven states using such commissions to take the redistricting process out of the hands of politicians with a vested interest. Arizona’s Republicans have cried foul, saying the Constitution gives that power solely to state legislatures. An expected ruling in their favor will mean new districts will be drawn throughout the Golden State.
- Same-sex Marriage. If past performance is any guide, this will be the last decision issued. The court will decide whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry or whether state bans against same-sex marriage can remain in place. Cases from Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee and Kentucky have been consolidated for the court’s consideration, with 32 plaintiffs asking for the right to marry or to have marriages licensed elsewhere recognized in their home states. Legal experts predict the court, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, will rule in favor of the gay and lesbian couples.
The doom and gloom types on the right are ready to frame a decision affirming the right to marry as an attack on religious freedom. Recognizing that overt anti-gay bigotry is no longer fashionable, social conservatives have prepared to respond in a manner keeping their bases active and the donations flowing.
Here’s one approach, as described in the Union-Tribune:
Conservative religious schools all over the country forbid same-sex relationships, from dating to couples living in married-student housing, and they fear they will soon be forced to make a wrenching choice. If the Supreme Court this month finds a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the schools say they will either have to abandon their policies that prohibit gay relationships or eventually risk losing their tax-exempt status.
The religious schools are concerned that if they continue to bar gay relationships, the Internal Revenue Service could take away their tax-exempt status as a violation of a “fundamental national public policy” under the reasoning of a 1983 Supreme Court decision that allowed the agency to revoke the tax-exempt status of schools that banned interracial relationships.
In a recent letter to congressional leaders, officials from more than 70 schools, from Catholic high schools to evangelical colleges, said that a Supreme Court ruling approving same-sex marriage would put at risk all schools “adhering to traditional religious and moral values.”
A Bad Day for The Donald
I’m really, really trying to save up my creative juices for writing about the Republican field of Presidential candidates for later in the season, but this is just too good to pass up….
The action, from Daily Kos:
Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president of this great nation with some of the most overtly racist, xenophic rants on Mexican immigrants imaginable.
They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.
In a post announcement interview, Trump doubled down:
And it’s people from countries other than Mexico also. We have drug dealers coming across, we have rapists, we have killers, we have murderers.
And the Reaction, from Politico:
Donald Trump and Univision Communications became embroiled in a contractual dispute on Thursday after the New York-based media company announced that it would end its business relationship with the Miss Universe Organization based on what it described as Trump’s “insulting remarks about Mexican immigrants.”
In an interview with the On Media blog, Trump, a part owner of the Miss Universe Organization, accused Univision of defaulting on an “iron-clad” five-year, $13.5 million contract that they had no right to terminate. “They have no termination rights whatsoever,” Trump said. “They’ve defaulted on their contract because of pressure put on them by Mexico.”
On This Day: 1941 – At the urging of black labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, President Franklin Roosevelt issues an executive order barring discrimination in defense industries. 1962 – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the use of unofficial non-denominational prayer in public schools was unconstitutional. 1964 – President Lyndon Johnson ordered 200 naval personnel to Mississippi to assist in finding three missing civil rights workers.
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