The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in King v. Burwell, invalidating subsidies through the federal healthcare exchanges, despite the lack of a Circuit split.
"Am I damning with faint praise? Not at all. This is what a successful presidency looks like. No president gets to do everything his supporters expected him to. FDR left behind a reformed nation, but one in which the wealthy retained a lot of power and privilege. On the other side, for all his anti-government rhetoric, Reagan left the core institutions of the New Deal and the Great Society in place. I don't care about the fact that Obama hasn't lived up to the golden dreams of 2008, and I care even less about his approval rating. I do care that he has, when all is said and done, achieved a lot. That is, as Joe Biden didn't quite say, a big deal." Paul Krugman (previously) writes "In Defense of Obama" for Rolling Stone.
A Republican panel of the D.C. Circuit has ruled [.pdf opinion] in the case of Halbig v. Burwell that a drafting error in the Affordable Care Act provides subsidies exclusively to state-based exchanges and not to federally-facilitated ones, even while subjectively intending to provide subsidies in both cases. The ruling threatens to take away federal subsidies for insurance sold on Obamacare exchanges in 36 states.
Happy Political Clusterf*ck Day (U.S.)! In one corner: the first federal government shutdown since 1996, born of the House GOP/Tea Party faction's crusade to delay, defund, and destroy Obamacare (and the Democratic Senate and President's resolve to not do that). "Continuing resolutions" have ping-ponged between the two houses, fighting over language to cancel healthcare reform (plus a few other items, such as the implementation of Mitt Romney's entire economic agenda). National parks are closed, contractors are hamstrung, and 800,000 federal workers furloughed until Speaker Boehner drops the "Hastert Rule" and passes a bill the other branches can agree to. In the other corner, heedless of the chaos (though not without glitches of its own): the official rollout of the Affordable Care Act and its state insurance exchanges. The portal at Healthcare.gov is your one-stop shop for browsing, comparing, and purchasing standardized, regulated insurance coverage with premium rebates, guaranteed coverage, and expanded Medicaid for the poor (in some states). A crazy day, overall -- but peanuts compared to what might happen if the debt ceiling is breached in 16 days. [more inside]
A middle-aged man in a red golf shirt shuffles up to a small folding table with gold trim, in a booth adorned with a flotilla of helium balloons, where government workers at the Kentucky State Fair are hawking the virtues of Kynect, the state’s health benefit exchange established by Obamacare. The man is impressed. "This beats Obamacare I hope," he mutters to one of the workers. “Do I burst his bubble?” wonders Reina Diaz-Dempsey, overseeing the operation. She doesn't. If he signs up, it's a win-win, whether he knows he's been ensnared by Obamacare or not.
Jonathan Cohn compares the effects on Medicare from the Affordable Care Act with the proposals being promoted by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
In less than an hour, the Supreme Court will hand down its final judgment in what has become one of the most crucial legal battles of our time: the constitutionality of President Obama's landmark health care reform law. The product of a strict party line vote following a
year century of debate, disinformation, and tense legislative wrangling, the Affordable Care Act would (among other popular reforms) require all Americans to buy insurance coverage by 2014, broadening the risk pool for the benefit of those with pre-existing conditions.
The fate of this "individual mandate," bitterly opposed by Republicans despite its similarity to past plans touted by conservatives (including presidential contender Mitt Romney) is the central question facing the justices today. If the conservative majority takes the dramatic step of striking down the mandate, the law will be toothless, and in danger of wholesale reversal, rendering millions uninsured, dealing a crippling blow to the president's re-election hopes, and possibly endangering the federal regulatory state.
But despite the pessimism of bettors, some believe the Court will demur, wary of damaging its already-fragile reputation with another partisan 5-4 decision. But those who know don't talk, and those who talk don't know. Watch the SCOTUSblog liveblog for updates, Q&A, and analysis as the truth finally comes out shortly after 10 a.m. EST.
This morning marked day two of marathon proceedings in what's likely the most momentous and politically-charged Supreme Court case since Bush v. Gore: the effort to strike down President Obama's landmark health care reform law. While yesterday was a sleepy affair of obscure technical debate, today's hearings targeted the heart of the law -- the individual mandate that requires most Americans to purchase insurance by 2014. With lower courts delivering a split decision before today, administration lawyers held some hope that at least one conservative justice could be persuaded to uphold the provision, which amortizes the risk that makes universal coverage possible. But after a day of deeply skeptical questioning by swing justice Anthony Kennedy and his fellow conservatives [transcript - audio], the mandate looks to be in grave trouble, with CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin going as far as calling the day "a train wreck" for the administration. But it's far from a done deal, with a third day of hearings tomorrow and a final decision not expected until June.
In the summer of 2007 on the campaign trail Barack Obama took a clear stance on the controversial subject of medical marijuana. “I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It’s not a good use of our resources.” As President in 2009 he took action to follow through on this promise by instructing federal prosecutors to “not focus federal resources in [their] States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” The memo cited the “efficient and rational use” of the U.S. Department of Justice’s “limited investigative and prosecutorial resources,” as a motivating factor in the decision." In the winter of 2012 Rolling Stone magazine takes a look back on this subject and the record is surprising. "With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush's record for medical-marijuana busts. "There's no question that Obama's the worst president on medical marijuana," says Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "He's gone from first to worst." [more inside]
"This is the true ‘bomb’ contained in Obamacare and the one item that will have more impact on the future of how medical care is paid for in this country than anything we’ve seen in quite some time. Indeed, it is this aspect of the law that represents the true ‘death panel’ found in Obamacare—but not one that is going to lead to the death of American consumers. Rather, the medical loss ratio will, ultimately, lead to the death of large parts of the private, for-profit health insurance industry."
"The Justices all sit in high-backed leather swivel chairs, and Thomas has set his so that he can recline so far that he appears almost to be lying down. He stares at the ceiling. He rubs his face. He does not appear to be listening. He closes his eyes and sometimes appears to be asleep. The over-all effect is rude, if not contemptuous." The New Yorker profiles Justice Clarence Thomas, his wife Ginni's Tea Party connections and what they might mean for the inevitable SCOTUS ruling on Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and looks back on his confirmation hearings. Previously, Justice Thomas and Ginni; Obama and healthcare; SCOTUS.
Kabuki Democracy: Why a Progressive Presidency Is Impossible, for Now. And what we should do about it. (one-page link)
The votes are in, the people have spoken. An official commemorative health reform t-shirt design has been chosen and is now on sale at Organizing for America. The Vice President must be so proud.
The Obama Coalition "These general findings suggest the possibility that the political strength of voters whose convictions are perhaps best described as Social Democratic in the European sense is reaching a significant level in the United States. With effective organization and mobilization, such voters are positioned to set the agenda in the Democratic Party in the near future."
House passes Healthcare reform. All that's left is voting on a reconciliation package for the senate to sign. But the house has passed the senate bill, which means this is basically a done deal. [more inside]
Republican Scott Brown has defeated Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election to fill Ted Kennedy's former senate seat. [more inside]
Landmark health care reform legislation passes senate on a Christmas-eve party line vote. So after a turbulent and contentious legislative process with many sudden reversals and last minute surprises, what's actually in the bill? NPR offers a "Consumer's Guide" to the form the final, reconciled legislation now seems likeliest to take. [more inside]
Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus has released the "chairman's mark" (his draft) of health-care legislation, America's Healthy Future Act. [more inside]
"Employer Requirement in Baucus Health Package Would Have Unintended Effect of Discouraging Hiring of Low-Income and Minority Workers." Robert Reich channels his inner Don Draper to sell the public option, while Josh Marshall wonders if the current plans are even a good idea. Rep. Raul Grijalva claims that progressives in the house arn't Prepared to Surrender on the public option, and Obama's Speech before congress is tomorrow. [more inside]
People are starting to get a little worn out on Healthcare coverage, or at least, a little worn out on the way it's been covered. Thank god our own grrarrgh00 isn't listening. Because someone has to spread the truth about Obama's nazi socialist communist granny killing satanist witchcraft healthcare reform.
Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table - I have no interest in doing it! Congressman Barney Frank confronts a woman at a town hall meeting who compared Obama to Hitler.
The Obama administration signaled today it is ready to entirely abandon the public option, i.e. giving Americans the choice of government-run health insurance (AP, Daily Kos, Politico, Hill). Further, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius indicated that end-of-life counseling was "probably off the table", presumably due to Republican "death panel" commentary.