The Obama Brief: The President considers his judicial legacy. (SL New Yorker)
This morning, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius, two cases where private corporations have challenged the Affordable Care Act's contraception coverage mandate. Previously, and previously [more inside]
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.
"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.
The latest attempt to mitigate the impact of the Citizens United decision has failed, with an attempt to pass transparency rules for corporations funding political advertising failing to reach cloture. Obama comments on this vote in his most recent weekly address. Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (2010) held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited under the First Amendment. [more inside]
The New York Times is reporting that President Obama will nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor as Justice David Souter's replacement on the Supreme Court. Sotomayer, currently a judge in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, will (if confirmed by the Senate) be only the third female and the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog predicted Sotomayer as one of Obama's three most likely candidates back in January.