Archive for June 9th, 2011
Straight from Fox News: “The public policy and legal fight over the legitimacy of President Obama’s historic 2010 health care overhaul took sharp focus in an ornate federal courtroom in Atlanta on Wednesday with two-and-a-half hours of arguments that may ultimately serve as a preview of what’s to come at the Supreme Court.
The Obama administration was faced with the difficult task of convincing at least two of the three federal judges hearing an appeal to overturn a January ruling invalidating the entire heath care law.
“Clearly, we believe the most difficult issue in the case is the individual mandate,” Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Joel Dubina announced at the outset. Indeed, most of the argument time focused on whether the law’s requirement for nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance is constitutional.
Dubina also noted that part of the difficulty of determining the legal viability of the Affordable Care Act is that the Supreme Court has never issued a ruling on the application of the Commerce Clause that directly matches up with what Congress passed last year.
“If we uphold the individual mandate in this case, are there any limits on Congress’s power left?” Dubina asked.
Judge Frank Hull later asked whether Congress could pass a similar law which could require Americans to buy certain types of cars or solar panels to comply with federal energy policy. Her question encapsulated the fear shared by many: that if the law is upheld it will open the door to unprecedented federal intervention in people’s lives.
But, Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal said, “Absolutely not.”
The Obama administration’s chief legal advocate defended the law and said there is no chance for a slippery slope towards increased government regulation. He vigorously argued the law’s propriety and purpose: to make sure uninsured Americans have coverage and that insurance companies offer broader protections.
Judge Stanley Marcus offered his own hypothetical scenario, trying to find out if the government could force Americans to buy a coverage plan for long-term health care. Again, Katyal said that was a step too far from what Congress could do.
The law’s opponents already believe Washington lawmakers went too far in passing the legislation. “If you give Congress the power to regulate people who are not in the relevant market, then you’ve given them the power to literally regulate anything,” warned lawyer Michael Carvin, representing the National Federation of Independent Business, the plaintiffs in the case.
Katyal didn’t take well to his naysayers arguments saying “[T]heir solution is to ban the uninsured from the hospitals and leave bleeding victims, trauma victims and pregnant women at the door.”
For many, the fundamental debate is whether the Commerce Clause, which allows the feds to regulate interstate economic commerce, also allows the government to force people who don’t have health insurance to buy coverage or pay a penalty. In short, it’s a question over whether not having health insurance is an ‘activity’ and whether the government can regulate that decision.
“I would say that sitting in your living room and making an economic decision not to engage in the activity of purchasing health insurance cannot under plain English be economic activity,” said Carvin.
The other key plaintiffs in the case are the 26 states that sued to stop the law from taking effect. They were represented by Bush administration-era Solicitor General Paul Clement. “[The government has] a lot of authority to regulate health insurers and a lot of authority to regulate people who voluntarily purchase health insurance,” Clement said to a question from Judge Marcus. “But I would submit they don’t have the authority to compel people to engage in the transaction.”
At the end of the case, Hull hit upon another controversial matter over the penalty that’s imposed on people who don’t buy insurance. She noted with some derision the government’s enforcement mechanism for collecting fines: essentially trusting that people who don’t comply with the law will tell the truth on their tax returns.
“How is that penalty even more collectible in any way than an unpaid medical bill?” Hull asked.
Five of the plaintiff states’ attorneys general attended the arguments and added another spin on that issue, with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott telling the media the administration was levying a new tax on Americans; one it never revealed during the health care debate.
The judges also spent time examining whether the individual mandate can be separated from other provisions and if expanding the umbrella of Medicaid eligibility puts too much of a burden on the states.
The judges aren’t expected to issue an opinion until summer’s end. Before departing the courtroom, Judge Dubina offered this prediction about the case ultimately ending up at the Supreme Court, “I doubt this is the last time we’ll be arguing this case.””
Straight from the Debka File: “Combat in Libya is winding down. debkafile’s exclusive military sources report that Muammar Qaddafi and the rebel commanders are close to concluding a series of accords for ending the war after two weeks of secret talks. Meanwhile, as NATO warplanes continued to pound Tripoli Wednesday night, May 25, fighting on the ground receded to small pockets where a few rebel commanders are still holding out. However the primary battlefields of Misrata, Brega and Ajdabia have fallen silent as the ceasefire begins to take hold.
The talks led by Qaddafi’s chief of intelligence Abdullah Sanousi made enough progress this week for both sides to agree to go public on the call for a ceasefire. This prompted Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi to send a letter to world leaders proposing an immediate UN-monitored ceasefire. He said Qaddafi’s regime is ready to enter into unconditional talks with rebels, declare an amnesty for both sides, draft a new constitution and create a different form of government. But first the fighting must stop. He made no mention of any plans for Qaddafi to quit.
Our sources report that the text of the prime minister’s letter was taken from the draft accords already covered by government and rebel negotiators.
In London, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed after they met Wednesday that Qaddafi should step down and leave Libya but they also admitted that to achieve this objective the fighting would be drawn out. “We may have to be more patient than people would like,” said Obama. Neither ruled out a possible ceasefire.
Meanwhile, NATO continues to bomb often empty buildings in Tripoli still hoping to kill the Libyan ruler and so cut the war short with a victory. This week, too, alliance bombers targeted Nalyut 230 kilometers west of Tripoli in the Nafussa Mountains where debkafile reports Berber tribes are fighting a secessionist war against Qaddafi unrelated to the Benghazi revolt.
According to our military sources, the rebel commanders decided to go for a deal with Qaddafi when they saw the Obama administration had no intention of contributing anything further to war and without the US, NATO would never defeat him. Negotiating for terms for ending the war looked like the better option.”
Straight from Fox News: “Dozens gathered at the Capitol in Austin on Saturday demanding a stop to TSA officers “touching their junk” at the airport.
Rally attendees are hoping to call attention to a recently proposed Texas bill that would limit TSA searches and enforce criminal charges for TSA officers if they touch someone inappropriately. The bill passed unanimously in the House, but died in the Senate.
The U.S. Attorney’s office was furious with the bill, threatening to cancel flights in Texas if the bill passed, arguing that TSA agents would not be able to do their jobs properly. The Senate heeded this warning and voted against the bill.
Those at the “Don’t Touch My Junk” rally hope the governor will resurrect the bill in special session.
“We’re urging Governor Perry — please do what you say and be fed up and let’s get this passed and bring it up in special session, and let’s do it for Texas,” Heather Fazio, member of Texans for Accountable Government, told MyFoxAustin.com.
Others believe the TSA pat-downs are necessary and the bill should not pass.
“I think anything the country is doing to protect us is all well and good,” Austin resident Janet Bates told MyFoxAustin.com. “If someone wants to file a complaint, they can file a complaint. I don’t think we need laws.”"