ACA

  • July 5, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Sarah Lipton-Lubet, ACLU Washington Legislative Office. This piece is cross-posted at the ACLU’s Washington Markup.


    Last week, as the nation paid rapt attention, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.  The decision is especially critical for women, who are more likely to suffer gaps and discrimination in their health care coverage.  Importantly, it means that the contraceptive coverage rule – which ensures access to affordable birth control for millions of women across the country – is still in place.

    That same day, the Supreme Court made a second decision about the ACA to a much quieter reception.  The Court declined to hear Seven-Sky v. Holder, a case alleging that the ACA’s individual mandate provision violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a statute that precludes federal laws from placing a “substantial burden” on religious exercise unless the government has a compelling interest in enacting the law.  Here, the plaintiffs argued that they “believe in trusting in God to protect [them] from illness or injury,” and therefore did not “want to be forced to buy health insurance coverage.”

  • July 3, 2012
    Humor

    by John Schachter

    When my son was maybe six years old, he learned an important life lesson: when you start an apology with the words, “I’m not really sorry,” it doesn’t count as an apology. Unfortunately, in his almost 63 years, Bill O’Reilly has yet to grasp that valuable rule.

    In late March, when the U.S. Supreme Court was hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, O’Reilly had ACS President Caroline Fredrickson on his show to “discuss” the issue. Much of the so-called discussion consisted of O’Reilly condescendingly lecturing Fredrickson with faulty analysis, but she was able to calmly explain how the taxing power could very well support the law’s constitutionality.

    O’Reilly staked his ground (and reputation) quite clearly when he said, “Ms. Fredrickson, you are going to lose and your arguments are specious … and it's going to be 5 to 4. And if I'm wrong, I will come on, and I will play your clip, and I will apologize for being an idiot.”

    When he returned to his show from vacation four days after the high court’s ruling, O’Reilly addressed the issue, which mainstream and social media representatives had been highlighting for days.

    I’m not really sorry,” he opened.

    “But I am a man of my word,” O’Reilly continued, showing no apparent recognition of the irony. “So I apologize for not factoring in the John Roberts situation. Truthfully, I never in a million years would thought the chief justice would go beyond the scope of the commerce clause to date and into taxation. I may be an idiot for not considering that.”

    (Childhood translation: “Billy, tell your sister you’re sorry.” “OK. I’m sorry … that she’s such a jerk.”)

  • June 21, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Erin Ryan, a Fulbright Scholar in China. She is a professor of law at Lewis & Clark Law School, where she will return this summer.  Ryan is also the author of Federalism and the Tug of War Within.This piece first appeared on RegBlog.


    This month, the Supreme Court will decide what some believe will be among the most important cases in the history of the institution. 

    In the “Obamacare” cases, the Court considers whether the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) exceeds the boundaries of federal authority under the various provisions of the Constitution that establish the relationship between local and national governance. Its response will determine the fate of Congress’s efforts to grapple with the nation’s health care crisis, and perhaps other legislative responses to wicked regulatory problems like climate governance or education policy. Whichever way the gavel falls, the decisions will likely impact the upcoming presidential and congressional elections, and some argue that they may significantly alter public faith in the Court itself. But from the constitutional perspective, they are important because they will speak directly to the interpretive problems of federalism that have ensnared the architects, practitioners, and scholars of American governance since the nation’s first days. 

  • June 6, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Rob Weiner, formerly Associate Deputy General in the U.S. Department of Justice is a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP. Many of the points in the following post are reflected in an earlier post for Balkinization calledPolitics by Other Means,” though with a somewhat different focus


    Ambrose Bierce defined “accuse” as, “To affirm another's guilt or unworth; most commonly as a justification of ourselves for having wronged him.” Thus it is that the opponents of the Affordable Care Act, with no hint of irony, accuse those supporting the Act of interjecting politics into the cases before the U.S. Supreme Court for the purpose of intimidating the Justices. But it was those same opponents -- Republican politicians -- who initiated the litigation after Democrats won a partisan battle in the legislative arena and who have overtly framed the lawsuits as part of a grand political strategy.

    The focus of the legislative battle was the Affordable Care Act, adopted on March 23, 2010, with no Republican votes.  As Republican legislators were vowing to repeal the newly enacted bill, the Republican Attorney General of Florida, along with 11 other Republican State Attorneys General and one Democrat, filed suit seven minutes after President Obama signed it into law. Four of the Republican AGs proceeded over the objections of their Democratic governors. A twelfth Republican AG, from Virginia, sued separately.

    Bypassing the federal courthouse only blocks from his office in Tallahassee, the Florida AG brought the suit more than 200 miles away in Pensacola. That jurisdiction had no connection to the case, but it was an enticing forum for the plaintiffs. All three of its federal district court judges are conservatives appointed by Republican presidents. Although the federal rules did not prohibit this forum shopping, it highlighted the partisan coloration of the case.

    A few months later, seven more states joined the suit. Three were represented by their Republican AGs. The other four states, however, had Democratic AGs who believed the litigation to be meritless. The Republican governors of those states therefore filed instead. In January 2011, seven months after the court-ordered deadline for adding new parties, four more Republican AGs and one Republican governor sought to join the litigation. Why the belated “me-too”?  One reason: the November 2010 elections, which changed the leadership of these five States from Democratic to Republican.

  • June 6, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The libertarian argument wielded against the Obama administration’s health care reform law was propelled quickly and effectively by a right-wing “infrastructure” that has its sights set on longstanding, but weakened social safety net laws.

    Media Matters’ David Lyle says those concerned about the nation’s social safety net and the Constitution’s progressive values, “should remember how aggressively and efficiently the right was able to deploy its view of the Constitution as a weapon, and meet future attempts to do so head on.”

    Lyle cites a recent Salon piece by Northwestern University law and political science professor Andrew Koppelman, which provides a detailed examination of the evolution of the wildly libertarian argument used against the Affordable Care Act’s minimum coverage provision. That provision of the law requires Americans who can afford it, to purchase a minimum amount of health care insurance starting in 2014.

    Lyle writes:

    Koppelman's research shows that within a few months in mid-2009 the constitutional argument against health care reform went from nonexistent to a subject of mainstream discussion. Koppelman was unable to find any published claim that the individual mandate would be unconstitutional prior to a July 2009 Federalist Society issue brief written by two former Bush administration officials. In August 2009, conservative lawyers David Rivkin and Lee Casey, who regularly write on issues the right-wing legal infrastructure wishes to move into the mainstream, published a Washington Post op-ed attacking the mandate on constitutional grounds. On September 18, law professor Randy Barnett, who would play a leading role in the subsequent litigation against the act, first weighed in on the issue with a post on Politico. Koppelman notes that days later CBS News reported that "[i]n the last few days, a new argument has emerged in the debate over Democratic healthcare proposals," and that CBS mentioned that the constitutionality issue had emerged on The O'Reilly Factor and Fox News.

    The Right’s ability, Lyle continues, to define the constitutional debate “is all the more potent because it so effectively complements a highly ideological, bordering on politically partisan, conservative pro-corporate wing of the federal judiciary.”

    He notes, among other instances, a recent concurring opinion by D.C. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown in Hettinga v. United States. Brown, appointed to the federal appeals court bench by George W. Bush, used her opinion to launch a screed against the federal government’s efforts to battle poverty and provide a sturdy social safety net.