Affordable Care Act

Supreme Court’s grand ruse ends: Finally, Americans see the justices for the political hacks they are

Supreme Court's grand ruse ends: Finally, Americans see the justices for the political hacks they are

John Roberts at his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, Sept. 13, 2005 (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

SALON

It’s great that we’re no longer pretending the Supreme Court is immune to politics

Cue up the sad David Brooks violin playing softly in the corner of a dark alley at 3 a.m., because Americans have no faith in powerful institutions anymore. One of those institutions would be the marbled shrine atop our third branch of American government, the Supreme Court. A new Associated Press poll shows that “only 1 person in 10 is highly confident that the justices will rely on objective interpretations of the [Affordable Care Act] rather than their personal opinions” in the Court’s impending King v. Burwell decision.

To us, that 10 percent figure seems way too high. As far as we can tell, it’s not 1 in 10 Americans who view our Supreme Court as a neutral collection of jurists who just want to call “balls and strikes,” but 1 American total: Chief Justice John Roberts. And maybe even not him?

The American people, the always trusty American people, have the Supreme Court’s number here. As with so many cases about why the American people have lost trust in a powerful institution, we can look to some of the powerful institution’s recent actions, going back at least to Bush v. Gore through Citizens United and Hobby Lobby and whatever primetime hit job comes next.

That next hit job may come soon in King v. Burwell, which, if ruled for the plaintiffs, would invalidate premium subsidies for those who’ve purchased individual health insurance plans on federally facilitated exchanges. The expected decision based on tea-leaf readings coming out of oral arguments was 5-4 or 6-3 in favor of upholding the subsidies, which tells you a lot about how weak the case is. But there is another possible outcome: 5-4 to strike down the subsidies, because the Supreme Court is ruled by a five-member majority of conservative justices who think that the Affordable Care Act is dumb.

The last time a legal challenge to Obamacare of this breadth made it to the Supreme Court, four justices voted not just to strike down the individual mandate but the entire law as well, because they believed that the law was dumb. They didn’t like it! Get rid of it! John Roberts originally sided with them but then, to the consternation of his conservative colleagues, switched his vote because such a hackish decision would have made the Supreme Court look too hackish. Roberts contented himself merely to gut the hell out of the Medicaid expansion and force the Obama administration to acknowledge that the individual mandate is a tax.

Very few Court watchers are basing their predictions of the King decision on the merits of the case, and rightly so. If it was being decided on the merits of the case, everyone would be betting that it would be upheld 9-0. Does anyone think that’s going to happen? No. It will all come down to how John Roberts, and perhaps Anthony Kennedy, feel about managing the politics. They want to screw over Obamacare but yeeeesh, would that backfire on the Court and conservatives? Would that make life more difficult for the Republican party heading into 2016? On the other hand: Would John Roberts ever eat lunch in Conservative This Town again if he sided with The Libruls to uphold a core component of Obamacare? It’s all about finding the right balance of these competing political considerations. The Democratic and Republican parties rightly recognize the nature of the situation here and have spent months trying to get inside John Roberts’ head. It is what it is.

Let’s consider a more generous version of what’s happened to the Supreme Court of late: that it’s merely followed the broader trend in American politics towards polarization. Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg might be looking at the same piece of legislation before them but seeing something completely different, so divergent have the liberal and conservative worldviews become. And these are justices who were appointed a generation ago. The next round of justices will have made their careers during this time of high-stakes judicial polarization.

That next round of justices may come very soon, since several Supreme Court justices are approximately one million years old. As Ian Millhiser writes at Think Progress, Rick Perry correctly emphasized the importance of the next presidential election in a speech this weekend:

“Something I want you all to think about is that the next president of the United States, whoever that individual may be, could choose up to three, maybe even four members of the Supreme Court,” Perry told the South Carolina audience. So this election “isn’t about who’s going to be the president of the United States for just the next four years. This could be about individuals who have an impact on you, your children, and even our grandchildren. That’s the weight of what this election is really about.”

I hate the “you have to vote in the next election because of the Supreme Court!” argument. I hate it because it lets the candidates off the hook: they can offer nothing whatsoever to voters and then rely on SCOTUS fearmongering to get out the vote. I also hate it because it’s a very credible argument. There is never going to be another David Souter, or a justice who gets confirmed and then has an ideological shift on the bench. This next presidential election will also be an election for the next generation of the Supreme Court, and it’s no tragedy that most Americans understand this cynical reality.

ACA scores big on customer satisfaction

Pedro Rojas holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, before the Feb. 15th deadline on Feb. 5, 2015 in Miami, Fl. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Pedro Rojas holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, before the Feb. 15th deadline on Feb. 5, 2015 in Miami, Fl. | Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty

The Maddow Blog

When the Affordable Care Act’s Republican critics were making all kinds of dire predictions about the inevitable “failures” of “Obamacare,” one of the charges was that American consumers will end up hating the coverage they receive through the reform law.
And for those ACA detractors looking for something, anything, to bolster their contempt for the law, I’m afraid I have more bad news: Americans who received coverage through Obamacare tend to be quite pleased with the results.
Obamacare customers nationally also tended to be more satisfied with their plans bought in 2014 than people who primarily have traditional job-based health coverage – the majority of those with insurance – the study by the J.D. Power market research company found.
And those customers from last year were as happy with their coverage as other people who had multiple choices when it came to buying plans outside Obamacare markets from insurers or brokers, according to the J.D. Power report, which was released Thursday.
The full market-research report is available online here.
This is obviously just one study, and other analyses may draw other conclusions, but let’s not forget that this isn’t the first evidence we’ve seen pointing to high customer-satisfaction rates for those who buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act.
Politico reported back in November: “A majority of Americans give good reviews for insurance they recently acquired through government exchanges within the past year, a new poll shows. With the second round of Obamacare enrollment set to begin on Saturday, 71 percent said their coverage through the exchanges was good or excellent, according to a Gallup poll released Friday. Another 19 percent said the coverage was fair, while 9 percent rated it poorly.”
As for why ACA customers are pleased, Sarah Kliff had a good explanation.
The J.D. Power survey … shows that people with employer-sponsored coverage who have “multiple plan options” have the exact same satisfaction rating as the people on Obamacare. And this might actually circle back to the cost issue. People shopping on Obamacare have the option to decide whether they want a plan with a high premium or a low one. Shoppers have typically gravitated toward the lower-cost premium. The average monthly premium on Healthcare.gov is $374. For people getting coverage at work, the average premium is $464.
What this data suggests is that health-care shoppers seem to be okay with a trade-off: they like the idea of selecting a lower-premium plan, even if it might mean incurring higher out-of-pocket costs down the line – and are more satisfied customers as a result.
As for the ACA predictions Republicans got right, I still haven’t found one.

Morning Plum: Republicans won’t have any contingency plan if Court guts subsidies for millions

The Washington Post – Plum Line

With the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments this week in the lawsuit that could do severe damage to the Affordable Care Act, some Republican lawmakers are working hard to convey the impression that they have a contingency plan for the millions who will likely lose subsidies — and coverage — if the Court rules with the challengers. Senators Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, and John Barrasso have published a Washington Post op ed with an oh-so-reassuring title: “We have a plan for fixing health care.”

The good Senators, amusingly, cast their “plan” as something that will protect people from “the administration’s” actions and from Obamacare itself, not from the consequences of the legal challenge or a Court decision siding with it. The plan vows to “provide financial assistance” for a “transitional period” to those who lose subsidies, while Republicans create a “bridge away from Obamacare.” Of course, anyone who watched last week’s chaos in the House knows Congressional Republicans are unlikely to coalesce around any “transitional” relief for those who lose subsidies (that would require spending federal money to cover people) or any permanent long-term alternative. This chatter appears transparently designed to make it easier for conservative Justices to side with the challengers.

Yet even if this game works on the Justices in the short term, any eventual failure to come through with any  contingency plan could saddle Republicans with a political problem, perhaps even among GOP voters.

A poll taken by Independent Women’s Voice — a group that favors repealing Obamacare in the name of individual liberty — found that in the nearly three dozen states on the federal exchange, 75 percent of respondents think it’s very (54) or somewhat (21) important to restore subsidies to those who lose them. In the dozen main presidential swing states, 75 percent of respondents say the same.

And guess what: Large majorities of Republican voters agree. A spokesperson for the group tells me that in both those groups of states taken together, 62 percent of Republican respondents say its very (31) or somewhat (31) important to restore the subsidies. Only 31 percent of Republicans in those states think doing this is unimportant.

This raises the possibility that a lot of Republican voters would be harmed by an anti-ACA decision, too. As Politico puts it today: “The people who would be affected by a Supreme Court decision against the Obama administration live disproportionately in GOP-governed states, and an Urban Institute study found that many people fall into a demographic crucial to the GOP base — white, Southern and employed.”

Now, none of this means Republicans will be more likely to step forward with a solution. As Avik Roy (who hopes the Court rules against the ACA) acknowledges, Republicans are so divided that uniting on any response is unlikely:

Republicans are being pulled in two directions. On the one hand, you have dozens of House members from highly ideological districts, for whom a primary challenge is a far bigger political risk than a general election. Many members of this group think that continuing Obamacare’s subsidies, in any form, is problematic.

On the other hand, there is a large group of Republican senators in blue and purple states up for reelection in 2016. These include Mark Kirk (Ill.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Pat Toomey (Penn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Rob Portman (Ohio). These senators are much more aligned with Hatch, Alexander, and Barrasso.

Meanwhile, Republican state lawmakers, who could keep the subsidies flowing to their constituents by setting up state exchanges, are all over the place on what might come next, with some already ruling out such a fix. Indeed, in the end, it probably won’t matter that large majorities of Americans — or even large majorities of Republicans — support restoring the subsidies. On this, as on so many other things, GOP lawmakers will probably take their cues from the more conservative minority of Republicans, whatever the political or policy consequences.

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* WHY JUSTICES SHOULD WEIGH CONSEQUENCES OF ANTI-ACA RULING: Law professor Nicholas Bagley has a terrific piece explaining why the Supreme Court Justices should factor in the fact that siding with the challengers would take health care from millions: This eventuality shows the challengers are misreading the law.

It’s not irrelevant that a ruling in their favor would inflict such damage. To the contrary, that fact helps us correctly interpret the statute’s text. Indeed, it shows that the plaintiffs’ understanding of that text is wrong. As the Supreme Court has said time and again, no provision of a statute should be read in isolation. Laws must be read as a whole, with an eye to harmonizing their interdependent parts. That means the court is reluctant to read a stray passage here or there in a way that would destabilize an entire statutory scheme.

It’s also possible that the real-world implications of an anti-ACA ruling might have legal relevance because they bolster the states’ argument that siding with the challengers would impose unfair retroactive consequences on them without clear warning. Read the whole thing.

* LEGAL CHALLENGE TO THE ACA IS ‘PROVABLE FICTION’:Steven Brill has a must-read in which he documents his close reporting on the creation of the Affordable Care Act, and why that led him to the conclusion that the idea that Congress intended to deny subsidies to those on the federal exchange is nothing but “fiction” and a “fairytale”:

Congressional intent is a fact-based inquiry, not a matter of opinion. Given the unambiguous mountain of facts arrayed for the defense (and well-presented in the briefs submitted by the defense side), it is hard enough to see how the lawyers on the plaintiffs’ side could actually believe in their case…if a majority of supposedly objective justices decide to ignore the facts and buy their argument, they will have engaged in a breathtaking act of political activism.

The Justices, however, could simply conclude that the disputed phrase is not ambiguous enough to warrant Chevron deference to the IRS’ interpretation of the law, despite all the evidence of Congressional intent, not to mention the law’s overall structure and purpose.

* DEMOCRATS ANGRY ABOUT NETANYAHU SPEECH: Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address Congress tomorrow, and the New York Times reports that anger and unease are widespread among Congressional Democrats. The latest tally on who will skip the speech:

So far, 30 Democrats — four senators and 26 representatives — have said they will not attend the speech. Nearly half are African-Americans, who say they feel deeply that Mr. Netanyahu is disrespecting the president by challenging his foreign policy. But a half-dozen of those Democrats planning to stay away are Jewish, and represent 21 percent of Congress’s Jewish members.

Given the historic skittishness among Democrats about appearing even slightly out of sync with what Israel wants, that actually represents something new.

* PARTISAN DIVIDE ON VIEWS OF NETANYAHU: A new NBC News poll finds that  66 percent of Democrats say GOP leaders shouldn’t have invited Netanyahu to speak without notifying the president first, while only 28 percent of Republicans say the same. And only 12 percent of Democrats view Netanyahu favorably, versus 49 percent of Republicans. It bears repeating that when it comes to Israel and diplomacy with Iran, Congressional Democrats are well to the right of their base.

* SCOTT WALKER FLIP-FLOPS ON IMMIGRATION: After previously supporting legalization for the 11 million, Scott Walker tried to get right with conservatives on Fox News Sunday:

“I don’t believe in amnesty…my view has changed. I’m flat out saying it…we need to secure the border. We ultimately need to put in place a system that works. A legal immigration system that works.”

However, Walker also said that “there’s a way” to legalize the 11 million if border security is accomplished first. This puts Walker pretty much where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have come down on the issue.

* TOP CONSERVATIVE: BOEHNER’S JOB IS SAFE: GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, flatly tells CNN that there won’t be any conservative coup to oust Speaker John Boehner: “That’s not gonna happen.”

Duly noted. So what is stopping Boehner from passing long term funding of the Department of Homeland Security with the help of a lot of Democrats? We were repeatedly told during past showdowns that Boehner couldn’t avert crises with Dem help, because he’d lose his Speakership, and each of those ended in the same way.

Fox News Admits GOP Is Trying To Increase Obamacare Premiums, Then Tries To Cover It Up

Fox News Obamacare chyron

CREDIT: SCREENSHOT

Think Progress

Fox News admitted on Tuesday that a conservative-led lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act would raise health care premiums for millions of Americans. But then in its on-screen chyron, the network sought to attribute the increases not to the litigants involved in the case, but to President Obama, potentially confusing viewers.

“Could legal challenges to taxpayer subsidies put Obamacare in a death spiral?” Fox host Bill Hemmer asked, pointing to “a new study funded by the Department of Health and Human Services saying the health care law may be damaged beyond repair if you take the subsidies away, if they’re eliminated.”

Ongoing lawsuits are challenging the legality of providing subsidies through health insurance marketplaces in states that refused to set up their own exchanges. If those legal challenges succeed, the analysis that Hemmer is referencing — which comes from the RAND Corporation — did in fact conclude that premiums in those states could increase by as much as 43.3 percent. RAND’s researchers found that if federal subsidies to federally-run exchanges are ruled to be illegal, millions of people would have to pay more for coverage and could leave the risk pool, leading to a death spiral in which only the sickest people remain insured. Enrollment would fall by 68 percent and 11.3 million Americans could become uninsured.

Hemmer and Fox contributor Byron York huffed and puffed about the dangers of such a ruling, calling it “colossal” — despite the fact that the suits have been filed by conservatives, are supported by Republican lawmakers, and have been reported on favorably by the network in the past. The National Review has called the lawsuits and “ingenious” way to halt Obamacare. Fox, celebrated the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling against the administration on July 22 by pronouncing, “one by one they’re getting chipped away so it’s starting to collapse.”

And although the price increases are a direct result of a negative ruling, Fox News ran the story under the chyron “sticker shock again for some Obamacare enrollees as premiums set to rise,” implying that the law’s backers would be responsible.

So far, an appellate court in Virginia has ruled that the subsidies were legal, but a three-judge panel on the D.C. circuit disagreed. The full D.C. court is expected to reverse that decision, however, eliminating the circuit split and reducing the possibility that the Supreme Court will take up the matter. Another ruling against the law is still working its way through the legal system.

The administration contends that even though the law does not explicitly state that federally-run exchanges are to offer subsidies for coverage, the intent of its framers — as well as its other provisions about achieving “near-universal coverage” and financial security from medical bankruptcy — strongly imply that such credits must be made available.

GOP’s George Costanza moment: The “Moops” doctrine and the war on Obamacare

GOP's George Costanza moment: The "Moops" doctrine and the war on Obamacare

John Boehner, Jason Alexander as George Costanza on “Seinfeld” (Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst/NBC)

Salon

Republicans gloat over an Obamacare court case that poached its legal reasoning from “Seinfeld.” No joke…

The DC Circuit Court’s decision in Halbig v. Burwell came down yesterday, and in an anticipated but no less galling turn of events, a pair of Republican-appointed judges ruled that a single poorly worded snippet of the Affordable Care Act invalidates subsidies for people who purchased health coverage through the federal exchanges. Those exchanges were set up for the 36 states that declined to build their own exchanges, so the practical effect of the ruling would be to make health insurance more expensive for roughly 4.6 million people spread out across some of the country’s poorest states.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act point out that, the sloppily written language notwithstanding, the full text of the law clearly indicates that its drafters intended for the government to subsidize health plans purchased through the federal exchanges. These two judges, however, argued that a narrow reading of one out-of-context sliver of the bill trumps all, and ruled in favor of eviscerating the ACA and causing massive chaos in the insurance market. It’s the sort of thing that conservatives used to denounce as “judicial activism.” (A separate rulingyesterday from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the legality of the subsidies.)

I’ve been trying to figure out how to best characterize and/or mock the legal reasoning at play behind the Halbig decision, and I think it can be boiled down to one word: Moops.

I’m referring, of course, to George Costanza’s famous game of Trivial Pursuit against the Bubble Boy, in which Costanza tries to cheat his way out of losing by taking advantage of a misprint on the answer card: “Moops” instead of “Moors.”

“That’s not ‘Moops,’ you jerk. It’s Moors. It’s a misprint,” the Bubble Boy explains, accurately presenting the game manufacturer’s intent in spite of the minor technical error.

“I’m sorry, the card says ‘Moops’,  Costanza replies, adopting an absurdly narrow and nonsensical interpretation of the rules that furthers his own interests. It’s a pretty good match on the logic, and the happy coincidence that the situation pits a whiny, lying jerk against a person in need of substantial medical care only bolsters its relevance.

And that gets to the larger point: conservatives and Republicans are celebrating the fact that two judges indulged in some tortured legal logic in order to deny millions of people the subsidies that make their health plans affordable. The plaintiffs’ case in Halbig is a transparent attempt to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, and the people cheering on that sabotage are signaling that they’re fine with a whole lot of collateral damage just so long as Obamacare takes a hit too.

That’s a morally dubious position to maintain. It’s also a tough sell politically. For a Republican politician in a red state, refusing to set up a state-based exchange was an easy choice to make – you could be on the right side of argument politically, and the feds would step in to make sure that no one in the state would miss out on the benefits. But if the subsidies were to disappear, those same politicians would suddenly find themselves in the position of having to actually do something to mitigate the damage. Brian Beutler writes at the New Republic:

If you’re a Republican senator from a purple Healthcare.gov state—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and others—you’ll be under tremendous pressure to pass the legislative fix. If you’re a Republican governor in any Healthcare.gov state, many thousands of your constituents will expect you to both pressure Congress to fix the problem, and prepare to launch your own exchange.

But because the ruling dealt with Obamacare, and because Republicans are ideologically bound to be in opposition to the law, there was no shortage of GOP legislators putting out statements supporting the Halbig ruling and, in effect, higher health costs and reduced access to health care. Some of them, like Ted Cruz, just put it right out there and said hooray for the end of “insidious” healthcare tax credits: “This decision restores power to Congress and to the people and if properly enforced, should shield citizens from Obamacare’s insidious penalties, mandates, and subsidies.”

Speaker John Boehner put out a statement that didn’t make any actual sense. “Today’s ruling is also further proof that President Obama’s health care law is completely unworkable.  It cannot be fixed,” Boehner said, referring to a law that could be easily fixed by a small legislative tweak and is actually doing a pretty good job of providing health insurance subsidies. “Republicans remain committed to repealing the law and replacing it with solutions that will lower health care costs and protect American jobs,” Boehner continued, gliding right past the fact that the Republican Obamacare replacement “solutions” don’t actually exist.

The bottom line is that there are millions of people are newly and affordably insured courtesy of the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits, and they are generally happy with your coverage. And Republicans are celebrating that they could lose it all because two judges ruled that the card does, in fact, say “Moops.”

BREAKING: Two Republican Judges Order Obamacare Defunded

Ted Cruz |CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ALEX BRANDON

Did the Tea Party finally find two lower court judges to sign these orders?  Do they know that millions of people could lose Obamacare.  Do they even care?  The good news about this is that the appeals court is unlikely to uphold their decision…

Think Progress

Near the end of 2013, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) led a final crusade to defund the Affordable Care Act, eventually announcing on the Senate floor that “I intend to speak in opposition to Obamacare, I intend to speak in support of defunding Obamacare, until I am no longer able to stand.” Cruz did succeed in goading his fellow Republicans into shutting down the federal government, but his effort was ultimately doomed. The American people’s elected representatives voted not to defund Obamacare, and the shutdown ended.

On Tuesday, two Republican judges voted to rewrite this history. Under Halbig v. Burwell, a decision handed down by Judge Raymond Randolph, a Bush I appointee, and Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush II appointee, millions of Americans will lose the federal health insurance subsidies provided to them under the Affordable Care Act — or, at least, they will lose these subsidies if Randolph and Griffith’s decision is ultimately upheld on appeal.

Ted Cruz is undoubtedly smiling today. Two unelected Republicans just voted to erase his most embarrassing and most public defeat, and they voted to take away millions of Americans health care in the process.

Meet The Republicans

It’s important to understand just who these two Republicans are. Judge Randolph is a staunchly conservative judge who spent much of the oral argument in this case acting as an advocate for the anti-Obamacare side. Randolph complained, just a few weeks before President Obama would announce that the Affordable Care Act had overshot its enrollment goal, that the launch of the Affordable Care Act was “an unmitigated disaster” and that its costs “have gone sky-high.” At one point, Randolph also cut off Judge Harry Edwards, the sole Democratic appointee on the panel, to cite an editorial published by the conservativeInvestor’s Business Daily to prove the argument that Obamacare should be defunded.

The Investor’s Business Daily is not known as a particularly reliable source on health policy. In 2009, for example, it published an editorial arguing that Stephen Hawking, the British physicist who is an Englishman from the United Kingdom, “wouldn’t have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.”

Judge Griffith has a reputation as a more moderate judge, but it is not clear that this reputation is deserved. In 2012, Griffith’s colleague, Judge Janice Rogers Brown, published a concurring opinion suggesting that all labor, business or Wall Street regulation is constitutionally suspect. “America’s cowboy capitalism,” Brown claimed, “was long ago disarmed by a democratic process increasingly dominated by powerful groups with economic interests antithetical to competitors and consumers. And the courts, from which the victims of burdensome regulation sought protection, have been negotiating the terms of surrender since the 1930s.” Later in her opinion, Brown suggested that the Court went off the rails when it “decided economic liberty was not a fundamental constitutional right.” In the early Twentieth Century, conservative justices relied on ideas of “economic liberty” that were discarded in the 1930s in order to strike down laws protecting workers’ right to organize, laws ensuring a minimum wage and laws prohibiting employers from overworking their employees.

Griffith did not join Brown’s opinion, but his explanation for why he did not do so is instructive — “[a]lthough by no means unsympathetic to [Brown’s] criticism nor critical of [her] choice to express [her] perspective, I am reluctant to set forth my own views on the wisdom of such a broad area of the Supreme Court’s settled jurisprudence that was not challenged by the petitioner.” So Griffith is “sympathetic” to Brown’s argument that much of the Twentieth Century is unconstitutional, but he did not want to join her opinion because the arguments she made were not raised by the parties in that case. Halbig, by contrast, presented Griffith with a much more direct attack on supposedly “burdensome regulation” brought by the forces of “cowboy capitalism.”

Punishing Millions For A Proofreading Error

The two Republicans’ decision rests on a glorified typo in the Affordable Care Act itself. Obamacare gives states a choice. They can either run their own health insurance exchange where their residents may buy health insurance, and receive subsidies to help them pay for that insurance if they qualify, or they can allow the federal government to run that exchange for them. Yet the plaintiffs’ in this case uncovered a drafting error in the statute where it appears to limit the subsidies to individuals who obtain insurance through “an Exchange established by the State.” Randolph and Griffith’s opinion concludes that this drafting error is the only thing that matters. In their words, “a federal Exchange is not an ‘Exchange established by the State,’” and that’s it. The upshot of this opinion is that 6.5 million Americans will lose their ability to afford health insurance, according to one estimate.

The Supreme Court of the United States, however, has long recognized that a law’s clear purpose should not be defeated due to an error in proofreading. As the Court explained in 2007, “a reviewing court should not confine itself to examining a particular statutory provision in isolation” as the “meaning—or ambiguity—of certain words or phrases may only become evident when placed in context.” It is indeed true that a single phrase of the Affordable Care Act, if read in isolation, suggests that Congress intended only state-run exchanges — as opposed to federal exchanges — to offer subsidies, but this provision is contradicted by numerous other provisions of the law.

One provision of the Affordable Care Act, for example, indicates that any “exchange” shall be an “entity that is established by a State” — language which indicates that federally run exchanges will be deemed to be “established by a state.” This may seem counter-intuitive, but Congress has the power to define the words that it uses in any way that it wants, even if those words are defined in ways that are unusual. Another provision of the law provides that, when a state elects not to run an exchange, the Secretary of Health and Human Services “shall . . . establish and operate such Exchange within the State and the Secretary shall take such actions as are necessary to implement such other requirements.” Thus, the law not only authorizes the Secretary to stand in the state’s shoes when it runs an exchange, it also empowers her to implement the law’s “other requirements.”

Nor is this is the full extent of the problems with Randolph and Griffith’s conclusion. Indeed, in order to accept their decision, a person reading the Affordable Care Act must ignore the following facts:

  • The subtitle of the Affordable Care Act which contains the provisions at issue in this case is titled “Affordable Coverage Choices for All Americans.” If Randolph and Griffith are correct, Congress would have named that subtitle “Affordable Coverage Choices for All Americans Except For Those Americans Who Live In States With Federally-Run Exchanges.”
  • The Affordable Care Act says that it will “achieve[] near-universal coverage.” If Randolph and Griffith are correct, Congress would have said that Obamacare “achieves near-universal coverage except in states with federally-run exchanges.”
  • An amendment to the Affordable Care Act requires the federally-run exchanges to report various information that they would only be able to report if they were providing subsidies, such as whether taxpayers received an “advance payment of such credit”; information needed to determine individuals’ “eligibility for, and the amount of, such credit”; and “[i]nformation necessary to determine whether a taxpayer has received excess advance payments.” Congress would not have imposed this reporting requirements if they thought that the federal exchanges would not offer subsidies.
  • The Affordable Care Act also provides that the only people who are qualified to purchase insurance at all on a federally-run exchange are people who “reside[] in the State that established the Exchange.” Thus, if federally-run exchanges are not deemed to be “established by the State,” that means that no one at all is allowed to purchase health insurance on the federally-run exchanges, and there would be no purpose whatsoever to their existence. As the trial court explained in this very case, this interpretation makes no sense, because “courts presume that Congress has used its scarce legislative time to enact statutes that have some legal consequence.”

Shifting Positions

Virtually no one, apparently including at least one of the plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit, actually believes that these propositions are true. Indeed, as the government points out in its brief, one of the plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit also was a plaintiff in the last lawsuit seeking to gut Obamacare, the challenge to the individual mandate that was rejected by the Supreme Court. In that lawsuit, this plaintiff argued that the subsidies were an integral part of every exchange’s’ very design — “[w]ithout the subsidies driving demand within the exchanges, insurance companies would have absolutely no reason to offer their products through exchanges, where they are subject to far greater restrictions.” Now, however, he expects the courts to believe that these subsidies were entirely optional, and that Congress intended federally-run exchanges to get along without them. Notably, the exact same lawyer represented this plaintiff when he made both of these mutually exclusive claims.

The unsuccessful legal argument claiming that the individual mandate was unconstitutional was a major prong of the Republican attack on the law as early as 2009. Yet, even after the GOP decided that defeating Obamacare in court was their number one policy priority, afterRepublican officials in numerous states brought a high-profile lawsuit seeking to kill this law, and after they hired one of the best lawyers in the country to drive this litigation, no one noticed the alleged flaw in the statute that Randolph and Griffith rely upon today. The reason why is obvious. Not even the many Republican officials who filed briefs seeking to kill this law the first time around actually believed that the law was intended to deny subsidies to people who buy insurance in federal exchanges.

To get around this fact, Randolph and Griffith spin an alternative history of the Affordable Care Act’s passage. A major prong of this alternative history claims that Congress wanted to deny subsidies to people in states with federally-run exchanges because that that would provide states with an incentive to start their own exchange — in Randolph and Griffith’s words, Congress “us[ed] subsidies as an incentive to gain states’ cooperation.” Thus, in this narrative, Congress viewed getting states to run exchanges as an all-encompassing goal, trumping even the law’s stated goals of providing “Affordable Coverage Choices for AllAmericans” and achieving “near-universal coverage.” Needless to say, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Congress actually viewed the administrative question of which set of government bureaucrats would run a particular state’s exchange as a question of such superseding importance that they were willing to deny health coverage to millions of people in order to ensure that the right set of bureaucrats run the exchanges in each state.

An Opinion That Kills

Should Randolph and Griffith’s decision be upheld on appeal, which, for reasons explained below, is unlikely, it would send destructive shockwaves through much of the American health care system. As ThinkProgress previously explained, suddenly removing federal subsidies from insurance markets that expect them to continue being paid would force health insurers to jack up their premiums in order to cover their costs. Higher premiums, however, would cause many healthy individuals to drop their coverage. Which will force insurers to raise their premiums even more, which will cause even more individuals to lose their coverage. Indeed, according to a brief filed by several economists, the resulting death spiral would render insurance “unaffordable for more than 99 percent of the families and individuals eligible for subsidies” within the federal exchanges.

This economic problem exposes yet another flaw in Randolph and Griffith’s opinion. In order to accept their reasoning, one has to believe that Congress buried a hidden time bomb within the arcane provisions of the Affordable Care Act that, when it detonated, would render much of the act a nullity. As the economists explain in their brief, Randolph and Griffith’s decision presumes that “Congress sought to legislate into existence a massive new social program that it understood would immediately fail.”

So Randolph and Griffith’s opinion would be comic if its result were not so tragic. And make no mistake, if this opinion is upheld on appeal, it will be a tragedy. According to one Harvard study, nearly 45,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 died in a single year because they lacked health insurance. Randolph and Griffith’s decision would ensure that many of these deaths resume. That’s tens of thousands of wives who will never hold their husbands again, and tens of thousands of fathers who will never kiss their daughters again, all because two unelected Republicans hunted through an ocean of language indicating that Congress intended to end these needless deaths in order to find a single piece of flotsam suggesting that the law should be defunded.

This is not how judges typically behave in a democracy. And it is not a decision that is rooted either in Congress’ intentions or in Supreme Court precedent.

An Opinion That Is Unlikely To Survive

We live in interesting times. And we live in times where judges and justices can not longer be expected to rely on established law, especially when they are presented to an opportunity toundermine Obamacare. Nevertheless, there are several reasons to be optimistic that Randolph and Griffith attempt to defund Obamacare will not survive contact with a higher authority.

For starters, under the Supreme Court’s Chevron Doctrine, courts typically defer to a federal agency’s reading of a law so long as “the agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.” Randolph and Griffith get around this doctrine by claiming that the law “the ACA unambiguously restricts the section 36B subsidy to insurance” purchased on state-run exchanges.

If you truly believe that the only possible interpretation of the Affordable Care Act’s language is the one adopted by Randolph and Griffith on Tuesday, then you may want to go back to the top of this article and start reading it all over again. In any event, two federal judges previously concluded that Obamacare is unambiguous in the other direction — that is, it unambiguously offers subsidies to people who purchase insurance through federal exchanges. That alone demonstrates that, even if the law isn’t completely clear, its meaning is at least uncertain enough that the courts should defer to the agency’s reading underChevron.

More importantly, Randolph and Griffith’s own colleagues are unlikely to allow this opinion to stand for long. The federal government may now appeal this decision to the full United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where Democrats enjoy a 7-4 majority among the court’s active judges. It is unlikely, to say the least, that a Democratic bench will strike down President Obama’s primary legislative accomplishment based on the highly doubtful reasoning contained in Randolph and Griffith’s opinion.

Should the full DC Circuit intervene, of course, their decision can ultimately be appealed to the GOP-controlled Supreme Court. But we’ve already seen this story play out once before. The last time conservative lawyers brought a case to the Supreme Court seeking to gut Obamacare, Chief Justice John Roberts voted to uphold the bulk of the law.

Roberts cast this vote a year-and-a-half before much of the law would actually be implemented, meaning that, if he had chosen to struck down the law then, he would have been able to do so at a time when the constituency for upholding the law was relatively small. Now, however, millions of Americans stand to lose their health insurance if Roberts signs on to Randolph and Griffith’s reasoning — and Roberts would be personally responsible for the subsequent loss of health coverage and needless deaths that would result. If Roberts was unwilling to trash the law at a time when the impact would have been relatively small, it is unlikely that he will do so under circumstances that are likely to inspire the masses to storm his castle while wielding pitchforks.

 

Ted Cruz Has a Message for GOP ‘Graybeards’ Who Opposed Gov’t Shutdown

Ted Cruz (Credit: Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

I think Ted Cruz is a bit too sure of himself.  Outside of his home state of Texas, no one can stomach him…

Mediaite

When Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) led the charge to shut down the United States government over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act last fall, the general consensus, including among many of his Republican colleagues, was that the move would be a disaster for the GOP. But during a speech at the Republican Leadership Conference on Saturday, Cruz attempted to recast the shutdown as the one thing that could help his party take back the Senate in this year’s midterm elections.

“Let me tell you right now, I am convinced we are going to retake the United States Senate in 2014,” Cruz told the crowd to raucous applause. But beyond just sharing that positive outlook, Cruz wanted to delve into the reasons behind Republicans’ increased political favor. “Why are so many Democrats running terrified?” he asked.

The “most compelling reason,” according to Cruz, is Obamacare. He then turned to the fight that he led last year to stop the “abomination” that is the Affordable Care Act, which, after a troubled rollout, hashelped more than 8 million Americans gain health insurance.

If you listen to Democrats and the media, which Cruz implied are the same thing, “they will tell you that fight last fall accomplished nothing.” He may have failed to stop Obamacare from becoming law, but as Cruz said, “Not every war is won in a single battle.”

By “elevating the national debate” over Obamacare, Cruz said he and his followers created an environment for conservatives to succeed in the midterms. “And somehow, all of the graybeards in Washington, who opposed fighting against Obamacare,” Cruz said of his GOP colleagues, “are now looking around and we’re winning Senate seats all over the country. They’re reaping the fruits of the battle.”

“We need to take a moment to acknowledge the lesson of the battle,” Cruz said. “How do you win elections? You don’t win it by standing for nothing.”

Watch video here…

Obama Administration Accomplishments: 1-21-09 to 3-11-14

President Barack H. Obama

Democratic Hub, one of the best web portals out there, has a running list of President Obama’s accomplishments since day-one. The next time a RWNJ (or even someone on the far left) claims the President has accomplished nothing, send them the link. They may not like what he’s accomplished, but then that’s the whole point, isn’t it?    H/t: All Things Democrat

 

Democratic Hub

03/11/14 Overtime pay mandated for executive and professional employees Labor Workers & Jobs & Job Growth
02/19/14 Export/Import process for small businesses streamlined through creation of International Trade Data System Business & Economy Small Businesses
02/12/14 Minimum wage for Federal Contractors raised to $10.10 per hour. Minimum Wage Workers
02/07/14 Agriculture Act of 2014 signed into law Agriculture Act of 2014
11/24/13 Iran agrees to constraints on its uranium-enrichment program in exchange for sanctions relief in six month deal with world powers. Nuclear Energy Combating Nuclear Proliferation
10/17/13 Federal Government reopens after 16 day shutdown Government Shutdown Workers
09/27/13 President Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have a phone conversation, marking the first formal communication between the two countries in 35 years International Relations
09/14/13 Syria agrees to dismantle chemical weapons stockpile after United States and Russia reach deal Treaties & Agreements
06/26/13 Gay marriage to resume in California after lower court ruling declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional allowed to stand Civil & Human Rights LGBT
06/26/13 Defense of Marriage Act ruled unconstitutional by Supreme Court Civil & Human Rights LGBT
01/02/13 American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 signed into law American Taxpayer Relief Act of 20…
09/10/12 Yemeni forces have killed Said al-Shihri, second in command of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Al-Qaeda Combating Terrorism
09/02/12 U.S. drone strike killed a top al-Qaida militant (Khaled Batis), who was wanted for allegedly masterminding a 2002 attack on a French oil tanker Terrorism Combating Terrorism
08/24/12 Mullah Dadullah, a senior commander of the Pakistani Taliban, killed by NATO airstrike in eastern Afghanistan Pakistani Taliban Combating Terrorism
06/06/12 Abu Yahya al-Libi, No.2 leader of Al Qaeda, confirmed killed by CIA drone strike in Pakistan Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
05/19/12 Blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng free to leave China with his family and study in the USA after diplomatic negotiations with China by Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration International Relations Freedom of Speech
05/09/12 Barack Obama becomes the first President to publicly support the legalization of same sex marriage LGBT
05/06/12 Airstrike Kills Senior Al-Qaida Leader Fahd al-Quso In Yemen Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
04/04/12 Members of Congress and certain government employees prohibited from using non-public information for personal profit, including insider trading. STOCK Act U.S. Citizens & Reducing Govt Fraud\Corruption
02/22/12 Cuts in Medicare physician payment rates averted with extension of existing rates through 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Cr… Doctors & Retirees
02/22/12 Federal unemployment benefits programs extended an additional 13 to 20 weeks Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Cr… Unemployed & Improving the Economy
02/22/12 Self-employed social security payroll tax reduction from 12.4% to 10.4 % extended through 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Cr… Entrepreneurs & Improving the Economy
02/22/12 Employee social security payroll tax reduction from 6.2% to 4.2 % extended through 2012 Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Cr… Workers & Improving the Economy
02/09/12 Pakistan Al-Qaeda leader Badar Mansoor killed by U.S. drone attacks Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
01/30/12 U.S. drone attack in Yemen killed 12-15 militants, including at least four Al-Qaeda leaders Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
2012 JAN Senior Al-Qaeda figure Aslam Awan killed in U.S. drone strike Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
12/17/11 War in Iraq ended with last American troops crossing border into Kuwait 2003 Iraq War U.S. Citizens
12/06/11 US government international campaign initiated to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide Discrimination LGBT
09/30/11 $700 million annual funding for child protection, child abuse prevention, family support and adoption promotion through 2016 Child and Family Services Improvem… Foster Children & Orphans
09/30/11 Senior Al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki killed in Yemen by a CIA-led U.S. drone strike Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
09/16/11 Patent litigation costs reduced through tightened patent standards, quality and processes to expedite challenges. America Invents Act Entrepreneurs
09/16/11 Entrepreneurs and businesses benefited by reduced average wait time for patent approvals from 3 years to 1 year. America Invents Act Entrepreneurs
09/11/11 Al-Qaeda’s operations chief for Pakistan Abu Hafs al Shahri reported killed in U.S. Predator strike Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
09/06/11 U.S./Pakistani joint arrest of suspected Chief Al-Qaeda Younis al-Mauritani in Quetta Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
08/22/11 Al-Qaeda No. 2 Atiyah Abd al-Rahman Killed in Pakistan by CIA predator drone strike Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
06/07/11 East Africa’s Al-Qaeda senior leader Harun Fazul killed at security checkpoint in Somalia Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
06/03/11 Al-Qaeda Commander Ilyas Kashmiri Killed in U.S. Predator Strike Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
2011 JUN 6 senior Al-Qaeda figures killed in U.S. Air Strike Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
05/02/11 US Forces Kill Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
02/23/11 Defense of Marriage Act declared unconstitutional and no longer defended in federal courts by the Obama Administration LGBT
02/05/11 Number of US and Russian strategic nuclear missile launchers reduced in half by 2017 New START Treaty Combating Nuclear Proliferation
02/05/11 Number of US and Russian nuclear warheads deployed reduced by two-thirds by 2017 New START Treaty Combating Nuclear Proliferation
01/04/11 Small family farms selling locally exempted from federal regulations such as traceability and record keeping Food Safety Modernization Act Farmers & Improving Govt Efficiency
01/04/11 Safety of U.S. grown food improved with requirements for large factory farms to register all food handlers and maintain records relating to food safety Food Safety Modernization Act Consumers
01/04/11 Safety of imported food improved with new FSVP & VQIP programs that helps ensure it is safe, unadulterated and not misbranded Food Safety Modernization Act Consumers & Improving Govt Efficiency
12/22/10 US sponsored measure to include “sexual orientation” in the definition of human rights adopted by the UN General Assembly, 122- 0. Discrimination LGBT
12/22/10 $193 million saved over five years by eliminating recruiting and retraining costs of replacing soldiers discharged due to DADT Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act Military Personnel &Reducing Debt\Deficits
12/22/10 Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act LGBT & Military Personnel
12/17/10 $40 billion in tax credits for college students and lower income families with children 2010 Tax & Jobs Compromise Poor & Students
12/17/10 Unemployment benefits extended for 13 months at a cost of $56 billion 2010 Tax & Jobs Compromise Unemployed & Improving the Economy
12/17/10 $111 billion in tax relief for workers by a reducing social security payroll tax from 6.2% to 4.2% for 2011. 2010 Tax & Jobs Compromise Workers & Improving the Economy
12/17/10 $136 billion in tax relief for 21 million middle class households through patch to the Alternative Minimum Tax for 2010 & 2011 2010 Tax & Jobs Compromise Middle Class & Workers
12/17/10 $186 billion in tax relief for all tax payers by extending the Bush income tax cuts for 2010 & 2011 2010 Tax & Jobs Compromise Workers & Consumers
12/13/10 Schools and communities provided resources to utilize local farms and gardens to provide fresh produce for school food programs. Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Children & Improving Health & Wellness
12/13/10 Number of eligible children enrolled in school meal programs increased by approximately 115,000 students Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Children & Improving Health & Wellness
12/08/10 $3.4 billion settlement for Native Americans against the US government arising from incorrect accounting for royalties on mineral leases Claims Resolution Act Native Americans &Improving Govt Efficiency
12/08/10 $1.5 billion awarded to some 75,000 black farmers who were victims of discrimination in applying for farm loans from 1983 to 1997 Claims Resolution Act African Americans & Farmers
10/14/10 Veteran work-study programs expanded to include congressional offices, state agencies and institutions of higher learning Veterans’ Benefit Act Veterans & Creating Jobs
10/14/10 Insurance policy amounts and terms enhanced for severely disabled veterans Veterans’ Benefit Act Veterans & Improving Health & Wellness
10/14/10 On-the-job training opportunities expanded for veterans by reimbursing energy sector employers for training costs. Veterans’ Benefit Act Veterans & Creating Jobs
10/14/10 Service members receiving relocation orders protected from early termination fees for certain contracts and residential leases Veterans’ Benefit Act Military Personnel
10/14/10 Disabled veterans provided improved independent assisted living services, automobile adaptive equipment and allowances for automobile purchase Veterans’ Benefit Act Veterans
10/14/10 $10 million in job training, counseling, placement services, and child care services for homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children Veterans’ Benefit Act Veterans & Women
09/27/10 $30 billion lending program created for community banks with incentives to increase small business lending Small Business Jobs Act Small Businesses &Improving the Economy
09/27/10 $12 billion in assistance for small businesses through eight separate tax cuts Small Business Jobs Act Small Businesses
08/03/10 Large disparity in jail sentences reduced for crack cocaine related offenses that disproportionately affected African Americans Fair Sentencing Act African Americans
07/22/10 Long-term economic stability improved through new FDIC powers to liquidate failing financial firms such as insurance companies and non-bank financial companies Wall Street Reform Act Improving Economic Stability
07/22/10 Borrowers protected from bad loans with rules and penalties requiring that lenders verify that they are able to repay the loans that they issue Wall Street Reform Act Homeowners & Consumers
07/22/10 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau established to promote fairness and transparency for mortgages, credit cards, and other consumer financial products Wall Street Reform Act Consumers
07/22/10 Transparency of Federal Reserve improved with additional government oversight and new audits to be performed by the GAO Wall Street Reform Act Improving Govt Transparency
07/22/10 FDIC bank deposit insurance increased from $100,000 to $250,000 Wall Street Reform Act Consumers & Improving Economic Stability
07/22/10 Risk in the financial system reduced with new SEC Office of Credit Ratings (OCR) to monitor credit rating agencies for conflict of interests & inaccuracies Wall Street Reform Act Improving Economic Stability
07/22/10 Future economic downturns minimized with new rules and transparency regarding bank trading in credit default swaps and derivatives including the “Volker Rule” Wall Street Reform Act Improving Economic Stability
07/22/10 Financial Stability Oversight Council established to identify and monitor excessive risks to the U.S. financial system Wall Street Reform Act Improving Economic Stability
06/29/10 U.S. drone attack killed 7 known terrorists, most notable Al-Qaeda operative from Egypt Hawza al Jawfi Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
06/02/10 Federal benefits extended to same sex partners of workers through memorandum by Obama administration Civil & Human Rights LGBT & Federal Employees
05/21/10 Al-Qaeda’s number three commander Sheik Saeed al-Masri killed in U.S. drone attack Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
05/05/10 Housing and care options expanded for homeless veterans living in care shelters Caregivers & Veterans Health Servi… Veterans
05/05/10 Care options expanded for veterans living in rural areas that lack the necessary VA medical facilities Caregivers & Veterans Health Servi… Veterans & Improving Health & Wellness
05/05/10 Counseling and care enhanced for military women victims of sexual trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Caregivers & Veterans Health Servi… Veterans & Women
05/05/10 Health care services improved and expanded for women veterans at Veterans care facilities Caregivers & Veterans Health Servi… Veterans & Women
05/05/10 Family caregivers of veterans granted eligibility to VA counseling and mental health services Caregivers & Veterans Health Servi… Veterans & Women
04/18/10 Joint American and Iraqi operation killed Al-Qaeda leaders Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
03/30/10 $2 billion investment to laid off workers for education and career training programs in community colleges over four years starting in 2010 Student Aid Act Unemployed & Improving Education
03/30/10 $68 billion to expand Pell grants & make it easier for students to repay outstanding loans after graduation through savings in the federal student loan program Student Aid Act College Students & Improving Education
03/23/10 Consumers guaranteed the right to choose the primary care doctor or pediatrician from their health plan’s provider network Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Consumers & Improving Health & Wellness
03/23/10 Insurers selling to groups of 50 or more employees must spend 85% of premiums on medical care and quality improvement Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Consumers & Improving Health & Wellness
03/23/10 Annual dollar limits on health benefits restricted and phased out by 2014 Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Consumers & Improving Health & Wellness
03/23/10 Health care insurance plans prohibited from putting a lifetime limit on the benefits you receive Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Consumers
03/23/10 50% discount on prescription drug costs for seniors in the Medicare “donut hole” starting in 2011 Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Senior Citizens & Improving Health & Wellness
03/23/10 $250 rebate for those in the Medicare Prescription drug “donut hole” during 2010 Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Senior Citizens & Improving Health & Wellness
03/23/10 Young adults can stay on parent’s insurance plan up until age 26 Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Young Adults & Consumers
03/23/10 Children under 19 can no longer be denied coverage or benefits for a pre-existing condition Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Consumers & Children
03/23/10 People denied coverage for a pre-existing condition given access to a temporary high risk health insurance plan Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Consumers & Improving Health & Wellness
03/23/10 Preventative services will be covered at no additional cost Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Consumers
03/23/10 Women are no longer charged higher premiums because of their gender Obamacare (Affordable Care Act)
03/23/10 Consumers are guaranteed the right to appeal decisions made by their health insurance provider Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Improving Health & Wellness
03/23/10 HIV Testing Will Now Be Covered Under Obamacare Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Improving Health & Wellness
03/23/10 Health insurance companies can not charge higher premiums for out of network emergency room care Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Consumers
03/23/10 Insurance companies must provide consumers a short, easy to understand summary of their benefits and coverage Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Consumers
03/23/10 $143 billion in deficit reduction estimated between 2010-2019 from health care reform law provisions Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Reducing Debt\Deficits
03/23/10 People with a pre-existing condition cannot be denied health coverge by an insurance company starting in 2014 Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Consumers & Improving Health & Wellness
03/23/10 Insurance companies must spend 80% of the money raised from consumers premiums on health care and quality improvement Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Consumers
03/23/10 Mental health and drug addiction coverage is an “essential benefit” that can not be denied Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) Improving Health & Wellness
03/18/10 Offsets costs through a 30 percent withholding tax on income from certain U.S. financial assets held by foreign banks who have not agreed to disclosures. Hire Act Unemployed
03/18/10 Encourages job creation by expanding investments in schools and clean energy projects Hire Act Unemployed
03/18/10 $20 billion to the highway trust fund for spending on highway and transit programs. Hire Act Unemployed & Improving Infrastructure
03/18/10 $17.5 billion in tax cuts, business credits and subsidies for state and local construction bonds to stimulate business investment and hiring Hire Act Unemployed & Businesses
03/18/10 Tax credits to employers who keep new hires for 52 weeks to encourage retention of new hires Hire Act Unemployed & Businesses
03/18/10 Social Security payroll tax credits in 2010 for employers that hired people who have been unemployed for 60+ days Hire Act Unemployed & Businesses
2010 MAR Al-Qaeda operative Hussein al-Yemeni killed by U.S. drone attack in Pakistan Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
02/24/10 Al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam leader Qari Zafar killed in US airstrike Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
2010 FEB Militant commander Muhammad Haqqani killed by U.S. drone attacks Terrorism Combating Terrorism
01/01/10 Discrimination based on gender identity banned in federal workplaces Discrimination LGBT
2009 Liquidation of General Motors and Chrysler avoided through government mandated restructuring plans and conditional investment and loan programs Business & Economy Businesses & Workers
2009 115,000 jobs created at General Motors and Chrysler since government financing and restructuring implemented Jobs Workers & Creating Jobs
2009 1.45 million American jobs saved overall by government financing and restructuring of GM and Chrysler to avoid liquidation Jobs Workers & Saving Jobs
2009 $96 billion in personal income losses avoided by government financing and restructuring of GM and Chrysler to avoid liquidation Labor Workers & Improving the Economy
2009 $28.6 billion net public benefit in income taxes and social security taxes paid because liquidation of GM and Chrysler avoided Taxes Businesses & Improving the Economy
12/17/09 Al-Qaeda Operational Commander Abdallah Sa’id killed in U.S. drone attack Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
12/08/09 Al-Qaeda Operational Commander Saleh al-Somali killed in U.S. drone attack Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
10/30/09 People with HIV/AIDS no longer prohibited from entering the United States Discrimination Immigrants & LGBT
10/28/09 Existing hate crime laws strengthened with funding to investigate and prosecute those crimes Matthew Shepard Act LGBT
10/28/09 Federal hate crime law expanded to include crimes motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. Matthew Shepard Act LGBT
09/14/09 Operation Celestial Balance: Navy Seals Kill Somalian Al-Qaeda leader Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in raid Al-Qaeda
09/14/09 Somalian Al-Qaeda leader Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan killed by U.S. raid Al-Qaeda Defeating Al Qaeda
09/04/09 White House voluntary disclosure of visitor logs Improving Govt Transparency
08/29/09 Co-founder of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Tohir Yo‘ldosh killed by U.S. drone attacks Terrorism Combating Terrorism
08/05/09 U.S. drone attack killed Tehrik e-Taliban Pakistan leader Baitullah Mahsud in Pakistan Pakistani Taliban Combating Terrorism
06/29/09 First-ever reception at the White House honoring Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered, Bisexual Pride Month hosted by the President and First lady Discrimination LGBT
05/25/09 Sonya Sotomayor nominated and approved as Supreme Court justice Women & Hispanics\Latinos
05/22/09 Annual awards program established to recognize individuals and teams making significant contributions to improving efficiency of defense aquisition programs Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Improving Govt Efficiency
05/22/09 Funding provided to hire and retain highly skilled specialists to assess the cost, schedule and applicability of proposed Defense Dept weapons systems Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Improving Govt Efficiency
05/22/09 Oversight and audit required of those major defense programs experiencing cost overruns to determine if the programs are essential and cost-effective Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Improving Govt Efficiency
05/22/09 Defense contractors prohibited from participating in both the systems engineering and the development /construction phases of the weapon systems Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Improving Govt Efficiency
05/22/09 Defense oversight council required to seek input from combat commanders in evaluating proposed weapons system capabilities and needs Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Improving Govt Efficiency
05/22/09 Independent cost assesessment director initiated to ensure that cost estimates for major Defense contracts are fair, reliable, and unbiased Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Improving Govt Efficiency
05/22/09 Defense Dept ordered to evaluate the technological maturity and product knowledge of critical weapons’ technologies before letting defense contracts Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Improving Govt Efficiency
05/22/09 Dept of Defense systems analysis, engineering and developmental testing processes overhauled to reduce high rates of failure on defense acquisitions Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Improving Govt Efficiency
05/22/09 Credit cardholders protected against arbitrary interest rate increases, hidden and excessive fees, and due date gimmicks Credit Card Act Consumers
05/20/09 $2.2 billion appropriated to help communities address the homeless crisis. Helping Families Save Their Homes Homeless
05/20/09 Lenders incentivized to reduce foreclosures by loss mitigation guarantees, compensation and lender protection from lawsuits by investors holding the loans Helping Families Save Their Homes Homeowners
05/20/09 Homeowners’ foreclosures avoided by improved terms for loan modification and restructuring of their debt Helping Families Save Their Homes Homeowners
05/20/09 $42 million in special funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate securites fraud in financial institutions Fraud Enforcement Act Consumers
05/20/09 $40 million in special funding for the Secret Service to investigate financial institutions for fraud Fraud Enforcement Act Consumers
05/20/09 $60 million in special funding for Inspector General’s Office at the U S Dept of Housing and Urban Development to investigate financial institutions for fraud Fraud Enforcement Act Consumers
05/20/09 $60 million in special funding for the Postal Inspection Service to investigate financial institutions for fraud Fraud Enforcement Act Consumers
05/20/09 $80 million in special funding to the criminal, civil and tax divisions of the Dept of Justice to investigate and prosecute fraud in financial institutions Fraud Enforcement Act Consumers
05/20/09 $100 million in special funding for the offices of the United States Attorneys to investigate and prosecute fraud in financial institutions Fraud Enforcement Act Consumers
05/20/09 $140 million in special funding for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate fraud in financial institutions Fraud Enforcement Act Consumers
05/20/09 Securities fraud definition amended to include fraud related to commodities futures and derivatives fraud Fraud Enforcement Act Consumers
05/20/09 Crime of major fraud against the United States amended to include Federal grants made to stimulate economic recovery for fiscal years 2009 and 2010 Fraud Enforcement Act Consumers
05/20/09 Mortgage lending businesses added to list of financial institutions subject to Federal criminal law in fraudulent lending practices Fraud Enforcement Act Homeowners
05/20/09 Financial Crisis Inquiry commission created to examine and report on the domestic and global causes of the 2008 – 2009 financial and economic crisis Fraud Enforcement Act Consumers
04/21/09 Disadvantaged youth job opportunites enhanced by community service to gain skills/experience and earn education grants and stipends Serve America Act Volunteering & Community Organizers
04/21/09 Community volunteer program expanded to address the education, health care, energy and veterans needs of low income communities Serve America Act Volunteering & Community Organizers
04/21/09 250,000 volunteers by 2017 for community service programs in low income neighborhoods Serve America Act Volunteering & Community Organizers
04/13/09 Restrictions eased on Cuba travel, money transfers, and cellular telephone/satellite service. International Relations
04/11/09 Maersk Alabama Capt. Richard Phillips rescued during operation in which U.S. Navy Seal snipers kill three Somali Pirates holding him for ransom aboard lifeboat Somali Civil War Combating Terrorism
04/01/09 Approximately 2.7 million jobs added to US payrolls and unemployment rate kept 1½ percentage points lower due to Stimulus spending 2009 Stimulus Bill Workers & Businesses
04/01/09 Deeper recession or depression averted in 2009 and beyond with the help of stimulus bill provisions 2009 Stimulus Bill Improving Economic Stability
02/17/09 $48.1 billion in investments for highway, bridge, high-speed rail & other transportation projects 2009 Stimulus Bill Improving Infrastructure
02/17/09 $100 billion in education aid to prevent lay-offs, modernize schools, award Pell grants and help low income children & special education programs 2009 Stimulus Bill Middle Class & Poor
02/17/09 $155 billion in health care assistance for the poor & unemployed primarily for Medicaid, health information technology and insurance premium subsidies 2009 Stimulus Bill Poor & Unemployed
02/17/09 $70 billion in tax relief for middle class workers by patching the Alternative Minimum Tax for one year 2009 Stimulus Bill Middle Class
02/17/09 $82.2 billion in aid for low income workers, unemployed and retirees (including job training) 2009 Stimulus Bill Poor & Unemployed
02/17/09 Tax credit of $400 per worker ($800 per couple) for middle income workers for 2009 & 2010 totaling $116 billion 2009 Stimulus Bill Middle Class & Workers
02/17/09 2010 real GDP increased by about 3.4% due to stimulus spending 2009 Stimulus Bill Businesses & Improving the Economy
02/04/09 4 million more children insured under SCHIP in addition to the 6.6 million already covered Children’s Health Insurance Progra… Children
01/29/09 Employers prompted to review, develop and update their criteria on employee compensation to ensure they are applied consistently and uniformly. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Women & Women’s Rights
01/29/09 Pay discrimination based on gender, race, color, national origin, age and disability prohibited. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Women & Women’s Rights
01/29/09 Statute of limitations on filing equal-pay lawsuits eased by setting period to start from the date of the most recent paycheck. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Women & Women’s Rights
01/21/09 Use of torture by CIA and military to interrogate prisoners prohibited. Torture

 

Fox News Tries And Fails To Get Any Details About The GOP’s Obamacare Replacement

Sen. Rob Portman (R) on Fox

Think Progress

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) struggled to articulate a credible GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act during an appearance on Fox News Monday morning, promising only to replace President Obama’s health care reform with “legislation that does give people more opportunities” and “better ideas.”

But pressed by host Bill Hemmer about how Obamacare would “change” should Republicans reclaim the Senate majority after the midterm elections, Portman could only offer a critique of the existing law. He argued that reform does not cover enough Americans or allow people to keep their existing health care plans. “I personally think it is a failed model. We have to put in place better policies that allow people to keep what they have and allow people to get coverage who can’t afford it.”

Asked again, how the GOP would go about changing the existing law or which provisions it would keep in place, Portman mostly demurred, highlighting “wellness” provisions and expanding health savings accounts. Watch the exchange:

Earlier this month, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) admitted that Republicans would not be able to preserve the most popular elements of Obamacare if they repeal the law as a whole.

“If you look at these kinds of reforms, where they’ve been tried before — say the state of Kentucky, for example — you basically make it impossible to underwrite insurance,” Ryan told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt when asked if Republicans would maintain the pre-existing conditions regulations, dependent coverage extension, and other rate requirements. “You dramatically crank up the cost. And you make it hard for people to get affordable health care,” Ryan insisted.

House Republican leadership has pledged to unveil a unified replacement plan for Obamacare but has yet to release any details about the proposal.

 

 

GOP congressman-wannabe shoots Obamacare because guns

[smdh]

America Blog

An Alabama (it figures) Republican congressional candidate, Will Brooke, thought it would be a neat campaign stunt to shoot a copy of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

So he did.  And failed.

brooke-shooting-obamacare

Brooke follows a long line of Republican candidates – and wannabe-Republicans like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin – who think it’s cute to fire guns at copies of legislation.

Please just forget the fact that people have been firing guns lately (and for a few decades now) at actual federal government targets like military bases (just this week) and members or Congress.  No, just ignore that and revel in the notion of violence against the government.

Of course, the funny thing is that Brooke was as successful in his personal jihad against the Affordable Care Act as were House Republicans who tried to repeal the legislation 50 times, and then shut down the entire federal government over their insistence on defunding health care reform.

Brooke’s little gun stunt failed.  As with the GOP House’s ongoing anemic efforts, Obamacare lived to heal another day.

Now, you’d think that being from Alabama, Brooke might focus on issues truly harming his state, such as Alabama’s ongoing racism problem, or its citizens’ penchant for killing dolphins with screwdrivers. Though my favorite was Alabama’s infamous attempt in 2012, only a year and a half ago, to repeal language in the state constitution that supports segregation in schools and poll taxes.  The repeal effort failed.  60% supported keeping the racist language, only 40% supported repealing it.  And they wonder why people still call the South racist.

And here’s Manchin’s from 2010