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By- Mike Sacks

Posted: 06/28/2012 10:10 am Updated: 06/28/2012 11:16 am

WASHINGTON — The individual health insurance mandate is constitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, upholding the central provision of President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act.

The controlling opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, upheld the mandate as a tax, although concluded it was not valid as an exercise of Congress’ commerce clause power. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined in the outcome.

The decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius comes as something of a surprise after the generally hostile reception the law received during the six hours of oral arguments held over three days in March. But by siding with the court’s four Democratic appointees, Chief Justice Roberts avoided the delegitimizing taint of politics that surrounds a party-line vote while passing Obamacare’s fate back to the elected branches. GOP candidates and incumbents will surely spend the rest of the 2012 campaign season running against the Supreme Court and for repeal of the law.

Five justices concluded that the mandate, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty, falls within Congress’ power under the Constitution to “lay and collect taxes.”

“The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause,” Roberts wrote. “That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.”

Ginsburg, writing separately for the four liberals, said they would have upheld the mandate under the commerce clause too. “Unlike the market for almost any other product or service, the market for medical care is one in which all individuals inevitably participate,” she wrote. “Virtually every person residing in the United States, sooner or later, will visit a doctor or other health care professional.”

Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joined in a dissent.

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Health Care Bill PASSES

HuffPost- First Posted: 03-21-10 10:59 PM   |   Updated: 03-22-10 09:12 AM

With additional reporting by Sam Stein.

After more than a year of virulent debate, Democrats marched through a throng of jeering protesters, whose slurs recalled a Washington of the 1960s — when the party forced civil rights legislation and Medicare through a fiercely divided Congress. Against unified Republican opposition, they built on that foundation Sunday with the passage of a health care reform bill that extends coverage to 32 million Americans and tightly regulates the insurance industry.

“It is with great humility and with great pride that we tonight will make history for our country and progress for the American people,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) before the vote to a standing ovation on one side of the aisle and silence on the other. “Just think–we will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare, and now tonight, health care for all Americans.”

Democrats passed two pieces of legislation. The first, a comprehensive reform package passed at the end of December by the Senate, now goes to President Obama for his signature, passing the House 219-212. The second piece, passed through the reconciliation process by a 220-211, makes fixes to that measure and now heads to the Senate for a final vote.

Watch yesterday’s health care debate condensed into 10 minutes:

VIDEO AND MORE HERE

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As soon as health care passes, the American people will see immediate benefits. The legislation will:

  • Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;
  • Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool;
  • Prohibit dropping people from coverage when they get sick in all individual plans;
  • Lower seniors’ prescription drug prices by beginning to close the donut hole;
  • Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;
  • Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all plans;
  • Require plans to cover an enrollee’s dependent children until age 26;
  • Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
  • Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;
  • Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs.

By enacting these provisions right away, and others over time, we will be able to lower costs for everyone and give all Americans and small businesses more control over their health care choices.

Crossposted on the House Democrat’s blog.

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Miles Mogulescu | Huff Post | March 16, 2010

For months I’ve been reporting in The Huffington Post that President Obama made a backroom deal last summer with the for-profit hospital lobby that he would make sure there would be no national public option in the final health reform legislation. (See here, here and here). I’ve been increasingly frustrated that except for an initial story last August in the New York Times, no major media outlet has picked up this important story and investigated further.

Hopefully, that’s changing. On Monday, Ed Shultz interviewed New York Times Washington reporter David Kirkpatrick on his MSNBC TV show, and Kirkpatrick confirmed the existence of the deal. Shultz quoted Chip Kahn, chief lobbyist for the for-profit hospital industry on Kahn’s confidence that the White House would honor the no public option deal, and Kirkpatrick responded:

“That’s a lobbyist for the hospital industry and he’s talking about the hospital industry’s specific deal with the White House and the Senate Finance Committee and, yeah, I think the hospital industry’s got a deal here. There really were only two deals, meaning quid pro quo handshake deals on both sides, one with the hospitals and the other with the drug industry. And I think what you’re interested in is that in the background of these deals was the presumption, shared on behalf of the lobbyists on the one side and the White House on the other, that the public option was not going to be in the final product.”

Kirkpatrick also acknowledged that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina had confirmed the existence of the deal to him.

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I was going to open this piece with an analogy about the tea party groups and why they’re treated seriously by the press and the Republicans. The analogy would go something like: “Imagine [insert left-wing activist group here] getting a serious profile in a mainstream newspaper, and imagine serious Democratic politicians appearing at their convention.”

The problem is, when I really evaluated what the various far-left activist groups are all about and compared them with the tea party movement, there really wasn’t any equivalency. At all.

Because when you strip away all of the rage, all of the nonsensical loud noises and all of the contradictions, all that’s left is race. The tea party is almost entirely about race, and there’s no comparative group on the left that’s similarly motivated by bigotry, ignorance and racial hatred.

I hasten to note that I’m taking about real racism, insofar as it’s impossible for the majority race — the 70 percent white majority — to be on the receiving end of racism. That is unless white males, for example, are suddenly an oppressed racial demographic. But judging by the racial composition of, say, the Senate or AM talk radio or the cast members playing the Obamas on SNL, I don’t think white people have anything to worry about.

This isn’t an epiphany by any stretch. From the beginning, with their witch doctor imagery, watermelon agitprop and Curious George effigies, the wingnut right has been dying to blurt out, as Lee Atwater famously said, “nigger, nigger, nigger!”

But they can’t.

Strike that. Correction. TeaParty.org founder Dale Robertson brandished a sign with the (misspelled) word “niggar.” So they’re not even as restrained as the generally unstrung Atwater anymore.

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Here’s a major reason why the Republicans are still a viable party: they don’t mind getting loud. They’re willing to flagrantly lie out loud, while also making a huge production out of insignificant and contradictory nonsense that heretofore was never even considered to be a political trespass — shamelessly and unapologetically amplifying it all to a level of noise that forces the press and voters alike to pay attention.

The Democrats could learn a thing or two about this. More presently.

For all of their faults, the Republicans are absolutely using the whole political animal, so to speak. Like an ancient tribe of hunter-gatherers, they’re somehow able to butcher every carcass and turn all of the lies, gaffes and misstatements into something useful. Something that will command attention. Put another way, the Republican strategy seems to be: there’s no such thing as bad press, so get loud.

Over the weekend, Sarah Palin appeared in Nashville at the Tea Party convention and while criticizing the president for using a teleprompter — a device that all politicians, presidents and TV personalities have used since the technology was first invented — she had the words “tax cuts” scrawled on her hand or else there was a chance she might forget.

A Republican who might forget to say “tax cuts” is like a preacher who might forget to say “Jesus Christ.” But there she was. The leader of the Republican Party — so ill-prepared, so incapable of even the most basic political skills that she had to write a secret crib sheet on her hand to help her remember to say “tax cuts.” Say nothing of the fact that Miss Drill-Baby-Drill had to write “energy” on her hand also.

In her defense, I understand Lincoln had to write “slavery” and “Civil War” on his hand so he wouldn’t forget. So there’s that.

And yet the Republicans don’t mind getting loud about it. She’s just like regular folks, they say. She’s just like you, they say. This makes her qualified to be president, they say. (The Republicans are even loud about repeating colossal mistakes. Even after George W. Bush nearly destroyed the Republican brand, they’re doubling down on the stupid by elevating Sarah Palin. Just remarkable.)

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Senator Ben Nelson announced his vote for cloture on a health care bill on Saturday. - Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and CARL HULSE | New York Times | December 20, 2009

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats said Saturday that they had clinched an agreement on a far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s health care system and forged ahead with efforts to approve the legislation by Christmas over Republican opposition.

As the Senate convened in a blizzard, Democratic leaders hailed a breakthrough that came when Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, agreed to back the bill after 13 hours of negotiations on Friday, making him the pivotal 60th vote for a measure that President Obama has called his top domestic priority.

“Change is never easy, but change is what’s necessary in America,” Mr. Nelson said at a morning news conference. “And that’s why I intend to vote,” he said, “for health care reform.”

Mr. Obama, appearing on television from the White House, said: “Today is a major step forward for the American people. After nearly a century-long struggle, we are on the cusp of making health care reform a reality in the United States of America.”

The legislation, the most significant overhaul of the nation’s health care system in more than a generation, seeks to extend health benefits to more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

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If it wasn’t for the fact that the Washington media establishment is gamed in favor of Republicans, it’s very likely that they would have long since been relegated to nothing more than a LaRouche-style crackpot cult, handing out mimeographed pamphlets outside the post office.

How else, other than via the self-conscious deference afforded it by the press, do the Republicans get away with issuing the following two press releases within a single 24 hour span:

Sunday: “Cutting Medicare is not what Americans want.”

Monday: “Expanding Medicare a plan for financial ruin.”

In case you’re wondering, these statements didn’t come from one of the many far out wingnuts like Steve King, Michele Bachmann or Virginia Foxx (Medicare recipient). They were, in fact, dispatched from Senate Minority Leader (And Real-Life Albino Sleestak) Mitch McConnell’s office. Yes, the highest ranking Republican in Congress wrote-up both headlines, ostensibly proof-read and unapologetically shoved into the public record.

Two press releases that exactly contradict each other. Yet I’m a little disappointed that Mark Halperin and Chuck Todd didn’t fire off tweets about how the opposing headlines were “bad news for Obama.” After all, every Republican gaffe is somehow “bad news for Obama.” And so they get away with it.

As we have observed over the years, this Republican contradiction problem has been a feature of modern Bush Republicanism for a while now, but it’s only during the past year that the gap between contradictory statements — let’s call it the Wingnut Gap — has narrowed down to just 24 hours. Prior to this week, it took several years for, say, the Republicans to contradict their “criticizing the commander-in-chief during wartime undermines the troops” mantra, or for Glenn Beck to accuse the Obama administration of being Maoists then to inexplicably suggest that America needs to be more like the Chinese.”

Say nothing of the contradictions evident in Sarah Palin’s America-hating commie Castro headgear:

And don’t give her the benefit of the doubt on this, either. She’s not smart enough to wear it with deliberate irony.

But this is a dynamic that’s most prevalent when the Republicans discuss Medicare. It really flummoxes them. After all, they despise socialized medicine. They despise single-payer health insurance. They despise government-run health care. They voted against the formation of Medicare during the high water mark of LBJ’s Great Society. They ultimately would love to privatize (or drown in a bathtub) the whole thing and be done with it.

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Over the weekend, I took a rainy walk down Wall Street and through the financial district in lower Manhattan. As I navigated my way across the busy intersections and between the arrays of decorative sidewalk bollards, I noticed something really strange.

No protesters.

None, despite the fact that within that very space, the near destruction of the world economy was detonated, igniting one of the deepest recessions in American history and accompanied by 500,000 job losses every month.

Not only was the district free of protesters, but I spotted a gaggle of grinning tourists merrily gathered on and around the famous “Charging Bull” statue. One woman was having her picture taken while crouched down and cupping the bull’s gigantic watermelon-sized brass testicles. Actually, you could say that there was at least one tea bagger downtown. But, you know, the wrong kind.

As I marveled at the incongruous serenity of the financial district, I couldn’t help but to wonder if all of this talk about massive job losses and a near-meltdown was an elaborate hoax, or whether Americans by-in-large simply don’t give a rip, choosing instead to continue on their merry way, acquiescing to a failed system rather than lashing out against the horrors of deregulatory Reaganomics, and, consequently, taking action against the real killers. In other words, while political participation appears to be cresting a wave, there’s still a considerable level of apathy about demanding accountability from the crooks who nearly screwed us all.

This apathy is especially evident in the health care crisis.

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There’s one positive political aspect to this epic fight for health care reform. We now know for sure which congressional Democrats have to be vigorously challenged and defeated the next time they come up for re-election.

The health care reform debate has forced the toxic slag to gurgle to the surface and consequently revealed a few Democratic senators who, at every turn in this process, have proved to be far more interested in protecting their own asses by way of protecting the asses of their bosses in the health care mafia.

Suffice to say, Joe Lieberman has to be sending lots of “thank you” gift baskets and ponies and backrubs to the offices of Max Baucus and Kent Conrad. In fact, Baucus and Conrad — the matchstick men of health care reform — have been so insufferable, I almost forgot about Lieberman. Almost.

In fact, apart from the Republicans from whom we expected outlandish lies and cartoonish behavior, Baucus and Conrad have been much more obstructionist and damaging to real health care reform, chiefly because they possess a disproportionate level of power in relation to the nine people in the upper Midwest they represent, and because their ideas would be laughable if they weren’t so ineffectual and dangerous.

To wit: Baucus Plan is just as craptastical as we all suspected it might be.

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