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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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By- Mike Sacks

Posted: 06/25/2012 10:19 am Updated: 06/25/2012  2:52 pm

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday delivered a split decision in the Obama administration’s challenge to Arizona’s aggressive immigration law, striking multiple provisions but upholding the “papers please” provision. Civil rights groups argue the latter measure, a centerpiece of S.B. 1070, invites racial profiling.

Monday’s decision on “papers please” — Section 2(B) in S.B. 1070 — rested on the more technical issue of whether the law unconstitutionally invaded the federal government’s exclusive prerogative to set immigration policy. The justices found that it was not clear whether Arizona was supplanting or supporting federal policy by requiring state law enforcement to demand immigration papers from anyone stopped, detained or arrested in the state who officers reasonably suspect is in the country without authorization. The provision that was upheld — at least for now — also commands police to check all arrestees’ immigration status with the federal government before they are released.

“The nature and timing of this case counsel caution in evaluating the validity of [Section] 2(B),” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy on behalf of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, noting that the law has not yet gone into effect. Because “[t]here is a basic uncertainty about what the law means and how it will be enforced,” the majority chose to allow the law to go forward, but made clear that “[t]his opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.”

Indeed, such constitutional suits are already proceeding against Arizona’s “papers please” policy. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton heard arguments on whether to certify a class of what could be hundreds of thousands of individuals now trying to bring equal protection, free speech and due process challenges to S.B. 1070.

While Arizona succeeded on Section 2(B), the Supreme Court gave the Obama administration a victory by striking three other challenged provisions as stepping on federal prerogatives. Two of the provisions made it a crime for undocumented immigrants to be present and to seek employment in Arizona, while a third authorized police officers to make warrantless arrests of anyone they had probable cause to believe had committed a deportable offense.

“The history of the United States is in part made of the stories, talents and lasting contributions of those who crossed oceans and deserts to come here,” Kennedy wrote. “The National Government has significant power to regulate immigration. With power comes responsibility, and the sound exercise of national power over immigration depends on the Nation’s meeting its responsibility to base its laws on a political will informed by searching, thoughtful, rational civic discourse. Arizona may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration while that process continues, but the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas each wrote separately to say they would have upheld all four of S.B. 1070’s challenged provisions, while Justice Samuel Alito wrote that he would have upheld all but the provision that criminalized an immigrant’s failure to register with federal authorities.

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CNN Politics
Political Ticker
June 11th, 2012
08:55 PM ET

(CNN) – Mitt Romney on Monday said he hopes the Supreme Court does the “right thing” and overturns President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care reform.

“Gosh I hope they do the right thing and turn this thing down,” Romney told donors in Atlanta, according to pool reports. “And say it’s unconstitutional because it is.” – Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

– Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

This month, the high court is expected to announce its decision on the legality of the Affordable Care Act, a measure passed by Congressional Democrats and signed into law by Obama in 2010.

While Romney has not recently made comments about the decision, he has long maintained he would overturn the law through an executive order in his first day in office.

“This piece of legislation is bad policy, it’s bad for our health care, and I can tell you if I’m president I’m going to stop it in its tracks on day one,” he said Monday.

Democrats have frequently targeted Romney over the health care issue by pointing to a similar plan he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts in 2006. In his defense, Romney says the plan was tailor-made for Massachusetts residents and he would oppose a federal mandate.

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Posted: 02/21/12 10:37 AM ET  |  Updated: 02/21/12 04:27 PM ET

Huff Post  By- Mike Sacks

WASHINGTON — Affirmative action is heading back to the Supreme Court, and this time its prospects for survival are poorer than ever.

The Court announced on Tuesday that it has agreed to hear a challenge to the University of Texas’ affirmative action program, which is used in sorting through applications after the automatic admission of all in-state applicants who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

The state’s top 10 percent law was passed as a race-neutral way of facilitating diversity on campus after a federal appeals court in 1996 banned affirmative action in Texas’ public universities. Then in 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court — in a majority opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for herself and the Court’s four liberals — approved of certain types of race-conscious admissions practices in higher education for the purpose of achieving a diverse student body. In response, the University of Texas reinstated affirmative action, this time to assess applicants who would not be automatically admitted under the top 10 percent law.

Abigail Noel Fisher was one such student. In Fisher v. University of Texas, she claims that she was unconstitutionally denied admission because she is white. Texas argues that the use of race in its admissions process is indistinguishable from the University of Michigan Law School practices that the Supreme Court approved in 2003.

Unfortunately for Texas, that argument may no longer hold sway at the high court. Justice Samuel Alito, a reliable conservative vote, has since replaced O’Connor, a notable swing vote. In 2007, Alito joined with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas to strike down affirmative action programs in public high schools in an opinion that concluded, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy voted with the majority but refused to join that one sentence in 2007, and will likely spoil the conservative bloc’s effort to end affirmative action once and for all this time. That does not mean, however, that Kennedy will uphold Texas’ race-based policy. Rather, he may use his crucial fifth vote to keep affirmative action constitutional in theory, but almost impossible to pursue in practice — a position he staked out in his dissent from O’Connor’s 2003 opinion.

Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself, likely because of her participation in the early stages of the case when she served as U.S. solicitor general.

Fisher v. University of Texas could be argued (but not decided) in the fall, just in time to insert its racially charged issues into the tail end of the presidential election.

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Truthout
Saturday 21 January 2012
by: Isaiah J. Poole , Campaign for America’s Future | News Analysis

Today is the two-year anniversary of the infamous Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns.

Since then, our democracy has been drowning in a tsunami of corporate special interest money. Our government is under the thumb of the Koch brothers and other corporate moguls instead of the hands of the people.

And citizens are uniting in their disgust. A poll released Thursday by Democracy Corps and the Public Campaign Action Fund, an organization that is rallying to counter the Citizens United ruling, said, “Americans across all parties oppose the ruling; among all voters, 62 percent oppose the decision and nearly half (46 percent) strongly oppose it.

More than half of all voters say they would support a constitutional amendment to reverse the opinion.”

Further, “Eight in ten voters say there is too much big money spent on political campaigns and elections today and that campaign contributions and spending should be limited.” And the candidates who stand on the side of reining in corporate efforts to buy our political system will get more favor from voters than those who stand with the status quo.

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Think Progress-  By Scott Keyes and Travis Waldron  on Jan 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Two years ago today, the Supreme Court struck down longstanding restrictions on corporate money in American elections, paving the way for super PACs and major third party spending.

Since January 21, 2009, the Citizens United case has had a major effect on money in politics. Already in this year’s Republican presidential primary, we’ve seen a number of freespending super PACs play a major role in the race, including the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future PAC, financed in large part by hedge fund billionaire John Paulson, and the pro-Newt Gingrich Winning Our Future, for whom casino mogul Sheldon Adelson recently cut a $5 million check. In fact, the total amount of money spent by outside groups thus far has outpaced spending by the campaigns themselves.

Despite the proliferation of super PACs and massive uptick in outside spending, former Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty still sees our campaign finance laws as too restrictive.

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