For months, as liberals anticipated the Supreme Court would rule ObamaCare unconstitutional, there has been a constant drumbeat of criticism against what they assumed was a conservative majority that would thwart the president’s signature legislation. In particular, Chief Justice John Roberts was the focus of a great deal of uncomplimentary commentary, with many arguing that by leading the Court to the right he would establish a tainted legacy as a partisan judge who had damaged the institution he led. But within moments of the announcement that Roberts had sided with the four liberals on the Court, the “re-evaluation” of the chief justice had begun.
As the New York Times‘s Ethan Bronner wrote in the paper’s Caucus blog, previously, “He was seen by many, at least on the left, as a right-winger more devoted to conservative politics than the purity of the law. That could change.” Count on it.
The Associated Press (AP) has reported on three emails from 2011 that Attorney General Eric Holder showed members of Congress at a Tuesday meeting, during his last-ditch effort to avert today’s contempt vote. The emails supposedly show Holder hadn’t known about Operation Fast and Furious until February 2011 and immediately set out to get to the bottom of the issue.
Keep in mind, the AP didn’t see the actual emails — the contents were “described” by people who had seen them — and there are few specific quotes given in the article. If this is supposed to be evidence that Holder was doing the right thing, it seems pretty flimsy:
CBS News ran a story on Feb. 23, 2011. On March 3, CBS followed up, and the non-profit Center for Public Integrity weighed in with its own online account.
On Feb. 23, aides passed along to the attorney general the CBS story alleging gun-walking, and the attorney general shot back, “We need answers on this. Not defensive BS. Real answers.”
Five days later, Holder asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate.
On March 3…the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, emailed his staff: “We obviously need to get to the bottom of this.”
Holder was skeptical of any assurances.
“I hope the AG understands that we did not allow guns to walk,” an official at the ATF’s Washington headquarters said on March 10 in an email that Holder’s aides forwarded to the attorney general.
In a response, Holder wrote, “Do they really, really know” that there was no gun-walking?
A day earlier, at Holder’s instruction, the Justice Department had sent out a directive to the field reinforcing a longtime Justice Department policy against gun-walking. The directive said that agents must not allow guns to cross the border into Mexico.
ObamaCare has lived to see another day. According to the Supreme Court ruling, the only substantial change is that the individual mandate is now considered a tax, something the Obama White House refused to admit it was.
Three hours after the decision was passed down, the Romney campaign’s spokeswoman announced they surpassed the $1 million mark in organic fundraising, mostly from small donors who, after hearing the Supreme Court’s ruling, made their way to the Romney website and clicked “Donate.” The average donation to the Romney campaign was for a little more than $115. As of yet, neither the Republican National Committee (RNC) nor the Romney campaign have sent a fundraising email based on the Supreme Court ruling. If these organic fundraising numbers are any indication, the Supreme Court’s decision on ObamaCare could be the biggest moneymaker for Republicans this election cycle.
That this morning’s ObamaCare decision is disastrous should go without saying. The government’s claim that the mandate is a tax should have been rejected as the Alice in Wonderland reasoning that it is–here’s Obama saying it’s not a tax and here he is saying he’s never raised any taxes–and the law should have been struck down.
Conservatives who are finding solace in potential political implications–that the decision will unite the Tea Party behind Mitt Romney, that Obama will get tagged for increasing taxes, etc.–are setting themselves up for disappointment. As of March, only half of Americans even knew that ObamaCare was still on the books. As of today, they’re going to be bombarded with the message that Obama won, that the Supreme Court signed on to ObamaCare, and that anyway, the issue is closed and we need to be talking about jobs. It’s not clear that Romney should or will move off his all-economy-all-the-time messaging. This morning, he’s at least partly framing the decision in terms of jobs. With the exception of short-term fundraising, it’s uncertain how today’s decision will ultimately impact the election.
Today’s NBC News/Marist poll has President Obama and Mitt Romney virtually tied in New Hampshire, North Carolina and — most troubling for the president — Michigan. With little more than four months to go, the close race in the key Rust Belt state is the latest sign of turmoil in Obama’s reelection strategy.
A new round of NBC News-Marist polls shows President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney running almost neck-and-neck in three key battleground states, with Obama holding a slight advantage in Michigan and North Carolina, and the two candidates tied in New Hampshire.
In Michigan, Obama is ahead by four percentage points among registered voters, including those who are undecided but are still leaning toward a candidate, 47 to 43 percent.
In North Carolina, the president gets 46 percent to Romney’s 44 percent, which is within the survey’s margin of error.
And in New Hampshire, the two men are tied at 45 percent each.
When Scott Brown ran to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy, he had one overarching theme: he would cast what was then thought to be the deciding vote against ObamaCare. For all the liberal spin about his opponent running a clumsy campaign, the Senate election was the clearest referendum on ObamaCare yet. And in a liberal state, the Republican won the seat by winning the argument (or deploying the winning argument) against ObamaCare.
When the Senate Democrats used a procedural maneuver to get around the vote, Brown’s victory seemed to have been in vain. But now its value comes roaring back to Republicans–as a potential model for the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that the individual mandate may stand as a massive tax increase, Romney will deploy what was always going to be the strategy in this case: the claim that he is the last thing standing between ObamaCare and the people.
In ruling ObamaCare constitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court has handed President Obama a major victory. After months of bad news on the economy that has essentially turned his effort to gain re-election into a dead heat, this is a huge boost for his administration. But the grounds on which it has been validated is a poison pill that may come back to haunt him. The president and the Democrats claimed the expansion of government power was permitted by the Commerce Clause, but it survives only as a tax, something the president denied back in 2010 when he and the then Democrat-controlled Congress passed it.
Conservative legal scholars may console themselves about the fact that a Court majority placed some limits on the way the Commerce Clause could be interpreted. But the majority’s approval for it on the grounds the government’s power to tax citizens is virtually unlimited is actually a far graver blow to individual liberty than had it said the individual mandate was permitted under the power to regulate interstate commerce. The ruling has made plain what many said when the legislation was passed: ObamaCare is the biggest tax increase in history, and far from being limited to the wealthy, it applies to everyone across the board. As much as this is a victory for the president, it hands Republicans an issue with which they can flay him until November. The Tea Party movement is now routinely dismissed as yesterday’s news, but the Court may have just brought it back from the dead.
Well, the Supreme Court, as it has so often before, surprised nearly everybody. Most people thought Justice Kennedy was the pivotal vote. He wasn’t. He thought the whole Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, as did Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas. The four liberal justices would have upheld the whole act. It was Chief Justice Roberts who made all the difference, and his idiosyncratic reasoning will have profound constitutional implications far beyond ObamaCare. Here are three, a distinctly mixed bag.
1) He limited federal power under the Commerce Clause. It is not constitutional to require people to buy a product. The clause is limited to regulating commerce that is, not commerce the government wants to see. That’s a big deal, because had the requirement been upheld, the power of the federal government under the Commerce Clause would have become essentially unlimited. As was pointed out in oral argument, you could be required to buy broccoli.
2) He greatly expanded the taxing power. Never before that I know of, has a federal tax been placed on inactivity. If you buy something, you pay a sales tax. If you earn income, you pay an income tax. If you do business as a corporation, you pay an excise tax. Now, if you don’t buy health insurance, you pay a tax on not doing so. What else then can be taxed? Not exercising? Not eating broccoli? Not agreeing with the president?
3) He considerably limited federal power over the states. The Tenth Amendment has been largely a dead letter for decades, declared a mere truism. (In which case, why did the Founding Fathers include it?) But Roberts ruled that while the federal government can tie strings to federal money given to the states—in this case additional Medicaid funds—it cannot coerce the states by threatening to take away other funds unless its will is complied with. This is a tactic the federal government has been using for years to, in effect, make states mere administrative districts of the federal government. For instance, it forced the states to adopt 21-to-drink laws or face the loss of federal highway funds. Roberts is arguing that the states are, indeed, sovereign within their own sphere. That is also a big deal.
Democrats are trying their best to turn the Eric Holder contempt vote into a racial issue, and Politico reports that the Congressional Black Caucus is planning a walk out protest during the floor vote today:
The Congressional Black Caucus plans to walk off the House floor during tomorrow’s votes to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress, according to a letter being circulated among members of Congress.
“We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people. We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice,” the CBC members wrote in a copy of the letter obtained by Politico….
“Instead of focusing on job creation and other critical issues before this Congress, we have been asked to engage in a political stunt on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Our constituents elected us to do real work, not to engage in meaningless partisan activity,” they wrote.
By joining the left of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts has upheld the Affordable Care Act. This is a clear victory for President Obama, and he can now go to the people in November with his signature legislative achievement intact and say he has fulfilled his promise to pass a comprehensive health care plan. But in doing so not on the grounds that it is valid under the Commerce Clause but as a tax, the court handed the Republicans a strong issue to run on this fall.
President Obama and the Democrats claimed throughout the debate over the legislation that it was not a tax. But the GOP can go to the voters with a rallying cry to stop the tax as it pledges to repeal ObamaCare next January. The issue now is no longer just the defense of the principle of individual liberty — endangered by this expansion of federal power — but whether to entrust the government to a party that is dedicated to taxing and spending without limit.
While the country waits for the Supreme Court’s decision on ObamaCare, we invite readers to enjoy Tevi Troy’s recent series of COMMENTARY articles on American healthcare and its political and legal journey. Troy, a former deputy secretary of Health and Human Services, begins the incisive series with April 2010’s “Health Care: A Two-Decade Blunder,” explaining how the issue first became so highly politicized, and ends with May 2012’s “Three Days that Shook ObamaCare,” detailing the pivotal Court arguments that took place in March. The articles make for a comprehensive resource on this pivotal national issue and, moreover, they’re all great reads. See links below.
Though it seems like a long time ago, one of the most astonishing feats in modern American political history was how Barack Obama came from nowhere to beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. The historic nature of the Obama presidency has shaped our view of that contest to the extent that in retrospect it now seems inconceivable that almost everyone believed Clinton was the inevitable nominee. A reminder of why the former First Lady and senator didn’t have what it took to beat Obama comes through in a highly flattering profile of the secretary of state in this coming Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. Though the piece by the Times’s State Department correspondent Steven Lee Myers is more of a public mash note than anything else, it still manages to remind us that though she may be a “rock star diplomat,” the main narrative of this administration’s foreign policy must speak of how Clinton has been steamrollered time and again on policy disputes just as she was during the 2008 campaign.
Myers opens with the account of how Clinton helped secure the freedom of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, which was certainly a neat bit of diplomacy on the secretary’s part. But this one tiny victory highlights the fact that Clinton’s years at Foggy Bottom have actually been short on achievements despite the adoring press coverage she continues to receive. Her work on the Middle East peace process, the Arab Spring, the Iranian nuclear threat and the comical Russian “reset” has been a record of consistent failure. Just as important, as even Myers is forced to admit, Clinton has been more of a “Girl Scout” than a genuine leader within the administration, as she has been overridden on Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia and most human rights controversies by the president and his foreign policy advisers.
On Monday, the New York Times reported about the effort by Palestinians to have the village of Battir designated as a World Heritage site because of the unique ecological nature of the ancient terraced irrigation system at work there. The terraces might be endangered by the construction of Israel’s security fence that in the area runs right along the 1949 armistice lines. While it is not clear that the barrier would actually damage the area, ironically the greatest obstacle to the designation of the site by UNESCO is that the Palestinians are also seeking to get the same honor for the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
But as bloggers Elli Fischer and Yisrael Medad have pointed out, the problem with the article isn’t so much its acceptance of the Palestinian argument against putting the fence there (which is also ironic because Israel’s critics have objected when the barrier was placed anywhere but at the old green line), but that it completely ignored the Jewish heritage of the area. Battir is not just a Palestinian village with an old irrigation system but was the site of the ancient Jewish fortress of Betar, the site of the last organized resistance to Roman rule in 135 C.E. during the Bar Kochba revolt. Moreover, far from the irrigation system being, as the Times claimed, a remnant of the Roman presence, it predates their presence in the country and is clearly the product of biblical-era Jewish settlement. As Medad put it, “Romans, Shmomans.”
With it a near certainty that sometime Thursday morning we will finally know whether the Supreme Court will strike down the Affordable Care Act, the political parties have spent much of this week pondering what they will do in the event the president’s signature legislation is ruled unconstitutional. The Democrats are fairly certain of their course of action if their side loses tomorrow. They will attack the Court and the GOP while attempting to change the narrative of the issue from one about a government power grab to the plight of the uninsured. Republicans are less certain; as the putative victors in the controversy, their inclination may be to sit back and gloat.
As Politico reports today, congressional Republicans have no plans to respond to the downfall of ObamaCare with legislation aimed at filling in the gap if the president’s plan goes down, even if it means allowing some of the more popular provisions in a profoundly unpopular bill are lost with the rest of the plan. While doing nothing may be dangerous as it risks losing the initiative to the left, the thinking here is they are right to pass on getting bogged down this year on an alternative. But a refusal to try to push through a new bill shouldn’t be confused with passivity. Conservatives must be ready to start pushing back against the left’s attempt to demonize the Court or allow them to make the public forget the issue here isn’t sympathy for the poor but the defense of liberty.
The Wall Street Journal has the umpteenth article today trumpeting the technological advances–primarily fracking–that are allowing oil companies to uncover and exploit vast, untapped fields in North America. This is leading a dramatic decline in our need for imported oil, especially oil imported from the Middle East. As the Journal notes:
By 2020, nearly half of the crude oil America consumes will be produced at home, while 82 percent will come from this side of the Atlantic, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By 2035, oil shipments from the Middle East to North America “could almost be nonexistent,” the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries recently predicted, partly because more efficient car engines and a growing supply of renewable fuel will help curb demand.
Liberals are still seething over the way the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Citizens United decision in the Montana campaign finance law case where state restrictions on political spending were rightly overruled. But this defense of free speech rights will not go unanswered by a Democratic Party that thinks allowing citizens and groups to support ideas and candidates is a scandal. That’s why New York’s left-wing attorney general is launching a brazenly partisan attack on the right of political speech in the guise of an investigation of alleged violations of the tax code.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is a hard-line liberal who has been itching to use his post to both fight for restrictive campaign finance laws and to garner the publicity that will enable him to advance his career. On the surface, Schneiderman is merely conducting a probe into contributions to tax-exempt groups. But by focusing his attention on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business conservative group, the political intent of the investigation is obvious.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):
“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”
The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.
Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.
In a campaign event in Atlanta, President Obama employed this argument on his behalf:
I’m not perfect and I’ll never be a perfect president but I told you that I’d always tell you what I thought, I’d always tell you what I believe and most importantly I told you I’d wake up every single day and fight as hard as I knew how for you. That I’d fight as hard as I knew how for all those folks who were doing the right thing out there. All those people who’ve kept the faith with this country and you know what? I’ve kept that promise. I have kept that promise. I believe in you. I hope you still believe in me.
These words, while banal (and somewhat plaintive), are also instructive. A general rule in politics is that when a chief executive says he hasn’t been a “perfect president,” it means he’s been dramatically less than perfect. It’s analogous to John Edwards claiming he hasn’t been a perfect husband.
It wasn’t even close when the AP called it last night: Democrat establishment favorite Hakeem Jeffries crushed former Black Panther Charles Barron in a landslide, 75 percent to 25 percent. The Daily News recaps:
State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries trounced City Councilman Charles Barron in a showdown for Brooklyn’s 8th congressional district.
With 54 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press deemed Jeffries the easy winner, 75 percent of the vote to Barron’s 25 percent.
“The political pundits said that this was going to be a close race, but that was before the people had spoken,” Jeffries told his supporters after hearing early results. “The people spoke with one loud voice and that’s why we’re going to Washington.”
Jeffries landed almost every major endorsement, winning the backing of Sen. Chuck Schumer, Gov. Cuomo and most Democratic bigwigs.
Competing for a speaking slot at the Democratic and Republican parties’ presidential nominating conventions is a time-honored tradition every four years. The reason is simple: presidential nominees are generally popular within the party and may be the next leader of the free world, and the conventions provide an opportunity to be seen and heard by millions of Americans. (Nielsen keeps historical convention ratings for Democrats here, and Republicans here.)
So it is surely a sign of something close to panic that Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee head Steve Israel is publicly advising Democrats to stay home from President Obama’s nominating convention this year:
The man responsible for getting Democrats elected to the Congress this fall has a message for his party’s candidates: Stay away from the Democratic National Convention in September.
“If they want to win an election, they need to be in their districts,” New York Congressman Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Reuters Washington Summit on Tuesday.