President Barack Obama smiles as he walks down the steps of the Capitol with Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny after attending a “Friends of Ireland” luncheon
President Barack Obama holds a book of poetry given to him by Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny during their meeting in the Oval Office
Vice President Joe Biden listens during a meeting between President Barack Obama and Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, on St. Patrick’s Day in the Oval Office
I have been growing increasingly bemused as Anno Domini MMXV continues to unfold apace. And by “bemused”, I really mean, “Goddammit, we’re heading to hell in a handbasket!”
But nothing matches the complete clusterfuck around funding the Department of Homeland Security, a department born in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, and which, if you will recall, Republicans held up as a sacred institution to protect God-fearing Americans from those hordes of brown people seeking to kill them. (Union protections for DHS workers? Why do you love Al-Qaeda??)
Let’s recap. In last year’s Cromnibus (soon to appear in the next Transformers movie), Congress left out funding for DHS. Why? Well, fast forward to this year. John Boehner and his merry pranksters passed a DHS funding bill. But they wanted to show that Kenyan in the White House that treating “illegals” like children of God was not going to wash with Republicans in firm control of both chambers. So they attached several riders to a must-pass bill stripping all of President Obama’s actions for DREAMers and his executive action on the undocumented. There, that’ll show him! Done and dusted, and the first round of drinks are on Rusty Boehner!
President Barack Obama speaks to members of the news media before a meeting with members of his cabinet at the White House
President Barack Obama meets with bipartisian congressional leadership in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House. Also pictured is (L-R) House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senator Charles Schumer.
A more generous man than me may, at some point, feel some sympathy for Speaker John Boehner. He’s a man who has ascended to a rather great height from very low beginnings, but can’t seem to do anything right.
His tenure as speaker after the Tea Party revolt of 2010 has been nothing but a comedy of errors. From shutting down the government to quixotically seeking to overturn Obamacare, his speakership has been a litany of failure.
And now he’s embarked on possibly his greatest failure of all: suing President Barack Obama for doing his job, where the Speaker has failed to do his.
Last night the House GOP voted to sue President Obama. The meat of the lawsuit: the President’s delay of the implementation of the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act. It’s Mr. Boehner’s contention that Pres. Obama overstepped his authority by delaying the mandate for a year.
Let that sink in for a moment. Mr. Boehner is suing Pres. Obama for not fully implementing part of a law which the Speaker and his fellow Republicans have voted over 50 times to repeal. The House GOP has finally slid into the realm of Dada, suing to “uphold” a law it loathes.
Mr. Boehner must have good lawyers who are telling him that he and his merry band have no standing to bring the suit. They won’t be able to show where they were harmed by Pres. Obama’s executive action. The ACA allows for delays in implementation if they serve the law’s purposes. And, of course, the first judge before whom this suit appears may well wonder why Mr. Boehner is suing Pres. Obama for failing to fully enact a law which Mr. Boehner has spent four years trying to undo.
But of course, this isn’t about suing Pres. Obama.
The evidence is piling up now: Obamacare really does seem to be helping the uninsured. Survey after survey is showing that the number of uninsured people has been going down since the start of enrollment last fall. the trend is unmistakable: Millions of people who didn’t have health insurance before the Affordable Care Act have gained it since last fall. The law is not just covering people who already had health coverage, but adding new people to the ranks of the insured — which was the point of the law all along. even health care analysts who think the law is a bad idea acknowledge that the evidence suggests the uninsured are being helped. Given the predictions of doom that accompanied the law’s passage and launch, that’s a sweet bit of vindication for the president and ACA supporters. “It will be better when we’ve got a whole year behind us, so we can tell how much [in the surveys] was noise and how much was reality,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the conservative American Action Forum, a frequent critic of the law. “Having said that, it sure looks like there are more people covered, and that’s a good thing.”
A survey by the Commonwealth Fund found that 9.5 million fewer adults are uninsured now than at the beginning of the Obamacare enrollment season. The Urban Institute’s Health Reform Monitoring Survey found a similar drop, with 8 million adults gaining coverage. And Gallup-Healthways survey reported that the uninsured rate has fallen to 13.4 percent of adults, the lowest level since it began tracking health coverage in 2008. the Commonwealth Fund survey also suggested that most of the people who have signed up for the Affordable Care Act are happy with their coverage — and aren’t just disgruntled people who were already insured and liked their own coverage better. According to the survey, 58 percent of the Obamacare customers said they were better off under their new health coverage, and only 9 percent said they were worse off than they were before. Even among people who previously had health insurance — the ones who might resent having to switch — 52 percent liked the new coverage, while 16 percent said they were worse off.
On This Day: President Obama greets departing Associate Counsel to the President Alison J. “Ali” Nathan, left, Meg Satterthwaite, and their twin sons Oliver and Nathan, in the Outer Oval Office, July 7, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Today (All Times Eastern)
11:30: Josh Earnest briefs the press
12:10: The President hosts a group of teachers for lunch
The Week Ahead
Tuesday: The President will welcome NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to the White House, ahead of the NATO summit in Wales this September. In the evening, he will depart for Denver, Colorado, where he’ll spend the night.
Wednesday: In Denver, the President will attend a DSCC fundraising event. He will then travel to the Dallas, Texas area for a DCCC event. In the evening, he will travel to Austin, Texas, where he’ll attend a DNC event and remain overnight.
Thursday: While in Austin, the President will attend a DNC event, and will deliver remarks on the economy, before returning to the White House.
Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
American auto industry added 463,100 jobs over 5 yrs; best growth since 90s. June also best auto sales since '06. http://t.co/EZWR5wKuvO
the Labor Department released the employment figures for June, and the jobs numbers blasted through market predictions. June saw an addition of 288,000 jobs, compared to the 215,000 predicted by analysts. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1%, the lowest since before the beginning of the Bush economic collapse in September of 2008 – that’s a 1.4 percentage point drop in the last 12 months, the sharpest decline in nearly 30 years. The economy under President Obama’s leadership – and despite the Great Wall of Republican obstructionism – is not only showing signs of completing recovery from the worst economic calamity in American history save for the Great Depression,
it is now showing signs of coming back to the life it had before the previous administration began to mess with it. June marks 52 straight months of private sector job growth, the longest ever on record, beating out Bill Clinton’s record of 51 continuous months of private sector job growth from February 1996 to April 2000. The economy has added more than 200,000 jobs for five months in a row now, the longest such streak since 1999. In the first half of this year alone the economy has added 1.4 million jobs, another accomplishment not seen since 1999.
First ladies typically avoid getting into public scraps, but Michelle Obama has jumped into perhaps her biggest battle yet. She’s fighting a House Republican effort to soften a central part of her prized anti-childhood obesity campaign and says she’s ready “to fight until the bitter end.” Mrs. Obama even mocked the GOP effort in an opinion column and argued her case on Twitter. “Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches?” she wrote in The New York Times. “You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense. Yet we’re seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools.” Mrs. Obama lobbied largely behind the scenes four years ago for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires more fruit, vegetables and whole grains in school meals, along with less sodium, sugar and fat.
It was a major achievement, the first update to school lunch rules in decades designed to make school meals more nutritious. Mrs. Obama says the requirements are based on sound science and that 90 percent of schools are meeting them. The association says districts are unprepared to meet the newest standards. “I’m going to fight until the bitter end to make sure that every kid in this country continues to have the best nutrition that they can have in our schools,” the first lady said at a White House event where she showcased elementary school students preparing and then eating a salad lunch using vegetables they had planted in her garden on the South Lawn. The White House has threatened to veto the House bill. The Senate version does not include the one-year waiver.
Sally Kohn: Dear Speaker Boehner: Do Your Job Instead
President Theodore Roosevelt enacted 1,081 executive orders during his presidency. President Dwight Eisenhower had 484. President Ronald Reagan had 381. And President George W. Bush had 291. President Barack Obama has enacted 182 executive orders — yet the GOP accuses him of being an “imperial president,” and Republican members of the House of Representatives are preparing to sue him for violating the Constitution. With all due respect, Speaker Boehner, it’s as though the fog of extreme partisanship that has colored your dealings with President Obama since day one has suddenly turned into a full-on fever of irrationality. Think about this for just a second: House Republicans are using taxpayer dollars to fund a lawsuit against a President who has literally done not only what every president before him has done but has done it less often and is doing so now only because
House Republicans repeatedly refuse to even vote on legislation, let alone pass anything. And you have the gall to accuse the President of being the one in violation of the Constitution? Even more frustrating is how your repeated attacks on the President fall factually flat. In your essay for CNN, you write: “After years of slow economic growth and high unemployment under President Obama, they are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’ ” This is a particularly laughable assertion given last week’s jobs report, which noted our economy added 288,000 jobs in June, marking 52 straight months of continuous job growth. Overall, under President Obama’s leadership, the private sector has added 9.7 million jobs and an economy that was in free fall when he was elected is now in a steady recovery.
Matt Apuzzo: Students Joining Battle To Upend Laws On Voter ID
Civil rights groups have spent a decade fighting requirements that voters show photo identification, arguing that this discriminates against African-Americans, Hispanics and the poor. This week in a North Carolina courtroom, another group will make its case that such laws are discriminatory: college students. Joining a challenge to a state law alongside the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department, lawyers for seven college students and three voter-registration advocates are making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21. The amendment also declares that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.” Over the past decade, Republicans have campaigned to tighten rules for voters, including requirements for photo ID, in the name of preventing fraud. Democrats have countered that the real purpose of those laws is to make voting more difficult for people who are likely to vote Democratic.
In Ohio, legislators proposed a law that would have cost colleges millions of dollars for helping out-of-state students vote locally. The measure died amid criticism from state schools. In Maine, the Republican attorney general — at the behest of the state party chairman — investigated 200 students for fraud. After finding no evidence, he sent the students a letter warning them to register their cars in Maine or to cancel their voter registrations. In Texas, voters must show a photo ID. A state handgun license qualifies, but a state university identification card does not. North Carolina students have also complained of government efforts, distinct from the new voting law, to shut down voting sites at Appalachian State University and Winston-Salem State University.
Philip Rucker: Bloomberg’s Gun Group To Start 2014 Midterms Strategy By Surveying Candidates
The gun-control group founded by former New York mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) will begin surveying all federal candidates in the 2014 midterm elections on gun issues Monday as it tries to become a political counterweight to the National Rifle Association. Bloomberg’s group, Everytown for Gun Safety, is asking all Senate and House incumbents and candidates to complete a 10-part questionnaire stating publicly where they stand on issues such as expanding background checks for gun buyers, limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and toughening gun-trafficking statutes.
Bloomberg has since started the new group, Everytown, merging the mayors coalition and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Everytown’s goal is to create a grass-roots movement to pressure not only Congress but also state legislatures. It is using data-driven organizing techniques from Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns to expand its network of supporters, which now totals nearly 2 million.
Grant Smith: U.S. Seen As Biggest Oil Producer After Overtaking Saudi Arabia
The U.S. will remain the world’s biggest oil producer this year after overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia as extraction of energy from shale rock spurs the nation’s economic recovery, Bank of America Corp. said. U.S. production of crude oil, along with liquids separated from natural gas, surpassed all other countries this year with daily output exceeding 11 million barrels in the first quarter, the bank said in a report today. The country became the world’s largest natural gas producer in 2010. The International Energy Agency said in June that the U.S. was the biggest producer of oil and natural gas liquids.
“The U.S. increase in supply is a very meaningful chunk of oil,” Francisco Blanch, the bank’s head of commodities research, said by phone from New York. “The shale boom is playing a key role in the U.S. recovery. If the U.S. didn’t have this energy supply, prices at the pump would be completely unaffordable.” Oil extraction is soaring at shale formations in Texas and North Dakota as companies split rocks using high-pressure liquid, a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The surge in supply combined with restrictions on exporting crude is curbing the price of West Texas Intermediate, America’s oil benchmark.
NBC News: Pope Francis Meets Abuse Victims, Begs Forgiveness For Church
Pope Francis begged forgiveness for the Church on Monday and cited the need for “reparation” as he met with victims who had suffered at the hands of Roman Catholic priests. The pontiff invited six victims of abuse from Ireland, Germany and Britain to attend an early-morning private Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the residence next to St. Peter’s Basilica where he lives. Francis called the abuse a “grave sin” decrying how it was hidden for “so much time” and “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.” “I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons,” the pope said in his homily. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse.”
NEW: Pope Francis meets abuse victims, begs forgiveness for sins of omission on part of Church leaders nbcnews.to/1r2MGb9
He said abusive priests’ actions “profane the very image of God” and are “more than despicable.” Francis strongly praised the victims’ courage in speaking up and shedding “light on a terrible darkness,” telling the mass he is deeply aware of their deep and unrelenting pain. The pope then met privately with the victims, spending at least half an hour with each. While Francis’ predecessor met with abuse victims several times during his pontificate, this was the first time a pope had received victims inside the Vatican. The meeting was first announced by the pope on his flight back from a visit to the Holy Land, when Francis noted called child sex abuse “very serious” and “like celebrating a satanic mass.”
The Denver Post: Colorado Claims Contraceptive Program Caused Big Drop In Teen Birth Rates
A state health initiative to reduce teen birth rates by providing more than 30,000 contraceptive devices at low or no cost has led to a 40 percent drop in five years, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday. The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, funded by a private anonymous donor for five years, has provided intrauterine devices and other implants to low-income women at 68 family-planning clinics across Colorado since 2009. The clinics are in local health departments, hospitals and private nonprofit facilities. The program also provided training and technical assistance to family planning clinics statewide. “When families are planned and women have children when they’re ready and want them … it’s really a better situation for everyone,” Hickenlooper said during his state Capitol news conference. Seven of every 10 teen pregnancies in Colorado are unintended, officials said.
The decline in births among girls 15 to 19 years old served by the program accounted for three-quarters of the overall decline in the Colorado teen birth rate, the state said in a news release. That rate has fallen from 37 births per 1,000 girls in 2009 to 22 in 2013, officials said. The teen abortion rate dropped 35 percent from 2009 to 2012 in those counties where the initiative is in place, Hickenlooper said. The family-planning program has saved $5.68 in Medicaid costs for every dollar spent on the contraceptives, the state said. The state has saved millions in health care expenditures — $42.5 million in public funds in 2010 alone based on the latest available data.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama shake hands with the crowd gathered for their arrival at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013
Today (All Times Eastern)
10:55: The President holds a Cabinet meeting
1:0: Josh Earnest briefs the press
2:20: The President delivers remarks on the economy
Aaron Carroll: It’s Getting Hard To Ignore Insurance Numbers (UPDATED)
Five percent of Americans report being newly insured in 2014. More than half of that group, or 2.8% of the total U.S. population, say they got their new insurance through the health exchanges that were open through mid-April. Given the population of the United States, this means that more than 15 million about 10-11 million American adults are newly insured this year. Almost 9 million of them received private insurance through the exchanges. There’s more (emphasis mine): The newly insured using exchanges are mostly under age 65, as would be expected, given that most Americans 65 and older are covered by Medicare.
Thus, the representation of newly insured Americans is higher across all three age groups younger than 65 than is true for the general population. More specifically, newly insured Americans using the exchanges in the 18 to 29 age category are eight percentage points more prevalent than their percentage in the overall adult population, while representation of those 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 are five and four points higher, respectively.This means that the fears that the young would refrain from buying insurance, thereby fracturing the risk pools, don’t seem to be coming to pass either.
Spandan Chakrabarti: Re-Igniting War On Women, Supreme Court Makes Case For Democratic Congress (#HobbyLobby)
5 conservative men on the Supreme Court decided that a core part of women’s health cannot be part of required employer-provided insurance coverage – even if the additional coverage costs nothing – at least as applied to private, family-owned corporations. All of the court’s female justices were joined by Justice Breyer in a strong and scathing dissent. it does, however, leave Democrats a major political opening when it comes to contraception. First, the majority explicitly held that HHS could in fact levy a contraception mandate – on insurance companies. In its language, the opinion refers to the method of contraception coverage HHS uses for employers already exempt from the contraception mandate (churches and other religious nonprofits) – requiring insurance companies to provide the coverage, outside of the employers’ policies but with no additional cost to the insured.
Secondly, and more importantly, the decision relies on a law passed by Congress – the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993 thanks, Bill Clinton) – and not the First Amendment. it can be overridden by an act of Congress. Therein lies the major opening for Democrats in 2014 and in 2016. This decision not only puts the Right wing’s war on women back on the forefront just in time for the midterms, it points to a specific cure: have Congress change the law to override the Court’s decision. If Democrats wanted to run on a single issue from now to November, it should be a promise to write into the law protections for contraceptive coverage should we win back the House and keep the Senate. It is time that we, as Americans, found out what everyone asking for our votes stands on women’s health. Leave behind all of your trepidation about why the Democratic party isn’t perfect and how President Obama has “disappointed” you. You have no right to be outraged by today’s decision if you do not show up to the polls in November and ensure the election of a Congress that will override the law that the Supreme Court says allows for employers to control the reproductive lives of their employees.
Energy.Gov: Energy Department Project Captures And Stores More Than One Million Metric Tons Of CO2
Following the one year mark since the release of the President’s Climate Action Plan, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) – in partnership with Air Products and Chemicals Inc. – today announced a major milestone, successfully capturing more than one million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) at the hydrogen-production facility in Port Arthur, Texas. Using an innovative technology called vacuum swing adsorption, the project captures more than 90 percent of the CO2 from the product stream of two commercial-scale steam methane reformers that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere.
In addition to the secure storage, captured carbon from the project will be used to help produce additional, hard-to-access resources from existing nearby oil fields. In total, Department of Energy projects have captured and securely stored nearly 7.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to date, equivalent to taking more than 1.5 million cars off the road for a year. In just the last year since the release of the President’s Climate Action Plan, these Department-supported projects have stored approximately 2.8 metric tons.
Steve Benen: Boehner Gives Up On Immigration, Obama Moving Forward
Almost exactly a year ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in no uncertain terms that he would ignore the popular, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate. The plan may have been endorsed by business leaders, labor unions, law enforcement, immigration advocates, leaders from the faith community, economists, and deficit hawks, but the Republican leader said it didn’t matter: the Senate bill was dead on arrival. Even if it had the votes to pass, it would never reach the House floor. But, Boehner said at the time, immigration reform was very much alive. “The House is going to do its own job in developing an immigration bill,” the Speaker vowed. “It is time for Congress to act. But I believe the House has its job to do, and we will do our job.” That was 51 weeks ago.
And while Boehner probably meant what he said, the House Speaker made a commitment he could not keep. House members “will do our job”? Well, no actually, as is too often the case, the Republican-led chamber will do nothing. No longer willing to watch the GOP-led House do nothing, President Obama intends to move forward without legislative action. For his part, Boehner’s spokesperson, Michael Steel, told reporters this afternoon, “Speaker Boehner told the President exactly what he has been telling him: the American people and their elected officials don’t trust him to enforce the law as written. Until that changes, it is going to be difficult to make progress on this issue.” As talking points go, I find it hard to imagine any adult seriously believing an argument so transparently foolish. For one thing, Boehner himself already discredited the argument from Boehner’s office, admitting publicly that immigration reform hasn’t happened because his own Republican allies are afraid of hard work.
Alan Gomez: Obama Rips GOP On Immigration, Says He Will Act Alone
After more than a year of urging Congress to pass an immigration law, President Obama gave a fiery White House speech Monday, saying the time had come for him to act alone on the issue. “The failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it’s bad for our economy and it’s bad for our future,” he said. “If Congress won’t do their job, at least we can do ours.” The president laid out in a letter to congressional leaders Monday several steps his administration has taken in recent weeks to respond to an unprecedented surge in children caught crossing the border. The president ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the federal agencies that have been catching, processing and housing the children. The Department of Justice is in the process of reassigning immigration judges and U.S. attorneys to the border to speed up hearings in immigration court, and
A fact everyone will politely forget: GOP leaders themselves have repeatedly said immig status quo unacceptable & legalization necessary
the Department of Health and Human Services has scoured the country to find places to put those children. In March, Obama ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to conduct a systemwide review of deportation practices to see how they could be done “more humanely.” Obama later asked that the results of that review be postponed until the end of the summer to give Congress time to work through an immigration bill. Monday, with 28 days left in the legislative calendar, Obama said the review would be completed soon and would include changes to the country’s immigration enforcement structure. Obama said the only response from Republicans has been to use the crisis as their “newest excuse to do nothing.”
Washington Post: Illinois To Allow Same-Day Registration, Expand Early Voting Hours
Illinois will dramatically expand access to the ballot box this year by allowing voters to register on Election Day, and by significantly extending the hours early-vote locations will be open. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has said he will sign the measure, passed by the legislature late last month. The bill expands both the number of days during which early voting locations are open and the number of hours each day they remain open. Voters who cast a ballot early will not have to show a photo identification.
“Democracy works best when everyone has the opportunity to participate,” Quinn said in a statement. “By removing barriers to vote, we can ensure a government of the people and for the people.” Meanwhile, students at public universities will have an easier time casting a ballot under the new measure. The bill allows students attending public schools to change their residences from their hometowns to college campuses, giving them easier access to polling places on campus.
Harold Meyerson: Supreme Court Rules Disadvantaged Workers Should Be Disadvantaged Some More
The conservative majority on the Supreme Court today took up the case of some of America’s most disadvantaged workers, and ruled that they should be disadvantaged some more. The five-to-four ruling in Harris v. Quinn goes a long way to crippling the efforts that unions have made to help these workers get out of poverty. The case concerned some 28,000 home care aides in Illinois whose paychecks come from Medicaid. Before the state agreed in 2003 that they could form a union, they made the minimum wage. (It’s the state that sets their wage rate, since their pay comes entirely from Medicaid.) Currently, as a result of their union contract, they make $11.85 an hour rather than the minimum of $7.25. Tomorrow, by the terms of their contract, their hourly rate is raised to $12.25, and on December 1st to $13. The right to hire and fire these workers remains solely, of course, that of their home-bound patients and their families.
The workers, then, are joint employees of both their patients and the state. And since the state allowed them to vote on whether to join a union, and since they voted to join the Service Employees International Union, these 28,000 workers have seen their pay doubled and have received, for the first time, health care coverage. Like all unionized public employees, they don’t have to pay that portion of their union dues that goes to their union’s political activities, but they do have to pay that portion of dues that goes to the union’s bargaining with the state that has produced their contract. Pamela Harris, who works at home caring for her disabled son, didn’t like those dues obligations, however, and sued to get them overturned. So, Ms. Harris had to pay $650 for her raise? Actually, no. She belongs to a different category of home-care workers, and unlike the workers who voted to join SEIU, her group voted against joining a union. She pays no dues to anybody.
Katie McDonough: SCOTUS Gets Hobby Lobby Horribly Wrong: Why This Isn’t A “Limited” Ruling
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that Hobby Lobby can ignore federal law and deny its employees comprehensive health insurance because of its “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Analysis of the case has so far called this a limited ruling because it only applies to closely held corporations and “only” impacts contraceptive coverage. But this framing completely ignores the fact that more than 90 percent of corporations in the United States are closely held, and that the court just effectively ruled that it’s fine for employers to discriminate against half of the labor force. There’s nothing limited about it. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her powerful dissent, far from being narrow in its ruling, the high court just “ventured into a minefield.” The ruling sends a strong message that women’s health and women’s rights — as individuals and employees — do not matter as much as so-called religious liberty.
It also shows once again that medically inaccurate ideas about healthcare can dictate the terms of a debate and ultimately win the day. To sum it up, five male justices ruled that thousands of female employees should rightfully be subjected to the whims of their employers. That women can be denied a benefit that they already pay for and is guaranteed by federal law. That contraception is not essential healthcare. That corporations can pray. That the corporate veil can be manipulated to suit the needs of the corporation. That bosses can cynically choose à la carte what laws they want to comply with and which laws they do not. Each specific finding opens a door to a new form of discrimination and unprecedented corporate power. If you think this ruling won’t affect you, you haven’t been paying attention. If you think these corporations are going to stop at birth control, you’re kidding yourself.
On This Day: President Barack Obama looks out a cell window as he and First Lady Michelle Obama tour the Maison des Esclaves Museum on Gorée Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)
10:50 CT: The President delivers remarks on the economy, Lake Harriet Band Shell, Minneapolis
12:20 CT: Departs Minneapolis
3:45 ET: Arrives White House
5:0 ET: Meets with Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sloan D Gibson and Rob Nabors
8:45 ET: Attends the Marine Barracks Evening Parade
“Cynicism’s popular these days, but hope’s better.”
Jonathan Cohn: Health Care Spending Down – One More Promising Sign About Obamacare
People tell me I worry too much. Maybe they are right. Back in April, I wrote a big article warning that we might be on the verge of another surge in health care spending. To critics of the Affordable Care Act, this apparent turn to health expenditure normalcy proved that the law had done little to control costs—and that it would eventually lead to much more spending. But the worrisome reports came with a huge asterisk. They were based on preliminary estimates and a whole lot of guesswork. As economists like David Cutler and Peter Orszag pointed out, other data points were more encouraging. Among other things, the cost of the federal government’s Medicare program was still rising very slowly. That suggested the health care industry really was reinventing itself and becoming more efficient—thanks, at least in part, to incentives that Obamacare had introduced.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis issued new estimates for how the economy and its component parts performed in the first quarter of 2014. The headlines were all about the economy shrinking. But that was expected, as QED’s Danny Vinik pointed out, given some one-time factors. The real surprise was health care. The supposed surge in health care spending was nowhere to be found. On the contrary, relative to the previous quarter, health care spending actually fell by 1.4 percent. it sure doesn’t look like Obamacare is bankrupting the country, as the critics always said it would. Better still, the law really may be nudging health care in the direction of more efficiency.
Benjamin Bell: Obama Calls Boehner Lawsuit Threat A ‘Stunt’ (Videos At Link)
Despite Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s threat this week to sue President Obama over his use of executive orders, the president refused to apologize for his actions during an exclusive interview with ABC News and took the Republican Party to task for what he described as its attempt to interfere with the basic functions of government. “You notice that he didn’t specifically say what exactly he was objecting to,” the president said when asked about the suit by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos during an interview Thursday in Minnesota.
“I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing,” the president added later. What I’ve told Speaker Boehner directly is, ‘If you’re really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don’t you try getting something done through Congress?’” the president said. “You’re going to squawk if I try to fix some parts of it administratively that are within my authority while you’re not doing anything?” Obama said, directing his comments toward Republicans.
Chemi Shalev: America’s Bye-Bye Bash For President Peres Was Both Bittersweet And Over-The-Top
Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer hosted a gala dinner for President Shimon Peres at the Israeli Embassy on Wednesday, attended by a formidable representation of Washington’s high and mighty. He gave a witty and humorous speech in which he included his personal impressions of the meetings held earlier that day at the White House: “You could not imagine a better relationship than the one between Peres and President [Barack] Obama,” he said. And Dermer should know. He has the right perspective. He is far more familiar than most people with the far frostier relationship between Obama and Dermer’s own superior, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And “far frostier” is probably an understatement. For Obama, Peres might be the last vestige of the kind of Israel that the American left fell in love with until the Six-Day-War, the polar opposite of Netanyahu’s present-day Israel, adored most fervently by Obama’s enemies in the conservative right-wing.
In Obama’s eyes, Peres seeks peace and pursues it, while Netanyahu pays lips service and then runs for his coalition’s life. Why couldn’t things have been the other way round, with Peres as prime minister and Bibi as President, Obama may have wondered, and Peres would probably join him. Peres’ has also been Obama’s chief defender against the waves of criticism and sometimes hostility directed at the U.S. President in Israel. “I learned from Ben Gurion that one must judge people based on their record, not their image,” Peres told Haaretz. “I think Obama is being judged unjustly, based on an image that he did not create – but was created for him. I think people ignore his record. Tell me one thing in which he hasn’t been consistent in his attitude towards Israel and the Jewish people. He’s just added a billion dollars to the military aid for our anti-missile defense. What do people want from him?”
Mike Lillis: Democrats: No Bluff, Obama Will Go It Alone On Immigration
The Obama administration is “not bluffing” in its intent to take executive action on immigration policy if House Republicans don’t act soon, top Democratic leaders warned Thursday. President Obama has delayed any potential changes to his deportation policy to allow House GOP leaders time to bring legislation to the floor this summer. But if the Republicans don’t act in July, the Democrats say, unilateral changes by Obama are inevitable. “We’re at the end of the line,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Thursday during a press briefing in the Capitol. “We’re not bluffing by setting a legislative deadline for them to act.
“Their first job is to govern,” Menendez added, “and in the absence of governing, then you see executive actions.” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) piled on. Noting that a year has passed since the Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill with broad bipartisan support, he urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring a similar bill to the floor. “I don’t know how much more time he thinks he needs, but I hope that Speaker Boehner will speak up today,” Durbin said. “And if he does not, the president will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration.”
BBC: EU signs pacts with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova
Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have signed partnership agreements with the European Union, in a move strongly opposed by Russia. The pact – which would bind the three countries more closely to the West both economically and politically – is at the heart of the crisis in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said making Ukraine choose between Russia and the EU would split it in two. A ceasefire with pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine is due to end on Friday. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in Brussels to sign the pact, said he would take a decision on an extension to the truce when he arrived back in Kiev later on Friday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would welcome an extension, but not if it were simply an ultimatum for separatists to lay down their arms. Meanwhile the United Nations refugee agency said there had been a sharp rise in the numbers of displaced people in eastern Ukraine in the past week, with 16,400 people fleeing the area. The total number internally displaced has reached 54,400, while a further 110,000 people left Ukraine for Russia this year.
Ariane de Vogue: One Year After Top Court’s Ruling Gay Marriage Is Legal In 19 States
It’s the one year anniversary of a major Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. A lot can happen in a year. In United States v. Windsor, the justices didn’t squarely address the issue of a state ban on gay marriage. Windsor, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, invalidated part of a federal law that denied benefits to same sex couples legally married in their states. But since June 26, 2013 , federal judges have adopted Kennedy’s equal protection language to strike down bans across the country. The latest ruling came Wednesday when the 10th Circuit Court ruled that Utah’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.
Look at the statistics: A year ago same sex couples could marry in 10 states and DC. Today, that number has ballooned to 19 states and DC. Almost 44 percent of the country lives in states where same sex marriage is legal, according to Human Rights Campaign. The Supreme Court ruling fueled a social movement of such rapid pace that even veterans of social movements were taken by surprise: Here’s what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who as a young lawyer fought the battle against gender discrimination, said recently in an interview with the Wall Street Journal: : “I haven’t seen a social change that rapid – ever.”
Health wonks and Dem operatives are quietly mulling the possibility of a new batch of health plan cancellations in October — just before the midterms. Dems believe a round of “cancellation” headlines could greet this development. They think headlines will be out of sync with the actual problem, perhaps dramatically so. But as the gap between last fall’s “horror stories” and subsequent hard data about Obamacare has showed, press coverage of the law tends not to err on the side of proportionality or restraint. According to Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, the possibility of more cancellations resides in the fact that an untold number of people may have renewed policies before January 1st,
meaning they did not have to meet Obamacare’s minimum standards. Those people with current plans that don’t comply could get cancellation notices 90 days before the end of this year, i.e., in October. “So much of this debate has been driven by anecdote, which can be misleading,” Levitt says. “When there is no data available to see whether the anecdotes are generalizable, they get reported anyway. This could be another example of a relatively small number of negative anecdotes being used by opponents of the law to discredit it.”
Greg Sargent: The GOP Is Now Officially The Party Of ‘Get The Hell Out’
Exactly one year after the Senate passed an immigration reform bill that built a compromise on an exchange of increased enforcement for legalization for the 11 million, Republicans have now officially abandoned any pretense of a willingness to participate in solving the immigration crisis. Instead, they have committed the party to a course premised on two intertwined notions: There are no apparent circumstances under which they can accept legalization of the 11 million; and as a result, the only broad response to the crisis they can countenance is maximum deportations.
This means it’s now all in Obama’s hands to decide what he can do unilaterally to ease the pace of deportations and address the current unaccompanied migrant crisis. One way to understand what happened here is to trace the evolution of GOP Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chair of the Judiciary Committee. Now fast forward to yesterday. Goodlatte effectively declared immigration reform dead as long as Obama is in office, blaming his decision to defer the deportation of DREAMers for the current crisis of unaccompanied migrants crossing. This tells the entire story. Goodlatte was an early proponent of a form of legalization for the 11 million that could have been the basis for compromise.