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National Govt & Politics
Appeals court panel wrestles with challenge to Obama health law
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Appeals court panel wrestles with challenge to Obama health law

Appeals court panel wrestles with challenge to Obama health law

Appeals court panel wrestles with challenge to Obama health law

Weighing the decision of a federal district judge to declare the entire Obamacare health system invalid, a three judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday searched for a legal path forward on the case, with a pair of more conservative judges expressing deep reservations about the requirement to buy health insurance, and whether the end of a tax penalty for failing to comply should kill the rest of the law.

"If you no longer have the tax, why isn't it unconstitutional?" asked Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod about the future of the Obama health law.

But while Elrod and Judge Kurt Engelhardt made clear their feelings about the law, they certainly did not offer up a road map on Tuesday for how to deal with the case.  A third judge - a Democratic appointee - said nothing during the court session.

During over 90 minutes of arguments, the two Republican judges openly struggled with whether to send the case back to a lower court for more work, puzzled by a new brief from the Trump Administration, which suggested that the Obama health law basically be repealed only in the 18 GOP-led states involved in this legal challenge.

"I think we would have to evaluate whether we've been the victim of a bait and switch," said Kyle Hawkins, the Solicitor General in the state of Texas, about that idea.

Judge Engelhardt vented his own frustration at the Congress, saying lawmakers should be working with the President to fix problems with the Affordable Care Act, without the need for judicial intervention.

"There's a political solution here," said Engelhardt, as the judge snapped his fingers to indicate he thought there could be speedy legislative action on health care reforms in Congress, which could be sent to the President for his signature.

That idea was met with skepticism by U.S. House Counsel Douglas Letter.

"And obviously the President would sign that, right?" said Letter, as with a heavy dose of sarcasm in his voice, he answered his own question about getting a deal with Mr. Trump.

"No, obviously not," Letter added, amid the sound of laughter and chuckles in the court.

The exchange reminded me of one at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, during arguments about getting rid of the subsidies for the Obama health law, when Justice Antonin Scalia said he expected that if the court struck down that part of the law, then lawmakers would swiftly move to fix the situation.

"This Congress?" deadpanned the Solicitor General, Donald Verilli, as the audience roared with laughter, signifying the disbelief that lawmakers could reach a bipartisan deal on anything related to health care.

As with those arguments, both sides now must wait for a ruling from the three judge panel - to see whether the case will go back to lower courts, or up the chain to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read More
  • Registration opens for the Owasso city-wide block party. This year's event will be held Sept. 14. The city says these block parties are a great way to meet your neighbors, which could lead to a safer community. The deadline to register is August 28, 2019.
  • The 53rd Annual Porter Peach Festival is happening until Saturday night.  Bad weather damaged 90-percent of the crop last year, forcing growers to bring in peaches from Texas.  The festival features live music, local art and a parade Saturday morning. Porter is located at 201 Street South and North 4200 Road.
  • After a high profile confrontation in the first set of Democratic debates in the 2020 race for the White House, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris will be paired together again on the same debate stage, as Democrats will gather in Detroit July 30-31. The makeup of the two debates were announced after a draw live on CNN, as the network randomly placed the 20 qualifying candidates for the second pair of Democratic debates. While Biden and Harris headline the second night, the debates will kick off with three of the top five Democrats on stage for the first debate:  Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
  • An accident is under investigation affecting the eastbound lanes of the Turner Turnpike at the Tulsa gate.  The accident happened around 8 p.m. Thursday and involved two vehicles, including an SUV.  We're told a FedEx truck at the scene may have had hazardous material on board.  Sapulpa police say one person died in the SUV that was involved in the collision. The driver was traveling in the wrong direction on the roadway. One eastbound lane at the bridge was opened for traffic at 4:30 a.m.
  • Police say Malik Morgan and DeAunte McKnight were shot and killed during a suspected drug deal in the parking lot of a fitness gym near 1st and Memorial Wednesday night. A third person is wounded after the gunfight outside of VASA Fitness. The injuries don't appear to be life-threatening. Officers believe everyone involved in the shooting knew each other and that no bystanders were struck. 

Washington Insider

  • After a high profile confrontation in the first set of Democratic debates in the 2020 race for the White House, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris will be paired together again on the same debate stage, as Democrats will gather in Detroit July 30-31. The makeup of the two debates were announced after a draw live on CNN, as the network randomly placed the 20 qualifying candidates for the second pair of Democratic debates. While Biden and Harris headline the second night, the debates will kick off with three of the top five Democrats on stage for the first debate:  Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
  • With GOP lawmakers in Congress publicly expressing their concerns about a campaign rally chant aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), President Donald Trump on Thursday made clear he did not endorse the 'Send her back' call, as Democratic leaders expressed fears for Omar's security. 'I wasn't happy with that message that they gave last night,' the President told reporters at the White House. Asked several times by reporters why he didn't stop the chant, Mr. Trump said it was a 'packed arena,' very specifically saying he did not endorse the message against Omar. 'I was not happy with it,' the President added. 'I didn't like that they did it.' Here was the moment the chant started during his rally, in response to his criticism of four minority women Democratic House members, including Omar: On Capitol Hill, a number of Republicans expressed their concern about the message from the Trump crowd. 'No American should ever talk to another American that way,' said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). 'That's a very inappropriate sentiment in this country,' Cole told reporters just off the House floor. “The tweet was wrong & the chant last night grotesque,” wrote Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Twitter. “What I’m hearing from Capitol Police is that threats are up across the board for all members,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who expressed his concern about the ‘send her back’ chant just a few hours after the rally had ended. As for Omar, she met on Thursday morning with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as reporters pressed her to respond to the chant. “We have said this President is racist,” Omar said as she walked from the Capitol back to her House office. Democrats said they were concerned about Omar’s safety and possible threats against her. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the head of the House Democratic Caucus, encouraged lawmakers and the Capitol Police to quickly share any information about threats to police back in their home districts. “We got to make sure every single person, Democrat, Republican, progressive, conservative, the left and the right, get through it together,” Jeffries said.
  • Pressing ahead with one of their main agenda items in the 116th Congress, Democrats are poised to push a bill through the House on Thursday which would more than double the federal minimum wage over the next six years, taking it from the current level of $7.25 an hour, and pressing it up to $15. 'This is a fair and overdue adjustment,' argued Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-NY), as debate started Wednesday on the floor of the House.  'American workers haven't had the benefit of a federal minimum wage increase in over a decade, while the prices of everything have gone up,' said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed Democrats to stick together on the minimum wage bill, arguing it 'lifts 1.3 million Americans out of poverty.' But for most Republicans, the idea of raising the wage would be a giant economic mistake, hurting rural areas, and younger Americans looking for work. 'When Congress should be focused on pro-growth policies, this bill would be detrimental to American families, workers, and entrepreneurs,' said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX). Republicans have pointed repeatedly to a recent Congressional Budget Office report, which estimated that the $15 minimum wage could cause job losses of 1.3 million - with a high estimate over 3.7 million. 'That's like firing the entire population of the state of Oklahoma,' said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), in a line that's been used by a number of GOP lawmakers in recent weeks. The original plan was to raise the minimum wage in five steps over five years - but because of resistance among some Democrats - the plan was changed to make it a six year increase. The bill would raise the wage in steps, first to $8.45 an hour, then $9.50 a year after that, followed by a jump to $10.60, then $11.70 an hour, $12.80 an hour, $13.90, and lastly to $15 an hour. After that, the minimum wage would be indexed to rise along with median wage growth in the United States. While Democrats will certainly celebrate the passage of the plan - the bill seems unlikely to get a vote in the Republican-led Senate.
  • Accusing the Trump Administration of intentionally withholding documents and information about the failed effort by President Donald Trump to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, the House on Wednesday voted along party lines to find the Attorney General and Secretary of Commerce in Contempt of Congress. 'Neither of the Departments have provided the documents we have asked for,' said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), as the House resolution targeted both Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. 'I even asked Secretary Ross to meet with me personally,' Cummings said on the House floor. 'He refused.' It was the second time Barr had been held in contempt by the current Congress; the first was a civil contempt citation passed by the full House for ignoring a subpoena for his testimony about the Russia investigation and the Mueller Report. Democrats said it was nothing but a cover-up by the White House. Just before the vote, Barr and Ross sent a letter to Democrats asking that the contempt vote be delayed, as Republicans argued that the Trump Administration has been cooperating with requests for documents - something Democrats say just isn't true. 'It is unfortunate that the House has scheduled a vote to hold two sitting members of the President's Cabinet in contempt of Congress given the clear record of cooperation,' Barr and Ross wrote, as they said 'any contempt vote is, at best, premature.' 'This is all about a show,' said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), as Republicans rallied around a message that Democrats were pursuing political attacks on the President, while ignoring major issues on Capitol Hill. 'Don't play politics with contempt,' said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). 'We're better than that.' Democrats countered that the courts have already shown that the Trump Administration didn't tell the truth about why the citizenship question was being pursued - as Democrats argued that the feds had held back information to Congress about the Census citizenship question. 'Wilbur Ross lied. William Barr lied,' said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). In a defiant statement sent out just after the vote, the White House denounced the House action. “Today’s vote by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats to hold Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross in contempt is ridiculous and yet another lawless attempt to harass the President and his Administration,” the statement read.
  • Next summer will mark forty years since I drew my first paycheck on Capitol Hill as a Page in the House of Representatives. Between working for the Congress, and then covering lawmakers as a reporter, I've seen lawmakers almost come to blows, watched Speakers angrily denounce their critics, seen lawmakers block the doors to the House floor to keep lawmakers from leaving, and all sorts of other legislative mischief. But I have never seen what happened on Tuesday, when Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) did what amounted to a 'gavel drop,' as he refused to read a parliamentary ruling against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and simply walked away. 'I abandon the Chair,' Cleaver said, after getting my attention by clearly not reading the script in front of him, and speaking in the first person from the Speaker's Chair. Maybe it's happened before in the almost 230 years that the House and Senate have been at work - but what Cleaver did on Tuesday was something that left my jaw on the floor. In his off-the-cuff remarks, Cleaver seemed to indicate that he had given a pass to Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), who during debate on a resolution condemning President Trump, had denounced a group of minority women Democrats as 'anti-American.' When one Democrat rose to ask that Duffy's words be 'taken down' and scrubbed from the Record, Cleaver brushed off the complaint. And he evidently thought the same should have been done for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, when she referred to the President's 'racist tweets,' directly going against precedents of the House which clearly state that such speech is against the rules. In a statement, Cleaver said he was simply frustrated at what was going on before his eyes. 'I have spent my entire life working with people of all faiths and stripes in an effort solve real-world problems with concrete solutions, but never have we been this divided and this unwilling to listen to countering opinions or accept objective truths,' the Missouri Democrat said. 'However, a house divided against itself cannot stand, regardless of how strong the foundation,' Cleaver added. Some of my colleagues were just as surprised at the turn of events. The rules rebuke of Pelosi was historic as well - it was the first time a Speaker had words 'taken down' in 35 years, since a famous floor spat between Speaker Tip O'Neill, and future Speaker Newt Gingrich (though not many people at the time would have predicted Gingrich's ascension to that leadership post).