Editorials and Opinion
EDITORIAL: Obamacare takes a hit; Conflicting rulings could end up in Supreme Court (Register Guard [OR] , 07/23/14)
"In the first ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that the tax credits provided under ACA can be offered only to states that set up their own marketplaces ... A split between the two appeals courts over the question of Obamacare subsidies would lead to nearly certain Supreme Court intervention. It’s possible the full D.C. appeals court, dominated by Democratic appointees, will overturn its panel’s ruling. Even if both full appeals courts uphold the subsidies, the Supreme Court could still intervene, with the outcome anyone’s guess. ... If the ACA’s promising reforms fall prey to a legal challenge and millions of Americans lose their insurance, the blame will lie with Republicans in Congress who have blocked efforts to fix the glitches and the unexpected consequences that are inevitable in any legislation as large and sweeping as the ACA."
They're Not Harry Reid's Judges (Bloomberg News, 07/23/14)
Jonathan Bernstein: "the Senate minority blockaded three seats on the DC Circuit Court, and pledged to continue defeating any nominees for those positions for the duration of Obama's second term. Not only was this unprecedented, as far as I know the notion of reflexively blocking all presidential appointments had never occurred to a Senate majority before, let alone a minority. ...Given the election of a Democrat to the White House and a 55-to-45 Democratic majority in the Senate, Reid absolutely had to react. ...rom 2009 to 2013, Republicans began treating the routine nomination and confirmation of judges as some sort of extraordinary power grab. They accused Obama of “packing” the courts merely by exercising his constitutional obligation to appoint judges to vacancies. That intransigence made the filibuster untenable. When Republicans refused to abide by longstanding institutional norms, majority-imposed reform became necessary for the Senate to function at all."
A conservative judiciary run amok (Washington Post, 07/23/14)
E.J. Dionne Jr.: "By effectively gutting the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, two members of a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals showed how far right-leaning jurists have strayed from such impartiality. We are confronted with a conservative judiciary that will use any argument it can muster to win ideological victories that elude their side in the elected branches of our government. Fortunately, the D.C. Circuit ruling is unlikely to stand. On the same day the D.C. panel issued its opinion, a three-judge panel from the 4th Circuit ruled unanimously the other way, upholding the law. There is a good chance that the 11-judge D.C. Circuit will take the decision away from its panel — something it is usually reluctant to do — and rule as a full court to affirm the ACA as commonly understood."
Editorial: Republicans waste energy fighting ACA Obamacare is still worth fixing (Salt Lake Tribune [UT] , 07/23/14)
"The two judges ruling in the case of Halbig v. Burwell trained their judicial microscope on a passage in the ACA that says the IRS can offer tax benefits to people who buy their health insurance through a state exchange. The court decided, against all logic, that that means the tax benefits are not open to people covered via the federal exchange.... The D.C. court’s reasoning was so clearly unreasonable that another federal appeals court explicitly rejected it in a case decided the same day. "
Editorial: Subsidies essential to health care reform (Tampa Bay Times [FL], 07/22/14)
"It defies logic that Congress intended only to provide the premium subsidies in states that created their own marketplaces, and the courts should keep them in place.... Yet two conservative judges on a three-judge federal appeals court panel in Washington concluded Tuesday that the federal law only allows the subsidies to be offered in states with their own exchanges. They focus on one poorly worded provision in the complicated law and ignore its overall intent, rejecting the government's argument that their narrow reading would produce absurd results.... If the full appeals court panels examine fairly the intent of the Affordable Care Act, they will conclude the subsidies are legal and this issue will never reach the U.S. Supreme Court."
Editorial: In the courts, again, with Obamacare (Anniston Star [AL] , 07/22/14)
"Critics of President Obama’s attempt to deliver affordable health insurance to all Americans can’t build their arguments on moral grounds. If so, they lose. So they’re taking a legal approach in hopes of undermining the Affordable Care Act with a barrage of paper cuts. ...If the D.C. court’s ruling is eventually upheld, thousands of Alabamians might lose the health insurance they’ve received through the ACA. In no way, under no circumstance, is that good for the state or its people."
EDITORIAL: An Ominous Health Care Ruling (New York Times, 07/22/14)
"Under the decision of a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, people living in 36 states, mostly led by Republican governors or legislatures, would be in jeopardy ... Two Republican-appointed judges on the panel, taking an incredibly narrow and blinkered view, concluded that the language in the law allows the Internal Revenue Service to provide tax-credit subsidies only on exchanges established by the states. ...The third judge, a Democratic appointee, called the majority opinion what it clearly was, a “not-so-veiled attempt to gut” the health care law. ... The Obama administration is expected to appeal the decision to the full appellate court, whose 11 members include seven Democratic and four Republican appointees. What is needed is common sense in interpreting the law, not ideological opposition to Obamacare. The three-judge appeals panel on the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, based in Richmond, while acknowledging ambiguities in the language of the law, unanimously and properly upheld the subsidies as a permissible exercise of discretion by the I.R.S. "
EDITORIAL: Judges show partisanship in striking ACA subsidies (News & Observer [NC], 07/22/14)
"When the history of the Affordable Care Act is written, the figures who will look the most obstructive and shortsighted are not the tireless House Republicans who voted time and again to repeal the law or the state attorneys general who sued to block the law. The worst light will fall on those judges who failed in their duty to provide a fair reading of Congress’ intent and instead substituted their own personal and partisan views. First among this group will be the conservative members of the U.S. Supreme Court who voted in favor of declaring the law unconstitutional. Now two Republican judges on the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court have added their names to the roster of future ignominy. Judge Raymond Randolph, and Judge Thomas Griffith formed the majority in a 2-1 ruling ... the judges in the majority in the D.C. Circuit decision contorted their judgment to fit that political aim. Fortunately, the D.C. Circuit ruling is likely to be reversed on appeal to the entire D.C. Circuit Court where Democrats hold a majority."
EDITORIAL: D.C. Circuit Court ruling on Obamacare was wrong — but the 4th Circuit got it right (Washington Post, 07/22/14)
"Blame the D.C. Circuit, too, for an unwise and unnecessary ruling that would dismantle much of the Obamacare system that has been slowly taking hold. The court would have us believe that the law’s text is so clear that it requires a bizarre, counter-productive result. In fact, on the point in question, the text is a vague mess and the court’s interpretation of the language is at odds with the law’s obvious intent and with normal deference to executive interpretation — as the Fourth Circuit more sensibly ruled at almost the same moment....The full D.C. Circuit should reconsider and reverse its panel’s 2-to-1 ruling. Then the Supreme Court should let the administration’s interpretation stand, instead of taking the case and prolonging the ACA’s legal limbo."
No Winners, Only Losers, When it Comes to Judicial Vacancies (Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, 07/21/14)
Andrew Cohen: "What the conversation about judicial nominations sorely lacks is a broader look at the constitutional responsibility of the executive and legislative branches to consistently ensure that the third branch, the judiciary, has enough judges to ensure that the nation’s rule of law is fairly and evenly administered....there is no equal justice under law if people in this jurisdiction are treated differently from people in jurisdictions whose federal courts are fully-staffed. In this respect, the Brennan Center report also is important because of the candor it includes from judges most directly impacted by the nation’s empty benches."
Diversity Milestone for Obama's Judicial Nominees (People For blog, 07/21/14)
"Ronnie White is the 100th person of color that President Obama has made a federal circuit or district court judge. That is more than twice the number at the same point in the George W. Bush Administration, and far exceeds Bush's total for his entire eight years in office. In fact, President Obama has had more minority judges confirmed than any other president."
EDITORIAL: At Long Last, Justice for Ronnie White (New York Times, 07/19/14)
"Mr. White’s well-deserved approval for the federal bench was at least 15 years overdue.... Republicans joined in partisan lockstep to block his confirmation after a smear campaign led by Senator John Ashcroft of Missouri. Mr. Ashcroft depicted Mr. White’s reasoned refusal to rubber-stamp prosecutorial calls for the death penalty in every case as evidence of “a tremendous bent toward criminal activity.”
At the time, Mr. Ashcroft was facing a tough re-election fight and seized on the death penalty as a wedge issue. His strategy included trumped-up charges against Mr. White, which culminated in the Senate’s vote to kill the nomination in October 1999."
Eagle editorial: Prairie chicken plan misguided (Wichita Eagle [KS] , 07/18/14)
"Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan for the state to raise and release lesser prairie chickens didn’t help his argument that Kansas should be trusted to protect the threatened species. It’s hard to be taken seriously when scientists are laughing.... “It’s almost impossible to conceive how someone could violate the rule other than by deliberately going out and shooting a chicken,” said Jason Rylander, a staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, one of three environmental groups that are suing for more aggressive protections of the birds."
Editorial: Bison talks must stay cooperative (Bozeman Daily Chonicle [MT], 07/18/14)
"Members of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Bison Discussion Group are to be commended....The very idea of establishing a wild bison population has met bitter resistance from landowners and ranchers ... even those who live in areas where bison are introduced stand to benefit, with new economic opportunities stemming from ecotourism."
Editorial: Climate change deniers ignore real devastating dangers (Charleston Gazette [WV] , 07/16/14)
"West Virginia politicians oppose federal pollution controls — but they never mention the higher cost being paid by the whole nation. Rep. McKinley wants to order federal agencies to pretend that climate change isn’t happening. That’s like King Canute absurdly commanding ocean tides to cease."
Print headline: 15 years later, justice is served (Washington Post, 07/16/14)
Paul Kane: "By 2013, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who holds Ashcroft’s old seat, pushed White for another nomination. After his 2001 testimony, some Republicans apologized to him, and Hatch told reporters at the time that Republicans wished they could “revisit” the White vote....On Wednesday, just one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), supported White’s nomination. Hatch, again voting no, saw no sign of easing tensions on nomination fights for the rest of Obama’s term."
EDITORIAL: Foolish gun measures in Kansas, Missouri draw welcome opposition (Kansas City Star, 07/15/14)
"Indeed, courts have consistently ruled that federal law trumps state law. And state laws that attempt to nullify federal laws have been declared unconstitutional. As U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a 2012 letter to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, “a state certainly may not criminalize the exercise of federal responsibilities.”...A federal appeals court last year struck down a similar Montana law. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice declined to review the case."
Editorial How California can best fight climate change (Los Angeles Times, 07/14/14)
"California may be ahead of the rest of the nation in the crucial effort to stave off the worst of global warming, but recent reports have made it clear that the state must intensify its efforts if it is to meet its emissions goals for the decades beyond."
Editorial: Don't mess with Texas' big cranes; Leadership needed to spearhead protection of the state's environment and wildlife. (Houston Chronicle, 07/11/14)
"The extinction scenario for the most famous avian residents of the Texas coast is not farfetched. And anyone who has marveled at the majesty of the 5-foot-tall birds foraging for blue crabs in their wintering grounds at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge near Rockport has to be saddened by the June 30 ruling from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel said that U.S. District Court Judge Janis Jack abused discretion in finding that 23 cranes had died because of a disruption to their habitat."
EDITORIAL: Only Senate can fix broken process of confirmations (Dubuque Telegraph Herald [IA], 07/09/14)
"It’s up to the Senate to reform the broken confirmation process. ...The gamesmanship to avoid appointing qualified nominees has real negative consequences for government agencies and by extension, the American people. The Senate should expedite decisions, especially on noncontroversial nominees, and keep the nominating process moving. President Obama reached too far in making appointments without Senate approval. But it’s the Senate that created the backlog in the first place."
145 Nominees Still Can’t Do Their Jobs Because Republicans Won’t Do Theirs (Nation, 07/08/14)
George Zornick: "So why are these nominees waiting so long? Routine obstruction by Republican senators who are deliberately stretching out the confirmation process for virtually every nominee to come through the Senate. ... A report by Common Cause in May found nineteen examples of Republican senators chewing up cloture time on judicial nominees who were later confirmed unanimously by the Senate."