DC Circuit Court of Appeals deals major blow to #Obamacare

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Obamacare

Reason’s Peter Suderman has the deets:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit delivered a huge blow to Obamacare this morning, ruling that the insurance subsidies granted through the federally run health exchange, which covered 36 states for the first open enrollment period, are not allowed by the law.

The highly anticipated opinion in the case ofJacqueline Halbig v. Sylvia Mathews Burwell reversed a lower court ruling finding that federally run exchanges did have the authority to disburse subsidies.

Today’s ruling vacates the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulation allowing the federal exchanges to give subsidies. The large majority of individuals, about 86 percent, in the federal exchange system received subsidies, and in those cases the subsidies covered about 76 percent of the premium on average.

The essence of the court’s ruling is that, according to the law, those subsidies are illegal. They were always illegal, and the administration never had the authority to offer them. (According to an administration official, however, the subsidies will continue to flow throughout the appeals process.)

The court’s ruling agreed with challengers who argued that the plain language of the law, which in multiple instances limits subsidies and credits to any “Exchange established by the State,” does not allow subsidies to be disbursed in exchanges where a state declined to establish its own exchange and is instead run by the federal government. Basically, the federal government cannot step in and create and run an exchange that is somehow still an exchange established by a state.

Think this is interesting? Come to find out, a different circuit court ruled in quite a different direction on this same issue:

Update 2: A different circuit court ruled today that subsidies offered through federally run exchanges are authorized on the law. This creates a circuit court split, which increases, but does not guarantee, the chances of an eventual hearing by the Supreme Court. It is also possible, and arguably even more likely, that the circuit split will be dealt with via en banc review.

Fasten your seat belts, y’all.

Memeorandum has much more.

#IRS under oath: Lerner’s hard drive destroyed to ‘protect taxpayer info’

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IRS

Oh yes – they went there (hat tip):

The IRS said under oath Friday that former agency official Lois Lerner’s hard drive was destroyed and recycled, echoing earlier testimony from its commissioner.

In its most extensive comments yet on Lerner’s hard drive, the agency said in court filings Friday that the hard drive was destroyed in 2011 to protect confidential taxpayer information.

Before that, the IRS said, the hard drive underwent a process designed to permanently erase stored data. That process occurred after a series of IRS technical officers examined Lerner’s hard drive, and found that it couldn’t be restored after a crash.

The IRS’s court filings came as part of a lawsuit filed against the agency by True the Vote, a conservative activist group.

A week ago, Judge Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court in Washington imposed a Friday deadline for the IRS to tell the court what happened to Lerner’s hard drive, among other questions.

The IRS said last month that Lerner’s hard drive crashed in 2011, leaving a chunk of her emails for the previous two-plus years missing.

That admission reignited the investigations into the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt groups. Lerner kicked off that controversy in May 2013 by apologizing for the IRS’s behavior, and has since become the central figure in the inquiry.

[…]

 

[GOP] skeptics, along with Judge Walton, also sought the serial number to Lerner’s hard drive.

In its court filing, the IRS said that it got the hard drive’s serial number from an outside contractor who sold the agency Lerner’s laptop computer. The IRS added that it only puts bar codes on larger pieces of equipment, like laptop or desktop computers.

The IRS said that it was standard practice for hard drives to be shredded before any of their parts were recycled. Because of its tracking system, the IRS said that it’s now impossible to say what happened to any of the parts of Lerner’s hard drive that might have been put back into use.

Stewart Baker at the Volokh Conspiracy legal blog quips:

Why? According to The Hill, “the agency said in court filings Friday that the hard drive was destroyed in 2011 to protect confidential taxpayer information.”

I’m sure the IRS feels it’s a little ungrateful of Tea Party groups to complain about the agency’s heroic efforts to protect them.

Indeed. The irony, and much more importantly, the bull sh*t IRS excuses are so thick you could cut them with a knife.  I know it’s just a fantasy that will never in reality happen but I’d love every one of these sad excuses for “public servants” be carted off to prison to serve some serious time for what they’ve done.  It’s absolutely sickening – and rest assured, if this happened under the Bush administration those involved would have already done the perp walk, and then some.

Senate Dems, including @KayHagan, set to try & “reverse” #HobbyLobby ruling

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Hobby Lobby

Because religious freedom sucks and stuff – and so do the “five white guys” on the Supreme Court. Via The Hill:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) set up the first procedural vote on a bill that would reverse the recent Supreme Court ruling that allows some employers to deny birth control coverage for women.

“After five justices decided last week that an employer’s personal views can interfere with women’s access to essential health services, we in Congress need to act quickly to right this wrong,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said while introducing the bill last week.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that companies, such as Hobby Lobby, don’t have to provide their employees birth control coverage as mandated under ObamaCare. The 5-4 decision stated that the mandate violated the religious liberties of employers who don’t believe in the use of contraceptives.

Democrats have pounced on the issue ahead of the November elections in order to draw contrast between the two parties on the issue.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision opened the door to unprecedented corporate intrusion into our private lives,” said Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), a lead co-sponsor of the bill. “My common-sense proposal will keep women’s private health decisions out of corporate board rooms, because your boss shouldn’t be able to dictate what is best for you and your family.”

Senate Democrats will need at least five Republicans to join them in voting to end debate on the motion to proceed to S. 2578, but it seems unlikely they will get that support. That vote is expected Wednesday.

In other words, they know they aren’t going to get anywhere on the bill. It’s just election-year posturing designed to let perpetual (and in some cases “professional”) “feminist” victims on the left who dogmatically support the demagogues in the Democrat party know that when it comes to choosing between respect for the First Amendment versus abortion on demand, they’ll choose baby-killing every single time.

And yes, as the headline to this post suggests, North Carolinians, Senator Hagan (D) supports this bill:


Shameful. And out of touch with North Carolina voters. But not surprising.

Fearmongering Pelosi: We should “be afraid” of “five guys” on #SCOTUS

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Pelosi and Assad

”We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace.” – Pelosi on Assad, April 2007. But ‘five guys’ on the Supreme Court are frightening … SMH.

Considering the depth of ignorance on display here, it’s astonishing  how high this woman has risen in power in Congress over the last couple of decades. Then again, maybe not, considering how Democrats think and operate:

Americans should live in fear of the Supreme Court, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday.

Hammering a pair of recent rulings related to birth control access, the House minority leader suggested the conservative-leaning court is stealing women’s freedoms when it comes to making healthcare choices.

“We should be afraid of this court. That five guys should start determining what contraceptions are legal or not. … It is so stunning,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

Pelosi said last week’s Supreme Court ruling that the birth control mandate under President Obama’s healthcare reform law is a violation of religious freedom was particularly egregious.

“That court decision was a frightening one,” she said. “That five men should get down to the specifics of whether a woman should use a diaphragm and she should pay for it herself or her boss. It’s not her boss’s business. His business is whatever his business is. But it’s not what contraception she uses.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again in hopes it will sink in with the clueless: By forcing your boss to pay for healthcare options that go against his or her religious conscience, you ARE putting them in the middle of your healthcare decisions.  Furthermore, you’ve told them that their religious rights should be laid at the feet of the state simply because you want something that you think shouldn’t have to pay for.  Not only that, but in the case of Hobby Lobby, it already offers – and continues to offer – healthcare coverage for sixteen types pf birth control.  It wanted nothing to do, however, with abortifacients, which was the issue at the heart of their case against the Obama administration.

But we’ve rehashed that again and again. What I want to address is the sexism, yes, outright sexism Pelosi – and other female Democrat politicos and so-called “woman’s rights activists” on the left who’ve uttered similar remarks – has blatantly exhibited here, and how this disturbing double standard has unfortunately become “acceptable” over the years because too few have dared to question it and/or call it out.  Her implication here is that if we’d just had a Supreme Court full of women, they’ve have never ruled this way.  To Pelosi, there’s no way the five (male) justices who ruled the way they did in the Hobby Lobby case could have done so for any other reason other than they hate women or, at the very least, want to see them relegated back to being barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.    Keep in mind that Pelosi has offered no legal basis for her disagreement with the high court’s decision, so we’re left to assume that not only does she believe the “five guys” are misogynists, but also that she’s in favor of women on the court ruling based on feelings rather than the law.  And here you thought, by the standards that Democrats themselves have set, that it was wrong to believe women make judgment calls based purely on their emotions.

Lastly, I want you to imagine for a second that we did have a majority female Supreme Court, and how high the level of outrage would be nationwide if anyone on the right condemned a case ruling based solely on the sex of the justices who ruled for or against it.   We’d be at Code Red on the outrage meter, and understandably so.  That we’re not when it comes to “reverse sexism” just shows how successful feminists on the left have been over the years at demonizing men and demagoguing and dumbing down the debate over women’s rights issues – and issues that go beyond women’s rights but are nevertheless hijacked by “feminists” for their own warped agendas.  That needs to change.

Federal judge to IRS: You must explain ‘lost’ emails under oath

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Lois Lerner

Lois Lerner

The room definitely just got hotter for Democrats hoping this scandal will just go away. Via Fox News:

A federal judge has ordered the IRS to explain “under oath” how the agency lost a trove of emails from the official at the heart of the Tea Party targeting scandal.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan gave the tax agency 30 days to file a declaration by an “appropriate official” to address the computer issues with ex-official Lois Lerner.

The decision came Thursday as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, which along with GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill has questioned how the IRS lost the emails and, in some cases, had no apparent way to retrieve them.

The IRS first acknowledged it lost the emails in a letter to senators last month.

“In our view, there has been a cover-up that has been going on,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “The Department of Justice, the IRS, had an obligation, an absolute obligation … to alert the court and alert Judicial Watch as soon as they knew when these records were supposedly lost.”

The IRS says it lost the emails in 2011 when Lerner’s computer crashed. At the time, Lerner headed the IRS division that processes applications for tax-exempt status. She has since retired.

During the court hearing, Sullivan indicated he wanted the portion of the declaration on the computer issues to be wide-ranging, saying “that’s about as broad as I can make it.”

It also emerged at the status hearing that a Treasury Department inspector general probe into the matter is underway.

In related news, Hot Air’s Noah Rothman filed this report on new claims being made by Lerner’s attorney:

On Wednesday, former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner’s attorney changed his tune on just how lost those two years’ worth of emails actually were. Lerner’s lawyer, William Taylor II, said that Lerner had printed out some emails in order to comply with records-keeping laws. He had previously said that Lerner did not print and file her email communications because she was unaware that she was required to do so.

“During her tenure as Director of Exempt Organizations, she did print out some emails, although not every one of the thousands she sent and received,” Taylor said in a statement.

In an exchange with Politico, Taylor quibbled over whether or not he had misled that news organization when he told them that Lerner did not print out any emails.

“Your question was whether she printed out ‘official records’ and filed them. I am not saying she did that,” Taylor wrote to Politico reporters. That presumes a level of scrutiny and process over every email that did not occur.”

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified before Congress that it was his understanding that Lerner had printed out her emails as required by the Federal Records Act. Later, however, Koskinen testified that Lerner may not have printed out her emails because she “did not think it was required.”

Sigh. So many conflicting stores from the mouths of the accused.  I wonder if we’ll ever get to the truth?

(Hat tip: Memeorandum)

Sore #guncontrol loser Mike Bloomberg sneers at “rural” Colorado recall cities

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Mike Bloomberg

Nanny state proponent/movement
leader Michael Bloomberg.

The ugly face of liberal elitism rears its ugly head. Via the Colorado Observer (hat tip):

DENVER — In what may come as a surprise to residents of Colorado Springs and Pueblo, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn’t think those cities have roads.

Bloomberg told Rolling Stone that he was “sorry” about the recalls of two state senators last year over the Democratic state legislature’s gun-control laws, but added that their districts were so “rural” that, “I don’t think there’s roads.”

“In Colorado, we got a law passed. The NRA went after two or three state senators in a part of Colorado where I don’t think there’s roads,” said Bloomberg in the interview published online Wednesday.

“It’s as far rural as you can get,” said Bloomberg. “And, yes, they lost recall elections. I’m sorry for that. We tried to help ‘em. But the bottom line is, the law is on the books, and being enforced. You can get depressed about the progress, but on the other hand, you’re saving a lot of lives.”

That interview is no longer available on the Rolling Stone website, but the Colorado Republican Party discovered the quote about Colorado before it was taken down. [Note from ST: Wonder why it was taken down? Hmm.]

Colorado Republicans were floored by the comments.

“Michael Bloomberg is absolutely out of touch with the values of Pueblo,” said state Sen. George Rivera (R-Pueblo). “In Pueblo, we value our Second Amendment rights and we don’t appreciate East Coast elites stereotyping us as some area so remote that we don’t even have roads.”

Rivera was elected to the state Senate in the Sept. 10 recall election that resulted in the ouster of state Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo).

“Pueblo is a proud city composed of proud people from all different walks of life, and, while it might be hard for a New York billionaire to comprehend, we do in fact have roads and running water,” said Rivera in a statement. “I promise the people of Pueblo I will never sit idly by as outsiders insult our outstanding community.”

Denver’s KDVR has more:

The successful recalls last September occurred in Colorado Springs, the state’s second largest city, and Pueblo, its seventh largest.

The gun laws did trigger a secession movement by 11 rural northeastern Colorado counties as well, something Bloomberg may have conflated with the recall efforts.

But for Colorado Republicans eager for any chance to remind voters of Bloomberg’s influence on their Democratic governor , the comments are an election year gift.

“Just for the record, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Jefferson County all have roads. I just traveled them,” said Bob Beauprez, Hickenlooper’s GOP challenger. “Michael Bloomberg’s infuriatingly ignorant remarks show how far removed he is from Colorado, and how wrong John Hickenlooper was to let Bloomberg force his radical agenda on Colorado.

“It’s pathetic a New York City Mayor had more influence in our governor’s office than our state’s sheriffs.”

Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call added: “This is what one of Sen. Udall and Gov. Hickenlooper’s top supporters thinks of Colorado.

“It’s astonishing that Gov. Hickenlooper would discuss important legislation with Mayor Bloomberg, who obviously doesn’t respect or understand the people of our great state, but refused to speak to Colorado sheriffs.  No wonder the governor lied to our state’s sheriffs, instead of admitting that he spoke to Mayor Bloomberg on multiple occasions.”

Ouch!  Sounds like the former NYC mayor and leader of the nanny state movement has gotten on the bad side of Colorado Republicans, to say the least. Talk about am election-year gift!

Sidenote: Let’s just imagine for five seconds the nationwide purple-faced outrage that would have ensued from this had it been, say, Mitt Romney who made the condescending comments. As  usual with Democrats, the double standard is alive and well …

Memo to Senator Reid: Justice Clarence Thomas is black, not white

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Senator Harry Reid

Um….

Losing it in more ways than one. Via ABC News:

Senate Democrats said they plan to unveil legislation in the coming weeks in response to the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in the Hobby Lobby contraception case.

“This Hobby Lobby decision is outrageous, and we’re going to do something about it,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill today. “People are going to have to walk down here and vote, and if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court, I think it’s — they’re going to have — be treated unfavorably come November with the elections.”

Reid said the Senate needed to do something to “ensure that women’s lives are not determined by virtue of five white men.”

Look, I know liberals view Justice Thomas as “black in color only” – meaning they think he’s only black on the surface (meaning he’s a “sellout to his people” or whatever) but the least the despicable Majority Leader of the United States Senate could do as a show of basic, common decency is to pretend in public that’s not what he thinks. Sheesh.

#GunControl: Violent weekend in Chicago sees 60 shot, 9 dead

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Crime scene tape

ABC News reports that the Independence Day holiday and weekend in Chicago turned out to be a violent, deadly one for nearly 70 people:

Independence Day celebrations were marred by multiple shootings in Chicago that reportedly left at least nine dead and 60 injured.

The first fatal shooting occurred around 2:30 a.m. Friday, kicking off a violent weekend for the city.

Corey Hudson, 34, was killed after a car pulled up and someone inside shot him and a friend on the street. According to ABC News station WLS-TV in Chicago there were also three police-involved shootings on July 4th alone. At least one suspect involved in one of those shootings was killed.

The most recent shootings occurred Sunday night, according to WLS-TV.

They city has been actively combating gang and shooting violence in recent years after a bloody year in 2012, when it was the only city in the nation to record more than 500 homicides.

[…]

The Chicago Tribune updated its tally of Chicago shooting victims today, bringing up the total of those shot to 1,129 so far this year. According to the Tribune, there were 2,185 shooting victims in Chicago last year.

Don’t expect any widespread outrage, any national conversation on this story, no in-depth reporting, no marches from gun-control fanatics like “Moms Demand” – because the Chicago murders don’t fit their narrative.  The city of Chicago, under decades of Democrat rule, has some of the absolutely strictest gun laws – the exact types of laws that gun control zealots salivate over – in the country, and yet for years it’s had one of the worst, in some years THE worst, rate of violent crime involving guns.  It’s a sad commentary on exactly what types of viciousness and lawlessness unconstitutional gun laws can lead to, and one that deserves a vigorous discussion – but we won’t see it any time soon, because gun rights advocates are typically relegated to the back of the bus on this issue, viewed as “heartless” and “lacking compassion” … all because they know the truth (and aren’t afraid to speak out about it) about how tight gun control laws only lead to more innocent people being hurt or killed by thugs who don’t give a damn about the rule of law.

Move along here, nothing to see, etc … :(

Liberal freak-out commences in the aftermath of #SCOTUS Hobby Lobby ruling

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Panic button

I had a million things going on today so I wasn’t around much in the immediate aftermath of today’s Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby case, but it was pretty predictable how the left would react if the court didn’t rule in favor of the Obama administration’s position on the so-called “birth control mandate.” Just to recap, the court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s position:

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that certain “closely held” for-profit businesses can cite religious objections in order to opt out of a requirement in ObamaCare to provide free contraceptive coverage for their employees.

The 5-4 decision, in favor of arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby and one other company, marks the first time the court has ruled that for-profit businesses can cite religious views under federal law. It also is a blow to a provision of the Affordable Care Act which President Obama’s supporters touted heavily during the 2012 presidential campaign.

“Today is a great day for religious liberty,” Adele Keim, counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which represented Hobby Lobby, told Fox News.

The ruling was one of two final rulings to come down on Monday, as the justices wrapped up their work for the session. The other reined in the ability of unions to collect dues from home health care workers.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion in the ObamaCare case, finding the contraceptive mandate in its current form “unlawful.” The court’s four liberal justices dissented.

In other words, it was a bad day all around (again) for liberals when it comes to Supreme Court verdicts. The first wave of bad news hit last Thursday with their rulings against President Obama’s recess appointments position as well as striking down the Massachusetts abortion clinic “buffer zone law” on First Amendment grounds.

Understandably, Thursday was bad enough but today’s “setbacks” for the left were too much for some to bear, and they lashed out in a big way.   Sean Davis at The Federalist blog compiled a tweet round-up (with responses) of some of the most ridiculous arguments coming from high profile Democrats in the aftermath of SCOTUS’ majority opinion on Hobby Lobby, while Twitchy Team took left-wing Twitter’s temperature earlier today after all was said and done and found more than a few folks, er, hot under the collar.

Probably the dumbest Tweet of the day was a quote from – surprise – Senator Harry Reid:


Because only five (liberal) female Supreme Court justices would be able to “correctly” interpret the US Constitution in cases involving “women’s rights”, right? *insert eye roll here*

Open Thread: #SCOTUS Hobby Lobby ruling

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SCOTUS

The interior of the United States Supreme Court.

As I noted yesterday, the Supreme Court is expected to announce today their verdict in the Hobby Lobby religious freedom case, which pits the family-owned company against the Obama administration’s Obamacare “birth control mandate.” The Hill provides a preview of what’s ahead:

The boundaries of religious freedom hang in the balance as the Supreme Court prepares to close out its term with a decision on the Affordable Care Act’s “birth control mandate.”

Monday’s ruling, the most closely watched of the season, decides round two for ObamaCare at the high court, and will be the second time that the justices will close their term with a ruling on President Obama’s signature law.

The stakes are high. A ruling against the administration could undermine the statute’s provision requiring companies to offer contraceptive services to workers as part of their insurance coverage.

It would peel away a significant portion of the mandate, potentially affecting preventive health coverage for millions of women, the government and backers of the law say.

Perhaps even more important, they contend, are the ramifications of a finding that corporations could be exempt from federal statutes on grounds that they have religious objections.

“This really is about whether or not employers based on religious views can pick and choose which federal laws to follow and not follow,” Kathleen Sebelius, who guided the law’s rollout through rough political waters during her turbulent tenure as Obama’s health secretary, said Friday.

Critics of the provision are on equally sharp tenterhooks in advance of the ruling, which will strike at the very root of the Constitution’s First Amendment.

The consolidated case, generally known as Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, centers on challenges to the contraception mandate brought by a pair of companies: the Hobby Lobby craft store chain and Conestoga Woods Specialties, a Pennsylvania-based cabinetmaker.

The firms and like-minded critics of the mandate say it violates both the First Amendment’s free exercise clause and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides that, “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.”

That statue trumps the contraception rule, argues Noel J. Francisco, a partner at Jones Day, who has represented business interests before the Supreme Court and chairs the firm’s government regulations practice.

“That regulation, like all regulations is subordinate to RFRA, which is a law,” he said, asserting that Congress approved the measure “to protect against this kind of thing.”

10 a.m. ET today is when we’ll find out. Please make sure to check SCOTUSblog’s live blog of proceedings as well as their Twitter feed in order to stay updated on the latest news regarding the high court’s ruling on this case. And no doubt all the major 24 hour news networks like Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC will be providing news and analysis of today’s verdict in real-time.  Also, please feel free to use this as an open thread to express your opinion on both the ruling and its implications going forward.