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Prof.: Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling focuses on law, not politics

June 28th, 2012 No comments

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday to uphold nearly every portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, which said the PPACA’s most controversial part – the individual mandate – was essentially a tax. Justices also ruled that states have the option of declining to participate in an expansion of the Medicaid program without penalty. The mandate and the Medicaid expansion have been at the heart of Republican and conservative opposition to PPACA.

Matt Steffey, professor of law at Jackson’s Mississippi College School of Law, wasn’t surprised by Thursday’s ruling. He said it’s clear justices cast aside three years’ worth of emotional arguments for and against PPACA and concentrated on its legal validity.

“If you take the political rhetoric out of this and just read the statute, it’s a tax saying that people who don’t have health insurance will pay higher taxes than people who do,” Steffey said. “I always thought there was an easy way to uphold (the mandate) as a tax, and the chief justice obviously agreed. Just like the pardon issue here in Mississippi, this is right on the law.”

Joining Roberts were justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Dissenting justices issued a statement in which they said the mandate and the potential denial of state’s Medicaid funding for not participating in PPACA’s expansion of the program was an overreach of federal power.

Steffey said that states can opt out of the Medicaid expansion without losing their federal funding for the program was a “modest victory.” The biggest winner, Steffey said, was Pres. Obama, who made healthcare reform a big part of his campaign in 2008.

Obama won’t be the only political winner, though, Steffey said.

“Honestly, I think this plays out a little bit better for Mitt Romney,” Steffey said. “If they had struck down the law, Obama could have essentially run against the court. Now, it somewhat relieves Gov. Romney of the duty of having to put out a healthcare vision of his own. Politically, this is better for Gov. Romney than striking down the law because it’s an issue that will keep money pouring in and invigorate the base.”

The issue is far from settled. Congress can still make changes to the healthcare law, or repeal it entirely. Republicans were setting the stage for such by mid-morning Thursday.

“Only a full repeal of this overreaching law will allow Americans to receive the care that they need, from the doctors that they choose, at a cost that they can afford,” said Gregg Harper, who represents Mississippi’s Third District.

Closer to home, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said in a statement that the court’s ruling “does not change the fact that Obamacare raises taxes on Americans and expands the bureaucracy of our health care system.”

Is the moratorium really over?

October 12th, 2010 No comments

Earlier today, the White House lifted the ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

The moratorium, which was issued after the Deepwater Horizon’s Macondo Well started gushing April 21 in the Gulf of Mexico, was originally set to expire Nov. 30.

Two observations:

1. The Obama Administration was likely tired of the moratorium being an albatross around the neck of Democrats in the heat of midterm campaigns.

2. It likely will remain there.

Democrats and Republicans alike have already said the additional layer of safety rules and regulations attached to any new deepwater drilling are cumbersome. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, who has been holding up an Obama appointee in protest of the original ban, just issued a press release saying she will continue to do so while she monitors the speed with which drilling resumes.

Mississippi’s Third District Cong. Gregg Harper, R-Pearl, said in his own statement that the “Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) does not presently have adequate resources to allow for the resumption of offshore drilling. The federal government must provide these resources to ensure an efficient approval process for companies wishing to resume operations. Unless these new regulations are diligently implemented, we still have a de facto moratorium putting more jobs at risk.”

Gov. Haley Barbour said he looked forward “to receiving the details” of the lifted ban.

There’s likely a political devil or two in them.

Burton hopes for quick, efficient redistricting

October 4th, 2010 No comments

Third District Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Pearl, took the podium for two minutes or so this morning at the monthly lunch meeting of the Stennis Capitol Press Corps in Jackson.

He wasted no time in chiding his colleagues for leaving Washington and hitting the campaign trail without passing a budget.

“You have to wonder about the leadership abilities in place right now,” Harper said, noting that this is the first time since 1974 the House has not passed a budget before the start of the fiscal year. Harper also all but guaranteed that Republicans will reach a majority in the House with this year’s elections.

When Harper finished, State Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, chairman of the joint committee that will grapple with reapportionment and redistricting next year, spent about 15 minutes providing an update on where that stands.

Burton and other officials just wrapped up a series of 12 meetings across the state to gather public input on the redistricting process. They’ll take that and some Census estimates and begin the process of drawing Mississippi’s state and congressional districts.

Burton is optimistic that the process can and will be done on time, and will avoid some of the legal and political wrangling past efforts have encountered.

“We believe we need to get this done so we can avoid the conflict of running (in consecutive years),” Burton said. “Some of us have been through that and it’s not a very pleasant thing to go throught.” Burton was referring to the redistricting in 1991 and 1992, when the districts had to be redrawn in both of those years, forcing lawmakers to run for office twice.

Burton made it a point to say that he and his counterpart in the House, Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston, enjoyed a good relationship and shared a desire to get the redistricting done as quickly as possible.

Considering all the requirements each of the districts has to meet, and all the special interest groups who are sure to take an interest in and try to influence the process, that may be wishful thinking.

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