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A George W. Bush-appointee and up-and-coming conservative jurist joined a Democrat to uphold the constitutionality of the healthcare law and its individual mandate to purchase health insurance today, giving the Obama administration its first bipartisan legal victory on the issue.

“We find that the minimum coverage provision is a valid exercise of legislative power by Congress under the Commerce Clause and therefore AFFIRM the decision of the district court,” reads the ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“By regulating the practice of self-insuring for the cost of health care delivery, the minimum coverage provision is facially constitutional under the Commerce Clause for two independent reasons. First, the provision regulates economic activity that Congress had a rational basis to believe has substantial effects on interstate commerce. In addition, Congress had a rational basis to believe that the provision was essential to its larger economic scheme reforming the interstate markets in health care and health insurance.”

This is the first time a decision on the law has not broken down explicitly along partisan lines. Judge Boyce F. Martin, appointed by Jimmy Carter, wrote the majority opinion, and was, crucially, joined by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a conservative who clerked with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“I do think that’s the headline from this decision,” said Jamal Greene, professor of law at Columbia University. “Sutton is not just a garden variety Republican. He’s a conservative legal star. The fact that he came out in favor is a big deal.”

Separate challenges to the law have yet to be ruled on by the appellate courts, and the issue is likely to be decided definitively in the U.S. Supreme Court sometime next year.

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Mark Levin

Politico reported Friday that John Eastman, the disgraced ex-law professor who formulated many of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, was also apparently in communication with Fox News host Mark Levin. The story gets even more interesting from there, revealing the shell game that right-wing media personalities engage in while doubling as political operatives.

A legal filing by Eastman’s attorneys reveals that, among the messages Eastman is still attempting to conceal from the House January 6 committee are 12 pieces of correspondence with an individual matching Levin’s description as “a radio talk show host, is also an attorney, former long-time President (and current board chairman) of a public interest law firm, and also a former fellow at The Claremont Institute.” Other details, including a sloppy attempt to redact an email address, also connect to Levin, who did not respond to Politico’s requests for comment.

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Sen. Wendy Rogers

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There have been powerful indicators of the full-bore radicalization of the Republican Party in the past year: the 100-plus extremist candidates it fielded this year, the apparent takeover of the party apparatus in Oregon, the appearance of Republican officials at white nationalist gatherings. All of those are mostly rough gauges or anecdotal evidence, however; it’s been difficult to get a clear picture of just how deeply the extremism has penetrated the party.

Using social media as a kind of proxy for their real-world outreach—a reasonable approach, since there are few politicians now who don’t use social media—the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights decided to get a clearer picture of the reach of extremist influences in official halls of power by examining how many elected officials participate in extremist Facebook groups. What it found was deeply troubling: 875 legislators in all 50 states, constituting nearly 22% of all elected GOP lawmakers, identified as participating members of extremist Facebook groups.

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