Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

In a historic 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Affordable Care Act — including the individual mandate that requires almost all Americans to buy health insurance — is constitutional. Chief Justice John Roberts joined liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in affirming the mandate. However, the surprise decision didn’t come on the basis of Congress power to regulate commerce as many had expected; instead, the Supreme Court held the individual mandate constitutional under the Congress taxing power. The individual mandate entails a person to buy insurance and if he or she refuses, that person will be penalized with a fine; the Supreme Court holds this penalty as a kind of constitutional tax that Congress is allowed to impose.

Chief Justice John Roberts explains in the majority opinion: “Simply put, Congress may tax and spend. This grant gives the federal government considerable influence even in areas where it cannot directly regulate.”

SCOTUS blog’s Amy Howe further explains the decision, “Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding.”

Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides healthcare to certain poor Americans–the ACA provision sought to expand coverage to anyone with an income under 138 percent of the federal poverty line beginning in 2014. The provision also stated that if a state refuses to expand coverage, it will lose all funding and have to opt out of Medicaid completely. Several states argued that this provision would place a costly burden on them, and the Court agreed–ruling that states have a right to choose whether or not they want to participate in the Medicaid expansion. While the federal government can revoke new funds, it cannot take away all of the states’ funding if they don’t comply with the Medicaid expansion.

The full Supreme Court opinion can be read here.

 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.