KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

DOJ Reaffirms Court’s Power To Review Health Law Case But Urges Caution

In response to a demand from a federal appeals court judge, Attorney General Eric Holder says the Supreme Court has the power to review whether the health law is constitutional, but he also urged the court to show "deference."

The New York Times: Administration Concedes Courts' Review Power
The Obama administration stipulated the incontestable to a disgruntled federal court on Thursday, formally declaring that "the power of the courts to review the constitutionality of legislation is beyond dispute." Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., bowing to an unusual demand of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, made official the backpedaling of the past few days over remarks by President Obama about the Supreme Court's coming ruling on the constitutionality of his health care overhaul. Mr. Obama said on Monday that it "would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step" for the court to overturn the law (Cushman, 4/5).

Wall Street Journal: Attorney General Defends Obama's Court Critique
Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that the Justice Department recognized the authority of judges to overturn laws, but he defended comments on judicial review by President Barack Obama earlier this week, attempting to quell a political storm over the remarks. ... "The power of the courts to review the constitutionality of legislation is beyond dispute," Mr. Holder wrote, citing the 1803 Marbury v. Madison decision that established the principle of judicial review. But he also echoed Mr. Obama's argument that courts should act with restraint (Perez, 4/5).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Respects Supreme Court's Power, Attorney General Writes
Attorney Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. told a federal appeals court that President Obama respects the Supreme Court's power to rule on the constitutionality of the nation's laws, a statement that a week ago would have seemed obvious but on Thursday appeared aimed at ending days of White House stumbling over the tricky politics of the high court (Hennessey, 4/6).

The Washington Post: In Letter To Judge, Holder Defends Obama's Comments Urging Supreme Court To Uphold Health-Care Law
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. Thursday defended President Obama's comments urging the Supreme Court to uphold the health care law, telling a panel of federal judges that courts should show "deference" to the "legislative judgements of Congress." ... But the attorney general, citing a series of Supreme Court and other cases, said acts of Congress are presumed to be constitutional and should be overturned only sparingly (Markon, 4/5).

Houston Chronicle: Feds Respond To Houston Judge Questioning Obama On Health Care
In responding to the request of a federal appeals judge in Houston, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday affirmed his department's belief in the time-honored concept of judicial review and said nothing in President Barack Obama's recent comments on a pending Supreme Court decision should be interpreted otherwise (Tolson, 4/5).

CBS (Video): Did Obama Misspeak On Health Care And Supreme Court?
CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante and White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday discussed whether President Obama made a mistake or misspoke when he said it would be "unprecedented" for the Supreme Court to overturn his health care law (4/5).

Politico Pro: Hospital Group Says DOJ Memo Went Too Far
The hospital association at the center of the dispute between President Barack Obama and a federal appeals court judge says Attorney General Eric Holder wrongly dismissed the merits of its lawsuit. In a letter to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals late Thursday, Physician Hospitals of America and Texas Spine & Joint Hospital Ltd., which are suing over the health law's limits on physician-owned hospitals, said Holder went beyond just responding to the judge and called their lawsuit's claims "insubstantial" — which they say is not true (Haberkorn, 4/5).

Obama's comments also riled the top Republican in the Senate:

McClatchy: Obama Vs. Supreme Court Is Latest Episode In Recurring Rivalry
Barack Obama got off to a bad start with the Supreme Court the very moment he was sworn in as president, and it's not getting any better. On Thursday, seizing on Obama's comments Tuesday about the high court and health care, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky declared that the president "crossed a dangerous line this week" when he complained about unelected judges overturning laws (Doyle and Lightman, 4/5).

The Hill: McConnnell: Obama 'Crossed A Dangerous Line' With Rhetoric On Supreme Court Case
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed President Obama on Thursday for his earlier comments about the Supreme Court, accusing the president of an "intolerable" assault on the Judicial Branch. Obama said Monday that a decision overturning his health care law would be "unprecedented" and would demonstrate a "lack of judicial restraint." Republicans seized on the comments, saying the president is questioning the legitimacy of an entire branch of government just because one ruling might not go his way (Baker, 4/5). 

Market Watch: McConnell Says Obama Trying To 'Intimidate' Court
Sen. Mitch McConnell, speaking in his home state of Kentucky, said Thursday President Barack Obama was trying to "intimidate" the Supreme Court into upholding health-care legislation. ... "With his words, he was no longer trying to embarrass the Court after a decision; rather, he tried to intimidate it before a decision has been made. And that should be intolerable to all of us," said McConnell, the top Republican in the upper chamber (Goldstein, 4/5).

Meanwhile, some news outlets offered new analyses of the health law case before the court:

Reuters: Analysis: Justice Kagan -- Giving Liberals A Rhetorical Lift
During three days of arguments over the Obama health care plan, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan put on a display of rhetorical firepower, reinforcing predictions that the newest liberal justice is best equipped to take on the conservative, five-man majority controlling the bench. The strong views and persuasive tactics of the administration's former top lawyer could affect the fate of the health care overhaul, as well as decisions in other ideologically charged issues that will come before the court, such as same-sex marriage (Biskupic, 4/5).

CNN: Turn-Of-Century Baker Invoked In Health Care Law Debate
Though the Lochner ruling was overturned in 1937, President Barack Obama mentioned the case this week as he sought to defend his administration's Affordable Care Act, a health care reform bill intended to provide coverage to tens of millions of uninsured people. ... From 1905 until 1937, the Lochner case was commonly employed to strike down progressive era laws, including several New Deal programs penned by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Ariosto, 4/6).

WBUR: What Went Wrong With The Supreme Court And The Health Law?
On Wednesday, the Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights Department at Boston University School of Public Health posed the question many of us had been asking ourselves: "The Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act: What Went Wrong?" A panel of three legal scholars from the department -- George Annas, Wendy Mariner and Leonard Glantz -- reflected on last week’s Supreme Court proceedings and explained what the arguments really were addressing (Siddiqui, 4/5).

California Healthline: Where Would Consumers, Insurer Land If ACA Is Struck Down?
California officials have been quick and confident in their assertions that the state should move forward with health care reform no matter what the Supreme Court decides about the Affordable Care Act. But what about insurers? The reform law promised up to 30 million new customers for health insurance -- more than six million in California. If the Supreme Court rules that requiring citizens to have insurance is unconstitutional, where will that leave insurers? (Lauer, 4/5). 

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.