KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Debate Continues About Obama And The High Court

News outlets analyze President Barack Obama's recent comments on the Supreme Court's consideration of the health law, looking at historical references, the politics in play and precedents. Reports also take a look at what some judges are saying.

National Journal: With Health Care, Obama Joins Presidents Who Have Commented On Court
Despite some awkward wording, were Obama's comments that unusual? Not really, several experts told National Journal. There is a rich history of presidents on both sides of the aisle commenting on the Supreme Court's role. President Reagan "talked regularly about the need for unelected judges to respect the wishes of the elected branches of government,"said Jeff Shesol, a former Clinton administration speechwriter and the author of Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court, in an interview (McCarthy, 4/6).

The Washington Post: Health-Care Arguments Recall A Supreme Court Case That Is An Equal-Opportunity Offender
Those who are not historians or recent law school graduates might miss the reference. So it is time to brush up on Lochner v. New York, a 1905 decision reviled enough to lend its name to an era of discredited Supreme Court rulings. Some supporters of the Affordable Care Act saw an apparition in the Supreme Court’s arguments on the act, and recalled the days when the court struck down progressive economic regulations (Barnes, 4/8).

The Washington Post: The Fact Checker: Obama's Selective Memory Of Supreme Court History
President Obama made these remarks during a series of high-profile news conferences last week, taking the unusual step of commenting on a Supreme Court case — the challenge to the Affordable Care Act, in this case — while the justices are still deliberating. … Still, we don't know whether the president's factual error was a mere slip-up or a purposeful attempt to mislead, and we generally don't beat people over the head for off-the-cuff remarks. Let's take a look at the president's message in light of his clarifying remarks to see whether it holds up any better under scrutiny (Hicks, 4/9).

The Associated Press: Allies: Judge Upset By Obama Remarks Not Political
A federal judge who called out President Barack Obama for saying it would be "unprecedented" for the Supreme Court to strike down a law like his administration's health care overhaul is a conservative voice on what may be the nation's most conservative appeals court. But those who know Judge Jerry E. Smith from his years on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and earlier days in Texas politics paint a more complex portrait of someone who isn't afraid to buck the party line (Kunzelman, 4/6).

National Journal: Justice Thomas Comments On Health Care Case
Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court justice famous for almost never asking questions at oral arguments, defended his desire to stay mum during the recent marathon health care arguments, the Associated Press reports. In a talk at the University of Kentucky on Thursday night, Thomas said that the questions are a waste of time, because they interfere with the advocates' ability to argue their cases. "I don't see where that advances anything," he said (Sanger-Katz, 4/6).

Also in the news, efforts to parse what the public thinks about the law and the Supreme Court -

Medpage Today: Readers: ACA Stays, Court Supported Or Not
Just slightly more than half (51%) of readers who responded to our poll last week said the Affordable Care Act should not be repealed regardless of what the Supreme Court rules. However, out of the 2,700 votes, 45% were in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in some form -- 34% in whole and 11% in part -- depending on the how the high court deals with the individual mandate. Less than 5% of our readers weren't sure what to do, indicating that the bulk of our readers who cast their votes as either "yes" or "no" are either well informed, have strong opinions, or both (Kaiser, 4/7).

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