Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Nikki Kahn—The Washington Post/Getty Images

Justices Kagan, Sotomayor and Ginsburg aggressively questioned the corporate challengers who want exemptions from providing contraception under Obamacare at Tuesday's oral arguments. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties say the measure violates their religious freedoms

The three women of the Supreme Court dominated questioning at the beginning of Tuesday’s oral arguments in a case pitting religious business owners against the new health care reform law’s mandate that employer-provided insurance cover contraceptive care.
The court case will determine whether Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned craft store chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet company, can be exempted from providing contraception coverage to female employees through federally mandated health insurance policies.
Supreme Court proceedings make for notoriously difficult and unreliable predictors of how justices might rule on a case. That said, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wasted no time in pressing the corporate challengers, according to the Wall Street Journal‘s live blog of the oral arguments.
Justice Sotomayor started by asking, if corporations can object on religious grounds to providing contraception coverage, could they also object to vaccinations or blood transfusions? Paul Clement, the lawyer representing the challengers, said that contraception is different, because the government has already given an exemption to religious nonprofits. Justice Kagan then said that there are several medical treatments to which some religious groups object, and if corporations could object to providing coverage for those treatments, “everything would be piecemeal. Nothing would be uniform.”
Much of the challengers’ argument is centered on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which is aimed at preventing laws that substantially limit a person’s religious freedom. The law grew out of a conflict over whether two Native Americans could be dismissed from their jobs as drug counselors for using drugs in a religious ritual. The architects of the law said they intended it to be a protection of religious rights, not an excuse to foist religious principles on others.
Justice Ginsberg said it “seems strange” that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed by both parties, could have generated such support if lawmakers thought corporations would use it to enforce their own religious beliefs.
Justice Kagan added that the corporate challengers are taking an “uncontroversial law” like the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and making it into something that would upend “the entire U.S. code,” since companies would be able to object on religious grounds to laws on sex discrimination, minimum wage, family leave and child labor.
Other points made by the female justices:
  • Justice Sotomayor: how can courts know whether a corporation holds a religious belief? And what if it’s just the beliefs of the leadership, not the entire company? What happens to a non-religious minority in a corporation?
  • Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan asked: Because nobody is forcing Hobby Lobby or Conestoga to provide health insurance, they can simply pay the tax penalty instead.
  • Justice Kagan: women are “quite tangibly harmed” when employers don’t provide contraceptive coverage.

From Hot Air......

Democratic pollster warns Senate Dems on ObamaCare: 

Don’t defend it


A tasty morsel from Paul Bedard — although the only reason this is filed under “news” rather than “duh” is because lefty pundits continue to float CW-defying “Democrats should run on ObamaCare” pieces sporadically whenever a new round of bad polls come out and they get the jitters. (These same people will be writing “scrap ObamaCare and embrace single-payer” pieces starting the day after election day.) Whenever they do, I imagine a bunch of Republican campaign honchos circa 2006 trying to talk themselves into running on the Iraq war. It’s the only thing they haven’t tried! The war will become popular again, it just … hasn’t been sold correctly yet. It’s so crazy it just. might. work.
Not going to work, says Celinda Lake.
“In terms of Obamacare, don’t defend it, say it was flawed from the beginning, and we’re going to fix it,” said Lake at a poll briefing hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
But, she added, it is key for Democrats to also stick to their historic approach of looking out for the little guy when it comes to health care. “Say,” she added, “we’re not going to go back to the days of leaving you on your own with the insurance companies.”
Lake said the approach has several positives for Democrats. Namely, she said polling shows that most voters “want to fix it rather than start all over again.” She said women are especially “exhausted” by the drawn out fights over Obamacare.
The Republican half of the Battleground Poll, Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group, however said that Obamacare will still be a noose around the neck of Democrats because it is “symbolic” of the party’s big government approach.
What’s the alternative to doing it Lake’s way? If you’re a Democrat, you can’t run against the law full bore; there’s too much soundbite material there for the GOP to use against the rest of the party and it’s too grave an admission of misjudgment on your own part. If Mary Landrieu was too stupid not to oppose a paradigm-shifting boondoggle when she had the chance in 2010, she’s too stupid to go back to the Senate. So now she has to muddle through with some “mend it, don’t end it” nonsense about how the law’s principles were and are sound — preexisting conditions, subsidies, all the treats that people like — but that more needs to be done to bring costs down. You need Democrats in control to protect the good stuff while stripping out the bad; the GOP’s repeal effort will do nothing but restore the status quo. Every Democrat in the country who’s running in a purple district will take this line. There’s really no other choice. But having a respected Democratic pollster formally declare that it’s time to forget about defending the law as-is when we’re less than a week from the final enrollment deadline seems nonetheless significant. The poll watchers are prepared to admit political defeat even if the White House isn’t. Although, really, the White House already has.
Speaking of defeat, take a look at the table Harry Enten put together over at Nate Silver’s new site. Going back more than 75 years, only once has the party that controls the presidency at the time seen its generic ballot numbers improve between spring of a midterm election year and election day. The numbers almost always decline — suggesting that Democrats may become more, not less, vulnerable to a Senate takeover as 2014 wears on. There may be only one thing that can save their majority now. Yep, you guessed it: Drugs. Think about that while you marvel at the political know-how of one of the country’s most prized swing groups. Viathe MRC:

On cue: Obama administration extends healthcare deadline for people who started enrolling before March 31st everyone


We all knew this one was coming, right? Administration officials can stand around and talk about how the March 31st deadline is the real deal until they’re blue in the face, but you know they’ve been watching the pace at which signups have been trickling in like hawks — and while they’ve been conspicuously backing away from their erstwhile goal of 7 million enrollments in the opening phase, this would seem to suggest that the pace still isn’t running as quickly as they’d like it to be. From the Washington Post:
The Obama administration has decided to give extra time to Americans who say that they are unable to enroll in health-care plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline.
Federal officials confirmed Tuesday evening that all consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on, but who do not finish by Monday, will have until about mid-April to ask for an extension.
Under the new rules, people will be able to qualify for an extension by checking a blue box on to indicate that they tried to enroll before the deadline. This method will rely on an honor system; the government will not try to determine whether the person is telling the truth. …
Administration officials said the accommodation is an attempt to prepare for a possible surge of people trying to sign up in the final days before the deadline. Such a flood could leave some people unable to get through the system.
An “honor system.” Glorious.

Pranksters strike again......

HHS: We Lack 'Statutory Authority' to Extend Deadline to Sign Up for Obamacare

5:07 PM, MAR 11, 2014 • BY JOHN MCCORMACK
On a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services insisted that March 31 is the firm deadline to sign up for Obamacare. "We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period," HHS official Julie Bataille said. "In fact, we don't actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014."
Obama Sebelius
A reporter followed up, asking why the administration could delay many other parts of the law but not this one. Michael Hash, who directs the Office of Health Reform at HHS, replied that the law states that the HHS secretary must set the open enrollment dates by June 2012, which Secretary Sebelius did. "Once that 2014 open enrollment period has been set, they are set permanently," Hash said. He did not explain why the administration has the authority to ignore other statutory deadlines to implement the employer mandate or cancel private health insurance plans not eligible for "grandfathering."
The president's unilateral delays of various parts of the law has drawn a lot of criticism fromRepublicans and constitutional experts. "Last week, Obama underlined what this means for our system: The administration unilaterally increased the transition time for individuals to obtain the level of insurance mandated by the Affordable Care Act," George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley wrote in Sunday's issue of the Los Angeles Times. "There is no statutory authority for the change — simply the raw assertion of executive power."