Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 23, 2014

Supreme Court to Weigh Obamacare ‘Contraception Mandate’

The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear oral arguments related to the government’s right under the Affordable Care Act to mandate that private businesses provide contraception coverage for their employees.

Adam Liptak: “That issue is momentous enough. But it only begins to touch on the potential consequences of the court’s ruling in the case, notably for laws barring discrimination against gay men and lesbians.”

“The court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case could also affect other kinds of laws … [A] broad decision striking down the contraception provision could imperil minimum wage and overtime laws, Social Security taxes and vaccination requirements, all of which have been subject to religious challenges in earlier cases.”

Robert Barnes: “There’s something that makes the current Supreme Court different from some of its recent predecessors.  The justices got religion.”

“As the court this week weighs religious conviction vs. legal obligation in the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, those who study the court say the change is hard to quantify but easy to notice.”

“But in what is likely to be the signature case of the term, the issue is not affiliation but devotion.”

Janet Adamy: “Some lawyers following the case believe the ruling will likely be narrowly tailored. But a more sweeping judgment in Hobby Lobby’s favor could open the door for others to seek exemptions from certain federal laws based on their owners’ religious beliefs.”

  • heropsycho

    I could at least on legal precedent understand striking down the individual mandate, although I would highly disagree with it. It is somewhat new that the federal government is forcing people to buy health insurance.

    But striking down the contraception mandate is absolute nonsense. There’s no mandate to force anyone to use contraception. I don’t for the life of me understand how there could possibly be a legal challenge to this. The precedent would be any federal regulation that causes people to spend money on things they object to is unconstitutional. So I guess it’s unconstitutional to charge federal taxes on pacifists?! What about federal subsidies for farms that produce beef charged to hindus?

    Ridiculous this is even going this far.

    • embo66

      It scares the bejeesus out of me, frankly. Because these arguments ARE legally ridiculous. IMHO, they are also antithetical to the principles this nation was founded on.

      But this SCOTUS wants to hear them, I can only assume because it is tempted to further limit the power of the federal government, particularly where the ACA is concerned.

      • Nicole Duvall

        No Founding Father ever expected the federal government to have this kind of control. The conservatives on the SC (if they really had the agenda you think) wouldn’t want to hear these kinds of cases because they are in the minority, and liberal rulings would soon defeat their “agenda.”

        • embo66

          Gotta love you Tea Party types. You cite the Founding Fathers as though the view from 250 years ago should literally stay exactly the same today, despite centuries of stunning and unimaginable change. EVERYTHING, including what the majority of the governed want, has changed!

          Most of us are smart enough to understand that “the government” IS us. And we are grateful that enough government exists to help protect the air we breathe and the water we drink from the callous disregard of many in the private sector. Grateful for a government that bothered to re-right the global economy when that same “free market” was proven not just UN-free, but rife with deliberate fraud. We are grateful for a government that tries to shield the weak and the poor from misery and death. I could go on . . .

          To pretend that government has no role these days beyond what it had in 1776 is idiocy, pure and simple. Yes, I am calling you an idiot. I don’t care if you’re in law school. You are still an idiot.

    • Dave

      I would not be surprised if Scalia, Alito, and Thomas have already drafted key provisions of their joint opinion for Hobby Lobby. They have spent their entire judicial careers trying to turn America in to a theocracy. This case seems tailor made for them.

      Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan will vote against Hobby Lobby, but they are judicious enough to wait until after oral arguments before they begin drafting anything.

      The two wild cards are Roberts and Kennedy. Kennedy was anti-ACA in his previous decision, so that might suggest he’ll be pro-Hobby Lobby, because he also is fairly devout and this case would trouble him. On the other hand, he’s not one to ignore established precedent.

      I think that leaves Roberts as the real swing on this one, not the usual Kennedy. Roberts is more cautious on these sorts of issues. He’s also keenly aware of his legacy and what could happen with a seismic ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby.

      Hence I would be least surprised by a 5-4 vote against Hobby Lobby, with Roberts joining the “liberal” majority on this one. It could possibly be 6-3 with Kennedy joining the “liberal” side, but I’d rank that at about the same chances it goes 4-5, with Hobby Lobby’s being the winner because Roberts and Kennedy join with Alito, Scalia, and Thomas.

      • Nicole Duvall

        Please describe in detail how Scalia, Alito, and Thomas have tried to turn this nation into a theocracy. As a law student, I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading their opinions and can’t string together enough evidence to substantiate this charge.

        • Dave

          Read Jeffrey Tobin’s The Nine, where it’s patently clear. You won’t see it just reading their opinions; you must also read their other writings and listen to their speeches.

    • Nicole Duvall

      You could come up with all kinds of examples of people being forced to buy this or that, and discuss whether it would violate their consciences. But the best thing would be to never have gotten in this shape in the first place. The feds should stick to foreign policy, infrastructure, and a few things like that.
      I disagree with the contraception/ abortion mandate. It’s fine with me if people aren’t forced to buy things that violate their consciences. Most people don’t pay federal taxes anyway. Those who do pay for very specific things: medicare, social security, etc. Yes, it’s ridiculous that any court would rule that the feds can force anyone to buy anything they don’t want. It’s immoral and un-American.

      • heropsycho

        “Yes, it’s ridiculous that any court would rule that the feds can force anyone to buy anything they don’t want. It’s immoral and un-American.”

        It’s not ridiculous at all. Why is it ridiculous that I have to buy a car with airbags if I buy a new car? Is it immoral and un-American to save lives in automobile accidents?!

        Or tires that won’t blow off my car? How is that un-American and immoral to help save my life?!

        Or clothing that won’t incinerate me if a spark lands on me or my kids? Saving children’s lives from highly flammable pajamas is immoral and un-American?!

        Or a car that is engineered to help prevent acid rain? Is acid rain moral and American?!

        Or…

        Do I really need to go further?

        Contraceptive coverage is effectively a quality control requirement for health insurance because studies and facts show that covering contraception benefits society by improving lives, public health, and improves the efficiency of the economy. It does not force anyone to use or buy contraceptives. It forces employers who provide health insurance and individuals to buy health insurance that covers that among many other things that we know systemically it would be best if all insurance would cover.

        “The feds should stick to foreign policy, infrastructure, and a few things like that.”

        The federal gov’t getting involved in food inspection is the one of the biggest reasons the food you buy at the grocery store is safe to eat. That’s historical fact. The Meat Inspection Act was landmark federal legislation that undoubtedly improved American lives.

        Is it always a good idea for the federal government to get involved in things? No. But to suggest that the federal government should only be involved in foreign policy and infrastructure completely ignores very basic historical facts of where the government went beyond that and made this country undoubtedly better.

        Most importantly, in most cases the government had to get involved in those areas because the free market failed. The Meat Inspection Act was a reaction to Americans becoming incredibly angry after reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which described the meat packing industry as it was. The reason all new cars have airbags, which reduced traffic deaths and injuries dramatically, is because it is required, no matter how cheaply a car is built.

        You can disagree with Obamacare, That’s fine, but at least be honest. The reason why Obamacare exists is because the free market was failing badly enough in this department that something had to be done, and the free market wasn’t going to do it.

        I just for the life of me don’t understand how people can call the federal gov’t getting involved in things inherently bad, or unpatriotic, or immoral when there’s a ridiculous amount of very obvious examples where it undoubtedly helped.

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