Federal judge in Texas strikes down Obamacare

A federal judge in Texas said the Affordable Care Act's individual coverage mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of the law therefore cannot stand. CNN's Cyril Vanier discusses with former assistant US attorney David Katz.

Posted: Dec 16, 2018 6:34 PM
Updated: Dec 16, 2018 6:53 PM

Since Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed in early October, the Supreme Court has stayed mostly above the fray, adjusting to a new colleague and hearing a docket of cases that lack the blockbuster status of previous terms.

That's all about to change.

The court, with its strong 5-4 conservative majority, is facing requests from an aggressive Trump administration to weigh in early on many of its most controversial policies in areas including immigration, LBGT rights, asylum and reinstating the citizenship question on the census.

And that was before Friday night's bombshell ruling from a federal judge in Texas declaring the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, which means that Obamacare will almost certainly return to the Supreme Court.

Whether the Court hears arguments in the cases, decides to stay out or deals with emergency requests to freeze lower court opinions, 2019 could make or break President Donald Trump's agenda.

So far, Chief Justice John Roberts has dodged and weaved in the current climate -- offering a rare statement to defend the judiciary against attack from the President, but also deciding at times to keep hot button issues off the current docket, declining last week to take up a case on Planned Parenthood funding.

Here's what's facing the court:

Asylum ban

Solicitor General Noel Francisco has asked the Supreme Court to allow a presidential proclamation targeting asylum to go into effect. The policy, signed on November 9, bars migrants who illegally cross into the US through the southern border from seeking asylum outside of official ports of entry.

A district court blocked the policy -- nationwide -- last month holding that the policy "irreconcilably conflicts" with immigration law.

A panel of judges on the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction in an opinion penned by Judge Jay Bybee, a George W. Bush nominee.

After the opinion was released, Francisco turned to the Supreme Court arguing that the justices should greenlight the President's proclamation pending appeal so that "claims can be processed in an orderly manner; deter unlawful and dangerous border crossings; and reduce the backlog of meritless asylum claims."

Transgender individuals in the military

Lower courts have so far blocked the President's ban on most transgender individuals from serving into the military, but have yet to make a final ruling.

But Francisco is asking the justices to break from their usual custom and step in before the lower courts have finished their work. Under normal circumstances, the justices prefer to benefit from lower court opinions, and are disinclined to grant a so called "cert before judgment."

In court papers, Francisco told the justices that if they decide not to take up the case, they should at least allow the policy to go into effect pending appeal.

Francisco argued that Defense Secretary James Mattis had worked with a panel of senior military leaders to determine the policy but that because lower courts had issued nationwide injunctions, "it is unlikely that the military will be able to implement its new policy any time soon."

The court, he wrote, should step in to resolve a threat to "readiness, good order and discipline, sound leadership, and unit cohesion" which he said are "essential to military effectiveness and lethality."

Francisco acknowledged that his request was out of the ordinary but said it was necessary to combat a "growing trend in which federal district courts, at the behest of particular plaintiffs, have issued nationwide injunctions, typically on a preliminary basis, against major policy initiatives."

"In less than two years, federal courts have issued 25 of them, blocking a wide range of significant policies involving national security, national defense, immigration and domestic issues," he said.

DACA

The justices are also considering a petition from the government to allow the phase out of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals -- an Obama-era initiative that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

Lower courts have issued injunctions holding that the administration acted illegally when it sought to wind down the program, and have so far allowed renewals to continue.

Francisco requested that the Supreme Court take up the issue this term.

"Only this Court can resolve the conflict in the lower courts and provide much-needed clarity to the government and DACA recipients alike," he wrote.

Trump has said he assumed the Supreme Court will eventually have to take up DACA, and has also maintained any court action will figure in to how he and Congress eventually address immigration legislation.

"Had the judge not ruled that way, I think we would have made a deal," Trump said at a news conference last month. "Once the judge ruled that way, the Democrats didn't want to talk anymore. So we'll see how it works out at the Supreme Court."

Census citizenship question

A majority of the court declined to delay a trial in New York concerning the reinstatement of the citizenship question on the census, but the justices will hear a related discovery matter on February 19.

At issue is whether challengers can introduce evidence outside of the official record, beyond what the government says it based its decision upon, in the case.

The challengers, a coalition of states and the ACLU, believe the question about citizenship was added with the intent to reduce the representation of immigrant populations. They seek to interview senior administration officials such as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about the rationale behind their decision to add the question.

"The secretary was personally involved to an extraordinary degree in the project to add a citizenship question," argued New York state Attorney General Barbara Underwood in court papers. She added that "significant gaps in the record remain that only the secretary's testimony will fill."

But the Trump administration says the administration has already produced thousands of pages of documents in the case and that the administrative record should suffice.

As the Court deals with issues, the justices are keenly aware that the President has ratcheted up judicial attacks. When a district court judge ruled against him on the asylum ban, for instance, the president called the judge "an Obama judge" suggesting that the motives were political.

The comments prompted a rare rebuke from Chief Justice Roberts.

"We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges," he said in response to a question posed by the Associated Press. "What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 443562

Reported Deaths: 5918
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin921721468
Ramsey39534730
Dakota32680325
Anoka30733358
Washington19904223
Stearns17728184
St. Louis13503239
Scott1185394
Wright11519102
Olmsted1031671
Sherburne813664
Carver689336
Clay646678
Rice597866
Kandiyohi551571
Blue Earth536333
Crow Wing478173
Otter Tail451362
Chisago447932
Benton416085
Winona384546
Douglas371566
Nobles366346
Mower360127
Goodhue342857
Polk327056
McLeod322244
Morrison309343
Beltrami307446
Lyon299035
Itasca281543
Becker280638
Isanti280640
Carlton278042
Steele27019
Pine264413
Freeborn238720
Todd230529
Nicollet222636
Brown212634
Mille Lacs212145
Le Sueur207615
Cass204723
Meeker198233
Waseca188015
Martin168826
Wabasha16802
Roseau165216
Hubbard147638
Redwood138827
Renville136339
Houston133613
Dodge13244
Chippewa130732
Cottonwood125618
Fillmore12135
Wadena118214
Rock109412
Sibley10767
Aitkin106733
Watonwan10598
Faribault103814
Kanabec96818
Pennington96715
Pipestone93423
Yellow Medicine92614
Murray8625
Jackson85010
Swift83017
Pope7355
Marshall70115
Stevens6968
Clearwater68314
Lac qui Parle65416
Lake62615
Wilkin6219
Koochiching58410
Unassigned49468
Lincoln4811
Big Stone4523
Grant4257
Norman4218
Mahnomen4077
Kittson36819
Red Lake3154
Traverse2443
Lake of the Woods1771
Cook1130

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 302245

Reported Deaths: 4203
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk45206441
Linn17616270
Scott15300161
Black Hawk13616228
Woodbury12927175
Johnson1198649
Dubuque11275148
Pottawattamie8896112
Dallas879569
Story860433
Webster467269
Cerro Gordo461966
Sioux453151
Clinton447161
Warren436237
Marshall425161
Buena Vista391129
Muscatine384375
Des Moines379140
Plymouth348667
Wapello340097
Jasper317855
Lee312528
Marion300452
Jones269149
Henry262630
Carroll252833
Bremer241648
Crawford227822
Boone215316
Washington213831
Benton207943
Mahaska190636
Jackson190531
Tama185357
Dickinson183526
Delaware171836
Kossuth170141
Clay165519
Wright162324
Fayette159022
Buchanan157820
Hamilton157728
Harrison153862
Hardin153729
Winneshiek153019
Clayton150448
Cedar150019
Butler146123
Page143515
Floyd137436
Cherokee137325
Mills135516
Lyon133332
Poweshiek131424
Hancock128524
Allamakee126327
Iowa122522
Calhoun12189
Grundy119422
Jefferson119123
Winnebago118029
Madison11789
Mitchell115034
Louisa114129
Cass112141
Chickasaw110511
Sac110115
Emmet109931
Appanoose109038
Union108122
Humboldt104219
Guthrie102124
Shelby101126
Franklin100918
Unassigned9180
Palo Alto9009
Keokuk84225
Montgomery84022
Howard82119
Monroe80418
Clarke7757
Pocahontas77211
Ida73730
Greene6867
Davis68421
Adair68220
Lucas6458
Osceola6349
Monona62916
Worth5943
Taylor5909
Fremont5025
Van Buren49412
Decatur4784
Ringgold4269
Wayne41421
Audubon4118
Adams2933
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