Trump joins anti-vaxxers to attack Obamacare

Ian Millhiser

Ian Millhiser Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst, Think Progress

Last week, the Trump administration asked a federal appeals court to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. Their argument is fundamentally flawed in numerous ways, not the least of which is the fact that it relies on a dissenting opinion that is explicitly at odds with a binding decision by the Supreme Court’s majority.

On Wednesday, a handful of conservative groups weighed in with amicus briefs supporting this attack on Obamacare. They include an organization founded by failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore (R)Citizens United (yes, that Citizens United), a very short brief authored by one of Trump’s personal lawyers, and two anti-vaxxer groups.

The case is Texas v. United States.

Last month, a very different mix of groups filed briefs urging the court not to repeal Obamacare. That, much longer list of organizations, includes many of the major players in health care — such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, AARP, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and a number of economists and legal scholars.

Meanwhile, the only health care focused groups siding with Trump are the two anti-vaxxer organizations. The Association of American Physicians & Surgeons is a conservative group closely associated with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that, according to the New York Times, “publicized discredited medical theories, including possible links between vaccines and autism and between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer.”

Meanwhile, the Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom distributed a document urging people to “think twice before getting the flu vaccine.” Though that document offered no medical reason why flu vaccines are harmful, the organization was concerned that “many hospitals force doctors, nurses and other workers to wear masks or lose their jobs if they choose not to be vaccinated.”

In case there’s any doubt, none of these briefs make sound legal arguments. The anti-vaxxers rely on the same dissenting opinion that forms the backbone of the Trump administration’s brief, and they also make the unique argument that not repealing Obamacare in its entirety would be an “improper judicial line item veto” — though the Supreme Court struck down a law permitting the president to make line item vetoes, courts invalidate only some parts of a broader law all the time.

Similarly, the Roy Moore organization makes an argument that was rejected by Judge Brett Kavanaugh in 2015, and that would also require courts to strike down President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 tax reforms. The brief from Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s personal lawyers, doesn’t even engage with the two most important issues in the case — whether any court has jurisdiction to hear this case, and whether the bulk of the law can be saved if courts strike down a single provision that literally does nothing at all.

Yet, despite the weakness of the arguments against Obamacare, and despite the fact that the only groups willing to defend the Trump administration’s effort to repeal the law is a ragtag band of cranks and science-deniers, there is a very real chance that the appeals court hearing this case will back Trump’s play.

Eleven of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s 16 active judges are Republicans. Nine of them are hardline conservatives who are likely to back nearly any argument that would undercut Obamacare. Five of the Fifth Circuit’s members are Trump judges.

The Trump administration, in other words, is betting that they’ve stacked the courts with enough political hacks that they can convince the judiciary to do what Congress quite explicitly refused to do during Trump’s time in office — repeal the entire Affordable Care Act.

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Reposted from ThinkProgress

Ian Millhiser is a Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the Editor of ThinkProgress Justice. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from Kenyon College and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Duke University. Ian clerked for Judge Eric L. Clay of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and has worked as an attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center’s Federal Rights Project, as Assistant Director for Communications with the American Constitution Society, and as a Teach For America teacher in the Mississippi Delta. His writings have appeared in a diversity of legal and mainstream publications, including the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, U.S. News and World Report, Slate, the Guardian, the American Prospect, the Yale Law and Policy Review and the Duke Law Journal; and he has been a guest on CNN, MSNBC, Al Jazeera English, Fox News and many radio shows.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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