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US Federal Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional

A U.S. federal judge has ruled that the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas ruled Friday that a change in the U.S. tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having health insurance invalidates the entire ACA.

Last year’s $1.5 trillion tax bill included a provision eliminating the individual mandate.

The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ACA will remain the law during the appeal process.

About 11.8 million consumers nationwide enrolled in 2018 Obamacare exchange plans, according to the U.S. government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

U.S. President Donald Trump promised during his presidential campaign to dismantle the ACA, a program that made affordable health insurance available to millions of Americans.

The president took to Twitter Saturday night:

“The ruling seems to be based on faulty legal reasoning and hopefully it will be overturned,” U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “Americans who care about working families must do all they can to prevent this district court ruling from becoming law.

“If this awful ruling is upheld in the higher courts,” he added, “it will be a disaster for tens of millions of American families, especially for people with pre-existing conditions.”

Americans with pre-existing conditions, before ACA, faced either high premiums or an inability to access health insurance at all.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the judge’s decision “vindicates President Trump’s position that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Once again, the president calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with pre-existing conditions and provide Americans with quality affordable health care.”

“Today’s misguided ruling will not deter us,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the leader of an alliance of states opposing the lawsuit, said in a statement. “Our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and well-being for all Americans.”

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US Federal Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional

A U.S. federal judge has ruled that the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor in Texas ruled Friday that a change in the U.S. tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having health insurance invalidates the entire ACA.

Last year’s $1.5 trillion tax bill included a provision eliminating the individual mandate.

The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ACA will remain the law during the appeal process.

About 11.8 million consumers nationwide enrolled in 2018 Obamacare exchange plans, according to the U.S. government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

U.S. President Donald Trump promised during his presidential campaign to dismantle the ACA, a program that made affordable health insurance available to millions of Americans.

The president took to Twitter Saturday night:

“The ruling seems to be based on faulty legal reasoning and hopefully it will be overturned,” U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer said in a statement. “Americans who care about working families must do all they can to prevent this district court ruling from becoming law.

“If this awful ruling is upheld in the higher courts,” he added, “it will be a disaster for tens of millions of American families, especially for people with pre-existing conditions.”

Americans with pre-existing conditions, before ACA, faced either high premiums or an inability to access health insurance at all.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the judge’s decision “vindicates President Trump’s position that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Once again, the president calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with pre-existing conditions and provide Americans with quality affordable health care.”

“Today’s misguided ruling will not deter us,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the leader of an alliance of states opposing the lawsuit, said in a statement. “Our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and well-being for all Americans.”

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Wisconsin Governor Signs Sweeping Lame-Duck GOP Bills

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a sweeping package of Republican legislation Friday that restricts early voting and weakens the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, brushing aside complaints that he is enabling a brazen power grab and ignoring the will of voters.

Signing the bills just 24 days before he leaves office, the Republican governor and one-time presidential candidate downplayed bipartisan criticism that they amount to a power grab that will stain his legacy.

Just two hours later, a group run by former Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced it planned legal action to block the limitation on early voting.

Walker’s action Friday came as Michigan’s Rick Snyder, another Midwestern GOP governor soon to be replaced by a Democrat, signed legislation in a lame-duck session that significantly scales back minimum wage and paid sick leave laws that began as citizen initiatives. Michigan’s Republican legislators also are weighing legislation resembling Wisconsin’s that would strip or dilute the authority of incoming elected Democrats.

The push in both states mirrors tactics employed by North Carolina Republicans in 2016.

Walker: No power shift

Speaking for 20 minutes and using charts to make his points, Walker detailed all of the governor’s powers, including a strong veto authority, that will not change while defending the measures he signed as improving transparency, stability and accountability.

“There’s a lot of hype and hysteria, particularly in the national media, implying this is a power shift. It’s not,” Walker said before signing the measures during an event at a state office building in Green Bay, about 130 miles (209 kilometers) from his Capitol office that has frequently been a target for protesters.

Walker was urged by Democrats and Republicans, including Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and former Republican Gov. Scott McCallum, to reject the legislation. Walker, who was defeated by Evers for a third term, had earlier said he was considering partial vetoes, but he ultimately did not strike anything.

Governor-elect reviewing options

Evers accused Walker of ignoring and overriding the will of the people by signing the bills into law. He held a five-minute news conference in Madison shortly after the signing to accuse Walker of ignoring the will of the voters.

“People will remember he took a stand that was not reflective of this last election,” Evers said. “I will be reviewing our options and do everything we can to make sure the people of this state are not ignored or overlooked.”

Evers didn’t elaborate and left without taking questions.

Walker, speaking after he signed the bills, brushed aside what he called “high-pitched hysteria” from critics of the legislation. He said his legacy will be the record he left behind that includes all-but eliminating collective bargaining for public workers, not the lame-duck measures.

“We’ve put in deep roots that have helped the state grow,” Walker said. “You want to talk about legacy, to me, that’s the legacy.”

Lawsuit promised on voting change

Holder’s group, the National Redistricting Foundation, along with the liberal One Wisconsin Now, promised a swift legal challenge to one provision Walker signed limiting early voting.

Holder, in a statement, called it a “shameful attack on our democracy.”

Holder’s group and One Wisconsin Now successfully sued in federal court in 2016 to overturn similar early voting and other restrictions enacted by Walker.

The Wisconsin bills focus on numerous Republican priorities, including restricting early in-person voting to two weeks before an election, down from as much as nearly seven weeks in the overwhelmingly Democratic cities of Milwaukee and Madison.

The legislation also shields the state’s job-creation agency from Evers’ control until September and limits his ability to enact administrative rules. The measures also would block Evers from withdrawing Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, one of his central campaign promises.

The legislation imposes a work requirement for BadgerCare health insurance recipients, which Walker won federal approval to do earlier this year, and prevents Evers from seeking to undo it.

Attorney general restricted

It eliminates the state Department of Justice’s solicitor general’s office, which outgoing Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel used to launch contentious partisan litigation. Doing away with it ensures Democratic-Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul can’t use the office to challenge Republican-authored laws.

The bills also allow lawmakers to intervene in lawsuits, ensuring Republicans will be able to defend their policies and laws in court if Kaul refuses to do it. Kaul also would need approval from the Legislature’s budget-writing committee before he can reach any settlements, further increasing the power of that GOP-controlled panel.

The Republican-controlled Legislature introduced and passed the bills less than five days after unveiling them late on a Friday afternoon two weeks ago. Outraged Democrats accused the GOP of a power grab that undermined the results of the November election. Evers and others have argued Walker will tarnish his legacy by signing the bills, and Kaul has predicted multiple lawsuits challenging the legislation.

Republican legislative leaders countered that they were merely trying to balance the power of the executive and legislative branches. They said they wanted to ensure Evers must negotiate with them rather than issue executive orders to undo their policy achievements.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said by signing the bills, Walker was “acknowledging the importance of the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government.”

Walker uses power new bills take away

Walker’s signing of the bills comes a day after he announced a $28 million incentive package to keep open a Kimberly-Clark Corp. plant in northeast Wisconsin. One of the lame-duck bills would prevent Evers from making such a deal, instead requiring the Legislature’s budget committee to sign off.

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Wisconsin Governor Signs Sweeping Lame-Duck GOP Bills

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a sweeping package of Republican legislation Friday that restricts early voting and weakens the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, brushing aside complaints that he is enabling a brazen power grab and ignoring the will of voters.

Signing the bills just 24 days before he leaves office, the Republican governor and one-time presidential candidate downplayed bipartisan criticism that they amount to a power grab that will stain his legacy.

Just two hours later, a group run by former Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced it planned legal action to block the limitation on early voting.

Walker’s action Friday came as Michigan’s Rick Snyder, another Midwestern GOP governor soon to be replaced by a Democrat, signed legislation in a lame-duck session that significantly scales back minimum wage and paid sick leave laws that began as citizen initiatives. Michigan’s Republican legislators also are weighing legislation resembling Wisconsin’s that would strip or dilute the authority of incoming elected Democrats.

The push in both states mirrors tactics employed by North Carolina Republicans in 2016.

Walker: No power shift

Speaking for 20 minutes and using charts to make his points, Walker detailed all of the governor’s powers, including a strong veto authority, that will not change while defending the measures he signed as improving transparency, stability and accountability.

“There’s a lot of hype and hysteria, particularly in the national media, implying this is a power shift. It’s not,” Walker said before signing the measures during an event at a state office building in Green Bay, about 130 miles (209 kilometers) from his Capitol office that has frequently been a target for protesters.

Walker was urged by Democrats and Republicans, including Democratic Gov.-elect Tony Evers and former Republican Gov. Scott McCallum, to reject the legislation. Walker, who was defeated by Evers for a third term, had earlier said he was considering partial vetoes, but he ultimately did not strike anything.

Governor-elect reviewing options

Evers accused Walker of ignoring and overriding the will of the people by signing the bills into law. He held a five-minute news conference in Madison shortly after the signing to accuse Walker of ignoring the will of the voters.

“People will remember he took a stand that was not reflective of this last election,” Evers said. “I will be reviewing our options and do everything we can to make sure the people of this state are not ignored or overlooked.”

Evers didn’t elaborate and left without taking questions.

Walker, speaking after he signed the bills, brushed aside what he called “high-pitched hysteria” from critics of the legislation. He said his legacy will be the record he left behind that includes all-but eliminating collective bargaining for public workers, not the lame-duck measures.

“We’ve put in deep roots that have helped the state grow,” Walker said. “You want to talk about legacy, to me, that’s the legacy.”

Lawsuit promised on voting change

Holder’s group, the National Redistricting Foundation, along with the liberal One Wisconsin Now, promised a swift legal challenge to one provision Walker signed limiting early voting.

Holder, in a statement, called it a “shameful attack on our democracy.”

Holder’s group and One Wisconsin Now successfully sued in federal court in 2016 to overturn similar early voting and other restrictions enacted by Walker.

The Wisconsin bills focus on numerous Republican priorities, including restricting early in-person voting to two weeks before an election, down from as much as nearly seven weeks in the overwhelmingly Democratic cities of Milwaukee and Madison.

The legislation also shields the state’s job-creation agency from Evers’ control until September and limits his ability to enact administrative rules. The measures also would block Evers from withdrawing Wisconsin from a multistate lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, one of his central campaign promises.

The legislation imposes a work requirement for BadgerCare health insurance recipients, which Walker won federal approval to do earlier this year, and prevents Evers from seeking to undo it.

Attorney general restricted

It eliminates the state Department of Justice’s solicitor general’s office, which outgoing Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel used to launch contentious partisan litigation. Doing away with it ensures Democratic-Attorney General-elect Josh Kaul can’t use the office to challenge Republican-authored laws.

The bills also allow lawmakers to intervene in lawsuits, ensuring Republicans will be able to defend their policies and laws in court if Kaul refuses to do it. Kaul also would need approval from the Legislature’s budget-writing committee before he can reach any settlements, further increasing the power of that GOP-controlled panel.

The Republican-controlled Legislature introduced and passed the bills less than five days after unveiling them late on a Friday afternoon two weeks ago. Outraged Democrats accused the GOP of a power grab that undermined the results of the November election. Evers and others have argued Walker will tarnish his legacy by signing the bills, and Kaul has predicted multiple lawsuits challenging the legislation.

Republican legislative leaders countered that they were merely trying to balance the power of the executive and legislative branches. They said they wanted to ensure Evers must negotiate with them rather than issue executive orders to undo their policy achievements.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said by signing the bills, Walker was “acknowledging the importance of the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government.”

Walker uses power new bills take away

Walker’s signing of the bills comes a day after he announced a $28 million incentive package to keep open a Kimberly-Clark Corp. plant in northeast Wisconsin. One of the lame-duck bills would prevent Evers from making such a deal, instead requiring the Legislature’s budget committee to sign off.

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Trump Picks Mulvaney as Acting Chief of Staff  

Ending a sustained period of speculation, U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday named the head of the largest entity within his executive office to become his acting chief of staff, replacing retired Marine Gen. John Kelly. 

Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina and known as a fiscal hawk, besides running OMB has also been the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which he scaled back.

Mulvaney tweeted about his new job: “This is a tremendous honor. I look forward to working with the President and the entire team. It’s going to be a great 2019!”

The position of White House chief of staff has traditionally been very important and powerful, akin to the chief operating officer of the country and gatekeeper to the Oval Office.

But the two men who have held the position in the Trump administration, Reince Priebus and Kelly, have found it frustrating. Their authority has been repeatedly undercut by the president, as well as other top administration officials, especially presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom hold senior positions in the West Wing.

It was unclear why Trump named Mulvaney as only acting chief of staff.

“There’s no time limit. He’s the acting chief of staff, which means he’s the chief of staff. He got picked because the president liked him — they get along,” a senior White House official said. 

 

‘That’s what the president wants’ 

Asked why Trump was implying Mulvaney’s time in the job might be only temporary, the official replied, “Because that’s what the president wants.”

Another senior administration official confirmed that “it’s what the president wants right now.” 

 

White House officials also said Trump chose Mulvaney because of his experience on Capitol Hill and his reputation for being fiscally responsible.

Later on Twitter, the president responded to media reports that there were few if any qualified candidates eager to take the high-stress position, especially a long-term commitment:

A senior official said that Kelly, who Trump earlier had announced would be leaving by the end of the year, was pleased with the choice of Mulvaney. 

“The current chief is happy. The current chief is fine. The current chief will stay till the end of the year,” the official said.

At first, White House officials said Russ Vought, currently the No. 2 official at OMB, would succeed Mulvaney as director there.

But later, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “Mick Mulvaney will not resign from the Office of Management and Budget, but will spend all of his time devoted to his role as the acting chief of staff for the president. Russ Vought will handle day-to-day operations and run OMB.”

For weeks, there had been consistent and inaccurate media speculation as to who was likely to succeed Kelly, including Kushner; the vice president’s outgoing chief of staff, Nick Ayers; Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin; U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina; and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Eventually, Ayers, Meadows and Christie all publicly said they were not interested in the job.

Although the Trump administration has a reputation for a higher rate of staff turnover than its predecessors, Kelly’s total time of 16 months in the job will not be unusually short in a high-stress position where two years is considered a decent run. Priebus lasted just six months.

With Mulvaney poised to take the job on an interim basis, Trump could have four chiefs of staff within a little more than two years.

In January 2012, then-businessman Trump harshly criticized then-President Barack Obama for having three chiefs of staff in less than three years, saying that was a reason the Democrat was not having success with his legislative agenda.

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Trump Picks Mulvaney as Acting Chief of Staff  

Ending a sustained period of speculation, U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday named the head of the largest entity within his executive office to become his acting chief of staff, replacing retired Marine Gen. John Kelly. 

Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman from South Carolina and known as a fiscal hawk, besides running OMB has also been the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which he scaled back.

Mulvaney tweeted about his new job: “This is a tremendous honor. I look forward to working with the President and the entire team. It’s going to be a great 2019!”

The position of White House chief of staff has traditionally been very important and powerful, akin to the chief operating officer of the country and gatekeeper to the Oval Office.

But the two men who have held the position in the Trump administration, Reince Priebus and Kelly, have found it frustrating. Their authority has been repeatedly undercut by the president, as well as other top administration officials, especially presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom hold senior positions in the West Wing.

It was unclear why Trump named Mulvaney as only acting chief of staff.

“There’s no time limit. He’s the acting chief of staff, which means he’s the chief of staff. He got picked because the president liked him — they get along,” a senior White House official said. 

 

‘That’s what the president wants’ 

Asked why Trump was implying Mulvaney’s time in the job might be only temporary, the official replied, “Because that’s what the president wants.”

Another senior administration official confirmed that “it’s what the president wants right now.” 

 

White House officials also said Trump chose Mulvaney because of his experience on Capitol Hill and his reputation for being fiscally responsible.

Later on Twitter, the president responded to media reports that there were few if any qualified candidates eager to take the high-stress position, especially a long-term commitment:

A senior official said that Kelly, who Trump earlier had announced would be leaving by the end of the year, was pleased with the choice of Mulvaney. 

“The current chief is happy. The current chief is fine. The current chief will stay till the end of the year,” the official said.

At first, White House officials said Russ Vought, currently the No. 2 official at OMB, would succeed Mulvaney as director there.

But later, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “Mick Mulvaney will not resign from the Office of Management and Budget, but will spend all of his time devoted to his role as the acting chief of staff for the president. Russ Vought will handle day-to-day operations and run OMB.”

For weeks, there had been consistent and inaccurate media speculation as to who was likely to succeed Kelly, including Kushner; the vice president’s outgoing chief of staff, Nick Ayers; Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin; U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina; and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Eventually, Ayers, Meadows and Christie all publicly said they were not interested in the job.

Although the Trump administration has a reputation for a higher rate of staff turnover than its predecessors, Kelly’s total time of 16 months in the job will not be unusually short in a high-stress position where two years is considered a decent run. Priebus lasted just six months.

With Mulvaney poised to take the job on an interim basis, Trump could have four chiefs of staff within a little more than two years.

In January 2012, then-businessman Trump harshly criticized then-President Barack Obama for having three chiefs of staff in less than three years, saying that was a reason the Democrat was not having success with his legislative agenda.

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US Judge: Lawsuit Over Trump Travel Ban Waivers Will Proceed

A lawsuit accusing the Trump administration of denying nearly all visa applicants from countries under President Donald Trump’s travel ban will move forward, a U.S. judge said Thursday.

Judge James Donato heard arguments on the administration’s request that he dismiss the lawsuit. The case was “not going away at this stage,” he said at the close of the hearing.

The plaintiffs say the administration is not honoring a waiver provision in the president’s ban on travelers from five mostly Muslim countries — Iran, Lybia, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban in a 5-4 ruling in June.

The waiver provision allows a case-by-case exemption for people who can show entry to the U.S. is in the national interest, is needed to prevent undue hardship, and would not pose a security risk.

The 36 plaintiffs named in the lawsuit include people who have had waiver applications denied or stalled despite chronic medical conditions, prolonged family separations, or significant business interests, according to their attorneys.

They estimate tens of thousands of people have been affected by what they say are blanket denials of visa applications.

At Thursday’s hearing, Sirine Shebaya, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said officials considering the waiver requests are not following guidelines and are routinely denying people the opportunity to show they qualify for a visa.

Justice Department attorney August Flentje said consular officials are working “tirelessly” on visa applications using guidelines from the State Department. He said decisions on visas are beyond judicial review, and he accused plaintiffs’ attorneys of a “kind of micromanagement” of those decisions.

Donato said he did not have to consider any specific waiver decision, but more broadly whether officials were considering applications in “good faith” and not stonewalling.

Roughly two dozen opponents of the travel ban — some wearing stickers that read, “No ban, no wall,” — came to the courthouse for the hearing.

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US Judge: Lawsuit Over Trump Travel Ban Waivers Will Proceed

A lawsuit accusing the Trump administration of denying nearly all visa applicants from countries under President Donald Trump’s travel ban will move forward, a U.S. judge said Thursday.

Judge James Donato heard arguments on the administration’s request that he dismiss the lawsuit. The case was “not going away at this stage,” he said at the close of the hearing.

The plaintiffs say the administration is not honoring a waiver provision in the president’s ban on travelers from five mostly Muslim countries — Iran, Lybia, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban in a 5-4 ruling in June.

The waiver provision allows a case-by-case exemption for people who can show entry to the U.S. is in the national interest, is needed to prevent undue hardship, and would not pose a security risk.

The 36 plaintiffs named in the lawsuit include people who have had waiver applications denied or stalled despite chronic medical conditions, prolonged family separations, or significant business interests, according to their attorneys.

They estimate tens of thousands of people have been affected by what they say are blanket denials of visa applications.

At Thursday’s hearing, Sirine Shebaya, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said officials considering the waiver requests are not following guidelines and are routinely denying people the opportunity to show they qualify for a visa.

Justice Department attorney August Flentje said consular officials are working “tirelessly” on visa applications using guidelines from the State Department. He said decisions on visas are beyond judicial review, and he accused plaintiffs’ attorneys of a “kind of micromanagement” of those decisions.

Donato said he did not have to consider any specific waiver decision, but more broadly whether officials were considering applications in “good faith” and not stonewalling.

Roughly two dozen opponents of the travel ban — some wearing stickers that read, “No ban, no wall,” — came to the courthouse for the hearing.

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