Family Research Council

October 22, 2013 - Tuesday

Hobby Lobbyists: Company Pitches Mandate Fight to Supremes

You know the ObamaCare rollout is bad when Consumer Reports, the holy grail of product reviews, warns people "to stay away from Healthcare.gov." In a blog post on the new system, the progressive company that prides itself on distinguishing the "hype from the facts" says the President's new website is a bust. Steer clear, its experts say, "until its software vendors clean up the mess they've made."

Unfortunately, economists point out, the dysfunctional website may be the least of everyone's worries. Once the cyber-kinks get worked out, there's plenty more to be concerned about -- not the least of which is the collapse of the overwhelmed insurance pools. John Goodman, president of the  National Center for Policy Analysis, thinks the biggest ObamaCare surprises are yet to come. "The danger from this triple threat is that too many healthy people will exit or never sign up for the exchanges, leaving only the people who are most expensive to insure," Goodman explained. "A death spiral for an insurance pool is like a normal company going bankrupt... Healthy people [will] leave the pool because they're being over-charged. Sick people remain because they are being under-charged."

While the rest of the country is focused on the technical chaos, the real panic may set in after Americans can enroll and start tipping the system into an unsustainable future. In the meantime, House Republicans are doing what they can to get to the bottom of the administration's mechanical failures, now three years in the making. With Health and Human Services in the crosshairs, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may be backpedaling on her earlier decision not to testify before Congress. Now, the beleaguered HHS chief promises to appear before the House -- just as soon as they can find a "mutually agreeable date."

For now, HHS seems content to throw the system's contractors under the bus, as at least two lead companies take turns in the hot seat before the Energy and Commerce Committee this Thursday. Like most members, Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) sees right through the Secretary's "scheduling" charade. "This is wholly unacceptable. Secretary Sebelius had time for ['The Daily Show's'] Jon Stewart, and we expect her to have time for Congress." A frustrated Upton blasted the administration's misplaced priorities, saying that the "rollout has been a complete mess, beyond the worst case scenario, and yet those administration officials responsible have indicated they will not be available to testify next week." If the HHS chief has time for Comedy Central, then surely she has an hour to answer questions about a taxpayer-funded system gone completely off the rails.

Yesterday, President Obama took his turn before the microphones, an attempt to salvage his sinking approval ratings. For the third consecutive quarter, Americans' satisfaction with the White House is plummeting -- dropping to 44.5%, an epic low that puts the commander-in-chief in some dubious company. Only two presidents have had lower 19th quarter averages than Obama: Richard Nixon (Watergate) and Lyndon Johnson (Vietnam).

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, whose job is to help insulate the President from those numbers, left the door open in yesterday's press conference for a temporary delay of the individual mandate. After getting hammered by the press corps, Carney suggested that the cornerstone of the law might be the next piece to be postponed. "The law is clear that if you do not have access to affordable health insurance, then you will not be asked to pay a penalty because you haven't purchased affordable health insurance."

The owners of Hobby Lobby -- and a host of other businesses -- would certainly appreciate the same reprieve from the abortion-contraception mandate, which as of October 1, forces companies to pay for drugs and devices they morally oppose or face crushing fines. If the administration won't protect the First Amendment, Hobby Lobby is hoping the Supreme Court will. Monday, the owners filed papers with the justices, asking them to take their case against the Obama administration. Their fate -- and the fate of more than 230 years of religious liberty -- depend on it.

Marry, Marry, Quite Contrary

The Supreme Court may have struck down the federal definition of marriage, but they certainly didn't make it easy on the government carrying out the job. In the four months since the justices' ruling came down, federal attorneys have been working overtime on a solution for divvying up more than 1,130 benefits, rights, and rules for "married" spouses. Of course, their task is a lot more complicated now, since the Supreme Court didn't invent a nationwide right to homosexual "marriage." In the last several weeks, as experts sift through the statutes of the states and weigh them against the government's new court imposed system, it's become painfully obvious that rewriting the laws of America -- and nature -- from the bench, are a lot more difficult than people realized.

In the fog of paperwork, even homosexual activists are waking up to the fact that redefining marriage isn't as easy as flipping a switch. "The places where we still have big challenges, and we really haven't heard a lot are from two big agencies: the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration, where we believe there are statutory problems in extending those benefits fully to married couples who live in states that don't themselves recognize those marriages," said a spokesman for the radical Human Rights Campaign.

As we've already seen in places like Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, not every state is willing to roll over and ignore its own marriage policy. The National Guard offices there have already started bucking the Pentagon and refusing to process requests from same-sex couples for benefits like ID cards and other privileges. Major General John Nichols, the commanding general of Texas Military Forces, made it clear that the state's marriage law comes first. If Guardsmen want to take advantage of the Pentagon's directive, Nichols said they have to enroll at a federal installation. In a letter to local service members, he stood his ground on the Texas Constitution, which only recognizes man-woman marriage. In the end, this new clash between federal and state entities just goes to show why the Defense of Marriage Act was so necessary in the first place!

**The Values Voter Summit may be over, but the buzz still isn't. Dr. Ed Feulner, whom FRC honored with its Vision and Leadership Award, wrote a compelling piece for the Washington Times on why the union of faith and freedom at VVS are so important. Check out his column on these fundamental values and how crucial they are to the American spirit.

***On Tuesday's edition of "Washington Watch," Breitbart News's editor-at-large, Ben Shapiro, joins Tony to discuss the media bias throughout the coverage of the Veterans March on Washington that took place recently. Also, Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-Kans.) will be on to talk about the ongoing problems with ObamaCare enrollment and Secretary Sebelius's decision to testify before the House next week.


Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

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