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Obama's Legacy Slowly Crumbling Before the Courts

Image: Obama's Legacy Slowly Crumbling Before the Courts
An American flag seen between the pillars of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. (Willard/Dreamstime)

By    |   Wednesday, 27 May 2015 11:44 AM

During his two terms in the White House, President Barack Obama has sought to make same-sex marriage the law of the land; implement trailblazing environmental regulations to crackdown on climate change; issue sweeping legislation allowing millions of undocumented immigrants to remain in the country; and reconstructed the healthcare system.

But repeated blows to his various policies by the Supreme Court — where his administration’s record is less than stellar — have placed his legacy in jeopardy, according to The Washington Post.

In June of last year, the National Review’s John Fund, who is also a Newsmax TV contributor, wrote that the Supreme Court had unanimously ruled against Obama administration positions in at least 13 cases since January 2012.

"The tenure of both President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder has been marked by a dangerous push to legitimize a vast expansion of the power of the federal government that endangers the liberty and freedom of Americans," Fund wrote. "They have taken such extreme position on key issues that the Court has uncharacteristically slapped them down time and time again.

"Historically, the Justice Department has won about 70 percent of its cases before the high court. But in each of the last three terms, the Court has ruled against the administration a majority of the time."

Same-Sex Marriage

Obama maintains that his views on same-sex marriage "evolved" from opposing it when he first ran for president in 2008 — a reversal from his 1996 Illinois Senate campaign when he supported it — to backing it in 2012 after Vice President Joe Biden publicly pledged support for gay marriage.

After contradictory decisions by federal appeals courts, the Supreme Court heard a case brought by Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee arguing that the decision should be left to the states. Same-sex marriage proponents say gay marriage bans violate couples' constitutional rights.

The court's awaited June decision is a "potentially historic ruling" that will cap "a two-decade legal and political fight for marriage equality," according to the Los Angeles Times. In 2013, according to the Post, the Supreme Court ruled in the administration’s favor by allowing the federal government to recognize legally married same-sex couples.

Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature legislation, could be torpedoed if the court rules in favor of a group challenging the legality of Obamacare subsidies to residents in 37 states that didn't set up their own healthcare exchanges.

The New York Times reported this week that a four-word clause "established by the state" included in the 900-page act specifies that federal subsidies are only permitted for people who buy their coverage on state-run exchanges, not those who go through the federal marketplace, HealthCare.gov.

Some 7.5 million people stand to lose their subsidies if the court rules they are unconstitutional.

Religious Exemption

In the Hobby Lobby case, brought by the evangelical Christian owners of an arts and crafts store chain by the same name, the Supreme Court found that family-owned businesses do not have to provide birth control coverage to their employees if it conflicts with the business owners' religious beliefs.

The landmark decision, rendered on June 30, 2014, extended for the first time religious protections to for-profit corporations, The Boston Globe reported, noting that the ruling was a win for social conservatives who opposed a provision of Obamacare that required contraceptive coverage be included in health insurance provided by businesses.

Recess Appointments

In June, the high court issued a unanimous rebuke of the president for exceeding his constitutional authority by making high-level government appointments in 2012 — specifically to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — when he declared that the Senate was in recess "and unable to act on the nominations," The Washington Post reported at the time.

In January 2012, while the Senate met in pro forma sessions every three days specifically to deny the president his recess powers, Obama made three recess appointments to the NLRB and one to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to The Washington Times.

The president contended that "even though the Senate was meeting every three days, the pro forma sessions meant just a single senator was on the chamber floor for a brief time, and no real business was conducted, which meant the Senate was really not in session."

The majority opinion of the justices on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that "the founding fathers intended for the president only to be able to use his recess appointment powers when the Senate was gone for a long period of time, not the brief breaks Congress regularly takes for holidays or weekends."

Environmental Protection

This spring, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging what The New York Times says Obama hopes will be his "signature environmental achievement": Environmental Protection Agency regulations limiting the amount of mercury emissions and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired and oil-fired utility plants.

More than 20 states and "major industry groups" such as the National Mining Association argue that the rules place undue costs on power plants, according to NPR.

The EPA estimates that the regulations, which would require plants to install high-tech scrubbers to remove the pollutants, come with an estimated $9.6 billion annual price tag, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A decision is expected next month. The outcome could hamper Obama’s efforts to leave an environmental legacy.

Immigration

The president’s immigration policy took a hit on Tuesday, when a federal appeals court in New Orleans, in a 2-1 decision, denied the Obama administration's emergency request to lift a lower court's injunction on deferring deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants, according to a Washington Post story.

Alleging executive overreach, 26 states sued the federal government after Obama issued an executive order in November expanding programs that allow millions of undocumented immigrants to remain in the country and apply for work permits and some government benefits.

In February, a federal judge in Brownsville, Texas, blocked Obama's order on the grounds that it should not be implemented until the case is resolved, the Post reports.

The administration appealed the Texas judge's decision and it was decided in the plaintiffs' favor.

The White House, according to USA Today, issued a scathing criticism of the opinion.

"As the powerful dissent from Judge [Stephen] Higginson recognizes, President Obama's immigration executive actions are fully consistent with the law," White House spokesperson Brandi Hoffine said. "The president's actions were designed to bring greater accountability to our broken immigration system, grow the economy, and keep our communities safe."

Republican House Speaker John Boehner lauded the ruling.

"The president said 22 times he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did, and the courts have agreed once again," he said.

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President Barack Obama has sought to make sweeping changes to healthcare, immigration, the environment and marriage — but repeated blows to his various policies by the Supreme Court and by federals appeals courts have placed them, and his legacy, in jeopardy.
obama, appeals court, supreme court, policies, legacy
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2015-44-27
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 11:44 AM
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