Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quick Hits: Volume C

-It was another wild legal ride for the Affordable Care Act this week in the case Halbig v Burwell. On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ACA (aka Obamacare) does not allow for the federal government to provide subsidies for health insurance. But then later in the day, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the opposite, mostly because of the law's ambiguity. 

With that in mind, it appears there's a strong possibility that the Supreme Court may take this up. So what may happen if indeed the nation's highest court hears this case? Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog speculates. 

(I)f the Supreme Court does step in, I think that the administration will win. But it will be close. There is a good chance that the case will be decided by the same thin five-to-four majority that upheld the constitutionality of the ACA two years ago.

The key point is that the challengers can win only if the ACA is clear; if not, then the administration gets to interpret it. Personally, I think that the better reading of the literal text of the law is probably that Congress limited the tax subsidies to purchases on state exchanges. But I don’t think you can fairly say that the statute’s meaning is obvious. Instead, like a lot of massive laws that include lots of compromises, it is a bit of a mess. And its context suggests the administration is actually right.

The challengers’ main argument is that the formula for tax credits applies only when someone buys insurance on an exchange “established by the State.” But it is unlikely that Congress made the critical decision about who would receive the subsidy in the middle of a formula, rather than in a section of the law dealing with eligibility.

Say, do you recall former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declaring we have to pass this law to "find out what's in it?" Well it appears that was as big a fabrication as the President telling us all Americans can keep their health insurance plan if they like it.

Anyhow, read Mr. Goldstein's entire post.

-With about a week until Major League Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline, my Minnesota Twins should commence with the fire sale, provided if any veterans (e.g. Josh Willingham or Kurt Suzuki) draw even mild interest.

On Thursday, one piece already dropped.

Kendrys Morales is on his way back to Seattle to try and give the Mariners' struggling offense a boost as they chase a playoff spot.

The Minnesota Twins traded Morales to the Mariners on Thursday for minor-league pitcher Stephen Pryor. Morales hit 23 home runs and drove in 80 runs for the Mariners last season, but turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from Seattle to become a free agent.

Morales sat out the first two months of the season while searching for a new deal, signing a pro-rated $12 million contract with the Twins on June 8. But he hit .234 with 11 doubles, one homer and 18 RBIs in 39 games with the Twins, who have faded from contention in the AL Central.

From what I understand, Pryor has a pretty live arm, but still has control issues. But if the Twins organization has been consistently reliable in just one area, it's the bullpen. Some of the more solid relief pitchers the Twins have employed over the past few years were either castoffs from other organizations (Caleb Thielbar, Jared Burton, Casey Fien) or guys they've developed (Brian Duensing, Glen Perkins).

Heck, even if Pryor is a dud, the Twins did manage to finagle the Mariners into absorbing the entire $4.33 million Morales was owed the remainder of this season. Given Morales's lackluster production, that's no small feat.

-So Larry J. Sabato recently changed his rating in Minnesota's 2014 US Senate race (pitting Democrat incumbent Al Franken against Mike McFadden) from "Likely Democratic" to "Leans Democratic." Why?

(T)his race hasn’t hit its stride yet. Franken and his likely opponent, businessman Mike McFadden (R), are really just getting started, given Franken’s deliberately low profile and the fact that McFadden hasn’t even officially sewn up his party’s nomination. It’s true that the contestants in Michigan and New Hampshire haven’t received official party blessings either, but Peters versus Land and Shaheen versus Brown have been de facto head-to-head races for months. One thing that’s clear: Franken won’t be surprised, given that he’s already spent $10 million on his race so far this cycle.

Franken is still the favorite, given his gigantic war chest and the power of incumbency, but McFadden appears to be positioned to run a moderate-conservative campaign that could allow him to compete with Franken while not alienating his base.

Personally, I'd be lying if I said I'm confident McFadden can pull this off. Even though McFadden has shown he has legitimate fundraising ability, I felt one of his challengers for the GOP endorsement (Julianne Ortman) would have fared better against Franken in a discussion of the issues. However, while Ortman would have been a quality candidate, her fundraising would have been downright paltry, which is a non-starter against a prolific fundraiser like Franken.

I just hope McFadden can substantively address issues as his campaign progresses. All I've seen up to this point is TV ads with sports analogies. With that said, let me offer one of my own: Time to step up your game, Mr. McFadden.


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