Obamacare on Trial

The Affordable Care Act will get its final day in court soon. The Obama administration chose on Monday not to ask the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to re-hear a key case in which the court found the law’s requirement that individuals buy insurance unconstitutional. The move suggests that the administration intends to ask the Supreme Court to decide once and for all whether the Democrats' signature health care bill is constitutional.


That puts the Supreme Court in the uncomfortable position of ruling on a politically polarizing legislation during election year. Whatever the court decides will inevitably be an issue in the presidential election, and a controversial ruling could undermine the court’s authority. But the court will be under substantial pressure to take the case, since the three circuit courts that have considered the question have issues sharply conflicting rulings. And the Supreme Court rarely refuses a government request to review a lower court decision striking down a major piece of legislation.

The conventional wisdom has been, as Sarah Kliff says, that delaying review of the case would give the law more time to demonstrate its effectiveness. It may simply be, as Tom Goldstein writes, that the government needed a decision soon for purely practical reasons. But as Kliff argues, the move suggests that the administration thinks it can win. It also ensures that Obamacare will be defended by a Democratic Justice Department, which might it might not be if the Supreme Court were to take up the case in 2013. Rick Hasen adds that in any case whatever the court decides might turn out to be a political advantage for the president. If the court upholds the law, it will be difficult for Republicans to continue to argue that it is unconstitutional. But if the court overturns the law, the president can portray the Roberts court as an overreaching activist court and make it a target of his campaign. Either way, it looks like a definitive ruling on the health care law will come down soon.

Photo: Chuck Kennedy

SpaceX catches Falcon Heavy nosecone with net-outfitted boat

It marks another milestone in SpaceX's long-standing effort to make spaceflight cheaper.

Technology & Innovation
  • SpaceX launched Falcon Heavy into space early Tuesday morning.
  • A part of its nosecone – known as a fairing – descended back to Earth using special parachutes.
  • A net-outfitted boat in the Atlantic Ocean successfully caught the reusable fairing, likely saving the company millions of dollars.
Keep reading Show less

Are these 100 people killing the planet?

Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Jordan Engel, reused via Decolonial Media License 0.1
Strange Maps
  • Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
  • This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
  • The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
Keep reading Show less

‘Climate apartheid’: Report says the rich could buy out of climate change disaster

The world's richest people could breeze through a climate disaster – for a price.

(Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report from a United Nation expert warns that an over-reliance on the private sector to mitigate climate change could cause a "climate apartheid."
  • The report criticizes several countries, including the U.S., for taking "short-sighted steps in the wrong direction."
  • The world's poorest populations are most vulnerable to climate change even though they generally contribute the least to global emissions.
Keep reading Show less