- - Sunday, April 3, 2011

COURTS

Health care appeal cites interstate commerce

ATLANTA | The federal health care overhaul’s core requirement to make virtually all citizens buy health insurance or face tax penalties is constitutional because Congress has the authority to regulate interstate business, the Justice Department said in its appeal of a ruling that struck down the Obama administration’s signature legislation.

The government’s 62-page motion, filed Friday to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, argued that Congress had the power to enact the overhaul’s minimum coverage requirements because it is a “rational means of regulating the way participants in the health care market pay for their services.”

The motion also warned that other pieces of the overhaul, including a law that blocks insurers from denying coverage to people because of pre-existing conditions, would be “unworkable” without a minimum coverage provision.

Twenty-six states filed a lawsuit that said Congress had exceeded its authority by requiring that all citizens buy health insurance or face tax penalties. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida agreed in a Jan. 31 ruling that said President Obama’s entire health care overhaul is unconstitutional. It is considered the most sweeping ruling against the health care law.

RNC

Debates leveraged as fundraisers

LAS VEGAS | The Republican National Committee is suggesting a series of presidential debates and fundraisers starting in August and extending through February.

In a letter sent Friday to several likely GOP presidential candidates, former RNC attorney James Bopp proposed six RNC-sanctioned debates that would be coupled with fundraisers to help dig the central party out of its $21 million debt. The RNC would determine the format, sponsors and moderators of the debates. News organizations traditionally organize primary debates.

The candidates would not be blocked from participating in other debates, although Democratic candidates said four years ago that they would participate only in forums sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee.

HOUSE

Rep. Paul plans hearing on aid to foreign banks

Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican and persistent Federal Reserve critic, plans to hold a hearing on the U.S. central bank’s emergency loans to the branches of non-U.S. banks, his spokeswoman said Saturday.

“I was surprised and deeply disturbed … to learn the staggering amount of money that went to foreign banks,” Mr. Paul said.

“These lending activities provided no benefit to American taxpayers, the American economy, or even directly to American banks,” he said.

Paul spokeswoman Rachel Mills said the lawmaker, who advocates abolishing the Fed and returning to a currency backed by gold or silver, is planning a hearing in May on discount window lending. Details are still being worked out, she told Reuters.

Data that the Fed was required by courts to disclose Thursday showed that the U.S. branches of financial firms with foreign headquarters had made extensive use of the central bank’s emergency lending discount window during the financial crisis that froze financial markets in the fall of 2008.

During that period, the Fed actively encouraged financial firms to obtain funding from an array of unusual emergency funding vehicles to prevent markets from freezing entirely.

NEW MEXICO

Rep. Heinrich enters 2012 Senate race

ALBUQUERQUE | Rep. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, is entering the race in New Mexico for a U.S. Senate seat that is opening next year because of the retirement of five-term Sen. Jeff Bingaman, also a Democrat.

Mr. Heinrich announced his candidacy Saturday in a video emailed to supporters and posted on his Facebook page.

The video showed Mr. Heinrich at his Albuquerque home with his wife and two children. He described his candidacy as “the right thing to do and the best way to advocate for New Mexico.”

The 39-year-old Mr. Heinrich won election to the Albuquerque-area 1st Congressional District in 2008, making him the first Democrat in 40 years to occupy the seat.

Former Rep. Heather Wilson, a Republican, announced her Senate candidacy last month.

Several other Democrats and Republicans are considering the Senate race.

WHITE HOUSE

Obama expected to start campaign

President Obama is about to make one of Washington’s worst-kept secrets official: He wants a second term.

Democratic officials familiar with the president’s plans said Saturday that Mr. Obama intends to file papers as early as this week with the Federal Election Commission to launch his 2012 re-election campaign. He also will announce his candidacy to supporters by email and text messages.

The officials asked not to be identified in order to speak before the papers are filed.

That widely anticipated but formal step of registering with the FEC will free Mr. Obama to start raising money for the re-election effort, which, like his 2008 campaign, will be run from Chicago.

That fundraising already has begun. Mr. Obama netted $1.5 million at a Democratic fundraiser in New York’s Harlem last week. He also is scheduled to travel this week to headline events in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Mr. Obama raised $750 million in 2008.

The president isn’t expected to face a primary challenge.

Though a cast of Republican governors, former governors and others are laying the groundwork for a presidential bid, none has entered the race.

As the Obama campaign operation ramps up behind the scenes in terms of money, message and manpower, Mr. Obama plans to stay focused on his day job. Aside from the obvious fundraising that will be required of him, Mr. Obama intends to stay out of the fray until Republicans settle on a candidate next spring.