- - Thursday, March 3, 2011

HEALTH CARE

Judge tells states to abide by heath care law, pending appeal

PENSACOLA, Fla. | A federal judge who declared President Obama’s health care overhaul unconstitutional ruled Thursday that states must continue implementing it while the case makes its way through the appeals process.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson was responding to a request from Obama administration attorneys who sought to ensure Florida and 25 other states follow the law until their challenge to it is resolved.

Three other federal judges have upheld the law and a fourth in Virginia has ruled against it, but that ruling is also on hold until appeals are heard. The issue is widely expected to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Thursday’s ruling, Judge Vinson admonished the administration for being slow to file its appeal and for asking him to clarify his ruling instead of filing a motion to put it on hold. Still, he said, it is in the nation’s best interest for states to continue following the law for now.

“It would be extremely disruptive and cause significant uncertainty” to halt implementation, he wrote.

EPA

House GOP pushes bill to ax emissions rules

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill Thursday that would permanently stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating emissions blamed for warming the planet.

President Obama would veto a bill that permanently blocks the agency from tackling climate change, administration officials have said. Mr. Obama has pledged to the world that the United States will cut greenhouse gases to about 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced the bill, called the Energy Tax Prevention Act.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and a climate skeptic who is writing a book on global warming called “The Hoax,” also plans to introduce a version of the legislation Thursday.

SENATE

No Capitol honor for last WWI vet

West Virginia lawmakers complained Thursday after their hopes of having the remains of World War I veteran Frank Buckles honored in the Capitol Rotunda were dashed, at least for now.

West Virginia’s two Democratic senators, John D. Rockefeller IV and Joe Manchin III, both released statements that House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, had blocked the Capitol honor.

Asked if that were true, Boehner spokesman Mike Steel said the speaker and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, would seek Defense Department permission for a ceremony for Buckles at Arlington Cemetery.

Buckles died Sunday at age 110. He had been the last surviving American veteran of World War I.

The bodies of prominent citizens have been displayed in the Rotunda on 30 occasions, an honor that requires a congressional resolution or the approval of congressional leaders, according to the Office of the Architect of the Capitol.

TREASURY

Geithner: Tapping oil reserves an option with prices rising

The United States and other major economies can tap strategic oil reserves if need be to keep soaring oil prices from derailing a global recovery, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said on Thursday.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Geithner played down risks that political unrest in the Middle East was a major threat and said there was a lot of spare oil-production capacity in addition to reserves.

“If necessary, those reserves could be mobilized to help mitigate the effect of a severe, sustained supply disruption,” he said.

Mr. Geithner said the Obama administration was monitoring Middle East developments closely and acknowledged that rising commodity prices - for both food and oil - were causing hardship in many parts of the world by pushing prices up.

SENATE

Republicans target health law chieftain

Thus far unable to repeal President Obama’s health care law, Republicans are trying to oust the official who is quarterbacking the overhaul of the nation’s medical system.

In a letter released Thursday, 42 Republican senators asked the president to withdraw the nomination of Dr. Donald Berwick as Medicare administrator, saying his experience isn’t broad enough and that past statements raise fundamental questions about his views on policy.

The Medicare administrator’s job carries major responsibilities under the health care law, such as setting up new insurance markets, expanding Medicaid to cover millions more low-income people, and revamping the way Medicare pays providers to reward quality instead of volume.

Mr. Obama bypassed the Senate last year to install Dr. Berwick as a recess appointment. Under the rules, that means that unless Dr. Berwick can be formally confirmed, his appointment would run out at the end of this year.