- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2011

A ruling last week by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II’s lawsuit was a setback for opponents of President Obama’s health care reform. But with more than half of U.S. states challenging the law, people on both sides of the issue agree the final step will likely be the Supreme Court.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said the three-judge panel’s ruling that a state has no standing to challenge an expensive and burdensome federal mandate on its residents “might cause James Madison and George Mason … to promptly roll in their graves.” However, Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, is among those who think the decision will be made by the high court.

The decision, which says Virginia lacked the standing to sue because the state passed a law exempting its residents from being required to buy health insurance, overturns a ruling in December by U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson that had enjoined the so-called “individual mandate” provision in the law requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face a penalty.

Mr. Cuccinelli immediately indicated that he would appeal the decision and said he was “disappointed” in the ruling and the fact that the judges didn’t even reach the merits of the case.

Nevertheless, Mr. Cuccinelli appeared unflappable upon hearing the decision during a public event.

“One of the folks who came with me had gotten an email blast from one of the news outlets announcing the opinion, and so he came up to me and whispered, ‘Hey, we lost,’ ” Mr. Cuccinelli, a Republican, told the Roanoke Times. “I had made some comments, as you might expect, about the health care case and I said, ‘Well, it seems we have an update.’ “

Home whites, blue ribbon

Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg wasn’t the only local figure returning to the spotlight last week. The Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding returned after a three-month hiatus.

Doesn’t sound as impressive? Well, that didn’t stop commission Chairman Gus Bauman from making the comparison.

Mr. Bauman said at the start of the group’s meeting Thursday in Charles County that some members — and perhaps reporters — were kept away by heavy rain throughout the state. He jokingly drew parallels to Strasburg’s long-awaited return Tuesday from elbow surgery, which was widely expected to be rained out but was played as scheduled.

Mr. Bauman said that in both cases, those who attended would be rewarded.

The commission announced it will recommend $520 million in tax and fee increases to fund road and transit projects in the state. Strasburg pitched five scoreless innings before watching his bullpen quickly surrender the lead in a 7-3 loss.

We’re not sure who had the more taxing experience.

Keeping up appearances

Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s deputy chief of staff, Andi Pringle, got off to a rough start with a voting controversy and resignation within 10 days of starting at city hall.

But his newly appointed chief of staff, Christopher Murphy, is already workin’ it behind the scenes.

Before Mr. Gray showed up at the D.C. Chamber of Commerce last week to announce his “One City-One Hire” jobs initiative, Mr. Murphy found ways to improve the esthetics.

As a “protocol issue,” he noted that the chamber’s seal on the podium (held up by Velcro) should be replaced by the mayor’s emblem.

And that crowd of employers and newly hired folks who provided a nice backdrop during the mayor’s remarks?

Mr. Murphy ordered that up, too, proving that at least some folks in the administration literally think of everything.

David Sherfinski, David Hill and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.