US Supreme Court opens, likely to wade into health care debate
It seems inevitable that the US Supreme Court will agree to hear the legal challenge to President Obama’s health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act. As the court opens Monday, gun laws, immigration, racial preferences, and separation of church and state loom as major issues as well.
The 2011-2012 US Supreme Court term, set to begin Monday, is best described by a case that isn’t even on the docket yet.Skip to next paragraph
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The case, HHS v. Florida, would instantly transform the high court’s upcoming nine-month session from an interesting and important collection of legal disputes into an historic constitutional showdown with major political implications – in a presidential election year.
The legal challenge threatens one of President Obama’s most ambitious accomplishments, the attempted wholesale reformation of the health care insurance market to extend health insurance to millions of Americans who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
Usually, the Supreme Court’s term is defined on the eve of the first Monday in October by the array of cases the justices have already agreed to hear and decide.
The unusual feature of the start of this year’s term is that the “Obamacare” case isn’t the only blockbuster looming on the high court’s horizon. In the weeks ahead, the justices are set to consider taking up a string of other potential landmark cases that could further transform the new term into a clash of constitutional titans. They include disputes examining:
• Whether the Second Amendment protects a right to carry a gun in public places for self-defense.
• Whether the use of racial preferences in university admissions programs is unconstitutional.
Bleeping dirty words on TV
In addition to that unprecedented cluster of potential mega-cases, the high court is already set to hear a dispute involving the power of the Federal Communications Commission to punish broadcast television stations for showing brief nudity or failing to bleep dirty words during prime time programming.
The case, FCC v. Fox Television, will examine whether the FCC’s indecency enforcement procedures violate the First and Fifth Amendments. At issue is the government’s attempt to police the public air waves to prevent not only obscene material, but also indecent communications offensive to a family-oriented audience.
The current indecency enforcement effort stems from a 1978 high court decision that upheld sanctions against stations that broadcast comedian George Carlin’s famous routine on the seven dirty words you can’t say on the public air waves.
For years, the FCC enforced a policy against the systematic and repeated use of offensive words, most of which had been identified – effectively and repeatedly – by Mr. Carlin.