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“Incomplete Resume”: Should A Sarah Palin Adviser Speak For America’s Catholic Bishops?

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced on Monday that it has hired Kim Daniels as spokeswoman for the USCCB president, currently Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York. Daniels, the USCCB announcement explains, is “an attorney whose practice has focused on religious liberty matters,” and she “brings to the USCCB her experience as director of Catholic Voices USA, an organization of lay Catholics that works to bring the positive message of the Church across a broad range of issues to the public square.”

The bishops left a few things off her résumé, says Grant Gallicho at Commonweal. Notably, the announcement “does not mention two of Daniels’s previous employers: Sarah Palin and the Thomas More Law Center,” a conservative legal organization at which Daniels fought for the right of pharmacists to refuse to dispense the morning-after pill. She spent nine years, from 2000 to 2009, at the Thomas More Law Center, established in 1998 by its president, Richard Thompson. Thompson and his center increasingly tend to “make news by making provocative comments about Islam.”

The more eyebrow-raising job is Daniels’ work as a paid adviser to Palin and her political group, SarahPAC. Daniels signed up to work with Palin after doing some legal work for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, at a time when “the former Alaska governor tried to remodel herself” after McCain’s loss, says David Gibson at Religion News Service. Daniels was described as “Palin’s personal domestic policy czar,” and that association leaves an open question for the bishops about “whether Daniels will deflect controversies or become a lightning rod herself,” says Gibson.

Palin has continued to alienate herself from all but her most loyal fans on the movement’s right flank, and it is not clear where Daniels’ relationship with Palin stands today. [RNS]

Yes, Daniels worked for Palin, says Kathryn Jean Lopez at Patheos, but “I wouldn’t read too much into the political significance of this as a bishops’ conference matter.” As Daniels has explained it, she “felt a call to work with this most prominent pro-life mother who was giving voice to issues close to her heart in the public square.”

Her heart belongs to her family and the church, and her work with Palin was an outgrowth of that…. One of the key questions the church is confronted with today is: How do we teach and share the Gospel effectively?…. How Catholics in the pews hear and what they hear plays a major role in that. But the media in all its mainstream and social forms is where most people’s views of the church is formed. How do we engage there clearly, as Christians, lovingly and responsively? Kim has been devoting her time to just that question as a director of the Catholic Voices USA project. So I really can’t think of a better person to be joining Cardinal Dolan and the bishops’ conference in that effort to address that question. [Patheos]

What role Daniels will fill remains an open question, however. Her position is a new one, separate from the USCCB’s official press office. “Kim Daniels is not in the Communications Department,” Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the USCCB’s longtime spokeswoman, tells Religion News Service. “As head of the USCCB Office for Media Relations I speak to the media in that capacity.” That makes this “new territory for everyone,” says RNS‘s Gibson.

Daniels’ hiring also looks like an effort to satisfy Dolan’s goal of finding an “attractive, articulate, intelligent” laywoman to help recast the hierarchy’s image… because, as he put it, “In the public square, I hate to tell you, the days of fat, balding Irish bishops are over.” Yet Daniels, a mother of six, will also have to be credible, which means she would need to have a clear mandate. [RNS]

Whether Daniels has that mandate isn’t clear, since not all the bishops are comfortable with one spokeswoman speaking for all of them. Will she be the public face of Dolan’s policies, or a rival to Walsh’s media shop, or a behind-the-scenes policy shaper? We’ll find out. But there’s also “a final wrinkle,” Gibson says: “Dolan’s three-year term as USCCB president ends in November, and a new president may want to use Daniels in a different capacity, or not at all.”

 

By: Peter Weber, The Week, April 30, 2013

May 2, 2013 Posted by | Catholic Bishops, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conservative Legal Luminaries Concede: The Individual Mandate Is No Unique Threat To Freedom, After All

As summarized one month ago in a post here on Jonathan Chait’s blog, conservatives reacted with fury to an article I wrote for Slate in which I pointed out that two major components of House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future closely resemble the much-demonized “individual mandate” in the Affordable Care Act. In particular, I noted that the ACA provision requiring health insurance has precisely the same kind of impact on individual purchasing decisions as Ryan’s roadmap, and is, if anything, less coercive than the Roadmap proposal to provide a tax credit to individuals who purchase health insurance, as a replacement for the current exclusion from income of employer-sponsored health insurance. The ACA imposes a tax penalty on individuals who choose not to purchase health insurance. The Ryan Roadmap, on the other hand, provides a tax credit to individuals who choose to purchase health insurance—a technical distinction, I suggested, without an economic or other real-world difference.

National Review, the Weekly Standard, and Hot Air raised various objections to this point, which was seconded by Ezra Klein in the Washington Post and by Jonathan in TNR. But recent oral arguments before federal appeals courts hearing legal challenges to the ACA should quiet such protests once and for all. In these arguments, two of the most celebrated members of the Right’s legal elite acknowledged that there is no daylight between the ACA mandate-plus-penalty and a Ryan-type tax credit universally conceded to be constitutional.

The first instance of this occurred on June 1, when Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton, sitting on a three-judge panel in Cincinnati in a case brought by the conservative advocacy group Thomas More Law Center, floated the hypothetical idea of a tax credit alternative to the ACA approach. The Law Center’s attorney, Robert Muise, acknowledged that “you could provide a credit for health insurance, there’s no prohibition on that.” To which Judge Sutton responded:

You think it would be just as coercive to say to people, everybody pays the same additional tax, it’s a health care tax, everybody pays it and the only people that don’t pay it, i.e. get a credit, are those with insurance, you think that would be as coercive?

Muise contended that a tax credit was different because it encouraged activity—namely the purchase of health insurance—whereas the ACA provision penalized a “failure to act.” But Sutton didn’t buy it:

If that’s your view, then just pay the penalty, pay the penalty, don’t get insurance, don’t be forced to do anything, in that sense, if you think they’re equivalent, in that sense, no one is forced to do anything, because the economic incentives are the same in both settings, you can’t say the law requires you to buy it, the law just penalizes you if you don’t.

Judge Sutton is not the first person to observe that the ACA’s allegedly freedom-destroying mandate is operationally indistinguishable from commonplace tax incentive provisions. But, apart from having actual decisional authority on the matter, Sutton enters this space with formidable ideological and professional credentials. One of the first batch of appeals court nominees picked by President George W. Bush, Sutton, though only 42 years old, earned his front rank position as the energizer bunny of the Rehnquist Court’s late 1990’s drive to shrink Congress’ domestic regulatory authority in the name of “federalism.” As a lawyer, Sutton argued and won, usually by bitterly contested 5-4 margins, a raft of decisions striking or narrowing provisions of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Violence Against Women Act, the Clean Water Act, and regulations implementing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, among others. He famously once told Legal Times, “I really believe in this federalism stuff.” Sutton’s professional standing was unquestioned; appointed by the Supreme Court in 2001 to represent a prison inmate, Sutton won a unanimous decision and unusually explicit praise from its author, Justice Ruth Ginsburg, for “his able representation.”

Of course, Sutton’s verbal acknowledgement that the ACA individual mandate is not uniquely coercive, emphatic though it appeared, is no guarantee that he will not strike down a law that Republican orthodoxy demonizes as a drastic expansion of federal power. Nevertheless, his on-the-record statement leaves the case against the ACA mandate resting at best on a hypertechnical foundation lacking in substance.

The second acknowledgement of the ACA mandate’s kinship with uncontroversial tax incentives occurred a week later in Atlanta, at the June 8 argument before a panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the case against ACA brought by 26 Republican state attorneys general and governors. During the argument, the Republicans’ counsel, Paul Clement, attempted to sound a reasonable note. He said, “There’s lots of different ways that Congress could incentivize people to get to the exact same result. They could have passed a new tax and called it a tax, and then they could have given people a tax credit for paying for qualifying insurance.”

Again, Clement’s observation was not original. But in addition to being the Republican opponents’ lawyer, Clement also served—with universally acknowledged distinction—as George W. Bush’s Solicitor General. Recently, he made headlines by resigning his 7 figure-per-year partnership in the Atlanta-based firm, King & Spalding, when the firm precipitously withdrew from representing his client, the House of Representatives, to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act, aka DOMA.

The significance of Clement’s functional equivalence concession was not lost on Eleventh Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus. Marcus, originally named a district judge by President Ronald Reagan and subsequently to his current appellate position by President Bill Clinton, drew a logical implication subtly different from Judge Sutton’s observation that the ACA mandate is not uniquely coercive, but one that is potentially even more troublesome for the ACA opponents’ case. “Isn’t that just another way,” he asked rhetorically:

“[O]f saying they [Congress] could have done what they did better? More efficaciously, more directly, and they regulated perhaps inefficaciously, maybe even foolishly, but if it’s rational, doesn’t my job stop at the water’s edge? Isn’t it for the legislative branch to make those kinds of calculations and determinations?”

No constitutional lawyer could mistake where Judge Marcus was heading. How is it possible, he was saying, for courts to dictate which of two methods Congress must choose to implement its constitutionally enumerated powers, when both methods generate “the exact same result?” Judicial micro-managing on such a granular level, Marcus knows, violates the fundamental, black-letter standard established nearly two centuries ago by Chief Justice John Marshall. In his iconic 1819 decision, McCulloch v. Maryland, Marshall broadly interpreted the constitutional grant of authority to Congress “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” its enumerated powers: “Let the end be legitimate,” he wrote in words memorized by first-year law students, “let it be within the scope of the constitution, all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional.”

To be sure, no one who listened to this Eleventh Circuit argument could predict the panels’ outcome any more confidently than could those who heard the previous week’s Sixth Circuit argument. But these unequivocal statements, by two of conservativism’s most eminent legal luminaries, that the ACA individual mandate is not a unique threat to Americans’ liberty after all, surely drain much of the juice from opponents’ legal case, and, ultimately, from their political case as well.

By: Simon Lazarus, Public Policy Counsel to the National Senior Citizens Law Center, Guest Post, The New Republic, June 17, 2011

June 26, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Consumers, Democracy, Freedom, GOP, Government, Health Reform, Ideology, Individual Mandate, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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