Our healthcare laws could see a rapid change, end-of-year staff shake-ups continue in the White House, and another funding deadline means another shutdown threat. Everything in American politics is happening right on schedule, in another performance of the greatest show on earth.
The biggest news of the week came Friday when a federal judge in Texas ruled that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is unconstitutional. District Judge Reed O’Connor, of Fort Worth, sided with a coalition of 20 Republican states who argued that the law cannot be constitutional without the individual mandate, which Congress repealed last session. That provision was the linchpin of the law according to Chief Justice Roberts in the law’s biggest legal challenge, the National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. While it’s unlikely the entire law will be unraveled, as O’Connor argued it should, key healthcare aspects are certainly at risk. Currently, the law is in effect awaiting the appeals. Expect a more detailed write-up on the case from Think Liberty or Being Libertarian later this week.
Another member of the White House staff scheduled his department this week. This time it was Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Zinke had been criticized for his liberal use of office resources, especially for travel. The Inspector General Mary Kendall may have even referred an ethics probe to the Justice Department for criminal charges, though we likely won’t know the full truth on that unless he is indicted. Lame duck Nevada Senator Dean Heller and lame duck Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have been rumored targets for the job, along with the Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, according to Bloomberg News. Trump had just announced replacements for attorney general and ambassador to the U.N. last week.
The president also announced that Mick Mulvaney, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and former U.S. Representative from South Carolina, would be stepping in as Acting Chief of Staff. The “acting” title may be a test for Mulvaney, or it may be an indicator that few have shown interest in the job, and that the President needs more time to find a permanent replacement. Josh Dawsey, with the Washington Post, claims Chris Christie was the frontrunner for the position, but declined it.
The government may shut down this Friday, unless some sort of bipartisan funding deal is met before then. The president has openly threatened Democratic leaders Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi with a shutdown unless the funding includes allocations for a border wall. Of course, government shutdowns mean very little and tend to last a very small amount of time. The last shutdown was in January, when holdouts for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program caused a shutdown for three days, again partially over funding of a border wall. Shutdowns tend to include “non-essential” government workers. Notably, in 2013, Obama extended the non-essential label to the Department of the Interior, shutting down national parks during a holiday weekend in a very politicized move. Generally, disruptions in the SEC and other financial departments hurt economic activity. Politico has reported that the president is considering a two-week stop-gap measure that would fund the government into January, in what would amount to political save-face by keeping government.
You can read more from Ian Scar on Think Liberty here.