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Undercover Investigators Got Obamacare Coverage Using Fake Identities
WASHINGTON (AP) ? Congressional investigators using fake identities were able to obtain taxpayer-subsidized health insurance under President Barack Obama's law, according to testimony to be delivered Wednesday.The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office says its undercover investigators were able to get subsidized health care under fake names in 11 out of 18 attempts. The GAO is still paying premiums for the policies, even as the Obama administration attempts to verify phony documentation.The agency's findings are contained in testimony to be delivered at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing Wednesday. An advance copy was provided to The Associated Press.Seto Bagdoyan, head of GAO audits and investigations, will also testify that there's still a huge backlog of applications with data discrepancies, even though the administration has resolved some 600,000 cases.The GAO tests revealed potential weaknesses in the nation's newest social program. However, in the real world, it may be difficult for fraudsters to profit, since government subsidies are paid directly to insurance companies.Still, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, said the health law is rife with "incompetence, waste and the potential for fraud."House Republicans have voted some 50 times to repeal or scale back Obama's top domestic accomplishment, the sweeping health care overhaul that is currently providing coverage to an estimated 15 million people, through a combination of subsidized private insurance and expanded Medicaid.The Obama administration says six of the GAO's fake online applications were blocked by eligibility checks built into computer systems at HealthCare.gov. But the GAO says its undercover agents found a way around that, and were able to enroll anyway."We are examining this report carefully and will work with GAO to identify additional strategies to strengthen our verification processes," administration spokesman Aaron Albright said. At least on paper, fraudsters risk prosecution and heavy fines.GAO said its investigators concocted fake identities using invalid Social Security numbers and falsely claiming citizenship or legal residence. In other cases, they made up income figures that would disqualify them from getting subsidies.Among the findings:?Contractors processing applications for the government told the GAO that their role was not to ferret out potential fraud.?Five of six bogus phone applications went through successfully. The one exception involved an applicant who refused to provide a Social Security number.?Six online applications were snagged by an identity checking system. But investigators just dialed a call center and all six were approved. That seemed to be an open pathway to coverage.?The GAO also tried to check the reliability of counselors providing in-person assistance. In five out of six cases, investigators were unable to get help. In the final case, the counselor correctly told the undercover investigator that their stated income would not entitle them to subsidized coverage.
Americans Hate Congress More Than Jar Jar Binks
We already knew Americans rank Congress below cockroaches and Nickelback, but a new poll provides further evidence of just how little love the public has for the legislative branch: its ratings are worse than Jar Jar Binks'.FiveThirtyEight asked an online SurveyMonkey poll of Star Wars watchers to rate the films' characters. The least popular, reviled Gungan representative Jar Jar Binks, had a 29 percent favorable rating, with 37 percent viewing him unfavorably, for a net -8 (the rest were neutral or undecided).By contrast, public polling gives Congress an average net rating of about -57.Here's a chart:In the interest of fairness, it's perhaps important to note that the Star Wars poll included an explicit "neutral" option, which many political polls do not. Also individual representatives, like Jar Jar, generally poll better than Congress as a whole.For all the comedic potential Congress' low approval ratings provide, most of its members are likely to be reelected. In 2010, when just 21 percent of Americans approved of Congress, 85 percent of House incumbents seeking reelection held onto their seats.
The 1 Mistake The Political Media Must Not Make In 2016
We are now just a few short months before the midterm elections, after which the coverage of the 2016 presidential election and its attendant frenzy of nonsense and intellectual dystopia will kick in like a boot to your face. This is the perfect time to reflect upon the coverage of elections past, and offer some instruction on mistakes the press should avoid repeating.And they are legion! I mean, where do I begin? The political media over-hyping an outlier poll to send everyone to the panic station? Or going wall-to-wall on a "gaffe" that no voter cares about? There's the ridiculousness of a primary contender briefly popping to a 3-point lead over the field and being dubbed "the front-runner." Or we can remember those days where everyone loses their sense of proportion and propriety entirely, for seemingly inexplicable reasons.But no. While these are all mistakes the media should stop making, they are hard to remedy when the root of the problem is the simple fact that most political pundits and cable news blatherers are stunted, intellectually speaking, and have not managed to reach the formal operational stage of cognitive development. It's going to take many years of work to fix these problems. But there is an easy mistake that we can, and should, correct right now.
These two things feature quite prominently during political campaigns and election-year events, and they are almost always confused. Stop doing that, everyone! This is easy. A podium is a raised platform, upon which one might stand. A lectern is a sort of reading stand, upon which one might put notes, that one stands behind.You've seen a podium before. When athletes win medals at a big award ceremony, they stand on a podium.
If you've ever seen an orchestra perform, then you've seen the conductor, on a podium.
In the picture above, you'll also see a thing behind the conductor, on which his music has been placed. I would usually call this a "music stand," but if you want to call that a "lectern" for the moment, that's fine with me. It helps establish that a lectern is something you stand behind, and that a podium is something you stand upon.Which isn't to say that you can't "stand behind a podium." You can! But it's not the same thing as standing behind a lectern. Here's a picture that features "standing behind a podium."In the image below, you'll see famous track and field star Usain Bolt and his Team Jamaica colleagues preparing to receive their medals in the men's 200-meter race in the London 2012 Olympics. The three athletes are standing behind the podium.
A few minutes later, Bolt and his teammates are on the podium.
So, you see, you can "stand behind a podium." But if you're saying to yourself, "That can't be a podium! Where is the shelf for Usain Bolt's notes?" then you have confused the podium for a lectern. (Also, Usain Bolt doesn't need notes. Usain Bolt is the truth.)Right now, you may be wondering, "Well, if you can stand behind a podium, can you stand on a lectern?" Yes, you can! But hardly anyone ever does, because it's a damn foolish thing to do, as you could topple over and get hurt. (For this reason, I wish more American politicians would stand on lecterns, but alas.)
The thing is -- any time there is, say, a political debate, the lectern behind which the debater is standing is often referred to as a podium. Wherever lecterns crop up, there is discord and misrule. For example, here is an article entitled "Jay Carney's new gig: Cashing in on his years behind the podium." Jay Carney has never done anything noteworthy behind a podium. The author means "lectern."
Look, I've made the same mistake. I wrote this sentence: "When Dana Perino took back the press room podium from Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt this afternoon, she sure imagined herself to be cock of the walk!" That's wrong. I was wrong. Now, I could be really defensive and point out that the White House press secretary, in addition to standing behind a lectern, actually does stand on a raised platform that we can call a podium. But I would be lying. When I wrote that sentence, I absolutely confused the lectern for a podium. I want to do better, and I have. And now, every political reporter and on-air pundit can be better, too.Fun fact! Here is an image from one of the GOP primary debates in 2012. In 2016, there are going to be more debates, and more scenes like this.
Someone asked to describe a scene like this in 2016 may say to themselves: "Oh, no! I think I need to ask an editor, or consult The Associated Press Stylebook, because I'm not sure what the plural for 'podium' is! Is it 'podiums?' Or is it 'podia?' I'm worried I might get it wrong!"Stop worrying! The plural is spelled, "L-E-C-T-E-R-N-S." You're all set. Now, at some point during your career of always getting "podium" and "lectern" right, you might encounter some smart-ass brandishing this sort of dictionary entry at you.
Just ignore this. The only reason that dictionary entries have been adjusted in this fashion is because, after years and years of people getting it wrong, the people who make dictionaries just gave up and got on with the rest of their lives. The same sort of thing happened with the word "literally" very recently.
You need to be the change you want to see in the world, and the change you need to be in this case is "a person who doesn't mistake a lectern for a podium, like an idiot."Once you've mastered this stuff, you can graduate to things like "rostrum" and "dais." Here's an old article from David Mezzera of St. Ignatius College Prep in California to guide you on your way.Okay, that's that! Get this one thing right and we can incrementally improve political coverage and America. The middle class is still basically screwed though, sorry![Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]
Researchers Think They Know Why College-Educated People Support The Tea Party
College-educated supporters of the tea party might change their political tune if they mingled more with those less educated than themselves.Researchers from the University of Notre Dame said college graduates are more likely to support tea party ideas if they live in counties characterized by high levels of residential segregation based on education level. The researchers found the correlation between tea party support and educational segregation to be uniquely strong compared to factors like racial segregation and class segregation.Rory McVeigh, a University of Notre Dame political sociologist and author of the study, told The Huffington Post that he was interested in discovering what communities might be particularly hospitable to tea party principles and why. Prior to the study, he posited that the tea party ideology, which advocates for limited government and low government spending, might resonate more among people who don't interact much with low-income individuals who may benefit from government programs. As it turns out, McVeigh was on to something. ?My thinking was that people who are likely to embrace [tea party ideology] are more likely to be people who have had some success and life and limited exposure to those who haven?t enjoyed the same advantages. ... Education is such an important predictor of how you end up in life,? said McVeigh over the phone. The results of the study, which draws from data on the number of tea party organizations in counties across America and Census Bureau information on county-wide educational segregation, showed that the distribution of college-educated individuals play a role in tea party support. The report also notes that educated, white, middle class Republicans are more likely to support the tea party regardless of educational segregation in their county, although educational segregation exacerbates this likelihood. McVeigh explained to HuffPost why this might occur.?When you?ve had little exposure to people who haven?t had the same opportunities as you, you?re more likely to adopt a view that ?really anybody who wanted to could of succeeded if they only did what I did,?? said McVeigh. ?I really think the key here is education is widely understood to be a primary determinant of where you end up in life. ... But as we know, not everybody has the same access to a high-quality education.? In the study, researchers relate this idea to the impact racial segregation has on racism. ?Similar to how racial segregation shapes perceptions of racial inequality, and occupational sex segregation shapes perceptions of gender inequality, we consider the possibility that residential segregation of the highly educated may facilitate mobilization of a social movement, such as the Tea Party, that opposes redistribution of wealth to society?s less prosperous citizens,? says the study. A press release for the study notes that even though support for the tea party is not as strong as it once was -- especially since 2010, when grassroots support for tea party organizations was at a high -- Republican politicians still cater to tea party voters. ?The analyses help us understand,? McVeigh says in the press release, ?how a movement enabled by highly resourced conservative organizations has been able to draw the support it needed to credibly present itself as a grassroots movement representing ordinary Americans, and thus exert influence on voters and the political process.?
HUFFPOLLSTER: New Polls Show Colorado Senate Race Tied, Hagan Up In North Carolina
PPP releases new polls in North Carolina and Colorado. Georgia polls have shown a consistent leader in today's Republican Senate runoff election. And the Pew Research Center is looking for another new president. This is HuffPollster for Tuesday, July 22, 2014.PPP (D) FINDS HAGAN LEAD IN NC - The Democratic-affiliated firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) released two new polls on Tuesday in competitive U.S. Senate contests that generally confirm results from other recent polling. In North Carolina, the new survey is the fourth since June to find Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) leading Republican challenger Thom Tillis. PPP gives Hagan a seven percentage point lead (41 to 34 percent) over Tillis, with Libertarian Sean Haugh receiving 8 percent of the vote. Hagan's margin on the PPP poll, as well as the support measured for Haugh, were nearly identical on a June poll fielded by Civitas, a conservative North Carolina think tank. The HuffPost Pollster polling model, based on all available public surveys, gives Hagan a slightly narrower lead (42.3 to 37.4 percent). [PPP, Pollster]
...and a deadlocked race in Colorado - In a separate survey, PPP finds Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) taking 44 percent to 43 percent. While an NBC/Marist poll conducted in the first week of July gave Udall a 7 point lead, most polls have shown a closer race -- in 11 of the 15 polls released, either Udall or Gardner led by 2 points or less. A Quinnipiac survey last week gave Gardner 44 percent to Udall's 42 percent. HuffPost Pollster's model finds both candidates at just under 45 percent. [PPP]GEORGIA REPUBLICANS HEADING TO THE POLLS FOR SENATE PRIMARY RUNOFF - Harry Enten: "Georgia?s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate will end Tuesday amid accusations of sweetheart deals and donations from criminals. But the Peach State?s runoff ? unlike Mississippi?s ? doesn?t feature a big ideological struggle; Rep. Jack Kingston and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue are both mainline conservatives?.Perdue finished first in the primary with 31 percent. Kingston came in second at 26 percent. But the tables appear to have turned in the runoff?.And Kingston?s 5 to 6 percentage-point lead will probably stand up. Past polling in Georgia? Republican primaries and runoffs has been reasonably accurate. In the 2010 gubernatorial runoff, the polling average was off by less than a percentage point. In the first round of this year?s Senate primary, polling correctly showed Perdue ahead, Kingston in second and Handel in third. Only two candidates (with undecideds allocated proportionally) out of 16 in the past four major statewide GOP primaries have seen an error of more than 3 percentage points from their projected vote percentage and actual vote percentage. Perdue would need that type of error (and in his direction) to win. For the polls to be wrong, Perdue will probably need to exceed expectations in the Atlanta area." [538]Polling average puts Kingston ahead - Ten polls have been conducted on the runoff, many for sponsors with a stake in the race (the only two live-caller polls are two dueling internals from the Perdue and Kingston campaigns). Every survey except the Perdue internal gave Kingston the lead, with margins varying between 2 and 12 points. HuffPost Pollster's tracking model puts Kingston ahead, 46.7 percent to Perdue's 41 percent. [Pollster chart]PRIMARY TURNOUT DROP - Philip Elliott/AP: "More than half the states to hold primary elections so far have seen record-low turnouts, according to a nonpartisan survey of voter rolls released Monday. That perhaps is a sign of widespread apathy within both political parties ahead of November's midterm elections. Of the almost 123 million voters who were eligible to cast ballots in primaries, only 18 million have done so, and states with same-day voter registration actually saw their turnout rates drop, according to the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. Despite heavy campaign spending that is poised to make history, 15 of the 25 states that have held statewide primary elections each reported a record low percentage of voters who cast ballots...Democrats saw a 29 percent decline from 2010's primaries, the 11th consecutive midterm elections to see a drop in participation. Republicans posted a 15 percent decline in participation from 2010. But their rate was closer to historical norms after tea party enthusiasm in 2010 led to a turnout spike." [AP, CSAE report]But closer races produced higher turnouts - Phillip Bump: "We were curious, though, if that held up for some of the most closely watched races in the country. The AP is deliberate about noting that campaign spending is soaring even as more than half of primary states saw record low turnout. But that spending is soaring only in select races...[T]here doesn't appear to have been much correlation between how much money was spent in the race and how much turnout changed. But races that saw an increase in turnout were more likely to be close. This makes sense, of course; more interesting races where votes make more of a difference are more likely to get people to go to the polls. (The dotted line is the trend.)" [WashPost]
ANOTHER POLL FINDS AMERICANS OPPOSED TO INTERVENTION IN UKRAINE - Emily Swanson: "Many Americans are convinced that Russia was at least partially responsible for the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last week, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows. But even if it's proven that Russia or pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine were involved, Americans say they would favor sanctions and diplomacy over military options. Asked to choose who they believed to be responsible for the crash, 48 percent of Americans said pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists were involved, while 33 percent said the Russian military was involved?.But the new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that Americans largely want to stay out of the conflict. In a question asked prior to any mention of the plane crash, most respondents said that the United States should not get involved in the dispute between Russia and Ukraine, by a 52 percent to 18 percent margin. Even if it's shown for certain that Russia or Russian-backed separatists were responsible for the crash, sanctions against Russia were the most popular option, supported by 42 percent of Americans?.Respondents who were asked a similar question earlier in the poll, before any mention of the plane crash, were slightly less likely to support military options and slightly more likely to support diplomacy, but overall responses changed only marginally when respondents were asked to consider the crash as a factor." [HuffPost]PEW RESEARCH PRESIDENT LEAVES FOR FORTUNE MAGAZINE - Catherine Taibi: "Pew Research Center president Alan Murray is leaving the company to become the new editor of Fortune, Pew announced Tuesday. Murray has been chief of Pew since 2012 after leaving his post at the Wall Street Journal as deputy managing editor and online executive editor. He will become the 17th editor of Fortune, succeeding Andy Serwer?.Murray will remain at Pew until August 1. He added that Jim McMillan, general counsel and corporate secretary at the Pew Charitable Trusts, will then take over as 'acting president' while the company searches for a new leader." [HuffPost]TUESDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:-Democracy Corps (D) finds that "control of the Senate rests on a knife?s edge" in battleground states. [DemCorps]-SurveyUSA finds Charlie Crist (D) 6 points ahead of Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). [SurveyUSA]-Polls in Michigan and Iowa show among the highest level of undecided voters. [Smart Politics]-Susan Page reviews three key bets the parties are making on the midterm. [USA Today]-PPP (D) and American United for Change (D) find 75 percent of voters don't think they could live on the minimum wage. [AUFC]-53 percent of Latino households continue to worry that someone in their household might lose a job. [Latino Decisions]-A GfK poll for the Chicago Council finds Americans' views of Russia at their lowest point since the Cold War. [Chicago Council]-Brian Fung reports on the New Organizing Institute's annual data bootcamp. [WashPost]-Jan Hoffman looks at the difficulty of counting LGBT Americans. [NYT]-Andrew Kohut, founding director of the Pew Research Center, named winner of the Roper Center's Warren Mitofsky Award for Excellence in Public Opinion Research. [Roper]-If pollster Gary Langer had to choose a backup profession, he'd pick Good Humor man. [Langer Research]-A poll of Star Wars characters' favorability ratings finds little love for Jar Jar Binks. [538]-The Simpsons ventures into the world of Big D'oh-ta. [Atlantic]
Supreme Court Justice Calls Constitution A \'Flawed Document\'
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy conceded Thursday that the Constitution is not meant to be interpreted in its original, literal state, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. In a speech at the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in Monterey, Calif., Kennedy asserted that the authors intentionally used general language so that guiding principles could steer lawmakers tackling present-day issues.?The Constitution of the United States is a flawed document,? he said, pointing to original text allowing for slavery. ?The framers were wise enough to know that they could not foresee the injustices? of the future.The swing justice -- who in 2008 voted in the majority to overturn a handgun ban in Washington, D.C. -- continued to say he is ?not so sure? about whether the second amendment protects an individual?s right to bear arms.Since voting in June to uphold a law banning the purchase of guns for others, he has painted himself as a possible middleman in the ongoing gun control debate.
HUFFPOST HILL - Obama To Skip Kimmel, Probably Because Of All Those Ron Fournier Tweets
Tensions between Beyonce and Jay-Z have escalated for weeks, but President Obama was too busy smiling for photo-ops to intervene -- why won't he lead? Chuck Schumer uses a comically outdated flip phone to strategize with Harry Reid and, one assumes, Mr. Moviefone. And President Obama is skipping Jimmy Kimmel's show to deal with various crises, though suspending John McCain's campaign would be the more statesmanly thing to do. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014:BILL BECOMES LAW! - The bill was totally bipartisan so almost nobody wrote about it. Gregory Korte: "Federal job training programs will see their biggest overhaul in 16 years after President Obama put his signature Tuesday on a law intended to streamline a tangled web of programs. It's the first major rewrite of federal job training programs since Congress passed the Workforce Development Act in 1998 ? when Netscape was the Web browser of choice, résumés were on paper and largely sent in the mail and newspaper want ads were the primary way of learning of job openings. 'Even back then, even in 1998, our economy was changing,' Obama said. 'The notion that a high school education could get you a good job and that you'd keep that job until retirement wasn't a reality for the majority of people.' The 1998 law was scheduled to be renewed in 2003. Since then, government auditors have found a sprawling network of overlapping and duplicate job training programs. As of 2011, the federal government spent $18 billion a year on 47 separate job training programs run by nine different agencies, according to the Government Accountability Office." [USAToday] District residents will nag Andy Harris to fix their potholes on Thursday.Ted Cruz responds to being name checked on "True Blood": "Of all the places I never thought to be mentioned, HBO?s True Blood vampire show would have to be near the top of the list. Sunday night, they aired a misogynist and profanity-ridden episode where Texas Republicans are murdered attending a 'Ted Cruz fundraiser.' Well, I?m sorry to have lost the vampire vote, but am astonished (and amused) that HBO is suggesting that hard-core leftists are blood-sucking fiends?." [WaPo] HOBBY LOBBY DECISION BUOYS DEMOCRATIC WOMEN - The ruling is a blessing in disguise, but not in the weird Richard-Mourdock-on-pregnancy-from-rape-is-a-gift-from-God way. Roll Call: "[F]emale Republican fundraisers, PAC organizers and candidates remain badly outgunned by their Democratic counterparts, particularly in Senate contests. Democratic women in this midterm?s most competitive Senate races uniformly raised more than their GOP opponents... The Supreme Court?s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby ruling granting religious employers an exemption from the Affordable Care Act?s contraception mandate gave Democrats fresh fundraising fodder. The ruling helped push receipts at EMILY?s List, the Democratic women?s political action committee, to well more than a half-million dollars in June alone, the group?s biggest haul in any month this year...Women Lead, a year-old super PAC to promote GOP,,, raised $120,532 in the second quarter of this year... Value In Electing Women, a Republican PAC known as VIEW PAC, has pulled in just under $414,000 in this cycle... But even those increases don?t bring Women Lead, VIEW PAC or any of the other GOP women?s PACs on the scene anywhere within striking distance of EMILY?s List. EMILY?s List?s super PAC, known as Women Vote, has pulled in more than $3 million so far in this cycle." [Roll Call] Leadership: "Obama scraps Jimmy Kimmel visit amid 'more serious matters'" DAILY DELANEY DOWNER - Debra Harrell, the South Carolina woman who was arrested after her 9-year-old daughter was found playing alone outside while she was at work, has been fired from her job at McDonald's. "She is currently unemployed,? said Harrell?s attorney Robert Phillips, adding that he didn't know why she was let go from her job. McDonald?s didn?t immediately respond to a request for comment. [HuffPost's Jillian Berman]They used to have a word for parents like Harrell: "Normal." Read this Atlantic piece on how we're ruining children because we won't just let them play alone.Playbook Facts of Life: If you coach your kid's baseball team, you're a bad parent. Stop it. UPSIDE DOWNER - Federal Reserve wonks think the long-term unemployment situation is looking pretty sweet. Unclear of how solitary child play will impact inflation. Does somebody keep forwarding you this newsletter? Get your own copy. It's free! Sign up here. Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com. Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill D.C. CIRCUIT COURT GUTS OBAMACARE - Jeff Young and Grim: "Two Republican judges on the D.C. Circuit Court have ruled that the equivalent of a typo is enough to strip health care subsidies from up to 5 million people, dealing what would be a death blow to the Affordable Care Act if the decision is allowed to stand. The one Democrat on the panel dissented. The three-judge panel ruled in Halbig v. Burwell that people in the 36 states that use the federal health insurance exchange are ineligible for subsidized insurance. The decision would also affect those who purchased insurance through the exchange but don't receive subsidies, as reneging on the payments would lead to a rapid increase in insurance rates for everyone. The White House said Tuesday the decision will be appealed to the entire D.C. circuit court -- what's known as an en banc review -- where Democrats hold a majority that is nearly certain to overturn the GOP judges' aggressive move. The next step could be the Supreme Court, which already upheld the Affordable Care Act in a separate case two years ago...The two judges seized on text within the law that said subsidies would be provided to people who purchased insurance on exchanges established by the states. But 36 states declined to set up their own exchanges, and chose to rely on the federal government's exchange instead. Because the law doesn't specifically say that people who bought insurance on the federal exchange also get subsidies, the law's opponents argued that therefore such subsidies are illegal." [HuffPost] THE COURT'S ABSURD ABSURDITY PRINCIPLE: Courts aren't supposed to interpret something too literally if doing so delivers an absurd result. "We therefore give the absurdity principle a narrow domain, insisting that a given construction cross a 'high threshold' of unreasonableness before we conclude that a statute does not mean what it says." Reminder that we're talking about millions of people losing insurance subsidies they were supposed to get from a law called "The Affordable Care Act." BOEHNER, DEMOCRATS REACH LAST-MINUTE BLAME ACCORD - It came down to the wire, but this 12th-hour recriminating was hardwon. Elise Foley: "Should Congress fail to approve funding to deal with the border crisis before the legislative recess in August, it will be President Barack Obama's fault, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday. In a statement, Boehner said that a working group of House Republicans has completed its recommendations and will present them to the rest of the GOP conference on Wednesday. But he cautioned that nothing will happen 'in a timely manner' if Obama and Democrats refuse to compromise, particularly on changing a 2008 law meant ensure hearings for unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico and Canada. 'I don't believe the American people will support sending more money to the border unless both parties work together to address these policies and actually solve this problem," Boehner said. "The lack of leadership from this White House, and President Obama's refusal to stand up to critics in his own political party, are jeopardizing our ability to find common ground and help the kids who are caught in the middle of this crisis.'" [HuffPost] Country first: "As the financial crisis shook the country in the backstretch of the 2008 presidential election, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) chose abruptly to suspend his campaign and head back to Washington to forge a solution. The idea was to look dignified and presidential. But it shocked Republicans, and Democrats largely pounced on the Arizona Republican for making a panicked, ceremonial and ultimately feckless move. What wasn?t widely known at the time was that one top Democrat was giving McCain political and economic advice, according to a newly released book. That book, Clinton, Inc., says former President Bill Clinton was talking to the senator during the financial crisis even as McCain was running against then-Senator Barack Obama for president." [HuffPost's Sam Stein] JUDICIAL VACANCIES REALLY MESSING THINGS UP - Jen Bendery: "Federal judicial vacancies are causing unsustainable courtroom delays, resulting in evidence going stale, witnesses dying before they can testify and, in some instances, people being pressured to plead guilty just to get out of jail faster, according to study released Monday by the Brennan Center for Justice. The study, featuring interviews with more than 20 judges, clerks and lawyers in 10 federal court districts, offers an in-the-trenches account of what happens to the people trying to carry out the work of a court when their senators take months or even years to fill judicial vacancies. More broadly, the study sheds light on the ill effects of roughly 50 district court vacancies around the country. Most of the judges who were interviewed for the report describe vacancies translating to heavy caseloads for other judges and delays in administering justice. That increases pressure to hurry up and resolve each case in order to get on to the next one...Texas has some particularly terrible tales. In the Eastern District of Texas, judges regularly travel 350 miles, each way, to hear cases that have piled up as a result of two district court vacancies. In that same region, one woman waited so long for a trial that she was pressured to plead guilty, since her pre-trial detention was comparable with the time she would serve under a plea deal." [HuffPost] Chuck Schumer has an old cell phone. It's not quite "Hold on, I need to do some insider trading with Bud Fox" old, but it's pretty old. Zach Carter: "He is one of the most powerful people in Washington. A legendary political strategist. A prolific fundraiser with deep ties to America's wealthiest industries. A senator who can get almost anyone in the country on the phone within minutes. But that phone will be an ancient LG flip-phone. The kind teenagers in the late 1990s deployed to tell their parents that no, they weren't partying at Jeff's house when they were, in fact, partying at Jeff's house. 'I bought 10 of them in case they run out,' says Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), laughing and extending the black phone across the table to be examined. It starts to buzz in his hand, the LED display flashing excitedly. 'It's Harry.' He flips the phone open and we go off the record." [HuffPost]OREGON TO VOTE ON WEED - Matt Ferner: "This November, Oregon voters will get to decide whether they want to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana. 'Initiative Petition 53 has qualified for the November ballot,' Tony Green, communications director for Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown, confirmed to The Huffington Post Tuesday. The petition was submitted by New Approach Oregon, a Portland-based marijuana policy reform group, earlier this month. More than 87,000 signatures have been verified by Brown's office. According to the proposed initiative text, adults 21 and over in Oregon would be able to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana at home and one ounce in public. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission would be the agency charged with regulating and monitoring the industry, similar to the regulatory model used in Washington state. Taxes collected on sales of marijuana would be distributed to schools, law enforcement and drug prevention and education programs in the state." [HuffPost] BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is an excited baby goat. CONGRESSIONAL INACTION TAKING THE FUN OUT OF PROTESTING - WaPo: "Three Capitol Police officers ascend the marble staircase to have a word with Medea Benjamin, the head of Code Pink, an antiwar protest group that has come to publicly demand that Congress send no money to Egypt. 'I haven?t seen you guys in a long time,' Officer Patrick Gray says, giving Benjamin a bearhug. 'Man, you guys used to be feistier. I remember when there used to be like 200 of you guys.' Code Pink isn?t the only group failing to flood Capitol Hill. Last year around this time, the tea party had one of its biggest rallies since 2010 on the same day that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) hosted a six-hour anti-immigration protest. Today, there?s Code Pink and a clean-air rally that appears to have resorted to child protesters. (It?s a 'play-in' where dozens of young children are holding anti-pollution signs.) It?s not to say that there aren?t protests in Washington. Just this past weekend, hundreds of people gathered outside the State Department to demonstrate against Israel?s deadly offensive in Gaza. It?s just that Congress isn?t prime real estate for a rally. 'We get arrested a lot more, and it?s harder to justify whether it?s really worth coming to the Capitol,' Benjamin tells me. 'People say there?s no sense in dealing with Congress anymore because they are so impotent and useless.'" [WaPo] COMFORT FOOD- "Memorial Tree Dedicated to George Harrison Killed By Beetles." [http://bit.ly/1jTI0nU]- Can you shred like this bus guitar player? No, you can't shred like this bus guitar player. [http://bit.ly/1ucee2u]- Website will spit out every major pop song from a year of your choosing (assuming it's a year after 1959). [http://bit.ly/1rj44t6]- Can you shred like this 10-year-old girl and her little sister? No, you can't shred like this 10-year-old girl and her little sister. [http://uproxx.it/1mAJAGh]- Short feature on Mayan cuisine in the Yucatan peninsula. [http://bit.ly/1mA636b]- Device lets you inflate 100 water balloons every minute. [http://bit.ly/Wy3gW7]- Man defeats vertically shot iPhone videos. [http://chzb.gr/1sMj1WH]TWITTERAMA@Jon Ralston: So this is what a collective conservative orgasm looks like. Thanks, Twitter. #Halbig@pourmecoffee: 23 Jump Street looks terrible pic.twitter.com/Ga75t83WD2@john_dingell: Staff has now informed me of what a Kardashian is.I'm only left with more questions.Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffingtonpost.com) or Arthur Delaney (arthur@huffingtonpost.com). Follow us on Twitter @HuffPostHill (twitter.com/HuffPostHill). Sign up here: http://huff.to/an2k2e
U.S. Spying and Europe\'s Disillusioned Pro-American Elites
Spying scandals, the systematic erosion of privacy. A corporate sector that makes mincemeat of American democracy. To understand why Europe's normally pro-American elites are so disillusioned now, it is important to look at the days of their youth a few decades back - specifically the late 1970s and early 1980s.Those years, when many people who are now Europe's leaders -- whether a prime minister, foreign minister, or what have you -- were heady times.On the tail end of the Vietnam fiasco, Marxists -- then a very prominent force in numbers all over Europe, had a ready-made opportunity. Whatever their ideology said about the United States as the leading capitalist power seemed to be born out in practice -- or so they liked to cast it.U.S. troops had been marauding around the world. U.S. intelligence officers engaged in toppling regimes in various places. And amidst all that saber rattling, U.S. multinational companies were quietly, but relentlessly going about their business expanding their market shares to conquer the globe.In short, The United States, the self-proclaimed land of liberty and justice, had little if any regard for the concerns of others.Land of liberty, really?To Marxists, it was a clear-cut case of U.S. imperialism. The United States was forcing capitalism in its rawest form down the throat of non-Americans, if need be through military means.Keen to topple the political balance on the continent and still wet-eyed from the glory days of the late-1960s, leftist student organizers were keen to press home the image of a United States caring about nothing on earth but its self-advancement and material interests.In the interest of advancing its exploitative agenda -- so the middle class students were told by Marxist agitators -- U.S. companies were keen on becoming ever bigger.In the end, a few of them -- a reigning oligopoly -- would have the tools at their disposal to rule the entire world -- and use them for the commercial advantage of the super-rich. In effect, it was argued, the United States as the über-capitalist paragon was ruled by a class of rich people who had no interest in social equity.The anti-American Marxist clap trapAll that mattered to them was to amass more material goods and financial assets. On that road toward eternal self-enrichment, they would go to any length -- including plundering the environment, impoverishing people, committing financial fraud and other crimes.Furthermore, in order to make their rule sustainable, they would appease the "masses" by feeding them a steady diet of religion and cheap consumer goods.The purpose behind that strategy was to keep the lower classes in check -- and in the naïve belief that the economic regime would be good for them. Along those lines, the Marxist claptrap went on and on.Standing up for America thenFortunately for the United States, and in fact the sustainability of capitalism itself, many European students were leery of falling for this highly dogmatic way of interpreting what was going on in the world.True, many students from Europe's middle classes realized the United States had made mistakes. Vietnam was an unnecessary folly born out of arrogance, even hubris.But that alone was no reason to condemn the United States as a whole -- or, even less so, the entire capitalist system.What did matter, in contrast, was that the United States and its military were the one force destined to keep the Soviets in check. That security -- as well as the economic opportunities provided by the Americans -- was a hands-on benefit that many Europeans could relate to.And the Marxist activists -- their extraordinary rhetorical skills and general sense of charming propaganda notwithstanding -- had to confront an insurmountable problem.After the experience with the Nazis in much of Europe, few people had any desire to fall for collectivist nirvanas, whether of the Communist or National Socialist extraction. What people yearned for was to have some space for self-advancement.They were eager to work hard, earn good money -- and feel good about their future. In short, they very much wanted to have their own slice of the American Dream.As a result, quite a few of those bourgeois students decided to stand up against all that Marxist propaganda. They ran for seats in the student parliaments, honed their rhetorical skills in weekend seminars to confront Marxist student leaders in public debates and so on.The road to belated disillusionmentFast-forward three decades. After a little bit of hesitation, even surprise, on their part, these activists-turned-establishmentarians all express one thought that almost shocks them.Looking back to those days when the Marxists were so keen on maligning the United States in idiotic ways, had these people perhaps been off target by that much?Perhaps they had gotten the decades mixed up. Or perhaps it was a case of the United States regressing in a manner that modern Europeans have a hard time comprehending.When will it get better?First, there was George W. Bush, a U.S. president, who played loose with the facts. Somebody who made amazing claims, but then was unable to back them up. Somebody who had always preached responsibility, but then chose to act in the most irresponsible manner.Then came the much more mild-mannered Barack Obama -- who ended up more or less captured by the same demons and practices that had made Bush II so unpalatable. That turn of events is precisely what concerns -- even tortures -- quite a few members of Europe's pro-American elites.They are lawyers, bankers, doctors, professors and journalists. They wish it weren't so. But events are drastic enough that, in hindsight, they now wonder whether they had been wrong in rejecting the analysis of U.S. motives on the world stage that had been advanced by all those Marxist agitators.Mind you, the analysis -- not the prescriptions about turning toward communism. But that in itself is dark enough a thought that many of Europe's professional elites are simply shocked by it.
It Shoulda Been a Giant Step for Womankind Too
When President John F. Kennedy announced the launch of the space program in 1961, he used these words:
I believe the nation should commit itself, to achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to the earth.
He spoke the literal truth -- we did put a man on the moon. But as we observe this week's 45th anniversary of NASA's first moon landing, let's mark some more little-known space history.When Kennedy made his speech, men weren't the only ones training to be astronauts. The Woman in Space Program was an Air Force-backed project at the Lovelace Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the tests to help select NASA's first astronauts were developed. By the end of the summer of 1961, nineteen women pilots had taken astronaut fitness examinations, and thirteen passed.. They were then scheduled for advanced aeromedical examinations using military equipment and jet aircraft at the Naval School of Aviation Medicine in Florida. Some had quit their jobs in order to attend. But a few days before the they were to report, the women received telegrams abruptly canceling the Pensacola testing.They tried hard to have the program resumed, writing to the president and meeting with Vice President Lyndon Johnson. A hearing was held before a special Science and Astronautics Subcommittee in the House. NASA representatives, along with Astronauts John Glenn and Scott Carpenter showed up -- to testify that the women who had passed the tests could not be astronaut candidates. Even though all of them were experienced pilots with commercial ratings, NASA required astronauts to be graduates of military jet test piloting programs and have engineering degrees. AHA! they gloated - no women qualified. Never mind that women were barred from jet piloting, and the requirements were no doubt tailored to an already hand-picked group of men. Too bad - sex discrimination in employment was still legal, and in the end the women's program was scuttled.Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in 1963. When our "giant step for mankind" took place in 1969, America, and American women, had lost out. It would be nearly a decade before any U.S. females were allowed become astronaut candidates, and Sally Ride wouldn't actually blast off until 1983.So while we're reminiscing about the glory days of the U.S. space program, remember the women who were left behind - that giant step should have been for womankind too.Listen to the 2 minute radio commentary here:
Senate, House On Collision Course On Border Money
WASHINGTON (AP) ? Senate Democrats prepared Tuesday to whack $1 billion from President Barack Obama's emergency spending request for the border, while leaving out policy changes Republicans have demanded as their price for agreeing to any money. The developments pointed to a hardening stalemate over the crisis in South Texas with lawmakers preparing to leave Washington for their annual summer recess at the end of next week.Legislation being finalized by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski would spend $2.7 billion for more immigration judges, detention facilities and other resources for the southern border, where unaccompanied kids are arriving by the tens of thousands from Central America. It also would include $225 million for Israel's Iron Dome, designed to intercept short-range rockets and mortars, as Israel battles Hamas militants, and $615 million to fight wildfires raging in the West. "The United States has an obligation to help resolve these crises but is running out of money," Mikulski said in a statement late Tuesday. "The costs are real and urgent. We don't save money by refusing to act or through delay."Yet the money for wildfires and for Israel appeared unlikely to sweeten the deal enough for Republicans to swallow it absent legal changes to allow the Central American kids to be turned around fast at the border and sent back home."We insist on having the 2008 law repealed as part of it and they're not willing to do that," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.Said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas: "Unfortunately, it looks like we're on a track to do absolutely nothing."Senate aides said the smaller spending bill, which could come to the floor to a vote next week, aimed to include enough money to handle the border crisis through the end of this calendar year amid pleas from Homeland Security Department officials who say overwhelmed agencies will be running out of money in coming months. Mikulski said she would formally unveil the legislation Wednesday."Based on a review of what is needed in calendar year 2014 to meet needs at the border, the bill reduces the president's request by $1 billion," Mikulski said.But in a conference call with governors from across the U.S., Obama and top officials said Congress needs "to fully fund our supplemental request," the White House said, warning that inaction would soon render border agents and immigration courts unable to do their jobs.More than 57,000 kids have arrived since October, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. Polls suggest the public is demanding a solution, but lawmakers could not say where a compromise might lie."I'm always willing to compromise, but not if it means taking away that element of the 2008 law and simply saying well you can round 'em up and ship 'em back without any questions," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.Senate Democrats' legislation puts them on a collision course with Republicans who control the House. They, too, have described plans to dramatically scale back Obama's spending request, but like Republicans in the Senate they have made changes to the 2008 trafficking victims law a condition for approving any money."I don't believe the American people will support sending more money to the border unless both parties work together to address these policies and actually solve this problem," House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday.The 2008 law guarantees judicial hearings for unaccompanied youths arriving here from Central America, which in practice allows them to stay in this country for years because of major backlogs in the immigration court system.Republicans want the law changed so that unaccompanied Central American kids can be treated like those from Mexico, who can be sent back by Border Patrol agents unless they can demonstrate a fear of return that necessitates further screening. Republicans say that's the only way to send a message to parents in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala that there's no point in sending their kids on the arduous journey north.White House officials have indicated support for such changes but have sent mixed signals about it under pressure from immigration advocates who say it would amount to sending kids fleeing vicious gang violence back home to their deaths. Democrats who initially were open to such changes also have grown increasingly opposed.A working group established by Boehner was to make its recommendations to the full House Republican caucus on Wednesday. Members have already made clear that changes to the 2008 law will be front and center.Meanwhile, the Homeland Security Department said Tuesday it arrested 192 people along the U.S.-Mexican border in South Texas on immigrant-smuggling charges and seized more than $625,000, part of the Obama administration's efforts to discourage and disrupt the flood of people crossing the border illegally.
Dysfunctional Newark Police Department Needs Outside Monitor, Feds Say
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) ? Newark police engaged in the excessive use of force, routinely stopped people on the street for no legitimate reason and regularly stole property from civilians, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded in a report released Tuesday that set the stage for federal monitoring of the police department that serves New Jersey's largest city.The report is the culmination of a three-year investigation begun months after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint. The report describes a police agency rife with instances of misconduct and seemingly unable or unwilling to police itself. "Most of the men and women who wear the uniform of the Newark Police Department bring enormous dedication and integrity to their jobs every day," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman in Newark said at a news conference also attended by Mayor Ras Baraka and city police officials. "But we also found an organization that is challenged in fundamental ways and has engaged in a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing in a broad range of areas."Newly-appointed Police Director Eugene Venable said he wouldn't disagree with the DOJ findings."We accept the report and we look forward to making all the corrections that have been offered to us and pinpointed in the Department of Justice report," Venable said. "We are looking forward to just rolling up our sleeves and working on these problems and solving them."The report laid much of the blame for the negative findings on what it characterized as deficiencies in the police department's systems for detecting and preventing misconduct, including its investigation of citizen complaints. For example, the DOJ investigation found that over a six-year period, only one excessive force complaint was upheld by the police department, a figure Fishman called "stunningly low" for a police department of its size.The investigation also found that over a three-and-a-half year period, 75 percent of pedestrian stops were made without constitutionally adequate reasons, where officers had a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Instead, the stops were made because people were "milling, loitering or wandering" in high-crime areas, according to Jocelyn Samuels, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C.Eighty-five percent of those stopped were black in a city where blacks make up 54 percent of the population; Fishman said the report doesn't accuse the police force of profiling but urges better compiling and analyzing of data on the stops.Theft by police department personnel is "more than an aberration limited to a few officers or incidents within the NPD," the report concluded. The problem is particularly acute in the specialized units such as narcotics, gangs and prisoner processing. The department was aware of the problem but still didn't sustain any theft complaints against the officers with the highest number of incidents, the report found.Since the ACLU complaint was filed, Newark and the Justice Department have reached an agreement in principle. An independent monitor is expected to be named by mid-September when a federal judge signs off on the agreement.Samuels said the monitoring period will be measured in years, not months, and will include benchmarks the police department must meet throughout the process.Newark joins more than a dozen other cities that have been under some form of federal oversight in recent years, a list that includes Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Seattle.The mayor, who was sworn in to his first term on July 1, said he viewed the findings as a chance to make changes."One could look at this, 22 days in as mayor, that the roof is caving in, but I look at it as an opportunity to build a new roof," Baraka said. "We are excited, not about the bad acts of a few police officers in our department, we are excited that we have the ability to transform the Newark police department."
Why the 1996 Welfare Law Is Not a Model for Other Safety Net Programs
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's upcoming poverty plan will likely showcase the 1996 welfare law, which replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) -- a block grant with fixed federal funding but broad state flexibility -- as a model for reforming other safety net programs. A careful examination of the record, however, indicates that the 1996 law's results were mixed and that if the goal is to reduce poverty, especially among the most disadvantaged families and children, there are serious downsides to embracing the 1996 law as a model. The record shows:
  1. A booming economy contributed far more than welfare reform to the gains in single mothers' employment in the 1990s, and many of those gains have since disappeared. A highly regarded study by University of Chicago economist Jeffrey Grogger found that welfare reform accounted for just 13 percent of the rise in employment among single mothers in the 1990s. The Earned Income Tax Credit (which policymakers expanded in 1990 and 1993) and the strong economy were bigger factors, accounting for 34 percent and 21 percent of the increase, respectively.While the booming economy helped many families move from welfare to work during the 1990s, the labor market situation is much weaker today. The share of single mothers without a high school degree with earnings rose from 49 percent to 64 percent between 1995 and 2000 but has since fallen or remained constant almost every year since then. At 55 percent, it's now just slightly above its level in 1997, the first full year of welfare reform (see first graph). 
  2. TANF provides a safety net for very few families and failed to respond to increased need during the Great Recession. The welfare law's relatively modest contribution to raising employment among single mothers came at a substantial price. TANF now serves only 25 of every 100 families with children that live below the poverty line, down from AFDC's 68 of every 100 such families before the welfare law (see second graph). The Great Recession provided the ultimate test of whether states could do better than the federal government in providing a safety net for poor families, as the welfare law's proponents had claimed, and the results are very unsettling. As the number of unemployed Americans doubled in the downturn's early years, TANF caseloads rose by just 13 percent nationally; in 22 states, the number of assisted families rose little or not at all. In the face of rising need, many states scaled back their TANF programs to save money -- tightening time limits and cutting already low benefit levels despite the lack of available jobs -- leaving the poorest families poorer. As a result, TANF emerged from the downturn an even weaker safety net
  3. TANF does little to help recipients succeed in today's labor market.  Chairman Ryan has spoken of the importance of helping people get the skills they need to move out of poverty. Yet TANF's extensive restrictions on what are considered acceptable work activities discourage states from providing TANF recipients with opportunities to increase their education and job skills. Restrictions on participation in vocational education and GED or high school completion programs leave many recipients unable to compete in today's labor market. And although most states' cash assistance caseloads fell substantially in the late 1990s, states generally haven't used much of the freed-up resources to improve the job prospects of poor parents with barriers to employment. Only 8 percent of state and federal TANF dollars directly support work activities for cash assistance recipients. Even when you add in funds that support working families like child care assistance and the refundable part of state earned income tax credits, states spend only one-third of their federal and state TANF dollars to promote and support work.

Dem Lawmaker Slams Rick Perry Move As \'Nothing More Than A Publicity Stunt\'
Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) announced plans on Monday to send up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, a move state Rep. Terry Canales calls "nothing more than a publicity stunt."Canales, a Democrat, joined HuffPost Live Tuesday to discuss Perry's bold move and the growing border crisis, blaming President Barack Obama for being "part of the problem." The president recently requested $3.7 billion to help deal with the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the border.Watch Canales on HuffPost Live above.
Judge Mulls Overturning Colorado Gay Marriage Ban
DENVER (AP) ? Gay couples seeking to strike Colorado's same-sex marriage ban urged a federal judge to overturn the law immediately and reject the state's request to stay a ruling until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the matter.U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore indicated Tuesday that the injunction sought by gay couples declaring Colorado's law unconstitutional is certain to be granted. But he says what he's trying to decide is whether his ruling should be put on hold. Colorado Republican Attorney General John Suthers is not opposing the injunction, but wants it to be stayed until the nation's highest court decides the issue. However, the attorney for the gay couples told the judge repeatedly that "justice delayed is justice denied."The judge says he is going to issue a ruling Wednesday.
Everything You Need To Know About The Conflicting Court Decisions On Obamacare
On Tuesday two U.S. appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on a subject that?s important to millions of people:  the availability of subsidies to help purchase coverage under the health-care law.  KHN?s Mary Agnes Carey answers some frequently asked questions about those court decisions and how they impact consumers.Q: What did the courts decide?A:  In a blow to the health law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the health law?s subsidies are available only to individuals in the 14 states and the District of Columbia now operating their own health insurance exchanges.  The federal government now runs the exchanges in 36 states.  Judge Thomas Griffith, writing the majority opinion in the 2-1 decision, said they concluded "that the ACA unambiguously restricts" the subsidies to "exchanges 'established by the state.' "In a separate ruling, a three-judge panel for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled unanimously for the Obama administration, allowing subsidies to be available to residents in all states.  Judge Roger Gregory, writing the opinion, said while the health law is "ambiguous and subject to multiple interpretations," the court decided to uphold the IRS's interpretation of the law that residents of states using the federal exchange are entitled to subsidies.Q: What was the issue the courts decided on?A:  The case centers on a brief description in the health law that says subsidies will be available "through an exchange established by the state." In implementing the law, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) interpreted the law to allow eligible consumers to receive subsidies to help purchase coverage, regardless of whether they are in an exchange run by their state or by the federal government. Opponents of the law questioned that interpretation, saying that the law as written clearly directs subsidies to state-based exchanges only.  But proponents? including several lawmakers who helped write it ? said lawmakers fully intended that subsidies be offered on all exchanges no matter if they were administered by the feds or state officials.Q  I don?t know if my state runs its own exchange. Which states do?A: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia all run their own exchanges.  Idaho and New Mexico intend to set up their own marketplace for the next enrollment period, which begins in November, but used healthcare.gov this year.Q: I live in a state with a federally run exchange, and I get a subsidy to help me buy coverage. Am I going to lose it?A: Nothing is happening immediately.  Justice Department officials said Tuesday they plan to seek an en banc review from the D.C. Appeals Court, meaning that the panel?s full contingent of 11 judges would hear the case.  Six of the court?s judges would have to agree for the full panel to review the case. The full panel is dominated by judges appointed by Democrats, 7-4.Eventually the case could be considered by the Supreme Court, but the current subsidies would likely remain in place until there is a final legal decision on the matter."In the meantime, to be clear, people getting premium tax credits should know that nothing has changed; tax credits remain available," said Emily Pierce, deputy director of the Justice Department's office of public affairs.White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the administration was confident it would prevail. "You don't need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credits that would lower their health care costs, regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who were running the marketplace."Supporters of the court challenge to the IRS interpretation on subsidies also maintain their case is strong. "The executive branch does not get to rewrite statutes just because it thinks those statutes would work better a certain way," said Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute who championed the subsidy appeals. "If people lose those subsidies it is because the courts have ruled that those subsidies are and always have been unlawful -- that the administration had no authority to administer those in the first place."Q: Are these the only two court cases?A: No. There are two other similar cases pending in courts in Oklahoma and Indiana. Q: If there are legal disputes ongoing about who qualifies to receive a subsidy, do I still have to buy health insurance?A: Yes.  The law's "individual mandate," which requires most people to purchase health insurance or pay a fine, is still in place.Q. What if I get my insurance through work?This decision applies only to policies sold on the online marketplaces. It does not affect work-based insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, regardless of where you live.Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.