President Trump has made it a habit of running to the Supreme Court for help in buttressing his controversial new policies. The latest example: The court’s 5-4 order yesterday allowing his administration to begin implementing new “public charge” rules.
These rules will make it harder for immigrants to enter or stay in the United States if they’re considered likely to use taxpayer-funded benefits like Medicaid, or, in other words, become a “public charge.” They’re among a slew of actions Trump has taken to limit legal and illegal immigration, fulfilling promises dear to his voter base.
By lifting a lower court’s nationwide injunction, the court’s conservative majority is allowing the new "public charge" standards to be implemented immediately (all four of the court’s liberal justices dissented). That’s a major, albeit temporary, boost for the administration, which has been defending its "public charge" rule in courtrooms around the country.
The order was quickly decried by immigrant advocates, who said the new rules go far beyond what was intended to be only a narrow limitation on who can obtain a visa.
“Now the Supreme Court has allowed an interpretation that would dramatically expand [public charge] beyond what any court has previously understood the public charge regulation to mean,” Nicholas Espiritu, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center, which is involved in some of the litigation, told me.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.):
Just stepped out of the impeachment trial to news that the Trump Administration can begin implementing its cruel public charge rule that will threaten the lives & livelihoods of so many hardworking families in WA & across the country. This is just wrong.https://t.co/G7uoefwOZI— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) January 27, 2020
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.):
This is shameful. America shouldn’t have a wealth test for admission. It’s a place where millions of people are descendants of immigrants who came w nothing & made a life.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 27, 2020
The American Dream isn’t a private club with a cover charge - it’s the possibility of remaking your future. https://t.co/qKm7BuUhXI
Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University:
This is terrible news indeed. We will have a blog coming on the implications -- which are severe.— Joan Alker (@JoanAlker1) January 27, 2020
However it is important to spread the word that children's enrollment in/eligibility for Medicaid is NOT impacted by this decision -- even for immigrant families. #FIGHTTHECHILL https://t.co/JeEaNCmllF
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst at the American Immigration Council:
Terrible news, and an undoubtedly political opinion. The Supreme Court's record on immigration injunctions in the Trump era is completely indefensible.— Aaron Reichlin-Melnick (@ReichlinMelnick) January 27, 2020
There is no defensible argument that halting the public charge rule is causing irreperable harm to the government. None. https://t.co/U8ofEOpDQx
The court battles are far from over. They’ll continue playing out, and the rule could still get permanently struck down by appeals courts.
Past presidential administrations would have been more likely to let that appellate process play out rather than going directly to the Supreme Court, as the Trump administration did earlier this month. Two weeks ago, the Justice Department filed an emergency request with the court for it to lift the nationwide injunction.
But it has become commonplace for the Trump administration to seek “emergency motions” to block the rulings of lower courts. The administration has sought stays at least 21 times in just three years, according to research by University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck.
Compare that to George W. Bush, who sought stays just five times, and Barack Obama, who asked for stays just three times, both over eight years as president.
Of course, the Trump administration appears to only be asking the Supreme Court for emergency relief when such a move could suit its interests. The tables were turned in the Texas v. Azar case challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
Earlier this month, the Democratic-led states defending the law asked the high scourt to hear the case this year, while the Justice Department said there was no need to expedite it. Democrats are eager for more election-year attention to the lawsuit, which is considered politically damaging to the administration. The Supreme Court, however, has indicated it likely won't hear the case this year.
“It’s reasonable to ask why the Supreme Court feels it should jump in prematurely, ahead of the appellate courts, in some instances and not others and why those decisions fall across partisan lines,” Espiritu said.
Using the “public charge” consideration to help determine who can get a green card is nothing new. It was used by immigration officials in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.
But up until now, they only considered whether an immigrant had received cash assistance or long-term, institutionalized care. Now the Trump administration is adding a long list of additional factors to be weighed, such as whether someone enrolled in Medicaid, collected food stamps or participated in public-housing programs.
These considerations — which also include whether a person is unemployed, dropped out of high school or is not fluent in English — will now be weighted heavily in the determination of whether to award legal status. Of the roughly 544,000 people who apply for green cards annually, 382,000 are in categories that would make them subject to the new review, according to the government.
Politico’s Alice Miranda Ollstein:
This policy massively expands the definition of a "public charge" so that legal immigrants who enroll in Medicaid will be penalized. Medical groups say it's already had a chilling effect before taking effect, with immigrant families fearing to seek care https://t.co/1u18yPDnIB https://t.co/Yv77cXORZq— Alice Miranda Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) January 27, 2020
REMINDER: This is not a ruling on whether or not the policy is constitutional. Those arguments are still pending at lower courts and could eventually make their way back to SCOTUS. This just allows the gov to implement it for now.— Alice Miranda Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) January 27, 2020
Sarah Pierce, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, noted Illinois is the only state where the administration can't enforce its new rule. There, a lower court has blocked its implementation:
AHH, OOF and OUCH
AHH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its highest level travel warning yesterday amid the spread of the increasingly virulent coronavirus, urging U.S. citizens to avoid nonessential travel to China. And this morning: "Hong Kong announced dramatic measures to stem the flow of mainland Chinese into the territory, closing two railways, ferries and cross-border tour buses. Flights to mainland China will be slashed by half, and individual visas to Chinese will no longer be issued, starting Thursday."
Concerns are growing that a quarantine will not be enough to quell the spread of the virus, which has now infected more than 4,565 people in China and killed 106, our Post colleagues report.
Beijing expanded its quarantine to more than 50 million people, but officials say 5 million people already left Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Cases of the pneumonia-like illness have been confirmed in France, South Korea, Japan, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Canada, Sri Lanka and Germany.
The CDC said yesterday it was investigating 110 possible cases in 26 states, with five U.S. cases confirmed.
Federal officials also announced they will expand passenger screening from five to 20 airports. “Details of the expanded surveillance are still being formulated,” our colleagues report. “The CDC already has quarantine facilities in place at 20 ports of entry, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Anchorage, Honolulu, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Miami and Houston.”
— Tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google are working to prevent the spread of misinformation about the deadly outbreak.
Already, seven groups that work with Facebook have issued nine fact checks, rating numerous claims about the coronavirus as false, including references to fake treatments.
“The three Silicon Valley tech giants long have struggled to curtail dangerous health disinformation, including posts, photos and videos that seek to scare people away from much-needed vaccines. But the companies face their great test in the wake of a potential pandemic,” our Post colleague Tony Romm reports. “ … Already, Facebook and its peers have tried to battle back pervasive conspiracy theories, including a hoax that wrongly claims U.S. government officials secretly created or obtained a patent for the illness. Some of the misinformation has circulated through private Facebook groups — channels that are hard for researchers to monitor in real-time — that came into existence after news first broke about the coronavirus.”
OOF: Former vice president Joe Biden accused Trump of making it more difficult to respond to the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak in an op-ed in USA Today.
Biden cited things Trump said during the 2014 Ebola epidemic, writing that he “sought to stoke fear and stigma” amid the crisis. At the time, Trump called Obama a "dope" and "incompetent" and railed against the administration's evidence-based response, Biden wrote.
“Trump’s demonstrated failures of judgment and his repeated rejection of science make him the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health challenge,” Biden writes. “ … To be blunt, I am concerned that the Trump administration’s shortsighted policies have left us unprepared for a dangerous epidemic that will come sooner or later.”
The Democratic presidential hopeful also chided Trump for proposing funding cuts for the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for International Development — “the very agencies we need to fight this outbreak and prevent future ones,” he writes.
OUCH: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plans to spend more than $1 million on a national television campaign targeting Republican lawmakers for not getting more done on the issue of prescription drugs.
The House Democratic campaign arm’s effort will include 30-second ads that will air on MSNBC, CNN, Univision and on local cable markets, the Hill’s Jessie Hellmann reports. In the ad, a narrator says that it’s “time for Mitch McConnell and the Republicans to start working for us, not the special interests.”
“We are going to make sure every voter out there understands we as Democrats — House Democrats specifically — are doing everything we can to fight to bring down the cost of prescription drugs while Mitch McConnell and House Republicans are doing nothing but get in the way,” DCCC Chairwoman Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) told Jessie.
HEALTH ON THE HILL
— First in Health 202: House Republicans, frustrated that Democrats focused on passing their own drug pricing bill at the end of last year, insist there’s still room to work together on a measure capping seniors’ out-of-pocket costs in Medicare’s prescription drug program.
Reps. Greg Walden (Ore.) and Kevin Brady (Texas), the top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce and House Ways and Means committees, sent a letter to the committees’ Democratic ranking members, calling on them to “return to the negotiation table" and consider a bill with bipartian provisions. They said negotiations stopped following the introduction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) signature plan.
“The House spent the last three months considering Speaker Pelosi’s H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Act, a bill we continue to oppose and has no chance of becoming law,” Walden and Brady write in the letter. "While H.R. 3 will not become law, H.R. 19, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, includes bipartisan provisions that can become law.”
The letter calls on Democrats to work with the GOP on creating out-of-pocket limits for seniors once they reach the catastrophic threshold and letting seniors divide financial burdens over the course of a plan year instead of all at once.
— The White House, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are together working on a plan to lower seniors’ out-of-pocket costs for their insulin medication, Axios’s Caitlin Owens and Jonathan Swan report.
But HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who previously served as the president of top insulin manufacturer Eli Lilly, is not participating in the effort.
“Details are unclear or undecided. One idea is to give insurers an incentive to offer plans with lower cost-sharing, a source familiar said,” they write. “…The Trump administration has either dropped a lot of its drug-pricing ideas or has seen them held up in court. But a meaningful insulin policy could be a big political win, especially because insulin is a poster child for runaway prescription drug prices.”
— And here are a few more good reads:
- The House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security holds a hearing on fentanyl.
- The House Education and Labor subcommittee on health, employment, labor and pensions holds a hearing on “Addressing America’s Maternal and Infant Health Crisis.”
- The House Ways and Means Committee holds a hearing on “Legislative Proposals for Paid Family and Medical Leave.”
- The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health holds a hearing on “Improving Safety and Transparency in America’s Food and Drugs” on Wednesday.
- The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee holds a hearing on “Caring for Veterans in Crisis” on Wednesday.
- The Senate special committee on aging holds a hearing on the Society Security impersonation scam on Wednesday.
- The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee holds a hearing on “Pending Legislation and Nomination” on Wednesday.
- Politico hosts an event on “Navigating the Health Care Maze” on Wednesday.