Second Court Strikes Down Obamacare Subsidies In Federal Exchanges

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SARAH HURTUBISE
Reporter

Another federal court has struck down an IRS rule that gives Obamacare subsidies to customers in federally-run exchanges.

The United States District Court in Oklahoma ruled Tuesday in Pruitt v. Burwell that the IRS rule extending health insurance tax credits to Obamacare exchange customers in states that chose not to build their own exchange is illegal.

The Obama administration’s rule is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or other not in accordance with law,” according to federal district Judge Ronald White.

The question comes down to the repeated instruction in the text of the Affordable Care Act that advanced premium tax credits are to go only to customers of exchanges “established by the state.” The plaintiff in this case, Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt, argues that Congress’ text says customers in Oklahoma, which doesn’t run its own exchange, aren’t eligible for the subsidies.

The decision follows two highly-charged appeals court cases. The Washington, D.C. Circuit Court ruled in Halbig v. Burwell that Obamacare’s tax credits are only applicable to the several state-run exchanges; but hours later, the Fourth Circuit Court ruled that the IRS was within its rights to make the adjustments in its extension of the subsidies. (RELATED: Federal Court Takes Down Obamacare)

But at the Department of Justice’s request, the D.C. Circuit Court agreed to re-hear its case with a full court — which has been packed with three new judges appointed by President Obama since Senate majority leader Harry Reid deployed his nuclear option to avoid Republican opposition last fall.

With liberal judges outnumbering conservatives now by eight to five, it’s likely that the court will take back its initial ruling and approve the subsidies, taking the pressure off the Supreme Court to hear the case.

But Pruitt’s victory in Oklahoma paves the way for another court split in the future. The Department of Justice will presumably appeal the district court’s decision to a United States appeals court, and if the Obama administration loses again, the Supreme Court will once again be presented with a split decision by two equal courts below it. That may prompt the justices to take the decision into their own hands.

British hostage in new ISIS propaganda video panning Obama strategy

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The Islamic State (IS) has released a third video showing John Cantlie, a British journalist held prisoner for two years, in which he delivers a scripted propaganda speech criticizing US President Barack Obama’s strategy against IS in Iraq and Syria.

Cantlie slams Obama’s tactics of using airstrikes and coalition plans to use Iraqi troops, Kurdish Peshmerga and Syrian rebels to fight the IS. The journalist delivered a response to Obama’s recent speech on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which he described as “prideful chest banging.”

“It was all disappointingly predictable; America is good, the Islamic State [formerly ISIS] is bad; and they will be defeated using aircraft and a motley collection of fighters on the ground,” he said, commenting on Obama’s speech.

Criticizing the US airstrikes in Iraq, Cantlie said, “Air power is good at taking out specific targets, but it is not good at taking and holding ground. For that you need effective and disciplined troops and it’s hard to see how this hodgepodge army with a long history of underperforming is going to be any form of credible infantry.”

The British hostage says organizing the Iraqi army will take months, and he dismissed the Free Syrian Army as an “undisciplined, corrupt and largely ineffective fighting force.” Cantlie adds that weapons, that the West provides to Syrian rebels, are sold by the rebels on the black market and then end up in the hands of IS fighters.

The five-minute, 34-second video was uploaded on Monday night. Cantlie, just like in the previous two videos, sits behind a desk in an orange jumpsuit, a reference to Guantanamo Bay detainees.

In an effort to rebuild the Iraqi army to be able to fight against IS, the Iraqi military command launched a campaign to re-enlist soldiers and officers who previously abandoned their units, so-called deserters. The New York Times reports that the de facto amnesty for deserters shows that the Iraqi army “desperately needs experienced soldiers.”

Abu Ismail, the owner of a plastics factory that was targeted on Sunday by what activists said were U.S.-led air strikes, gestures while standing at his destroyed factory in the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa September 29, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)Abu Ismail, the owner of a plastics factory that was targeted on Sunday by what activists said were U.S.-led air strikes, gestures while standing at his destroyed factory in the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa September 29, 2014. (Reuters/Stringer)

The video appears to have been filmed before last Friday, as there is no mention of the British decision to join the US-led campaign. Cantlie makes no reference to British or US action in the regions, including US-led coalition airstrikes on Syrian oilfields and IS checkpoints, over recent days.

While the video was released on September 29, in the video Cantlie only talks about Obama’s 9/11 address and how the media reacted to his speech.

Cantlie quotes approvingly from a New York Times article critical of Obama’s strategy, written a day after Obama’s speech.

At the end of the video, Cantlie says “the Islamic State say they welcome meeting Obama’s under-construction army.”

Cantlie, who has worked for the Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times, was kidnapped in Syria at the end of 2012. He had previously been captured in Syria in July 2012, but escaped after one week with the help from the Free Syrian Army.

Since August, the militant group released three gruesome videos showing the beheadings of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and most recently of the British aid worker David Haines. The IS has threatened to execute another British hostage, Alan Henning, if airstrikes hitting IS targets don’t stop.

Meanwhile, the UK has completed five missions over northern Iraq. RAF Tornado jets have not dropped any bombs on IS targets yet, however, and are currently engaged in reconnaissance missions, gathering intelligence of the area and searching for suitable targets.

Just like in the first two videos, Cantlie concludes by saying, “Join me again for the next program.”