PFAW Edit Memo: The Lesson From One Year of Health Care Reform—Pay Attention to the Courts

From: Michael Keegan, President, People For the American Way
To: Interested Parties
Date: March 23, 2011
Re: The Lesson From One Year of Health Care Reform—Pay Attention to the Courts

Today marks that one year anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), legislation which protects Americans from insurance company abuse and drastically expands health coverage in this country. 

The PPACA was a huge step forward for our country, but the sustained attack against health care reform didn’t stop when the bill was signed. Almost immediately, the opponents of the bill opened a new attack on the legislation in a different venue: the federal courts.

For decades, the far right has invested an enormous amount of energy in placing ideological extremists on the courts. That campaign has created fallow ground for lawsuits that push an extreme political agenda and a pinched view of the Constitution.  From Ledbetter v. Goodyear to Citizens United v. FEC, we’ve seen the courts legislate radical changes in the law overturning decades of precedent. It’s no surprise that over the past year conservative activists have won a few high-profile cases against health care reform.

All signs point to the PPACA being upheld in the long run, as it should be. But the lesson we should draw from the first year of health care reform is that all Americans need to keep a close eye on the judicial branch of government. Republican Senators are still dragging their feet and delaying confirmation of President Obama’s judicial nominees despite the growing number of judicial vacancies. That’s not an accident—it’s a deliberate strategy to ensure a conservative, pro-corporate dominance of the third branch of government.

Progressives need to remember that our laws are only as good as the courts that judge them. We need qualified, fair-minded jurists on the bench who understand that the Constitution and our laws include strong protections for individual Americans.

It’s a critically important fight, and, working together, it’s one we can win.

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