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The Brief: March 27, 2012

After a day of largely procedural debate, the Supreme Court today will turn its focus to the main attraction in the epic challenge to federal health care reform.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

The Big Conversation:

After a day of largely procedural debate, the Supreme Court today will turn its focus to the main attraction in the epic challenge to federal health care reform.

The court on Monday heard oral arguments over whether the court should be barred from hearing the case until 2014, when penalties in the Affordable Care Act for not buying health insurance go into effect.

As expected, the justices appeared ready to allow the case to proceed, citing past exceptions to the 1867 act that bars individuals from challenging tax laws until after they are due.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, in Washington for the proceedings, appeared pleased to see the judges willing to hear the full case. "It’s so important that everyone across the entire country know whether [the law] is constitutional or unconstitutional at this time, as opposed to having to wait to have the tax imposed, pay the tax and then challenge the issue,’’ Abbott said outside the court after Monday’s arguments, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Today was a preliminary matter.’’ (Find other Texas leaders' reaction to day one here.)

Today, debate shifts to the question at the heart of the case: whether the federal government can force individuals to buy health insurance. The judges have allotted two hours for arguments.

The Obama administration will argue that the Constitution's commerce clause allows the federal government to require the purchase of health insurance. The 26 states challenging the law, including Texas, will counter that the commerce clause only authorizes the regulation of activity, not inactivity, as regulated by the penalty imposed for not buying insurance.

Find more here on what the debate means for Texans. In partnership with the Tribune, KTRK-TV's Ted Oberg recently reported on the parts of the reform already in effect that played a key role in the treatment of one Texas child.

Culled:

  • Recently exonerated in the 1986 murder of his wife, Michael Morton talked with the Tribune's Brandi Grissom on Monday about spending 25 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. As he restarts a relationship with his son and fights to see that the people who put him in prison are held accountable, "life is really, really good," he says.
  • U.S. Senate candidate Craig James has received the endorsement of Alice Walton, the major GOP donor and Wal-Mart heiress, The Dallas Morning News reports. Walton has donated generously over the years to Texas Republicans, including James' primary opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, whom she has given $181,000 since 2003, the Morning News notes. "It shows that Craig's campaign has momentum," a James spokesman said of Walton's endorsement. "And it should concern the other campaigns that a class of donors thought to be locked up by those in the race for months is willing to publicly endorse Craig."
  • The Texas Education Agency will not investigate suspiciously high test scores in Houston and Dallas schools recently uncovered by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, according to The Associated Press. The Journal-Constitution on Sunday published a study indicating that hundreds of districts' scores across the nation exhibited patterns similar to those in many Atlanta schools that were found to have cheated. In response, TEA said that it leaves enforcement up to individual districts and that the study used suspect methodology.

“Our people are in the right places. They’re doing the things to become delegates."Ron Paul to CNN on his chances of winning the Republican presidential nomination

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