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The Brief: March 28, 2012

Attorney General Greg Abbott delighted in an unexpectedly bruising day for the Obama administration at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Greg Abbott speaks at the state Republican 2010 watch party at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch on election night.

The Big Conversation:

Attorney General Greg Abbott delighted in an unexpectedly bruising day for the Obama administration at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

On the second day of oral arguments over federal health care reform, the Supreme Court turned its focus to the portion of the Affordable Care Act that would require Americans to buy health insurance.

Though many legal experts expected Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's swing vote, to side with the law's supporters, his questioning appeared to indicate otherwise.

“Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?” Kennedy asked at one point, adding, “You are changing the relationship of the individual to the government.”

Kennedy's questioning, as well as a barrage of skepticism from the court's conservative justices, including Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, seemed to surprise Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the Obama administration's lawyer, who was said to have looked far less assured during arguments than Paul Clement, the lawyer representing the 26 states — including Texas — that have challenged the law.

As court watchers like Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's legal correspondent, deemed Tuesday "a trainwreck for the Obama administration," Abbott celebrated the day's proceedings.

“We knew that if we could get the court to agree to focus [on how the law] infringed on individual liberty, we had chance of winning,” he said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “We were pleased to walk out of the courtroom today knowing that five justices of the United States Supreme Court focused their powerful questions against the U.S. government on that very issue.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who also attended the hearing, issued similar optimism. “As government grows, individual freedom shrinks," he said afterward. "That’s what this case is all about." (Find an enhanced timeline of Texas players' reaction to Tuesday's arguments here.)

In court today, the court will hear 90 minutes of arguments over whether health reform can be enacted without the mandate. It will then take up the question of whether Congress overextended its authority in forcing states to comply with the law.


  • If the Supreme Court upholds federal health care reform, Texas may see a surge in patients needing primary care. And as this Tribune interactive of primary-care workforce shortages from 2001 to 2011 shows, the number of physicians in most Texas counties won't likely be able to keep up with demand. Watch Tribune partner KTRK-TV's story on the issue here. And check out this interactive map to see where the state's most active Medicaid providers are located.
  • Texas Democrats bashed Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney in a conference call on Tuesday ahead of his visit to Dallas today for a fundraising event. "Mitt Romney has repeatedly proven he'll do and say anything to get elected," said state Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio. "He's locked himself into extreme positions and Republicans have [cut their chances] of making inroads with the Latino population." Castro was joined by U.S. Reps. Charlie Gonzalez of San Antonio and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, who said they had arranged the call to give Romney "a proper Texas welcome."
  • The Daily Texan, the student-run newspaper at the University of Texas at Austin, caught the attention of the likes of Gawker and The Huffington Post on Tuesday for running on its opinion page a cartoon mocking the media's reaction to the Trayvon Martin case. The cartoon shows a mother reading to her child, “And then ... the big bad white man killed the handsome, sweet, innocent colored boy,” while holding a book titled “Treyvon [sic] Martin and the Case of Yellow Journalism.” The paper's editorial board later issued a statement saying that while it recognized "the sensitive nature of the cartoon’s subject matter … it is the policy of the editorial board to publish the views of our columnists and cartoonists, even if we disagree with them." Stephanie Eisner, the cartoon's author, later told the Texan: “I feel the news should be unbiased. And in the retelling of this particular event, I felt that that was not the case. My story compared this situation to yellow journalism in the past, where aspects of news stories were blown out of proportion with the intention of selling papers and enticing emotions.”

"The governor hopes that folks will vote for viable, active candidates. That does not include him."Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for Rick Perry, to the Austin American-Statesman on votes still being cast for the governor in primary contests


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