Supreme Court Upholds Nationwide Health Care Law Subsidies

ACA_newestWASHINGTON—The Supreme Court saved the Affordable Care Act on Thursday for the second time in three years.

The High Court rejected a challenge to the law, which would have caused thousands of North Carolinians to lose their health coverage.

By a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that federal tax credits called for in the Affordable Care Act are legal. The income-based subsidies help make health insurance more affordable and are crucial to its success.

Opponents argued that a single phrase in the law prevented the government from providing subsidies in the 34 states that don’t have their own marketplaces. That includes North Carolina.

But Thursday’s ruling means the nearly half-million North Carolinians who currently receive the subsidies will keep them.

“We will not go backwards and more and more people will get the health care they need to protect their families,” said Ron Pollack, Founding Executive Director of Families USA.

Chief Justice John Roberts again sided with the court’s liberal wing in defending the law. He wrote: “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.”

Justice Antonin Scalia was among the three no votes. His dissent dripped with disdain:

“We should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” Scalia wrote, suggesting the court partly owns the law now that it’s twice upheld it.

The Affordable Care Act is still unpopular in some quarters, but the law is a survivor. It’s withstood more than 50 repeal efforts in the House, and now two Supreme Court rulings. Shortly after the ruling, President Obama delivered a statement from the White House Rose Garden.

“Today is a victory for hardworking Americans all across this country whose lives will continue to become more secure in a changing economy because of this law,” said President Barack Obama.

It’s also a victory for President Obama, with the High Court reaffirming his legacy issue. And while Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation blasted the court’s ruling and the president’s health care law, President Obama says the matter is settled.

Statement from President Obama:

I applaud the Democrats and Republicans in Congress who came together to give the United States the chance to negotiate strong, high-standard agreements for free and fair trade that protect American workers and give our businesses the opportunity to compete. With bipartisan majorities, Congress also voted to expand vital support for thousands of American workers each year, and to bolster economic relations between sub-Saharan Africa and the United States. Of course, we still have more work to do on behalf of our workers, which is why I’ll continue to encourage Congress to pass robust trade enforcement legislation that will help us crack down on countries that break the rules. But this week’s votes represent a much-needed win for hardworking American families.

As President, I’ve spent the last six and half years fighting to grow our economy and strengthen our middle class, and that remains my top priority today. I believe we should make sure that the United States, and not countries like China, write the rules of our global economy. We should support more good jobs that pay good wages. We should level the playing field so that our workers have the chance to compete and win. That’s what this new legislation will help us do, and I look forward to signing these bipartisan bills into law as soon as they reach my desk.

Sen. Thom Tillis Tours UNC for AIDS Research

thom_tillis1CHAPEL HILL–U.S. Senator Thom Tillis is getting an up close look at the fight against HIV and AIDS.

He toured UNC’s Genetic Medicine Building on Wednesday. This month, UNC-Chapel Hill announced a public-priave partnership with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

The two will work together to find a cure of HIV/AIDS. Much of the lab work will be at the Genetic Medicine Building.

“This means a lot not only to the state but also to the world with 36 million people affected with HIV,” said Sen. Tillis.

School leaders would like him to push Washington to increase funding. The school receives millions of dollars in federal funding through the National Institutes of Health.

“Biomedical research is a public good and it is important that the public fund or otherwise, it will not reach its full promise,” said Dr. William Roper, Dean of the UNC School of Medicine.

“When we find a cure for HIV, it freezes up so many other resources to cure so many other diseases that the nation faces and the world faces” said Tillis.

Tillis will tour other institutions to assess any needs before heading back to Washington.

– Chris Williams

North Carolina Native Loretta Lynch Sworn in as U.S. Attorney General

Loretta_Lynch_Sworn_In_0427WASHINGTON, D.C- North Carolina native Loretta Lynch is now officially the nation’s first female African-American US Attorney General. She will be sworn in Monday in Washington D.C.

She was sworn-in by Vice President Joe Biden late Monday morning.

Some of her family members living in North Carolina drove to D.C. Sunday  so they could be there to watch the swearing-in ceremony.

Lynch thanked her colleagues at the Justice Department and her family for supporting her on her path to Attorney General.

“If a little girl from North Carolina who used to tell her Grandfather in the fields to lift her up on the back of his mule so she could ‘see way up high Granddaddy’ can grow up to become the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the United States of America we can do anything,” said Lynch.

Lynch had to wait five months for the Senate to confirm her as attorney general. Both North Carolina Senators voted against her.

She is taking over as the country’s chief law enforcement officer during a busy time. The Justice Department is right now dealing with police involved shootings that have made national headlines and pending settlements with major banks. Lynch replaces Eric Holder.

Lynch was born in Greensboro and she grew up just outside of Durham. Her younger brother Leonzo Lynch is the Senior Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Charlotte. He said his sister has always been committed to fighting for equality and justice, and said he has learned a lot from his sister.

Loretta Lynch Wins Confirmation as Attorney General

Loretta_Lynch_0423WASHINGTON — Loretta Lynch has won confirmation to serve as the nation’s attorney general, ending months of delay.

The vote was 56-43 in the Senate Thursday.

Lynch will replace Eric Holder and become the first black woman in the nation’s top law enforcement post. She currently serves as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Her confirmation was delayed for months for a variety of reasons, most recently a lengthy dispute over abortion on an unrelated bill to address sex trafficking.

Lynch boasts strong credentials and a reputation as a no-nonsense prosecutor, but many Republicans opposed her because of her support for President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

President Obama Addresses Working Mothers at Charlotte Town Hall Meeting

obama_clt_15CHARLOTTE — President Barack Obama arrived in Charlotte for an event intended to rally support for his economic proposals.

The president on Wednesday visited the ImaginOn educational library and theatre arts center. He held a town hall meeting with the groups BlogHer and SheKnows about working family issues.

It was no surprise he addressed issues such as equal pay for women, just days after Hillary Clinton announced her run for president. But what was surprising, her name didn’t come up once.

On his 19th trip to North Carolina, Obama seemed more casual and comfortable, fielding questions and even joking along the way.

The invite-only guests were ready with their questions, looking for answers that impact working families.

Take mother of two daughters, Ashley Taylor. She asked the president how she’s expected to encourage her children to succeed, when women continue to fight for equal pay.

“I am not only trying to be a role model for them by showing them the value of hard work in what I’m doing, but also to encourage them for the future,” said Taylor.

“I have two daughters and I expect them to be treated the same as someone else’s sons when it comes to their opportunities on the job,” said Obama.

In the hour the president spent at the library, he fielded questions from working mothers, bloggers, a registered nurse and a student.

Questions included issues like early education, teacher pay, childcare tax credits and student loans.

He shared several personal stories, answers that always came back to working women.

“Companies have to want to make it happen, they have to be intentional about it. They’ve got to pay attention to it. Companies that pay attention to it, end up succeeding recruiting more women, promoting more women and those companies end up being more successful,” said Obama.

On helping women run small businesses, Obama said he would like to see people take advantage of loans through the SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration).

“We want to make sure that we’re continuing to innovate in our economy, that’s ultimately how jobs get created.”

The president took opportunities to slam Republicans and tout the Affordable Healthcare Act, but there was not one mention of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

His town hall meeting ended with another story about his daughters and equal pay for women.

“I think what we need to do is build a movement, create political pressure, educate people, make sure women know and husbands know that this is a family issue and economic issue.”

Obama this week is using Tax Day to draw new attention to family-friendly tax proposals that haven’t exactly been embraced by congressional Republican leaders. He’s holding events aimed at rallying support for his own tax proposals while detracting from Republicans’ plan to repeal an inheritance tax on large estates.

On Monday, Obama accused Republicans of trying to boost the richest Americans at the expense of poorer taxpayers.

– Kate Gaier and Associated Press

Senate to Begin Hearings for President Obama’s Attorney General Nominee

WASHINGTON—Confirmation hearings begin Wednesday for U.S. Attorney General nominee and North Carolina native Loretta Lynch.

Lynch is from Greensboro and is currently the U.S. Attorney for the eastern district of New York. She is scheduled for two days of confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she is expected to face tough questions on immigration and polcie misconduct among other issues.

Earlier this month the Judiciary Committee released the evaluations by the executive office for United States attorneys.

The report found no significant problems with morale in her office and said she was ‘exceptionally well-qualified’ for her current position.

NC Senators Push For Offshore Energy Exploration

RALEIGH – Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr are proposing a plan to allow the federal government to get energy sources from North Carolina’s coast.

The Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf Access and Revenue Share Act of 2015 will allow it to open up natural gas and oil reserves off the Atlantic Coast. Tillis says the development of natural gas would create 55,000 jobs in the state by 2035 and generate $4 billion in royalty revenue.

He says it will also preserve the coastline by prohibiting any energy exploration within 30 miles of the nearest shore.

Obama Cites Economy in State of the Union Address to Congress

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama stressed what he calls “middle class economics” in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

The president said our economy has made great improvements, but to help the middle class, the president proposed a new childcare tax cut, paid sick leave, an increase to the minimum wage and equal pay for women.

“Middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement – and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year,” said President Obama.

Obama dared Republicans opposed to hiking the $7.25 minimum wage to either boost it or try supporting a family of four or less on $15,000 a year.

Obama said there are policies and proposals that garner bipartisan support. But he warned he’ll veto any efforts to roll back Americans’ health insurance or weaken Wall Street regulations.

The president also talked about American’s involvement in the international fight against ISIL terrorists and encouraged Congress to pass legislation to fight cyber attacks.


President Obama Aims to Influence 2016 Debate in State of the Union

WASHINGTON—President Obama will deliver his sixth annual State of the Union address Tuesday night.

During the speech, senior administration officials say he will pitch a new economic plan aimed squarely at the middle class.

“Focusing on working families will be a priority of his fourth quarter and will be certainly included within the message of his State of the Union,” said Valerie Jarrett, Senior White House Advisor.

Administration officials said the President will call on the Republican-led Congress to raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and give tax breaks to middle-class Americans—that includes a $500 credit for families in which both spouses work and expanded education and child care credits.

President Obama is also expected to repeat proposals that he has spent the past two weeks promoting. That includes making two years of tuition at a community college free for eligible students, guaranteeing paid time off for family or sick leave, expanding access to high-speed broadband and strengthening the country’s cybersecurity.

“Make sure that families’ bank accounts are safe, to make sure that our public infrastructure is safe,” said the President.

During his weekly address, President Obama said he’s inviting several special guests who will sit with First Lady Michelle Obama during the speech. He said all are Americans who wrote him last year to share stories of how they have benefited from his policies.

“Stories like these give us reason to start the new year with confidence,” said President Obama.

According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 50 percent of Americans approve of the job he is doing as president. That is his best approval rating since the spring of 2013.

The poll also said Americans are slightly more optimistic about the nation’s economy.

– Geoff Bennett

President Obama Pushes for Paid Sick Days for All Workers

WASHINGTON — On Thursday, President Obama renewed his push for paid sick days and paid family leave for the millions of American workers who don’t have either.

In North Carolina, nearly 1.5 million workers don’t have access to paid sick leave.

President Obama says paid sick days and family leave should be a worker’s right, not a privilege. They are benefits typically enjoyed by higher-salaried employees.

Now the president wants many more American workers to have the same flexibility.

“Just imagine: Your child gets sick, you get sick. You have no choice. You can’t afford to stay home. So you send your child to school sick, and that’s a gut-wrenching thing for a parent. Or you go to work sick, and that’s not good for you, it’s not good for your colleagues,” said Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Advisor.

The President is calling on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act—a long-stalled bill that would grant workers up to seven days of paid leave each year when they or family members have medical needs. Most American workers are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off while keeping their jobs — through the Family and Medical Leave Act passed in 1993.

But employers are not required to pay their workers during that leave, and many do not.

Jarrett said paid sick leave would help American companies become more competitive.

“Study after study demonstrates that if you have practices in place that recognize the needs of the worker, workers are more loyal, they are more productive. They have less turnover and that leads to profit at the bottom line,” she said.

The President is also taking executive action to give at least six weeks of paid parental leave a year to all federal employees. But his demand that private-sector workers have paid sick days could fall on deaf ears in the Republican-controlled Congress, where GOP leaders have long complained about government mandates on businesses.

The White House counters that the work-family balance has shifted more than 60 percent of American households with children have two working parents.

– Geoff Bennett