Polls show Oba­macare as an ef­fec­tive GOP weapon

Is­sue helped Cuc­cinelli gain ground

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY DAVE BOYER STEPHEN DINAN

Democrats spent heav­ily to win Vir­ginia’s gover­nor­ship, but Repub­li­cans said Wed­nes­day that the closer-thanex­pected loss by state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ken­neth T. Cuc­cinelli II pro­vided a clear demon­stra­tion of how they can ex­ploit the un­pop­u­lar­ity of Oba­macare next year to win the con­gres­sional midterm elec­tions.

Al­though Oba­macare’s dis­as­trous roll­out dom­i­nated news cy­cles for much of Oc­to­ber, Mr. Cuc­cinelli didn’t cam­paign hard on the is­sue un­til the fi­nal days of his race against Demo­crat Terry McAuliffe. Some an­a­lysts credited the be­lated tac­tic with help­ing Mr. Cuc­cinelli close what had been a dou­ble-digit gap in two re­cent polls to a fi­nal loss of just 2.5 per­cent­age points, de­spite be­ing out­spent by the Demo­crat by $15 mil­lion.

“If we had had five more days, or 5 mil­lion more dol­lars, we would have won,” said Michael McKenna, a Repub­li­can strate­gist in Vir­ginia who pre­dicted that can­di­dates in the next two na­tional elec­tions will study the re­sults closely. “Oba­macare is toxic. Demo­cratic se­na­tors up in ei­ther 2014 or 2016 are prob­a­bly ter­ri­fied at what hap­pened in Vir­ginia.”

For­mer Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can, agreed that Mr.

to re­porters out­side the court af­ter the hour­long ar­gu­ments con­cluded.

The court is con­sid­er­ing whether Greece, a sub­urb of Rochester, N.Y., can in­clude cer­e­mo­nial prayers be­fore all Town Board meet­ings, de­liv­ered al­most ex­clu­sively by Chris­tian clergy. The tra­di­tion con­tin­ued with­out protest un­til early 2008, when res­i­dents Su­san Gal­loway, who is Jewish, and Linda Stephens, an athe­ist, protested that only Chris­tians were de­liv­er­ing prayers at town coun­cil meet­ings.

A de­ci­sion against the prayer could have a broad im­pact on re­li­gious ob­ser­vances at pub­lic events and gath­er­ings across the United States. Prayers be­fore school board meet­ings, high school ath­letic events, char­ity events and many more of­fi­cial and semi-of­fi­cial pub­lic gath­er­ings could be put un­der a le­gal cloud.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has sided with the New York town.

Jus­tice Elena Ka­gan in­ter­rupted the open­ing ar­gu­ments of the town at­tor­ney, Thomas Hun­gar, to ask whether the Supreme Court could open the oral ar­gu­ment with an ex­plic­itly Chris­tian prayer from a min­is­ter, sim­i­lar to the prayers of­fered be­fore Town Board meet­ings in Greece.

Re­peat­edly cit­ing the sem­i­nal 1983 case Marsh v. Cham­bers, Mr. Hun­gar ar­gued that the court has clearly al­lowed re­li­gious prayers be­fore leg­isla­tive meet­ings, but not nec­es­sar­ily be­fore ju­di­cial as­sem­blies. The Marsh case up­held the Nebraska Leg­is­la­ture’s prac­tice of prayer be­fore its ses­sions, cit­ing in part the “unique his­tory” of early U.S. prac­tice in al­low­ing leg­isla­tive prayers.

“The town of Greece has a leg­isla­tive prayer prac­tice that is con­sis­tent with the tra­di­tions of this coun­try from its very found­ing,” Mr. Hun­gar told re­porters af­ter the ar­gu­ments. “Congress, from the very be­gin­ning of our his­tory, has had a leg­isla­tive prayer prac­tice that is com­pa­ra­ble to what the town of Greece has been do­ing.”

Jus­tice An­thony M. Kennedy ap­peared to be unim­pressed by an ar­gu­ment that leg­isla­tive prayer should be al­lowed sim­ply be­cause of his­tor­i­cal tra­di­tion.

“The essence of the ar­gu­ment is that we’ve al­ways done it this way, which has some force to it,” Jus­tice Kennedy said. “But it seems to me that your ar­gu­ment be­gins and ends there.”

Mr. Hun­gar ar­gued that the plain­tiffs would re­quire the gov­ern­ment to cen­sor prayers and de­ter­mine what is con­sti­tu­tional and what isn’t, which would be “con­trary to our tra­di­tions of re­li­gious lib­erty.”

Some of the jus­tices voiced deep con­cern about hav­ing judges or gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials eval­u­at­ing and even censoring the con­tent of prayers at gov­ern­men­tal meet­ings.

“Peo­ple who have re­li­gious be­liefs ought to be able to in­voke the de­ity when they are act­ing as cit­i­zens and not as judges,” Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia said.

Dou­glas Lay­cock, rep­re­sent­ing the two women who chal­lenged the prayers in New York as a vi­o­la­tion of the First Amend­ment’s ban on gov­ern­ment es­tab­lish­ment of re­li­gion, said there were im­por­tant dif­fer­ences be­tween the Nebraska case and the Greece law­suit.

Mr. Lay­cock ar­gued that the prayers were sec­tar­ian and that Greece res­i­dents who show up at board meet­ings be­cause they have busi­ness with the town of­fi­cials are in ef­fect “co­erced” into ac­qui­esc­ing with prayers, what­ever their per­sonal re­li­gious in­cli­na­tions.

Af­ter Jus­tice Sa­muel An­thony Al­ito Jr. asked Mr. Lay­cock to re­cite a prayer that was non­sec­tar­ian, the at­tor­ney sug­gested that a prayer be of­fered to “the Almighty” or “the Cre­ator.” This sug­ges­tion was shot down by Jus­tice Scalia be­cause it could of­fend “devil wor­ship­pers” or athe­ists.

“I don’t think it’s pos­si­ble to com­pose any­thing that you could call a prayer that will be ac­cept­able to all of th­ese groups,” Jus­tice Al­ito said.

Mr. Lay­cock con­ceded that it might be im­pos­si­ble to treat ev­ery­one equally with­out elim­i­nat­ing prayer en­tirely, but he ar­gued that is not the real is­sue with this case.

“This case is about Chris­tians ag­gres­sively im­pos­ing their faith on other cit­i­zens with the power of gov­ern­ment. That is not right, and that is not part of the Amer­i­can tra­di­tion,” Mr. Lay­cock said af­ter the ar­gu­ments.

Jus­tice Ka­gan sug­gested that the ques­tion was whether pub­lic prayer meet­ings with ref­er­ences to Je­sus Christ should be al­lowed, and that it was a dif­fi­cult ques­tion to an­swer.

“The court lays down th­ese rules, and every­body thinks that the court is be­ing hos­tile to re­li­gion and peo­ple get un­happy and an­gry,” she said. “And ev­ery time the court gets in­volved in things like this, it seems to make the prob­lem worse rather than bet­ter.”

Out­side the court­house, sev­eral pro­test­ers against leg­isla­tive prayer held signs read­ing “I didn’t vote for Je­sus,” “Keep your Theoc­racy off my Democ­racy” and “Hi Mom, I’m an Athe­ist.”

Two mem­bers of Faith and Ac­tion con­ducted pub­lic prayers while the ar­gu­ments took place in­side the Supreme Court build­ing. The Rev. Pat Ma­honey, pres­i­dent of the Chris­tian De­fense Coali­tion, and Peggy Nien­aber, chief of pro­gram for Faith and Ac­tion, prayed for each of the Supreme Court jus­tices as they were sur­rounded and mocked by some of the pro­test­ers.

“God, we thank you that this is a coun­try where we can dis­play our be­liefs pub­licly, no mat­ter what those be­liefs may be,” Mr. Ma­honey said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius tes­ti­fies Wed­nes­day be­fore the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee about the dif­fi­cul­ties plagu­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Af­ford­able Care Act. The mas­sive fail­ure of Health­Care.gov is get­ting crit­i­cism for its lack of proper cy­ber­se­cu­rity pro­tec­tions. Story, A3.

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