Today’s Headlines – March 21, 2012

The New York Times: House GOP Lays Down Marker With New Budget Plan
House Republicans thrust their vision of a smaller government, a flatter tax code and a free-market Medicare system into the 2012 election season on Tuesday, banking that fears over surging federal deficits will trump longstanding voter allegiances to popular government programs (Weisman, 3/20).

The Washington Post: GOP Budget Plan Cuts Deeply Into Domestic Programs, Reshapes Medicare, Medicaid
House Republicans laid down a bold but risky election-year marker Tuesday, unveiling a budget proposal that aims to tame the national debt by reshaping Medicare and cutting deeply into Medicaid, … while reshuffling the tax code to sharply lower rates. Congressional Republicans plan to use the document to demonstrate their willingness to tackle the nation’s difficult fiscal problems head-on (Helderman and Montgomery, 3/20).

For more headlines …

The Wall Street Journal: Ryan Plan Revives Deficit Duel
Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget instantly became the centerpiece of an election-year debate over the size of government on Tuesday, thrusting back into the spotlight a topic—the deficit—that has been largely overlooked by the presidential candidates. … The Budget Committee will begin finalizing the bill Wednesday. … The Democrat-controlled Senate is all but certain to reject the Ryan plan, if it considers it at all. … Mr. Ryan also reiterated his plan for turning Medicare from a program that pays directly for health care into one that would subsidize insurance premiums for seniors, allowing them to buy either a private plan or traditional Medicare (Bendavid, 3/20).

Politico: Paul Ryan Budget Plan Triggers Wars Anew
Congress returned full throttle to the budget wars Tuesday with rival plans and accusatory rhetoric, spiced by November’s elections and the bad memories of last summer’s debt battle. House Republicans moved first, rolling out their plan to cut by half the deficits in President Barack Obama’s February budget — but in the process also walking away from agreements made in the Budget Control Act last August (Rogers, 3/20).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: New GOP Medicare Plan Borrows A Key Idea From ‘Obamacare’ And Romney’s Mass. Overhaul
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the top GOP budget writer, borrowed the idea of insurance exchanges, a big pooled marketplace, from the health care law enacted in Massachusetts when GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was governor. Ryan wants to set one up for Medicare. Obama borrowed the same idea to make exchanges available to uninsured working families through his law (3/21).

Politico: Health Law Heads Back Into Spotlight
For those who support the health care reform law, the trick next week will be to get the public to see it as a bunch of pieces — the parts everyone likes. For the opponents, the goal is to paint it as one big, scary law: “Obamacare” (Haberkorn, 3/20).

NPR: White House Preps For Court’s Health Care Ruling
Most of the president’s speeches these days focus on jobs or gas prices. But the health care law is his signature achievement, and it always gets a mention at political events. … The law will be back in the spotlight next week when the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments about the Affordable Care Act. The White House is gearing up to defend the policy, sending top administration officials out across the country to explain the law’s benefits. The focus this week is on women, who are key health care consumers and an all-important demographic for the president’s re-election bid (Liasson, 3/21).

USA Today: Health Care Law’s Defenders Look To George Washington
The father of our country could play a key role in defending what opponents of President Obama’s health care law call the mother of all mandates. Seeking precedents for the law’s requirement that Americans buy health insurance, some constitutional scholars are reaching back 220 years to a law signed by George Washington: the Militia Act of 1792 (Wolf, 3/20).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Few Options If Top Court Strikes Part Of Health Law
If the high court opted only to reverse the law’s unpopular individual mandate, which requires most adults to purchase health insurance, the Obama administration could look to several alternatives to ensure that enough people participate in coverage to make the law work as envisioned (Morgan, 3/20).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Summary Box: Supreme Court Has A Range Of Options In Ruling On Obama Health Care Law
The Supreme Court has several options in ruling on President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, from upholding the law to striking it down in its entirety (3/20).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Healthcare Law Not Resonating With Public Yet
Because key provisions of the law have yet to kick in, relatively few people have benefited from it thus far, making Democrats’ defense of it a tough sell (Levey, 3/20).

Politico: IPAB Repeal Hits Ideological Snags
A mix of conservative ideologies came into sharp collision Tuesday as Republicans readied to repeal yet another piece of President Barack Obama’s health-care law. The problems came when Republicans were preparing legislation to wipe out the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel created as part of the Democrats’ health-care law. Its purpose: Keep Medicare spending down (Sherman and Palmer, 3/20).

The Washington Post: Illinois Primary: Romney Wins GOP Contest
Mitt Romney won the GOP presidential primary in Illinois on Tuesday, walloping rival Rick Santorum. … Earlier Tuesday … he offered support for the 2013 budget released Tuesday by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). That budget aims to lower the top tax rate paid by the wealthy while at the same time seeking to wipe out U.S. deficits by 2040. That would be done, in part, by reducing spending on federal benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid (Fahrenthold and Rucker, 3/21).

The New York Times: Despite Illinois Loss, Santorum Rallies Forces At Gettysburg
Rick Santorum delivered his own Gettysburg address twice Tuesday night after he lost the Illinois primary in a blowout to Mitt Romney. … He jabbed at President Obama’s health care overhaul, which has become his chief object lesson when he talks about freedom being threatened. Under that health care law, he said, “every single American will depend on the federal government,” adding, “that’s why this election is so important (Seelye, 3/20).

The New York Times: Generic Drugs Prove Resistant To Damage Suits
Across the country, dozens of lawsuits against generic pharmaceutical companies are being dismissed because of a Supreme Court decision last year that said the companies did not have control over what their labels said and therefore could not be sued for failing to alert patients about the risks of taking their drugs. Now, what once seemed like a trivial detail — whether to take a generic or brand-name drug — has become the deciding factor in whether a patient can seek legal recourse from a drug company (Thomas, 3/20).

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Rules That States Can’t Be Sued For Denying Workers Medical Leave
States are generally immune from lawsuits seeking monetary damages, and the court’s conservative majority said in a 5 to 4 decision that the restriction should apply when the issue at stake is the sick-leave provisions in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (Barnes, 3/20).

NPR: Justices Limit State Liability Under Medical Leave Act
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that states cannot be sued for money damages for failing to give an employee time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act to recover from an illness. The vote was 5 to 4 with no legal theory commanding a clear majority (Totenberg and Chen, 3/20).

Reuters/Chicago Tribune: Utah Governor Signs Law Mandating 72-Hour Wait For Abortion
Utah’s Republican governor signed a law extending a required waiting period for women seeking an abortion to 72 hours on Tuesday, even though a similar requirement in South Dakota has been blocked in court, a spokeswoman said (3/20).