This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," March 29, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the Supreme Court hears a major challenge to ObamaCare's birth control mandate as the administration announces yet another enrollment delay. Are red state Democrats starting to panic?
Plus, as concern grows over Vladimir Putin's next military move, can President Obama rally our European allies and calm their fears with the promise of U.S. energy exports?
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
The Affordable Care Act returned to the Supreme Court this week as justices heard a major challenge to law's birth control mandate. Oral arguments in the sp-called Hobby Lobby case came the same day the administration announced yet another delay in the health care law, giving consumers who claimed to have had difficulty signing up for insurance through the federal exchanges more time despite Monday's official enrollment deadline.
Joining the panel this week, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; editorial board member, Joe Rago; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.
Kim, let me go to you first.
This latest delay, what are the consequences? What does it say about whether there will be any deadline at all?
KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: That's just it. We don't think there will be any deadline at all. All you have to do to qualify for this is check a little box on the website that said you tried to get health care and you just didn't meet the deadline. And in terms of how long that will go on, the regulations say, at least at the moment, it's indefinite. There is no final deadline in terms of when you no longer qualify for that.
STRASSEL: So this is a sort of a permanent extension.
GIGOT: Does this suggest, Joe, that the individual mandate, which the president has said was so crucial -- we had to have it for the law because you need that incentive, that stick to buy insurance, to finance health care in this program for everybody -- does this mean the individual mandate is especially a fiction?
JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: I think it's definitely been eroded a lot. It's probably in hospice, if you want to take a medical analogy, and it's probably time for the death panel.
At some point -- this is by far the most unpopular part of this law. And I think that helps explain why they've been delaying it, why they've been relaxing it.
GIGOT: Now, they did announce this week there are six million enrollees in ObamaCare. Is that a real number? How firm is that?
RAGO: It's not firm at all. The Health and Human Services Department is really harming its credibility with neutral observers. They say we don't have any information, when things are going wrong. When they find something, where they think it might be going right, they immediately release it on a dime.
GIGOT: We don't know how many people are paying their premiums of that six million.
RAGO: We don't know how many people are paying their premiums. We don't know how many people have succeeded in getting through some of the ongoing enrollment glitches. And if things are going so well, why announce another delay, number 38 since last year?
GIGOT: Dan, no --if things are going so well, you wouldn't know it from the way the Senate Democrats are behaving. They are starting to roll out an alternative to suggest that we need to fix this. How is that going?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, it's interesting in its political implications. These are all moderate Senate Democrats. They have proposed something --
GIGOT: Who all voted for ObamaCare.
HENNINGER: Who all voted for ObamaCare. They still say they support it. But they've got an alternative called the Copper Plan. There are the three other metals and now we've got copper. The interesting thing about it is, if you read through it, the word "choice" keeps coming up. They want to give people more choice, which I think is a word that Milton Friedman made famous when it came to health insurance. They also want to sell insurance across state lines.
GIGOT: This is sort of Republican ideas --
HENNINGER: That's the point.
GIGOT: -- the president refused to endorse.
HENNINGER: Refused back when the legislation was being created. He got no Republican votes. And now you've got moderate Democrats talking the way Republicans did back then, which suggests that the reality is that the law itself, it's just got -- political support is dropping away completely.
GIGOT: Kim, are you going to see more Democrats support this kind of strategy or -- that failed in this recent House election, you know, fix -- mend it, don't end it. But is this the only alternative they have?
STRASSEL: You are. The fix-it approach is the strategy for any Democrat who is facing electoral pressures right now. It was six that started out with this. You'll see more join it.
The problem though, of course, Paul, the bigger one, is that Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, is never going to allow a vote on this.
STRASSEL: So this is really an election-year strategy. They want to look as though they've got problems themselves with the law and solutions for fixing it, knowing that none of this is ever going to come into being. I think that is actually one of their political weaknesses because voters know that, too.
GIGOT: Joe, let's turn to these court cases. First, the Hobby Lobby religious liberty case at the Supreme Court. You read the oral argument. You know what the justices do. How will this turn out?
RAGO: I think you probably had six justices, including Stephen Breyer, one of the liberals, really kind of discomforted by the arguments the administration was making here. We're talking about a legitimate religious minority. They object to the owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores --
RAGO: -- object to just a few forms of contraception. They are saying, look, we --
GIGOT: But they, under the law, are forced to provide for their employees.