Early returns on ObamaCare's first day

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 1, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DANIEL BLOMBERG, BECKET FUND FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: What the Obama administration is saying is, "You sign this permission slip, this permission slip that provides the things that your faith says you can't participate in. You do that or we're going to fine you millions of dollars a year." That is what they've said in court over and over and over again. That is what the law says, and that is what hopefully the Supreme Court will not allow.


JOHN ROBERTS, GUEST HOST: Daniel Blomberg is the legal counsel for the Beckett Fund, which filed the suit on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which led to Justice Sonia Sotomayor last night issuing an injunction suspending the contraceptive mandate in ObamaCare.

Let's talk about that with our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

A.B., start us off here. Is it a surprise to you at all that this injunction, and Sonia Sotomayor had a busy night last night.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: I was very surprised at the injunction.

ROBERTS: She was at the New Year's celebration.  A surprise at the injunction?

STODDARD: I thought if it was going to happen, it would have happened earlier.

I do think that this is problematic, even though the administration said if they sign an exemption, they are going to be exempted. I think at this point they are not certain they still won't be fined. It is in -- it is not happening in advance of ObamaCare. All of these debates took place way in advance of this law becoming a reality. Now it's real and people have been hearing about it nonstop since October 1st. Sticker shock, doctor shortages, not the right hospitals, losing your coverage and losing everything that you thought you could keep.

This is going to be, I think, politically very difficult for Democrats if this drags on, because they're have to defend it going into an election year when the rest of ObamaCare seems so unpopular.

ROBERTS: Steve, the latest numbers for enrolling in ObamaCare, 2.1 million. But Forbes magazine did an analysis of those who have lost their insurance as a result of the new restrictions in ObamaCare and that number is about 6 million people.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, and we should be careful about saying 2.1 million people enrolled. It is not clear at all that those people have enrolled. These are people who have signed up --

ROBERTS: Or paid their premium.

HAYES: Or paid their premium. And that I think is the key. And CMS yesterday, or maybe the day before, on a conference call, when asked to break the number down further, the 2.1 million number down further, declined to do so and declined to make distinctions between those who have signed up or in effect put the product in their shopping cart online, and those who have actually made a payment. The payment is key. That makes you enrolled.  And by not agreeing to provide that information, it makes a mockery of their repeated claims to be transparent and eager to provide information.

ROBERTS: Charles, the contraceptive mandate, do you think this will be discussed by the whole Supreme Court? Sonia Sotomayor has asked for a response from the administration by Friday. Will it get to the whole panel?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think it will. I think this is something that the administration will probably regret. They had a kind of a solution where they said, you wouldn't have to purchase the contraceptive coverage, you would get it for nothing and the insurers would have to provide it. A, the question is where does the government get the authority to order and insurer, a private company, to give something away?  And second, it doesn't really help if you are a nun, and this is truly offensive, this is obviously a ruse and the Lord can see through it. And that's why they have rejected it.

And it is the arrogance of these people in Washington who promulgated a rule in which if you are a church, you are exempt, because that is how a secularist understands religion. That is what happens on Sunday. But if you remember the Little Sisters of the Poor and your whole life is a charity and that in itself is an expression of your religiosity, they don't understand that. And that is just a job. It is not religion, and thus you are subject to a mandate that should never have been in there.

I think it will be an issue and it compounds all of the other stuff, people losing coverage and doctors and sticker shock and all of that. But this is a matter of offending people of conscious in a way that is entirely unnecessary. I think it will haunt them.

ROBERTS: Do you think it will pass constitutional muster, A.B.?

STODDARD: I just don't know what will happen, what the next legal decisions and steps it will take. It is unclear.  But I think that Charles is right, no matter what is decided in the political arena, this debate is going to offend a lot of people because of the backdrop of basic widespread anxiety about this law.

HAYES: But I do think we are likely to see an interesting debate in the coming months on how for-profit corporations are treated and nonprofit corporations are treated. You have I think 18 of 20 nonprofits who have applied for this injunction to have it be granted, but in the past Sonia Sotomayor herself denied Hobby Lobby on a similar kind of request for an injunction for that kind of relief.

KRAUTHAMMER: It is easy to deny Hobby Lobby. It is harder to deny the Little Sisters of the Poor.

HAYES: Well I think it's impossible to deny those. I don't think it will be easy.

KRAUTHAMMER: In terms of A, the constitution, but also public relations.

HAYES: Well PR is terrible to deny the Little Sisters of the Poor. I think the Hobby Lobby case has some real momentum behind it. Basically the government is basically arguing that you give up your religious freedom once you engage in business. That doesn't make any sense on its face.

KRAUTHAMMER: There will be a lot of cases we'll be hearing about.  Steve said a moment ago, A.B. and Charles, you have to be careful about the numbers. And one of the numbers we don't know is of the supposed 2.1 million people who have registered for health care insurance, how many of them are young people? And if you look at that study out of Harvard, it found 57 percent of young people are against ObamaCare.

KRAUTHAMMER: You'll notice if you ever have a number that looks favorable to ObamaCare, like the 2 million, it is immediately announced and it is exact, point one. Somebody once said a decimal point is an economist's way showing he has a sense of humor. It is exactly 2.1. But they have no idea how many are enrolled, or they tell us and they have no idea, and they have no idea how many are the young and the healthies. A selective release of information, which is highly suspicious.

STODDARD: And Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius herself said we are only halfway through the six month enrollment period.  And so if no one is fined until April, we really don't expect that we'll have a handle on how many young people entered the pools to balance out the risk until months from now.

ROBERTS: Certainly a lot of has been made about today being the start of ObamaCare, but really that hard deadline is March 31st, so a lot to talk about prior to that date.

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