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Political Notebook

Kagan’s record on abortion stirs bipartisan unease

FATHERHOOD INITIATIVE — President Obama greeted audience members yesterday after speaking about fatherhood at an event at the Town Hall Education Arts and Recreation Campus theater in Washington. Obama announced plans to help promote responsible fatherhood. FATHERHOOD INITIATIVE — President Obama greeted audience members yesterday after speaking about fatherhood at an event at the Town Hall Education Arts and Recreation Campus theater in Washington. Obama announced plans to help promote responsible fatherhood. (Charles Dharapak/ Associated Press)
June 22, 2010

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One week before Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan begins her Senate confirmation hearings, both liberal and conservative groups are criticizing her record on abortion rights.

The antiabortion group Americans United for Life, which calls Kagan an abortion-rights advocate, recruited failed conservative Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork for a news teleconference this week to denounce her.

At the same time, the liberal Center for Reproductive Rights released a report yesterday casting doubt on the depth of Kagan’s support for abortion rights.

The seemingly conflicting developments highlight the degree to which key players — along with the public — can do little better than guess at many of Kagan’s views on major constitutional issues.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which doesn’t take positions on Supreme Court nominations, released a report yesterday concluding that Kagan has demonstrated intellect and knowledge of the law but has not weighed in on most constitutional issues. Free speech and presidential powers, on which Kagan has written extensively, are exceptions, the ACLU said.

“The simple truth is that there is much that we do not know about Kagan’s views on the Constitution and the court,’’ the ACLU’s report said. “The available record offers very few clues about her constitutional views on criminal justice, immigration, voting rights, prisoners’ rights, due process, the Establishment Clause, and a host of other recurring Supreme Court topics.’’ -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Obama to warn insurers against big rate increases
WASHINGTON — President Obama, whose vilification of insurers helped push a landmark health care overhaul through Congress, plans to sternly warn industry executives at a White House meeting today against imposing hefty rate increases in anticipation of tighter regulation under the new law, administration officials said yesterday.

The White House is concerned that health insurers will blame the new law for increases in premiums that are intended to maximize profits rather than cover claims. The administration is also closely watching investigations by a number of states into the actuarial soundness of double-digit rate increases.

“Our message to them [insurers] is to work with this law, not against it; don’t try and take advantage of it, or we will work with state authorities and gather the authority we have to stop rate gouging,’’ David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, said in an interview.

The law does not grant the federal government new authority to regulate health care premiums, which remains the province of state insurance departments. But with key provisions taking effect this summer and fall, the Obama administration has repeatedly reminded insurers — and the public — that it will expose industry pricing to what the health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, has called a “bright spotlight.’’

The White House meeting coincides with yesterday’s release of a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health policy research group, which found that premiums for the policies most recently purchased by individuals increased by an average of 20 percent.

Insurers have attributed the increases to skyrocketing medical costs and to the economic downturn, which has prompted healthier consumers to forgo health insurance, leaving a sicker and costlier pool to cover. -- NEW YORK TIMES

Reluctant budget director to leave Obama’s Cabinet
Peter R. Orszag will leave his job as White House budget director in July, according to someone familiar with his plans, removing a major player from President Obama’s economic team.

Orszag, 41, an economist who previously spent nearly two years as director of the Congressional Budget Office, somewhat reluctantly joined the Cabinet after the 2008 election and never planned to stay more than two years. The president recently urged Orszag to remain, but the calendar for drafting the next budget weighed in favor of Orszag’s leaving sooner. So did Orszag’s personal calendar: He is getting married in September. -- NEW YORK TIMES

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