(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
Washington (CNN) FBI agents raided a home of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort last month, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
Washington (CNN) FBI agents raided a home of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort last month, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TASK AND PURPOSE)
At the eleventh hour before it recessed for the summer, the Senate finally got around to some real business: passing a sweeping GI Bill upgrade that extends benefits to more veterans and gives them more time to use those bennies.
The bill — dubbed “the forever GI Bill” by supporters — had been approved unanimously by the House, but its fortunes in the Senate were uncertain after the deliberating body approved a slapdash extension of its voting session into August to consider a bevy of government appointments and a full slate of bills.
The Senate just passed by unanimous consent a sweeping set of changes/expansion to the post-9/11 GI Bill. Heads to Trump’s desk. Story TK.
Officially titled the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act after the former American Legion head who wrote out the original GI Bill’s language in 1944,
closes loopholes that had left some deploying reservists and Purple Heart recipients without any educational benefits. It also increases aid to survivors of deceased service members, restores benefits to victims of for-profit schools, expands the programs that educational assistance can be used on, and — most significantly — allows future service members to use their GI Bill benefits at any point in their lifetimes, doing away with the old 15-year “use it or lose it” limit.
“The passage of the Forever GI Bill shows just how much can be accomplished when military and veterans organizations join forces,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America, in a statement.
The new bill, which heads to President Donald Trump’s desk and is expected to be signed into law swiftly, was the product of months of round tables and negotiations between veterans service organizations, non-profits, and politicians across both sides of the aisle.
“This was a truly bipartisan effort led by some amazing organizations and leaders within Congress, all committed to ensuring veterans and their families have the opportunity for a college education post-military service,” said Jared Lyon, president and CEO of Student Veterans of America, in a statement. “I could not be more proud of the team effort that went into making this a reality. This is what collaboration looks like, and this is what leadership looks like.”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM NEWS)
There are still many in Russia who take pleasure in watching the White House consumed by infighting and stumbling from one setback to another, most recently the failure to push through health care reform and the rapid hiring and firing of foul-mouthed communications director Anthony Scaramucci. But the more common feeling around the Kremlin these days might seem familiar to many Republicans. After observing Trump in office for more than six months, there is a mix of disappointment and foreboding.
President Vladimir Putin seems particularly out of sorts. By now he has realized that betting on Trump represents a mistake he has made before with Western leaders, and his decision on Sunday to expel hundreds of diplomats and other personnel from the U.S. embassy in Moscow shows that he’s ready to cut his losses. “There was nothing more to wait for,” his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in explaining the decision on Monday. “It was all pretty obvious.”
And Putin should have known better. His closest alliances with the West have all gone the same way. Whether it was Jacques Chirac in France, Silvio Berlusconi in Italy or Gerhard Schroeder in Germany, each was built on a personal rapport with an incoming head of state, always another man, usually also a blowhard. Each collapsed when that leader was confronted by the limitations of democracy: term limits, a free press, an independent legislature, an unhappy electorate, or any of the other checks and balances built into their constitutions. But with each new attempt at a friendship with the West, Putin seemed to hope that his counterparts could override these curbs on their authority the same way Putin has done in Russia.
They have always let him down, though none quite as spectacularly as President Trump. The U.S. Congress sent Trump a veto-proof bill on July 27 imposing new sanctions on Russia for its alleged interference in the U.S. presidential elections last year, not even a month after the two Presidents met for the first time during the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. To many in Moscow, the legislation proved Trump to be a feckless leader, unable to make good on his earnest promises to “get along” with Russia. “Since Trump cannot handle his own lawmakers, it means he is weak,” the Russian political analyst Alexei Makarkin wrote in an analysisof the sanctions bill.
But the point Makarkin missed was the one that Putin also seems incapable of getting his head around: that members of the U.S. Congress, including the Republicans, are not Trump’s “own lawmakers.” They represent a co-equal branch of government, much like the judiciary that has repeatedly blocked Trump’s agenda on immigration.
That confusion over the limits on executive authority goes back to the early years of Putin’s presidency, when he established control over the Russian media and began to assume that his Western counterparts could do the same in their countries. During a summit in 2005 with then-President George W. Bush, Putin refused to believe that the U.S. commander-in-chief does not have the power to muzzle American journalists. “Don’t lecture me about the free press,” Putin said, according to Bush’s memoir. “Not after you fired that reporter.”
It took a moment for Bush to realize what Putin was talking about. “Vladimir,” he said, “Are you talking about Dan Rather?” The veteran broadcaster had been forced to apologize and resign from CBS News a few months earlier, not due to any White House fiat but because of a flawed report on Bush’s service in the National Guard. In Putin’s eyes, the incident showed that the American posturing about freedom of the press was a charade. Bush tried to set him straight. “I strongly suggest you not say that in public,” he recalls telling the Russian President. “The American people will think you don’t understand our system.”
But that’s just it – he doesn’t. A few years into my stint as a reporter in Moscow, I lost track of the number of officials who tried to explain to me that there is no such thing as an independent journalist. One official even started our interview by exclaiming that American reporters are all just secret agents in disguise. This is how Pavel Astakhov, then the Kremlin ombudsmen for children’s rights, greeted me one afternoon in 2013: “The CIA is here!” he shouted, laughing, to his assistant. “Send him in!”
He wasn’t entirely kidding. In Russian officialdom (and among the public generally) people often assume that the West functions a lot like Russia, with a tame judiciary, a subservient media and a ruling clique that pulls all the strings. This view of the world makes it easier to brush away foreign criticism: if everyone is corrupt, no one has the right to judge. But a lot of very senior officials in Moscow also happen to believe this.
They tended to believe, for instance, that Trump would be able to override the other branches of government in pursuing his agenda, especially when it comes to easing U.S. sanctions against Russia. On a deeper level, they believe that power in the U.S., like in Russia, is concentrated in the hands of the executive, while the rest is mostly democratic window dressing.
And that conviction is not likely to budge amid the latest lesson in American civics. On Russian state television channels, Trump’s failure to silence the media and force his agenda through Congress and the courts has simply been cast as further proof that the U.S. is run by some all-powerful cabal – only this time the cabal has turned on the U.S. President.
It is a new twist on a familiar narrative, and it suggests that the Kremlin still holds out hope for Trump getting a grip on the American system and steering it toward an alliance with Moscow. “We have fed the hope that the situation will change,” Putin lamented on Sunday in a televised interview. “But it seems that if this change does come, it won’t be soon.”
During the Presidential campaign season of 2016 one of the many slogans that Donald Trump spoke of was about how he would ‘drain the swamp’ which were the politicians in Washington D.C.. We are now a little more than six months into this total disaster which is the Trump Presidency so I ask you the question, how is that promise of his coming along? I am a registered Independent voter who last November could not get my self to vote for Mr. Trump of for Mrs. Clinton so I voted for Mr. Johnson. The reason I could not vote for either of the ‘big two’ was because I knew that both are habitual liars and I believed that both were/are crooks. Personality wise I have long believed that both of these two candidates are hate filled egomaniacs and I did not want either of them to be our President even though I knew that one or the other would win the job. Now six months in I believe that I should have voted for Mrs. Clinton as sickening as that prospect sounds to me. I base this thought on the reality that I believe that Hillary is at least an intelligent person who does have basic knowledge of world events and realities. I knew that Mr. Trump was an idiot but he has proven himself to be the most ignorant person to sit in the Oval Office in my lifetime.
What is even more worrisome to me is that I now believe that Mr. Trump as well as almost all of his direct family and several of his appointees are actually traitors as far as their dealings with Russia’s President Putin is concerned. As we have all witnessed Mr. Trump lies to the American people, all of our Nations Allies and to the rest of the world daily. None of our Allies now trust anything that he says because he changes the BS he says everyday. Mr. Trump by no means has emptied any of the D.C. swamp, all he has done is to empty his toilet water into that swamp. Mr. Trump has proven that he does not give a damn about the American people or anyone else except himself. I believe that if the Congress somehow were able to force him to release his taxes for the past ten years that they would find that not only is he guilty of massive tax fraud but that he has deep financial roots in Russia and now he and his family are using his position to make more billions dealing with the Communist leaders in China. As bad as most of ‘we the people’ know that the Congress and the Senate have become all that this idiot and his group of traitors have done during this past six months is to make themselves richer at the expense of the freedom of the people of Our Country. The only thing that Mr. Trump has done as far as cleaning out the D.C. swamp is if he is trying to do this by having all the Gators gag and die on all the feces he is daily dumping into that swamp.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)
Not even a week after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced he was diagnosed with a particularly brutal form of brain cancer, he stood on the Senate floor in Washington, all 99 senators and the vice president at his attention, and delivered an indictment of the modern era’s hyper-politicized environment, Republicans’ secretive health-care process and a wishful look back at the way things used to be. It was an emotional, no-holds barred moment that came right after the Senate voted 50-50 to debate a health-care vote, requiring Vice President Pence to break the tie. We’ve posted his remarks, as prepared, below and annotated it using Genius. Click on the highlighted text to read the annotations.
I’ve stood in this place many times and addressed as president many presiding officers. I have been so addressed when I have sat in that chair, as close as I will ever be to a presidency.
It is an honorific we’re almost indifferent to, isn’t it. In truth, presiding over the Senate can be a nuisance, a bit of a ceremonial bore, and it is usually relegated to the more junior members of the majority.
But as I stand here today – looking a little worse for wear I’m sure – I have a refreshed appreciation for the protocols and customs of this body, and for the other ninety-nine privileged souls who have been elected to this Senate.
I have been a member of the United States Senate for thirty years. I had another long, if not as long, career before I arrived here, another profession that was profoundly rewarding, and in which I had experiences and friendships that I revere. But make no mistake, my service here is the most important job I have had in my life. And I am so grateful to the people of Arizona for the privilege – for the honor – of serving here and the opportunities it gives me to play a small role in the history of the country I love.
I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics. They came from both parties, and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict. They held different views on the issues of the day. And they often had very serious disagreements about how best to serve the national interest.
But they knew that however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively. Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.
That principled mindset, and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today.
I’m sure it wasn’t always deserved in previous eras either. But I’m sure there have been times when it was, and I was privileged to witness some of those occasions.
Our deliberations today – not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities – authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role – are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.
Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.
Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel like a political triumph. But it’s usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.
Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces, and the liberty and justice it preserves, is a magnificent achievement.
Our system doesn’t depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections, and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning.’ Even when we must give a little to get a little. Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to ‘triumph.’
I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.
Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.
We’re getting nothing done. All we’ve really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Our healthcare insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done. We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet, and I’m not sure we will. All we’ve managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.
I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments to be offered. I will not vote for the bill as it is today. It’s a shell of a bill right now. We all know that. I have changes urged by my state’s governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill. I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially for you to support it.
We’ve tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it’s better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition. I don’t think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn’t.
The Obama administration and congressional Democrats shouldn’t have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic change as massive as Obamacare. And we shouldn’t do the same with ours.
Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act. If this process ends in failure, which seem likely, then let’s return to regular order.
Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate, and see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.
What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting much done apart. I don’t think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work. There’s greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don’t require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.
The Senate is capable of that. We know that. We’ve seen it before. I’ve seen it happen many times. And the times when I was involved even in a modest way with working out a bipartisan response to a national problem or threat are the proudest moments of my career, and by far the most satisfying.
This place is important. The work we do is important. Our strange rules and seemingly eccentric practices that slow our proceedings and insist on our cooperation are important. Our founders envisioned the Senate as the more deliberative, careful body that operates at a greater distance than the other body from the public passions of the hour.
We are an important check on the powers of the Executive. Our consent is necessary for the President to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and in many respects to conduct foreign policy. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!
As his responsibilities are onerous, many and powerful, so are ours. And we play a vital role in shaping and directing the judiciary, the military, and the cabinet, in planning and supporting foreign and domestic policies. Our success in meeting all these awesome constitutional obligations depends on cooperation among ourselves.
The success of the Senate is important to the continued success of America. This country – this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, restless, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, good and magnificent country – needs us to help it thrive. That responsibility is more important than any of our personal interests or political affiliations.
We are the servants of a great nation, ‘a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’ More people have lived free and prosperous lives here than in any other nation. We have acquired unprecedented wealth and power because of our governing principles, and because our government defended those principles.
America has made a greater contribution than any other nation to an international order that has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have been the greatest example, the greatest supporter and the greatest defender of that order. We aren’t afraid. “We don’t covet other people’s land and wealth. We don’t hide behind walls. We breach them. We are a blessing to humanity.
What greater cause could we hope to serve than helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice? That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us.
What a great honor and extraordinary opportunity it is to serve in this body.
It’s a privilege to serve with all of you. I mean it. Many of you have reached out in the last few days with your concern and your prayers, and it means a lot to me. It really does. I’ve had so many people say such nice things about me recently that I think some of you must have me confused with someone else. I appreciate it though, every word, even if much of it isn’t deserved.
I’ll be here for a few days, I hope managing the floor debate on the defense authorization bill, which, I’m proud to say is again a product of bipartisan cooperation and trust among the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
After that, I’m going home for a while to treat my illness. I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you cause to regret all the nice things you said about me. And, I hope, to impress on you again that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company.
Thank you, fellow senators.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
Sen. John McCain, 80, has been diagnosed with a primary glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor, Mayo Clinic doctors directly involved in the senator’s care told CNN exclusively. The doctors spoke directly to CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)
“We were let down by all of the Democrats and a few Republicans. Most Republicans were loyal, terrific & worked really hard. We will return!” he tweeted. He added in a separate tweet: “As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned!”
Trump’s latest comments appeared likely to intensify the current political uncertainty on Capitol Hill, where GOP leaders were debating what to do next, as well as raise anxiety among insurers that must commit to staying on the federal health exchange within a matter of weeks.
Republicans are reeling after two more GOP senators declared their opposition Monday to the party’s plan to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, likely ending their quest to make good on a GOP promise that has defined the party for nearly a decade and has been one of Trump’s top priorities.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opened the Senate on Tuesday morning touting his latest plan — to vote on a pure repeal, with a two-year delay, by taking up the House’s health-care bill. But while conservatives and Trump have been pushing for such a repeal as a last resort, it appeared unlikely that the vote would succeed.
Two Republican senators, Susan Collins (Maine) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), expressed opposition Tuesday to the repeal-only option, apparently burying it.
“I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Capito said on Twitter. “I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians.”
“This doesn’t have to be the end of the story,” McConnell said. “Passing the repeal legislation will allow us to accomplish what we need to do on behalf our people.”
McConnell said the Senate would next take up “a repeal of Obamacare combined with a stable two-year transition period.” He said that President Barack Obama had vetoed such legislation before but that “President Trump will sign it now.”
While he noted that the measure had overwhelming support among Republican senators in 2015, the Senate leader also acknowledged that his party has suffered a political setback.
“I regret that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failures of Obamacare will not be successful,” he said. “We will now try a different way to bring the American people relief from Obamacare.”
Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Jerry Moran (Kan.) issued statements Monday declaring that they would not vote for the revamped measure. The sudden breaks by Lee, a staunch conservative, and Moran, a McConnell ally, rocked the GOP leadership and effectively closed what already had been an increasingly narrow path to passage for the bill.
They joined Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Collins, who also oppose the latest health-care bill. With just 52 seats, Republicans can afford to lose only two votes to pass their proposed rewrite of the ACA. All 46 Democrats and two independents are expected to vote against it.
Lee supports the idea of moving ahead with a straight repeal of the existing law, and his spokesman, Conn Carroll, said Tuesday he would back a motion to proceed on a bill that would achieve that aim. But many centrist Republican senators have said they oppose dismantling key aspects of the ACA without an immediate replacement, given that roughly 20 million Americans have gained coverage under the law.
The confusion over next steps highlights the predicament now faced by Republicans, who have made rallying cries against Obama’s 2010 health-care law a pillar of the party’s identity. They may be forced to grapple with the law’s shift from a perennial GOP target to an accepted, even popular, provider of services and funding in many states, which could make further repeal revivals difficult.
Meanwhile, Trump and other Republicans will confront a Republican base that, despite fervent support for the president, still seeks a smaller federal government and fewer regulations.
All of these forces remained vexing factors Monday as senators bailed on the bill. And no evident solution was offered by the White House — which has been limited in its sale of the GOP plan — or from McConnell, for how to bring together a party in which moderates and conservatives are still deeply divided over the scope of federal health-care funding and regulations.
In many ways, the leadership plan did not go far enough for those on the right, but was too radical for GOP centrists. It scaled back some key ACA requirements and made deep cuts over time in Medicaid, but preserved popular provisions of the law such as a ban on denying coverage to consumers with costly medical conditions.
But the fact that it would reduce federal Medicaid funding and phase out the program’s expansion in 31 states and the District of Columbia rankled several key GOP governors and senators, who feared that their states would be saddled with the unpalatable choice of either cutting off constituents’ health coverage or facing a massive new financial burden.
The opposing pressures have left McConnell in a tough position as he has struggled to find a solution, which is why he has now thrown out the idea of moving to an immediate repeal.
Abolishing several of Obamacare’s central pillars — including the mandate that taxpayers buy coverage, federal subsidies for many consumers’ premiums and Medicaid coverage for roughly 11 million Americans — could wreak havoc in the insurance market. A Congressional Budget Office analysis in January estimated that premiums in the individual insurance market would rise between 20 and 25 percent next year and would roughly double by 2026.
At the same time, according to the CBO, the number of uninsured would spike by 18 million next year and rise to 32 million by 2026.
“For insurers, the worst possible outcome in this debate has always been a partial repeal with no replacement, which is exactly what Congress is about to take up,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president for special initiatives at the Kaiser Family Foundation, in an email. “Insurance companies would be on the hook for covering people with preexisting conditions, but with no individual mandate or premium subsidies to get healthy people to sign up as well.”
But GOP leaders had no choice but to shift gears after Lee and Moran declared they could not support the party’s current health plan.
“In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations,” Lee said in a statement.
Moran said the bill “fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare’s rising costs.”
The two senators timed the release of their statements and made clear that modest tinkering around the edges of the legislation drafted by McConnell would not be enough to meet their demands. They joined a pair of GOP colleagues in calling for a complete redrawing of the legislation that would take many months, short-circuiting McConnell’s wish to end the debate this month.
The news threw the effort to pass the legislation into turmoil, with additional Republicans weighing in on Twitter about a flawed process that must take a new direction. Trump tweeted late Monday that “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan.”
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) called for a “new approach” while Rep. Mark Meadows (N.C.) tweeted, “Time for full repeal.” White House aides, meanwhile, said they still plan to press ahead.
The setbacks appear to have left McConnell and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) with few good options. Conservatives have suggested moving a bill that would simply repeal the Affordable Care Act and set up a timeline of several years to figure out how to replace it, a politically risky move that also might lack support to pass.
Another move, which McConnell threatened recently, would be to work with Democrats to prop up the insurance exchange markets that have been imploding in some states — which probably would win passage but would infuriate the conservative base that has been calling for the end of the Affordable Care Act.
“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” McConnell said in a statement released late Monday. He revealed plans to move forward with a vote in the coming days anyway, in some ways daring his Republican opponents to begin debate and open the legislation up to amendments.
Democrats quickly jumped at the opportunity to declare the effort dead.
“This second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,” said Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.). “Rather than repeating the same failed, partisan process yet again, Republicans should start from scratch and work with Democrats on a bill that lowers premiums, provides long-term stability to the markets and improves our health-care system.”
But Ryan showed little interest Tuesday in making common cause with Democrats, telling reporters that House leaders “would like to see the Senate move on something” to keep the repeal-and-replace process alive.
In a closed-door conference meeting, according to several members present, Ryan told colleagues that the ball remains in the Senate’s court and announced no plans for further action on health care in the House. He also urged House members to be patient and not to openly vent frustration with the Senate, the members said.
Publicly, he emphasized that the Senate had “a razor-thin majority” and that passing legislation is “a hard process.”
Republican leaders had returned to the Capitol on Monday still pledging to press ahead with plans to pass a far-reaching overhaul, but the day had begun with uncertainty as the health of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) put the future of the flagging effort deeper in doubt.
In a speech on the Senate floor, McConnell said that he had spoken with McCain on Monday morning and that “he’ll be back with us soon.” The Arizonan is recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye that involved opening his skull.
McConnell had delayed action on the health-care bill until McCain’s return in hopes that he could be persuaded to vote yes. That hope faded after Lee’s and Moran’s announcements, however, with McCain issuing a statement from Arizona calling for a fresh, bipartisan start.
Senate Republicans have been under self-imposed pressure to complete their work on health care. As they have struggled to show progress, McConnell has said he would keep the chamber in session through the first two weeks of August, postponing the start of the summer recess period to leave time to work on other matters.
Kelsey Snell, Mike DeBonis and Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)
And there are potential unintended consequences for people with employer-provided insurance, currently about 170 million Americans. Allowing individuals to pay premiums from tax-sheltered accounts may create incentives for employers to stop offering coverage, say some independent analysts.
The legislation would put limits on federal spending for Medicaid, a partnership program with states to cover low-income people, the disabled and nursing home residents. The drawback is that state officials could eventually face no-win choices, such as having to pick between paying for coverage for low-wage working mothers and support services for elderly people trying to stay out of nursing homes.
As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., steers toward debate and votes next week, here is a look at some of the latest changes and major issues:
The new Senate bill incorporates the core of a proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would reorganize the market for policies purchased by individuals. As many as 20 million Americans get coverage this way, about half through subsidized markets like HealthCare.gov, created under former President Barack Obama.
Cruz would change basic requirements that Obama’s law imposed on individual plans, including standard benefits such as pregnancy, maternity and newborn care; wellness visits and mental health treatment. The law also requires the same premium rates for sick and healthy people.
Under the Cruz approach, an insurer can offer plans that don’t comply with such requirements, provided they also offer coverage that does. The problem, say critics, is that the healthy would flock to low-premium, skimpy plans, leaving the sick to face escalating prices for comprehensive coverage.
“Healthy people would have opportunities to buy lower-premium, skinnier plans, while people with pre-existing conditions not eligible for premium subsidies could find themselves priced out of insurance,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
The latest bill includes another $70 billion to help states keep health insurance affordable for older, sicker customers. But it’s not clear how those backstops would work, and the federal funding eventually would end.
Some insurers are worried because of a technical change with huge practical implications: Health plans that enroll healthier customers would no longer have to cross-subsidize those with sicker patients, as is currently required.
“We think it is unworkable,” said Justine Handelman, top Washington lobbyist for the BlueCross BlueShield Association. She predicted skyrocketing costs for taxpayers also, stuck with the bill for sicker patients.
EMPLOYER ESCAPE HATCH?
McConnell’s new bill made a major change to tax-sheltered health savings accounts, which was also advocated by Cruz.
Under the bill, health savings accounts could be used to pay premiums with pre-tax money. Under current law, they can only be used to cover out-of-pocket costs, such as deductibles and copayments.
The change is meant to level the playing field for people buying individual plans, as compared to people getting employer coverage. The value of workplace insurance is tax-free for employees and tax-deductible for employers.
But some analysts say McConnell risks undermining workplace coverage.
The upside is that the change might encourage more self-employed people to buy individual health insurance policies. The downside is that some employers may see it as an invitation to drop health benefits, particularly since the GOP also would repeal Obama’s requirement that larger companies provide health care or face fines.
“Allowing individuals to purchase insurance with pre-tax dollars eliminates one of the advantages to employer-provided insurance,” said Elizabeth Carpenter of the Avalere Health consulting firm. “That may lead some employers to consider whether or not they want to continue to offer health insurance.”
THE POOR AND THE SICK
McConnell kept some of the Obama-era tax increases used by Democrats to finance expanded coverage. But the money will be going to shore up private insurance, not the Medicaid program. Medicaid accounts for half or more of the 20 million Americans gaining coverage as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Medicaid covers low-income people, from many pregnant women and newborns, to disabled people and many elderly nursing home residents. The GOP bill would start by phasing out enhanced federal financing for Obama’s Medicaid expansion, adopted by 31 states. Perhaps more significantly, it would limit future federal funding for the overall program. As a result, it’s estimated Medicaid would cover 15 million fewer people by 2026.
The bill would add $45 billion to help states confronting the opioid epidemic pay for treatment and recovery. But that hasn’t swayed the American Medical Association, which points out that people in recovery also need comprehensive health insurance.
Republican governors don’t like the Medicaid cuts, and some have been vocal. About half the states that expanded Medicaid now have GOP chief executives.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican who oversaw a Medicaid expansion, said more than 200,000 people gained coverage in his state.
“You think about 210,000 men, women and children, senior citizens, the drug addicted, the chronically ill,” Sandoval said. “These are people that used to get their treatment in emergency rooms, if they got any treatment at all. I keep going back to the fact that they are living a better quality of life.”
Associated Press writer Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ATLANTIC NEWS AGENCY)
The revised Senate bill would keep more of Obamacare’s taxes while allowing insurers to wiggle out of its regulations. Will Republicans go for it?
McConnell needs to pick up support from both ends of the ideological spectrum. He can afford only two Republican defections, and at least 10 of his members had come out against the first version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act before McConnell abandoned plans to bring it up for a vote last month. Two of those critics, Senator Susan Collins of Maine in the center and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky on the right, appear to have hardened in their opposition this week. Collins said it would take “a complete overhaul” to win her support, and Paul has gone on a media tour to rail against the revised proposal, saying that based on what he had heard, it was even worse than the original because it repealed less of Obamacare and included a bigger “bailout” for insurers.
Within hours after the revised draft’s release, both Paul and Collins reiterated their opposition to it an d said they would vote against even bringing it up for debate. As on the final vote, McConnell needs at least 50 Republicans to sign off on the procedural motion, and with Paul and Collins apparently out, he needs every other member of his conference to agree.
McConnell all but ignored complaints from moderates to soften the bill’s deepest and most contentious cuts—a $772 billion reduction in Medicaid spending over a decade, with hundreds of billions in additional cuts in the 10 years after that. The cuts, which include a four-year phase-out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and a change in the program’s growth rate, would not begin until 2020. According to the Washington Post, McConnell told moderates to support the bill with those cuts included because they would never go into effect.
Yet like the entire bill itself, McConnell’s Medicaid bet is a risky one. Senators like Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Heller, Portman, and Capito have strongly opposed the cuts to Medicaid and were already frustrated with the secretive, top-down process McConnell has led on the health-care bill. And conservative activists and senators have pointed to the Medicaid changes as one of the few things they like about a proposal that does not truly fulfill their promise to repeal Obamacare. They had already stomached the Senate’s longer lead-time in ending the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, but will they recoil at McConnell’s reported admission that the reforms might not endure at all?
In another blow to Collins and Murkowski, McConnell also retains provisions blocking federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood and banning the use of subsidies to purchase plans that cover abortion. Both senators had criticized those aspects of the original bill, and if both Collins and Paul vote against the legislation as they’ve indicated, Murkowski’s opposition on those grounds could sink it entirely.
While Lee was undecided, Cruz told reporters that he would support the bill as long as his amendment stayed in and no other changes were made. His position appeared to mimic the new stance of conservative activist groups, who have conceded that Republicans can’t fully repeal the Affordable Care Act but in recent days made the adoption of Cruz’s amendment striking at its core regulations their final demand. Even Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist who has prioritized the repeal of Obamacare’s tax increases, issued a statement signaling he was okay with McConnell’s decision to keep some of them now as long as the leadership committed to getting rid of them in subsequent tax-reform legislation. Norquist told me in an interview last month that keeping the taxes on the wealthy even temporarily was “a bad idea.”
Illustrating McConnell’s challenge in navigating the bill to passage, the changes that Cruz and Lee are demanding could solidify opposition among moderates or lose even more votes among Republicans leery of doing anything that threatens protections for people with preexisting conditions. The health-care industry is aligned against the proposal, which would essentially create separate insurance markets for sick and healthy people. Even the insurance industry’s top lobbying group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, came out in public opposition to the amendment after staying quiet through much of the Senate debate. Whether the Cruz amendment stays in the bill is in doubt. A senior GOP policy staffer said Thursday the provision was put in brackets in the bill text because “the policy is continuing to be worked on as members react to it.” Republicans have asked the Congressional Budget Office to score versions of the bill with and without the Cruz policy, but it’s unclear whether the report released next week will fully assess the amendment.
“If you like Obamacare and you want to repair it, you can,” Graham said on CNN. “If you want to replace it, you can.”
The idea is in line with an earlier proposal from Cassidy and Collins that would have allowed states to choose whether they kept Obamacare or not. That plan went nowhere, but with Republicans nearing a stalemate on health care, the senators are betting that their colleagues will give it another look.
Americans are you sick and tired of the D.C. politicians playing with your healthcare and with your ability to pay for it? Obamacare, Trump-care, repeal and replace, repeal and don’t replace, this amendment and that amendment, are you sick of the political noise and of the politicians not giving a damn about you or your family? Personally I am sick of both political parties who only cater to the Lobbyist and not the voters. This latest GOP Healthcare plan showed once again that the Republican so-called Leadership only cares about the Lobbyist as they released copies of the Bill to Lobbyist before even releasing it to other ‘rank and file’ Republican Senators. For 7 years Republican Lawmakers whined, complained, threatened and promised to repeal and replace ‘Obamacare’ right away as soon as they were in a position to do so. Yet after all of that time they didn’t even have the beginning of any plan.
Here is my plan, yet not just my plan as I have seen a few other people voice this same opinion in writing and verbally. It is a simple plan and it is the most ‘Constitutional’ plan that I believe exist. If indeed if these bought and paid for politicians believe in the Constitution and the Scriptures about all people being created equal and that all people should be treated as equals then there is only one Healthcare program that should be for all people. The concept is simple and it should be legal as it is and has been in place for some folks for decades now. I will quit talking and just spit it out now.—I do not know anything about the plan that covers all of the Senators and Congress men and women and the President but what ever that plan is—that should be the plan that all of the American people have with no exceptions. After all, if it is good enough for ‘our public servants’ then it is good enough for their supposed bosses, ‘We The People’ then it is good enough for the American people also, isn’t it?
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