GOP tax plan would provide major gains for richest 1 percent

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

GOP tax plan would provide major gains for richest 1 percent and uneven benefits for the middle class, report says

 September 29 at 2:03 PM
The analysis by the Tax Policy Center, a leading group of nonpartisan tax analysts, challenges President Trump’s promise about the effects of the plan.The top 1 percent would see their taxes drop by more than $200,000 on average, the analysis found.

But nearly 30 percent of taxpayers with incomes between $50,000 and $150,000 would see a tax increase within a decade — despite Republican promises that the plan is designed to provide relief to middle-class Americans, according to the study.

The majority of those making between $150,000 and $300,000 would also be hit with higher taxes.
This is a developing story. It will be updated.

What’s Inside Mitch McConnell’s Latest Health-Care Proposal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ATLANTIC NEWS AGENCY)

What’s Inside Mitch McConnell’s Latest Health-Care Proposal

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?

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

revised Senate health-care bill

Seeking to quell a revolt from more than one-fifth of his conference, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to forego two significant tax cuts for the wealthy and instead pour hundreds of billions of dollars back into the proposal he released two weeks ago. There’s now $45 billion to combat opioid addiction and even more funding to help mitigate higher insurance costs for low-income people and to stabilize the individual markets. An additional $70 billion would go to states to help drive down premiums, on top of $112 billion that was in the original proposal. McConnell’s target was senators toward the center of the Republican ranks, who represented the largest bloc of opposition to his first legislative draft.To woo conservative critics, the majority leader added a provision based on a proposed amendment from Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah—backed by pressure from a number of activist groups—that would allow insurance companies to sell stripped-down, inexpensive plans that don’t conform to Obamacare’s standards as long as they offer at least one policy that does. Well, sort of. McConnell’s draft includes the Cruz-Lee idea in brackets, an indication of its polarizing and therefore precarious status within the GOP health-care debate.

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.

In a speech on the Senate floor after unveiling the bill to Republicans, McConnell pleaded with his colleagues to allow it at least to come up for debate. “I hope every senator will vote to open debate. Because that’s how you change the status quo,” he said. “This is our opportunity to really make a difference on health care. This is our chance to bring about changes we’ve been talking about since Obamacare was forced on the American people. It’s our time to finally build the bridge away from Obamacare’s failures and deliver relief to those who need it.”While McConnell picked quick support from several party loyalists, most of the holdouts on the original draft remained undecided. Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said they would review the bill, as did Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, a sharp critic initially who is under intense pressure in the run-up to a reelection campaign next year. In an ominous sign for McConnell, however, Capito said in a statement she still had “serious concerns” about the proposal.

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.

Though rather cynical, it’s an assumption held by some in Washington-based on the likelihood that Democrats will win control of the House in 2018 or the presidency in 2020 and work with Republicans to put off the Medicaid cuts.While the new bill maintains most of the Medicaid cuts, it changes the formula under which hospitals would be reimbursed for treating patients that can’t pay their bill. And it would allow states some wiggle room if a public health emergency was declared or to seek a waiver to access more funds to cover the elderly and disabled, according to a summary posted by the Senate Budget Committee.

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.

Cruz has demanded the inclusion of his Consumer Freedom Choice Amendment in the underlying Senate bill as the price for his support. But the version that McConnell included was different, Lee tweeted shortly before Republicans were scheduled to see the revised bill for the first time.

Just FYI – The Cruz-Lee Amendment has not been added to BCRA. Something based on it has, but I have not seen it or agreed to it. 1/2

9:52 AM – 13 Jul 2017

I am withholding judgment and look forward to reading it. 2/2

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.

The next big test for McConnell will come early next week, when the CBO releases its analysis. The original bill fared little better with the CBO than the legislation House Republicans passed in May; the budget office found that the Senate bill would result in 22 million fewer people having health insurance after a decade. McConnell is hoping that the infusion of money into the subsidy and stabilization programs will improve that number and boost support for the bill. But if three or Republicans vote against a procedural motion to bring the proposal to the floor next week, it won’t even see a formal debate.In an indication of how dicey the revised bill’s prospects were, two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, chose the day of its release to unveil their own, competing idea for a partial replacement of Obamacare. Appearing on CNN before a crucial GOP meeting, they proposed a plan that would do away with Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates but keep most of its tax increases. But instead of funding a federal subsidy program, that revenue would be sent to the states so that they could craft their own health-care plans as they saw fit.

“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.

Senate Health Care Bill Includes Deep Cuts to Medicaid

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is the chief author of the Senate’s health care bill.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans, who have promised a repeal of the Affordable Care Act for seven years, took a major step on Thursday toward that goal, unveiling a bill to cut Medicaid deeply and end the health law’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance.

The 142-page bill would create a new system of federal tax credits to help people buy health insurance, while offering states the ability to drop many of the benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, like maternity care, emergency services and mental health treatment.

The Senate bill — once promised as a top-to-bottom revamp of the health bill passed by the House last month — instead maintains its structure, with modest adjustments. The Senate version is, in some respects, more moderate than the House bill, offering more financial assistance to some lower-income people to help them defray the rapidly rising cost of private health insurance.

But the Senate measure, like the House bill, would phase out the extra money that the federal government has provided to states as an incentive to expand eligibility for Medicaid. And like the House measure, it would put the entire Medicaid program on a budget, ending the open-ended entitlement that now exists.

 

Video

How the G.O.P. Health Bill Would Change Medicaid

The reporter Margot Sanger-Katz examines how the Republican health plan aims to roll back a program that insures nearly one in five Americans.

By MARGOT SANGER-KATZ, ROBIN STEIN and SARAH STEIN KERR on Publish DateJune 22, 2017. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »

It would also repeal virtually all the tax increases imposed by the Affordable Care Act to pay for itself, in effect handing a broad tax cut to the affluent, paid for by billions of dollars sliced from Medicaid, a health care program that serves one in five Americans, not only the poor but almost two-thirds of those in nursing homes. The bill, drafted in secret, is likely to come to the Senate floor next week, and could come to a vote after 20 hours of debate.

If it passes, President Trump and the Republican Congress would be on the edge of a major overhaul of the American health care system — onesixth of the nation’s economy.

The premise of the bill, repeated almost daily in some form or other by its chief author, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, is that “Obamacare is collapsing around us, and the American people are desperately searching for relief.”

Mr. Trump shares that view, and the Senate bill, if adopted, would move the president a great distance closer to being able to boast about final passage of a marquee piece of legislation, a feat he has so far been unable to accomplish.

Where Senators Stand on the Health Care Bill

Senate Republican leaders unveiled their health care bill on Thursday.

Democrats and some insurers blame the Republicans and Mr. Trump for sabotaging the law, in part by threatening to withhold subsidies used to help pay for deductibles and co-payments for millions of poor people covered by the law.

In the Senate, Democrats are determined to defend a law that has provided coverage to 20 million people and is a pillar of former President Barack Obama’s legacy. The debate over the repeal bill is shaping up as a titanic political clash, which could have major implications for both parties, affecting their electoral prospects for years to come.

Mr. McConnell faces a great challenge in amassing the votes to win Senate approval of the bill, which Republicans are trying to pass using special budget rules that will allow them to avoid a Democratic filibuster. But with only 52 seats, Mr. McConnell can afford to lose only two Republicans, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie. He may have already lost one — Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has indicated repeatedly that the bill is too liberal for him.

Democrats are unified in opposing the repeal efforts, and they have already assailed Republicans for the work they have done so far, criticizing them for putting the bill together without a single public hearing or bill-drafting session.

GRAPHIC

How Senate Republicans Plan to Dismantle Obamacare

A comparison of the Senate health care with the Affordable Care Act.

OPEN GRAPHIC

In the short term, the possible electoral consequences are more muted in the Senate than in the House, as only two of the Senate Republicans who face re-election next year, Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona, are seen as vulnerable.

But Republican leaders still must contend with internal divisions that will be difficult to overcome. Numerous Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid are concerned about how a rollback of the program could affect their constituents, and they face pressure from governors back home.

Some senators have concerns based on other issues specific to their states, including the opioid epidemic that has battered states like West Virginia and Ohio. And some of the Senate’s most conservative members could resist a bill that they view as not going far enough in dismantling the Affordable Care Act.

Senators will not have long to sort out their differences. Mr. McConnell wants to hold a vote before lawmakers return home for the Fourth of July recess. If the repeal bill is still looming over the Senate, Republicans are certain to face intense pressure from constituents who wish to see the Affordable Care Act remain in place.

The assessment being made by senators will be shaped in part by an analysis of the bill to be released by the Congressional Budget Office, the official scorekeeper on Capitol Hill.

The budget office found that the bill passed by the House last month would leave 23 million more people without insurance in a decade. Mr. Trump recently told senators that the House bill was “mean,” though weeks earlier he had celebrated its passage.

White House to Republicans: Trump reserves the right to throw all of you under the bus

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Fix

White House to Republicans: Trump reserves the right to throw all of you under the bus

June 20 at 3:29 PM
Spicer: Trump ‘wants a bill that has heart in it’
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump wants Congress to pass a health-care bill that “has heart in it,” on June 20 at the White House. (Reuters)

Senate Republicans are confronting a potentially career-altering decision: whether to vote for a health-care bill that polls show is vastly unpopular and could backfire stupendously. And on Tuesday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer had a chance to provide them some reassurance that President Trump wasn’t going to throw them under the bus if things go sideways.

Instead, he basically shrugged his shoulders.

Reports in recent days have quoted Trump, in private settings, as both calling the House GOP’s health-care bill “mean” and saying the Senate bill needed “more heart.” Asked about that second report, from CNBC on Tuesday, Spicer practically confirmed the quote — or at least he didn’t dispute it, as the White House often does.

“The president clearly wants a bill that has heart in it,” Spicer said. “He believes health care is something that is near and dear to so many families and individuals. He made it clear from the beginning that it was one of his priorities.”

If you are a Republican who is thinking about sticking your neck out for this bill, that has to make you think twice.

Last month Trump held a Rose Garden celebration with House Republicans after they passed their version of a health-care bill. Some even thought that festivities were a little over-the-top. But the president clearly wanted to celebrate a first legislative win.

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His actions since then, however, suggest he doesn’t necessarily want his brand attached to this bill and all the sausage-making that goes with it. Recent polls have shown Americans oppose the legislation by a 2-to-1 margin or even a 3-to-1 margin, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates indicate it could reduce the number of insured Americans by 23 million over a decade and raise premiums for older, poorer people. And whatever the perceptions and projections are today, the law of unintended consequences certainly applies when it comes to large-scale legislation. It’s a massively difficult vote to take for any member.

The White House will almost surely come around and say all the right things when the Senate ultimately reveals its bill. And for Trump and Spicer, it’s probably smart to withhold your full endorsement to make sure that bill will reflect the things the White House feels are important. But the fact that Trump is saying these things behind closed doors about a bill he once celebrated has to make Republican senators think twice.

What if the bill they are working on does wind up causing major problems? What if it doesn’t even pass, and most all of them put themselves on the record voting for something that can still be used in a pretty brutal attack ad using those CBO numbers? There is basically nothing to suggest that Trump is going to allow himself to go down with this ship. And unlike your normal politician, he’s not going to feel bound by loyalty, his past statements or that Rose Garden celebration. When Trump feels like disowning something politically, Trump will disown it.

Perhaps the White House could be forgiven for not fighting back strongly enough against reports of Trump’s initial “mean” comment last week. But now it’s happened again; Trump and his White House have basically put the House’s bill at arms-length twice in the span of a week. And on Tuesday it suggested that it reserves the right to bash the bill at a later date if Trump feels like it.

Given the bill will need 50 of 52 Republican senators to vote for it, that’s a pretty terrible message to send right now.

The Senate’s Health Care Secrecy Is a Breathtaking Contempt for Democracy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SLATE POLITICS)

The Senate’s Health Care Secrecy Is a Breathtaking Contempt for Democracy

Millions will suffer, for a tax cut.

170613_POL_AHCA-RadicalProcedures
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to members of the media after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon at the Capitol May 9.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

While much of Washington fixates on Donald Trump and his scandals, a small band of Senate Republicans is working—in secret—on a bill that would slash health insurance for tens of millions of Americans and jeopardize access for millions more. And they’re doing this on a so-called fast track meant to preclude debate. The reason for this rushed process? To obscure the obvious: that at heart, the American Health Care Act is little more than a massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.

Jamelle BouieJAMELLE BOUIE

Jamelle Bouie is Slates chief political correspondent.

Once the working group emerges from its cloister, the bill will be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, and then—in a sharp break with procedure—bypass the committee process and go straight to the floor without a public hearing. There are even suggestions that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will use legislative gamesmanship to avoid debate entirely, so Republicans can pass the bill without any discussion of its contents and provisions. As Paul Ryan did in the House of Representatives, McConnell intends to restructure one-sixth of the American economy with as little input as possible, freezing out experts, industry representatives, and Democratic lawmakers. This, despite overwhelming opposition from the public; in one recent poll, just 23 percent of respondents said they approved of the Republican health care bill.

And what will the public get if and when the final version of the bill is passed into law? Millions of Americans will either lose their health insurance, see massive new costs, or face added obstacles, from “lifetime” caps on care to limits based on pre-existing conditions.

There’s no indication Republicans are thinking deeply about free market reforms to the American health care system. But let’s just say they are. Perhaps a drastically less-regulated insurance market is worth the cost to ordinary individuals and families. If that’s the case, then Republicans owe the country both honesty and transparency. It will get neither. Instead, every indication is that the GOP will push through with a process that holds deliberation in contempt. That’s not to say Republicans aren’t responding to someone—there are groups, like the Republican base, that want this bill—but the broad public opposes the effort.

As it stands, there’s a chance the Senate health care bill could pass before the July 4 holiday. Compare this to the process behind the Affordable Care Act. It took most of 2009 for Democrats to produce a bill: months of negotiation—including a summer of talks between Democratic and Republican senators—that involved debate and input, as lawmakers produced drafts, defended proposals, and sold their plan to the public. Congress saw testimony from patients and other ordinary people, and citizens were able to lobby lawmakers with their input.

It was as open a process as possible, and while Democrats weren’t immune to misleading rhetoric (“if you like your plan, you can keep it”), the final law wasn’t a surprise. It did what Democrats and the president said it would. And the party was proud of their work. “This is a big fucking deal,” Vice President Joe Biden famously whispered.

None of this is true of Republicans and the AHCA. Theirs is a closed, secretive process. There are no drafts, no inkling of the plan. No speeches defending its major planks or hearings where lawmakers and experts hash out concerns. When pressed with questions, Republicans from the Senate working group refuse to answer. Indeed, asked if it was important to bring a bill to the public, Republicans say, in effect, no. “Well, I think we’re not worried so much about that as we are getting it together so we can get a majority to vote for it,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch.

This might be tolerable if Republicans were open about the effects of their plan. But they aren’t. They’re lying. Tom Price, secretary of health and human services, insists that the bill preserves Medicaid, telling CNN, “We believe the Medicaid population will be cared for in a better way under our program because it will be more responsive to them.” In reality, the bill phases out the Medicaid expansion and makes additional cuts, slashing 14 million people from the program. President Trump has made assurances that the bill “guarantees” coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, which just isn’t true. Vice President Mike Pence promises “a dynamic national health insurance marketplace that lowers costs, increases quality and gives more choices to working families.” Given the massive coverage losses projected under the GOP’s health care plan, there’s no evidence that anything approaching that promise is on the horizon.

Republicans are pushing forward on an unpopular bill that, by every independent account, will harm millions of Americans. To justify this sprint, the White House is actively sabotaging insurance markets while telling the public that the Affordable Care Act is failing. And in taking this course, they’ve shown a breathtaking contempt for democracy, insulating themselves from any political pressure, lying about the policies in question, and hiding this bankrupt process from the country.

This cowardly and factional governing—meant to satisfy a small minority of Republican Party backers, not the public at large—will likely backfire. Given Democratic anger, the president’s unpopularity, and broad discontent with the bill in question, there are decent odds this story ends with a Democratic victory in the 2018 elections and a chance to repair the damage. But between now and then, real people will suffer. Real people will have to decide if they can afford continued treatment. Real people will die. And as far as anyone can tell, the point of all of this—the secrecy and dishonesty and likely pain—is tax cuts. That’s it.

Georgia GOP Congressional Candidate: Quote “I Do Not Support A Livable Wage”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE HILL’ NEWSPAPER)

The Republican candidate in Georgia’s special House election on Tuesday said she does not support a livable wage.

“This is the difference between being a liberal and a conservative. I do not support a livable wage,” Karen Handel said during a debate with Democrat Jon Ossoff.

“What I support is making sure that we have an economy that is robust with low taxes and less regulation,” she added. 

Handel was responding to Ossoff’s remark that Americans are having trouble “making ends meet” and deserve a livable wage if they are working 40 hours a week.

Handel and Ossoff are facing off in a June 20 runoff to replace former GOP Rep. Tom Price, who left the House to become President Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services. 

The district has long been under GOP control, but polls have shown a tight race, with a number of them showing Ossoff in the lead.  

Election analysts say Ossoff winning would portend well for Democrats in 2018, when they will try to win back control of the House.

Senate returns more pessimistic than ever on healthcare

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HILL NEWSPAPER)

Senate returns more pessimistic than ever on healthcare

Senators went into a recess skeptical over whether they could agree to legislation repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

They will return on Monday more doubtful than ever.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), one of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) most loyal allies, said Thursday that it’s “unlikely” the GOP will get a healthcare deal.

“I don’t see a comprehensive healthcare plan this year,” he told a local news station.

Senate Republicans hoped to have a draft bill this week, but it now looks like there will at best be an outline.

A Senate Republican aide said it’s too early to begin drafting legislation that can come to the floor in the next few weeks.“Parameters are more likely,” said the aide, who explained that McConnell wants to keep the details held closely so the legislation doesn’t get picked apart before lawmakers have a chance to consider it carefully.

“The last thing we want to do is litigate this in the press,” the aide said. “We want to discuss parameters and concepts without releasing a draft.”

“Maybe they can start talking to members about a specific product next week, but I would not be surprised if we don’t,” said another Senate GOP aide.

More unhelpful news came in the form of a Kaiser Family Foundation poll underscoring how unpopular the bill approved by the House is.

It found that three-quarters of Americans surveyed think the House bill does not fulfill President Trump’s promises on healthcare.

A full 82 percent said federal funding for ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid should be continued, an issue that deeply divides the Senate GOP. The House bill ends the ObamaCare funds in 2020.

Yet another factor for Republicans is Trump’s approval rating, which has fallen to its lowest point with Republicans since he took office in the latest Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll.

Republicans already had sought to lower expectations.

McConnell conceded last week that, “I don’t know how we get to 50 [votes] at the moment.”

He sounded more optimistic about passing major tax reform legislation, rating its chances as “pretty good.”

Republicans control 52 seats and can afford only two defections from their ranks. Vice President Pence could cast the deciding vote in case of a 50-50 tie.

The Senate GOP hasn’t given up hope on healthcare and faces tremendous pressure from the White House and House Republicans to hold a vote.

Republicans for years have promised to repeal ObamaCare, so failure would be a major blow. They also face pressure to finish their work on healthcare because of the tax reform push.

The GOP is using special budgetary rules to prevent Democrats from filibustering legislation on tax reform and healthcare.

Republicans can’t move to tax reform until the healthcare debate is finished because once they pass a new budget resolution that would allow them to move tax legislation with 51 votes, they will lose the vehicle set up to enable a healthcare bill that would circumvent a Democratic filibuster.

Those on a special 13-member working group have heard very little about the drafting efforts that were supposed to take place over the recess.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) was to provide the framework in consultation with GOP leaders and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

A major sticking point in the Senate is Medicaid. The House bill would cut nearly $900 billion from the program and cap the federal contribution for expanded enrollment in that program by 2020.

Several Republican governors from Medicaid expansion states, led by Govs. John Kasich (Ohio) and Rick Snyder (Mich.), earlier this year came out against the House bill, warning that it failed to provide adequate resources.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said he wants a more gradual “glide path” for capping the expansion, an idea not popular with conservatives.

Twenty Republican senators, including Portman, represent states that opted to expand Medicaid, and many of them worry that cutting federal funding will cause significant budget problems at home.

But another group of GOP governors, primarily from states that opted out of the Medicaid expansion, want to end federal support for the expansion.

Senators are divided as well over proposals to limit federal assistance for health insurance subsidies, which would hit older, low-income Americans disproportionately.

McConnell hasn’t set a deadline for passing the ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill, but he has indicated concern about the debate dragging on for months, which could imperil tax reform.

“We can’t take forever,” he told Bloomberg TV last month.

By raising doubts about the possibility of getting a deal that musters 51 votes, the GOP leader is putting pressure on his colleagues to either come together or move on before the August recess.

McConnell has told colleagues that the 13-member working group will put together a bill and that he will bring it to the floor for a vote, but he has stopped short of promising that it will pass — in contrast to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who earlier this year guaranteed that the House bill would pass.

If the Senate bill fails on the floor, McConnell is likely to declare the GOP conference has worked its will and move on.

Even as the House voted to narrowly pass the House’s American Health Care Act last month, there was already strong pessimism among Senate Republicans about the chances of putting together a comprehensive package in the upper chamber.

A senior GOP senator at the time said the chances of getting 51 votes for legislation based on the House healthcare bill were less than 1 in 5.

When House Republicans debated healthcare reform earlier this year, some of their Senate colleagues said privately that they thought it might be better if the legislation died in the lower chamber.

Why are Republicans getting so little done? Because their agenda is deeply unpopular.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Why are Republicans getting so little done? Because their agenda is deeply unpopular.

June 2 at 2:30 PM
‘Enjoy the health-care win, Republicans. It’s the last one you’ll have in a while.’
As President Trump and Republicans celebrate the passage of the GOP health-care bill in the House, The Post’s Jonathan Capehart offers this piece of advice: Enjoy it while you can. (Video: Adriana Usero,Bastien Inzaurralde/Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Every new president tries to claim a mandate for his agenda, that because he won the election that means the public supports everything he wants to do. But ask yourself this: Is there anything — anything — on the agenda of the Trump administration and the Republicans in Congress that enjoys the support of the majority of the public?

Let’s look at a couple of examples from the biggest items on their agenda, starting with health care. The latest Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found that an incredible 84 percent of Americans say that it’s important that any replacement of the Affordable Care Act maintains the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. Even 71 percent of Republicans said so. Which is a problem for the GOP, because rolling back the Medicaid expansion is the centerpiece of the Republican repeal plan. Republicans are arguing among themselves about whether it should be done slowly or quickly, but the whole point of the exercise is to undo that expansion so that they can fund a large tax that mostly goes to the wealthy.

The Senate is right now tying itself in knots trying to figure out how to pass something that satisfies the GOP’s conservative principles but that the public won’t despise, and it may be slowly realizing that this is impossible. “I don’t see a comprehensive health-care plan this year,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said yesterday, and he’s probably right.

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Let’s move on to taxes. At yesterday’s speech announcing his pullout from the Paris climate agreement, President Trump made this little digression:

Our tax bill is moving along in Congress, and I believe it’s doing very well. I think a lot of people will be very pleasantly surprised. The Republicans are working very, very hard. We’d love to have support from the Democrats, but we may have to go it alone. But it’s going very well.

It was certainly interesting to hear that the tax bill is moving along in Congress, because there is no tax bill, neither moving along, standing still or spinning in circles. The administration has produced nothing more than a one-page list of bullet points on taxes, and congressional Republicans haven’t written a bill, either. There have been no hearings, no committee votes, nothing. This is one of those moments when it’s hard to figure out if Trump is lying or genuinely doesn’t realize what’s going on; earlier this week he tweeted:

The massive TAX CUTS/REFORM that I have submitted is moving along in the process very well, actually ahead of schedule. Big benefits to all!

Yet nothing has been submitted, nothing is moving along and nothing is ahead of schedule.

 

That’s partly because there are some substantive differences among Republicans about what tax reform should include, but it’s also because they know that whatever bill they come up with is going to be hammered by Democrats for being an enormous giveaway to the wealthy. They could solve that problem by not making it an enormous giveaway to the wealthy, but then what would be the point?

So they realize that it’s not going to be very popular. In other circumstances, that might be less of a problem — they could say, “That’s okay, it’s important to us, so we’ll just push it through.” George W. Bush passed two big tax cuts that were largely similar to what Republicans want to do now, didn’t he? But there’s a difference. When Bush signed his first tax cut in June 2001, his approval rating was at around 55 percent. When he passed his second tax cut in May 2003, his approval was around 65 percent (it was early in the Iraq War, when everything seemed to be going well). Right now Trump is at around or below 40 percent in many polls, so neither he nor Congress is getting the benefit of the doubt.

Are there other Republican initiatives that the public is behind? If there are, they’re awfully hard to find. The Paris accord is extremely popular, so Trump’s decision to pull out probably won’t go over well. The overwhelming majority of the public opposes ongoing GOP efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. There’s little support for the drastic cuts in government spending Republicans advocate. They’re about to start a push to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, which House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), in a remarkably shameless bit of Orwellian spin, characterizes as a way to stop indulging Wall Street. But Americans aren’t exactly demanding that the nation’s beleaguered bankers be liberated from their crushing burden of government oversight.

The deep unpopularity of this agenda goes a long way toward explaining why Congress has gotten almost nothing done this year, despite the fact that Republicans control both houses and have a president happy to sign whatever they put on his desk. All Republicans feel nervous these days — their president is unpopular, so is their party, and there’s the real possibility of a Democratic wave in 2018 that sweeps many of them from office. That’s enough to make a lawmaker skittish about doing anything that might make the voters even more disgusted. So the legislative process gets dragged out for longer and longer.

Congressional Republicans complain that all the drama and scandals in the White House suck the air out of Washington and make it harder for them to focus on their agenda, which is true to a degree. But the real problem is that the public just doesn’t want to buy what they’re selling.

 

Republicans fearing for their safety as anger, threats mount

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE HILL’ NEWS PAPER)

Republicans fearing for their safety as anger, threats mount

A growing number of House Republicans are facing physical threats from angry constituents in their districts, leading many to fear for their safety.

In the last few weeks alone, the FBI arrested a man threatening Rep. Martha McSally’s (R-Ariz.) life, a woman pursued Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) in her car, and Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) heightened security at a town hall event in response to death threats.

Other Republicans still holding town halls say they haven’t felt physically threatened by protesters, but they worry about the depth of anger from some constituents in the polarized environment and what it means for political civility.

Scores of GOP lawmakers have experienced going viral this year with videos of constituents shouting their disagreement on support for President Trump and policies such as the GOP’s healthcare bill.Lately, though, Republicans have observed some furious constituents who appear to be going even further.

Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) described attendees at a town hall in his district last week who booed him down after he said people’s rights are God-given.

“They booed God. They booed the pastor. They booed the prayer. They booed the name of the church. They booed when I said rights come from God,” Brat recounted to The Hill just off the House floor. “That’s a fundamental tenet of western civilization. I mean, I didn’t think that was partisan.”

Further north in New Jersey, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R) faced pushback from a crowd when he began telling the story of his special-needs daughter who died at the age of 11.

“Shame!” people shouted. “We’ve heard this story.”

“This child in 11 years has shaped my life more than anybody. So if I talk about my daughter too much, well then so be it. But this is the one human being that has impacted my life more than anybody,” MacArthur said.

Another person sarcastically yelled out MacArthur should write a book about it.

“Maybe I will write a book,” MacArthur shot back.

Still, not every town hall has veered into nastiness. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), a top Democratic target in 2018, said his town hall attendees expressed their clear displeasure with his positions but remained civil.

“You know, they had the signs and stuff like that. But I thought they were pretty nice, I thought they were pretty respectful,” Coffman said.

“From the stories I have heard in other districts, I’ve got it pretty good,” he said.

But an increasing number of lawmakers’ encounters with constituents, even in deep-red districts, have gotten ugly.

The FBI arrested a Tucson, Ariz. man for leaving three threatening messages on McSally’s congressional office voicemail, in which he allegedly said her days “were numbered” and threatened to shoot her. A criminal complaint filed last week in the U.S. District Court in Tucson said the suspect told agents he was upset over McSally’s votes to back up Trump.

McSally represents the same swing district previously represented by then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D), who was shot in the head in 2011 during a constituent meet-and-greet.

In Tennessee, a woman angry over Kustoff’s vote for the GOP’s healthcare bill this month pursued a car carrying him from an event at a local university. Kustoff and a staffer eventually turned into a driveway and came to a stop. Then the woman approached the car, yelled at Kustoff and struck the car’s windows, according to local reports.

Meanwhile, Garrett spokesman Andrew Griffin said the freshman lawmaker has received at least three death threats over the course of the healthcare debate.

One constituent called Garrett’s Washington office and said if his healthcare is taken away, he would take Garrett’s life away. Another person sent a message to Garrett’s campaign Facebook page with graphic details describing how they would kill Garrett.

Griffin said investigating authorities have asked not to publicly reveal any details about the third case yet.

In light of all the threats, Garrett made sure to increase security at his town hall in Moneta, Va. last week.

A security presence at town halls hasn’t prevented some physical confrontations. A constituent angry over the GOP’s healthcare bill approached Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), took dollar bills from his wallet and tried to shove them into the lawmaker’s suit pocket, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Other times, the lawmakers targeted by the most extreme protesters don’t end up getting the brunt of the hostility.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) wasn’t home when his young daughter found a sign on the family’s lawn last week that read: “Traitors put party above country Do the right thing for once, shithead.”

“Attack me, protest against me, but do not frighten my children at their home,” Fortenberry said in an interview with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto.

“If we are going to be a true civil society that actually upholds the values of liberty and free speech, which means respect for differences and trying to work that out through the ballot box if necessary, but also through rational conversation.”

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) described protesters vandalizing his Gainesville, Fla. office and threatening his staff. One female constituent left a message on the office answering machine for the district director, saying, “Next time I see you, I’m going to beat your f—ing ass.”

He decided to only allow visitors into the Gainesville office who have an appointment after protesters kept showing up every week in the front lobby. The protesters subsequently complained that their representative was trying to block their access, but Yoho felt he had no other choice.

“They’re mad to the point where they’re cussing at my staff, pushed one of them, poured stuff on one of the staff’s car,” Yoho told The Hill. “If they start acting responsible and respectable, we’ll do the same.”

Yoho’s recent town hall in the same town as his vandalized district office was a calmer affair. Attendees made it clear at times they didn’t agree with him on the issues, but they remained civil.

“We had fun the whole time,” he said.

Is House Speaker Paul Ryan As Delusional As President Trump On Health Care Issues?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

“We’re making very good progress, we’re going to go when we have the votes,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said about the GOP’s plans to push forward a health-care plan on April 26.(Reuters)

THE MORNING PLUM:

Republicans have once again shelved their plan to vote on replacing Obamacare, depriving Donald Trump of a fake accomplishment he had hoped to tout on the 100th day of his presidency (even if it had passed the House on the 100th day, there’s no telling what would have happened in the Senate). A lot of explanations are circulating: A rushed vote would have complicatedkeeping the government open; Republicans balked at opposition from the powerful AARP; poor messaging and GOP infighting; and so forth.

I’d like to propose another explanation. What if the GOP repeal effort once again failed because the Affordable Care Act has actually helped a lot of people, and this whole process has made that a lot harder for Republicans to deny?

GOP leaders said they put the latest version on hold because the votes weren’t there for it. The new changes had won over House conservatives who had previously objected, but many of the more moderate or pragmatic Republicans were still opposed. Indeed, the changes that swayed conservatives — which would have allowed states to scrap the requirement that insurers cover Essential Health Benefits and gut protections for people with preexisting conditions — appear to have made it harder for Republicans from less conservative and more contested districts (such as Colorado’s Mike Coffman) to support it.

If you read through the public statements of many of the Republicans who objected to the latest version, you’ll see a common thread. They say either that passing the new bill would drive up premiums for people with preexisting conditions (because it would allow insurers to jack them up); or that too many would lose coverage, partly because of the phaseout of the Medicaid expansion. A number of the Republicans who opposed it this time had previously made statements to this effect about the older version, and those objections were still operative.

“The reality is most of the moderate hard Nos were already opposed,” Matt Fuller, a reporter for HuffPost who has followed this more closely than anyone, told me today. In short, many Republicans objected to the new version on the grounds that it would take coverage away from untold numbers of poor and sick people.

Pelosi: A vote for Trump’s health-care push is ‘doo-doo’ on the shoe

 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized the first 100 days of the Trump administration, grading him poorly on health care. (Reuters)

At the same time, though, many of these Republicans avoided openly crediting Obamacare with achieving the very protections for those with preexisting conditions and the vast coverage expansion via Medicaid that they now want to preserve. And they pledged to continue trying to repeal the law. These Republicans cannot affirmatively applaud Obamacare’s success in accomplishing ends they now recognize as imperatives, but they can stand up and say they won’t remove or badly weaken the provisions of it that are accomplishing those ends, provided they also say they’ll replace the law whenever some more acceptable alternative — which would also accomplish those ends — comes along.

The absurdity of this basic dynamic continues to elude direct recognition. Byron York reports that Republicans privately say that as many as 40 or 50 House Republicans secretly don’t want to repeal the ACA, and one key reason appears to be a lack of political courage. As one Republican puts it: “We have members in the Republican conference that do not want Obamacare repealed, because of their district.”

But the reason for this is not stated as forthrightly as I think it should be. Even if the primary motive here is that taking coverage away from people — and gutting protections for those with preexisting conditions — will alienate voters, this is just another way of saying that voters will recoil from efforts to roll back the help the law is providing to countless numbers of people. It is often said that taking away “entitlements” is politically difficult, which is true as far as it goes. But another way to say this is that even many Republicans now recognize that sustaining the law’s achievements is now imperative — and that Republicans have not come up with an alternative that would do this in a way that their public ideological pre-commitments permit. Of course, they can’t put it quite this way out loud.

No, Obamacare is not in a ‘death spiral’ — at least for now

 

Health-care experts say the Affordable Care Act is stable, but President Trump and congressional Republicans could push it over the cliff into a “death spiral.” (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

The GOP replacement is a non-starter for these Republicans partly because it is wildly regressive. It would roll back coverage for millions of people — 24 million in total; 14 million on Medicaid — while delivering an enormous tax cut to the rich. The polls and the angry town halls suggest that the public clearly decided it prefers the ACA — which is now in positive polling territory — to this alternative. Whether moderate Republicans are refraining from this alternative for moral, substantive or political reasons, the deeply regressive outcome that it would bring about is a key driving factor.

My point here is not that Obamacare doesn’t still have plenty of problems — it does — or that the GOP repeal push will never succeed. It very well may. But if it does, it will be either because Republicans finally figured out how to make their alternative less damaging to the ACA’s coverage expansion — which would be hard to do without alienating conservatives — or because enough moderate Republicans decided the moral or political risk of scuttling the law’s accomplishments on behalf of their own constituents is worth taking, for other reasons entirely.


* HEALTH BILL FAILURE IS A BLOW TO PRIEBUS: An interesting nugget buried in the New York Times overview of the collapse of the latest GOP health bill:

The lost opportunity was perhaps the biggest blow to the future prospects of Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, who has a long relationship with Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. Mr. Priebus had pushed aggressively for the House to schedule a vote this week, according to several people who spoke with him within the West Wing and on Capitol Hill.

Awww. This diminished a guy who demanded a rushed vote on a bill that would impact millions, solely so that Trump could boast of a fake achievement on his 100th day. So sad!

* TRUMP’S EXECUTIVE ORDERS DON’T AMOUNT TO MUCH: The Post takes a comprehensive look at the executive orders that Trump has signed, and finds there is less there than meets the eye:

More than half of the 29 orders issued as of Thursday have merely called for reviews, have commissioned reports or established panels to issue recommendations. The documents lay out a dizzying schedule of 90-, 120- and 180-day increments for federal agencies to evaluate the feasibility of White House policy goals and report to the president. They hardly represent the immediate action the president and his aides had heralded they would bring to Washington.

Trump really should hurry up and sign a half-dozen more between now and tomorrow (his 100th day).

* TRUMP SAYS ‘MAJOR CONFLICT’ WITH NORTH KOREA IS POSSIBLE: Trump, in an interview with Reuters, said this:

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely … We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult.”

One imagines that Trump sees this as shrewd positioning in an ongoing negotiation.

* TRUMP SAYS SHUTDOWN WOULD BE THE FAULT OF DEMOCRATS: Also in the Reuters interview, Trump had this to say about a possible government shutdown:

“If there’s closure, there’s closure. We’ll see what happens. If there’s a shutdown. It’s the Democrats’ fault. Not our fault. It’s the Democrats’ fault. Maybe they’d like to see a shutdown.”

A frequent Trump tactic is to always assert he has the upper hand regardless of reality, in order to make it so, but given that Republicans control everything, it’s hard to see how they’d skirt blame.

* IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT HUMORING TRUMP: Paul Krugman looks at all the ways in which Trump’s staff props up his falsehoods and fantasies — searching for “proof” Barack Obama tapped his phones; rushing out a one-page tax “plan” before the 100-day mark — and concludes:

Every report from inside the White House conveys the impression that Trump is like a temperamental child … being an effective staffer seems to involve finding ways to make him feel good and take his mind off news that he feels makes him look bad … Don’t pretend that this is normal … No, what we’re looking at here isn’t policy; it’s pieces of paper whose goal is to soothe the big man’s temper tantrums.

The rot of bad faith runs very deep with this White House, and it starts here.

* AND TRUMP EXPECTED PRESIDENCY TO BE ‘EASIER’: A final tidbit from the Reuters interview: Trump actually claimed that “this is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.” That’s bad enough, but then this happened:

Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

“Here, you can take that, that’s the final map of the numbers,” the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. “It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us.”

It was always about winning, and never about what would happen after

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