By Doug Porter
Apparently the Republicans in the Senate don’t believe Americans can walk and chew gum at the same time. While the President is busy having a spasm on Twitter, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell believes he’s got a plan to get enough votes for passage of an even more devious version of TrumpCare, otherwise known as the AHCA.
According to Andy Slavitt, the former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under President Obama, the Republican game plan includes;
- Limiting the amount of time the content of the bill is public to 2 days.
- Having the Congressional Budget Office review the bill in pieces to avoid headlines like 23 million losing insurance
- A longer slope on ending Medicaid expansion.
- Adjustments to provisions concerning pre-existing conditions; the workaround is via allowing states to define essential benefits. Insurers offering essential benefits will attract all the sick people—so their premiums will skyrocket.
- Using the month of June to work in amendments designed to buy the votes of the seven (!) Republican Senators needed to pass the bill.
- Including a major tax cut for the wealthy, even if it gets phased in over a longer period.
At Huffpost, Matt Fuller and Sam Stein are a tad more skeptical about the AHCA’s prospects but acknowledge that progress was made during a three hour closed door meeting of the 13 men working on the bill on Tuesday.
McConnell is working with hardly any margin for error. He can afford to lose only two of his 52 Republicans ― with Vice President Mike Pence then breaking the tie ― and it seems highly unlikely that conservative Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) or moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) will vote for the legislation. That means the majority leader must pressure, cajole or even deploy state-specific giveaways that could risk the support of other senators in order to keep the rest of his caucus in line.
But even facing those challenges, there was rare optimism among Senate Republicans on Tuesday. “This is what I was hoping to have the leadership be able to share with us, and I feel very good about the fact that we’re moving in the right direction,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said, albeit adding that members still had “a long way to go.”
Democratic aides are expecting the Senate Republicans to use surprise tactics, says Greg Sargent at the Washington Post, even a placeholder bill full of platitudes and short on specifics to get something on the table for House and Senate negotiations.
The bottom line is that whatever tactics Republicans use, if they can get something passed in the Senate, and get Senate and House Republicans into some form of negotiations designed to reconcile the two versions, the prospects of final success go up substantially.
“The virtue of getting everyone into the same room is to get them out of the public eye, where they can come to a final agreement that then would be put to an up or down vote in both chambers,” Binder tells me, adding that at that point, the situation would be, “this is it: Are you for or against getting rid of Obamacare? This would increase the pressure on individual Republicans who are skittish.” To be sure, it’s possible that Republicans could still fail. But “success” is also a very real possibility.
The GOP’s strategy is currently to sabotage Obamacare as a means of creating a sense of urgency around getting a bill through Congress this year, according to Dave Weigel at the Washington Post:
After Senate Republicans wrapped up their health-care meeting with Vice President Pence, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), one of the body’s few physicians, told reporters that the party got a new sense of urgency after Anthem, an insurer in Ohio’s Affordable Care Act exchange, announced that it was pulling out. Thousands of Ohioans, most in rural areas, could be left uninsured.
“We need to stabilize the markets right now,” Barrasso said. “While we were in there, another company pulled out, which shows the continued collapse of the Obamacare market. I mean, it happened during the policy meeting.”
Quickly, a reporter pointed out the rest of the story — the reason for Anthem’s turnabout. In a statement, the insurer had blamed uncertainty over whether subsidies would continue to be paid out to people buying plans on the exchange, a problem created by President Trump’s decision to punt a decision on whether to support those subsidies.
The Republican response to this claim is that the subsidies being paid out during the Obama administration (and still being paid out under Trump) were “illegal.”
While there is a lawsuit (filed by House Republicans and currently on hold) challenging the legality of the executive order allowing the payments, it’s important to remember we got to this point because Congressional Republicans refused to appropriate the money.
Republicans are writing a bill in secret to take coverage away from millions while everyone is focused on Russia. Here’s what to ask: pic.twitter.com/fUhCDO0iDr
— Topher Spiro (@TopherSpiro) May 23, 2017
Above all, there needs to be a #showusthebill campaign. The more the public knows, the quicker it fails.
Are you enjoying infrastructure week? This was supposed to be the week the Trump administration hands out goodies to distract us from hearings of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
So far, we have a dated, off-the-shelf program to privatize air traffic control (look for the $25 land-without-a-crash fee, coming soon) and a generic plan to give tax credits for rebuilding transportation corridors (That $1 toll on the I8/CarlDeMaio Freeway won’t hurt much.).
The running joke on Twitter as the afternoon/evening scandals continue to unfold daily involves telling Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ assistant to bump up the order of popcorn each day as Senate Intelligence Committee hearings near.
I’m of the mind that the ‘bombshells’ some expect to come out of this broadcast-on-all-the-major-networks event will be duds. Former Justice officials and allies of deposed FBI Director James Comey say they expect him to avoid disclosing anything that might influence Mueller’s probe.
My money remains on the Special Counsel investigation. Those sorts of things take time, something too many people don’t understand.
Worth noting are comments made by James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, at a National Press Club event in Canberra, Australia.
The headline coming out of these statements is based on his statement that Watergate “pales” in comparison to the controversy surrounding the Trump administration and Russia.
The former DNI Director didn’t mince words when it came to describing the current President:
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos celebrated Gay Pride Month Wednesday at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing by refusing to say whether federal dollars would be pulled from schools that discriminate against LGBT students.
She also dodged the question when asked about the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act–Not once, not twice, but fourteen times, she dodged questions about discrimination.
A couple of quips, via Mother Jones:
“On areas where the law is unsettled,” she said, “this department is not going to be issuing decrees…”
…Later in the hearing, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) challenged DeVos on whether there would be protections in place in the administration’s school choice program to make sure public dollars “don’t just enrich” for-profit education organizations. He pointed to K12 Inc., a virtual school company in which DeVos and her billionaire husband had once invested. DeVos dodged the question, noting that what mattered was student performance, not the company’s tax status.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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