Republicans

Obama Ribs GOP: Obamacare Didn’t Bring ‘Death Panels, Doom’

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AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin

TPM DC

“I mean we have been promised a lot of things these past five years that didn’t turn out to be the case —death panels, doom, a serious alternative from Republicans in Congress,” Obama said, smirking during a speech highlighting the fifth anniversary of his signature healthcare law. “The budget they introduced last week would literally double the number of uninsured in America.”

Obama’s comments came a week after Republicans introduced a new House budget that gutted most of Obamacare but did not offer an alternative. Obama conceded part of the reasons Republicans hadn’t yet offered an alternative plan was because healthcare policy isn’t easy.

“And in their defense, there are two reasons why coming up with an alternative has proven to be difficult,” Obama said. “First, it’s because the Affordable Care Act pretty much was their plan before I adopted it!”

Obamacare, Obama said, was “based on conservative market based principles developed by the Heritage Foundation and supported by Republicans in Congress. And deployed by a man named Mitt Romney in Massachusetts to great effect. If they want to take credit for this law, they can. I’m happy to share it.”

There have been many efforts, Obama added, to reform the country’s healthcare system.

“And second, because health reform is really hard and people here who are in the trenches know that. Good people from both parties have tried and failed to get it done for a hundred years,” Obama said. “Because every public policy has some tradeoffs, especially when it affects one sixth of American economy and applies to the very personal needs of every individual American. Now we’ve made our share of mistakes since we passed this law. But we also know beyond a shred of a doubt that the policy has worked. Coverage is up, cost growth is at a historic low, deficits have been slashed, lives have been saved.”

Obama also said in the speech that he was ready to sign a major overhaul of Medicare negotiated by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

5 Obama Successes Republicans Have To Pretend Never Happened

5 Obama Successes Republicans Have To Pretend Never Happened

President Obama arrives at Bob Hope Airport via helicopter from LAX, en route to ABC Studios for an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

The National Memo

Republicans have consistently said that a president cannot take responsibility for a strong economy — unless of course he’s a Republican.

A weak economy, however, is always a Democratic president’s fault. And if a Republican president presides over the worst financial crisis in a half-century after seven years in office, that is clearly the fault of poor people.

President Obama is in an awkward position when it comes to the economy. It’s only great if you compare it to the last 14 years. But with 50 percent of America now saying in the latest CNN poll that his presidency is a success, he figures that he’s now allowed to “take a well-earned victory lap” by answering the question Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) asked for four years: “Where are the jobs?”

“Well, after 12 million new jobs, a stock market that has more than doubled, deficits that have been cut by two-thirds, health care inflation at the lowest rate in nearly 50 years, manufacturing coming back, auto industry coming back, clean energy doubled — I’ve come not only to answer that question, but I want to return to the debate that is central to this country, and the alternative economic theory that’s presented by the other side,” the president said in Cleveland on Wednesday.

A sensible media would be debating which of Obama’s two great accomplishments — the stimulus or the Affordable Care Act — is a bigger success; which better proves that the government can successfully intervene to prevent suffering while reshaping our economy to be more sustainable; or about which Republicans were more wrong.

But conservatives won’t let that happen. They’ll focus on metrics that languished before Obama came into office — we’re very concerned about labor force participation all of a sudden! — and blast him for not solving all of the failures of conservative economics and foreign policies.

America should be used to Democratic presidents outperforming Republicans by now. While no administration is perfect, President Obama has staked strong claims for liberal values and policies that prove things Republicans have to pretend never happened.

  1. Proved trickle-down economics are wrong, again
    You don’t hear it mentioned often enough, but 2014 was the best year of job creation in this century. This is a key point, because it’s the first full year in which Obama’s economic policies really took hold. Most of the Bush tax breaks on the rich ended in 2013. And in 2014, new taxes on the wealthy and corporations kicked in to help 16 million Americans gain health insurance. The result was a job market like we haven’t seen since the’90s. As they did in 1993, Republicans claimed that asking the rich to pay a bit more would destroy the economy. So, of course, the opposite happened. It’s almost as if some tax hikes on the wealthy are good for the economy! But if Republicans admitted that, they’d have to give up their entire reason for existing, which is to comfort the most comfortable.
  2. Proved we can expand health insurance coverage and shrink the deficit.
    America’s long-term debt problems are largely built on conservatives’ unwillingness to do what every other advanced nation in the world does — insure everyone. As a result, we pay more and get worse results than almost every industrialized country in the world. Obamacare has shown that we can increase coverage dramatically while cutting more than $600 billion from long-term debt projections. Republicans have finally gotten honest in their new budget and admitted that their alternative to Obamacare is… nothing. They’ve got nothing because Obamacare was their alternative, and every prediction they’ve made about it has been wrong. Health spending isat a 50-year low, businesses aren’t dumping employees’ coverage, hospitals are performing better, and policy cancelations were likely lower than they were before the law. Meanwhile, Obama has been even more successful at shrinking the deficit as a percentage of GDP than even Bill Clinton.
  3. Proved that the government can kick-start a clean-energy revolution.
    When it comes to fighting climate change, President Obama has done more than anyone on Earth. Beyond the regulations he set in his first term, which are quickly reducing our dependency on dirty energy, the stimulus launched the clean-energy technological revolution this nation needed. Republicans started calling the stimulus “failed” before it even became law. And that kind of message discipline — plus half a billion dollars in ads that smeared the bill — scared Democrats from bragging about it. But now that we’ve experienced the first year of economic growth where carbon emissions didn’t increase in 40 years, maybe they should.
  4. Proved we can regulate Wall Street without killing the stock market.
    Good news! Bankers are complaining about being regulated too much. Despite this “over-regulation,” we’re seeing constant stock market records. Meanwhile, the memory of the costs of under-regulation — 8 million jobs and trillions in wealth — continues to fade. Democrats have become newly proud of the Dodd-Frank law now that they see how desperate Republicans are to gut it. The success in keeping the economic engine of the rich purring should not dissuade those on the left. Instead, they should continue to fight against the persistent dangers to our economy that come from ridiculous executive compensation schemesstock buybacks, and high-frequency trading.
  5. Proved that we should give diplomacy a chance.
    The Bush administration left America facing a newly nuclear-armed North Korea, an Iran building nuclear centrifuges, and a wrecked Iraq, run by a propped-up sectarian strongman with no interest in reconciliation. Democrats were likely naive in assuming this Tower of Babel of foreign policy disasters could be kept from crumbling. The Obama administration’s effort to re-engage the world may seem foolhardy now — but what was the alternative? More confrontational Republican alternatives would have guaranteed nothing but more American lives lost. Syria is a disaster. Libya proved that regime change is never simple. Putin is emboldened or frantically flailing, depending on your point of view. But as a result of re-engagement with our allies and a Medvedev-led Russia, sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table. We’re closer than ever to a nuclear deal that could prevent another, still more disastrous war. And even if it fails, at least we tried not to repeat the catastrophes of the past.

Despite these successes, Republicans have to see Obama as a floundering, economy-shrinking, deficit-creating failure, or risk questioning their failed worldview.

Essentially, they have to pretend he’s Bobby Jindal.

GOP Hero: Where Bibi Leads, the GOP Will Follow

Nir Elias/Reuters

The Daily Beast

A day before his apparent victory in Israel, the prime minister rejected a two-state solution. Now expect Republicans to follow him—destroying a rare point of unity with Democrats.

Yes, it looks like Bibi Netanyahu has a better shot than Bougie Herzog does of forming the next government. There are many moving parts here, so it’s not completely set in stone. But the clear consensus by 5 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday, an hour after the polls closed, was that Netanyahu and Likud have a clearer path to 61 seats than Herzog and the Zionist Union party do.

I’ll leave it to others who know the intricacies of Israeli politics better than I to parse all that. But let’s talk about the impact of a possible Netanyahu victory on our politics here in the United States. The answer is appallingly simple, I think: Though we won’t see this happen immediately or sensationally, it seems clear that, month by month and inch by gruesome inch, a Netanyahu win will move the Republican Party further to the right, to an unofficial (and who knows, maybe official) embrace of Netanyahu’s pivotal and tragic new position of opposition to a two-state solution.

Netanyahu declared said opposition, as you know, the day before the voting, when he stated, in a videotaped interview: “Whoever today moves to establish a Palestinian state and withdraw from territory is giving attack territory for Islamic extremists against the state of Israel. Whoever ignores that is burying his head in the sand.” When his questioner asked if this meant a Palestinian state would not be established on his watch, the prime minister said: “Indeed.”

Now, it’s been known in Israel and America that this was Netanyahu’s true view of things for some time. He partially gave the game away last summer during a press conference. But he never quite said it as directly as he did Monday, in the culminating event of his final, frenzied, fear-mongering campaign. Israeli leaders of the major parties have at least officially supported a two-state solution for many years. But as of Monday, opposition to a two-state solution is official Israel policy, and as long as Bibi’s the boss, it will remain so.

The United States has officially supported a two-state solution at least since George H.W. Bush was president. Presidents of both parties, and even virtually all serious presidential contenders from both parties, have been on record in favor of a two-state solution. Each president has put varying spins on what it means, and has invested more (Bill Clinton) or less (George W. Bush) elbow grease in trying to bring such a solution about. But it has been the bipartisan position in the United States for 25 years or more, and that has meant there at least was a pretense—and sometimes more than that—of a shared goal somewhere down the road between Israel and Fatah (admittedly not Hamas).

Now Netanyahu has ditched that. How will our Republicans react? Well, they love Netanyahu. As they recently demonstrated to us all, he is, in effect, their president, at least on matters relating to the Middle East and Iran. Is it so crazy to think that what Bibi says, the Republicans will soon also be saying?

Now throw Sheldon Adelson into this stewpot. There are many reasons the Republican Party as a whole has become so epileptically pro-Israel in recent years: their ardor for Bibi, the power of the lobby, the influence of the Christian Zionist movement, and more. But another one of those reasons is surely Adelson. When you’re that rich and that willing to throw multiple millions into U.S. and Israeli electoral politics (to the GOP and Likud), you become influential. Adelson is completely opposed to a Palestinian state. “To go and allow a Palestinian state is to play Russian roulette,” he said in October 2013.

There is already a history of GOP candidates making their hajjes, so to speak, out to Adelson’s Las Vegas base of operations and saying what he wants to hear. John Judis wrote about this in The New Republic a year ago. Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and John Kasich trotted out to Vegas and filled Adelson’s ear with pretty music. Judis: “The presidential hopefuls made no attempt to distinguish their views on Israel and the Palestinians from Adelson’s.” Christie even apologized for having once used the phrase “occupied territories”!

So here we are today: Bibi, their hero, has said it openly, and “proved” (for the time being) that saying it pays electoral dividends; their base certainly believes it; and Adelson and his checkbook make it potentially quite a profitable thing for them to say. So watch the Republican candidates start announcing that they’re against the two-state solution. Some will be coy about it (Bush, probably). Others—Ted Cruz, and I suspect Walker, who’s already been acting like foreign policy isjust a little make-believe game anyway, an arena that exists merely for the purpose of bashing Barack Obama and pandering to the base—will likely be less coy.

If this happens, do not underestimate the enormity of the change it heralds. As of now, I am told by people who know, no Republican legislator in Washington has explicitly disavowed a two-state solution. The closest Congress has come to doing so was on a 2011 resolution offered by ex-Rep. Joe Walsh that called for congressional support for Israeli annexation of “Judea and Samaria.” Walsh got a number of co-sponsors, 27 of whom are still in office.

But that was then. Four years later, Bibi is the American right’s über-hero, and there’s every reason to think Republicans will follow where he leads. And so a rare point on which our two parties were, however notionally, united, will likely be yet another point of division—and given the intensity of feeling here, bitter division. Republicans will think they can increase their percentage among Jewish voters. The current polls indicate that three-quarters to four-fifths of U.S. Jews (about the percentage that votes Democratic) back a two-state solution. But if Bibi proved anything these last few days, he proved that demagoguery and lies can alter percentages. Brace yourselves.

How Tea Party Republicans Stunned A Room Full Of Scientific Research Activists

MATT SALMON

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) talks with reporters outside of the RNC after a meeting of House republicans, July 15, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) | Tom Williams via Getty Images

The Huffington Post

Two minutes into a speech Tuesday morning, Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) turned to the subject of his hair. He had shaved his head recently to honor the top official at the research department at the University of Arizona, who had died from pancreatic cancer. It was growing back.

There was poignancy to the gesture — and a reason to mention it — since Salmon was addressing the American Cancer Society’s Stand Up To Cancer event in the Cannon House Office building. After explaining his buzz cut and recounting how the disease had affected the lives of those he knew, loved and respected, Salmon made a plea.

“I’m kind of an unlikely candidate to be here today probably for a lot of reasons,” he said. “I’ve been recognized by numerous groups as one of the most tight-fisted people in the entire Congress. … That having been said, I believe with all my heart and soul that if the federal government doesn’t lead the way on conquering cancer that it won’t get done.”

The audience, including hundreds of activists there to lobby lawmakers for biomedical research, was gleeful. A self-described fiscal hawk who once said he welcomed the idea of a government shutdown was calling for billions of dollars to be spent on their cause.

They’d have more reason to cheer soon after that. Addressing legislation that the audience was there to advocate — a $6 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health over two years ($1 billion of which would go to the National Cancer Institute) — Salmon insisted it was insufficient. The NIH, he explained, should see its budget grow to $40 billion by 2021 from roughly $30.1 billion, offset with cuts elsewhere.

“I want to fight this fight,” said Salmon. “I’ve lost one too many friends to this dreadful disease and I don’t want to see another person succumb to this.”

The cheers grew louder 10 minutes later, when Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas) took the mic. No shrinking violet on deficit hawkery, Yoder outlined a future for NIH that would make even the most audacious advocate blush.

“Why aren’t we spending $60 billion in NIH research?” said Yoder. “Honestly. I’m not a big fan of deficit spending. I’m not a big fan of deficits. Certainly, as a conservative Republican, I believe the fiscal health of our nation is one of the most critical issues long term. But I think I can go to my 16-month old daughter and I can say, ‘I borrowed money in your name to cure cancer’ and she would thank me.”

The audience was standing at that point. Rare, after all, are cases in which House Republicans openly advocate for more government spending. Rarer are those in which they say to put the bill on the nation’s credit card. But there are few causes less objectionable than fighting cancer. And, before a star-studded audience that included NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and actors Pierce Brosnan and Marcia Cross, all of whom spoke as well, speaker after speaker pledged their political and personal devotions to biomedical research.

The question just below the surface was whether that devotion could withstand the political pressures lingering just outside Cannon Room 345.

At roughly the same time as Salmon and Yoder were striking unorthodox notes, House Republicans formally released their proposed budget. The document gives nods of appreciation to the NIH and to scientific research in general and echoes many of the same warnings that emanate from the biomedical research community.

“The United States leadership role is being threatened, however, as other countries contribute more to basic research from both public and private sources,” the budget text reads. “Federal policies should foster innovation in health care, not stifle it. America should maintain its world leadership in medical science by encouraging competitive forces to work through the marketplace in delivering cures and therapies to patients.”

But there are no additional funds devoted to the NIH by the House GOP. Instead, the budget calls for cutting down “bureaucracy and red-tape.” Moreover, House Republicans dramatically diminish the pool of resources from which NIH and other government agencies must draw. Under the GOP blueprint, non-defense discretionary spending falls $44 billion below current budget caps in fiscal year 2017. In fiscal 2018, it would be $64 billion below those caps. In fiscal 2019, it would be $72 billion lower.

Will Allison, a spokesman for the House Budget Committee, noted that the appropriations committee would have the final say over how much money within those totals would go to NIH. The GOP budget, he noted, “assumes no savings in NIH.” In other words, it doesn’t call for a cut.

But simply maintaining NIH’s funding level is tantamount to diminishing it, since the agency’s spending power would decrease with inflation. That’s the predicament the institutes already face. Dr. Harold Varmus, the outgoing head of the National Cancer Institute, told attendees on Tuesday that while President Barack Obama’s budget would give the NIH a 3 percent increase in funding for the next fiscal year, it would still only “bring us back to the numbers we had in real dollars in 2010.” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), speaking after Salmon, noted that if NIH was granted $6 billion over the next two years, it would simply take “us back to the 2003 level, adjusted for inflation.”

And so, while deficit-conscious Republicans spent Tuesday morning waxing about a plush, well-funded NIH, some Democratic speakers tried to inject a bit of caution, without completely trampling the good vibes. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) one of the most vocal champions of increasing funding for biomedical research, recounted how more than a quarter-century ago, he helped build political pressure to outlaw cigarette smoking on airplanes. He then mentioned the speeches he’d just witnessed.

“I was struck as I watched, as one said, knuckle-dragging conservative Republicans come up here — that’s what he called himself, I’m not making fun of him — and say he was on our side,” Durbin said, referencing the description that Salmon had given himself. “And I thought, this is another moment just like that moment 25 years ago, when we banned smoking on airplanes.

“We have reached the point where we have to decide whether we are going to be discouraged by the powers that be in the political forces of dysfunction in Washington, or whether we are going to barrel through them on a bipartisan basis and make an investment in medical research,” Durbin said.

Morning Plum: Republicans won’t have any contingency plan if Court guts subsidies for millions

The Washington Post – Plum Line

With the Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments this week in the lawsuit that could do severe damage to the Affordable Care Act, some Republican lawmakers are working hard to convey the impression that they have a contingency plan for the millions who will likely lose subsidies — and coverage — if the Court rules with the challengers. Senators Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, and John Barrasso have published a Washington Post op ed with an oh-so-reassuring title: “We have a plan for fixing health care.”

The good Senators, amusingly, cast their “plan” as something that will protect people from “the administration’s” actions and from Obamacare itself, not from the consequences of the legal challenge or a Court decision siding with it. The plan vows to “provide financial assistance” for a “transitional period” to those who lose subsidies, while Republicans create a “bridge away from Obamacare.” Of course, anyone who watched last week’s chaos in the House knows Congressional Republicans are unlikely to coalesce around any “transitional” relief for those who lose subsidies (that would require spending federal money to cover people) or any permanent long-term alternative. This chatter appears transparently designed to make it easier for conservative Justices to side with the challengers.

Yet even if this game works on the Justices in the short term, any eventual failure to come through with any  contingency plan could saddle Republicans with a political problem, perhaps even among GOP voters.

A poll taken by Independent Women’s Voice — a group that favors repealing Obamacare in the name of individual liberty — found that in the nearly three dozen states on the federal exchange, 75 percent of respondents think it’s very (54) or somewhat (21) important to restore subsidies to those who lose them. In the dozen main presidential swing states, 75 percent of respondents say the same.

And guess what: Large majorities of Republican voters agree. A spokesperson for the group tells me that in both those groups of states taken together, 62 percent of Republican respondents say its very (31) or somewhat (31) important to restore the subsidies. Only 31 percent of Republicans in those states think doing this is unimportant.

This raises the possibility that a lot of Republican voters would be harmed by an anti-ACA decision, too. As Politico puts it today: “The people who would be affected by a Supreme Court decision against the Obama administration live disproportionately in GOP-governed states, and an Urban Institute study found that many people fall into a demographic crucial to the GOP base — white, Southern and employed.”

Now, none of this means Republicans will be more likely to step forward with a solution. As Avik Roy (who hopes the Court rules against the ACA) acknowledges, Republicans are so divided that uniting on any response is unlikely:

Republicans are being pulled in two directions. On the one hand, you have dozens of House members from highly ideological districts, for whom a primary challenge is a far bigger political risk than a general election. Many members of this group think that continuing Obamacare’s subsidies, in any form, is problematic.

On the other hand, there is a large group of Republican senators in blue and purple states up for reelection in 2016. These include Mark Kirk (Ill.), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), Pat Toomey (Penn.), Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Rob Portman (Ohio). These senators are much more aligned with Hatch, Alexander, and Barrasso.

Meanwhile, Republican state lawmakers, who could keep the subsidies flowing to their constituents by setting up state exchanges, are all over the place on what might come next, with some already ruling out such a fix. Indeed, in the end, it probably won’t matter that large majorities of Americans — or even large majorities of Republicans — support restoring the subsidies. On this, as on so many other things, GOP lawmakers will probably take their cues from the more conservative minority of Republicans, whatever the political or policy consequences.

*****************************************************************************************

* WHY JUSTICES SHOULD WEIGH CONSEQUENCES OF ANTI-ACA RULING: Law professor Nicholas Bagley has a terrific piece explaining why the Supreme Court Justices should factor in the fact that siding with the challengers would take health care from millions: This eventuality shows the challengers are misreading the law.

It’s not irrelevant that a ruling in their favor would inflict such damage. To the contrary, that fact helps us correctly interpret the statute’s text. Indeed, it shows that the plaintiffs’ understanding of that text is wrong. As the Supreme Court has said time and again, no provision of a statute should be read in isolation. Laws must be read as a whole, with an eye to harmonizing their interdependent parts. That means the court is reluctant to read a stray passage here or there in a way that would destabilize an entire statutory scheme.

It’s also possible that the real-world implications of an anti-ACA ruling might have legal relevance because they bolster the states’ argument that siding with the challengers would impose unfair retroactive consequences on them without clear warning. Read the whole thing.

* LEGAL CHALLENGE TO THE ACA IS ‘PROVABLE FICTION’:Steven Brill has a must-read in which he documents his close reporting on the creation of the Affordable Care Act, and why that led him to the conclusion that the idea that Congress intended to deny subsidies to those on the federal exchange is nothing but “fiction” and a “fairytale”:

Congressional intent is a fact-based inquiry, not a matter of opinion. Given the unambiguous mountain of facts arrayed for the defense (and well-presented in the briefs submitted by the defense side), it is hard enough to see how the lawyers on the plaintiffs’ side could actually believe in their case…if a majority of supposedly objective justices decide to ignore the facts and buy their argument, they will have engaged in a breathtaking act of political activism.

The Justices, however, could simply conclude that the disputed phrase is not ambiguous enough to warrant Chevron deference to the IRS’ interpretation of the law, despite all the evidence of Congressional intent, not to mention the law’s overall structure and purpose.

* DEMOCRATS ANGRY ABOUT NETANYAHU SPEECH: Benjamin Netanyahu is set to address Congress tomorrow, and the New York Times reports that anger and unease are widespread among Congressional Democrats. The latest tally on who will skip the speech:

So far, 30 Democrats — four senators and 26 representatives — have said they will not attend the speech. Nearly half are African-Americans, who say they feel deeply that Mr. Netanyahu is disrespecting the president by challenging his foreign policy. But a half-dozen of those Democrats planning to stay away are Jewish, and represent 21 percent of Congress’s Jewish members.

Given the historic skittishness among Democrats about appearing even slightly out of sync with what Israel wants, that actually represents something new.

* PARTISAN DIVIDE ON VIEWS OF NETANYAHU: A new NBC News poll finds that  66 percent of Democrats say GOP leaders shouldn’t have invited Netanyahu to speak without notifying the president first, while only 28 percent of Republicans say the same. And only 12 percent of Democrats view Netanyahu favorably, versus 49 percent of Republicans. It bears repeating that when it comes to Israel and diplomacy with Iran, Congressional Democrats are well to the right of their base.

* SCOTT WALKER FLIP-FLOPS ON IMMIGRATION: After previously supporting legalization for the 11 million, Scott Walker tried to get right with conservatives on Fox News Sunday:

“I don’t believe in amnesty…my view has changed. I’m flat out saying it…we need to secure the border. We ultimately need to put in place a system that works. A legal immigration system that works.”

However, Walker also said that “there’s a way” to legalize the 11 million if border security is accomplished first. This puts Walker pretty much where Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have come down on the issue.

* TOP CONSERVATIVE: BOEHNER’S JOB IS SAFE: GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, flatly tells CNN that there won’t be any conservative coup to oust Speaker John Boehner: “That’s not gonna happen.”

Duly noted. So what is stopping Boehner from passing long term funding of the Department of Homeland Security with the help of a lot of Democrats? We were repeatedly told during past showdowns that Boehner couldn’t avert crises with Dem help, because he’d lose his Speakership, and each of those ended in the same way.

Republicans Appoint Scientifically Illiterate Ted Cruz To Oversee NASA

Addicting Info

As part of the spoils of their midterm victories, Republicans now get to remake many of the congressional oversight committees that hold power over federal agencies. As is typical for the party that has for decades been moving from the ideology of “limited government” to “no government at all,” when it came to who would oversee the nation’s science programs, the GOP wasted no time in appointing one of their own who not only doesn’t agree with most current scientific discoveries, but has actively tried to defund science research in the past.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a man who doesn’t believe climate change is real and who’s dad recently claimed evolution was a communist lie to “convince you that you came from a monkey” as a way to disprove God, will now oversee the subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, including NASA. We’re screwed.

After all, Cruz is the kind of Tea Party extremist that probably cried during the Apollo moon landings – not because of the amazing achievement, but because that was money that could have been spent giving tax breaks to job creators. He has expressed no interest in science, and his anti-government agenda makes an agency like NASA a natural enemy.

However, as much as it may seem like a bad Onion article, a scientifically-ignorant Cruz is a very intentional pick by the Republican Party. Cruz’s appointment to oversee NASA fits the general trend of subcommittee appointments being motivated primarily by people with an agenda, rather than people with the requisite knowledge or interest in the field. Like many politicians, Cruz was tapped for the job specifically because he is anti-science and Republicans reason that animosity will make him a tough nut to crack when NASA comes to him for money.

In fact, we’ve already caught a glimpse of just how little Cruz thinks of NASA. In 2013, Cruz tried to slash funding to the space agency by sneaking an amendment into a spending authorization bill. Thankfully, Democrats in the Senate told him to get lost and removed the amendment before it could be finalized. Now the other party holds the power and Cruz looks hungry.

This may be convenient for Republicans eager to prove an ideological point, but it may be disastrous for – ironically – America’s space and science competitiveness. For example, much of the research NASA has been conducting – from space and here on earth – has been focused on the devastating effects of climate change. Arguably, it’s the most important research of the 21st century, because those effects will have dire consequences for people and the planet in the decades to come. But the terrifying thing is this: Cruz doesn’t believe any of it.

Unlike many of his conservative colleagues, Cruz doesn’t just believe climate change isn’t man-made, he doesn’t think it’s happening at all. In an interview with CNN last year, he was certain that he was right:

“The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn’t happened,” said Cruz. “You know, back in the ’70sI remember the ’70s, we were told there was global cooling. And everyone was told global cooling was a really big problem. And then that faded.”

It’s a favorite conservative talking point, but it’s false. The world is definitely warming, and there are reams of data to support that conclusion. Cruz recalls the 1970s, but lets see if he can remember as far back as last year – also known as the hottest year ever recorded.

Cruz’s power over NASA comes at a crucial time in the agency’s history. Apart from the terrestrial-based science its researchers have been conducting, NASA has several major space projects cooking, including a proposed manned mission to Mars by 2030. With Cruz holding the purse strings, the funding for such ambitious projects now has to be called into question. For those of us who long to see the exploration of space put back on the national agenda, there is nothing good about an anti-science Tea Partier getting to decide whether or not that’s important enough to spend money on.

 

White House: GOP Keeping Scalise ‘Says A Lot About Who They Are’

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I wholeheartedly agree…

TPM LiveWire

The White House said on Monday that it’s up to Republicans to decide whether to keep House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) in the leadership team, but argued that their decision “says a lot about who they are.”

“There’s no arguing that who Republicans decide to elevate into a leadership position says a lot about what the conference’s priorities and values are,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as David Duke without the baggage. So it’ll be up to Republicans to decide what that says about their conference.”

Earnest declined to call on House Republicans to remove Scalise from his position as the No. 3 leader in the conference, after the congressman admitted last week that he spoke to a white supremacist group in 2002. Other House Republican leaders, including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), are standing by Scalise, while acknowledging that he made a mistake.

“It is the responsibility of members of the House Republican conference to choose their leaders,” Earnest said. “Who they choose to serve in their leadership says a lot about who they are, what their values are and what the priorities of the conference should be.”

H/t: DB

House Republicans Sue To Raise Health Care Costs For Poor Americans

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) | CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

I’m concerned about the Bulls**t  factor that politicians have served to it’s constituents since the beginning of this Republic.

House Speaker Boehner seems especially adept at this factor even better than most.  When will Americans wake up and see they’re being duped over and over again.  I favor no one party in this assessment.  They are all the same when it comes to the Bulls**t factor.

Think Progress

House Republicans filed a long-awaited lawsuit against the Obama administration on Friday, arguing that the president has inappropriately acted without congressional authority to implement parts of the health care reform law. If it’s successful, the lawsuit could increase out-of-pocket costs for millions of vulnerable Americans who already struggle to afford health services — even though the GOP has repeatedly accused the law of making coverage too expensive.

According to the legal challenge, the White House shouldn’t have acted unilaterally to delay the employer mandate portion of the Affordable Care Act. But it also takes issue with a different provision of the law: subsidies known as cost-sharing reductions, which cap the amount that insurers are allowed to charge people for co-pays, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Over the next ten years, the ACA will give an estimated $175 billion in subsidies to insurance companies to keep health costs lower for Americans earning between 100 and 250 percent of the federal poverty line. House Republicans are arguing that money was illegally appropriated without getting approval from Congress.

If insurers no longer receive subsidies from the government to offset the cost of capping out-of-pocket costs, however, the New York Times reports that “the companies might be forced to raise costs elsewhere.” That could directly affect out-of-pocket expenses among a population that already worries about being able to afford insurance.

GOP lawmakers are setting their sets on repealing this particular consumer protection despite the fact that they’ve have previously had a lot of complaints about the health lawraising out-of-pocket costs, arguing Obamacare threatens to make coverage too unaffordable for average Americans.

In advance of the law’s first enrollment period, Republicans were quick to criticize the other expenses accompanying new Obamacare plans aside from the monthly premiums, saying the deductibles were much too high. At the time, the Senate Republican Communications Center circulated a roundup of consumers complaining about their deductibles.

In April, House Speaker John Boeher (R-OH) complained that Obamacare has caused his co-pays and deductibles to triple, and said he’s been getting letters from his constituents having similar issues. In the lead up to the recent midterm elections, Republicans in close races relied on the messaging that the health law was driving up co-pays and deductibles. Candidates like incoming Sen. Jodi Ernst (IA) argued that the Obama administration was hiding the “true cost” of out-of-pocket expenses from enrollees.

“The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution, and that is exactly why we are pursuing this course of action,” Boehner said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed. But if he gets his way, the House GOP might also end up fueling its own complaints about the law.

Mythbusting The Punditry Class’ Election Postmortems

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TPM Cafe – Opinion

Republicans won a tsunami victory that portends a big win in 2016

Uh, no, probably not. The GOP victory slightly overperformed (if at all) what you’d expect from a combination of several factors: a “sixth-year” election with a Democrat in the White House, a pro-Republican midterm turnout pattern, a wildly pro-Republican landscape for members of Congress (especially senators), and a strongly “wrong track” public opinion profile reinforced by negative perceptions of the economy.

The composition of the electorate was an awful lot like 2010: 75 percent white (77 percent white in 2010, 72 percent in 2012); 37 percent 60 and over (32 percent in 2010, 25 percent in 2012); 12 percent 30 and under (12 percent in 2010, 19 percent in 2012). The party splits in various demographics also strongly resembled 2010; the better Republican numbers in pro-Democratic groups (viz. 36 percent among Latinos in 2014, 38 percent in 2010, 27 percent in 2012) reinforces the impression that more conservative voters turned out across the board. (Since nobody really thinks Republicans surged from 26 percent to 50 percent among Asian-Americans since 2012, it’s likely one or both numbers for that group are skewed).

So we’ve now seen three consecutive “swings” in turnout patterns and results that reinforce the “two electorates” hypothesis suggesting a structural Republican advantage in midterms and a Democratic advantage in presidential elections. Since the close alignment of the two parties with the segments of the electorate most likely (Republican with their older white voter base) and least likely (Democrats with their younger and minority voter base) to participate in midterms emerged in 2008, nobody’s “broken serve” yet. It could happen in 2016, of course, but nothing that occurred last Tuesday appears to make that more or less likely than it was on Monday.

Part of the illusion of a last-minute “tsunami,” of course, was created by a systematic overestimation of the Democratic vote by polls, amounting to 4 percent according to Nate Silverand 5 percent according to Sam Wang. In 2010 it was Republicans who benefited from a polling misfire.

The Democratic GOTV operation was a failure

It’s true the DSCC’s Bannock Street Project did not reshape the midterm electorate and produce victories, and national turnout was at the lowest rate since 1942. But turnout was up from 2010 levels in most states with competitive Senate races (as a percentage of 2010 vote): by 12.9 percent in Louisiana; 9.9 percent in Arkansas; 6.8 percent in New Hampshire; 6.6 percent in Alaska; 4.7 percent in Colorado; 4.2 percent in Kentucky; 3.8 percent in North Carolina; 2.6 percent in Kansas; and 1.4 percent in Arkansas. Georgia was the biggest disappointment, with 13 percent fewer votes cast in 2014 as compared to 2010, perhaps indicating that allegations of voter registration applications being buried by the Secretary of State’s office ought to get a second look.

A “but for” test would seem to indicate that overall Bannock Street kept turnout patterns from being even worse than they might have been. But to the extent it was an experiment, it needs tweaking, and it may simply be that not voting in midterms (particularly for young people) is too entrenched a habit to be significantly changed by any GOTV program. Republicans claims that Democratic GOTV efforts were canceled out by their own more impressive measures should also be examined, along with the suspicion that both parties’ early voting programs didn’t really add that many new voters.

Democrats should finally write off the south

The defeats of Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor and Michelle Nunn, along with the projected defeat of Mary Landrieu in a December runoff and the near-death-experience of Mark Warner have fed perennial talk that Democrats are wasting their time in the former Confederate States.

It may be true that Democrats will henceforth struggle in midterms in much (though not necessarily all) of the region, and that the decline in ticket-splitting means outperforming national tickets among white voters is becoming a thing of the past. But in presidential years, there’s no reason Virginia (carried twice by Obama), North Carolina (once), Georgia (where the nonwhite percentage of the population is creeping ever upward) and of course such essentially non-southern states as Florida (carried twice by Obama) cannot remain competitive for the foreseeable future. The trend lines are actually positive, with the realignment towards Republicans of southern white voters reaching its point of diminishing returns.

I’d argue what’s really obsolete is the get-as-far-to-the-right-as-possible Blue Dog model for southern Democratic success, epitomized by Rep. John Barrow (D-GA), who finally lost this year. Absent some strong, specifically partisan anti-Republican trend in a particular year, southern white conservative voters see no reason to vote Democratic any more, and each year their return becomes more unlikely. But ascending elements of the southern electorate, including transplants and knowledge workers, continue to be a ripe target for Democrats.

‘Populism’ is the cure-all/won’t work for Democrats

Nothing was more ubiquitous in Democratic campaigns this year than support for such “populist” economic themes as a higher minimum wage, which polled well nearly everywhere and sometimes split Republicans. But even in states where voters approved minimum wage ballot initiatives, Democratic statewide candidates did not benefit, leading some observers to  “populist” appeals to reduce inequality might be less effective than a pro-growth message while others countered that a sharper populist message was needed when the Democratic Party holds the While House and is deemed responsible for the economy.

This is a dilemma for Democrats that goes back at least to the Clinton years, and will be partly ameliorated by the imminent departure from office of President Obama, making it easier for his successor as Democratic nominee to make 2016 a “two futures” choice of economic policies rather than a referendum on a status quo still suffering from the mistakes of the Bush administration. I’d personally argue that what Democrats most need isn’t “less” or “more” populism, but a more comprehensive economic message that explains how income equality is critical to growth and offers not just one but various ways to boost paychecks. Princeton professor Alan Blinder has made a pretty good start.

Meanwhile, a separate argument is that some Democrats spent too much time on “culture war” issues or talking about a “war on women.” I’d just note that the single biggest difference between the 2010 and 2014 votes were that Democrats won women last week by four points and lost them by a point in 2010. Something went right.

Fundamentals explain everything

I obviously agree such “fundamentals” as turnout patterns and midterm dynamics and the “presidential referendum” factor and demographics explain most of what happened last Tuesday. But sometimes candidates and campaigns trump everything. It’s very unlikely that Joni Ernst would have won comfortably had Bruce Braley not been filmed telling out-of-state trial lawyers he was their vehicle for keeping Chuck Grassley, “an Iowa farmer,” away from the Judiciary Committee gavel. Maryland’s Democratic Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown ran a sluggish and overconfident campaign, just like Maryland LG Kathleen Kennedy Townsend did eight years ago when she was upset by a Republican. And Mark Udall lost in 2014 while Michael Bennet won in 2010 largely because Cory Gardner was a helluva better candidate than Ken Buck. At the margins of every election, anything can and does happen.

Ed Kilgore is the principal blogger for Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog, Managing Editor of The Democratic Strategist, and a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Earlier he worked for three governors and a U.S. Senator. He can be followed on Twitter at@ed_kilgore.

H/t: Don B.

Meet your new craziest Republicans

Jody Hice wearing camo, holding rifle

Daily Kos

Tuesday’s elections brought both a rout of Democrats and a new standard for just who can be a national Republican these days. That’s not good, but let’s have a quick look at the new House and Senate conservatives most likely to rise to (unintended) prominence in the next two years. It’s time for Meet Your New Craziest Republicans.

Glenn Grothman, WI-06: Any list has to start with new Wisconsin Representative Glenn Grothman. Grothman is a finely tuned gaffe machine, if by “gaffe” we mean “saying the things Republicans are not supposed to say out loud.” He is a fervent believer in stopping The Gay Agenda, which he believes exists in our nation’s classrooms, but it’s the full scope of Grothman’s bizarre statements that have led us to predict that he will quickly rise to challenge Texas Republican Louie Gohmert for the title of America’s Dumbest Congressman. Does he have the stuff? We’ll soon know.

 

Jody Hice, GA-10: Another beneficiary of a hard-right conservative district, Georgia’s Jody Hice can’t be considered a gaffe machine. He’s just plain mean. A tea party Republican right out of central casting, Hice is a preacher, a conservative radio host, a gun-toter, and the district’s replacement for Paul “Evolution and embryology and the big bang theory are lies from the pit of Hell” Broun. Hice’s most recent hit has been the assertion that Muslim-Americans are not protected by the First Amendment because Islam is not a true religion; he also is frothingly anti-gay and is for women entering politics only if it is “within the authority of her husband.” Look for Hice to be a loudmouth Steve King type; not dumb, but meaner than a bag of rattlesnakes and a whole lot louder.

 

Mark Walker, NC-06: An also-ran compared to the more reliably soon-to-be-infamous Grothman and Rice, Mark Walker will nonetheless make a solid addition to the members of Congress that you will shudder to think have actual power. His highlight reel is topped by the time he proposed “we go laser or blitz” Mexico in order to teach them a lesson about immigrants crossing our southern border. He’s yet another tea partier that sallied into Congress while Republicans were proudly proclaiming they had tamped down on all that nonsense this time around. He also says he’d vote to impeach Obama.

 

Honorable Mention: Mia Love, UT-04: A female black Republican, Love has been a party darling groomed for success. She’ll go to Congress this year to prove that she’s got what it takes to move on to even higher office. She sports the endorsement of ultra-right anti-abortion extremists, but her unimpressive win even amidst an otherwise-solid Republican wave may have given her GOP poster child status a bit of a hit. Like Bobby Jindal, she’s an ambitious state Republican who will either make a big splash in the party or look very silly trying.

 

Joni Ernst, IA-Sen: When it comes to the Senate, all connoisseurs of train wrecks in the making are expecting great things from the Sarah Palinesque Joni Ernst. A far-right conspiracy theorist who coasted through the election on reporter fluff pieces and stories of pig castration, Ernst will join—and perhaps top—the Senate contingent of Republican believers in all things conspiratorial and insane. Think Michele Bachmann, but in the Senate. Think yourcrazy grandpa and his forwarded chain letters, but in the Senate. Think that person who accosts you at lunch one day with their theories of how Agenda 21 will be allowing cows to vote and forcing humans into tent cities—but in the actual Senate. Think Ted Cruz, but—well, think Ted Cruz. Ernst’s campaign showed two and only two settings, either ducking the presslike a hunted submarine or engaging in word salads that rival the best Palinisms. We expect great things from her.

 

Honorable Mention: Tom Cotton, AR-Sen: He won’t be a Joni Ernst, primarily because Ernst has squirreled away too much crazy for anyone but Ted Cruz himself to challenge, but Tom Cotton will prove a reliable Craven Liar Republican in the tradition of our finest intentionally insincere leaders. Why the Craven Liar title, as opposed to challenging in either the Sweet Jesus this guy is dumb or the Mean Bastard categories? Because Cotton’s campaign showed alevel of straight-up bullshit and pandering that had previously been seen only in satire bits about what Republicans might think, as when he supposed that ISIS and Mexican drug cartels would be teaming up to attack us across our border, a conservative wetyerpants claim seemingly handcrafted in the belief that Tom Cotton supporters were among the dumbest people on the planet. Unfortunately for Arkansas Republicans, he had them pegged. Cotton was also the most notable user of ISIS-produced terrorism films in his own ads, a move both meant to invoke terror in Americans so they would vote his way and one that likely earned the gratitude of the terrorist group for boosting publicity of their snuff films as they had intended. Perhaps we’ll call him the ISIS senator, as it’s a good bet ISIS already does.

 

On the Republican crazy beat, those are the top faces to watch. They’ll all be appearing very, very often on the satire shows, and probably more than a few times on the Sunday shows (but I repeat myself). We’ll also have the usual Steve Kings and Louie Gohmerts and, always, Ted Cruz, but if you’re looking for the next national leader who will either make a total fool of his or herself, make a fool out of his or her whole state, or accidentally shoot someone in the face during a hunting trip, here are the names that should feature on your new bingo cards.