U.S. Politics

Reversal: Some Republicans now defending parts of ObamaCare



The House’s debate over repealing ObamaCare has had an unintended effect: Republicans are now defending key elements of President Obama’s health law.

Many House Republicans are now defending ObamaCare’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, in the face of an effort by the conservative House Freedom Caucus to repeal them.

Some Republican lawmakers are also speaking out in favor of ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid and its mandates that insurance plans cover services such as mental health and prescription drugs.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), the GOP’s chief deputy whip, said Wednesday that the Freedom Caucus’s calls for states to be able to apply for waivers to repeal pre-existing condition protections are “a bridge too far for our members.”

Those ObamaCare protections include what is known as community rating, which prevents insurers from charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions, and guaranteed issue, which prevents insurers from outright denying coverage to them.

McHenry spoke in personal terms about the importance of keeping in place those Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions, contained in Title I of the law.

“If you look at the key provisions of Title I, it affects a cross section of our conference based off of their experience and the stories they know from their constituents and their understanding of policy,” McHenry said.

“My family history is really bad, and so my understanding of the impact of insurance regs are real, and I believe I’m a conservative, so I look at this, understand the impact of regulation, but also the impact of really bad practices in the insurance marketplace prior to the ACA passing,” he continued. “There are a lot of provisions that I’ve campaigned on for four election cycles that are part of the law now that I want to preserve.”

McHenry’s defense of those ObamaCare pre-existing condition protections is striking because just last year, House Republicans touted a healthcare plan, called A Better Way, that would have repealed the protections and replaced them with a different system.

Rather than ObamaCare’s protections, the Better Way plan would have protected people with pre-existing conditions only if they maintained “continuous coverage,” meaning they had no gaps in coverage. Unlike under ObamaCare, the plan would not extend the protections to people who were uninsured and trying to enroll in coverage. For those people, Republicans proposed subsidizing coverage through separate high-risk pools.

During a town hall at Georgetown University last year, Speaker Paul Ryan(R-Wis.) called for repealing ObamaCare’s community rating protection and allowing insurers to return to the days of “underwriting,” when they could charge people with pre-existing conditions more. Instead, sick people could get coverage subsidized through high-risk pools, he said.

“Open up underwriting, have more insurance companies, have more competition, and just pay for the person with the pre-existing condition to make sure that they can get affordable coverage when that moment happens and make it much more competitive for everybody else,” Ryan said then. “I think it’s a smarter way to do it economically and it gives people more freedom, more choices.”

Now, though, many House Republicans are defending the ObamaCare protections.

For example, in addition to McHenry’s comments, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) this week called community rating a “very significant reform” made by ObamaCare.

Conservative groups are frustrated to see Republicans offering the defense. They say these Republicans are going back on their word to repeal ObamaCare.

Heritage Action this week sent out a fact sheet, citing the Better Way plan, titled “House Republicans Campaigned on Repealing Obamacare’s Community Rating Provision.”

The group’s CEO, Michael Needham, held a press call to blame moderate House Republicans in the Tuesday Group for blocking a deal.

“I think the Tuesday Group clearly wants to keep ObamaCare in place,” Needham said.

It’s not just the pre-existing condition protections that GOP lawmakers are defending.

Many Republicans from states that accepted ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid are supporting keeping it.

A group of Republican senators, including Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the chairman of Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, last month objected to a draft of the House GOP repeal bill because it did not “provide stability and certainty for individuals and families in Medicaid expansion programs or the necessary flexibility for states.”

The House bill would effectively end the Medicaid expansion starting in 2020. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) warned that change “affects so many of our disabled individuals and families, and the working poor.”

Republicans had long derided ObamaCare’s “essential health benefits,” which mandate 10 health services that insurance plans must cover. They have said, for example, that men should not be forced to pay for plans that cover maternity care.

But now some Republicans are speaking up in favor of those requirements, including the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.).

“In addition to the loss of Medicaid coverage for so many people in my Medicaid-dependent state, the denial of essential health benefits in the individual market raise serious coverage and cost issues,” Frelinghuysen wrote in a statement last month announcing he would oppose the House GOP repeal bill.

House Republicans even touted an amendment on Thursday that they said would bring down premiums by the government helping to pay for the costs of high-cost enrollees. That program is very similar to one that already existed in ObamaCare, called “reinsurance.”

McHenry, asked if his defense of the pre-existing condition protections was an acknowledgement that ObamaCare had done some good, said: “It is an awful bill on the main, but there are a few little kernels here that have had a good impact for eliminating the worst practices within the insurance marketplace.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, this week pushed back on the argument that his claims are a “bridge too far” for most of the conference, saying “anything less” than full repeal is not a bridge too far.

But he acknowledged that many of his colleagues don’t support full repeal of ObamaCare, long a central tenet of the party.

“Full repeal of ObamaCare may be a bridge too far,” he said, later adding: “We wouldn’t be having the problem we’re having if that weren’t the case.”


U.S. Politics

How Devin Nunes suddenly fell from power

Image result for Devin Nunes

Nunes briefs reporters in Washington, DC, on March 24, 2017. Reuters / Jonathan Ernst


Things went from bad to worse for House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Thursday.

Fifteen days after he made a mysterious announcement about incidental surveillance of the President Trump’s transition team, Nunes said he would temporarily recuse himself from the panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the election, as the House Ethics Committee investigates whether he improperly exposed classified information.

The announcement was a stunning turnaround for Nunes, who less than a week ago had told reporters that “there’s not a better person in the House of Representatives to do this investigation than me.”

Republican leadership had backed Nunes throughout the scandal — despite a handful of critics within the conference.

And headlines had recently improved for the embattled chairman.

Reports emerged Monday that former national security adviser Susan Rice, who served under President Obama, had sought to learn the identities of Trump transition officials caught up in U.S. surveillance — apparently corroborating Nunes’ original announcement.

But the open Ethics probe appears to have sapped that support.

After previously saying that he did not believe Nunes should recuse himself, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that he “supported” Nunes’ decision. He emphasized that the chair retains his trust but said that the Ethics probe would be a “distraction” to the committee’s investigation.

The recusal gives Democrats — who have clamored for Nunes to step down — a major scalp in the contentious investigation.

“I did have plenty reason to think that [Nunes] should not be in that role, both because of his role in the Trump transition and because of his erratic and bizarre behavior as chairman of the committee,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters.

Committee Republicans kept a conspicuously low profile on Thursday morning as lawmakers prepared to leave town for the two-week Easter recess.

Nunes himself — in a raincoat and jeans — ducked out of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) office and into a car shortly after the last vote, answering questions with silence.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), a senior panel member who will head the investigation in Nunes’ absence, would say little more than that the investigation would continue.

A fatigued-looking, unshaven Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) — who along with Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) will assist Conaway — declined to answer questions from reporters who cornered him in an elevator after the announcement.

“Y’all have a nice weekend,” he said, leaning back on a railing as the doors closed.

Nunes and his allies have characterized the Ethics probe as a political hit job.

“The Democrats should be ashamed of themselves for attacking such a man and unfortunately, it looks like their shame index has been blurred beyond recognition at this point,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).

Nunes said in a statement announcing the recusal that multiple “leftwing activist groups” had filed complaints against him to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). He called the allegations “entirely false and politically motivated.”

The Ethics Committee made its own formal announcement just minutes after Nunes announced his recusal.

That panel began its investigation without waiting for OCE, which reviews allegations from outside groups and can refer cases to Ethics for review.

Since he stepped up to the microphone two weeks ago, Nunes has been at the eye of a steadily-intensifying storm.

On March 22, Nunes shocked reporters by announcing during a solo press conference that he had uncovered evidence that information on President Trump’s transition team had been incidentally swept up in legal U.S. surveillance.

He provided few details about what, precisely, he had seen, but hurried to the White House that afternoon to brief the president on his findings.

Later, he said that he was concerned that officials had inappropriately sought to learn the names of Trump transition team members — names that are normally “masked” to protect the privacy of U.S. persons caught up in foreign surveillance.

The disclosure immediately raised concerns from lawmakers who said that, by even disclosing the existence of the intercepts, Nunes had inappropriately revealed classified information.

Nunes has said it “appears” that the intercepts were collected under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — but FISA materials are considered classified until explicitly declassified by the agency that made the original designation.

If the National Security Agency (NSA) or the FBI had not declassified whatever records that Nunes referred to, intelligence law experts say, it was possible that he illegally exposed classified information.

But those complaints were quickly overshadowed at the time, after reports emerged that revealed Nunes’ sources were two White House staff members — who might presumably have briefed the president on any inappropriate surveillance themselves.

Democrats clamored for Nunes’ recusal, arguing that he had acted under pressure from the White House to substantiate the president’s apocryphal claim that former President Barack Obama “wiretapped” him.

The uproar effectively halted the committee’s work for a week and raised questions about the survival of the probe.

But for a few days, at least, it appeared Nunes might have quelled the storm. He met with ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) to hammer out a preliminary witness list for the probe and the committee resumed their normal meetings.

That brief calm exploded on Thursday morning with Nunes’s announcement. Democrats say they learned about the recusal from news alerts — not in a normal committee meeting that morning that had ended only moments before.

Nunes retains his gavel — and Democrats on Thursday struck a conciliatory note. Schiff expressed his “appreciation” for the chair’s recusal and said he looked forward to working with him on other issues.

Many had kind words for Conaway, including some of Nunes’ fiercest critics. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) told reporters he “had confidence” in Conaway, while Schiff said he looked forward to working with him.

“I think it will allow us to have a fresh start moving forward,” Schiff said.


U.S. Politics

6 ways President Trump tried to spin his total defeat on health care


President Donald Trump, who loves to win, just suffered the biggest defeat of his still-nascent presidency. The American Health Care Act, the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, was so unpopular that House Speaker Paul Ryan canceled a vote on the bill at the last minute Friday.

You might be wondering how Trump would react to a loss that is nearly impossible to spin as a victory. The answer is that, of course, he tried anyway.

Trump was involved with the last stages of the bill’s failure. He wanted congressional Republicans to quit negotiating, which they did late Thursday night. Then, even with serious doubt about whether the bill had enough votes, Trump kept insisting they hold the vote anyway — until Ryan canceled it at the last second.

In the aftermath, Trump, in a short statement from the Oval Office, shared his take on the process. In sum: All of this is Democrats’ fault, and when Obamacare simultaneously implodes and explodes, they will come begging to him to make a deal. He also gave the American people an idea of what the president learned about lawmaking during the three-week process that he decided was “enough”:

1) How legislating works

“We all learned a lot,” Trump said. “We learned a lot about loyalty. We learned a lot about the vote-getting process. We learned about some very arcane rules in obviously both the Senate and in the House. So, it’s been certainly for me, it’s been an interesting experience.”

2) If your bill fails because not enough people in your party will vote for it, it’s the other party’s fault

“We had no votes from the Democrats,” Trump said. “They weren’t going to give us a single vote so it’s a very difficult thing to do.” The real losers, he said, were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “Now they own Obamacare,” Trump said. “They own it. One hundred percent own it.”

Judging by the statement Pelosi and Schumer gave, surrounded by several fellow Democrats, they’re very happy losers indeed:

3) Obamacare is failing, and when it does, Democrats will be begging for a bipartisan deal

“I’ve been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do, politically speaking, is let Obamacare explode,” said Trump, who never said such a thing until January 2017, according to an archive of his public statements. “It is exploding right now.”

“It’s imploding and soon will explode and it’s not going to be pretty,” he said later.

The Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act denied that Obamacare was exploding (or imploding, or going into a death spiral). But Trump said he was convinced that when that happens, it will be an opportunity for an even better, bipartisan health care bill.

“I know some Democrats and they’re good people,” Trump said. “I honestly believe the Democrats will come to us and say, look, let’s get together and get a great health care bill or plan that’s really great for the people of our country.”

4) The Republican Party is complicated

But everyone likes him, Trump said, which is the really important thing. “He’s got a lot of factions,” he said of House Speaker Paul Ryan, “and there’s been a long history of liking and disliking even within the Republican Party. Long before I got here. But I’ve had a great relationship with the Republican Party. It seems that both sides like Trump, and that’s good.”

5) He really wanted to do tax reform anyway

“So now we’re going to go for tax reform, which I’ve always liked,” said Trump, who insisted for weeks that Obamacare repeal was required to happen first, before tax reform. (This isn’t true, but it was the preferred strategy of Republicans in Congress.)

6) Anyway, this crushing defeat is actually for the best

“Perhaps the best thing that could happen is exactly what happened today, because we’ll end up with a truly great health care bill in the future after this mess known as Obamacare explodes,” Trump said. “So, I want to thank everybody for being here. It will go very smoothly.”

Libby Nelson

U.S. Politics

The Memo: Winners and losers from the battle over health care



A week of high drama in Washington reached a stunning climax on Friday: President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) decided to pull the Republican bill that had sought to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act rather than watch it go down to certain defeat.

There will be no second attempt anytime soon. Ryan said at a Capitol Hill news conference on Friday afternoon that the nation will “be living with ObamaCare for the foreseeable future.”

It’s an astonishing conclusion to one of the main fights that Republicans — including Trump — have sought for years.

As the dust settles, who are the biggest winners and losers?


President Trump

Make no mistake, this was a humiliating defeat for a president who campaigned as the ultimate deal-maker who could shake up a moribund Washington and get things done.

His big legislative push has fallen at the first hurdle. Trump himself was deeply engaged in trying to win over reluctant Republican lawmakers — and it didn’t work.

There are many unknowns: How will this affect other items on Trump’s agenda? How much frustration among grassroots Republican voters will be focused on him rather than Ryan or the GOP lawmakers who refused to get on board?

In remarks on Friday afternoon, Trump sought to put a brave face on the situation, avoiding lashing out at any Republicans and arguing that the Democrats would continue to “own” ObamaCare, to their political detriment.

But when Trump said, “There’s not much you can do about it,” referring to ObamaCare, it seemed an oddly impotent remark for a sitting president with majorities in both houses of Congress.

This is a very big setback for Trump. Just how big will become clear only after more time has passed.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

Friday’s developments were at least as damaging for Ryan as they were for the president.

Whether the American Health Care Act would ultimately have been signed into law or not, the fact that Ryan could not get it through the House is deeply embarrassing for the Speaker.

Ryan’s fingerprints were all over the legislation, which faced immediate and fierce pushback from conservative members of his own conference as well as several important interest groups.

Some Trump loyalists contend that Ryan erred by focusing on healthcare rather than tax reform out of the gate. And conservative media commentators are openly questioning his leadership.

Trump publicly insists that he retains confidence in Ryan. But the Speaker went down to a big defeat that revealed an inability to muscle his members into line.

Vice President Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and Office of Management And Budget Director Mick Mulvaney

Pence, Price and Mulvaney were all once House members — in the case of the latter two, right up until they joined the Trump administration.

As such, the White House had suggested they would be especially effective in winning over members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and other lawmakers. Mulvaney was a founding member of the group.

When all’s said and done, the trio failed to round up the required votes. That’s a political black eye for all three men.


The House Freedom Caucus

The conservative group won the battle — but the outcome of the broader war has yet to be decided.

The caucus, led by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), held the line in opposition to the bill, despite the urgings of Trump himself. More than any other Republican group, they were responsible for the failure of the legislation.

The whole episode showed the power of the Freedom Caucus, but its members will have to deal with the consequences too.

They defied a president of their own party who — for all his broader struggles with popularity — is fervently supported by many grassroots Republicans.

They sank an effort to replace a law that many of those grassroots voters detest.

And the realpolitik argument for their position — that they could force Trump and the House leadership to come back to the table with a proposal that was more attentive to their concerns, appears to have proven untrue.


Former President Barack Obama

The bottom line is simple: Obama’s signature domestic achievement has survived – and at a moment when the White House, the Senate and the House are all controlled by people who have repeatedly pledged to destroy it.

Trump, speaking from the White House on Friday afternoon, insisted that the Affordable Care Act would explode under its own weight. But the current president did not make any pledge to renew his efforts to undo it, instead suggesting he would be open to some more incremental repairs in tandem with congressional Democrats.

Obama’s big law dodged a bullet here. And that strengthens his legacy as a president of considerable historical significance.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

Pelosi displayed the kind of grip on her party colleagues that Ryan so signally failed to exhibit.

Not a single Democrat broke ranks to support the Republican proposal. The position may not have been that surprising. But it did ensure that Republicans faced the steepest possible gradient.

Pelosi, who loves the hand-to-hand political combat of Capitol Hill, clearly took some pleasure in the Republicans’ disarray.

When the vote was first postponed on Thursday, she told reporters, “Rookie’s error, Donald Trump.”

Jared Kushner

Trump’s son-in-law, among his most trusted advisers, was reportedly against the decision to move on healthcare from the get-go. But he was also out of Washington for much of the week, on a ski trip with his family in Aspen.

CNN reported that the president was displeased that Kushner was out of town.

But as someone who was physically and politically distant from the week’s messy horse-trading, he emerges relatively unscathed from the debacle.


Several GOP governors were critical of the replacement plan put forward by their colleagues in the House.

Ohio’s John Kasich, Nevada’s Brian Sandoval, Arkansas’ Asa Hutchinson and Michigan’s Rick Snyder wrote an open letter last week to Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stating that they could not support the legislation.

Their argument, in essence, was that the bill would have hit Medicaid too hard.

They gave political cover to lawmakers from their states who were also leaning against the legislation.


The organization for older Americans lobbied vigorously against the law.

It attacked one proposed change as “an age tax,” emphasized that 24 million fewer people were projected to have health insurance after a decade, and declared the issue to be an “accountability vote” — in other words, one where it would use its muscle against lawmakers who voted against its wishes.

The association’s efforts were a reminder that it is not to be underestimated.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.

U.S. Politics

Paul Ryan: AHCA has to do more for older Americans


House Speaker Paul Ryan appeared to bow to pressure from seniors groups on Sunday, admitting for the first time that his healthcare bill didn’t do enough for those in their 60s and would have to be revised to give them more help.

There’s been no shortage of organizations throwing their weight against Ryan’s American Health Care Act since it was released on March 6 — including Planned Parenthood advocates, Democrats in congress, and House conservatives who think it doesn’t go far enough.

But seniors groups, long considered among the most powerful interest groups on Capitol Hill, have also led the charge in denouncing AHCA. For instance, the AARP has denounced Ryancare for eating into the Medicare Trust Fund, sunsetting the Medicaid expansion, and jacking up premium rates for older Americans.

It looks like their message is getting through. Last Wednesday, Ryan announced that his beleaguered bill would need to undergo some changes and “incorporate feedback” from his members ahead of its vote on the House floor this Thursday. But it wasn’t clear until Sunday that the change would take the form of more financial assistance for seniors — rather than, say, moving the bill in an even more conservative direction, as some House Republicans have demanded.

“We do believe we need to add some additional assistance to people in those older cohorts,” Ryan told Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday morning.

Ryan’s comment came after Fox News’s Wallace put up the following slide on the screen showing the explosion in the premiums for a 64 year old making $26,500:


While acknowledging that the bill had to change, Ryan continued to maintain that the Congressional Budget Office score made it look worse than it really was. As he has before, Ryan lamented the CBO didn’t incorporate the “three prongs” of Republicans’s healthcare overhaul — a misleading claim, as Vox’s Sarah Kliff has explained.

A Ryan spokesperson said the exact form this kind of “assistance” would take hasn’t been determined, but Ryan’s remarks suggested they would involve increasing tax credits for older Americans.

Whether that will be enough to get the bill across the finish line is another question altogether. When I interviewed House Democrats on the Hill the day after AHCA was announced, they expressed confidence that they could kill Ryan’s bill if they could convince senior groups to turn against it.

“I can tell you having been up here for a while that the groups that mobilize the loudest and the hardest are the senior groups,” one House Democratic aide says. “They’re no joke.”

Jeff Stein

U.S. Politics

GOP leaders want details before funding Trump’s border wall


Republican leaders in Congress want more details from President Trump about his proposed border wall before appropriating significant funding for the project.

They have questions about the design and how the administration would handle the rights of property owners whose land would be used to build the structure.

“What I’d like to see is a plan that we know is going to be implemented that’s going to be effective before we start writing the check,” said Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Cornyn said the administration needs to spell out “a layered approach” of “infrastructure, technology and personnel.”

He and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), who has jurisdiction over the wall, are in negotiations with the Trump administration to figure out precisely what they have in mind.

“We’d like to see what the plan is before we write a big check,” McCaul told The Hill on Thursday.

“We’re in current discussions with the administration. What is it going to look like, how much is it going to cost and how are you paying for this thing?”

Asked if he has received enough information from the administration, McCaul described the talks as “a work in progress.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week that it probably wouldn’t make sense to build a wall — which Trump suggested during the 2016 campaign would reach between 35 and 45 feet in height — along the entire length of the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

“There are some places along the border where that’s probably not the best way to secure the border,” McConnell said in an interview with Politico Playbook.

McConnell also said he didn’t think that Mexico would repay the United States in some form for the wall, something Trump has vowed will happen.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the wall is how to build it through along the 1,200 miles of border running through Texas, where most of the adjacent land is privately owned.

It could take years for the federal government to litigate the eminent domain claims necessary to build the barrier.

Trump’s budget submitted to Capitol Hill Thursday requests an initial installment of $4.1 billion for the wall, which GOP leaders initially estimated would cost $12 billion to $15 billion. The total final price tag for the project could run to more than $20 billion, according to other experts.

By requesting more information about the administration’s plans for a border wall, GOP leaders could buy themselves time and avoid a messy standoff with Democrats over including money for the wall in the government funding measure that must pass by the end of April to avoid a government shutdown.

Senate Democratic leaders warned this week that they would not allow the measure to pass if it includes funding for the wall.

They wrote in a letter to McConnell and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) that it would “be inappropriate” to include funding in must-pass bills needed to fund the government.

Democrats say the administration needs to answer questions about eminent domain procedures, the design and location of the wall and whether Mexico will fund any of its construction.

A senior Democratic aide reiterated Thursday that Democrats will not support a funding package to keep the government operating beyond April if it includes money for the wall.

Trump’s border wall proposal creates yet another problem for GOP leaders by calling for it to be paid for initially with cuts to non-defense discretionary spending programs.

His budget asks for $3 billion in fiscal year 2017 funding to pay for initial construction of the wall and improving homeland security — $1.5 billion of that total would go toward the wall.

The president has requested an additional $2.6 billion in fiscal year 2018 funding to continue construction of the wall next year.

Trump wants the money for the wall included in the government funding package that must pass by April 28, but GOP leaders are leery of giving Democrats an excuse to block it. A government shutdown fight would distract from their efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare and begin work on tax reform.

The White House budget request puts McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan(R-Wis.) in a bind because it calls for offsetting half the cost of a $33 billion supplemental spending bill — which includes $30 billion for defense and $3 billion for the wall and additional homeland security measures — with cuts to non-defense programs.

Democrats say this is unacceptable because it violates the agreement of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, which set the spending levels for defense and non-defense programs.

Senate Democrats wrote in their letter to McConnell and Cochran that Congress has already agreed that any extra funding “should be divided equally between defense and non-defense priorities.”

“Is McConnell going to be an enabler and do what Trump wants or is he going to stand up to the president and tell him there’s no way Congress can pass legislation funding the government by the end of April if it cuts non-defense programs,” said a senior Democratic aide.

By delaying funding for the wall and perhaps the rest of Trump’s supplemental spending request until the administration provides more details about the wall, GOP leaders may be able to sidestep a fight with Democrats in the six weeks remaining before government funding expires.

Ryan reminded reporters Thursday that “we just got the president’s budget submission” and “this is the very beginning of the budget process.”

“What I’m encouraged by is the notion that we’re going to begin rebuilding our military, which is something we’re all very worried about, the hollowing out of our military,” he said.

The negotiating time leading up to the deadline to fund the government is compressed by a two-week recess that both chambers plan to take in the middle of April.

McConnell said he hoped to pass the House GOP’s plan to repeal ObamaCare, the American Health Care Act, before the April recess, but that now appears unlikely as GOP senators have raised a variety of concerns with the legislation.

Some GOP senators want the legislation to undergo hearings and markups in the upper chamber, which would delay floor consideration.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has said the House bill will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate.


U.S. Politics

Nervous GOP senators rooting for Ryan to fail

AP-paul-ryan-01-as-170308_31x13_1600Photo by Joan Walsh


A growing number of GOP senators are hoping the House fails to pass its bill to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare so they won’t be blamed for killing it in the upper chamber.

Support for the House legislation has “disintegrated” in the Senate, according one Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss internal conference politics.

It will require substantial revisions to win the support of moderate Republicans in the upper chamber — something that will likely make it unacceptable to conservatives.

Given what looks like an unbridgeable divide in the Senate GOP conference, some are saying that it would be better if the bill dies in the House.

“I’ve heard that maybe the best thing is that this doesn’t get out of the House so we’re not the ones who ditch it,” said a Republican senator who has publicly voiced concern about the bill but requested anonymity. “Right now this is disintegrating in the Senate, with everyone off on their own about what they don’t like about the bill.”

The lawmaker said that voting for the House measure could come back to haunt Republicans again and again, just as votes for ­ObamaCare in 2009 and 2010 came back to hurt Democrats in the 2010, 2014 and 2016 elections.

“It’s tough to vote for policy that hurts people,” the senator added.

An analysis released by the Congressional Budget Office Monday found that the House plan, known as the American Health Care Act, would increase the number of uninsured by 24 million compared to current law over a decade.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who is emerging as a leading voice in the Senate healthcare debate, called the projection “eye-popping” and “awful.”

Several of his colleagues have had similar reactions, though they are holding back on slamming the House bill out of courtesy to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and their own leadership.

Another Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss the House bill candidly said, “There are no good options.”

The lawmaker acknowledged that not fulfilling the party’s campaign promise to repeal and replace ­ObamaCare would be politically painful in the short-term but worried that voting for bad policy could have negative reverberations for the GOP over the next decade.

“The best thing may be to kill it early so it doesn’t come over here,” the GOP senator said.

“One option may be for it to fail and for ­ObamaCare to continue to implode so that it drives us,” the senator added.

If premiums continue to rise and health insurance companies continue to drop out of the federal and state exchanges, there could be less political blowback from repealing ­ObamaCare, the legislator reasoned.

A third Republican senator said, “I think it’s better if it does not come out of the House in its current form.”

The lawmaker said if House GOP leaders manage to pass it, the measure should undergo a major renovation in the Senate by going through hearings and markups in the Finance and Health committees.

Ryan is determined to pass the House bill and told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview on Wednesday that senators are free to amend the legislation as they see fit. But it remains to be seen if Ryan can get the votes. According to a whip count by The Hill, at least 15 House Republicans are leaning no or are staunchly opposed to it. Dozens are declining to say where they stand. If all members vote and all Democrats reject the legislation, Ryan can only afford 21 defections.

Ryan declined to say whether he could pass the bill if it came to the floor this week.

“It’s going through the legislative process. That legislative process has not been finalized,” he told Tapper. “That’s, no offense, that’s kind of a goofy question or faulty premise, because this goes through four committees. We’ve gone through two so far.”

Earlier this month, Ryan guaranteed that the legislation would pass the House.

David Brooks, a center-right columnist for The New York Times, warned last week that the House healthcare bill, if enacted, “will probably lead to immense pain and disruption.”

“That will discredit market-based social reform, cost the Republicans their congressional majorities and end what’s left of the Reagan-era party,” he predicted.

While not persuasive among conservatives, this doomsday scenario is alarming to Republicans from swing states.

Senate Republican leaders are trying to shore up their crumbling ranks by warning them the political fallout will be worse if their party fails to deliver on its campaign promises over the past several elections to repeal  ­ObamaCare.

“I couldn’t disagree more,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) when told some of his colleagues hope the bill will die in the House.

“How do you explain not keeping the promise we made in the last three elections to repeal ­ObamaCare?” he said.

“We think we know a better way to deliver healthcare through free-market competition and more choices that lower costs,” he said. “If you believe that, you believe this is going to work. If you don’t believe that, it’s a different situation.”

A senior GOP aide said Republicans have no excuse for not repealing the controversial law because “we own government” and noted that President Trump made repeal a core promise of his 2016 campaign.

Yet, Trump has also said on a number of occasions that Republicans could choose to do nothing and watch ­ObamaCare collapse in 2017. Trump, who has endorsed but not fully embraced the House bill, has indicated he wants to sign a repeal-and-replace bill.

During a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) advised Trump that he should let ­ObamaCare falter if he can’t strike a better deal.

Later in the day, Graham told radio host Hugh Hewitt, “If you don’t believe it’s better than ­ObamaCare over the long haul, if you think you’re going to own it for the rest of your life, President Trump, it will be called TrumpCare — don’t buy it.”

Internal talk about delaying the repeal of ­ObamaCare indefinitely has some members of the Senate Republican Conference bristling.

“Now is the time for action,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told a gathering of activists outside the Capitol Wednesday.

“Failure is not an option. If Republicans take this opportunity and blow it, we will rightly be considered a laughingstock,” he warned.

Repealing the law appeared to be a goal that unified the party when the Republican-controlled Senate and House passed legislation that would have gutted the law in 2015. The stakes were lower then because President Obama was widely expected to veto it, and did.

Consensus has disappeared now that Republicans in Congress know that whatever they pass will be signed into law by Trump.

Behind closed doors, moderates are telling their colleagues that the political calculations have changed.

“The debate at my lunch today was over people who want more subsidies, more government subsidies for health insurance,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told The Hill in an interview Wednesday.

“It’s disappointing, but they claim they weren’t really voting last time, they were pretending to vote last time,” he added.

Paul also wants the House bill to fail, but his motivation is different from that of centrist GOP senators.

He wants to scrap the American Health Care Act and replace it with legislation stripped of subsidies that promotes greater competition in the marketplace by equalizing treatment of healthcare insurance between individual- and employer-purchased plans.

“Though I want to believe the glass is half full, I am tempted, very tempted, to smash a glass half full of ­ObamaCare Lite — smash that glass to smithereens!” he wrote in an op-ed published Wednesday on Breitbart.

Another Senate conservative and former House member, Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), last week called on his “friends in the House” to “pause, start over.”

Should the House approve its bill, Cotton said, Republicans could lose their majority in the lower chamber.

“Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote,” he told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos.

House Republicans, however, are vowing to pass the legislation next week. They want to get the political hot potato off their plate as soon as possible.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a large contingent of House Republicans want to pass a bill, even if it is likely to die in the Senate, because they don’t want to get blamed by conservative constituents for failing to pass an ­ObamaCare repeal bill endorsed by Trump.

U.S. Politics

Ryan: ‘Can’t answer’ how many will lose health coverage under GOP plan


House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the number of people who will lose insurance under the GOP’s proposed healthcare plan will depend on the choices of individuals.

“I can’t answer that question,” Ryan told CBS News’s “Face the Nation,”when asked how many people will lose healthcare coverage. “It’s up to people.”

“Here’s the premise of your question: Are you going to stop mandating people buy health insurance? People are going to do what they want to do with their lives because we believe in individual freedom in this country.”

The GOP last week unveiled two measures to repeal and replace ObamaCare. While the new plan would get rid of some components of ObamaCare, it would keep other parts in place.

Ryan has been on a full-court media blitz to make the public sales pitch since the House GOP legislation was unveiled.

The GOP proposal would create a tax credit system to incentivize individuals to purchase health insurance. It would dismantle ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion program, while eliminating the individual mandate that required people to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. Instead, should the new plan pass in its current iteration, insurance providers could charge a 30 percent penalty for gaps in coverage.

Democrats have panned the GOP’s plan, and conservative critics, such as the influential advocacy groups FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth, have taken to calling it “RyanCare.” And Breitbart News, which frequently had Ryan in its crosshairs over the years, called it “Speaker Ryan’s ObamaCare 2.0.”

But Ryan promoted the plan Sunday, echoing on “Face the Nation” the GOP’s stance that there will be “a smooth transition” during the repeal and replace process.

“… The point we’re trying to make here is there will be a smooth transition, a stable transition so that people who are covered today don’t have the rug pulled out from under them,” he said.


U.S. Politics

CNN Does NOT Hold Back; Completely Makes Fun Of Paul Ryan With The Rest Of America (IMAGE)

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09:  U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) explains the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act during his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol March 9, 2017 in Washington, DC. During his remarks, Ryan said ÒWe made a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Now itÕs time to do it.Ó  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Win McNamee/Getty Images


Now, it may not have been the intent of CNN to clearly make fun of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his pathetic attempt at describing the American Health Care Act (AHCA), better known as Trumpcare, but they definitely succeeded in doing so brilliantly.

Ryan really seemed to want to impress people, so instead of doing a traditional Q&A, or laying things out pretty simply, he decided to do a skit. He literally rolled up his sleeves and did his best Steve Jobs impression with a low-tech powerpoint presentation and began to perform.

CNN, clearly seeing this, and not letting the moment escape them, writes an Onion-style headline absolutely making fun of Ryan. They called his presentation a “TED talk” — which, if you know what a TED talk is, makes the headline hilarious.

Here’s CNN’s amazing shade thrown directly at Speaker Ryan’s face:


Then, to top off the amazing shade of the title with even more shade, this is the description of Ryan’s shenanigans as written in the article:

“Forgoing the traditional give-and-take with reporters, Ryan launched at TED talk-style presentation. With his shirtsleeves rolled up and wearing a wireless microphone that allowed him to move around, the speaker rattled off a stream of facts and figures and clicked through PowerPoint slides.”

Then later:

“Ryan sprinkled his lecture with personal anecdotes about his three children all needing tonsillectomies and how his family dealt with multiple doctors and insurance companies. The speaker revealed he had Lasik surgery to improve his vision.”

If Paul Ryan wants us to take him seriously, then he should start by actually putting together something that we can take seriously, and this sure as hell wasn’t it.

Here’s how everyone else is also making proper fun of Ryan:

By Sarah

U.S. Politics

Trump’s Broken Promise Will Doom Thousands Of His Voters

Trump’s Broken Promise Will Doom Thousands Of His Voters


Not long ago, Americans learned that the average life expectancy for white people in this country — those most likely to have voted for Donald Trump — actually declined for the first time in many years. The pathologies and frustrations believed to have driven that decline may have motivated the tiny handful of votes that gave Trump his Electoral College victory.

But not long after their euphoria over his inauguration fades, they are going to learn why his administration is so likely to drive those statistics in the wrong direction. Despite his promise to protect Social Security and Medicare — and his vow to replace the Affordable Care Act with “something much better” — Trump’s cabinet appointees and his allies in Congress plan ruinous changes to those programs. And that will mean ruin, and in thousands of cases death, for the mostly white and working class people who depend so heavily on them.

Unless the Republicans come up with a plausible bill to replace Obamacare, which has eluded them since 2009, millions of their constituents will lose the health insurance they have only recently gained — and yes, thousands of those people will die next year.

Back when the president’s health reform plan first passed, Republicans and their media echoes warned loudly about mythical “death panels” embedded in his legislation. Now, the voters who believed that nonsense are about to meet the real death panel — led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Rep. Tom Price, the Georgia Republican slated to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

This is not hyperbole: Before the advent of Obamacare, tens of thousands of uninsured Americans died every year because they didn’t receive timely care. Eight years ago, one reputable study estimated that as many as 137,000 Americans had perished prematurely due to lack of health coverage — or more than twice as many as died in the Vietnam War — between 2000 and 2006 alone. The Institute of Medicine has estimated that uninsured adults are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely than those with coverage, with uninsured adults between 55 and 64 years old faring even worse. For them, being uninsured is the third most significant cause of death, behind only heart disease and cancer.

Those estimates don’t include the victims of insurance company profiteering who will die if the repeal of Obamacare undoes its protection of patients suffering from “previously existing conditions.” Exposed to the tender mercies of corporate actuaries, thousands of them will lose their coverage, watch their families driven to destitution, and many of them will die, too.

That isn’t supposed to be what happens under President Trump, who declared in many interviews and debates his determination to provide better and cheaper health insurance “for everybody, let it be for everybody.” But by appointing a far-right ideologue like Price to run health policy, Trump effectively violated that promise before even taking his oath of office. Working with Ryan and the Republican majority in both houses of Congress, Price means to destroy Obamacare, slash Medicare, and decimate Medicaid.

The truth about the current incarnation of the Republican Party, which voters ought to have learned long ago, is that its attitudes toward working Americans of all descriptions range from careless to merciless. If not every Republican shares the “let ‘em die” position on health care screamed by a GOP debate audience in 2012, all too many believe that government has no role in ensuring that every American is insured — even though that would save money as well as lives.

However ridiculous most of Trump’s commitments may seem, his promise to protect Americans who depend on Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid is a matter of life or death. Unless he changes course now, we may see a lot of red caps at funerals for people who lost their health insurance, and died much too soon.