Editorial February 6, 2015

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

If it wasn’t so vague it might be worth thinking about but the bill offering to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is indeed vague as well as claiming successes that are already successes under the ACA law…and does so without actually proposing a new solution to the problems it creates.

It has been reported elsewhere that the bill, HR 596, is a message to the Supreme Court that if it sides against the Administration in King vs Burwell (a case to determine if those receiving insurance premium subsidies in states that have not built their own insurance exchange websites would lose those subsidies) the loss to millions of the subsidies would be handled.

Handling such a loss to so many people would seem to dictate a bill offering in great detail how that problem would be solved. All we got was a vague promise that ‘the Committees on Education and the Workforce, Energy and Commerce, Judiciary, and Ways and Means of the House of Representatives shall each report to the House of Representatives legislation proposing changes to existing law within each committee’s jurisdiction with provisions that, among others’ “increases the number of insured Americans”.

Republicans have been set against the ACA since before it enactment in 2010. They offered no alternatives during debates of the ACA legislation, offered no alternatives during the 56 or so times they tried to modify or repeal it, and are offering nothing now.

It’s curious that no alternatives have come forth in the 5 years the law has existed and disturbing that 10 of the 12 areas HR 596 requires the various committees to produce legislation to replace the ACA are already meeting those goals because of the ACA or modifications thereof. One other ‘promise’, #5, to “reform the medical liability system to reduce unnecessary and wasteful health care spending” is one to look at; remove everything from that promise after “…to reduce unnecessary and wasteful health care spending’ and #5 will take us back years when the Republican Senate attempted unsuccessfully to not only limit liability payments when a patient seeks malpractice satisfaction but would have actually made it so the patient was required to prove the ‘accident’ was due to the physician’s intent to do the patient harm.

Promise number 12 has little to do with the ACA but may tell us something about what to expect post-ObamaCare; number 12 says that the legislation required of the above committees may not accelerate the insolvency of entitlement programs or increase the tax burden on Americans. In other words whatever legislation brought forth cannot rely on entitlement program support and so must cost nothing. Should that insight become reality what would follow the ACA repeal would be no public health programs beyond Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP. Congress, then, would only be in the position to attempt negotiating for more consumer-friendly health insurance programs with the insurance companies whose aggressive and profit-oriented decisions became the reasons the ACA was necessary in the first place. ##

Foreign Affairs

HASC to Address ‘World-wide Threats

With the advances of ISIS, the crumbling of Yemen, continued aggression between Israel and Palestine, China’s interest in sequestering part of the South China Sea and area reactions to that

Rep Thornberry (R-TX-13) HASC Chair

Rep Thornberry (R-TX-13) HASC Chair

the world is obviously in a growing state of unrest. How Congress will handle these issues (some of which are clearly in the territory of the President) rests, perhaps, on a more clear understanding of a very complicated situation. The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) will hold a hearing on Worldwide Threats. HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry said, “I have been struck by the consensus of opinion among our most respected statesmen and practitioners of national security policy: Our country has never faced a strategic environment as complex and multifaceted as we see today.

“Just last week, Dr. Henry Kissinger testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that, ‘The United States has not faced a more diverse and complex array of crises since the end of the Second World War.’ And former Secretary of State Madeline Albright said ‘[We] are living through a time of monumental change across the world.’

“Several observers have noted that any one or two of these challenges would be daunting, but the combination of them poses unique, serious dangers to our country and its future. More…


Quotes on the Issues

“Some Republicans believe that having a plan — or the outlines of one — in place would send the Supreme Court the message that ruling against the White House won’t result in total chaos, particularly for those people who have already benefited from subsidies. If the court rules against the administration, low- and middle-income Americans would get little notice before the cost of their health insurance could increase by hundreds of dollars a month.”

Jennifer Haberkorn and Manu Raju – Politico – on why Republicans are attempting to repeal Obamacare after having passed a mere sketch of what would replace the law if King vs Burwell is decided against the Administration by the Supreme Court. King vs Burwell will decide if insurance buyers in States that did not open exchanges can legally receive premium subsidies.

*****

“…as Boehner himself told Fox News’s Bret Baier last week,…they’re doing it for the freshmen—that is, the 47 House Republicans who just took office a month ago and have never had the high honor and privilege of voting to repeal Obamacare. By holding the vote, these lawmakers can head back to their districts and tell their constituents that yes, they did everything they could to get rid of the reviled law. “We’re just getting it out of the way,” one Republican aide told the Washington Examiner,”.

Russell Berman, The Atlantic – 2/13/2015 on why Republicans are attempting to repeal Obamacare


The People Score Congress

Experts Surveyed on Congress’s Performance Give the Institution a “C-minus” for 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind., Feb. 3 — For the second straight year, a group of academic experts who were asked to evaluate Congress’s performance gave the institution a barely-passing grade of C-minus.

“This is a dismal assessment,” said Indiana University political scientist Edward G. Carmines, who is Director of Research for the Center on Congress at Indiana University.

The C-minus grade for 2014 is the same mediocre mark the institution earned in 2013. In the Center’s nine-year series of annual evaluations of Congress, this is the first time that both sessions of a Congress have been rated so poorly.

The experts’ overall ratings have never been anything for Congress to brag about; the highest mark, C-plus, was reached in 2008 and 2010. But that looks lofty compared to the 113th Congress’s two-year dwell in the cellar of C-minuses.

“We asked, ‘Overall, how would you assess the legislative record of Congress over this past year?’” said Carmines. “Eighty-six percent gave Congress either a D or an F for 2014 — worse even than the 80 percent who rated Congress either D or F for 2013.”

Data on 2014 were collected online in late December and early January, after the second session of the 113th Congress adjourned; the survey elicited the opinions of a select group of 30 top academic experts on Congress from around the country.

“Our interest is not to dwell on past shortcomings, but to develop a sense of what areas are most in need of improvement, as well as what areas are generally handled well by Congress,” explained Center Director Lee Hamilton.

There were a few bright spots for Congress. More....


Senate Stories

February 4, 1887

The Interstate Commerce Act Is Passed

On February 4, 1887, both the Senate and House passed the Interstate Commerce Act, which applied the Constitution’s “Commerce Clause”—granting Congress the power “to Regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States”—to regulating railroad rates. Small businesses and farmers were protesting that the railroads charged them higher rates than larger corporations, and that the railroads were also setting higher rates for short hauls than for long-distance hauls. Although the railroads claimed economic justification for policies that favored big businesses, small shippers insisted that the railroads were gouging them.

It took years for Congress to respond to these protests, due to members’ reluctance to have the government interfere in any way with corporate policies. In 1874 legislation was introduced calling for a federal railroad commission. The bill passed the House, but not the Senate. When Congress failed to act, some states adopted their own railroad regulations. Those laws were struck down in 1886,  More…