Editorial March 3, 2017

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

It is a ‘fine mess’ Republicans have gotten themselves into even considering they now control Capitol Hill, the White House and soon the Supreme Court. But the way out of the mess is terribly complicated because when you consider that while they control those branches of government they are more controlled by constituents (or should be) who are voicing their concerns at town hall meetings and elsewhere around the country.

Republicans spent 6 years vilifying the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as a disaster, a train wreck, a job killer, and recently a law that is collapsing under its own weight. Cliches Trump campaigned with and continues to throw that red meat to his supporters but little did either expect that those voters want the law to continue or be replaced by one that offers the same or greater benefits.

That’s the challenge and there lies the way out, maybe; continue the law with minor tweaks such as increasing competition between insurers across state lines and lowering the cost or pharmaceuticals and the insurance premiums themselves by negotiations.

But the solution presents another problem; besides several factions in the House in particular on whether to repeal the law and work on another or create another and then repeal and replace it is the conservative ideology that keeps popping up in possible ways forward. That ideology for some of those conservatives is that Congress has no right to be involved in healthcare let alone subsidize individuals who have not been able to afford the coverage. These are conflicting positions considering that those Members of Congress can afford health insurance what with the salary they are provided by the taxpayers. A hard pill to swallow that those who we pay the salary of are going cheap on what we need.

Attempts to cater to that position with current prospects for replacement all involve replacing subsidies with tax credits and encouragement to start tax free health savings accounts. Certainly these are things that would continue to provide for those who historically cannot afford insurance but it will be interesting to see how conservatives sell that considering that those too poor to afford the coverage without subsidies in the first place will not be able to pay for the coverage and get their money back at tax time. Health savings accounts are also unaffordable when you aren’t making enough to save.

Republicans should first ask themselves if a nation of healthy people is a good thing. It is for all those conservatively held beliefs that there would be less lost time at work, less cost to hospitals to provide healthcare despite ability to pay. But such a situation equals a loss in taxes to the Treasury if too ill to work it also leads to other benefit spending such as disability.

Being careful what you wish for is relevant advice (in retrospect) for the repeal and replace gang. Despite claims against the law having little substance beyond nonsense to rouse people they successfully made the law a significant political issue most among those who have little or no idea of what the law actually does. Trump doubled down on that position and the election was won.

It is too earl into the presidency to see White House action to Congress on the law so most of what Trump puts forth is a general road map that too is based on the false assertions that the law is failing. If we step back to how constituents are reacting to the uncertainty of what comes next or if anything is coming next we can see that like those Democrat voters who felt ignored by the government and so voted for Trump most are less concerned about free trade and other Trumpian issues and simply don’t want their insurance coverage to disappear or be too costly.

If we look at White House and Capitol Hill budget proposals we see that we may well be looking at the $1 trillion budget deficit that Obama inherited returning in about ten years. If even half of what Trump proposes; infrastructure, expanded military, and The Wall is purchased there will not be money to continue the insurance subsidies. A bridge that doesn’t collapse, a sufficient military and The Wall may seem like great ideas but to persons facing death because healthcare is too expensive other things are on their minds.

Quotes on Obamacare Repeal

Republicans’ Secret ACA Repeal Bill


On Tuesday, Speaker Ryan claimed Republicans are following the normal process:

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI): “We’re going through the committee process.  We’re doing this step by step.  We’re having public hearings.  We’re having committees work on legislation.  This is how the legislative process is supposed to be designed. We’re not hatching some bill in a backroom and plopping it on the American people’s front door.”  [Today Show, 2/28/17]

But on Wednesday, we find out the GOP Affordable Care Act repeal draft is hidden under lock and key, with no hearings or Congressional Budget Office score before it gets marked up next week:

“House Republican leaders have a new version of their major Obamacare repeal and replacement bill. They just don’t want you to see it. The document is being treated a bit like a top-secret surveillance intercept. It is expected to be available to members and staffers on the House Energy and Commerce panel starting Thursday, but only in a dedicated reading room, one Republican lawmaker and a committee aide said. Nobody will be given copies to take with them.” [Bloomberg, 3/1/17]

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY): “The draft of it is going to be available tomorrow for those of us on the health subcommittee to start poring through… Unfortunately for you, we’re making sure it won’t be leaked.” [Bloomberg, 3/1/17]

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL): “We’re not having a hearing or anything… But there’ll be a place for us to view it, the draft.” [Bloomberg, 3/1/17]

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY): “I have been told that the House Obamacare bill is under lock & key, in a secure location, & not available for me or the public to view.” [Tweet, 3/2/17]

Two Members disagree with that decision:

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX): “People need to have access to this document, and  if there are problems let’s talk through them. It’s been a long time in the works, most of the pieces that are in there, people have seen in one form or another in the past, but it does need to be an open process.” [MSNBC, 3/1/17]

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY): “I demand the House release the text of the bill. Every elected official & every American deserve to know what they’re trying to do.” [Tweet, 3/2/17]

Speaker Ryan USED to support an open process:

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI): “This is too important to rush this thing through Congress. This is 17 percent of our economy. Let’s sit down and do it right.” [PBS Newshour, 7/21/09]

Republicans called for an open process during ACA debate:

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA): “The negotiations are obviously being done in secret and the American people really just want to know what they are trying to hide.” [CBS, 1/6/10]

Former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH): “This bill is being written in the dark of night… the president ought to keep his promise to the American people and open this process up.” [Washington Post, 10/18/09]

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): “This bill is being pushed through because the majority in this Congress refused to listen to the people.” [House Floor, 3/21/10]

Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA): “You cannot expect to craft a bipartisan healthcare bill in secret, closed door meetings attended only by members of one political party.” [Republican Main Street Press Release, 10/22/09]

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO): “What the freshmen Republicans here want is what the American people want, and that is more transparency and a more deliberate process.” [Press Conference, 10/27/09]

Former Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY): “At the end of the day, the American public who is cheated when we do not have an opportunity to review what’s in given legislation.” [Press Conference, 10/27/09]

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “[T]humbing their nose at the American people by ramming through a partisan bill would be the same thing as going to war without asking Congress’ permission. You might technically be able to do it, but you’d pay a terrible price in the next election.” [Fox News Sunday, 9/6/09]

Click here to read the PDF. 


Foreign Affairs

Defense Spending

“The House Armed Services Committee chairman wants a defense spending increase nearly 70 percent larger than what the White House has called for –$91 billion, compared to President Donald Trump’s $54 billion – above what spending caps allow for Fiscal Year 2018.” US Naval Institute.

Mosul, Iraq

“Increased U.S. investments in Mosul since December 2016 have ensured smoother and quicker operations in the western half of the city. The U.S. increased its involvement in December 2016 when the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) appeared close to culminating in eastern Mosul. Institute for the Study of War

ISIS Syria

“The sounds of explosions resonate and the streets are deserted as residents seek refuge in their homes. Too tired, poor, scared and hungry to venture outside, they struggle to survive from one day to the next amid the crippling siege as well as the ongoing Islamic State onslaught.” al Monitor


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