Friday, July 28, 2017

Republicans set to vote Yes on a bill they don't want to become law -- and other absurdities of our government today

Senate Republican leaders were still working on their "skinny" repeal bill that they plan to try to pass in the wee hours of Friday morning.   But they are openly saying they hope their colleagues in the House doesn't pass it.

What kind of madhouse is this?   By today's White House-Capitol Hill standards, it's just another ordinary day -- surreal and maddening.   Here's how Donna Cassade, the Associated Press's Congressional News Editor explains it.
"Vote yes, hope no.

"Senate Republicans want to back a still-being-written bill to erase some of Democrat Barack Obama's health care law, but they don't want the House to quickly approve it, send it to President Donald Trump and have him sign it into law. . .

"The GOP hope [is] that whatever they pass — skinny, a bit more robust, anything — is the means to an end. And the end is a House-Senate conference in which lawmakers hammer out a final health care bill fulfilling their years-long promise to repeal and replace Obamacare."
Remember that the House has already passed its version and sent it to the Senate. It was so bad the Senate tossed it aside and tried to craft their own bill, only to fail miserably.  They could only come up with something even worse, and the senate defeated it 57 to 43.   Then they defeated a bill to repeal to take effect in 2 years;  that was voted down 55 to 45.

So what they really want is this bait and switch deal.  Vote on . . . just something . . .  anything that can get 51 votes so they can schedule a conference with negotiators from House and Senate, probably in September, and hammer out a real health bill -- well, a Republican health care bill.

The risk is that the House would grab this skinny repeal, vote to pass it, and put it on the president's desk.   He's applying intense pressure for them to get something done, and he really doesn't care what.   But a lot of them do.

And those who really care about their constituents -- or fear their wrath if they take away their health care -- want a good bill.    It will be a disaster if the House accepts their bait and then doesn't do the switch.   Sen. Lindsey Graham says that about half of the 52 Republican senators "would not tolerate the skinny bill being our final answer on health care.   We want to have a chance to build it out."

Many Republican senators say they want assurances from Paul Ryan that they will get the conference process;  and he has sort of half-way promised it, saying he's okay with it, but he wants the senators to really pass something substantive, not just pass the buck to the House.

What are they going to come up with that has eluded them for seven years -- and even now, in these months they've been intensely fighting this out for real?  I'd advise them not to pass something they don't want to have to own.   And they will own the health care debacle, if the skinny bill becomes law.

Graham is blunt, saying:  "The skinny bill as policy is a disaster;  the skinny bill as a replacement for Obamacare is a fraud."    And yet he will probably vote for it anyway, with the understanding it will be only a means to their end, not the end itself.

Advocacy groups, medical associations all advise against passing this.   Even a group of insurance companies sent an urgent plea, saying in effect:   "Don't you dare."

Let's see who has the courage to stand up for sanity and real health care for the American people.   President Trump is rapidly losing his clout.   They don't need to fear his retribution.  House and Senate have both just passed the Russia sanctions bill that takes away his power to lift the sanctions.   The military chiefs are paying no attention to his tweeted announcement about transgender people serving.   A tweet is not a military order.  They say that, until they get an official order, they are not changing anything,

His threat to fire Jeff Sessions is backfiring as Sessions' former colleagues in the Senate back him and criticize the president.   Sen. Grassley, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee that would have to approve a replacement, sent out a note saying that the committee agenda is so full that they could not take up hearings on a confirmation until next year.  And they can go on vacation without actually recessing, to prevent him from making a recess appointment that wouldn't have to get a confirmation until a new Congress convenes in 2019.

Even Trump's speech to the Boy Scouts of America jamboree backfired.   Who would have thought a president could go wrong in addressing the Boy Scouts?   Well, Trump did, badly.  The head of the BSA released a letter of apology for the President's turning what is traditionally an uplifting, inspirational speech about duty, truth and honor into his usual political diatribe, as well as some colorful anecdotes that were a bit crude for the youth.

So Trump is having a very bad week -- all of his own doing.   What's different is that people, including Republicans, are beginning to push back.  My gut tells me that we're seeing the beginning of the end of his presidency.    If he fires Sessions and then Mueller, there are a number of Republicans, including Lindsey Graham, who are ready to pull the plug on him.   And he used the word "impeachment."


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