Saturday, July 29, 2017

Republicans' attitude about health care

Sometime after midnight Thursday, the showdown came.   Senate Republicans had exhausted all their options, and all they had left was what they call the "skinny repeal" -- and what I call their "bait and switch" plan.

They took the existing Affordable Care Act, which they have taught people to hate, and proposed repealing certain aspects (like the individual mandate) that they hoped would appeal to this or that senator -- and they put it up for a vote, with the bespoke understanding that the House would not later vote it into law.

It was to be merely a ruse -- the "bait," if you will -- to trigger a negotiated compromise bill, worked out by House and Senate members together in a reconciliation conference committee.   They couldn't go to conference with the House unless they got 51 votes for something.

When the roll call vote began around 1:30 am, it was expected that all 48 Dems and 2 Repubs (Collins and Murkowski) would vote No.   Even though probably half the Repubs would have strongly opposed the skinny repeal as law, they were willing to vote for it as a means to the goal.  That would have led to a 50-50 tie, and VP Pence would have cast a Yes vote to break the tie.

But that wily old maverick, John McCain, one week out of surgery for a brain tumor, cast his vote as No.   And the bill -- the bait and switch -- failed.

But here's what I was setting this up to tell -- an observation on what's become of our society.   We no longer have each other's backs;  or, put another way, we are not "our brothers' keepers."   At least not when it comes to arcane legislative procedures, far removed from your neighbor's actual sickbed -- or his house destroyed by hurricane.

Reaction the morning after from the conservative, "Fox and Friends" host, Steve Doocy, was snarky and sarcastic.  He said:  "Congratulations.  The healthy people are paying for the sick people."   The implied message, it seemed to me, was:   'You nincompoops.  You just agreed to keep on paying for all these losers who refuse to take responsibilities for their own lives.'

It's the same as wanting a flat tax, or a consumer tax, so that the billionaire pays the same tax rate as his golf caddie or his wife's cleaning woman.    They don't really want a society that takes care of all its members.   They don't want to recognize that the billionaire can't get there and stay there without the consumers of his products, the construction workers who build the road to his factory, the servants who make his life easy.

But leave aside even moral economics.   They don't even, when you come right down to it, they don't believe in the concept of insurance.   You pay a small amount over the years, when you don't need insurance, so there's a pool of money to pay your big expenses when you do need it.    That's what it comes down to.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Republican health care bill defeated

1:40 am.  Vote on partial repeal, the skinny repeal, of the Affordable Act.

 Senator John McCain joined Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and all 48 Democratic senators in defeating the Republican Partial Repeal of Obamacare bill, the so-called "skinny repeal" bill, with a vote of 51 to 49.

The Affordable Care Act survives.  Since the Republican bill did not pass, all the talk of conference committee is irrelevant.   However, Minority leader Chuck Schumer called for bipartisan members to work together in the Health Committee to make improvements in the ACA.

What kind of bill can we expect as a compromise between a terrible House bill and a disasterous Senate bill?

[I'm writing this just before midnight, with an expected vote on the Senate "skinny" health care bill expected around 2 am.  It's fate is unknown at this point.]

In this whole absurd process of Republicans settling for a nothing bill just so they can go to a conference committee with House members, nobody seems to have thought about what can possibly come out of this.

Here's what will happen.   It will nominally be a bipartisan committee, but Republicans will have a majority.   Unless they all agree to do something different, the usual thing is to find compromises that both House and Senate can vote to pass.   So Democrats don't hold a lot of cards at this point.  It is essentially a reconciliation of the differences in the House Republican bill and the Senate Republican bill.

So take the best parts of the House bill and the best parts of the Senate skinny bill, and what have you got?   Still a disaster that will have its own death spiral.

And, if they can't agree and the negotiations break down, as sometimes happens, then the House can quickly pass the Senate version -- and it will be law.   Graham and McCain and others, who say they are only voting for the skinny bill with the assurance that it will not become the law, better think again.

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."


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Status report on health care legislation

Here's a rundown on the process of Republicans' attempt to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate voted 51 to 50 to proceed with debate.  That evening they voted 43 for, 57 against a proposal that would have repealed the ACA and replace it with something crafted by the Senate Republican leadership in secret.  Nine Republicans joined 48 Democrats in voting against it.

On Wednesday, they debated a proposal that would repeal the ACA within two years, giving time for a replacement bill to be put together.  It's the repeal and delay approach.   They passed something similar in 2015, and President Obama vetoed it.   On one hand, it seems like a reasonable approach.  But we're not dealing with a reasonable process here;   so even many Republicans, who are hesitant to commit to repeal without a replacement plan.  This also failed, by vote of 45 to 55.   So two days in, and two plans voted down.

Republicans then have one more trick, which is to pass something, really almost anything, that will then trigger a conference committee to try to reconcile the bill the House passed with whatever the Senate passes.

So they plan to introduce a "skinny" repeal plan -- designed to appeal to a few wavering Republicans because it seems like minimal change that will allow them not to revolt against their party, and to rationalize that they're just voting to keep the debate going.   So a skinny repeal would leave most of the ACA intact but eliminate the mandates' for individuals to buy, and for large employers to supply, insurance.  It may also weaken requirements on pre-existing conditions.

The CBO has scored this and says that, even with these "minimal" changes in the ACA, 16 million will lose coverage and premiums will go up by 20%.  In addition, insurance markets will suffer and further complicate the lack of competition in certain areas.

It's worse than that.  As Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) told Chris Hayes, McConnell is selling his own members a bill of goods, telling them to just vote on this bill so they can get to a conference committee with the House;  then all their wishes for this issue or that will be worked out.  In effect, "Just trust me and vote for this;  it's just a way station to get to conference where the real bill will be crafted."

But Schatz's fear is that Republicans are being naive to what McConnell is doing.  They will buy his promises, and then we'll wind up with this terrible thing becoming law.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it this way:  ""Make no mistake about it, "skinny" repeal is equal to full repeal.  It's a Trojan horse designed to get the House and Senate into conference where the hard-right flank of the Republican Caucus, the Freedom Caucus, will demand full repeal or something very close to it."

That's the risk we face.   Once they get to conference negotiation, there is greater pressure to come up with a compromise.  And the negotiators are hand-picked by the Republican leaders.    Then when a complete compromise bill goes back to each house for a final vote, it's very hard for members to vote against their party at that late stage.

Senate rules allowed 20 hours total for debate on all this.  Democrats' strategy is to create delay.   They invoked a requirement to have the entire bill read on the floor, which was done Tuesday night.   They also tried to get the bill sent back to the Finance Committee for consideration.

After the 20 hours have been used up, then they go into a process called a vote-a-rama, where amendments may be offered and voted on.  Democrats are planning to try to introduce hundreds of amendments.   That is expected to begin on Thursday.

There real danger is that, by this tricky strategy, Mitch McConnell may actually pull off something that destroys, rather than improves, what has been accomplished with Obamacare.

And that is despite the American people's desire.   As we've learned the hard way, Republicans have become masters at getting people to vote against their own best interests.    They're very clever at creating a false narrative, at getting people to believe lies and distortions -- and turning something good into a demon.   Without understanding what they've been told to hate, they repeat the lies as though they are facts.

It's very disillusioning to have to realize that the idea that truth will win in the end -- is simply wrong.  At least that's the way it seems to me right now.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trump dumps trans persons from military. Announces it by twitter. . . So cowardly.

I thought there was no room left for Donald Trump to sink lower in my level of contempt for him.   But what he did today, screams out for something lower than contempt.   Right now, it feels like hatred -- coupled with a great sadness for our country, as well as for the men and women who will be affected.

He didn't even have the guts to give a press conference.  He just sent out a series of tweets with his formal announcement of a very significant policy change.  What a lack of courage;  what a lack of human decency;  what cowardice.  Here's what spewed from his twitter fingers.
"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.   Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.  Thank you."
The language and syntax is rather pathetic as a presidential announcement of a major decision, although it's obvious that's what he was trying to do.  Actually, I'm not sure that Donald Trump cares one whit about the military (unless they're putting on a massive parade to display "his" mighty army.  Or unless he's being saluted by "his" generals.  Note in his tweet, he refers to "My Generals."   No, besides narcissism, this is pure politics.

The Family Research Council immediately put out a statement thanking the president for keeping his promise.   Of course, he also during the campaign promised to "defend the LGBT community."   So much for promises.

There's a lot of outrage out there about this, and not just from the trans community.  There were the expected supportive statements from Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who said when her Black Hawk helicopter went down, she didn't care about who was rescuing her;  what was important was that "they didn't leave me behind."    And Nancy Pelosi called it "a vile and hateful agenda that will blindside thousands of patriotic Americans already serving with honor and bravery."

And not just Democrats:   Sen. John McCain, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, said "any American who currently meets medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. . . . regardless of their gender identity."   Conservative Alabama Senator Richard Shelby told CNN that "you ought to treat everybody fairly and you ought to give everybody a chance to serve."   Senator Orrin Hatch:   "I don't think we should discriminate against anyone.   Transgender people are people."

As Chris Hayes pointed out on MSNBC:  Hatch is an 83 year old Republican senator from Utah.   And I would add that he is a Mormon.   So, if he is supportive, what's the problem?   Well, it turns out that it's not so simple.

The National Center for Transgender Equality released this:  "This is an appalling attack on our service members;  it is about bigotry rather than military readiness, reason or science.  It is indefensible and cannot stand."

The Lambda Legal Defense organization said:   "The President cannot repeal Defense Department regulations by tweet.  But if his tweets become policy, Lambda Legal, along with our partner OutServe/SLDN, will sue him."

Apparently, Trump blindsided the pentagon that had no warning he was going to do this.   DoD Sec. Mattis had recently asked the military chiefs for an assessment of the transgender effect on the military;  and he gave them until Dec. 1st for a report, 127 days from now.   Yes, there had been discussion about whether to provide gender change surgery costs, but -- typical of Trump -- he then suddenly acts impulsively and always over-acts, leaving advisers and agency heads dumbfounded by what he does.

On top of that, he does not take into account the facts behind decisions.  Just as in this issue, as shown below how inapplicable some of the supposed basis is for his action.

But here's the thing.   As journalists have begun digging into the timing of this, it appears that Trump didn't even do this for the politics of it.   It seems that Trump was down into the nitty-gritty of finding places to save money so he could get his defense budget request passed with some funding for his border wall.  And he decided that eliminating the medical expenses of transgender military personnel would be a good place to do it.   And, if it makes Democrats have to defend paying for transgender surgery in tight political races in Rust Belt states, so much the better.    The least consideration went to the reality for trans people who would be affected.

I think that may be even more shameful than paying off a political promise to the Family Research Council -- because it's not based on a strongly held belief.  It's just Trump using people as pawns to serve his own needs.

Here's the other thing.   The Rand Corporation has done a study that debunks the idea of transgender medical and surgical treatments being a significant factor in the military budget -- because the number who seek such treatments is so small.   They also determined that there was no significant "disruptive" effect of having trans persons in the military.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, interviewed by Chris Hayes, added some interesting, debunking statistics about medical costs.   In 2016, the Department of Defense spent $5.6 million on medical care for transgender service men and women;  and it spent $41 million on Viagra alone -- and a total of $84 million on erectile dysfunction treatment.

The other question is why did Trump do this today?   There's always a reason.  What's he trying to distract us from today?   I'm going to take it as a sign that he expects they're going to lose the fight for health care repeal and reform.


VP Pence breaks tie to begin debate on Republicans' health bill(s)

If you missed the drama leading up this health care vote in the Senate on Tuesday, go back and read ShrinkRap on Monday.   So here's how that worked out.

This vote is the hurdle that senate rules require before a controversial bill can be brought to the floor for debate:   a procedural vote known as "proceed to debate."   If that fails, then they can't move it along toward passage.

Ordinarily, for important and controversial bills, it requires 60 votes to proceed to debate (because of the filibuster rules).   However, since Republicans are trying to pass this repeal and/or replace Obamacare under the arcane process known as "budget resolution" rules, it only takes a simple majority to proceed to debate.

However, that process is only available if the parliamentarian rules that passing the bill will not chnge the budget aspect of the bill.    Some of the measures that got put in the senate bill (defunding Planned Parenthood, for example) were ruled out by the parliamentarian under these rules.   So I think they're scrapping that and planning to vote on the House bill, perhaps with amendments.

So, with all that jockeying for starting position, here's what happened in the senate on Tuesday.    What they voted on was whether to proceed to debate on the House bill that repeals and replaces Obamacare.  They were told that, among the options to be debated would be (1) a simple vote for or against the House bill, with amendments allowable;  (2)  a vote to simply repeal Obamacare;   (3) a so-called "skinny" repeal of Obamacare, meaning just voting to expunge certain parts of it without a total repeal -- parts such as the individual mandate, the requirement for employers to offer health insurance, or the pre-existing conditions guarantee.

The vote was 50 to 50 with Republican senators Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) voting no along with all 48 Democrats.   Then Vice President Pence came in to cast the tie-breaking vote to pass the procedural vote and advance to debate.

This does not necessarily mean that a Republican health care bill will pass.   Some people, like McCain, voted yes to debate;  but would vote no on any of the bills as they are at present.   They still have lots of hurdles to get over and as many as 6 or 8 more possible "no" votes to convert to actually pass a bill.

But that's not the whole story -- nor the drama.   It was announced that Sen. John McCain, who last week had surgery to remove a highly malignant brain tumor, was flying in from his home in Arizona to cast his vote -- and that he would be addressing the senate afterward.

Sen. McCain was met with a standing ovation and an outpouring of what seemed genuine affection and respect when he entered the chamber. Having cast his "yes" vote, he then addressed his colleagues with an impassioned speech about the honor it has been for him to serve with his colleagues.   He reminded them that the senate is known as "the greatest deliberative body" in the world -- and how it has worked when there was bipartisan cooperation to get things done for the American people.

But then he said he wasn't sure that the senate deserved to be called that lately.   He exhorted his colleagues to return to "regular order" and come together to work out compromises in a health care bill that will work for the American people.   He called on the Chair of the Health Committee Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) to hold open hearings and work out a compromise bill instead of having to vote on a bill crafted in secret (a pretty strong rebuke of Mitch McConnell).

He said that he was casting his vote as a "yes" to move to debate;  but, he said, he would not vote for the bill itself as it is now

It was one of the finest hours of this old maverick, whom I have had at times greatly respected and at other times been vehemently opposed to.   This time, I felt respect, and I admired his stand.   It's the kind of leadership that's been missing.

Good luck in your fight against this cancer, Old Man.   In fact, your fight against both cancers:   the glioblastoma in your brain and the bill your Republican colleagues want to pass that will take away health care from tens of millions of Americans.

How ironic. . . .  if McCain has made this arduous trip back to D.C. and only winds up helping Republicans deprive Americans, who can't afford it, of the kind of health care that he has just had the benefit of (brain surgery and upcoming radiation and chemotherapy).


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nuns oppose Republican health plan

More than 7,000 Roman Catholic nuns have signed a letter urging senators to vote "no" on the Republican health care bill, or any bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut Medicaid.  The letter calls this bill "the most harmful legislation to American families in our lifetime."   It also states:  "The mission of Catholic sisters has always been to serve our nation's most vulnerable people.  As such, we are united in opposition to the current Republican health care proposals  . . . [and we] stand by our belief that health is a universal right."

Another surreal day in Washington

Today, Tuesday, is set to be another surreal day in our nation's capital in the Age of Trump and his Republican majority that can't shoot straight.  Here's what's on tap:

1.  Crown Prince Jared Kushner will go behind closed doors for another day of non-disclosure and not under oath, this time with the House Intelligence Committee.  Then afterward he will, presumably, again speak to reporters to declare his innocence and to assure them that there's nothing to see here.   He is completely innocent, and furthermore he saw nothing but innocent behavior by anyone in what he called a "very unique" campaign.

2.  Don Trump, Jr. and Paul Manafort will also be talking to staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in closed session and not under oath.   So, of course, they will both tell reporters later that they completely shut it down by proving their innocence.

It's all just too surreal.    When are we going to get some real, tough, under-oath and in-public testimony about this scandal?    Democrats keep saying this is just preliminary questioning by their staff and that open hearings will come later.

I'm concerned about letting them sway public opinion,with their public statements about their testimony, without challenge, and giving Trump more backing to claim the whole Russia thing is fake and a charade -- and then use that as justification to shut the investigation down.  And what's the game he's playing with AG Jeff Sessions?   Trump keeps demeaning him in public, and it seems he's trying to get him to resign, which many people assume is a step in moving to fire Robert Mueller.   But meanwhile his press secretary says Trump has full confidence in Sessions.

3.  The Senate will vote on . . . something.  It's a vote to proceed to debate.   But they're not being told what is up for debate. It has something to do with repealing Obamacare and maybe replacing it . . . but with what?

One news story suggested that this is really Mitch McConnell's trial balloon.   See, they all promised to repeal Obamacare, period.   But then they diverge on what to replace it with.   Repeal without a replacement plan is a non-starter, even among Senate Republicans.  But so are all the plans they've considered.

So maybe what McConnell is doing is trying to lead people blindfolded into a vote to debate repeal and replace, but the replace part is to emerge during the debate.  In other words, it's a variation on repeal and replace later.   It's more like:  vote to debate repeal and replace now, but the "replace plan" is to be decided in the debate.   Get it?

Or maybe that's wrong, and McConnell just wants to have a vote, let it fail, and then move on to other things.   [Added from a later report:  The vote will be whether to proceed with debate on the repeal/replace health plan that was passed by the House last May.]

This is madness.  Trump poured gasoline on it, but Republicans have been fanning at these flames long before His Orangeness ascended to the Oval.  It's the Republicans who will own whatever it is they do.   What Trump will have to own is his failure to provide any leadership.

Hold on to your sanity.   You'll need it.   It's going to get worse before it gets better.


PS:  This happened yesterday, but it adds to the surreal miasma hanging over today.   A federal district judge has ruled that the president's voter fraud investigation commission:  (a) may request voter data from the states, noting that there are not grounds for the injunction sought by the privacy watchdog group because the commission is not technically a government agency and thus not bound by laws governing such entities.   However, the judge also ruled (b) that the states are not compelled to comply.    Duh.   I hope this gets appealed.   I'd like a better defense of the privacy of voting records than this "not compelled to comply" statement.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Trump explains it all -- and, believe me, everything is o-kay.

According to New York Times op-ed journalist Andrew Rosenthal's tongue-in-cheek summary, Donald Trump's recent interview with his newspaper staff explains all the muddled issues we've been grappling with about this administration's mysterious connections to the Russians.

"First, everything is fine because nothing happened between Trump and the Kremlin. And if anything did happen, no one should care and the only people who do are liberals whining about the election results. . . . 

"Trump and his people never spoke to any Russians, and if they did, they either forgot about it or innocently failed to mention it because it was just normal socializing. And if it wasn’t just socializing, then there was no discussion of the campaign, and if there was discussion of the campaign, it was perfectly appropriate."
Well, now that's all cleared up, don't we feel a whole lot better?

A test for Trump -- to veto or not to veto?

With President Trump's obvious preference for Vladimir Putin and his leadership style in Russia -- and in the wake of the debacle of Don Jr's meeting with the Russian lawyer offering collusion, which he was eager to take, as shown in his self-released emails --  and with special counsel Robert Mueller delving into Trump businesses -- and now in the midst of his son, son-in-law, and former campaign manager all set to testify to congressional committees this week --

-- With all of that swirling inside the White House, a bipartisan group of both House and Senate members announced yesterday that they had reached an agreement on a legislation that imposes sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea.  These additional sanctions against Russia are retaliation for its interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as its aggression toward its neighbors.

The legislation -- very importantly -- also introduces new requirements that make it very difficult for the president to lift these sanctions without congressional approval.

This legislation originated in a bill passed by the Senate by a vote of 97 to 2.  The House is expected to vote on it Tuesday, but both parties are backing the bill and expect a similar, overwhelming support.   In short, it is probably going to be a veto-proof piece of legislation.

Trump's public complaint about the bill is that it would take away his flexibility in conducting foreign policy.   That might be an acceptable argument with a president you respect and trust.   But Trump has proven he cannot be trusted, even by his own party.

The question then becomes:   will Trump veto it?   He had been critical of the Senate version, and this new version made a few minor changes, without weakening any of the basic parts of the bill.   But it does give him a face-saving claim to support it -- if he wants to take it.

Of course, he's torn between whatever he owes Putin and the price he would pay politically for a veto.   It seems clear that there is nothing Putin wants from Trump more than lifting sanctions that already are hurting him, and not have more imposed.  So who knows what price Trump would pay with Putin if he doesn't veto it.  But with such bipartisan, veto-proof support for sanctions, it would be an empty gesture -- and at great domestic political cost when he can ill afford it.

So, I think we can conclude that, if he does veto the bill, it must indicate that his debt to Putin and the consequences must be enormous.

The truth is that Donald Trump likes to keep people guessing, and only he (if anyone) knows what he will do . . . until he does it.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Trump team sabotages Obamacaare

Sam Stein reporting for "The Daily Beast," says that the Trump administration "has spent money meant to encourage enrollment in the Affordable Care Act on a public relations campaign aimed at methodically strangling it."

This campaign to sabotage the success of the ACA is broader than originally suspected, Stein reports.   They have commissioned a multi-pronged social media campaign that includes video testimonials designed to portray the worst cases of people claiming to having been hurt by the health care plan -- and omitting any of the great success stories that are heard at political rallies, town hall meetings, etc.

Tom Price is today's Republican counterpart to Kathleen Sebelius, who was the Democratic Secretary of Health and Human Services when the ACA was designed.  She recently told "The Daily Beast" that, on a daily basis, she is "horrified by leaders at HHS who seem intent on taking healthcare away from the constituents they are supposed to serve.  We always believed that delivering health and human services was the mission of the department.  That seems to not be the mission of the current leadership."

Paul Krugman also wrote about this sabotage.  He says:
"Obamacare survived because it has worked. . . .  Unfortunately, some of those gains will probably be lost . . . .  So it's important to say clearly, in advance, why this is about to happen.  It won't be because the Affordable Care Act is failing;  it will be the result of Trump administration sabotage. . . .

"Notably, people aren't automatically signed up for coverage, so it matters a lot whether the officials running the system try to make it work, reaching out to potential beneficiaries to ensure that they know what's available, while reminding currently healthy Americans that they are still legally required to sign up for coverage."

Krugman outlined three ways that the system is being sabotaged:  (1)  weakening enforcement of the sign-up requirement;  (2)  letting states impose onerous work requirements on those who seek Medicaid coverage;  and (3) backing off the outreach program for enrollment and even putting out negative propaganda to discourage it.

Krugman concludes:  "The truly amazing thing about these sabotage efforts is that they don't serve any obvious purpose. . .  They don't save money . . .  It isn't about policy, or even politics in the normal sense.   It is basically about spite."

If they can't win -- and have been humiliated by seven years of promising "repeal" that they can't manage to actually bring about -- at least they can make millions of others suffer too.

More and more Americans are catching on to the fact that they have been conned . . . again.   One man was quoted a few days ago saying about Obamacare, which he now suspports:   "I can't remember why I was against it."