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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Schumer: Let's Drop The Fiction That Single-Payer Is Not On The Table; It's On The Table

Matt Vespa

Well, if you noticed that there’s no hard push for single-payer health care in the Democrats’ Better Deal agenda, which was meant to be the first salvo in the effort to reshape the party’s messaging, you’re not alone. Of course, the left wing base of the party will cry foul, but Schumer said on Sunday’s episode of ABC News’ This Week that because the party has spoken about health care so much, it wouldn’t be part of this agenda. I don’t know how that is going to fly, but Schumer seems to know that this is a hot button issue for a large chunk of the party, hence the reason why he said that it’s going to be considered. He promised that “week after week, month after month” the Democrats are going to be unveiling new initiatives to help working people.


CHUCK SCHUMER: So we're going to go after that and that will help the average person lower their costs.

And, finally, we're going to have, tomorrow, a very novel idea of how to create 10 million jobs. There are 10 million Americans looking for good-paying jobs. We're going to show them how to find them.

And that's just the beginning. Week after week, month after month, we're going to roll out specific pieces here, that are quite different than the Democratic Party you heard in the past. We were too cautious. We were too namby-pamby.

This is sharp, bold, and will appeal...

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Some...

SCHUMER: -- to both the old Obama coalition, let's say, the young lady who's just getting out of college, and the Democratic voters who deserted us for Trump, the blue collar workers...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some may wonder...

SCHUMER: -- economics, George, is our strength...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Some may wonder if...

SCHUMER: -- and we are going to go at it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- it's going to be bold enough. I mean even your New York colleague, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, talking about health care, says if you really want to get prices down, you have to go to single payer health care.

Will Democrats unify behind single payer health care?

SCHUMER: Well, our economic agenda -- we've talked so much about health care that we are not going to address that in this agenda.

We've been talking about it. And let me just say, the first thing we're going to do should -- first, I think that this -- the TrumpCare will not pass. It just is...

STEPHANOPOULOS: You think it's dead?

SCHUMER: I think it's very unlikely to pass, because it's rotten to the core. People are not for reducing taxes on rich people or getting rid of Medicaid, which is a very, very middle class, now, thing, as well as for poor people.

So the first things we're going to propose -- if the Republican -- and the Republicans hopefully will join us, once they abandon this rotten bill, is some cost-sharing, which the insurance companies say will help bring down premiums and stabilize the market, something else that Republicans have often supported, which is reinsurance, proposed by Tom Carper and Tim Kaine.

And Claire McCaskill has proposed something in the bare counties, B-A-R-E -- you can -- if you can't get insurance in those counties, you can get the same kind of health insurance we get.

Then we're going to look at broader things -- single payer is one of them...

STEPHANOPOULOS: So that is...

SCHUMER: -- Medicare...

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- on the table?

SCHUMER: -- well, a -- sure. Many things are on the table. Medicare for people above 55 is on the table. A buy-in to Medicare is on the table. A buy-in to Medicaid is on the table.

On the broader issues, we will start examining them once we stabilize the system.

And our Republican colleagues have said should -- even Mitch McConnell alluded to the fact that should their bill fail, they'll work with us these first stabilization things.

Then Democrats and Republicans, who will have different ideas, should sit down and talk about how we can improve the system. And the one thing we insist on, we not do what they did, which is just 10 Republicans, four Republicans in a room, not even including us. Regular order -- hearings, committees, go through the process.

But on this agenda, we are going to really shake things up and we're going to fill the vacuum that Donald Trump left when he campaigned on some of the things like this and then abandoned them for the hard right Koch brothers.

Yeah, well, the Koch Brothers are not hard right, they’re socially liberal, pro-criminal justice reform, pro-choice, and pro-gay marriage. Second, the unveiling of this new agenda was rather lackluster, with a slogan that was mocked by virtually everyone, even former communications staffers for the Obama and Clinton campaigns. Democrats called these working class voters, by and large, deplorable during the 2016 election. Now, they’re trying to say that they’re their best political friends because they need white working class voters to lead them out of the political wilderness. Also, let’s not forget that even The Washington Postnoted single-payer’s astronomical costs, while adding that Americans are not going to accept the tradeoff of higher taxes and reduced access to care to keep costs down. Still, the party leaders need to keep this left wing item alive since California Democrats tabled a single-payer initiative of their own, only to feel the wrath of the progressive base that had some hurling death threats at the legislators. The bill had a $400 billion price tag and no mechanisms in the legislation to fund it. Yet, even with these facts, more Americans seem to be gravitating towardsthis policy item. 

Ron Johnson Introduces Amendment Making Congress Eligible for Obamacare

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has introduced an amendment that would appeal the Obama-era OPM rule that let Congress dodge Obamacare exchanges. 

The OPM rule described the House of Representatives as having only 45 staffers and 45 employees, and the Senate as only having 45 total employees. This means that Congress was portraying itself as a small business and therefore eligible to buy health insurance on D.C.'s Small Business Health Exchange Program (SHOP). SHOP exchanges are normally only available for businesses that employ fewer than 100 people--except for Congress, evidently.

Federal employees receive a benefit that pays up to $12,000 of their premiums through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. As it turns out, that kind of employer contribution is illegal under the Affordable Care Act for plans purchased on the individual exchange. To "fix" this, Congress decided to move everyone to the small business exchange, even though Congress is decidedly not a small business.

From The Hill

The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program gives federal employees a choice of health plans and pays up to $12,000 of the premium. But the ACA kicked members of Congress and congressional staff out of the FEHBP, and said the only way they can get health benefits is through an Exchange.
 
That presented problems beyond just kicking members of Congress out of their health plans. Those $12,000 premium contributions would be illegal in the Exchanges the ACA created for individuals. Since federal law allows employers to contribute to premiums through SHOP Exchanges, though, certain officials decided Congress would enroll in D.C.’s small-business Exchange.

Yet there was a problem with that “solution,” too. The ACA bars businesses with more than 100 employees from participating in SHOP Exchanges. Until this year, D.C. barred businesses with more than 50 employees. When those officials falsely claimed the House and Senate fit under those limits, they did so because they wanted to draw money from the federal Treasury—i.e., a subsidy of up to $12,000 for each member and staffer.

It's about time that this was corrected. Congress shouldn't get to play by one set of rules that the rest of the country can't. Further, Congress is certainly not a small business, and shouldn't be treated as one. Members of Congress should be subject to the legislation they pass.

"Has Trump Learned Anything From Firing James Comey?"



Under a portrait of former President Andrew Jackson, U.S. President Donald Trump (L) congratulates Jeff Sessions after he was sworn in as U.S. Attorney General during a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Has Trump Learned Anything From Firing James Comey?
By Scott Greer
26 Jul 2017, 09:53 AM

President Trump can’t stop attacking his own attorney general.

Trump started it off last week in a New York Times interview where he said he would have picked someone besides Jeff Sessions for attorney general if he knew Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

The president has only kept up the attacks since then on Twitter. Trump called his AG “beleaguered.” He said Sessions is “very weak” on investigating Hillary Clinton. Heopenly wonderedwhy his cabinet official is not looking into possible collusion between Democrats and Ukraine.

But on Tuesday, Trump delivered the most devastating blow of all against the first senator to endorse him for president in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. First he said that he is “looking at” firing Sessions, then he cast doubt on why the then-Alabama senator endorsed him in the Republican primary.(RELATED: Trump: ‘I’m Just Looking’ At Whether To Fire Sessions)

“I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot, massive numbers. A lot of the states I won by massive numbers. But he was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ’What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me,” Trump told the Journal. “But I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions.”

At a Tuesday press conference shortly after the interview was published, Trump reiterated that he wished he hadn’t picked Sessions for attorney general, further cementing the Alabaman was not in his good graces.

This displeasure is caused entirely by Sessions recusing himself from Russia, which is one of the events leading to special counsel Robert Mueller taking control of the matter. That development now represents the greatest threat to the Trump presidency.

But instead of lashing out at Mueller, Trump is singling out Sessions for all his rage — even though there’s little the attorney general can do in the matter.

And many Trump supporters, who seemingly go along with whatever the president does, are justifying Sessions removal for reasons that are remarkably similar to what were used to celebrate former FBI director James Comey’s dismissal.

They say he’s not being loyal to the president. They say he’s not investigating Hillary Clinton, which is apparently a top priority several months after the election. They also complain that he’s not competent at his job.

All of these accusations were lobbed at Comey after he was fired as well. The big difference is that Sessions is a long-time Trump supporter and is well-respected by the political right. But the same results are expected this time after getting rid of a bothersome subordinate.

And how did firing of James Comey turn out?

Well for one, there is no renewed focus on Hillary’s emails by any federal agency. Trump’s Russia woes have only increased exponentially since the former FBI director’s departure and now dominate his presidency. Instead of getting a conservative stalwart or Trump loyalist at the the helm of the FBI, Trump’s nominee for the job is another government lawyer like James Comey.

As this writer stated at the time it occurred, the Comey firing would turn out to be a catastrophe for Trump — which it has. A man who was previously busy running the FBI now spends all of his time leaking against the administration and working to bring it down. In due large part to the fallout from the firing, Mueller was appointed special counsel.(RELATED: The Predictable Catastrophe Of Firing James Comey)

None of this would have happened if Comey had stayed on. If Trump wanted him gone, he should have fired him at the start of his tenure — not several months after taking office and under dubious circumstances.

The lessons of firing Comey should serve as a notice for why Trump should lay off Sessions. Getting rid of Sessions won’t solve any of Trump’s problems. There is no chance he will get a better and more loyal choice through the Senate. The idea the next attorney general will go after Hillary over the 2016 election requires a lobotomy to believe.

There is no way Trump is going to get Rudy Giuliani or Jeanine Pirro through the Senate so they can arrest the entire Democratic Party for Benghazi. As the Comey situation shows, the replacement will turn out to be a guy who is definitely not going to implement the MAGA Twitter agenda. Sessions is the best we are going to get and he has done an effective job of promoting the Trump agenda at the DOJ.

And as Sessions supporter and Iowa Rep. Steve Kingsaid Tuesday, “Why would a high quality person take that job if they’re going to be so vulnerable?” Trump is going to have a very hard time finding a replacement after firing a loyalist for not doing the impossible.

Like the Comey firing, there will be major political fallout from dismissing Sessions — the change this time being Republicans and many Trump supporters becoming the irate party — while Democrats will only see it as a catastrophic blunder for an already troubled White House.

Is it all worth it just to get Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein?

The most disturbing element in this fracas is how Trump treats one of his most loyal supporters. Sessions took a major risk in endorsing Trump when the entire Republican establishment opposed his candidacy and anyone who associated with him was threatened with facing life-time opprobrium. There was little to gain and much to lose.(RELATED: Firing Sessions Would Be Terrible For Trumpism)

But Sessions believed in Trump’s message and gave him his endorsement due to his tough talk on immigration and law and order. It was not given because Trump was drawing huge crowds in a state Sessions is so popular in he ran unopposed in 2014.

Trump is deluding himself with this notion that Sessions did it out of opportunism instead of loyalty to principle, and Trump is seemingly doing it out of spite — an ominous sign to anyone who works for or supports the president.

No matter the risks you took to support Trump. No matter how effective you are at pushing the president’s job. No matter how much you helped get Trump elected. Your head will still be demanded if Trump can’t let something go.

It’s a terrible move for someone who values loyalty so much to turn on one of his most loyal supporters. It tells the world you don’t actually put much value in that quality after all.

Comey was likely fired for refusing to pledge his loyalty to Trump, but it’s hard to fault him for not doing so after seeing how Sessions is treated.

In order for Trump’s presidency to not end in total failure, he must realize the movement he ushered has to be more than a personality cult. He must offer his voters a coherent vision for the country that convinces them that he should stay in office.

There is no one better suited to help him with that task than his attorney general.

Follow Scott on Twitterand purchase his new book, “No Campus for White Men.”

Trump to ban transgender people from all military service

Trump to ban transgender people from all military service
By Rebecca Kheel and Rebecca Savransky - 07-26-17 09:10 AM EDT

President Trump on Wednesday said he would ban transgender people from any military service.

Trump made the announcement, which would represent a major shift in military policy, on Twitter. He said he had made the decision after consulting with "my generals and military experts."

"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," Trump tweeted.

"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"

During the 2016 presidential race, Trump called himself a "real friend" of the LGBT community in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting and accused Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of prioritizing "immigration policies that bring Islamic extremists" into the U.S.

"Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs," he tweeted in June.

He also criticized North Carolina's controversial "bathroom law," saying in an April 2016 interview that the state was "paying a big price" for the policy and that transgender individuals should use whatever bathroom they want.

Trump's decision is a gesture to the conservative base at a time when he's facing declining poll numbers and increasing pressure over the Russia investigation.

White House officials did not immediately respond to a request for explain the president's decision-making process.

Last year, the Obama administration lifted the ban on allowing transgender troops to serve openly.

Under the policy set by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter, transgender troops also receive coverage for any treatment deemed medically necessary by their doctors, including surgery and hormone therapy.

That step left a decision for Defense Secretary James Mattis to make on whether to allow new transgender troops to enter the military.

It wasn't immediately clear what Trump's announcement would mean for the approximately 250 transgender people now serving openly in the U.S. military.

A Pentagon spokesman referred all questions about Trump's statements to the White House.

"We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the Commander-in-Chief on transgender individuals serving the military," Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said. "We will provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future."

Trump's decision is a huge blow the LGBT community, which was just coming off a win after the surprising defeat of an amendment to the annual defense policy bill that would have banned Pentagon funding from being used for transition-related medical care.

But under the policy Carter crafted, transgender recruits weren't allowed to enlist pending the end of a one-year implementation period.

That was supposed to end July 1. But the night before the change was to go into effect, Mattis issued a six-month delay in the policy to study the issue more.

In a memo explaining the delay, Mattis insisted that his decision does not "change policies and procedures currently in effect."

Mattis also promised during his confirmation hearing that he wouldn't reverse his predecessor's decisions unless a service chief brings him hard evidence the policy is having a negative effect.

LGBT advocates were worried immediately after the election that Trump would roll back the transgender policy, which he has the power to do unilaterally since it is not a law.

They breathed a sigh of relief after Mattis's confirmation hearing but have since been fighting on issues such as the enlistment policy and medical care.

Earlier this month, the House voted 209-214 against banning Pentagon funding from being used for transition-related care. Twenty-four Republicans joined with Democrats to defeat the amendment to the annual defense policy bill.

Mattis opposed the amendment, confirming he called its sponsor, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), at least once on the issue.

But some Republicans hoped to have a second chance, filing several similar amendments to the spending bill coming to the House floor Wednesday.

The Rules Committee on Tuesday night decided on some of the amendments that will get a vote on the House floor. None of the transgender-related amendments made it in, but there will be a second chance on Wednesday.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), whose son is transgender, immediately slammed the decision.

"No American, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be prohibited from honor + privilege of serving our nation #LGBT," she tweeted.

Rep. Vicky Jo Hartzler (R-Mo.), meanwhile, said she was "pleased.""Pleased to hear that @realDonaldTrump shares my readiness and cost concerns, & will be changing this costly and damaging policy #readiness," she tweeted.

--This report was last updated at 10:51 a.m.

Newly declassified memos detail extent of improper Obama-era NSA spying

Newly declassified memos detail extent of improper Obama-era NSA spying
By John Solomon - 07-25-17 20:19 PM EDT

The National Security Agency and FBI violated specific civil liberty protections during the Obama administration by improperly searching and disseminating raw intelligence on Americans or failing to promptly delete unauthorized intercepts, according to newly declassified memos that provide some of the richest detail to date on the spy agencies' ability to obey their own rules.

The memos reviewed by The Hill were publicly released on July 11 through Freedom of Information Act litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union.

They detail specific violations that the NSA or FBI disclosed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or the Justice Department's national security division during President Obama's tenure between 2009 and 2016. The intelligence community isn't due to report on compliance issues for 2017, the first year under the Trump administration, until next spring.

The NSA says that the missteps amount to a small number - less than 1 percent - when compared to the hundreds of thousands of specific phone numbers and email addresses the agencies intercepted through the so-called Section 702 warrantless spying program created by Congress in late 2008.

"Quite simply, a compliance program that never finds an incident is not a robust compliance program," said Michael Halbig, the NSA's chief spokesman. "The National Security Agency has in place a strong compliance program that identifies incidents, reports them to external overseers, and then develops appropriate solutions to remedy any incidents."

But critics say the memos undercut the intelligence community's claim that it has robust protections for Americans incidentally intercepted under the program.

"Americans should be alarmed that the NSA is vacuuming up their emails and phone calls without a warrant," said Patrick Toomey, an ACLU staff attorney in New York who helped pursue the FOIA litigation. "The NSA claims it has rules to protect our privacy, but it turns out those rules are weak, full of loopholes, and violated again and again."

Section 702 empowers the NSA to spy on foreign powers and to retain and use certain intercepted data that was incidentally collected on Americans under strict privacy protections. Wrongly collected information is supposed to be immediately destroyed.

The Hill reviewed the new ACLU documents as well as compliance memos released by the NSA inspector general and identified more than 90 incidents where violations specifically cited an impact on Americans. Many incidents involved multiple persons, multiple violations or extended periods of time.

For instance, the government admitted improperly searching the NSA's foreign intercept data on multiple occasions, including one instance in which an analyst ran the same search query about an American "every work day" for a period between 2013 and 2014.

There also were several instances in which Americans' unmasked names were improperly shared inside the intelligence community without being redacted, a violation of the so-called minimization procedures that Obama loosened in 2011 that are supposed to protect Americans' identity from disclosure when they are intercepted without a warrant. Numerous times improperly unmasked information about Americans had to be recalled and purged after the fact, the memos stated.

"CIA and FBI received unminimized data from many Section 702-tasked facilities and at times are thus required to conduct similar purges," one report noted.

"NSA issued a report which included the name of a United States person whose identity was not foreign intelligence," said one typical incident report from 2015, which said the NSA eventually discovered the error and "recalled" the information.

Likewise, the FBI disclosed three instances between December 2013 and February 2014 of "improper disseminations of U.S. persons identities."

The NSA also admitted it was slow in some cases to notify fellow intelligence agencies when it wrongly disseminated information about Americans. The law requires a notification within five days, but some took as long as 131 business days and the average was 19 days, the memos show.

U.S. intelligence officials directly familiar with the violations told The Hill that the memos confirm that the intelligence agencies have routinely policed, fixed and self-disclosed to the nation's intelligence court thousands of minor procedural and more serious privacy infractions that have impacted both Americans and foreigners alike since the warrantless spying program was created by Congress in late 2008.

Alexander Joel, who leads the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy and Transparency under the director of national intelligence, said the documents chronicle episodes that have been reported to Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for years in real time and are a tribute to the multiple layers of oversight inside the intelligence community.

"We take every compliance incident very seriously and continually strive to improve compliance through our oversight regime and as evidence by our reporting requirements to the FISC and Congress," he told The Hill. "That said, we believe that, particularly when compared with the overall level of activity, the compliance incident rate is very low."

The FBI said it believes it has adequate oversight to protect Americans' privacy, while signaling it will be pushing Congress hard this fall to renew the Section 702 law before it expires.

"The FBI's mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States," the bureau said in a statement to The Hill. "When Congress enacted Section 702, it built in comprehensive oversight and compliance procedures that involve all three branches of government. These procedures are robust and effective in identifying compliance incidents. The documents released on July 11, 2017 clearly show the FBI's extensive efforts to follow the law, and to identify, report, and remedy compliance matters.

"Section 702 is vital to the safety and security of the American people. It is one of the most valuable tools the Intelligence Community has, and therefore, is used with the utmost care by the men and women of the FBI so as to not jeopardize future utility. As such, we continually evaluate our internal policies and procedures to further reduce the number of these compliance matters."

The new documents show that the NSA has, on occasion, exempted itself from its legal obligation to destroy all domestic communications that were improperly intercepted.

Under the law, the NSA is supposed to destroy any intercept if it determines the data was domestically gathered, meaning someone was intercepted on U.S. soil without a warrant when the agency thought they were still overseas. The NSA, however, has said previously it created "destruction waivers" to keep such intercepts in certain cases.

The new documents confirm the NSA has in fact issued such waivers and that it uncovered in 2012 a significant violation in which the waivers were improperly used and the infraction was slow to be reported to the court.

"In light of related filings being presented to the Court at the same time this incident was discovered and the significance of the incident, DOJ should have reported this incident under the our immediate notification process," then-Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco wrote the FISA court in Aug. 28, 2012, about the episode, according to one memo released through FOIA.

The NSA declined to say how often destruction waivers are given. But Joel, of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has supervised such waivers and affirmed they are "consistent with the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and the statutory requirements of Section 702."

Other violations cited in the memos:

  • Numerous "overcollection incidents" in which the NSA gathered information about foreigners or Americans it wasn't entitled to intercept
  • "Isolated instances in which NSA may not have complied with the documentation requests" justifying intercepts or searches of intercepted data.
  • The misuse of "overly broad" queries or specific U.S. person terms to search through NSA data.
  • Failures to timely purge NSA databases of improperly collected intelligence, such as a 2014 incident in which "NSA reported a gap in its purge discovery processes."

In annual and quarterly compliance reports that have been released in recent years, U.S. intelligence agencies have estimated the number of Section 702 violations has averaged between 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent of the total number of "taskings." A tasking is an intelligence term that reflects a request to intercept a specific phone number or email address.

The NSA now targets more than 100,000 individuals a year under Section 702 for foreign spying, and some individual targets get multiple taskings, officials said.

"The actual number of compliance incidents remains classified but from the publicly available data it is irrefutable that the number is in the thousands since Section 702 was fully implemented by 2009," said a senior U.S. official with direct knowledge, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The increasing transparency on Section 702 violations is having an impact on both critics and supporters of a law that is up for renewal in Congress at the end of this year. Of concern are the instances in which Americans' data is incidentally collected and then misused.

Retired House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra, a Republican who strongly supported the NSA warrantless spying program when it started under President George W. Bush, said he now fears it has now become too big and intrusive.

"If I were still in Congress today, I might vote with the people today to shut the program down or curtail it," Hoekstra, who has been tapped by Trump to be ambassador to the Netherlands, said in an interview.

"One percent or less sounds great, but the truth is 1 percent of my credit card charges don't come back wrong every month. And in my mind one percent is pretty sloppy when it can impact Americans' privacy."

This story was updated at 10:38 a.m.

Senate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment

Senate rejects ObamaCare repeal, replacement amendment
By Jordain Carney and Jessie Hellmann - 07-25-17 22:11 PM EDT

The Senate rejected a key proposal repealing and replacing ObamaCare on Tuesday night as senators start a dayslong debate on healthcare.

Senators voted 43-57 on a procedural hurdle for the measure that included the GOP's repeal and a replace bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), as well as proposals from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Rand Paul (Ky.) voted against the repeal-and-replace proposal on the procedural hurdle. No Democrats voted for it.

The proposal was the first amendment to get a vote after senators took up the House-passed healthcare bill, known as the American Health Care Act, which is being used as a vehicle for any Senate action, earlier Tuesday.

But it was widely expected to fall short of the 60 votes it needed because the Congressional Budget Office didn't analyze either the Cruz or Portman proposal that was packaged in with the BCRA.

Tuesday night's vote doesn't prevent GOP leadership from offering another repeal-and-replace amendment or another version of BCRA.

It could also help GOP leadership get rank-and-file senators on the record as they try to figure out a path forward.

A vote on an amendment that would repeal much of ObamaCare is expected on Wednesday.

Cruz acknowledged ahead of the late-night vote that the amendment wasn't likely to be approved, but he appeared optimistic that Republicans would be able to get to an agreement before a final vote this week.

"I will say the bill before the Senate ... is not likely to pass tonight but I believe at the end of the process the contours within it are likely to be what we enact, at least the general outlines," Cruz said from the Senate floor ahead of the vote.

Cruz said he expects his amendment to end up in the final version of the healthcare bill.

"I believe we will see the consumer freedom amendment in the legislation that is ultimately enacted," he said.

Murkowski was greeted by protestors outside the Capitol who chanted "stay strong Lisa."

Asked whether she would support a "skinny repeal" bill, she said it's not clear what it would entail.

"I don't know that any of us have defined what that might be."

Cruz's provision would allow insurance companies to sell plans that did not meet ObamaCare's requirements, as long as they also offered plans that did.

Portman's, meanwhile, would aim to lower insurance costs for individuals in Medicaid expansion states, like Ohio, but could also apply to other low-income Americans.

The provision would add $100 billion to the bill's state stability fund to help people who might lose the coverage they got under ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion. These funds could help cover out-of-pocket costs like deductibles and copays.

Portman said he "worked with the president, vice president and administrative officials" to "improve this bill further to help out low-income Ohioans."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Boehner: GOP Will 'Never' Repeal, Replace Obamacare

Leah Barkoukis 

Former House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans are "never" going to be successful in their efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. 

Speaking to a group in Las Vegas last week, Boehner said the GOP’s efforts will fail because “the American people have gotten accustomed to it.”

“Here we are, seven months into this year, and yet they’ve not passed this bill. Now, they’re never - they’re not going to repeal and replace Obamacare,” Boehner said, reports The Washington Post.  “It’s been around too long. And the American people have gotten accustomed to it. Governors have gotten accustomed to this Medicaid expansion, and so trying to pull it back is really not going to work.”

He did offer his own suggestions, however, saying that Republicans could remove some of the regulations, tax provisions, and end the insurance mandates. 

“When it’s all said and done, you’re not going to have an employer mandate anymore, you’re not going to have the individual mandate,” he said. “The Medicaid expansion will be there. The governors will have more control over their Medicaid populations and how to get them care, and a lot of Obamacare taxes will probably go.”

If the GOP doesn’t pass legislation on some of the key items they promised—tax reform, healthcare, and infrastructure—they will pay dearly in the midterm elections next year. Boehner went so far as to say “they’re going to get annihilated” if they fail to accomplish these agenda items. 

The Senate will vote Tuesday on the motion to proceed on the House-passed healthcare bill.