Even GOP Governors and Lawmakers Want Repeal Efforts to Slow
As the Republican led Senate voted along party lines last week to take the first step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, opposition to a repeal has been building including among some prominent GOP lawmakers and governors. The 51-48 vote was a procedural motion to start Senate debate for a budget resolution that could result in overhauling the law. Broader based legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare would require 60 votes in the Senate, and the GOP doesn’t control enough seats to make that happen or to stop a filibuster by Democrats. However, a budget resolution only requires a simple majority to pass. The vote came after both President Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Mike Pence traveled to Capitol Hill to garner support from their respective parties on the issue.
Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, prominent chairman of the Senate Health Committee, has publicly stated his position that it would be a mistake to repeal Obamacare before the GOP is able to craft a replacement. Another Republican, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul broke with the party, becoming the only Republican to join with the Senate Democrats in opposition.
A spokesperson for Sen. Paul told NCRM Thursday, â€œThe Senator did not support the legislative action as it did not address the greater issue of balancing the underlying budget.â€
Not withstanding Alexander’s concerns, in a written statement to NCRM that reiterated his public statement earlier in the week, Senate Budget Committee chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) said that Republicans are committed to fixing what the GOP sees as a “broken” national health care system.
“Americans face skyrocketing premiums and soaring deductibles,” the Wyoming Republican said. “Insurers are withdrawing from markets across the country, leaving many families with fewer choices and less access to care than they had before â€“Â the opposite of what the law promised.”
Enzi did not note that since the inception of Obamacare Republicans have rebuffed attempts by Democrats to tweak portions of the health care law.
â€” Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) January 6, 2017
The problem that confronts Congressional Republicans is finding and enacting a suitable replacement for the healthcare law, which they initially claimed was unnecessary before it was signed into law in 2010. Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA) speaking to reporters during a news conference Wednesday, said that the GOP may not have enough votes for a replacement to the law.
“They don’t have the votes for a replacement plan,” Pelosi said. “So to repeal and then delay is [an] act of cowardice.”
I am proud to join my colleagues Rep. Jackie Speier and Rep. Barbara Lee this afternoon in the fight against GOP's #MakeAmericaSickAgain agenda.
Posted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday, January 7, 2017
The lack of a suitable replacement plan to replace the present law has long bedeviled GOP lawmakers. President Obama indicated he would consider an endorsement of a repeal, provided that the Republicans can come up with one, and then convince him theirs is a better plan.
â€œIf they can show that they can do it better, cheaper, more effective, provide better coverage, why wouldnâ€™t I be for it?â€ Obama told web based Vox media Friday. â€œIf in fact there is going to be a massive undoing of what is one-sixth of our economy, then the Republicans need to put forward very specific ideas about how theyâ€™re going to do it.â€
The President also urged debate comparing any Republican replacement to the current law.
â€œI am saying to every Republican right now, if you in fact can put a plan together that is demonstrably better than what Obamacare is doing, I will publicly support repealing Obamacare and replacing it with your plan. But I want to see it first,â€ he said.
Former GOP presidential candidate, Ohio’s Governor John Kasich also cautioned Congressional Republicans lawmakers against repealing the law without a replacement.
â€œThereâ€™s room for improvement, but to repeal and not to replace, I just want to know whatâ€™s going to happen to all those people who find themselves left out in the cold,â€ Kasich told reporters Wednesday, according to an audio file provided by the Governor’s Press Office.
Kasich’s office said Friday that more than 700,000 Ohioans have gained coverage from the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. In his remarks, the Governor specifically mentioned those constituents;
â€œLetâ€™s just say they got rid of it and didnâ€™t replace it with anything, what happens to those 700,000 people?â€ Kasich said. â€œWhat happens to drug treatment, what happens to mental health counseling?â€
He also took aim at Republican plans that have been floated to replace the law, noting that there are still no details about a proposed tax credit to help people afford coverage as part of a replacement.
â€œNow thereâ€™s some talk that they would have some sort of a tax credit, OK, well how far does that go?â€ Kasich said. â€œThereâ€™s a lot of details to be worked out. Itâ€™s a serious matter.â€
Kasich is not the only GOP governor who supports keeping the healthcare law. Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder has also recently been an Obamacare proponent telling the Detroit News,Â â€œI hope they carefully look at the success weâ€™ve had in Michigan.â€
Tennessee’s other Republican Senator Bob Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also advised caution as he spoke with reporters Friday morning at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington.
“[It] would be best for our country to go ahead and replace it with something that works and repeal at the same time,” he said.
Corker also urged Democrats â€œto come to the table to work on a deal on a replacement, including swapping out the employer and individual mandates with auto-enrollment and giving governors more flexibility on Medicaid.â€
Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tina Rosenberg, a former editorial writer for The New York Times, wrote in an op-ed piece published last week:
“Most endangered are the insurance provisions that have brought coverage to 20 million people. Among them are Medicaid expansion and the requirement to buy insurance â€” without which the market would collapse.
“The A.C.A. is more than insurance. As the Times reported Monday, the law is leading a transformation of Americaâ€™s health care system. Itâ€™s a change that nearly everyone, Republicans and Democrats, agrees is desperately needed â€” and for it to happen, the relevant parts of the A.C.A. must be preserved.
“The transformation moves health care away from a fee-for-service model, which pays doctors and hospitals according to the number of procedures they do, toward value-based care, which pays based on what helps patients get better.”
Rosenberg also noted:
â€œFee-for-service care encourages providers to do more and do it more expensively. The result is uncoordinated care that does not attack underlying health problems and comes at an enormous cost. Health care now accounts for around 18 percent of Americaâ€™s gross domestic product. It is pushing state and local governments into near-bankruptcy and neutralizing workersâ€™ raises. And as the first baby boomers are hitting 70, things will only get worse.â€
A senior White House official told NCRM that one of the other obstacles confronting Republicans is now that repeal is a distinct possibility, people are becoming more aware of â€œthe real world impactsâ€ that losing the healthcare law’s coverage will have on them and their families. Echoing a long held belief by some political pundits as well as Washington policy makers, he stated, â€œBefore the election the press ignored the real consequences of repealing Obamacare and now is going to have to play catch up to properly inform the public.â€
â€œLet’s look at the largest demographic of the population that will be most adversely affected by repeal â€“Â senior citizens,â€ he said adding, â€œwho voted in large numbers for Donald Trump and the GOP.â€
â€œFor the over 57 million senior citizens and disabled Americans who have been covered under Obamacare, and who are currently paying $700 less in premiums and cost sharing than they would without it, they’re looking at higher premiums, deductibles and cost-sharing. But where it really hits them in their wallet is that â€œthe Donut Holeâ€ will be back. This was a factor after a person had exceeded their ‘specified coverage’ and were 100% responsible for the cost of their medications.â€
Using the examples of expensive medications such as those for cancer, heart disease, etc., he pointed out that nearly 11 million seniors and disabled had saved more that $2100 a person for those drugs under Obamacare. He then added that screenings for breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes, which are currently covered at no cost, will revert to an out-of-pocket expenditure, which in many cases of fixed or lower income persons would be cost prohibitive.
Besides of those “people” factors, GOP lawmakers need to consider the fiscal cost and drain to the federal budget, he added.
â€œA full repeal of Obamacare will cost approximately $350 billion over the next ten years,â€ he said. â€œWhen the Affordable Care Act was first enacted it didn’t add to the federal deficit instead it actually boosted revenues slightly.â€
The current law affects the federal budget in three ways, as CNN Money reported last week:
“Coverage provisions, which include the individual and employer mandates, subsidies and Medicaid expansion.”
“Taxes and fees levied on high-income Americans, insurers, providers and others, as well as the Cadillac tax on high-cost insurance plans.”Â
Finally, the “Medicare components, such as slowing the growth of provider rates and lowering payments to Medicare Advantage insurers.”
According to the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, removing all three components would blow a hole in the budget even before the GOP come up with a replacement plan, which would also then need to be funded.
The American Medical Association, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, has also spoken out in a letter to Republican leaders urging them to take a different approach.
â€œPolicymakers should lay out for the American people, in reasonable detail, what will replace current policies,â€ the letter reads. â€œPatients and other stakeholders should be able to clearly compare current policy to new proposals so they can make informed decisions about whether it represents a step forward in the ongoing process of health reform.â€
The person who will ultimately decide how quickly and in what form Obamacare repeal and, possibly, replace, comes, is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (photo). Sen. McConnell on Sunday said, “There ought not to be a great gap” between repeal and replace, but would not define just how long Americans will be without coverage.
Brody LevesqueÂ is the Chief Political Correspondent forÂ The New Civil Rights Movement.
You may contact Brody atÂ Brody.Levesque@thenewcivilrightsmovement.com
You can respond directly to Mitch McConnell by sending your comments to him on Twitter:Â @SenateMajLdr andÂ @McConnellPress. He is on Facebook, and his office information can be found here and here. You can also call theÂ US Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for any Senator including Sen. McConnell.
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Image via FacebookÂ
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Ethics Complaint Against Sinema Urges Investigation Into Staffers’ Duties and Her Possible ‘Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars’
If you are hired to work in Senator Kyrsten Sinema‘s office on Capitol Hill there is a 37-page memo you’ll want to read detailing all the responsibilities her staffers are required to perform, from getting her groceries, calling Verizon and going to her D.C. home to wait for a repair person if the internet goes out, scheduling massages, and ensuring her very detailed airplane requirements are met.
“It is your job to make her as comfortable as possible on each flight,” the memo says, as The Daily Beast first reported in December.
But now a group of 13 non-profit organizations have joined to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sinema (I-AZ), a new Daily Beast report reveals Friday, including details from that 37-page memo which the newly-independent lawmaker directed to be drawn up. Dated Thursday, the complaint is titled: “Letter to Senate Ethics Committee Regarding Reports of Sinema Abusing Taxpayer Dollars.”
“Senate Ethics guidelines stipulate that staff should not be asked to perform personal errands for members. This is an unambiguous ethical boundary,” the group’s complaint reads.
It also points to that 37-page memo, which it says, “indicates that staff are required, as a condition of their jobs, to carry out numerous tasks that are outside the scope of public employment, including doing personal errands for the Senator, carrying out household tasks at her private residence, and advancing their own funds for her personal purchases. It makes unreasonably precise scheduling demands, and former staff have confirmed some of the allegations.”
The allegations continue.
“And, most troubling, it calls on staff members, who are employed and paid by the public and explicitly barred from campaign activity, to schedule and facilitate political fundraisers and meetings with campaign donors, presumably during the workday while they are on the clock and physically on federal property.”
“Senate staff are prohibited under your guidelines from engaging in political activity ‘on Senate time, using Senate equipment or facilities.’ While you have not prohibited campaign activity outside work hours, the plain language of the memo clearly implies that Sen. Sinema expects her staff to carry out these scheduling tasks during the workday. And these tasks may separately violate Senate Rule 41.1, which explicitly prohibits Senate employees from ‘solicit[ing]’ campaign funds.”
The complaint also alleges that “Sen. Sinema required her staff to schedule three physical therapy and massage sessions a week related to her training for athletic competitions, and to tightly manage her dietary schedule — while allotting only a 30-minute period on Wednesdays for meetings with the constituents she represents.”
The carefully-worded complaint adds, “the allegations paint a picture of a Senator who is not only unresponsive to her constituents, but also disrespectful and even abusive to her employees and wholly unconcerned about her obligations under the law.”
The Daily Beast has posted a copy of the complaint here.
You can read The Beast’s full report here.
Santos May Owe Thousands in Unpaid Traffic Violation Fines and Fees Across Two States: Report
When he left for Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. George Santos also appears to have left a string of unpaid traffic violation fines and fees in two states, including red light, double parking, and overtime parking citations totaling thousands of dollars.
The embattled serial liar and freshman New York GOP lawmaker “may owe more than $3,400 in unpaid citations, according to records from New York City and Florida,” CBS News reports.
Included in that total is $1,299.10 from Florida for toll violations that “racked up late fees and were ultimately sent to collections agencies.”
It appears that in November of 2016, as soon as he got his New York driver’s license after having one in Florida, a car previously ticket via a red light camera whose plates match one registered to Santos “began piling up citations in New York City — 29 in the next two and a half years, according to city government records, which do not identify the drivers of vehicles being ticketed.”
“More than $1,800 in payments were made for 17 citations, but another 12 remain unpaid, with $2,142.61 still due, according to city records.”
CBS News also points to a New York Post report from January revealing “a Nissan Rogue driven frequently by Santos in recent months had been issued speeding tickets at least five times since he was elected on Nov. 8, ‘including four times in school zones.'”
Santos is under numerous state and federal investigations that span the gamut from campaign finance to allegedly stolen charity funds donated to save the life of a veteran’s service dog. The dog died after the vet could not afford to pay for the operation.
‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is pushing baseless conspiracy theories about the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon floating over the United States – currently, over Montana – that the Pentagon is tracking, and he’s being widely mocked for his unfounded fear-mongering.
Fox News host Harris Faulkner set the stage perfectly for the far-right Republican from Kentucky, declaring the balloon is “the size of three buses” and that “China says was taken by wind – wind that we can’t substantiate.”
The Kentucky congressman who has falsely described President Biden as “compromised,” and stated he is going to target and investigate him, told Faulkner, “I have concern this is going to be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale.”
Comer, 50, a former agriculture commissioner, lamented about Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming it hurt the reputation of America’s military and Commander in Chief.
The balloon, he said, should “never have been allowed” to cross over into the United States.
“My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” he asked, pushing unfounded theories while echoing the far-right’s false claims the COVID-19 virus was developed as a bioweapon and escaped the lab in Wuhan, China.
After suggesting it might have bioweapons, he then said it was “very concerning” the balloon was not shot down before reaching the U.S. – which could have spread the alleged bioweapon.
Faulkner, seen by some as a propagandist, then jumped in to exhibit her surprise that “people on Capitol Hill were not briefed” about the balloon.
“Calling for the president to ‘shoot down’ the craft,” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona adds, “some in the GOP called the president ‘Beijing Biden’ while claiming this is further proof that ‘Communist China’ doesn’t ‘fear or respect’ Biden.”
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer to Fox News: “My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” pic.twitter.com/0r9JmBl4zo
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) February 3, 2023
“Honestly,” communications strategist Doug Gordon noted, “just surprised he didn’t find a way to include Hunter’s laptop into that conspiracy theory.”
“Actually, he did later on,” Baragona replied.
National security expert Denver Riggleman, the Republican former U.S. Congressman from Virginia who assisted the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, tweeted: “Bioweapons? FFS”
Referring to Comer’s unfounded bioweapons claim, one Twitter user observed, “Isn’t that more reason not to shoot at it? I’m not saying I know what to do, but logic would dictate ‘don’t shoot at balloons full of bioweapons.’ Right?”
Another noted that the Oversight Chairman should have been listening to the Pentagon’s briefing “taking place now instead of running to get on Fox to talk about something he has no expertise in.”
Another, mocking Comer, noted: “If they were sending a bio weapon, why would they park it over sparsely populated Montana? *rolls eyes*”
Watch the video above or at this link.
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