Tag Archives: ACA

McConnell wants what? Bipartisanship? For real?

I gave myself one of those proverbial forehead slaps when I heard this tidbit: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants there to be more “bipartisanship” in the next Congress.

Huh? He said what? This comes in the form of an op-ed column from the obstructionist in chief on Capitol Hill?

It took my breath away.

This is the fellow who said in 2010: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

Uh, huh. He said that. The 2012 presidential election, of course, dashed Leader McConnell’s dream. President Obama won re-election.

Then came the congressional Republican caucuses singular effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They staged countless votes in the Senate and the House. They came up short. Who led the charge? Mitch did, that’s who.

And then we had the obstruction to end all obstructions in early 2016. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon on the court, died suddenly in Texas. Justice Scalia’s body had barely gotten cold when McConnell declared that President Obama would not get the chance to replace him.

Oh sure, the president can nominate someone, McConnell said, but Republicans were not going to move the nomination forward. Obama nominated federal Judge Merrick Garland — a supremely qualified man — only to watch his nomination wither and die. We had a presidential election to conclude and McConnell banked on the hope that a Republican would be elected. His gamble paid off with Donald Trump’s election.

Now the majority leader wants a more bipartisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill.

Pardon me while I bust out laughing.

The next Congress will be split. Democrats will control the House; Republicans will lead the Senate. Bipartisanship certainly is the preferred way to govern.

That such a call would come from the U.S. Senate’s leading obstructionist gives “gall” a bad name.

Here it comes again: attempt to repeal ACA

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spilled the beans recently.

Congressional Republicans are going to make another run at trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, after the midterm election.

Now, it well might be that Democrats will wrest control of the House of Representatives from Republicans, which likely means that McConnell and short-timer House Speaker Paul Ryan will convene a “lame-duck” congressional session to get rid of the ACA.

Hmm. What a load of horse dookey.

Republicans all over the country — even here in Texas — are campaigning on a pledge to retain insurance for people with “pre-existing conditions.” They actually have accused Democratic candidates of trying to get rid of that provision.

The stark reality is that when Barack Obama was president and Congress was wrestling with ways to repeal the ACA, they fought tooth and nail, hammer and tong to get rid of that provision. Now they want to save it?

As former President Obama noted the other day, “that is a lie.”

McConnell’s stated desire to repeal the ACA also simply goes against prevailing public opinion about President Obama’s signature domestic triumph. Polls have revealed significant public support for the ACA, given that it has provided millions of Americans with health insurance who couldn’t afford it.

Many of us agree that the ACA is far from perfect. But, why repeal it? Why not mend it, repair it, improve what needs improvement?

That kind of mending and repairing has been done. Medicare? Yep. Medicaid? Yes again. How did it happen when Congress enacted Medicare, for example, in 1965? It occurred when Democrats and Republicans sought common ground, worked toward compromise and — presto! — re-created a law that has been an indispensable part of Americans’ lives.

Compromise and common ground, though, has escaped the vocabularies of today’s politicians.

They need to look for them. Once they find them yet again, put those principles to good use.

TEA Party? Where have you gone?

Don’t you remember when the 2010 midterm election produced a “shellacking” of the Democrats? It was delivered by what was then called the TEA Party.

Eight years ago, the TEA Party was the dominant insurgent force within the Republican Party. The TEA Party comprised Republicans who were fed up with being taxed too much.

Indeed, in recent years I’ve been using the term “TEA Party” in all capital letters, because it was born of a movement that proclaimed itself to be “Taxed Enough Already,” hence TEA Party is an acronym.

The TEA Party drove then-House Speaker John Boehner — a leader of the “establishment wing” of the Republican Party — to just this side of nuts. Indeed, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican and a friend/ally of Boehner, told me he believed Boehner was going to bail from the House because he was tired of battling the rebels within his GOP caucus.

It turned out Thornberry was right. Boehner quit the speakership and the House in 2015. He’d had enough.

The TEA Party has its share of lawmakers who’ve taken their message forward. Ted Cruz of Texas is one of them.

But since about 2016, we hear less of the TEA Party and more of another insurgent group of Republican lawmakers calling themselves the Freedom Caucus. It, too, is a low-tax outfit committed to cutting government spending on programs that have become part of the national fabric. You know, programs such as Medicare, Medicaid … those kinds of things.

The Freedom Caucus has picked up where the TEA Party (seemingly) left off in opposing the Affordable Care Act. They want to repeal the ACA, but I haven’t heard about whether to simply repair the ACA, make it better, preserve those elements of it that are working.

The Freedom Caucus has become every bit the political gadfly that the TEA Party became to the point of sending a speaker of the House of Representatives packing in the middle of his term.

It’s not that I miss the TEA Party. I don’t. I’m just wondering out loud how these movements come and go and how replacement insurgencies come to the fore.

I happen to favor good government, not necessarily big government. The TEA Party — wherever it is — wants to gut government. As one who appreciates the role government plays to improve people’s lives, I wouldn’t mind one bit if the TEA Party would simply vanish, never to be heard from again.

Same for the Freedom Caucus.

Do you recall the GOP lawsuit to toss out Obamacare?

Once upon a time — it now seems so long ago — then-U.S. House Speaker John Boehner filed a lawsuit that sought to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Barack Obama was president of the United States. Boehner and his congressional Republican colleagues had tried but failed to toss out the ACA. So, Boehner thought he’d try another course, through the court system.

Then a funny thing happened. Boehner quit the speakership and left Congress. He got really frustrated with the TEA Party wing of his Republican caucus in the House. So he walked away.

Oh yeah, then we had this election in 2016 and a Republican, Donald J. Trump, got elected president. He’s tried to toss out the ACA, too. He cannot get the job done.

I keep wondering: Whatever became of that lawsuit? Boehner seems to have walked completely away from the public policy discussion that fueled so much of his awake time when he was speaker of the House.

As for the court system, I keep wondering if it has taken a powder on this notion of adjudicating a civil lawsuit that seeks to rid the law books of the Affordable Care Act.

Is the law perfect? No. Is it the “disaster” that Donald Trump says it is? No. It has put millions of Americans on health insurance who otherwise didn’t qualify or who couldn’t afford it.

As for the Boehner lawsuit he filed with considerable fanfare before he decided he’d had it up to here with the TEA Party, its dormant status suggests to me that when it came to throwing his weight around, the House speaker was all hat and no cattle.

Time to praise SCOTUS selection

I am feeling so good over the rescue of the Thai boys and their soccer coach from that flooded cave in northern Thailand that I want to offer a good word for Donald John Trump’s selection to the U.S. Supreme Court.

I’ll stipulate up front that you’ll deem this to be faint praise, but it’s praise nonetheless.

Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court has angered the crackpot Trump “base.” They’re none too happy with Kavanaugh, fearing that he doesn’t appear to be as firmly opposed to Roe v. Wade as the base continues to be. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania chided the president for surrendering to what he called the “Washington elite” by selecting Kavanaugh.

To be sure, the justice nominee is a conservative. He appears to be what one could call a “mainstream conservative,” not a goofball/wack-job conservative.

He has pledged to be independent and to study the law as it is written, not as one wishes it were written.

Is this the kind of judge I would have selected? Of course not! However, Trump is the president of the United States.

By anyone’s measure, Kavanaugh is supremely qualified to serve on the high court. He’s a Yale Law School grad, meaning that the entire Supreme Court would comprise Ivy League legal eagles if Kavanaugh is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The Senate will nitpick the daylights out of Kavanaugh’s lengthy written record. Senators will need to examine Kavanaugh’s views on health care, as well as on whether sitting presidents can be indicted for criminal offenses. His record suggests he might tilt the “wrong way” on both of those issues.

I continue to believe that while Kavanaugh’s conservative credentials might solidify the court’s right-leaning bias, it doesn’t guarantee it necessarily on every single key ruling that would come before the Supreme Court.

That seeming uncertainty, I submit, is what might be driving the Trump bloc of “base” voters nuts.

Meghan McCain won’t ‘forgive’ POTUS … good!

Meghan McCain clearly loves her father with all her heart.

Thus, she is taking a deserved hard line against the man who has disparaged, disrespected and disregarded her war-hero dad.

U.S. Sen. John McCain is battling brain cancer. He has faced down the toughest foes imaginable, given his more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

So, when Donald John Trump insults Sen. McCain — and doesn’t ever rebuke a White House staffer who did so as well — one can expect the senator’s daughter to take it personally.

Meghan McCain has become a celebrity in her own right, as a co-host of “The View.” She said this recently about the president, according to Time.com: “[Trump’s] comments are never going to be OK with me, especially at this moment in my life. I’m never going to forgive it,” the co-host of ABC’s The View said on stage. “I’m never going to move on from it.”

Why should she?

Trump once disparaged McCain’s Vietnam War service by saying he is a hero “only because he was captured.” Then he has continued to harp on the senator’s thumbs-down gesture that doomed Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

And then we had the gem fly out of the mouth of former White House aide Kelly Sadler after McCain urged his Senate colleagues to reject Gina Haspel as the CIA director, given her role in torturing enemy combatants. “It doesn’t matter” what McCain said, Sadler muttered. “He’s dying anyway.”

Has the president called Sadler out? No. He got angry because her comments were leaked.

Meghan McCain said this, too: “If anyone wants to say anything to me in any way, they have to do it publicly,” she said. “I don’t take private phone calls from the Trump Administration anymore.

As for Sadler’s crack, Meghan McCain said this: “Kelly … it is not how you die. It is how you live.”

John McCain has lived a life of public service that is totally foreign to the president of the United States. I, too, admire Sen. McCain’s sacrifice in defense of our nation.

As for his daughter’s declaration that she cannot “forgive” the way the president has treated her father, I am in her corner.

‘Swing vote’ will switch chairs at SCOTUS

Before we get all worked up and apoplectic over the individual who will get Donald J. Trump’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, let’s consider the reality of the departing justice, Anthony Kennedy.

Kennedy has been hailed as a crucial “swing vote” on the court. He sides with liberals on occasion, but mostly sides with the conservative majority.

It’s good to understand that the conservative justices hold a 5-4 majority on the court. That majority won’t change.

Indeed, I am of the opinion that’s being shared that the next swing vote will likely belong to none other than Chief Justice John Roberts, who on occasion has sided with the liberal bloc of justices on key decisions, such as the ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act.

The court’s conservative-liberal balance won’t change fundamentally, in my view, with whoever the president nominates.

The serious crap storm is going to erupt in the event one of the court’s liberal justices decides to call it a day.

However, the president’s selection — which he plans to announce on July 9 — is no doubt going to endure the kind of public scrutiny not seen since, oh, Robert Bork was defeated in 1987.

The symmetry of that fact also is fascinating.

The U.S. Senate rejected Bork’s nomination; then Douglas Ginsburg pulled out after admitting to smoking weed while in college. President Reagan’s third pick for the court? Anthony Kennedy.

How will history judge this presidency?

Is it too early to begin thinking about how history is going to judge Donald J. Trump’s term as president?

I think not.

We’re well into the second year of Trump’s time in office. I am beginning to ponder how history might end up categorizing this most unconventional, chaotic, tumult-filled presidency.

Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace during the Watergate scandal; Gerald Ford restored a sense of decency in government; Jimmy Carter was bedeviled by the Iran hostage crisis; Ronald Reagan is remembered for restoring the nation’s sense of confidence; the Cold War ended on George H.W. Bush’s watch; Bill Clinton got impeached and he oversaw tremendous economic growth and the balancing of the federal budget; George W. Bush took us to war against terror after 9/11 and endured a financial collapse that rivaled the Great Depression; Barack Obama helped rescue the economy and ordered the death of the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden.

Trump’s time in office?

I have begun looking back on it and I keep coming up with a course that hasn’t yet been charted.

He took office in January 2017, delivering a grim and foreboding inaugural speech and then ratcheted up his war against the media. He has described reporters as the “enemy of the American people.”

He uses “fake news” to disparage anyone who reports anything negative about him. He has burned through several Cabinet secretaries and key White House advisers.

Trump awakens  every day and fires off tweets attacking anyone who sits in his crosshairs.

The president is facing a serious shellacking in the midterm election coming up later this year. Democrats might retake the U.S. House; the Senate is within reach, too. Then it might really, really rocky for the president as he sets up a re-election campaign for 2020.

He signed a tax cut into law. He has tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He pulled us out of a deal that seeks to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Trump yanked the United States out of a climate accord signed by virtually every other nation on Earth.

Through all of this, the president refuses to acknowledge what intelligence officials have said already, that the Russians meddled in our 2016 election and has declared war against the FBI and the Department of Justice.

What a legacy — so far. I am quite certain we’ll have a whole lot more drama in store as this presidency heads toward the next election.

Stay tuned.

Why this fixation with Obama’s legacy?

I cannot pretend to know what drives Donald J. Trump to do most of the things he does, even though the public record as we approach the 18-month mark of his presidency does present some interesting questions.

Why does this man appear to be so intent on obliterating his immediate predecessor’s record?

President Barack Obama left two huge policy imprints on the nation before he left after serving two successful terms in office: the Affordable Care Act and the Iranian nuclear arms deal.

Donald Trump has sought to dismantle them both. The ACA remains on the books, more or less, after Congress grappled with ways to “repeal and replace” it with something we’ll call Trumpcare. The ACA became the prime target of the new president almost from the day he took office.

Now we have this withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Secretary of State John Kerry worked day and night under Obama’s guidance to persuade our key allies to sign on to a plan that seeks to prohibit the Islamic Republic of Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Trump calls the Iran deal the worst in history. Has he read it? Does he really know what it says or what it requires? Well, that remains a wide-open question.

Trump’s obsessions with Barack Obama’s legacy has this hideous connection to another fixation he continues to have as it regards the 44th president: his place of birth.

It has struck more than one observer that Trump’s fomenting of the fiction that Obama was born in Africa and not in the United States is a racially tinged vendetta. What’s more, he has been a leader in the effort to discredit Obama’s eligibility because his father — who the president barely knew — was a Muslim. Trump has continued to allow that canard to become a talking point among some Americans who harbor sinister thoughts about Barack Obama’s ethnicity.

Trump’s behavior and his public statements throughout his presidency betray a dark side of the man. The Charlottesville, Va., riot and the moral equivalence he drew between racist rioters and those who opposed them speaks volumes to many of us.

The “birther” lie that Trump simply won’t disavow does as well.

Thus, I believe it is reasonable to presume that Donald Trump’s concerted effort to dismantle so much of Barack Obama’s legacy is born flatly out of racism.

Sickening.

Get ready, Negotiator in Chief

Donald John Trump bragged about many of his so-called superlative traits while campaigning for the presidency.

One of those traits was that he is a first-class, top-tier negotiator. I mean, he said that’s how he built his real estate business into a multibillion-dollar empire.

Didn’t he say it? Umm, Yep. He sure did.

So, now we’re going to witness whether those alleged negotiating skills translate into statecraft.

Trump has accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The meeting will occur no later than May. The place is to be determined. In fact, so are many of the preconditions that usually accompany meetings of this magnitude.

Trump would be the first U.S. president to meet with any of the North Korean leaders since the end of the Korean War that, technically, hasn’t actually ended. The sides only signed an armistice; there’s no peace treaty.

So, Kim Jong Un has built a small — but still dangerous — cache of nukes that he has threatened to use against the United States, South Korea, Japan and anyone else.

Trump accepted the summit invitation, but reportedly has prepared not one lick for it. Lower-level prep hasn’t happened. There have been no high-level briefings by deputy secretaries of state or defense with their North Korean counterparts.

What gives? I am presuming that Trump — who famously declared that “I, alone” can do everything — is going to take the lead on the preparation leading up to this summit.

And will we get to witness arguably the sternest test yet on whether the president is the negotiator he has boasted of being. His track record here at home — the failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, providing the best example — isn’t so hot.

Maybe he’s gotten better at it, although the evidence doesn’t suggest that statecraft comes easily to this utter novice at politics and governing.

We can hope. Can’t we?