Tag Archives: House GOP

You’re up, congressional Democrats

Congressional Democrats — in both chambers of Capitol Hill’s legislative body — now have a chance to make good on where congressional Republicans have face-planted.

The GOP wanted to replace the Affordable Care Act. They wanted first to repeal the law, then substitute something else in its place. They just couldn’t cobble together a law that pleased everyone within their caucus, let alone the rest of this vast country.

They have cratered. Their repeal and replace effort is done. Gone. Kaput. Toast.

What’s left? Oh, wait! They can work with congressional Democrats. They can figure out a way to make changes to the ACA, if only congressional Republicans can stomach the idea of maintaining something with Barack H. Obama’s name on it.

In order, though, for Republicans to reach across the aisle, their legislative colleagues — Democrats, I must add — need to offer a starting point.

Suppose it comes to a repair and revamp effort on the ACA, what might the Democrats offer as their chief sticking point?

Are premiums too high? Do Americans have enough choices of doctors? Are there ways to actually make the ACA more, um, affordable for every American who applies for insurance under the government plan?

Democrats have said they are willing to work with Republicans to improve the ACA. To get the discussion started, though, we need to hear from Democratic political leadership on where they intend to start.

We’ve hearing a lot of yapping and yammering from Republicans — for too long, if you were to ask my opinion. Now it’s time for Democrats to take the stage.

Work with Dems to fix ACA? Wow, what a concept!

Am I hearing things or did I actually hear U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say he might be willing to work with Senate Democrats to improve the Affordable Care Act?

Yep, I think I heard the Kentucky Republican say such a thing.

What a friggin’ concept, Mr. Majority Leader. Who’da thunk it?

Senate Republicans cannot muster enough votes among themselves to repeal the ACA and replace it with the abomination they cobbled together. Donald J. Trump called the House of Representatives’ version of ACA replacement the greatest thing since pockets on shirts, then the president called it “mean.” He wanted the Senate GOP to come up with a bill with “heart.”

It didn’t. The Congressional Budget Office — that non-partisan agency — issued its “score” on the Senate bill and found out that 22 million Americans would lose their health insurance over the next decade. That’s pretty mean, too, right? Yes.

GOP moderates hate the Senate bill, as do GOP conservatives, although for different reasons. Senate Republicans can afford to lose only two of their votes; at last count, about 10 or 12 of them dislike the bill that’s on the table.

What’s the alternative? McConnell is signaling that the ACA might stand, but that his Republican caucus can work with Democrats to tweak and tinker with what they dislike about the ACA.

My memory now reminds me that President Barack Obama said on numerous occasions during his time in office something like this: I have no deep pride of authorship of the ACA. If Republicans can find a way to improve it, to make it better, then I’m all in!

Didn’t the former president say something like that? Yes, I believe he did.

So, here we are. After all the futile votes to repeal the ACA in the GOP-controlled Congress, all the declarations that the ACA was ruining the lives of Americans and that it is failing, the Republicans in both congressional chambers cannot agree on a plan to replace it.

So, let’s fix what’s wrong with it.

Time to get busy, ladies and gents.

Speaker rises to the need to calm an edgy nation

Paul Ryan has taken a lot of hits of late over some of his political missteps.

The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, though, today delivered comments containing precisely the correct political tone in the wake of the shooting in Alexandria, Va., involving Republican members of Congress.

House GOP whip Steve Scalise was injured in the shooting. He will recover fully and the nation should be grateful for that — and for the recovery of the other individuals who were wounded.

“An attack on one is an attack on all of us,” Ryan said in a House floor speech. “We feel so deeply about the things we fight for and believe in. At times, our emotions can get the best of us,” he added.

Ryan also said, “I ask each of you to join me in resolving to come together…to lift each other up…and to show the country—show the world—that we are one House.”

The shooter is dead. The authorities are investigating what might have motivated him to apparently take aim at Scalise, who was standing at second base during a baseball practice, for crying out loud.

The political rhetoric of late has gotten extremely overheated, overblown and overstated by pols of all stripes, persuasions and philosophies. It well might be that the shooter’s actions this morning was a terrible result of that rhetoric.

Speaker Ryan has sought to calm his House colleagues. The president offered his own words of support and encouragement to the families of those who were wounded by the shooter.

Let us all calm down, take a deep breath and try to reflect on what we all have in common: the love of our country.

GOP now reaping what it has sown

John Boehner was angry, man. He was furious when he took the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Republican congressman from Ohio was furious that Democrats had pushed a bill that sought to reform health care without even reading the massive piece of legislation.

He bellowed, blustered and berated his “friends” on the Democratic side of the floor for shoving this bill down the throats of their Republican colleagues.

Boehner’s anger was righteous.

The Affordable Care Act became law in 2010. Boehner would eventually become House speaker. He would file a lawsuit to get the law repealed. Speaker Boehner, though, bailed on public service after continuing to fight with the TEA Party wing of his Republican House caucus. He’d had enough.

Then the 2016 election occurred. Donald J. Trump was elected president. He promised to “repeal and replace” the ACA. This past week, the GOP-controlled House approved a bill we’ll call “Trumpcare.” It’s an alternative to the ACA. It passed by just four votes out of 430 cast in the House.

But wait! Did the GOP leadership know what was in the bill? Did they read the legislation? Did their GOP caucus members read it? Do they know all the nuts and bolts of it?

Hah! Hardly.

They’ve repeated the sin of their colleagues. Does it make their effort to “shove it down Democrats’ throats” any more palatable? Not in the least.

Instead, GOP House members are hearing loud and clear from their constituents a ringing message: The folks back home don’t like what they’ve passed and what they have foisted onto the Senate for its consideration.

Meanwhile, the president who has crowed about keeping his campaign pledge now has to persuade the Senate to follow the House’s lead. Trump, the guy with zero government experience or knowledge of how it works on Washington, D.C., is going to recieve yet another lesson in how Congress just doesn’t do the president’s bidding whenever he barks the order.

And those Republican members of the House of Representatives who voted for Trumpcare are going to get a taste of what they sought to deliver to Democrats in 2010.

Payback truly is a bitch … you know?

Cheers have ‘Mission Accomplished’ ring to them

All that back-slapping and high-fiving at the White House today seems a bit premature — to say the very least.

Congressional Republicans sauntered down from Capitol Hill to the White House to congratulate themselves for approving a measure that repeals the Affordable Care Act and replaces it with the American Health Care Act.

“Today we made history by taking the first important step toward rescuing hardworking families from the failures and skyrocketing costs of Obamacare,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise,  R-La., said in a statement.

They all are members of the House of Representatives. The bill, which passed 217-213 — with zero Democratic votes — now must go to the Senate, where their fellow Republicans are sending signals that the House bill is dead on arrival. It’s a goner. The Senate is going to craft an entirely different bill.

As The Hill reported: “The bill, known as the American Health Care Act, repeals the core elements of ObamaCare, including its subsidies to help people get insurance coverage, expansion of Medicaid, taxes and mandates for people to get coverage.

“In its place, the bill provides a new tax credit aimed at helping people buy insurance, though it would provide less help than ObamaCare to low-income people.”

The Hill also reported: “The measure is expected to undergo a major overhaul in the Senate, especially on the Medicaid front, where several Republican senators from states that accepted the expansion are wary of cutting it off.”

Cheers are quite premature

I was reminded of another celebratory moment in recent U.S. history.

It was in 2003 and President George W. Bush flew onto the deck of an aircraft carrier, jumped out of the jet aircraft wearing a flight suit, changed his duds and then delivered a speech under a banner that declared “Mission Accomplished.”

The president was saluting the capture of the late dictator Saddam Hussein, who our troops pulled out of a spider hole in which he was hiding. The Iraqi dictator was put on trial, convicted and hanged.

The Iraq War, though, raged on … and on … and on. Thousands of American service personnel were killed and injured for years as they sought to bring the fighting under control.

The “Mission Accomplished” banner was premature in the extreme.

So was today’s GOP cork-popping at the White House.

Get set for next fight over health care overhaul

Congressional Republicans kept their vow to vote — no matter what — on repealing the Affordable Care Act.

It was a squeaker, 217 “yes” votes to 213 “no” votes. Every congressional Democrat voted “no,” which gives the minority a faint claim of bipartisanship, as some moderate Republicans joined them in voting against the Trumpcare health bill.

I want to make only a couple of observations about this effort.

First, Republicans yapped and yammered that Democrats shoved the ACA down the GOP’s throats in 2010. The GOP response was to do precisely the same thing to Democrats. Payback is a bitch, right?

The GOP throat-shoving, though, took on a little different tone than what the Democrats did in 2010. President Obama tried to get Republicans to sign on, but was unsuccessful. Donald J. Trump didn’t make that effort; neither did House Speaker Paul Ryan. Oh, no. They relied on their healthy Republican majority to win the day — barely, it turns out — in a now-or-never vote on the House floor.

Second, the initial effort to repeal the ACA and replace it with the American Health Care Act, ran into a Congressional Budget Office “score” that told a grim story of 24 million Americans losing their health insurance under the new plan.

This time the GOP didn’t bother to wait for the CBO to “score” this latest rendition of the replacement bill. Republicans forged ahead anyway. Damn the scoring! Who needs to know how this is going to affect Americans?

Oh, and the polls around the country indicate a growing base of support for the ACA. Hmm. Imagine that. The House of Representatives isn’t exactly representing its constituents.

The AHCA now heads to the Senate, where it faces an even steeper climb than it had in the House. The GOP majority in the upper chamber is pretty skimpy and the Republicans cannot afford to lose any support among their ranks. The initial signs don’t look good for final approval in the Senate.

House Republicans sought to win over reluctant conservatives by sweetening the pie for them; then they assuaged some moderate GOP concerns by tossing in some money to pay for those with pre-existing medical conditions.

What say you, senators?

Now it falls on the Senate to decide what to do with this legislation that doesn’t yet have any analysis on how much it will cost and how many Americans might lose their insurance.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are back-slapping each other like crazy. They said they’d cast that vote to repeal President Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

They got the job done. Now they can go home for their 11-day recess. I would bet real American money they’re going to run into a good bit anger among the home folks.

Health care overhaul? Kaput! Tax reform? That’s next!

Let’s see if we can figure this one out together.

Donald J. Trump and congressional Republicans botched a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, a law that took about a year of tough negotiation and dickering to enact in the first place.

Trump and his pals in Congress tried to do it in the span of 17 days. They failed to muster enough support from, oh, just about any faction within the GOP. TEA Party, Freedom Caucus, party moderates all hated the American Health Care Act, which the Republican congressional leadership pulled out of its backside in the dead of night.

ACA repeal and replace? Gone. Finished. As House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “(The Affordable Care Act) is the law of the land for the foreseeable future.”

What, then, do Trump and the Trumpkins — the gang that cannot legislate its way out of a wet paper bag — want to do now?

Tax reform. Tax reform!

ACA repeal and replacement was complicated enough. Indeed, the president admitted he didn’t realize it could be so complicated. No kidding, Mr. President.

I’ve got your “complicated” right here, though. If you’re going to take on the big stuff, you’ve decided to go after the biggest of them all: reforming the federal tax code.

Presidents of both parties have been saying for decades that the tax system is too complicated, too cumbersome, too this and too that. What have any of them accomplished? Damn little!

The tax system is a monstrous entity that requires careful study, analysis, expertise and patience to repair. Does anyone really think that the president of the United States — based on what we’ve just witnessed — is capable of learning the nuts and bolts of tax policy? Does he really and truly even give a crap about it?

And what about the speaker of the House, who presides over the congressional chamber where all tax policy must originate. How well do you think Paul Ryan did in engineering the House’s role in the cluster fudge that resulted in the ACA replacement meltdown late this past week?

Good luck, gentlemen. You will need all of it you can find if you have any chance of succeeding in this monumental effort.

Time for Thornberry to step up on this Russia matter?

I’ve been scrolling through U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry’s website, looking for something topical and current about the “Russia story,” the one dealing with Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Russians used cyber attacks to hack into Democratic Party files. They disseminated unflattering information about Hillary Rodham Clinton. They sought to swing the election in Donald J. Trump’s favor.

That’s what intelligence experts have said. Everyone believes the analysis, except for Trump. He’s dissing the intelligence community.

Thornberry, as near as I can tell, has been quiet on this issue.

Where does Thornberry fit into all of this? Well, the Clarendon Republican chairs the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. He also once chaired a Republican-led congressional task force that was supposed to make recommendations to protect our national computer systems against attacks such as the one mounted by the Russians.

His website has a lot of interesting tabs. One of them is marked “Issues.” I found this item:

http://thornberry.house.gov/issues/issue/?IssueID=44735

It’s a policy paper on cybersecurity. It’s all quite interesting … if you are fluent in cyberspeak. 

I looked at it carefully and didn’t see any mention of the current issue: Russian hacking and meddling in our electoral process.

For that matter, as I looked at Thornberry’s press releases I saw no mention there, either, of what has transpired with regard to the Russian-meddling-interference.

I go back a number of years with Rep. Thornberry. I have joked with him over the years that he and I started new careers in the Texas Panhandle at the same time. He took office in January 1995 — after being elected to the House in that historic 1994 election — just days before I arrived to become editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. I have watched him carefully for most of the past 22 years.

I am waiting to hear from him, though, on this Russia hacking matter. He once was the Republicans’ go-to guy on cybersecurity. Is he no longer that guy?

I know Thornberry is aware of the seriousness of this still-developing story. My hope is that my congressman will contribute significantly — and soon — to the growing public discussion about the integrity of our electoral process.

Trump the ‘deal-maker’ faces grievous setback

Donald J. Trump told us — many times — during the 2016 presidential campaign that the greatest skill he would bring to the presidency would be his ability to close the deal.

He made a fortune working out the “best” deals in the history of business … he said.

Here we are. Trump is now the president of the United States. He promised to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act with something more “affordable” and that no American would be left without health insurance.

Trump and congressional Republican leaders have produced something called the American Health Care Act. But there’s this little problem with it.

The Congressional Budget Office’s “scoring” of it pegs the number of Americans who would lose health insurance at 24 million. What’s more, the conservative Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives hates the AHCA. They call it “Obamacare light.”

So do congressional Democrats. No surprise there.

Crucial vote coming up

The AHCA goes to a vote Thursday in the House. Freedom Caucus members aren’t budging. The president went to Capitol Hill to pitch the AHCA. He threatened some House members that they’d lose their seats in 2018 if they oppose the bill.

Freedom Caucus leaders say they now have enough votes to kill the AHCA. Which means that a Senate vote won’t matter.

Wasn’t this supposed to be the president’s main selling point? Is this how he closes the deal?

The Affordable Care Act, which has brought 20 million Americans into the health insurance system who previously couldn’t afford it, appears to much harder to “repeal and replace” than Donald Trump predicted it would be.

I will await the president’s response to what appears to be a stunning political setback in the making. I’m wondering if he’s going to say the House vote was “rigged.”

Didn’t they impeach a president for doing this?

President Bill Clinton took an oath to obey all the laws of the land. He then became entangled in an investigation that turned up an inappropriate relationship with a White House intern. He was summoned to testify to a federal grand jury about that relationship, he swore to tell the truth and then, um, fibbed about it.

House Republicans were so outraged they impeached him for it, put him on trial in the Senate, where he eventually was acquitted.

All of that over a sex scandal. Sheesh!

Now a sitting U.S. attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has allegedly been caught in a much more serious lie of his own.

He took an oath to tell the truth to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings. He told senators he never had any conversations with Russian government officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Now comes reporting from “enemy of the people” media outlets that, yep, the AG did talk to the Russians.

Should he stay or should he go? Congressional Democrats want Sessions to quit. I won’t go that far just yet.

I do, though, believe the questions surrounding Sessions’s relationship with Donald J. Trump — they’re close friends and even closer political allies — disqualifies him from the get-go from pursuing any kind of unbiased, impartial and thorough investigation into the president’s relationship with Russia.

Some top Democrats want him out. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. What’s interesting to me and others is that a number of key Republicans have joined their Democratic “friends” in seeking Sessions’s recusal from any potential investigation.

The president, quite naturally, is going to label the reporting of Sessions’s contacts with the Russians as “fake news.” He’ll debunk reporters for the Washington Post and New York Times — who have been leading the media probe — as “dishonest” purveyors of fiction.

As one who once toiled the craft of journalism, although surely not at this level, I take great personal offense to Trump’s penchant for counterattack. Rather than reacting seriously and with measured calm, the nation’s head of state goes off on these rants about the media’s so-called status at the people’s “enemy.”

The attorney general has no business investigating whether the president had any kind of improper relationship with Russian government officials prior to his taking office. Whether he should remain on the job, well, that will have to be determined quickly.

I know that the law is designed to presume someone’s innocence. The world of politics, though, is a different animal altogether. In that world, the presumption often infers guilt and the accused must prove his or her innocence.

It might not always be fair. It’s just the way it is.