Tag Archives: House of Representatives

Can’t get past the ACA repeal process

As I look over the outlines of the congressional Republicans’ effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I see precisely one element that’s worth supporting.

That would be the end of the “individual mandate” that requires all Americans to have health insurance or else face a federal penalty. That particular part of the ACA has bothered me from the get-go.

The rest of it? I cannot accept what the GOP has tried to do — in secret, with no Democratic input, no public testimony (other than the angry rhetoric members of Congress have heard at town hall meetings across the country).

This is star chamber legislation, despite what Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell today said to the contrary.

***

Which brings me to my major point.

The process stinks to high heaven. Yes, it stinks even more than the way the ACA came into being, which wasn’t ideal, either. Still, the Democrats who ran Congress in 2009 at least were able to solicit public commentary while seeking in vain for contributions from their Republican colleagues in crafting the legislation.

Now we hear from former President Obama, who today weighed in with his scathing critique via Facebook. “Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm,” Obama wrote. “And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”

The Hill story on Obama post is here.

Why is it mean? It gives tax breaks to the wealthy; it rolls back Medicaid insurance for poor Americans; it wipes out federal money for Planned Parenthood, a major contributor of health services to women.

The Senate version of this new measure resembles the House version. The House managed to approve it with a 217-213 vote. Today, four conservative GOP senators said they can’t support the Senate version, which — if they hold their ground — dooms the measure.

McConnell is going to tempt them with goodies and other amendments. We’ll have to wait for whatever rabbit McConnell pulls out of his hat.

If the end justifies the means by which congressional Republicans have cobbled this legislation together, then we’re witnessing an exercise in political cynicism at its worst. The GOP aim — to my way of thinking — has been solely to strip Barack Obama’s legacy of this landmark law.

Let’s all wait now for the Congressional Budget Office — the famously non-partisan auditing agency — to “score” this latest GOP monstrosity. If the numbers show what previous CBO analyses have revealed — that millions of Americans will lose their health insurance — then we’ll get to listen to GOP lawmakers criticize the CBO for being too, oh, dire or negative.

The dance, then, will continue.

Whoever wins had better deliver in the House of Reps

Jon Ossoff vs. Karen Handel has turned into a serious spectator sport.

Ossoff is a Democrat running against Handel, a Republican, for a little ol’ congressional seat representing a district in Georgia.

But here’s the deal: The contest is going to cost more than any congressional election in U.S. history. Why is that? Well, Democrats see it as a referendum on Donald J. Trump, the Republican who is president of the United States. Republicans want to keep the seat in GOP hands and hope Handel is the candidate who can do it.

The former member of Congress from this district, Tom Price, is now secretary of health and human services. Trump carried the district during the 2016 presidential election. It’s a solidly Republican district. It should remain Republican Red, yes?

Hold on! Ossoff won the primary a month ago over a large field of opponents. He didn’t run up a 50-percent victory to win outright, so now he and Handel — the second-place primary finisher — are competing in a runoff election set for Tuesday.

Political analysts are crowing about the size of the early-vote turnout. Let ’em crow. We’ll know soon whether it represents a gigantic total turnout.

With all this attention and money being heaped on this special election, my own view is that whoever wins had better be ready for prime time the money he or she takes the oath of office. The media being what they are, you can bet there will be loads of attention piled on to the winner.

My own hope — not surprisingly, I’m sure — is for Ossoff to win. It doesn’t matter. I don’t live there. I have no tangible voice, other than use this blog to say that Donald Trump needs to face the prospect of his party possibly losing control of Congress after next year’s mid-term election.

There goes ‘unity’

That was a brief respite from the calls for “unity” in the wake of that terrible shooting in Alexandria, Va.

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sat together and pledged to put bitterness aside. They sought to honor wounded colleague Steve Scalise, the GOP House whip.

Democrats and Republicans prayed together after their charity baseball game Thursday. They hugged each other. Democrats won the game and then gave the trophy to Scalise, who is recovering from his serious gunshot wound.

All is good, yes? Hardly.

Now comes the Republican in Chief, Donald J. Trump, who launched a Twitter tirade. He wonders why Hillary Clinton isn’t being investigated; he calls special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the president’s connection with Russian government officials a “witch hunt.” Indeed, he calls it the worst witch hunt in American political history.

And to think he did that while calling for “unity” in a recorded message delivered before the start of the charity baseball game.

Talk to us, Rep. Thornberry

The fellow who represents me in Congress has made his point pretty clear: He doesn’t intend to conduct “town hall meetings” with constituents during these lengthy congressional breaks.

I beg to differ with Rep. Mac Thornberry’s reluctance to speak to groups of his constituents.

The Clarendon Republican lawmaker has just voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to replace it with a Trumpcare version of health care overhaul.

Congress is taking some time off. Its House members and senators have fanned out across the land. Some of them are facing their critics, namely their constituents, who are questioning them about their votes in favor of Trumpcare. Rep. Thornberry, to my knowledge, hasn’t scheduled any such public events.

He ought to rethink his schedule.

Do I expect him to get a dressing down from angry 13th Congressional District constituents? Well, I don’t know. He is considered a lead-pipe cinch for re-election in 2018; his district is as reliably Republican as any in the country. Then again, other GOP House members who are equally safe and secure have been getting pounded by their constituents.

I actually want to applaud those Republicans who have voted for Trumpcare to stand before their “bosses” and explain themselves. I think much less of those who have chosen other pursuits while they are at home, ostensibly tending to “constituent business.”

Thornberry’s been in Congress for a long time now. He took office in 1995. He chairs the House Armed Services Committee. He’s got a big job. He once led a GOP effort to come up with ways to protect us against cyber-crime. I’m hoping whatever he came up with is being employed by our spooks to protect our national security secrets against hackers from, oh, Russia!

However, health care is on people’s minds these days. Even, perhaps, out here in the 13th Congressional District.

We’ve been represented in Congress by someone who has aligned himself with those who want to throw out the Affordable Care Act. The Trumpcare replacement well could cost a lot of Thornberry’s constituents their health insurance.

I believe he owes them a thorough explanation of why he cast one of the House’s “yes” votes.

As if we needed reminding … POTUS is clueless

Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of the Australian universal health care system confirms what many of us have thought for as long as this individual has been involved in politics.

He doesn’t know anything. Not about public policy. Or governance. Or public service. Nothing outside the realm of personal enrichment and self-aggrandizement.

The president and his Republican colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives had just passed a bill that repeals the Affordable Care Act and replaces it with something called the American Health Care Act. Then he jetted to New York and sat next to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull — and then lauded the Australian health care system.

The president said we should pattern our system after the Aussies’ system of providing universal health care for every citizen. How do they do it? The government pays for it.

But wait! Didn’t the GOP members of Congress want to do away with government mandates? Didn’t they insist on letting the marketplace set the price for health care insurance? Haven’t they been savaging the ACA as some sort of “socialized medicine” scheme cooked up by the socialists ensconced in the White House, led by President Barack Obama?

The GOP’s main man, the president of the United States, just endorsed a government-run health care system that reportedly works pretty well for the people it serves.

The president doesn’t know anything! He is utterly and completely unaware of the very public policy he says he favors.

He’s been involved in politics for less than two years. He rode down the escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015 to announce his presidential campaign. He got elected and has continued almost daily to demonstrate his absolute ignorance of the office he now holds and the awesome responsibility he has assumed.

I truly don’t expect him to learn all there is to know about everything in such a short span of time. However, it wasn’t too much to expect that he at least had some semblance of a grasp of policy matters before deciding to run for president of the United States.

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.

Who needs analysis of ACA repeal bill? Not the GOP

Did I hear this correctly?

Congressional Republicans are pushing a vote on a measure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act without knowing the “score.” Is that right? I guess it is. That’s what the “enemy of the American people” media are reporting.

Republicans got themselves into a jam the first time they tried to repeal the ACA when the Congressional Budget Office delivered some bad news about the American Health Care Act: The AHCA, according to the CBO, would toss about 24 million Americans off their health insurance programs.

That frightened enough Republican congressmen and women to forestall a vote on a repeal/replace measure.

So, the GOP leadership found a way around that. They made the new repeal/replace law more drastic than the previous one and have scheduled a House vote before the CBO has a chance to “score” it.

The conservative Freedom Caucus, which bucked the original bill, is now on board. Moderate Republicans, meanwhile, are the wild card in the vote that’s coming up.

Democrats? They hate this bill even more than the first one. They’re out. Forget about the Democrats.

Memo to GOP leaders: This is not how you build a “good government” environment.

To think, too, that Republicans were just furious that Democrats allegedly tried in 2010 to shove the Affordable Care Act down Republicans’ throats.

Who’s angry now?

‘None of your business’? Why, I never …

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa is getting a bit testy, or so it appears.

A reporter asked the veteran California Republican lawmaker how he intended to vote on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with some sort of Republican-sponsored alternative.

Issa responded, “It’s none of your business.” The reporter then responded with a question about Issa’s constituents. Don’t they need to know? “You’re not a constituent,” Issa replied.

OK. Let’s settle down for a second or two.

Exchange got tense

Rep. Issa is a member of Congress. He is one of 435 members of the House. This body writes federal law. It then enacts those laws, which then get approved by the Senate and gets signed by the president.

Thus, we’re all his constituents, if you get my drift.

Rep. Issa, you need to get a grip, sir. Reporters asking you for your opinion on an important piece of federal legislation is everyone’s business.

Issa has no special privilege to keep his views on these critical matters to himself.

So long, Chairman Chaffetz

Jason Chaffetz stunned his U.S. House of Representatives colleagues today by announcing his intention to step away from Congress next year.

The Utah Republican won’t seek re-election.

Scuttlebutt is going in a couple of directions: Chaffetz might run for Utah governor in 2020 or he might seek a U.S. Senate seat after that.

The young lawmaker has made a bit of name for himself during his time in Congress. He chairs the House Oversight Committee and spent a lot of time — and taxpayer money — looking for dirt to throw onto Hillary Rodham Clinton while she was running for president this past year. He came up empty, as did his predecessor as chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

My own thoughts of Chairman Chaffetz, though, go back to when he was first elected to Congress. He became one of those grandstanders who slept each night on a couch in his office. He didn’t bother with renting an apartment, or buying a home in Washington, D.C.

I recall him making some noise about wanting to connect with his constituents back home. He flew home regularly to be with his wife and children. I admire his dedication to his family.

However, I always have wondered about politicians who call attention to themselves ostensibly to make some sort of statement about staying in touch with the home folks. I am left to ask: How many folks back home sleep on office furniture?

Trump is no Obama as a negotiator

Donald J. Trump’s reputation as a first-class “dealmaker” is now in shambles. It’s been trampled by his own ego and his own petulance.

The deal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act became a victim of the president’s inability and unwillingness to even talk to Democrats. Let’s forget for a moment that the replacement bill couldn’t get enough Republican votes in the House to approve it. It was cobbled together virtually overnight, in secret, by Republican congressional leaders who handed it to a president who didn’t know — or care — about the details it contained.

How did the ACA come into being?

Its author, President Barack Obama, sought out congressional Republican leaders. One of them happened to be now-Speaker Paul Ryan, who at the time was chairman of the House Budget Committee. He sought out Sen. Mitch McConnell, who would become majority leader in the upper chamber. He talked to Republicans and implored them to come up with a better plan than the one he and his administration had assembled.

The GOP didn’t budge. The president then was left to rely on his Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate to approve the ACA. They did. Republicans howled about having the bill “shoved down our throats.”

What happened this past week bears little resemblance to what happened in 2010. What the current president and the current speaker sought to do was foist a bill on the public that didn’t have the support of most members within their own political party.

There. That’s my take on it.

Do not believe the baloney that Donald Trump is a master “dealmaker.” He’s nothing of the kind. The president has been schooled by politicians who don’t like being bullied.

Trump told us that “I, alone” can repair the things he said need to be fixed. No sir. You alone cannot.

***

I want to share with you a hilariously astute column by one of the best columnists in America. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd has peeled the bark off the president, someone she says she knows quite well.

Dowd speaks a blunt, brutal truth in her “letter” to the president of the United States.