Tag Archives: ACA

Senate clears big bill

OK, so it doesn’t constitute a stunning bipartisan mandate, but it does demonstrate how Senate Republicans — once again — appear to be on the wrong side of history.

The U.S. Senate approved by the thinnest margin possible a procedural vote that clears the way for approval of a slimmed-down package that President Biden has been seeking to do a number of positive things for the economy.

The bill seeks to cut carbon emissions and help stem the changing climate; it seeks to pay for itself by raising taxes on the richest Americans; it seeks to lower drug costs, giving more Americans access to medication.

Harris breaks 50-50 deadlock to advance landmark climate, tax, health bill | The Hill

Hey, it’s a good package.

All 50 Senate Republicans voted “no.” All 50 Democrats voted “yes.” That left it to Vice President Harris to cast the deciding vote to send the measure on to a full vote sometime Sunday.

This is the same deal that was given up for dead when Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin declared he couldn’t support it. Then the senator met with Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer to work out a pared-down version. Manchin changed his tune; the deal was back on the table.

This gives President Biden a much-need push toward keeping a major campaign promise, which was to help reduce the threat caused by climate change.

As for the Republicans, they continue to push policies that Americans do not support. How can they sustain that stubbornness going into the midterm election?

My hope is that they cannot.


Obama reminds us of positive era

Barack Obama today darkened the door of the White House, stood in front of a microphone and declared that the government can be a force for good and is not the bogeyman that Americans should fear or hate.

The former president came back to where he lived for eight years to hail the Affordable Care Act along with one of his successors, Joseph Biden, who served as vice president alongside President Obama.

The two men reminded us today of how the government can be put to good use for those who pay for it.

It’s good to remember that the man who served between these two individuals tried multiple times to repeal the ACA. He and his Republican colleagues in Congress failed. They filed lawsuits. They also failed.

Donald Trump kept telling us that he had a plan to replace the ACA. We never saw it. Americans never saw a hint of a replacement to a government program that — despite some hiccups at its inception — has become popular with a solid majority of Americans. Who knew?

I must remind you, too, of the moment that then-Vice President Biden turned to President Obama after the ACA cleared Congress and whispered to him: “This is a big f***ing deal.” The utterance was caught on a hot mic. I, for one, laughed it off … but it was a big deal.

It was gratifying today to hear from a former president that government can be — and has been — a force for good. The Affordable Care Act provides a demonstrable example of what President Obama meant.


ACA survives again; time to let these challenges go

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The Affordable Care Act is alive and likely quite well.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a remarkably united decision — 7 to 2, to be precise — that keeps the landmark health care program intact.

According to The Hill: The case was decided on fairly technical grounds. The Court ruled that the challengers did not have standing to sue, given that the penalty for not having health insurance at the center of the case had been reduced to zero, so it was not causing any actual harm that could be the basis for a lawsuit. 

Five takeaways on the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision | TheHill

What does this mean for the future of what has been known colloquially as Obamacare, named after President Obama’s signature domestic victory? It should signal the end of Republicans’ futile attempts to repeal the law. I say “should,” but it likely won’t.

Only two of the court’s conservatives ruled to repeal a portion of the law: Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. Other right-wing jurists — Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts — sided with the liberals on the court, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer in determining that the litigants didn’t have standing.

I am delighted to know that the ACA no longer has a president in office who keeps yapping about ending the law while producing not a single idea for how to replace it. For four years, President Biden’s immediate predecessor kept telling us how he would repeal the ACA. It didn’t happen. Indeed, two previous court challenges ended with conservatives coming up short.

I get that the ACA isn’t perfect. So does President Obama. He has said repeatedly that he took no exclusive ownership of the law, insisting that he was open to anything to improve it. Republicans so far have some up with, well … nothing! All they have sought was to remove the ACA from the books, cheered on by POTUS 45, who just could not stomach being shown up by the black guy who preceded him as president.

Here we are. A 7-2 Supreme Court decision should spell the end of these ridiculous challenges. I fear it won’t.

Still, to borrow a phrase muttered into a hot mic by then-VP Joe Biden when the Affordable Care Act became law more than a decade ago, this court ruling is a “big fu**ing deal.”

Glad he spoke out, however …

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

As glad as I am to hear former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner speak out against what he calls “political terrorism” within the Republican Party, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize an obvious element of history.

While the ex-speaker decries the harsh partisanship that has infected the current political climate, he needs to own his particular contribution to that infection.

He called the Affordable Care Act the greatest sin ever perpetrated on Americans. Boehner filed lawsuits to stop the implementation of President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. He did plenty of blustering and bellowing from the House floor about the evils of his Democratic colleagues’ intent.

Has the former speaker had an epiphany? Has he realized what he did contributed to today’s toxicity? I hope that is the case.

Still, to hear him refer to Sen. Ted Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh,” and to express his profound revulsion over the insurrection that occurred on Jan. 6 remains music to my admittedly partisan ears.

Go big or go home

REUTERS/Mike Blake

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden appears to have adopted the theory that it is best to just “go big … or go home.” 

Thus, we have just witnessed the latest rollout of a massive economic recovery effort launched by the nation’s newest president. It is, as Joe Biden once whispered to President Obama after enactment of the Affordable Care Act, a “big fu**ing deal.” 

It is going to cost a lot of money, around $2 trillion. Yep, that’s trillion with a “t.” It exceeds the cost of the COVID-19 relief package that Biden managed to push through Congress.

NBC News reports that Biden has pitched “a sweeping proposal that would rebuild 20,000 miles of roads, expand access to clean water and broadband and invest in care for the elderly.

Speaking at a carpenters training facility in Pittsburgh, Biden urged Congress to act on his proposal, called the American Jobs Plan, arguing that failing to make the investments would contribute to a weakening middle class and leave the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage abroad.

“I am proposing a plan for the nation that rewards work, not just rewards wealth,” Biden said. “It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America, unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago.”

The plan would create millions of jobs, Biden said, and jump-start the fight against climate change. The proposal, which would be spent out over eight years, would be paid for over 15 years by raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, ending the Trump-era tax cuts.

Biden unveils sweeping $2 trillion infrastructure plan (nbcnews.com)

Is the Democratic president going to get any support from his Republican friends in both congressional chambers? Do not hold y our breath on that one. Already they are carping. So, too, are Democratic progressives, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said the Biden infrastructure bill doesn’t go far enough.

AOC needs to pipe down. It’s a huge deal. President Biden is planting his hope on the jobs that this major reconstruction effort will bring. In a way it reminds many longtime observers of the bold approach that a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had when he proposed building the nation’s massive interstate highway system. Ike sold the highway plan as a national security imperative. Joe Biden wants the nation to battle climate change with the same level of ferocity.

I am acutely aware of the up-front cost of this massive project. I also am willing to invest in that effort if it allows us to put millions of Americans to work, allowing them to achieve their dreams and allow the nation to deal head-to-head with our worldwide competitors.

You go, Joe! I’m all in!

Lesson learned from post-ACA debacle

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden, or more likely his White House team, has learned the lesson from an earlier legislative triumph that turned into a political debacle.

When Biden served as vice president in the Obama administration, he and President Obama’s team ramrodded through Congress a monumental legislative achievement: the Affordable Care Act. Biden famously whispered in Obama’s ear that its enactment was a “big f***ing deal.” And it was.

Obama then failed to sell the benefits of the ACA to the public. What happened then? Republicans took control of Congress in the 2010 midterm election, an event that President Obama described as a “shellacking.”

Fast-forward to this year. Biden has scored another huge victory with a massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. Its aim is to help Americans suffering economically from the pandemic that still grips the nation.

But … the president, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses are fanning out for as long as it takes to talk directly to Americans about why this package also is a big … deal. They want to avoid the thumping that President Obama took after scoring a big win with the ACA. The 2022 midterms are coming up in short order.

I wish them well.

Saddened by Abbott’s posture

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Something has happened to the individual who was most recently elected as Texas governor. I refer to Greg Abbott, a Republican who is set to run for re-election in 2022 to his third term.

His behavior has disappointed me greatly. I now will explain why.

I have met Greg Abbott on numerous occasions. I was a journalist working at the Amarillo Globe-News in the Texas Panhandle. Abbott would visit the newspaper while he was running for election or re-election as a Texas Supreme Court justice and then as Texas attorney general.

I resigned from the newspaper in August 2012, so I did not know him while he ran for governor the first time in 2014.

The Greg Abbott that I got to know over the years did not display the kind of petulance I have been seeing in the man who became our state’s governor. He was gracious, a gentleman, a consummate professional. I knew him to be a man of good humor who delivered direct answers to direct questions, which is a trait I valued then as a journalist. He didn’t flimflam me with double-talk.

So I am now left to ask: What the hell has become of this guy?

His recent decision to rescind a mask-wearing order he issued as the state began battling the COVID virus brought a fairly harsh reaction from President Biden, who called it a form of “Neanderthal thinking.” Abbott’s response was to go on Fox News and say that Biden’s immigration policies have contributed to any surge in COVID virus cases along our southern border.

It took Abbott next to forever to even acknowledge that Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Perhaps I should have noticed this mean streak when Abbott served as Texas AG, as he was continually suing the Barack Obama administration over immigration matters and over implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

It has gotten worse, from my perspective, since he became governor.

To be candid, Gov. Abbott is sounding more like some right-wing crackpot than the reasonable, circumspect man I thought I knew when he held less-visible political offices.


ACA gets new life

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

You might recall when Congress approved the Affordable Care Act. Then-Vice President Joe Biden warmed up the podium for President Obama and then whispered a remark got on a hot mic.

“This is a big fu**ing deal,” Biden said. Obama signed the bill into law and then commenced a decade-long fight with congressional Republicans who wanted to kill it. They never came up with an alternative. They never sought to improve the ACA. They wanted it wiped off the books. Why? Because the law had President Barack Obama’s name on it.

Donald Trump was the top GOP cheerleader, but he never had an alternative, either. Now he’s gone. Democrats control both legislative chambers. VP Biden is now the president.

And the ACA is still a big … deal.

Improvements to it are contained in a COVID relief bill that the House has approved. It’s now in the Senate and is likely to pass narrowly.

The New York Times reports: Now the Biden administration and a Democratic Congress hope to engineer the first major repair job and expansion of the Affordable Care Act since its passage. They plan to refashion regulations and spend billions through the stimulus bill to make Obamacare simpler, more generous and closer to what many of its architects wanted in the first place.

At Last, Democrats Get Chance to Engineer Obamacare 2.0 (msn.com)

The link I have attached to this blog post goes into detail what Democrats have in mind.

Suffice to say that the ACA isn’t perfect. Its rollout was a disaster. However, it has managed to provide health insurance to millions of Americans. Barack Obama always stated he would welcome improvements to the law.

Republicans who controlled the White House and Congress had their chance to produce an alternative to law they despised. They failed. Now it’s Democrats’ turn. Perhaps they can deliver the goods to Americans who continue to support the act, no matter how much venom is spewed by its foes.

Oh, Ted … please shut up!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Forgive this brief bit of “what aboutism.” I just cannot let this statement go without a response.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said this today regarding President Biden’s nomination of Xavier Becerra to become the next secretary of health and human services:

The fact that President Biden was willing to nominate Xavier Becerra — someone with zero experience in anything related to health care — to the Department of Health and Human Services during this pandemic, illustrates Biden prioritizes partisan politics above all else.

Oh, my. Where do I begin?

I’ll start with this: Cruz had no difficulty supporting the appointment of two members of the Donald Trump Cabinet with no experience at all overseeing the agencies they were selected to run.

Exhibit A is Dr. Ben Carson, the housing secretary and then we have Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education.

Dr. Carson was a renowned brain surgeon. Did he have a clue about public housing? Had he ever led an agency the size of HUD? No and no. Indeed, he was hard-pressed during his confirmation hearing to answer simple questions related to public housing policy. He got confirmed.

DeVos never attended public schools. Her children never attended them, either. She favors giving taxpayer funds to finance vouchers for children to attend private schools. She is anti-public education. DeVos was, and is, ignorant on basics about education policy. She, too, was confirmed … although it took a tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Mike Pence for her to take office.

Now we hear from the Cruz Missile saying that Becerra has no experience in health policy. Earth to Ted: Becerra served in the House of Representatives and was a key architect of the Affordable Care Act that Cruz has opposed since joining the Senate in 2013. Thus, Becerra had plenty to do with health care.

This kind of flippin’ nonsense from a loudmouth senator who doesn’t possess an ounce of introspection just sends me into orbit.

What’s more, to hear this kind of bullsh** coming from someone who sought to undermine a free and fair election and who ought to bear some responsibility for the hideous attack on our democratic system on Jan. 6 is reprehensible on its face.

My advice to Ted Cruz? Shut the hell up.

Welcome back, Barack Obama

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I feel obliged to say how glad I am to hear former President Obama’s voice once again as the nation continues its political discussion and debate.

He is critical of Donald J. Trump. No surprise there, right?

What is a surprise is that Trump’s immediate predecessor has weighed in now, at the end of Trump’s term as president. Then again, maybe it should not be such a surprise.

Trump spent a good bit of emotional capital during his term as president trashing the record compiled by President Obama. He took every chance he could find to denigrate Obama’s record, to declare his intention to undo the accomplishments Obama rang up.

The Affordable Care Act? Obama’s record on renewable energy development? Obama’s agreeing to join the Paris Climate Accords? Trump called them all a “disaster.”

So now it’s President Obama’s turn to strike back. Yes, the norm has been for former presidents to sit in a corner and let his immediate successor rise or fall on his own. Obama did that very thing during much of Trump’s term. No longer.

Welcome back, Mr. President. I enjoy hearing your voice.