A Simple Solution to the Problem of Big Government

I just had one of those “Eureka!” moments, as I was writing about a completely different topic. It suddenly occurred to me how to solve the problem of our spendthrift federal government that has grown completely out-of-control.

The inspiration came as I marveled at the Founding Fathers for the umpteenth time for having written such brilliant but simple documents that were so remarkably clear and concise that practically anyone could read and understand them.

The Declaration of Independence was written on a single sheet of paper. The entire U. S. Constitution, all 4,543 words (including signatures) needed four whole pages.

By comparison, four years ago in 2013 the current U.S. tax code required a whopping 73,954 pages. The Affordable Care Act eventually grew into a bloated mess of legislation with a total of 20,202 pages. How can laws that nobody has time to read and decipher be enforced? And of far greater concern is the fact that ignorance of the law is no excuse, according to the law. However, it is entirely possible that every single adult citizen in the U.S. has broken one or more of our laws without realizing it.

A very simple solution to this problem that will never happen would be to repeal every current law on the books except the Constitution and every amendment and start over.

The first new law must stipulate that all future legislation must be handwritten. New laws must also be no more than five pages long — in other words, no more laws that are longer than the document that defined the entire government. Furthermore, legislation must be handwritten in conversational English that every reader can easily comprehend, not legal jargon that requires hiring a lawyer to translate it into English.

The brilliant economist Walter Williams once made an astute observation, claiming that the Bill of Rights (which refers to the first ten amendments, for those people living in Rio Linda) was too long. He said only the first five words were necessary, which are:

Congress shall make no law…

Can’t we dream it could happen? All who favor Big Government could move to states like California and New York, where local government is already Big Government, and everyone might be happy.

Well, not everybody. There’s always going to be at least one malcontent — but almost everybody.

It’s a win/win scenario, in my opinion.

Alexander Points Finger At Trump As Opposition to Obamacare Deal Mounts

Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) deal to stave off the collapse of Obamacare is meeting with a less than ecstatic response. As the bipartisan framework meets opposition, Alexander pointed to President Trump as the force behind the tentative agreement.

After a phone call with the president, Sen. Alexander claimed that the deal was Trump’s idea in the first place. “Trump completely engineered the plan that we announced yesterday,” Alexander told Mike Allen of Axios. Alexander said that Trump repeatedly called to push him toward a deal that included Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “He wanted a bipartisan bill for the short term,” Alexander said.

A few minutes after Alexander’s appearance with Allen, President Trump appeared to throw then senator under the bus. Trump tweeted, “I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care.”

Meanwhile, there are signs that the deal may be a tough sell for Republicans. A spokesman for Speaker Paul Ryan said, “The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare.”

Business Insider reported that Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) had announced that he would oppose the Obamacare deal. Hatch, who penned an op-ed in the Washington Post entitled, “Obamacare doesn’t deserve a bailout,” told reporters, “It would last two years and spend a whopping amount of money and not solve the problem.” John Thune (R-S.D.), the Senate’s third highest ranking Republican, said that the bill had “stalled out.”

The effort did pick up several cosponsors as Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) signed on to the bill. There were reports that more cosponsors from both parties would announce their support soon.

The bill could pass with combined support of Republicans and Democrats, even if a large number of conservatives withhold their support. Small Republican majorities in both houses make it difficult to pass a unilateral bill. Republicans alone do not have the numbers to win a cloture vote in the Senate and the loss of only three senators is enough to scuttle a budget resolution that requires only a simple majority to pass. However, a bipartisan coalition could conceivably muster enough support to win a vote as well as end a filibuster by holdouts.

At this point, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not indicated his position on the deal. As leader of the Senate, McConnell could doom the bill by preventing the Senate from bringing it to a vote.

If the bill dies, the Trump Administration has announced that it will suspend Obamacare subsidy payments to insurance companies in accordance with a federal court decision earlier this year. The effect that this would have upon insurance markets is uncertain, but insurance company stocks tumbled after the president announced the decision.

Sen. Alexander said that Republicans may reintroduce the Graham-Cassidy bill if the Alexander-Murray deal fails. Graham-Cassidy was withdrawn last month after four Republican senators announced that they would vote against it.

Bipartisan Deal Would Preserve Obamacare For Two Years

In an “if you can’t beat them, join them” moment, Republicans appear to have reached a deal with Democrats to preserve key components of the Affordable Care Act in the wake of President Trump’s announcement that his administration will stop paying subsidies to insurance companies under the Obama-era law. The tentative agreement was announced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Tuesday.

“Sen. Murray and I have an agreement. We’re going to round up co-sponsors as best we can,” Alexander told Politico.

President Trump appeared optimistic about the deal. “Lamar has been working very, very hard with the Democratic, his colleagues on the other side,” Trump said. “And they’re coming up and they’re fairly close to a short-term solution. The solution will be for about a year or two years. And it’ll get us over this intermediate hump.”

The deal reportedly contains funding for Obamacare’s subsidies to insurance companies for 2017, 2018 and 2019 as well as funding for state Obamacare enrollments. In return, Republicans would get expanded access to state waivers to approve lower cost plans and consumers over 30 would be allowed to purchase “copper plans” that cover only catastrophic illnesses for a lower premium, but have higher out-of-pocket costs.

There would also be an important advantage for Republicans in postponing the shakeout of the insurance industry that would accompany stopping the subsidy payments. No one knows precisely what would happen if the Trump Administration stopped the payments, but the likely chaos in insurance markets would probably not reflect well on Republicans as midterm elections approach. The deal would give Congress two additional years to resolve the issue.

Whether the bill can pass Congress is uncertain. Chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) tweeted, “The GOP should focus on repealing and replacing Obamacare, not trying to save it. This bailout is unacceptable.” Others, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), adopted a wait and see attitude.

“Most of the members of the conference are finding out about the details for the first time. I don’t think anybody beyond Lamar and a few others know,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said. “The details are important.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) seemed to favor the bill. “We think it’s a good solution and it got broad support when Patty and I talked about it with the caucus,” he said. “We’ve achieved stability if this agreement becomes law.”

If Schumer and Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) can deliver Democrat votes, the bill could become law in spite of almost certain opposition by conservative Republicans. At this point, it seems likely that Democrats would favor the bill, which would preserve most of Obamacare intact and force the Trump Administration to continue paying subsidies.

At this point, there is no indication of how fast the bill will move through Congress. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “We haven’t had a chance to think about the way forward yet.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) has not publicly addressed the new deal, but told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on Monday that he preferred a comprehensive approach to replacing the Affordable Care Act.

“I think we’ve got to do more to get it fixed, but the answer is not to shovel more money at a failing program that is doubling premiums and causing monopolies,” Ryan said. “The answer is to reform the underlying failure of the law and one of those underlying failures is the lack of choice and competition in health insurance.”

Is Trump’s Obamacare Executive Order Constitutional?

There has been a lot of discussion about President Trump’s healthcare Executive Order. Most of the discussion centers around the likely effects of the order while little has been said about the constitutionality of Trump’s executive action. For a party that roundly condemned President Obama’s abuse of executive authority, a big question should be whether Trump has the legal authority to make the changes that he proposes.

The bottom line is that Trump’s Executive Order doesn’t actually make any changes to the Affordable Care Act. What it does do is to order cabinet secretaries to “consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, consistent with law.” In other words, Trump isn’t proposing changes to laws passed by Congress, he is considering changes to regulatory laws enacted by bureaucrats. These changes will be “considered” in three main areas.

First, the president wants to expand access to association health plans (AHPs). Health Affairs notes that these plans are more loosely regulated than traditional insurance plans. They are normally regulated by the states, but can be regulated by the federal government in the case of some national associations. The order instructs the Secretary of Labor to “consider” expanding the definition of “employer” under ERISA to allow more groups to sell AHPs and to “promote AHP formation on the basis of common geography or industry.” To purchase insurance, consumers would have to be a member of the association.

Second, the Executive Order moves to expand Short-Term, Limited-Duration Insurance (STLDI) policies. The order notes that STLDIs are “exempt from the onerous and expensive insurance mandates and regulations” of the Affordable Care Act, but that “the previous administration took steps to restrict access to this market by reducing the allowable coverage period” to less than three months. “To the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy,” the president directs cabinet members to “consider allowing such insurance to cover longer periods and be renewed by the consumer.”

STLDIs are not considered to be individual health insurance policies and do not have to meet the insurance policy requirements of the Affordable Care Act. The policies are governed by rulemaking agencies of the Department of the Treasury, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services. Therefore, these departments can amend the rules for STLDIs without going through Congress.

Third, the Executive Order instructs relevant cabinet secretaries to “consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, to the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy, to increase the usability of HRAs, to expand employers’ ability to offer HRAs to their employees, and to allow HRAs to be used in conjunction with nongroup coverage.”

HRAs are health reimbursement accounts. They allow employers to contribute money on a pre-tax basis to reimburse employees for health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. HRAs were created by Congress, but executive branch agencies have leeway in how to regulate them.

President Trump’s decision to halt Obamacare subsidies to insurance companies is not part of the Executive Order, but is on firm legal ground. House Republicans sued the Obama Administration over the subsidies in 2014. In May 2016, a federal judge ruled that Congress had authorized the payments, but had never appropriated money for them. The Obama Administration appealed the ruling, but the decision by President Trump seems to be merely accepting the court’s initial decision and dropping the appeal.

This doesn’t mean that the Trump Administration will be able to stop making the payments. Several states ultimately joined the appeal, claiming that the Trump Administration was not adequately defending their interests. Now 18 states have filed a new lawsuit seeking an injunction against President Trump’s decision.

Because the President Trump’s Executive Order does not change existing law and only instructs cabinet members to “consider” making changes to bureaucratic regulations within the framework of the law, the order is constitutional. It remains to be seen what regulatory changes the various cabinet secretaries will propose, but the changes will probably be much less sweeping than claimed by either right or left-wing pundits.

President Trump’s Executive Order is legal in large part because it doesn’t do much. The president simply does not have much authority to change laws that have been passed by Congress. The decision to stop insurance company subsidies is a more serious threat to Obamacare, but even this is unlikely to take effect until the lawsuit by the states is settled.

BREAKING: Trump Deals With Schumer On Healthcare

In an early morning tweet, President Donald Trump made the shocking revelation that he was in negotiations with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on reforming Obamacare.

In the tweet, Trump said, “I called Chuck Schumer yesterday to see if the Dems want to do a great HealthCare Bill. ObamaCare is badly broken, big premiums. Who knows!”

No specifics on the potential deal were announced. The president also did not say when further details would be available.

Republican attempts to pass a healthcare bill recently failed in the Senate. Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) had announced that they would not vote for the bill.

Any deal with Democrats would be certain to leave the core of Obamacare intact. While many Republicans would likely oppose such a bill, a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Trump supporters in the GOP could form a majority. It is possible that such a coalition could even get enough votes to end a filibuster.

 

 

NEW: Trump Administration to End Obama’s Contraception Mandate

One of the most egregious examples of a federal attack on religious liberty in recent years may be about to come to an end. There are reports that the Trump Administration is preparing new regulations that will end the birth control mandate established by the Obama Administration as part of the Affordable Care Act.

The New York Times reports that new rules, which could be issued on Friday, would offer exemptions to certain employers who have moral objections to providing insurance that includes contraceptives to their employees. The new rules would reportedly cover employers and insurers who hold “sincerely held religious beliefs” or “moral convictions” against providing contraception.

The mandate was not part of the ACA, but was the product of regulations by the Department of Health and Human Services. While the Obama Administration did provide a religious exemption from the rules, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo noted in 2011, “Jesus himself, or the Good Samaritan of his famous parable, would not qualify as ‘religious enough’ for the exemption….”

Many private employers also objected to the fact that the regulation required them to purchase insurance for their employees that included not only contraceptives, but drugs that induce abortions. Others, such as employers who are Catholic, objected to contraception in general.

The mandate prompted several lawsuits. The Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic religious charity made of nuns who practice celibacy, went to the Supreme Court to seek relief from the mandate. In 2015, Hobby Lobby won its lawsuit and the government was forced to amend its rule to provide religious exemptions. In the final rule, insurers were still forced to provide coverage for these employees, but the employers were not billed for the contraceptive coverage.

President Trump promised to end the revised mandate during the campaign, but so far has not taken steps to do so. In August, Daniel Dinardo, now the Catholic Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, wrote an op-ed in The Hill asking why the Obama-era policy was still in place.

It is important to note that changing the contraception mandate will not ban contraception in any way. It would merely mean that employers would not be forced to pay for drugs that they find morally objectionable. Their employees will still be able to get birth control and abortifacient prescriptions, they would just have to bear the cost, about $50 per month, on their own.

If President Trump does decide to roll back the Obama-era mandate, he will have fulfilled an important part of his promise to protect religious liberty and freedom of conscience. The big question is why he waited so long to do so.

 

 

 

 

 

Republican Senators Try a ‘Hail Mary’ On Obamacare

After their embarrassing failure to repeal and replace Obamacare over the summer, Republicans in the Senate are gearing up for a “Hail Mary” attempt to at least make a modicum of reforms to the health care law. The Senate, where the previous attempt to rein in Obamacare died, may vote on the last-gasp effort by the end of September.

As explained previously in The Resurgent, Republicans cannot fully repeal Obamacare without 60 votes. The previous attempt at reforming Obamacare fell apart over details of how the law’s subsidies should be treated and how to handle medical care for the uninsured. Moderate Republican support for the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid also caused serious problems in crafting a replacement bill.

The new bill, written by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), is much more modest than the failed American Healthcare Act. The proposal doesn’t completely repeal Obamacare, but does replace Obamacare’s tax subsidies with state block grants, repeals the individual mandate and scales back the Medicaid expansion.

“It’s basically federalism where you just block grant the whole thing,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) told the Washington Examiner. “You block grant Obamacare back to the states. Just the whole thing.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated that he will bring the bill to the floor for a vote if at least 50 of the 52 Republican senators support it. At the moment, the bill is short of that mark, but Politico reports that it is gaining steam after Graham publicly lobbied President Trump and others. Estimates put Republican support for the bill at 48 or 49 senators.

The bill appears to be on a fast-track. The Washington Post reports that Republicans have already submitted it to the Congressional Budget Office for analysis. If the bill is not passed before the end of September, the Post notes that the authority to pass the legislation with a simple majority under budget reconciliation rules would expire. This would effectively kill any attempts to reform Obamacare until next year.

If the bill does pass the Senate, it faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives. The previous bill, which originated in the House, had to be finely tuned to pass by a slim majority. Under budget reconciliation rules, the House would have to pass the Graham-Cassidy bill with no changes.

No Democrats are expected to support the bill. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted, “The Graham-Cassidy @SenateGOP ‘health care’ bill IS Trumpcare, & it will rip health care away from millions of Americans.”

As with the previous Obamacare reform bill, opposition to the bill is expected to come from the right as well as the left. Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced that he will oppose the bill, calling it “Obamacare lite.” If Paul stands firm, the defection of any other Republican will doom the bill.

Paul’s stance against “Obamacare lite” begs the question of whether he and the Freedom Caucus would prefer the full version of Obamacare to an imperfect Republican reform bill. For the foreseeable future, those are the only two options.

BREAKING: Governors Considering 2020 Unity Ticket




Casual discussions are underway between the camps of governors John Kasich (R-OH) and Hickenlooper (D-CO) to form a unity ticket in 2020, presenting an alternative to the Democrat and Republican nominees for president, according to sources familiar with the conversations.

Recently, the two governors have been working on an alternative healthcare reform plan to present to others, particlarly congress. Both governors were elected around the same time (Kasich in 2010, Hickenlooper in 2011) in mixed-party states, and immediately accepted Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Both oppose the repeal of the the Act.

Barring a surprise star in the ranks, Democrats are not expected to field especially strong candidates in the next two years in preparation for 2020, and presumably, Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee for a second time, unless directly challenged by members of his own party. If they choose to join forces, their likely target would be the majority in each party that polls indicated dissatisfaction with their respective candidates.



While third-party candidates struggle for both funding and name recognition, these men have advantages most third-party candidates don’t. National profiles in each party, independent streaks, and media-friendly relationships and donor networks. And presumably, they carry less baggage or idiosyncrasies that the other “Governors squared” campaign with Johnson/Weld in 2016.

Governors tend to work well together, and share camraderie more than most partisan leaders, and these two governors are no exception.

Gov. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has tended toward the centerline and his party, trying to carve out a reputation for working across the aisle. Gov. Kasich of course has been riding the middle line since his first days in the 2016 campaign, and stayed in until the last stretch of the Republican primary. He earned his stripes first years ago, however, not only accepting Obamacare expansion in his state, but traveling to other state capitals to lobby fellow Republicans to do the same.

Some believed that his continued presence helped to split the non-trump crowd in the primaries – roughly 60% until the end – especially toward the end, when it was mathematically impossible for him to win, and Senator Cruz still had a chance to capture remaining delegates.

National Review’s Matthew Continetti observed at the time, “The Ohio governor has won a single state: his own. He has 143 delegates. That puts him fourth in the count behind Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio — who is no longer a candidate. To win the nomination on the first ballot of the Republican convention, Kasich would have to win 138 percent of the remaining delegates. This is impossible. Even a politician should be able to do that math.”

Now, it appears that winning the nomination may not have been his end game.