GOP Moves the Goalpost on Health Care

Fresh off a complete failure to keep their signature campaign promise to deep-six Obamacare, the GOP is dropping beaucoup bucks with an advertisement targeting Democrats in several key districts in states across the country.  I know what you’re thinking:  I’m still trying to forget about the LAST election, and now you’re already talking about the 2018 mid-terms?  Just shoot me, already!  But that’s not even the good part.  Care to guess the subject of the new advertising blitz?  It’s health care.

Yes, health care.

And if you just fell out of your chair doubled over with laughter, rest assured that you’re not the only one.

Given the tremendous flop that was repeal and replace, you’d think that the GOP would be dodging that particular subject the way Hillary Clinton dodges grand juries, but no.  The National Republican Congressional Committee is actually pulling out all the stops in an attempt to highlight Democrat support for single-payer health care.  Most days on planet Earth, the response to that kind of accusation would be a resounding, “Duh!”  But given the GOP’s recent fumbling of the issue–not to mention the ham-handed, tone-deaf execution of the ad itself–the results are spectacularly hilarious:

First off, the background music–was that something they cribbed from The Dark Knight?  I half expected Batman to show up halfway through and pull off Nancy Pelosi’s mask to reveal the Joker underneath.  And what gives with that voiceover?  It sounds like the movie trailer for a 70’s era grindhouse horror flick.  Fellas, if you want to scare everyone, can’t you at least try something a little more original?

But even all that can’t compare to the comedy gold of the actual content.

Big government has destroyed the American health care system as we know it.

Yup, Obamacare messed everything up so badly that Congress still couldn’t find the cojones to get rid of it, even with a Republican House and Senate, and a president ready to sign.

But it gets worse.

Like when Mitch McConnell signaled that he’d keep the illegal Obamacare subsidies to the insurance companies going?

A new plan brought to you by the same Democrats who gave us Obamacare…

And this ominous statement is followed by the disco remix version of a bunch of Democrats saying, “Single Payer.”  This might have worked as a bit in a Mel Brooks musical (Single payer, what a show!  Single payer, here we go!), but here it just comes off as lame and contrived–kind of like Republican excuses for not repealing Obamacare in the first place.

What does this mean for you?  Trillions in higher taxes.  Government control of your doctor, hospital, and even prescriptions.

Again, tell me how this is different from Obamacare?  Or is this just an implication that the current system that y’all refused to repeal is terrible, but an acceptable level of terrible that we’ll just have to live with?

Tell Nancy Pelosi and California Democrats that we can’t afford single-payer health care!

Funny how you guys used to say the same thing about the ACA.  But that was just when you were trying to get us into bed.  Now that you’ve had your way with us, you won’t even return our calls.  Don’t you know the old saying about fury and a voter scorned?

In any case, it’s a terrible ad–and not just because it serves up the usual political cheese in a way so obvious that it almost plays like a parody.  No, the maddening part is how the GOP thinks its voters are so stupid that they even won’t notice how the party is trying to move the goalposts on health care.  For the last seven years, it’s been all about repeal, repeal, repeal–but now that Congress has been caught with their fly unzipped, all of a sudden it’s about holding off single payer.  Of course, that Obamacare was designed from the beginning as a vehicle to get the country to single payer seems to elude them.  That, or they’d just rather not talk about it.

So go ahead and waste your money with this ad campaign, GOP.  Just don’t count on us getting fooled again.

The Unmasking of the GOP

For the past decade or so, being a Republican has equated to being a conservative. This wasn’t the case at one time. Indeed, being a conservative Republican meant being in the minority of the minority party.

Newt Gingrich led the conservative charge during the Clinton Presidency, increasing the number in the House if not the Senate. At the same time, through grassroots efforts such as the Christian Coalition, conservatives began winning at the local level and this success begat conservative success at the federal level.

However, in the early days of the Obama presidency, the explosion of the Tea Party changed the dynamics of the Republican Party as we know it. The anger of the Republican base against the liberal socialist overreach of the Obama White House and Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, shook the establishment Republican leadership to its very core.

Suddenly, every Republican claimed some affiliation to the Tea Party and were automatically conservative. John McCain, a leader in open borders and amnesty, famously snuggled up to the Tea Party and in one of the most hypocritical TV spots of all time, declared “build the dang wall!”.  Mitch McConnell found great affection for Rand Paul and all things Kentucky Tea Party. On and on and on it went.

Until being conservative was synonymous with being Republican. “I am Republican” suddenly meant “I am Conservative”. This misappropriation of the term allowed Republican leadership, and longtime Republican moderates the flexibility of hiding behind the veil of conservatism and Tea Party bone fides.

While only Senators McCain, Collins, and Murkowski voted with the Democrats, rest assured there are more than a handful waiting in the wings ready to side with Chuck Schumer if necessary. Now, eager to move on to their next failure, they risk further unmasking by President Trump’s threat to end federal subsidies to healthcare insurance firms, and to the Congressional healthcare plan as well.

Sadly, conservative poseurs are not limited to the Senate: (The Hill)

Many congressional Republicans have called for continuing the CSR payments. But he is running into opposition from key Republicans, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady(Texas), In a statement Friday, Brady warned that “simply letting Obamacare collapse” would cause “even more pain” for people in his district facing high premiums and fewer choices. Brady has called for legally and temporarily funding the payments.

Some have already allowed the unmasking: (Wash Examiner)

Republicans in Congress may soon have to appropriate federal funds to insurers they fought to hold off for several years under Obamacare, or otherwise risk being blamed for a chain reaction of insurer exits and premium hikes. “I hope the president will use his authority to extend those payments. He can do that,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the No. 3 Senate Republican. “If he doesn’t then Congress will have to look at what our options are.” Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told Reuters in an interview Monday, he and other congressional leaders planned to tell Trump they want to end the debate on healthcare for now and turn to tax reform. Hatch said he would prefer Congress not appropriate the subsidies to insurers, but said, “I think we’re going to have to do that.” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he thought Trump may continue the funding. “It does in fact affect a lot of low-income citizens and my sense is that he will continue those,” he said. “Regardless of what is being said I think he understand that it has an effect on low-income citizens.”

To no one else’s surprise, more senators just can’t wait to hop on the federal gravy train: (The Hill)

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health Committee, has also called for Congress to act on the payments. His committee will be holding hearings on improving the stability of the Obamacare markets in the near future, which could lead to bipartisan action. “I guess I’m hopeful that the administration, the president will keep making them and if he doesn’t then I guess we’ll have to figure out from a congressional standpoint what we do,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, said on Monday. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Republican, noted that Trump would have to sign legislation guaranteeing the payments, making it a “challenge.” He also said that the prospect of action by Congress is a “real live issue.”

These are senior leaders in the Republican Party. While the party might be comprised of many true conservatives outside of DC, inside the swamp, it seems the entire leadership is more moderate Rockefeller republican than Tea Party conservative.

Over the next few months, it will be interesting how many politicians within the Grand Old Party will risk unmasking to enable federal spending and taxation all the while deploring all things Trump. I’m confident most if not all conservatives outside the Beltway swamp prefer tweets over Obamacare, higher taxes, and increased unemployment. Perhaps only an aggressive 2018 primary season will provide the cure to GOP moderate malaise.


Nobody Wants to Own It

It’s been said that success has many fathers but failure is an orphan, but in the case of Obamacare repeal it appears as if failure has more daddies than Freddy Kruger, the bastard son of a hundred maniacs.  Ramesh Ponnuru from National Review has a pretty good roundup of how a signature GOP issue somehow couldn’t make it past a GOP-controlled Congress, placing some of the blame on the Democrats’ demagoguery of the issue.  The real problem, however, was the inability of Republicans to refute their specious claims.

Ponnuru writes:

In a well-run, coordinated campaign for a health-care bill, they would have challenged each and every news story that said Republicans were taking away insurance from 14 million-plus people, or that talked about coverage-change numbers while burying the role of voluntary decisions in driving them. They would have prodded reporters to do fact-checks when Democrats said Republicans would “kick tens of millions off insurance,” instead of just relaying Democrats’ misinformation. Republican press secretaries would have called the outlets that said they were rolling back the Medicaid expansion and walked the reporters through why they were wrong.

Nothing like that happened this time. A few Republicans made the point about voluntary departures from the insurance rolls — but only sporadically, rarely with numbers, never in a sustained way.

In other words, they just allowed the Democrats to control the narrative.  Granted, it’s very difficult to Republicans to break through when the news media are pushing the exact same narrative–but with the millions of dollars the GOP spends on consultants, you’d think at least one of them would have some ideas on how to get the message through.

Then there’s the White House.  The Trump administratition obviously wanted to claim victory on a campaign promise, with the president signaling that he had pen in hand and was ready to sign pretty much any repeal-and-replace bill that Congress sent him–even the “skinny” option that would leave Obamacare largely intact.  Still, when it came down to actually doing the hard sell on repeal–doing the work of actually getting out to the public and hammering every day on why it’s necessary to get rid of this horrible law that is already collapsing private health insurance–the White House has also been strangely absent.  Sure, the president let loose with a few tweets here and there, but it’s not like he was burning up the phone lines to pressure Congress and making speeches every day on the subject.

So what gives?

It’s simple.  Nobody wants to own repeal.

Congress doesn’t want to do it.  In fact, a lot of Republicans are perfectly happy with Obamacare in place.  They just never expected Donald Trump to win the election and bring the curtain down on their theater votes, where they could make it look as if they favored repeal knowing full well that any bill would be dead as soon as it hit President Hillary’s desk.  Meanwhile, the true conservatives who do want Obamacare gone can’t see themselves voting for repeal in name only, making an already dysfunctional system even worse–and putting a GOP label on it to boot.

The White House doesn’t want to own it either.  The mere fact that Donald Trump has said he’ll sign whatever Congress sends him signals  loud and clear that he doesn’t care about the substance of the legislation–but with that attitude comes a significant risk.  What if the bill that will inevitably become known as Trumpcare sucks?  Trump values his brand a lot more than that, and I seriously doubt he wants that kind of stink to follow him around for the rest of his presidency.  Maybe he figured out that Congress, divided as it is, was never going to pass anything anyway–which was good, because then he wouldn’t be put on the spot.  That would also mean that he could pretend to be acting on his campaign promises without having to taint himself with some half-assed repeal.

It would also serve another one of Trump’s managerial methods:  keeping his people in conflict with one another.  So far, most of his fights have been against the media–but a do-nothing Congress that wants to torpedo his agenda could also serve to consolidate support amongst his base.  He avoids signing a repeal that he never really wanted in the first place, while blaming Congress for its failure.  In Trump world, that’s a win-win.

It’s just too bad that the rest of the country has to lose.

The 2018 Senate Map Looks Great For The GOP, But They Need Recruits First

The 2018 Senate map is a beautiful sight for the Republican Party. The GOP will be defending only a few seats while Democrats will be forced to play defense in many more states. A quick breakdown: 33 Senate seats will be in play. Only eight of those seats are in GOP hands. This means Democrats will be defending 25 seats this upcoming election cycle (two are independents who caucus with the Democrats). Of those 25 – 10 are in states recently won by President Trump.

It will be a year of offense for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Republicans could potentially win eight seats and a filibuster-proof majority. But Politico is reporting that the NRSC is struggling to find top quality recruits. While many states are in play, we are looking at a few specifically that have a high chance of flipping: Missouri, Montana, Florida, North Dakota and Indiana.

We were all a little disheartened when Rep. Ann Wagner decided not to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill. Wagner’s background would’ve been a superb match up against McCaskill – a Democrat who is too liberal for the state she represents. Wagner’s bowing out was a shock to most – she had hired a campaign manager in preparation for a run. GOP leaders are now looking at Missouri attorney general Josh Hawley as their top recruit. Hawley is a force to be reckoned with – this is the guy who argued the Hobby Lobby case to the Supreme Court. (I still think Austin Petersen is someone to keep an eye on.)

Montana is an interesting state. The Treasure State continually votes Republican at the presidential level, but residents here have no problem voting Democrat at the local and statewide level. Trump won here, as did Greg Gianforte very recently amid that crazy special election. Sen. Jon Tester (D) has won twice here, but by thin margins. The right recruit could finally send him packing. Republicans were hoping that guy would be former Rep. Ryan Zinke, but he decided to take a job in the Trump administration. Tim Fox, the state attorney general, has opted not to run for the senate seat, instead looking ahead for a gubernatorial run. This leaves the top GOP contender to be state Treasurer Matt Rosendale.

Indiana is prime real estate for Republicans. The state is home to Vice President Mike Pence; voted for President Trump; and residents here shot down their last Democrat senate challenger. Sen. Joe Donnely (D) has been serving since 2013 and touts a moderate record. There will be plenty of Republican members contending for his seat, nonetheless. GOP reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer are top recruits. Analysts point to Messer’s fundraising apparatus as a sign of his tenability, but it’s Rokita – having served two terms as secretary of state – that has won statewide. GOP leaders are also looking at Rep. Susan Brooks as another possible option.

Florida went Donald Trump’s way last year. Sen. Marco Rubio also won by astounding margins. However, incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) has literally been an institution in the Sunshine State. He has been serving office in Florida, in some form or fashion, since 1973. The Democrat has deep roots and a moderate image. There is one Republican who could finish him: Gov. Rick Scott. Coming off a recent gubernatorial election victory, Scott carries strong name recognition and a well-run campaign apparatus. He also has another thing going for him – an ability to self-fund like no other. The Florida governor has made millions in the hospital business and has self-funded his campaigns before. He could potentially inject millions into a 2018 senate run.

Last up: North Dakota. The fact Sen. Heidi Heitkamp was even elected statewide here is a sad story. The Peace Garden State has a long history of GOP domination, but 2012 was a bad year for the GOP and she won her seat by a nail biter. However, Trump won North Dakota by a 36-point margin and Sen. Hoeven by a 68-point margin last year. It’s safe to say Heitkamp has her work cut out for her. Heitkamp, for her part, has built a very moderate voting record in the Senate. Republicans are looking at Rep. Kevin Cramer, a guy with Trump-like demeanor, and state Sen. Tom Campbell as their best options.


Cruz Leads Senate Conservative Response to Healthcare Bill: More Freedom

Call them the Four Republican Horsemen of the Healthcare Apocalypse – Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ron Johnson – have issued a statement on the newly revealed Senate healthcare bill, stating that they are not ready to support it:

Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor. There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs.

Stating that they all want to get to the point where they can vote “yes” on the bill by offering key amendments and corrections, they point to some serious hurdles that must be cleared.

Ted Cruz specifically went into more detail on his personal feelings about the draft legislation. He stated that though there are numerous encouraging components of the bill – expanding association health plans, forbidding of taxpayer funds used for abortions, reining in Medicaid spending – he still has grave concerns about the proposed law’s ability to lower premiums for the American people.

That, according to Cruz, was the whole point of repealing Obamacare in the first place. He counseled:

“Specifically, we should do more to ensure consumers have the freedom to choose among more affordable plans that are tailored for their individual healthcare needs. We should allow consumers to purchase insurance across state lines and create a true 50-state marketplace, driving down costs for everyone. We should expand health savings accounts so that consumers can pay health insurance premiums on a pre-tax basis. We should incentivize states to cap punitive damages in medical malpractice lawsuits to further reduce the cost of healthcare.”

In other words, Cruz (and by extension his colleagues Lee, Paul, and Johnson) is advocating this solution for America’s healthcare crisis: “freedom.”

A novel idea. Let’s hope the Republican caucus follows their lead.

BREAKING NEWS: Representative Roger Williams Reported Shot at GOP Baseball Practice – Apparently Just Injured While Taking Cover

Fox News had reported that Roger Williams, who represents the 25th Congressional District in Texas, was among those shot at the GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, VA this morning.  Listening to live coverage on the network just now, however, police indicated that Williams had not, in fact, been shot, but just injured his leg as he tried to take cover.

Capitol Hill police were present at the practice and returned the guman’s fire.  Reports indicate that the gunman was wounded and taken into custody, although Sentator Mike Lee (R, Utah) had told Fox News that the gunman was dead.

Several congressional staffers have reportedly been shot, in addition to Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana.  The situation is still developing, so many details are still unclear at this time.

Ted Cruz Seeks to Become GOP Peacemaker in the Battle to Repeal Obamacare

In the midst of the Republican battle over healthcare reform, we find Ted Cruz changing his approach to become a GOP peacemaker, rather than the disruptive maverick he has been in the past.

In a recent interview with KRIV in Houston, Cruz said:

And you’ve got to say, alright, where is common ground? What is the core thing you want, what is the core thing you want… how do we get to “yes” and get it done?

Republican in-fighting between conservatives and big-government party members continues behind the scenes, as the party struggles to fulfill a core promise… the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. While recent focus has aimed at the budget, the speculation is that the Republicans will make a renewed push at healthcare reform very soon. As it stands today, Republicans still do not have the votes.

Cruz states that his focus is a steadfast commitment to capitalize on Republican control and fulfill the promise to repeal the ACA. His new peacemaker approach acknowledges that the goal is no longer to repeal “every last word” of the ACA.

This is a significantly different strategy by Cruz compared to the stand he made in 2013 to shutdown the government over ACA funding. It’s a tall task, however, to try and unite a party that might be at its breaking point.

Instead of delivering on their promises to their base, Republican leadership fear the political backlash of repealing popular measures in the ACA. Among party centrists, for example, the idea of touching the pre-existing mandate is considered too politically costly. This weak-kneed approach is why we witnessed the party’s embarrassing, hurried push for the American Healthcare Act (ACHA) that ended in outright failure.

David Weigel and Paige Cunningham write in the Washington Post:

In the messy effort to rally their often unruly party around a measure to replace big parts of President Barack Obama’s health-care law, House leaders have been forced to leave other objectives by the wayside and focus on one simple, political goal: pass a bill they can say repeals Obamacare — even if it has no hope of survival in the Senate — to shield their members in next year’s elections.

The change in Cruz’s approach exposes the seemingly stark reality that a full repeal will not happen in 2017, much to the dismay of conservatives. If it’s not repealed in 2017, when there is a rare breadth and depth of Republican control, then it’s never going to happen.

We’ll be left with a mangled, quasi-market, big-government patchwork control over our healthcare industry… A measure that is doomed to fail from a policy standpoint.

Even though conservatives have always faced an uphill battle in the Republican party, it’s still unbelievable to witness such a squandered opportunity!

This past Monday, on his podcast, The Conservative Conscience, Daniel Horowitz explained how Republicans rarely, if ever, scale back government control. Instead, they pride themselves on simply slowing down the unrelenting steady march toward socialist-style policies, if only for a bit.

Trump is increasingly to blame based on the ease with which he attacked conservatives during the AHCA push.

As Horowitz explains:

This is exactly what gives us a Republican Party that does nothing but make the other side’s issues more popular… I want to hear [him] representing people when it matters. When the point of leverage and the point of contention to actually affect the outcome of the critical promises, on Obamacare, on the budget, on immigration, on the courts, on the Iran Deal. I want him to be with us at those moments.

The next few weeks will be a huge challenge for Republicans. There’s a wide chasm that is paralyzing their ability to capitalize on their newfound control. We’re almost halfway through 2017, and not much has been accomplished in the grand scheme of things.

How much longer can a party survive in which the leadership is consistently at odds with its base of support?

GOP Sets Its Sights On Regulatory Reform With A Slew Of Bills

Regulatory reform was an important rallying cry for Republicans in 2016. Then-candidate Donald Trump promised to cut 75 percent of federal regulations, and now the GOP is starting to work on helping the president keep his promises to lessen the regulatory burden on Americans with a series of pieces of legislation.

One of the top priorities on this wish list of bills is the Regulatory Accountability Act, which looks to eliminate costly regulations. The way this bill works is that all regulations would be subject to cost-benefit analysis, which would determine whether authorities should choose a “reasonable alternative” to the regulation. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) plans on introducing the measure after the Easter recess. A House version passed in January.

Supporters of the Regulatory Accountability Act say it would keep federal agencies on a tight leash and prevent the sort of regulatory overreach that Republicans complained about during the Obama administration.

But critics say it would lead to toothless regulations.

Even left-leaning critics of the bill say that it’s the one most likely to attract bipartisan support.

Another bill, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, requires agencies to take into account the impact a regulation has on small businesses. The idea, of course, is to limit red tape and rethink regulations that put too much of a burden on small businesses. A House version of this one passed earlier in the year, but the GOP will need to pull a few Democrats into the fold to prevent a filibuster.

The Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act seeks to eliminate up to 15 percent of regulations by cutting duplicate and redundant regulations. It too passed the House in January but may have an uphill battle in the Senate.

One of the most daring bills on the table is the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. This measure requires federal agencies to consult Congress before enacting major regulations.

Critics say it would allow Republicans to kill regulations much more easily, even if they just control one branch of Congress.

Currently, Republicans have the Congressional Review Act, which lets Congress strike down some regulations on the books. But it’s only effective when the same party controls both chambers and the White House.

As its name implies, the All Economic Regulations are Transparent Act (ALERT) Act seeks to bring more transparency to the regulatory process by requiring agencies to send reports to Congress, which would then be make public for six months before the regulations can go into effect, while another optional measure, the Early Participation in Regulations Act, would allow more options for public comment on potential regulations.

Like the other bills, the REINS and ALERT Acts have already passed the House but likely face a tougher fight in the Senate, while the Early Participation in Regulations Act may have some bipartisan support.

It’ll be interesting to see if these new bills have any chance of becoming law and what effect they’ll have on the regulatory state. Here’s hoping the GOP can make a dent in the burden with these measures.