Boehner and the Disappearing Art of the Deal

It was easy to miss in yesterday’s flurry of news about indictments and Kevin Spacey, but Politico has published a long and fascinating piece based on 18 hours of interviews with former House Speaker and longtime congressman John Boehner. After 25 years of hard-driving Washington deal-making, Boehner retired from Congress in near-ignominy in 2014, having been driven out in part by ultra-conservative firebrands who didn’t care for some of Boehner’s deals.

The article is full of juicy tidbits about Washington personalities and the machinations that make our government run. But it also sparks a little nostalgia for the old-school Washington politics that are quickly dying out.

Boehner embodied those politics–he knew the art of the deal and understood that, to accomplish anything in Washington, he needed to cultivate relationships with his “enemies” across the aisle. Contrast that with today’s stubborn ideologues who seem to be taking over Congress: to appease their base, they refuse to make even the slightest concession to the other side. To compromise, they think, is to cave in to “evil”–and so the divide between Republicans and Democrats, between liberals and conservatives, keeps widening and deepening.

These ideologues seem to forget that America is a republic, which means that all voices–no matter how extreme or distasteful–have representation in government. It means that someone whose beliefs are repugnant to you still has a say, and a lot of folks in this entitled generation don’t like that. They want what they want, and they won’t take anything less.

There is plenty to dislike about Boehner and his style of legislating. He’s a mixed bag–just like those old-school Washington politics were, with their cronyism and backroom dealing. But if our “principled” representatives won’t compromise, it ultimately renders the Everyman powerless. Only the powerful who know how to work the system will get a voice, and that power will keep consolidating. And then America won’t look much like America anymore.

Cruz Healthcare Bill Amendment Gets Traction

 

At RedState, Andrea Ruth reports that House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows broke from withholding comment on the process in the Senate to tweet that he is in favor of the health care bill currently making its way through the Senate if an amendment to the bill offered by Sen. Ted Cruz is a part of it.

The text of the Cruz amendment hasn’t been publicly released, but it is being circulated on typed handouts. It would allow insurance companies to offer plans that did not meet certain Affordable Care Act requirements if they also offer plans that do. In allowing such plans to be sold, insurers would be able to offer more affordable plans that don’t adhere to ObamaCare’s insurance regulations to individuals who don’t necessarily need or want to pay for certain coverage.

According to the New York Times “The Upshot” blog, The Cruz Consumer Freedom amendment wouldn’t explicitly create and fund the special insurance markets, as the House bill did. Instead, insurance experts said, it would create a sort of de facto high risk pool — encouraging customers with health problems to buy insurance in one market and those without illnesses to buy it in another.

This is how Sen. Cruz described his plan last week:

If an insurance company offers at least one plan in the state that is compliant with the (Obamacare) mandates, that company can also sell any additional plan that consumers desire.

What that does is it maintains the existing protections, but it gives consumers additional new options above and beyond of what they can purchase today.

Marc Short, President Trump’s director of legislative affairs, said on Fox News Sunday, that they support the Cruz proposal.

In addition, the Washington Examiner reports that the Club for Growth expressed support for Cruz’s plan on Wednesday.

Axios reports that Senate Republicans have asked the Congressional Budget Office to analyze Cruz’s proposal — asking for one estimate of a health care bill that includes his changes and one that doesn’t.

Debt Limit Battle Heats Up Between Trump Administration and Congress

Think that confrontations over the debt ceiling left town with the Obama? You might want to think again.

“I urge you to raise the debt limit before you leave for the summer” [on July 28], Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday according to the Wall Street Journal. Mnuchin said that he prefers a clean increase without conditions.

In response, the House Freedom Caucus released a statement opposing a clean increase. “The U.S. federal government is drowning in debt, yet continues to spend into oblivion on the backs of future taxpayers,” the statement said. “We have an obligation to the American people to tackle Washington’s out of control spending and put in place measures to get our country on the right fiscal course.”

The Freedom Caucus adopted a three-fold position on the issue. First, they categorically oppose a clean increase. Second, the group agrees that the debt ceiling should be address by Congress before it recesses for the summer. Finally, the statement demands “that any increase of the debt ceiling be paired with policy that addresses Washington’s unsustainable spending by cutting where necessary, capping where able, and working to balance in the near future.”

The government reached the debt ceiling imposed by Congress in March. Since then, the Treasury Department has been using cash conservation methods to keep the government operating. The shuffling of funds is a temporary solution that typically is only viable for a few months.

Previous estimates indicated that congressional action on the debt limit would need to be taken by late September or early October. Earlier this week, budget director Mick Mulvaney told Politico that the date might come sooner than expected.

“My understanding that the [tax] receipts, currently, are coming in slower than expected and you may soon hear from [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin about a change in the date,” Mulvaney said before the House Budget Committee.

The US national debt currently stands at $19.9 trillion. The House Freedom Caucus and other Republicans fought the Obama Administration on the debt ceiling several times during the past eight years. In exchange for increasing the debt limit, the GOP was able to win some concessions on spending from Obama and the Democrats.

This is a Major Conservative Victory

The media will not pay this much attention because the good guys won, but our conservative hill to die on was successfully climbed and conquered. Ralph Norman, by just over 200 votes, has won an upset victory in South Carolina’s fifth congressional district.

Norman was running against a trial lawyer named Tommy Pope. Pope vowed to never, ever have anything to do with the House Freedom Caucus. The Chamber of Commerce poured money into the race to support Pope and stop Norman.

Norman had pledged to join the House Freedom Caucus. Republican leaders in Washington opposed him. But Jim DeMint and the Club for Growth both stood up for Norman. DeMint, despite the recent turmoil at the Heritage Foundation, publicly supported Norman. So too did U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who often allied herself with Ralph Norman during their shared tenure in South Carolina’s state government.

The Club for Growth, though it could not match the Chamber of Commerce’s dollars, spent smartly and strategically to rally the vote for Ralph Norman. They were successful.

Ralph Norman won by around 200 votes and there will be an automatic recount by the state. It was a very close victory, but one that Norman will now be able to use and build upon.

This is a good day for conservatives against the establishment hacks in D.C.

Sad: Why Obamacare repeal will never happen

The latest news on Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare is not good. After failing with their first effort, Republican House members seem to have fallen short yet again with Plan B.

Chances for success this time around looked good initially, after House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (NC) and Tuesday Group co-chair Tom MacArthur (NJ) announced they had reached an agreement on legislation that would supposedly meet the approval of both the conservative and moderate wings of the Republican Party.

It was Meadows’ conservative group that spearheaded opposition to the previous bill, though a significant number of moderates also joined them in that effort. This time it’s the moderates – including MacArthur’s co-chair Charlie Dent – who say they will vote against the bill in its current form.

From The Hill:

“Centrists opposed to the new bill are largely echoing Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who said the negotiations between Meadows and MacArthur only exacerbated his earlier problems with the bill … Dent, in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday, said he worried that people with pre-existing health conditions might be left without insurance because of the changes, something supporters of the bill have fiercely denied.”

Already more than 20 Republicans have stated they would not support the bill. If 23 Republican House members oppose it, Democratic support would be needed for the bill to pass – and the likelihood of that happening seems to be virtually zero.

The sad truth is that Obamacare will likely never be repealed. Oh, we may get some watered down meaningless bill that claims to do something, but the bulk of the ACA will never go away – and there are at least two major reasons for that.

First, Speaker Paul Ryan has thus far proven incapable of bringing the factions of his party together. In fact, one might argue that Paul’s questionable methodology of keeping the initial healthcare proposal under lock and key for as long as possible points to an unwillingness on the Speaker’s part to even attempt uniting House Republicans.

“ ‘I think we’re making very good progress. … We’re going to go when we have the votes, but that’s the decision we’ll make when we have it,’ Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters Thursday at his weekly news conference.”

Which sounds an awful lot like a pre-emptive excuse for pulling yet another healthcare bill before it receives any official consideration. Apparently, the Speaker graduated from the leadership school of ‘Where are my people going, that I may lead them?’

Second, now that the insurance industry has taken its place among programs controlled by the federal government, any efforts to root it out would be met with heavy resistance – far more resistance than many members of Congress are willing to face.

Again from The Hill:

“Many vulnerable Republicans are running scared. One moderate Republican was overheard in a House cafeteria this week telling an aide: ‘If I vote for this healthcare bill, it will be the end of my career.’ “

Therein lies the problem. And though it’s easy – and correct – to lay blame on career politicians putting self-interest above what’s right, we must remember that if they didn’t have to answer to a self-interested populace, those representatives might be less concerned about having to buy votes every other year.

So as much as it may pain us to say it, Obamacare is probably here to stay. Just as Social Security did, it is quickly becoming an untouchable political third rail.

Will Paul Gigot and the Journal Editorial Page Apologize to the House Freedom Caucus?

Under the leadership of Paul Gigot, the Wall Street Journal editorial page has long drifted away from the vision and every man approachability of Robert Bartley. Gigot is proudly an elitist and proudly an establishmentarian. Over the past few years, it has become rather obvious he’s allowed Republican leaders in Washington to stick their hands up the back side of his editorial page and muppet master their fingers on the keyboard, all but ghost writing the attacks on their conservative brethren.

In the past few weeks, Gigot orchestrated attack after attack on the House Freedom Caucus for having the audacity to demand the American Health Care Act reflect the free market principles the Wall Street Journal supposedly advances. The unsigned editorials attacked conservatives. Karl Rove attacked conservatives. Multiple other voices joined the fray to attack conservatives. They all demanded conservatives sit down, shut up, and vote for what their leaders handed them.

But Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Justin Amash, and the rest of the House Freedom Caucus refused. They demanded free market improvements. They demanded the states be allowed flexibility. They demanded measures to lower costs. Now they have gotten both the White House and Republicans in Congress to agree.

The bill is, in my opinion, still terrible. But it has inarguably been moved right and improved. Had the House Freedom Caucus done what Gigot and and the muppeteers who move him demanded, the legislation would be in a far worse position than it is now.

Gigot should acknowledge the House Freedom Caucus improved the bill. His editorial page should finally acknowledge there were just as many liberal Republicans holding out. And they should turn the spotlight on the liberal Tuesday Group that remains steadfastly against anything that improves Obamacare.

I, however, won’t hold my breath. To do any of this would require humility and the editorial voice of the Wall Street Journal lost that to Robert Bartley’s grave.

BREAKING: Ted Cruz Takes on White House Critics of the House Freedom Caucus

Speaking in Texas tonight, Senator Ted Cruz came out swinging for the House Freedom Caucus, noting that the critics of the conservatives who are in the White House are “profoundly damaging our prospects of success.” He also noted, “If we screw all this up, you better believe the American people could elect President Warren.”

Cruz has unabashedly been defending conservatives for their refusal to preserve Obamacare under the Republican health care plan. I am told he has relayed to those close to the President that the conservatives and, in particular, the House Freedom Caucus members, are the good guys in this fight intent on making the GOP keep its promises.

The fact is, President Trump got terrible advice on the Obamacare repeal and needs to work with the House Freedom Caucus on a real repeal effort.

Swampcare 2.0: Let’s Do Nothing!

Vice President Mike Pence had a pow-wow with Congressional Republicans, both moderates and conservatives, Monday, prior to the administration unveiling Strike Two of “Repeal Obamacare,” which will be heretofore be known as Swampcare 2.0.

The first thing he did was change basically nothing. From Roll Call:

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., said the pitch dropped a controversial last-minute amendment proposed in March that was intended to win over House conservatives. It would have ended the health care law’s requirement that every insurance plan in the marketplaces cover 10 categories of health care benefits.

Wait, but there’s more.

Instead, the White House proposal offered to let Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price work with states who want to waive the requirements, if they have a plan in place to ensure costs drop and access remains the same or improves. The change resembles a provision in current law known as a 1332 waiver. The White House also presented to moderates changes that would more specifically target a $115 billion fund in the package aimed at stabilizing state marketplaces.

A “1332 waiver” is named after ACA Section 1332, which permits states to apply for a State Innovation Waiver. The National Conference of State Legislatures had this to say about 1332.

Beginning Jan, 1, 2017, a new state option within the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect, known as Section 1332 Waivers. For the first time since the law was signed six years earlier, this new process may allow any state to seek to modify key parts of the health law within its boundaries. While in effect, these 1332 waiver options offer states an opportunity to fashion a new coverage system customized for local context and preferences while still fulfilling the aims of the ACA. The statute requires interested states to pass authorizing legislation as an early step in order to apply for and ultimately implement waiver-based reforms.

So, basically, Swampcare 2.0 simply replaces a code section that’s already law in the current ACA with something that resembles the current law. In mathematics, when two things are equal to a third thing, the two things are also equal to each other. A = C and B = C means A = B.

Therefore, Obamacare + § 1332 = Obamacare as of Jan. 1, 2017 = Swampcare 2.0. The new proposal doesn’t repeal the core requirement of health insurers to offer standardized coverages, but does allow states to ask “Mother May I?” to HHS for a waiver. What sorcery is this?

Some states already had waivers on file, others didn’t, and now that many states (including Georgia) legislative sessions have ended, we’ll see a whole lot of confusion if this mess passes. It’s honestly better to just leave 1332 alone if you’re going to replace it with something equivalent but differently administered. I thought Trump was against paper chases and inefficiency. Apparently not.

To their credit, the House Freedom Caucus was having none of this. Despite spin indicating a “deal” was made, there is no deal–certainly not before the text of the bill has been reviewed. Unlike Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats, the HFC doesn’t “pass it so we can see what’s in it.”

Without more to offer conservatives, and giving more control back to states, it’s unlikely that Swampcare 2.0 will get further than its predecessor. So far, it’s a big, heaping plate of nothing.