NEW: Trump Plans to Sign Executive Order to Allow Americans to Purchase Health Insurance Across State Lines

After yet another apparently failed attempt to repeal (or at least overhaul) Obamacare, President Donald Trump appears to be preparing an executive order that will at least fulfill some of the GOP’s promises to alleviate the health care burden on Americans. The order would allow people to purchase health plans across state lines, a move that would make the marketplace much more competitive.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul first mentioned the action during a TV appearance Wednesday morning, saying Trump was considering taking matters into his own hands.

“I think there’s going to be big news from the White House in the next week or two, something they can do on their own,” Paul told MSNBC, adding that Trump “can legalize on his own the ability of individuals to join a group or a health association across state lines and buy insurance.”

For his part, the president told reporters in his inimitable way that he is working on a “very major” action that will make it possible for Americans “to go out across state lines, do lots of things, and buy their own healthcare.”

One Senate Republican source says that the executive order will be complete within the next few weeks, and a White House spokesman confirmed that the Trump administration is “considering several actions to provide flexibility and relief to the many Americans who continue to suffer under Obamacare.”

How much the move will help obviously remains to be seen, but it’s nice to see that someone in Washington is taking seriously the GOP’s promise to make healthcare more affordable and less of a burden.

Mixed Reactions On Trump Order to Remilitarize Local Police

Earlier this morning, a directive from President Trump’s Department of Justice reversed the last administration’s ban on military-style weapons used by local law enforcement.

What does this entail?  The reintroduction the Pentagon’s Police Militarization Program 1033 will reallocate surplus military equipment–including high-caliber weapons and grenade launchers–to local police departments to combat violent protests. This program was created under the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 1997. Since its inception in 1997, approximately $5.1 billion in military equipment have been transferred from the federal government (DOD) to local American law enforcement agencies–per 2014 numbers. President Obama drew back this program in 2015 following the Ferguson, MO protests. It has drawn both praise and concern from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his intention to reintroduce the program at the annual gathering of the Fraternal Order of Police in Nashville, TN earlier this morning.

“Those restrictions went too far,” Sessions said. “We will not put superficial concerns above public safety.”

Below are Sessions’ full remarks at the event:

 

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky tweeted his dismay with the directive:

What do you think of this program being reintroduced? Is the DOJ in the right to resurrect–especially in wake of violent protests in Charlottesville and elsewhere? Or are there serious concerns with reintroducing military -grade supplies and weapons back into local police departments?

Tell us your thoughts.

Jim DeMint Launches Conservative Partnership Institute to Make DC Listen





In addition to working for the Convention of States, former Heritage Foundation president and U.S. Senator from South Carolina Jim DeMint has started another group:  the Conservative Partnership Institute. The goal of the group is to create a “support system” to ensure up-and-coming conservative lawmakers arriving in Washington, D.C., stick to principles.

DeMint will be joined by a “team of experienced Capitol Hill veterans who have fought and beaten back the Washington establishment,” the website adds.

Axois explains more on CPI’s leadership:

  • He’s [DeMint’s] recruited a small team of experienced movement conservatives — including Heritage alums Ed Corrigan, Wesley Denton, and Rachel Bovard.
  • Corrigan, who will be CPI’s executive director, is impeccably connected in the movement, on the Hill and inside the Trump Administration. He’s well-placed to build a “job pool” for conservative members as he’s just come off the Trump transition, where he helped fill hundreds of jobs in the administration.

Per CPI’s mission statement, they are “dedicated to providing a platform for citizen leaders, the conservative movement, Members of Congress, congressional staff and scholars to be connected.” CPI will also provide “leaders with the tools, tactics, resources and strategies to help make them successful in advancing conservative policy solutions.”

The group was created to combat the complacency Republicans adopt — with few exceptions — when they come here to Washington, D.C. Conservatives, it argues, are susceptible to becoming creatures of the Swamp because they are “surrounded by enormous institutional and media pressures to bend to the status quo of big government.”

Our Editor-in-Chief Erick Erickson applauded this announcement on social media:

https://twitter.com/EWErickson/status/889621371864715267

We knew Jim DeMint wouldn’t be deterred after being forcibly removed from Heritage Foundation earlier this summer. It will be interesting to see what this group accomplishes. If it’s modeled like Senate Conservatives Fund, another pet project of DeMint, it’ll do exceedingly well in influencing policy here in the nation’s capital.

Rand Paul Shames GOP, ‘Keep Obamacare’ While Dems Want to Fix It

Sen. Rand Paul said that the Senate Obamacare bill “does not repeal Obamacare. Not even close.” He blasted the GOP for caving in on campaign promises to tear out Obamacare “root and branch!”

Writing in a Breitbart Op-Ed, the Kentucky senator shamed his fellow Republicans for “promising repeal and instead affirming, keeping, and, in some cases, expanding Obamacare.”

“What a shame,” he concluded.

I won’t link to Breitbart, them being the home and haven of all things in Trump heaven and earth, with Trumpian angels ascending and descending golden ladders of rose-colored journalism. But conveniently, Paul published his op-ed on his senate website.

The Senate Obamacare-lite bill does what the Democrats forgot to do – appropriate billions for Obamacare’s cost-sharing reductions, aka subsidies. Really? Republicans are going to fund Obamacare subsidies that the Democrats forgot to fund?

It is a shame.

Seemingly in response to Paul’s attack on his own party (a well-deserved attack that hopefully will wake some up to the importance of getting this done), Democrats have unveiled their own plan to “fix Obamacare.”

This was written up in Vox, which I reluctantly link to.

Ten House Democrats (tellingly, not including Nancy Pelosi) have floated a plan that includes crating a permanent reinsurance fund to offset costs of “especially expensive patients.”

This program would be expected to reduce premiums, as insurance plans would know they’d get federal help for their highest bills. The Democrats’ proposal would make this a permanent program with $15 billion in annual funding. The idea has found at least some favor with Republicans: This week, the Trump administration gave Alaska the funding it would need to create a state-level version of the program.

It’s got some other bones like a Medicare buy-in for older Americans instead of enrolling in Obamacare plans, and “fixing” some of the rural areas that have no options. That would allow Democrats to reinstate enforcement of the mandate to purchase health insurance.

Remember, that mandate is still in effect, even though Trump’s administration has vowed not to enforce it.

“Some Democrats are fearful to talk about what is wrong with [Obamacare] for fear we’ll be seen as abandoning it,” says Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), a relatively progressive Democrat who supports Medicare-for-all. But he says now is a moment to talk about fixing Obamacare, and not single-payer. “There is the practical reality that we’ve got a Republican president and a Republican Congress,” he says. “That’s not the opportune moment for Medicare-for-all. We’ve got to defend what we have.”

It’s important for Republicans to do something and not punt this opportunity away.

Trump is sitting around, “waiting” for a bill to “come to my desk.”

“I am sitting in the Oval Office with a pen in hand, waiting for our senators to give it to me,” Trump said in [a Wednesday CBN] interview. “For years, they’ve been talking about repeal-replace, repeal-replace. I think they passed it 61 times … now we have a President that’s waiting to sign it. I have pen in hand so now it means something.”

He will literally sign just about anything placed in front of him that says “Health Care” in the title and can put his name on it. If Republicans won’t supply the document, Democrats would be glad to.

Sasse, Paul, and Trump Call For Obamacare Repeal Instead of Reform

In statements echoed by President Trump on Twitter, two prominent Republican senators have called for the GOP to skip the health care overhaul and focus on simple repeal of Obamacare if Republican Senate leadership cannot find 50 votes to move the current health care reform bill forward. Earlier this week, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that a vote on the health care bill would be delayed until after the July 4 recess.

In a letter to the White House quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said, “On the current path it looks like Republicans will either fail to pass any meaningful bill at all, or will instead pass a bill that looks to prop up many of the crumbling Obama care structures.”

“We must keep our word,” Sasse continued. “Therefore, if on July 10 we don’t have agreement on a combined repeal and replace plan, we should immediately vote again on… the December 2015 Obamacare repeal legislation that the Congress passed but President Obama vetoed.”

Within a few minutes of Sen. Sasse’s discussion of re-introducing the 2015 bill, HR 3762, President Trump tweeted support for the idea. “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” Trump said on Twitter.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also endorsed the idea. “I have spoken to @realDonaldTrump & Senate leadership about this and agree. Let’s keep our word to repeal then work on replacing right away,” Paul tweeted.

The 2015 bill in question, HR 3762, was not technically a full repeal of Obamacare either since it also amended the Affordable Care Act rather than repealing it outright. A full repeal would require 60 votes for cloture in the Senate, which is far out of reach. The bill passed the Senate in a largely party line vote on December 3, 2015 by a 52-47 margin.

Sasse has not suggested a strategy for passing a 2017 version of the bill. The problem for Republicans on passage of the current health care reform bill is that nine Republican senators are reportedly in opposition to the bill. Assuming no Democrats cross the aisle, Republicans could lose no more than two senators and still be able to pass the bill.

The current Republican opposition to the health care reform is from both the center and the right wings of the GOP. Moderate Republicans such as Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) argue that the bill hurts too many people on Medicaid in their states while conservatives such as Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) say that the bill does not go far enough in reforming Obamacare. With eroding support from both ends of Republican political spectrum, the current bill has little chance of passage.

Sasse’s plan to revive the 2015 bill is a partial answer in that it should bring the conservatives back on board. The problem is that Republicans would still need moderate votes to move the bill forward.

When the bill originally passed in 2015, Republicans held two more seats in the Senate than they do today. Back then, two Republicans crossed party lines to vote against the bill: Susan Collins and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). Kirk lost his seat to Democrat Tammy Duckworth in 2016, but Collins is still in the Senate and could be counted on to vote against the bill once again. That leaves Republicans with a one vote margin.

Earlier this year, The Resurgent reported that four Republican senators who had voted for the 2015 bill would refuse to vote for a bill that did not allow a slow phase out of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. If Shelly Moore-Capito (R-W.V.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Corey Gardner (R-Col.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) stick to their pledge, it would doom Sasse’s plan.

Still, a deficit of five votes is a more surmountable obstacle than the deficit of nine votes that the GOP currently faces. It is possible that pressure could be brought to bear on the four senators who previously voted for the bill that would keep them in the “yes” column.

An additional risk would be with the reform that still must come after the passage of the near-repeal. Democrats might be persuaded to join the reform effort if most of Obamacare was gutted, but they might also adopt a you-break-it-you-bought-it policy that would allow them to campaign against the Republican-created chaos in the health care markets in 2018 and beyond. Given recent Democrat obstructionism, there is little doubt which course they would take.

Still, as the Republican health care reform seems increasingly dead in the water, Sasse’s plan, long shot that it is, may be the only viable option to keep the GOP promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Rand Paul: Senate Bill Could Worsen Obamacare Death Spiral

Sen. Rand Paul further elaborated on his opposition to the Senate healthcare bill in an interview on CNN with Ana Cabrera.  He also gave a brief overview of policy solutions he’d like to see included in future healthcare reform legislation.  As a physician, Sen. Paul has unique qualifications to speak on this issue.  Having lived in the healthcare system much of his life, he has a great amount of personal experience and insight into the field.

According to Sen. Paul, the Senate legislation, named the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), will not improve America’s healthcare system.  Rather it’ll actually exacerbate Obamacare’s problems and could even speed up its “death spiral”.

“The fundamental problem of Obamacare” is that young people are being priced out of the insurance market by the regulations that each insurance policy must abide by.  These regulations raise the cost of policies and make them unaffordable for young, healthy people.  Once that happens, only sick people are left in the market for insurance, which is unsustainable as a business model.  Eventually the whole insurance market collapses.  This is the “death spiral of Obamacare.”  We are seeing this as more and more insurers, such as Aetna, pull out of Obamacare’s individual markets.

Sen. Paul explains,

“When you mandate what you have to cover, you increase the price, you price out the young healthy people, and the only people left in the insurance market get sicker and sicker. It’s what they call adverse selection.  It’s also referred to as the death spiral of Obamacare.”

 

“My problem with the Senate bill as it currently exists is we don’t fix that. We keep 10 of 12 of the Obamacare regulations, we still keep the idea that you can still buy it after you get sick, so I’m concerned that the death spiral of Obamacare may well even get worse with the Republican version.”

In addition to keeping most of Obamacare’s regulations, the Senate bill also retains most of Obamacare’s subsidies.  Even worse, BCRA actually adds a new subsidy for insurance companies, named a “stabilization fund” to the tune of $120 billion.  It is a new reinsurance program over the next four years to help insurance companies handle rising premiums.

Summing up his concerns,

“All of these things together make me very concerned that we’re not going to fix the problem here.”

No wonder he referred to this bill previously as “Obamacare-Plus” in some areas.

When confronted by the CNN host for his solution to replace Obamacare, his answer is “to have confidence in capitalism.”  He would like to ultimately see a “group policy” model.  People in the individual market would be allowed to join a group to negotiate better rates for all the members, including those with pre-existing conditions.  These groups would be created by the market, not government, and they would give policy buyers leverage with the insurance companies.  When a group of several hundred thousand people sought policy rates, insurance companies would be motivated to bid for their business.  This is in contrast to now when individuals buy insurance as a group of 1 or 2 people, so insurers have leverage over them.  Sen. Paul uses AARP as an example with 33 million members.  Any group with so many members would attract the interest of multiple insurance companies and give the group tremendous leverage for better rates.

Sen. Paul acknowledges that some people may slip through the cracks, and Medicaid has a place to deal with those most needy and desperate.

In the near term, Sen. Paul says he would like to repeal as much of Obamacare as possible in the Senate bill, focusing on eliminating taxes, regulations, and patching Medicaid.  Then starting in six months, the Senate could begin finding bipartisan solutions for what remains.

Sen. Rand Paul had previously released a joint statement opposing the BCRA with three colleagues, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee, and Sen. Ron Johnson.  All four have said they are willing to work for solutions and find common ground, but they cannot support the Senate bill in its current form.  It does not keep their campaign promises to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Since then, Sen. Dean Heller and  Sen. Susan Collins have also announced their opposition along with Senators Jerry Moran, Shelley Moore Capito, and Rob Portman.  Sens. Heller, Collins, Capito, and Portman are opposing the bill from the left though, complaining it cuts Medicaid too much.

With only 52 GOP Senators, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can only afford to lose two votes.  Though the Senate bill was only revealed a week ago, McConnell had hoped to vote on it before the July 4 recess. But now that has been delayed until after the recess.  At this point, there isn’t even enough support to begin debating the bill, let alone pass it.  The votes just aren’t there.  So, BCRA’s future remains in doubt.

Paul Reintroduces the Sixth Amendment Preservation Act

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has reintroduced the Sixth Amendment Preservation Act, which “reasserts the constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial in all prosecutions.”

According to Paul’s press release, the “legislation would prevent any future authorization of military force from being used to justify indefinitely detaining any person in America without trial.”

“Giving the accused their day in court isn’t a suggestion,” said Dr. Paul. “It’s enshrined in our Constitution as a cornerstone of our judicial system. My bill reminds our government that the Founders did not put an expiration date on the Sixth Amendment.”

The act would repeal Section 1021 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act “allows our Armed Forces to indefinitely detain citizens, legal residents, and foreign nationals who are alleged to have engaged in hostilities against the United States.”

U.S. citizens “apprehended within the boundaries of the U.S. could be held indefinitely without trial.”

It’s comforting to know that we have at least one lover of liberty in the Senate.

Rand Paul on Unmaskings: ‘We Can’t Live in Fear of Our Own Intelligence Community’

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says there are records of unmasking by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice or anyone else in the intelligence community.

“All of them have to be found, and I guarantee there’s a paper or a computer trail of who released these documents and who released these conversations,” Paul said on “Fox & Friends.”

Rice has been accused along with former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power of “compromising Americans’ privacy by eavesdropping on conversations between foreign officials and Trump campaign officials and unmasking the names of the American citizens. While the first is not incredibly unusual, the unmasking is.”

Paul first raised concerns about illegal unmasking of American citizens by the NSA by the Obama administration.

“We cannot live in fear of our own intelligence community,” Paul said.

“They have such power to suck up every bit of every transmission, every communication we ever made. We can’t just have them willy-nilly releasing that to the public,” he concluded.