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Paul Ryan Embraces Republican Overreach, Jeopardizing GOP House Majority

Saturday, January 7, 2017 7:18
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(Before It's News)

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Whether Putin placed him in the White House or not, Trump— or Pence— is the president. And Schumer’s brilliant strategy of nominating unelectable corporate shills backed by Wall Street to ride into Senate seats on Hillary’s coattails in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Florida and Ohio means the GOP will control the Senate for at the very least 4 more years. That leaves one task to put the breaks on Trump— the 2018 House elections. Blue America is busy finding good candidates but reality of winning back the House is at least partially dependent on two other factors: Trump failing as miserably in governing as he has in the transition and in Cabinet-building and the Republican-backed Congress overreaching enough to infuriate the American public. I’m not a betting man, but I would bet on that whole mess happening— in spades.

This week, for example, CNN reported that Ryan is so cocksure of his ability to take healthcare away from 20 million Americans that he decided to gratuitously toss defunding Planned Parenthood into the mix. This is a big mistake, one that puts his whole project in danger. “A push by Republican congressional leaders,” explained the CNN report, “to defund Planned Parenthood could threaten passage of their top-priority legislation to repeal Obamacare because of opposition to the anti-abortion provision by two key GOP senators.” Since then at least two more Republicans are indicated discomfort with the repeal without replacing + Planned Parenthood defunding strategy.

House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Thursday that Republicans will move to strip all federal funding for Planned Parenthood as part of the process they are using early this year to dismantle Obamacare.

Congressional Republicans have tried for years to zero out all federal funding for Planned Parenthood because the group provides abortion services. The fight over Obamacare helped trigger a 16-day government shutdown in 2013, and Democrats and President Barack Obama insisted any Planned Parenthood provision targeting the group be removed from a bill to fund federal agencies.

The decision to add the controversial Planned Parenthood language, which is opposed by most Democrats, could have a major impact on getting the Affordable Care Act repeal legislation through the Senate because supporters need the backing of at least 50 of their 52 members and two pro-choice senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, won't commit to approving the bill with the Planned Parenthood provision in it.

Further complicating matters for Senate GOP leaders is Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who announced this week he plans to vote against the Obamacare repeal legislation because the underlying budget measure it is attached to doesn't balance and adds to the deficit. If Murkowski, Collins and Paul all voted against the budget bill, it would be enough to torpedo the Obamacare repeal legislation.

“I'm going to wait and see what happens,” Collins told reporters, indicating she thinks it's too early to decide how she will vote on the bill. “Obviously, I'm not happy to hear the speaker wants to include defunding of Planned Parenthood, an extremely controversial issue in the package.”

Murkowski's told reporters Tuesday she was still weighing the issue. In 2015, she joined Collins in voting for an amendment to strip Planned Parenthood funding out of a budget bill that would have also repealed much of Obamacare. But Murkowski ultimately backed the repeal measure even though it had the anti-Planned Parenthood provision, which Obama ultimately vetoed.

“At this point and time, I have not been involved in a sit down with colleagues about specifics of reconciliation. So it's tough for me to speculate or engage in any conjecture,” Murkowski said earlier this week. “We're going to be having a lot of discussions about that probably as soon as this week.”

When asked her position Thursday, Murkowski's spokeswoman Karina Petersen said, the senator “is concerned about defunding Planned Parenthood as she is a longtime support of Planned Parenthood and has opposed broadly defunding the organization.”

Republicans could drop the Planned Parenthood measure, but doing so could spark anger from the right-flank of their party and potentially make it harder to defund the organization at a later date.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in his chamber, said “that's certainly where I am” when asked if he wanted to include defunding of the organization into the repeal measure. But he noted “that's place we start” and that nothing has “finally been decided yet.”

“While we would like to have all 52 senators, if we have a vice president in the chair, that gives us a little bit of flexibility on reconciliation,” Cornyn said Thursday, referencing the ability of the vice president to break Senate ties.

The vast majority of federal money that Planned Parenthood does receive funds preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests, and other women's health care services. Democrats also point out that much of the money the group received is through the Medicaid program, which reimburses health care clinics that provide care to those covered by the federal program.

Under the long-standing “Hyde amendment” that is attached to annual funding bills, no federal money is allowed to go to programs that include abortion services, unless they are needed to preserve the life of the mother or are caused by rape.

Democrats immediately denounced the news that Republicans again were working to bar future federal funds for Planned Parenthood.

“This is a priority for the Republicans,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Thursday afternoon. “So I just would like to speak individually to women across America: this is about respect for you, for your judgment about your personal decisions in terms of your reproductive needs, the size and timing of your family or the rest, not to be determined by the insurance company or by the Republican ideological right-wing caucus in the House of Representatives. So this is a very important occasion where we're pointing out very specifically what repeal of the (Affordable Care Act) will mean to woman.”

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, told CNN's Erin Burnett on OutFront Thursday that “concerned” women have lobbied against the move throughout the day.

Yesterday other Republican senators seemed shaky on repeal, including far right tea bagger Tom Cotton (R-AR). And Bob Corker (R-TN) said he’s not sold on the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare without a replacement.

Repeal and delay is the party leadership's attempt to deal with several competing political realities. The first is that they've promised up and down that at the first possible chance they'd repeal the law. (“I'm sorry, I know that much of the repeal piece is about making a political point, much of the repeal piece is about drawing a line in the sand,” Corker admitted.) The second is that you can't just strip 20 million some-odd people of health insurance coverage and call it a day – you need to come up with your own “terrific” alternative, to borrow Donald Trump's phrasing, that won't reverse the enormous gains in covering the uninsured that have been made under Obamacare. But the third hard reality is that seven years and countless our plan is just weeks away promises later, the GOP still hasn't produced an actual alternative. Mostly because they can’t.

Hence repeal and delay – get points for repealing but punt the actual implementation three or more years down the road to give the party more time to, really, seriously, come up with a plan. In the meantime, Corker said, “it's become standard Republican orthodoxy” that low-income Americans will continue to receive some sort of help buying health insurance while we transition from the awful Obamacare system to the glorious GOP replacement where just as many people are insured but at less cost thanks to unicorn magic.

But repealing now without an actual replacement plan in place brings with it a host of problems, including the possibility of chaos in the insurance industry and, as a political matter, Republicans suddenly owning whatever goes wrong in health care. That's why Corker's not alone in his skepticism – GOP senators like Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky have also questioned the wisdom of the plan.

Corker pointed out another hard reality, this one budgetary. The repeal currently being pushed involves budget reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered. But that means that it's not a full repeal – they can repeal the tax side of the law but not the regulatory side. And if helping low-income Americans buy health insurance is now a given for the GOP, well that costs money. “Right now on the track we're on, the repeal process is going to repeal all revenues but keep in place the subsidies for three years,” he noted. “What you're doing [then is] you're taking $116 billion by our calculations and just throwing it into a mud puddle by continuing subsidies without revenues.”

Oh yeah, that's right, repealing Obamacare would balloon the budget deficit.

Corker, for one, thinks that ballooning deficits are a bad thing. Most of his colleagues at least theoretically agree, though as Robert's 10th rule of politics states, a party's dedication to fiscal responsibility is inversely proportional to its political power. One party in charge at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue tend not to care so much about deficits.

…[I]f repeal and replace has become repeal and delay, which could become repeal in name only, what's to become of Obamacare? Corker held out the prospect of basically making it a repeal in name only (RINO!) not through punting but tweaking. He said that if only Democrats would be willing to come to the table maybe a compromise could be hammered out in three areas: getting rid of the individual and corporate mandates, adjusting the list of essential benefits and giving governors more flexibility with Medicaid. “If you looked at those three things, that would be monumental as it relates to causing what has occurred to work,” he said.

His bemoaning Democrats' refusing to compromise about Obamacare is rich. Corker's party has been the one holding a hard line where any solution short of full-stop-repeal has been denounced as caving in to tyranny. Democrats, starting with President Barack Obama, have repeatedly said that the law has problems which can be fixed only to have the GOP reply in near-unison that the only acceptable fix is repeal. I can't say whether it's even possible for a compromise to be reached on those three areas, but pointing to specific problems is a distinct step away from dismissing the entire law as an unfixable mess is an evolution.

Maybe the realities of governing will lead more GOPers to start making that distinction. Maybe – though it's probably not likely in today's Washington – “repeal” will end up being reform instead.

What do most Americans want? Medicare for all, of course, as a Gallup poll found in May.

Well over half of Americans want to replace Obamacare with a single-payer system. That figure, amazingly, includes 41 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents — even though the wording of the question specifies that the program would be “federally funded.” (Mind you, more than half of Republicans oppose the idea.)… Fifty-nine percent of Democrats support the idea of both keeping the ACA and replacing it with a single-payer program. Asked to pick between the two, though, that group favors single-payer by a 2-to-1 margin.

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And, by the way, Roy Cooper, less than a week since becoming governor of North Carolina, announced that he’s putting through Medicaid expansion that will grant as many as 650,000 poor North Carolinians health insurance under Obamacare. It will pump around $3 or $4 billion in federal money into the state and will immensely improve North Carolinian’s healthcare, especially in rural areas. The radical right Republican-controlled legislature is already talking about impeaching him for it.


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And now Trump has undercut Ryan, McConnell and Pence to say he doesn't back a repeal without a replacement


“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis

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