SLATE: “Jeff Sessions Spews Nativist Lies While Explaining Why Trump Is Killing DACA!”

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2017/09/05/sessions_daca_speech_was_full_of_nativist_lies.html

Mark Joseph Stern writes:

“Many Republicans have made clear in recent weeks that they favor the basic policy DACA enshrined, and merely oppose its executive implementation. Sessions, who helped persuade Trump to kill the program, is not one of those Republicans. In his remarks, he directly denounced the very idea of granting any kind of amnesty to undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children through no fault of their own. At the heart of his speech were two lies, straight from Breitbart, explaining why DACA must end:

The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.

Let’s examine these falsehoods in turn.

First: Sessions claimed that DACA “contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border.” This allegation, often touted by far-right xenophobes, is false. A study published in International Migration, a peer-reviewed academic journal, found that the surge in unaccompanied minors actually began in 2008. (DACA was announced in 2012.) The authors pointed to a host of factors contributing to this phenomenon, including escalating gang violence in Central America, as well as drug cartels’ willingness to target and recruit children in Mexico. But the study found that DACA was not one of these factors. Its authors concluded that “the claim that DACA is responsible for the increase in the flow of unaccompanied alien children is not supported by the data.”

Even without the study, it should be obvious that DACA played no role in this surge of unaccompanied minors because the theory itself makes no sense. Undocumented children who arrived in the United States following DACA’s implementation would not qualify for the program. Only those individuals who “have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007” and “were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012” could receive DACA status. Why would parents send their children to the U.S. to participate in a program in which they are not legally permitted to participate?

Second: Sessions alleged that DACA has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” This line is obviously drawn from the false narrative that immigrants steal jobs from American citizens. There is no actual evidence that DACA recipients have taken jobs from any Americans, let alone “hundreds of thousands.” There is, however, strong evidence that killing DACA will significantly damage the economy—a fact that Sessions conveniently omitted from his speech.

Once DACA is fully rescinded, its former recipients will lose their work permits (and thus their jobs) and face possible deportation. According to the left-leaning Center for American Progress, about 30,000 people will lose their jobs each month as their DACA status expires. The loss of these workers could reduce the national GDP by $280 billion to $433 billion over the next decade. According to estimates by the libertarian Cato Institute, DACA’s demise will cost employers $2 billion and the federal government $60 billion. Trump’s decision to end DACA isn’t a job-saver; it’s a job-killer.

Toward the end of his speech, Sessions praised the RAISE Act, a Republican-backed bill that would tightly curtail immigration into the U.S. Sessions claimed the act would “produce enormous benefits for our country.” In reality, the measure marks an effort to return America to an older immigration regime that locked out racial and ethnic minorities. Sessions has praised the 1924 law that created this regime—a law whose chief author declared that his act was meant to end “indiscriminate acceptance of all races.” On Tuesday, Sessions revived this principle in slightly more polite language.

The attorney general’s utterly gratuitous defamation of young Latino immigrants tells you everything you need to know about the decision to kill DACA. Before Tuesday, the Trump administration seemed eager to frame its DACA decision as respect for constitutional separation of powers: Congress, it insisted, not the president, must set immigration policy. But after Sessions’ speech, it is difficult to view this move as anything other than an attempt to implement the white nationalism that Trump and Sessions campaigned on.”

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Read the full report at the link.

It shouldn’t be news by now that “Gonzo Apocalypto” is a lifelong racist and White Nationalist totally unfit to serve as Attorney General. That’s what Liz Warren and others said during the confirmation process when Sessions’s GOP “fellow travelers” were so eager to brush over his un-American record and his anti-American views.

Latinos, Asians, Blacks, Jews and other American minorities need to unite with those of us who don’t want a return to the “Jim Crow” American South of the earlier 20th Century (which spawned the likes of Sessions and where the white GOP population is still racially and culturally tone deaf) behind some good candidates, get out the vote, and throw the White Nationalists and their GOP enablers and apologists (guys like Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and most of the rest of the today’s GOP legislators who take responsibility for nothing while encouraging the Trump Administration’s outrageous conduct by refusing to join with Congressional Democrats to “just say no'”) out of office at the ballot box.  Otherwise, there won’t be an America in the future. We’ve got to stop letting “the “30%” who either never knew or have forgotten what it means to be a real American run roughshod over our country and particularly our kids. It’s going to be a long four years. Feels like it already.

PWS

09-05-17

U.S. IMMIGRATION COURTS: Judge Lawrence O. “Burmanator” Burman (SOLELY In His NAIJ Officer Capacity) Gives Rare Peek Inside U.S. Immigration Courts’ Disaster Zone From A Sitting Trial Judge Who “Tells It Like It Is!”

Judge Burman appeared at a panel discussion at the Center for Immigration Studies (“CIS”). CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian; Hon. Andrew Arthur, former U.S. Immigration Judge and CIS Resident Fellow; and former DOJ Civil Rights Division Official Hans von Spakovsky, currently Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation were also on the panel entitled “Immigration Court Backlog Causes and Solutions” held at the National Press Club on Aug. 24, 2017.  Here’s a complete transcript furnished by CIS (with thanks to Nolan Rappaport who forwarded it to me).

Here’s the “meat” of Judge Burman’s remarks:

“First, the disclaimer, which is important so I don’t get fired. I’m speaking for the National Association of Immigration Judges, of which I am an elected officer. My opinions expressed will be my own opinions, informed by many discussions with our members in all parts of the country. I am not speaking on behalf of the Department of Justice, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the chief judge, or anybody else in the government. That’s important.

What is the NAIJ, the National Association of Immigration Judges? We’re a strictly nonpartisan organization whose focus is fairness, due process, transparency for the public, and judicial independence. We’re opposed to interference by parties of both administrations with the proper and efficient administration of justice. We’ve had just as much trouble with Republican administrations as Democratic administrations.

It’s been my experience that the people at the top really don’t understand what we do, and consequently the decisions they make are not helpful. For example, the – well, let me backtrack a little bit and talk about our organization.

Immigration judges are the – are the basic trial judges that hear the cases. Above us is the Board of Immigration Appeals, who function as if they were an appellate court. We, since 1996, have been clearly designated as judges by Congress. We are in the statute. We have prescribed jurisdiction and powers. Congress even gave us contempt authority to be able to enforce our decisions. Unfortunately, no administration has seen fit to actually give us the contempt authority. They’ve never done the regulations. But it’s in the statute.

The Board of Immigration Appeals is not in the statute. It has no legal existence, really. It’s essentially an emanation of the attorney general’s limitless discretion over immigration law. The members of the Board of – Board of Immigration Appeals are – in some cases they’ve got some experience. Generally, they don’t have very much. They’re a combination of people who are well-respected in other parts of the Department of Justice and deserve a well-paid position. Very often they’re staff attorneys who have basically moved up to become board members, skipping the immigration judge process. Very few immigration judges have ever been made board members, and none of them were made board members because they had been immigration judges. If they were, it was largely a coincidence.

The administration of the Executive Office for Immigration Review in which we and the BIA are housed is basically an administrative agency. We are judges, but we don’t have a court. We operate in an administrative agency that’s a lot closer to the Department of Motor Vehicles than it is to a district court or even a bankruptcy court, an Article I type court.

Our supervisors – I’m not sure why judges need supervisors, but our supervisors are called assistant chief immigration judges. Some of them have some experience. Some of them have no experience not only as judges, but really as attorneys. They were staff attorneys working in the bowels of EOIR, and gradually became temporary board members, and then permanent board members.

Interestingly, when a Court of Appeals panel is short a judge, they bring up a district judge. EOIR used to do that, by bringing up an immigration judge to fill out a panel at the board. They don’t do that anymore. They appoint their staff attorneys as temporary board members, a fact that is very shocking when we tell it to federal judges. They can’t imagine that a panel would be one member short and they’d put their law clerk on the panel, but that’s what goes on.

The top three judges until recently – the chief judge and the two primary deputies – had no courtroom experience that I’m aware of. Two of them have gone on. Unfortunately, one of them has gone on to be a BIA member. The other retired.

Our direct supervisors are the assistant chief immigration judges. Some are in headquarters, and they generally have very little experience. Others are in the field, and they do have some experience – although, for example, the last two ACIJs – assistant chief immigration judges – who were appointed became judges in 2016. So they don’t have vast experience. Well, they may be fine people with other forms of experience, but this agency is not run by experienced judges, and I think it’s important to understand that.

There’s a severe misallocation of resources within EOIR. I think Congress probably has given us plenty of money, but we misuse it. In the past administration, the number of senior executive service – SES – officials has doubled. Maybe they needed some more administrative depth, although I doubt it. The assistant chief immigration judges are proliferating. I think there’s 22 of them now. These are people who may do some cases. Some of them do no cases. They generally don’t really move the ball when it comes to adjudicating cases. Somehow, the federal courts are able to function without all of these intermediaries and supervisory judges, and I think that we would function better without them as well.

To give you a few examples – I could give you thousands of examples, and if you want to stick around I’ll be happy to talk about it. Art was talking about the juvenile surge. I think it was approximately 50,000 juveniles came across the border. To appear to be tough, I guess, they were prioritized. The official line is, you know, we’re going to give them their asylum hearings immediately. I’m not sure what kind of asylum case that a 6-year-old might have, but we would hear the case and do it quickly, and then discourage people from coming to our country. But, in fact, what’s actually happened is the juvenile docket is basically a meet-and-greet. The judges are not – first of all, I’m not allowed to be a juvenile judge. The juvenile judges are carefully selected for people who get along well with children, I guess. (Laughter.) Really, what they do is they just – they see the kids periodically, and in the meantime the children are filing their asylum cases with the asylum office, where they’re applying for special immigrant juvenile status, various things. But judge time is being wasted on that.

Another example is the current surge. I have a really busy docket. Art was talking about cases being scheduled in 2021. The backlog for me is infinite. I cannot give you a merits hearing on my docket unless I take another case off. My docket is full through 2020, and I was instructed by my assistant chief immigration judge not to set any cases past 2020. So they’re just piling up in the ether somewhere.

As busy as I am, they send me to the border, but these border details are politically oriented. First of all, we probably could be doing them by tele-video. But assuming that they want to do them in person, you would think that they would only send the number of judges that are really needed. But, in fact, on my last detail of 10 business days, two-week detail, two days I had no cases scheduled at all. And back home having two cases off the docket, which almost never happens – or two days off the docket, which almost never happens, would be useful because I could work on motions and decisions. But when I’m in Jena, Louisiana, I can’t really work on my regular stuff. So I’m just reading email and hanging out there.

The reason for that is because there’s been no attempt to comply with the attorney general’s request that we rush judges to the border with, at the same time, making sure that there’s enough work or not to send more judges than is really necessary to do the work. I assume the people that run our agency just want to make the attorney general happy, and they send as many judges to the border as possible.

One particularly bizarre example was in San Antonio. The San Antonio judges were doing a detail to one of the outlying detention facilities by tele-video. But they wanted to rush judges to the border, so they assigned a bunch of judges in the country that had their own dockets to take over that docket by tele-video on one week’s notice. Well, one week’s notice meant that the judges in San Antonio couldn’t reset cases. You’ve got to give at least 10 days’ notice of a hearing by regulation. So we had judges taken away from their regular dockets to do that; judges who normally would have done that who already were on the border – San Antonio is pretty closer to the border – didn’t have anything to do.

Now, those may be extreme cases, but this happens all too much, and it’s because of political interference. And like I say, it’s got nothing to do with party. We’ve had the same problem with Democratic and Republican administrations. It comes from political decisions animating the process and people who don’t really understand what they’re managing, just attempting to placate the guy on the top. So that’s basically what’s been happening.

Am I over my 10 minutes here?

MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah. Well, I mean, you’re right at it. If you’ve got a couple more minutes, that’s fine.

JUDGE BURMAN: Well, let me just go over some possible suggestions.

Let judges be judges – immigration judges that control their own courts and their own dockets. We should be able to supervise our own law clerks and our own legal assistants, which currently we don’t. And the contempt authority we were given in 1996 should eventually – should finally get some regulations to implement it.

EOIR’s overhead needs to be reduced. There’s too many positions at headquarters and too few positions in the field. When EOIR was originally set up, the idea was that each judge would need three legal assistants to docket the cases and find the files and make copies and all that. At one point last year we were down to less than one legal assistant per judge in Arlington, where I am, and in Los Angeles it was even worse. When you do that, the judge is looking for files, the judge is making copies, the judge doesn’t have the evidence that’s been filed. There’s nothing more annoying than to start a hearing and to find that evidence was filed that I don’t have. The case has to be continued. I have to have a chance to find the evidence and review it.

It would be nice if our management were more experienced than they are, or at least have some more courtroom experience.

We need an electronic filing system like all the other courts have. Fortunately, that’s one thing that Acting Director McHenry has said is his top priority, and I think that he will take care of that.

The BIA is a problem. The BIA doesn’t have the kind of expertise that the federal courts would defer to. Consequently, I think a lot of the bad appellate law that Art was referring to is caused by the fact that the BIA really doesn’t have any respect in the federal court system. They’re not immigration experts. They want their Chevron deference, but they are not getting it. They’re not getting it from the Court of Appeals. They’re not getting it from the Supreme Court, either.

The BIA also remands way too many cases. When we make a decision, we send it up to the BIA. We don’t really care what they do. They could affirm us. They could reverse us. We don’t want to see it back. We’ve got too much stuff to see them back. And this happens all the time. If they remand the case, they don’t ever have to take credit for the decision that they make. I assume that’s why they’re doing it, to try to make us do it.

We need a proper judicial disciplinary system. Starting in 2006, which is where the backlog problem began, the attorney general first of all subjected us to annual appraisals, evaluations, which previously OPM had waived due to our judicial function. So that’s a waste of time. Judges were punished for the – for things that are not punishment. Judges were punished because a Court of Appeals would say that you made a mistake or he was rude or – it’s just crazy. Judges were punished or could be punished for granting – for not granting continuances. No judge was ever punished for granting a continuance. So it’s no surprise that, as I pointed out, continuances have been granted at a much greater level – in fact, too great a level. But when in doubt, we continue now because if we don’t do that we’re subject to punishment, and nobody really wants that.

And finally, the ultimate solution, I think, is an Article I court like the bankruptcy court – a specialized court, could be in the judicial branch, could be in the executive branch – to give us independence, to ensure that we have judges and appellate judges who are appointed in a transparent way, being vetted by the private bar, the government, and anybody else.

And I’m way over my 10 minutes, so I’ll be – I’ll be sure to babble on later if you want me to. Thank you.”

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Judge Arthur’s kind opening words about the late Juan Osuna were a nice touch. One of Juan’s great strengths as person, executive, judge, and teacher was his ability to maintain good friendships with and respect from folks with an assortment of ideas on immigration.

Judge Burman’s “no BS” insights are as timely as they are unusual. That’s because U.S. Immigration Judges are not encouraged to speak publicly and forthrightly about their jobs.

The Supervisory Judge and the EOIR Ethics Office must approve all public appearances by U.S. Immigration Judges including teaching and pro bono training. A precondition for receiving permission is that the judge adhere to the DOJ/EOIR “party line” and not say anything critical about the agency or colleagues. In other words, telling the truth is discouraged.

As a result, most Immigration Judges don’t bother to interact with the public except in their courtrooms. A small percentage of sitting judges do almost all of the outreach and public education for the Immigration Courts.

While EOIR Senior Executives and Supervisors often appear at “high profile events” or will agree to limited press interviews, they all too often have little if any grasp of what happens at the “retail level” in the Immigration Courts. Even when they do, they often appear to feel that their job security depends on making things sound much better than they really are or that progress is being made where actually regression is taking place.

In reality, the system functioned better in the 1990s than it does two decades later. Due Process protection for individuals — the sole mission of EOIR — has actually regressed in recent years as quality and fairness have taken a back seat to churning numbers, carrying out political priorities, not rocking the boat, and going along to get along. Such things are typical within government agency bureaucracies, but atypical among well-functioning court systems.

I once appeared on a panel with a U.S. District Judge. After hearing my elaborate, global disclaimer, he chuckled. Then he pointedly told the audience words to the effect of  “I’m here as a judge because you asked me, and I wanted to come. I didn’t tell the Chief Judge I was coming, and I wouldn’t dream of asking his or anyone else’s permission to speak my mind.”

I hope that everyone picked up Judge Burman’s point that “Aimless Docket Reshuffling” or “ADR” is still in full swing at EOIR. Cases are shuffled, moved around, taken off docket, and then restored to the docket to conceal that the backlog in Arlington goes out beyond the artificial “2020 limit” that Judge Burman has been instructed to use for “public consumption.” But there are other cases out there aimlessly “floating around the ether.” And, based on my experience, I’m relatively certain that many courts are worse than Arlington.

Judge Burman also makes another great  “inside baseball” point — too many unnecessary remands from the BIA. Up until the very ill-advised “Ashcroft Reforms” the BIA exercised de novo factfinding authority. This meant that when the BIA disagreed with the Immigration Judge’s disposition, on any ground, they could simply decide the case and enter a final administrative order for the winning party.

After Ashcroft stripped the BIA of factfinding  authority, nearly every case where the BIA disagrees with the lower court decision must be returned to the Immigration Court for further proceedings. Given the overloaded docket and lack of e-filing capability within EOIR, such routine remands can often take many months or even years. Sometimes, the file gets lost in the shuffle until one or both parties inquire about it.

The Immigration Courts are also burdened with useless administrative remands to check fingerprints in open court following BIA review. This function should be performed solely by DHS, whose Counsel can notify the Immigration Court in rare cases where the prints disclose previously unknown facts. In 13 years as an Immigration Judge, I had about 3 or 4 cases (out of thousands) where such “post hoc” prints checks revealed previously unknown material information. I would would have reopened any such case. So, the existing procedures are unnecessary and incredibly wasteful of limited judicial docket time.

I agree completely with Judge Burman that the deterioration of the Immigration Courts spans Administrations of both parties. Not surprisingly, I also agree with him that the only real solution to the Courts’ woes is an independent Article I Court. Sooner, rather than later!

PWS

09-03-17

 

 

 

 

 

 

WASHINGTON POST: VOTING RIGHTS ARE THE CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE OF OUR AGE — AS USUAL, JEFF SESSIONS IS SQUARELY ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/voter-suppression-is-the-civil-rights-issue-of-this-era/2017/08/19/926c8b58-81f3-11e7-902a-2a9f2d808496_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.1bfaa722c738

“Yet even if all 1,500 Confederate symbols across the country were removed overnight by some sudden supernatural force, the pernicious crusade to roll back voting rights would continue apace, with voters of color suffering its effects disproportionately. Pushing back hard against those who would purge voter rolls, demand forms of voter ID that many Americans don’t possess, and limit times and venues for voting — this should be a paramount cause for the Trump era.

In statehouse after statehouse where Republicans hold majorities, the playbook is well established, and the tactics are becoming increasingly aggressive.

Mr. Trump’s voter fraud commission is at the vanguard of this crusade, and the fix is in. Its vice chairman, Kris Kobach, is the nation’s most determined, litigious and resourceful champion of voter suppression. Under his tutelage, the commission is likely to recommend measures whose effect will be that new obstacles to voting would be taken up in state legislatures. Millions of voters are at risk of disenfranchisement from this effort, and the knock-on effects of such a mass act of disempowerment are dizzying.

 

The events in Charlottesville and the president’s apologia for the right-wing extremists there should mobilize anyone passionate about civil rights. There would be no better target for their energies than the clear and present danger to the most fundamental right in any democracy: the vote.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

Sessions and his Civil Rights Division are supposed to be out there defending the right of citizens, particularly minorities, to vote. Instead, he has thrown the weight of the Justice Department to those GOP hacks seeking to suppress the vote. Meanwhile the Civil Rights Division is thinking of perverse ways to abuse Civil Rights laws by using them to promote white privilege and white supremacy.

Sen. Liz Warren was silenced by McConnell when she told the truth about Sessions’s continuing racism. She was right.

PWS

08-20-17

Once Upon A Time, The DOJ Intervened On Behalf Of Disadvantaged Minorities For Whom Civil Rights Protections Were Enacted — Now, Not So Much, As Jeff “Gonzo Apocalypto” Sessions Finds Ways To Use Civil Rights Protections Against Minorities & To Help White Establishment Cling To Power! — Switches Sides To Favor Voter Suppression Before Supremes!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/justice-department-reverses-position-to-allow-ohio-to-purge-inactive-voters-from-rolls/2017/08/08/e93c5116-7c35-11e7-9d08-b79f191668ed_story.html?utm_term=.7ea94a97bc00&wpisrc=nl_daily202&wpmm=1

Sari Horwitz reports in the Washington Post:

“The Justice Department has reversed its position in a high-profile voting case in Ohio, siding with the state in its effort to purge thousands of people from its rolls for not voting in recent elections.

The move is part of a broader campaign by the Trump administration to support restrictions on who is eligible to vote, a radical change in philosophy from the previous Justice Department, which sued a number of states over voting laws that it deemed discriminatory against minorities.

In a court filing late Monday, Justice Department attorneys took the opposite position from the Obama administration in a case that involves Ohio’s removal last year of tens of thousands of inactive voters from its voting rolls.

In their brief, government lawyers say they reconsidered the Ohio vote-purging issue after the “change in Administrations,” and they argue that the state’s actions are legal under federal law. The case is headed next to the Supreme Court.

Ohio’s procedure allows the state to purge voters who meet certain criteria for being inactive. If a voter has not cast a ballot in two years, the person is sent a notice asking them to confirm their registration. If the voter does not respond and does not cast a ballot over the next four years, the person is removed from the rolls.

The Trump administration has signaled in other ways that it intends to back added requirements for voters as part of a crackdown on alleged fraud.

President Trump in May created an advisory commission on election integrity that has been tasked with determining the extent of illegal voting. The president earlier made the baseless allegation that illegal voting cost him the popular vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

The commission’s only notable act so far has been to request massive amounts of voter data from the states, a move that has provoked lawsuits accusing the panel of breaching Americans’ privacy.

The case in Ohio is not the first time the Justice Department has reversed course in a major legal battle over voting rights. In February, shortly after Jeff Sessions became attorney general, the department dropped its position in a long-running case that argued Texas intended to discriminate against minorities when it passed a strict voter-ID law.

The Texas law, passed in 2011, required that voters present certain forms of identification, such as a driver’s license or a weapons permit, but the state did not allow other forms, including IDs issued by colleges. Critics said these restrictions targeted voters, such as young people and minorities, who are more likely to vote Democratic. A number of courts found the Texas law to be unconstitutional, and a federal court in April found that the Texas legislature intentionally discriminated against black and Hispanic voters.

Voting rights advocates said the Justice Department’s action on Ohio represented a major change in direction for the U.S. government’s stance on access to the polls.

The move “signals the broader agenda of the administration to roll back voter rights in this country,” said Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama and now president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.”

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Read the complete article at the above link.

During Sessions’s Senate Confirmation, Senator Liz Warren, Senator Corey Booker, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and my friend and former DOJ Civil Rights Attorney Jerry Hebert, among others, tried to tell the Committee and the Senators that Sessions was the same White Nationalist/racially challenged individual he had been back when he was properly rejected for a U.S. District Judge position. They were “tuned out.”

Sessions took umbrage, and then lied under oath to the Committee when he claimed to be a staunch defender of civil rights and someone who would separate his political positions as a Republican Senator from Alabama (a state with a disgraceful history of racial bias) from his new responsibilities as Attorney General for all Americans. That would include people of color, LGBT Individuals, immigrants, both legal and undocumented, women, and even Democrats. But, he’s the “same ol’ Jeff” just like his critics said he would be. And the carnage to the American justice system that he is creating probably won’t be repaired any time soon.

Gonzo’s reported next target and scheme to waste of taxpayer money: legalized marijuana. Return to “Reefer Madness!”

PWS

08-09-17

 

BREAKING: GOP’s WAR ON AMERICANS’ HEALTH CARE DEFEATED, AGAIN — SENS COLLINS, MURKOWSKI, McCAIN STAND TALL FOR AMERICA — MISOGYNIST GOP, CHURLISH PREZ HURL INSULTS, THREATS! — Also Give Dems Credit For Hanging Together To Save Lives, At Least For Now!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/senate-gop-leaders-work-to-round-up-votes-for-modest-health-care-overhaul/2017/07/27/ac08fc40-72b7-11e7-8839-ec48ec4cae25_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_healthcare-140a%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.60f100ad6021

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/female-senators-are-increasingly-on-receiving-end-of-insults-from-male-officials/2017/07/27/6b0b6078-72d7-11e7-9eac-d56bd5568db8_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_gopmen-817pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.7aab9ead18ac

Excerpts from two reports from the Washington Post:

“Senate Republicans suffered a dramatic failure early Friday in their bid to advance a scaled-back plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, throwing into question whether they can actually repeal the 2010 health law.

Their latest effort to redraw the ACA failed after Sen. John McCain’s decision to side with two other Republicans against President Trump and GOP leaders. The Arizona Republican, diagnosed with brain cancer last week, returned to Washington on Tuesday and delivered a stirring address calling for a bipartisan approach to overhauling the ACA, while criticizing the process that produced the current legislation.

It was a speech that laid the groundwork for Friday’s dramatic vote.

The vote was 49 to 51 — all 48 members of the Democratic caucus joined with McCain and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to block the legislation.”

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“Republican female senators whose disapproval of the GOP health-care effort has at times endangered its progress are facing an increasingly pointed backlash from men in their party, including a handful of comments that invoked physical retaliation.

In the past week, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) has been challenged by a male lawmaker to a duel. She and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) were told that they and others deserve a physical reprimand for their decisions not to support Republican health-care proposals. Murkowski, who voted with Collins against starting the health-care debate this week, was specifically called out by President Trump on Twitter and told by a Cabinet official that Alaska could suffer for her choice, according to a colleague.

The language of retribution increasingly adopted by Republican men reflects Trump’s influence and underscores the challenges GOP women can face when opposing the consensus of their party, which remains dominated by men, outside experts said. A videotape of Trump surfaced during the campaign revealing him bragging in vulgar terms about groping women, and some believed that opened the gates for further insults and degrading behavior toward women.

“Masculine dominance in the Republican Party is not only in numbers but in culture,” said Kelly Dittmar, a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University and the author of “Navigating Gendered Terrain: Stereotypes and Strategy in Political Campaigns.”

“When the person who is supposed to be the leader of the party shows it’s okay to use those sorts of attacks, whether they are specifically gendered or not, that is something that catches on at other levels,” Dittmar said. “We see it in the [elected officials] who feel it’s okay to say things like this.”

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Gee, are there only three adults in the “romper room” that passes for the Senate GOP? According to NBC’s Chuck Todd on Today, at least a dozen GOP Senators were “secretly relieved” that McCain vetoed the bill. What happened to their backbones? Whatever happened to governing for the good of the country, rather than trying to make good on boneheaded campaign promises? How much taxpayer money has the GOP wasted with its endless bogus votes to repeal Obamacare and the ongoing legislative circus they have been staging? Probably enough to pay for health care in all the rural counties in America.

Oh, and the threats to let Obamacare tank (that’s the latest version of Trump(we don’t)care)? Those hurt most would be the poor and struggling folks out there in Trumpland. Interesting that Democrats were willing to stand up for them, even though the folks in Trumpland were not willing to stand up for the rest of us Americans. Yeah, and no amount of Kris Kobach, Mike Pence obfuscation and outright lying can change the fact that the majority of Americans voted against the Trump Circus in the first place.

I’ve read lots of articles about how the rest of us need to be kind, compassionate, and understanding of the needs and situations of those who voted for Trump. Generally, I agree with that. It’s one country, and we should take care of everyone, including those who have differing ideas and those who can’t take care of themselves. But, as the GOP would say, at some point there has to be at least a little sense of personal responsibility. Don’t the folks who irresponsibly voted for a supremely (and obviously) unqualified individual to occupy the highest office in the land, and compounded the problem by putting a party that can’t (and never really has been) able to govern in power, bear any accountability for the disaster that has followed?

And one more thing. Could we please have a moratorium on articles about the “legislative genius” of Mitch McConnell?

PWS

07-28-17

 

GOP’S ATTACK ON AMERICA: TRUMPCARE WOULD COST 1 MILLION JOBS IN ADDITION TO DEPRIVING 10s OF MILLIONS OF HEALTHCARE!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/25/1-million-jobs-on-the-line-as-senate-votes-on-health-care/?utm_term=.985107b8ccae

Heather Lomg writes in WonkBlog in the Washington Post:

“America could lose more than a million jobs if the Senate votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday.

That’s according to a report from George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health and the Commonwealth Fund.

“This legislation could single-handedly put a big dent in health care job growth,” said Leighton Ku, the lead author of the report and the director of the Center for Health Policy Research at George Washington University.

 

Repealing the law, also known as Obamacare, would dramatically scale back federal funding for health care, especially Medicaid. That translates into job losses as hospitals, retirement homes and other health facilities get fewer dollars.

“We’re talking about one out of every 20 health care jobs disappearing by 2026. That’s a lot,” Ku said.

Much of the debate over the “repeal and replace” of Obamacare has centered on how many Americans would lose insurance. The bill that Senate Republicans proposed would lead to 22 million fewer Americans with health insurance in the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The House Republican bill would leave 23 million fewer people covered, and a straight repeal of Obamacare would bring the most losses of all: 32 million off insurance, according to the CBO.

 

Job losses, however, get much less attention, despite the fact that health care has been a booming field for job growth. Even during the Great Recession, health care jobs continued to grow. A third of all jobs created in the United States in the past decade have been in health care.”

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Read Heather’s complete article at the link.

Wow! Talk about a morally bankrupt party that has adopted a complete “Begger Thy Neighbor” philosophy!

And, a word about Senator John McCain.

He is a genuine American Hero. I respect his bravery, courage, and dedication to duty in war and in peace and his lifetime of spirited public service. I also wish him well in his battle with brain cancer.

However, his speech on the Seante floor yesterday was totally disingenuous. If he really wanted to stand up to Trump in a spirit of bipartisanship, all he would have had to do is cast his vote against debating the disastrous Trump(we don’t)care proposals. That would have forced the GOP to work across the aisle with Dems to make the needed “tweaks” to fix the generally successful Obamacare program.

However, that would require 1) a bipartisan recognition that Obama was right, and 2) the GOP not doing a victory dance and calling it repeal and replace. That’s how you actually get things done. Consensus requires a position that both parties can publicly support. McCain’s posturing was actually rather pathetic. Actions speak louder than words. On  this occasion, McCain’s actions failed to come anywhere close to matching his rhetoric.

PWS

07-26-17

 

 

 

 

 

BREAKING: Senate GOP Implodes On Healthcare — Trump Reaches New Heights Of Incompetence & Irresponsibility By Tweeting Call For Complete Repeal Without A Plan For Replacement!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-health-care-bill-response_us_596d719ee4b010d7767345ff?s69&ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009

Nick Visser reports for HuffPost:

“President Donald Trump called on congressional Republicans to craft an outright repeal of Obamacare late Monday, an hour after the GOP’s controversial Senate health care bill appeared dead once again after losing two more Republican votes.

“Republicans should just REPEAL failing Obamacare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate,” the president tweeted, adding that “Dems will join in!”

The “clean repeal” option is unpopular in both parties, and it’s unclear how much support the president’s proposal will garner in Congress. It would take 60 votes in the Senate for an outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans only hold a 52-seat majority.

Trump’s response came after Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) announced Monday evening that they planned to vote no on a “motion to proceed” for the Senate’s legislation ― a step needed to begin debate on the bill.”

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Duh, after being treated with total disrespect and contempt by the President and the GOP for 6 months, why is it that Democrats would suddenly jump at the chance to pull the Administration’s chestnuts out of the fire?

On the other hand, a nuanced “fix” of Obamacare probably would have had enough votes to pass both Houses with bipartisan support from all or most Democrats and enough Republicans. But, that wouldn’t have allowed the GOP and Trump to have claimed “victory” on an Obamacare repeal. Talk about a President and a party who have long ago abandoned the best interests of America!

And, just think about all the time and taxpayer money the GOP has wasted over the past few years passing boneheaded, cosmetic “Obamacare repeals.” Obviously, the folks who voted for such nonsense were posturing rather than legislating.

PWS

07-18-17

THE HUMAN COST OF GOP TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH: 28,600 People Annually Could Could Needlessly Die, Says The Annals Of Internal Medicine — And, They Won’t All Be Democrats!

https://www.buzzfeed.com/danvergano/senate-healthcare-bill-might-mean-28600-more-deaths-a-year?utm_term=.bl8NwB9xV#.erwRnXJ9d

Dan Vergano reports on BuzzFeed:

“About 28,600 more people could die every year in the US, if a proposed Senate health care bill becomes law, suggests a review of medical studies released on Monday.

“Being uninsured can be lethal,” review author Steffie Woolhandler of City University of New York told BuzzFeed News.

Congress is in the middle of efforts to pass a Republican health care plan. The House has already passed its own version of health care legislation, while the Senate released its own draft Senate bill last week and unveiled an updated version earlier today. The Congressional Budget Office released an analysis late Monday finding the Senate bill would save $321 billion over the next decade at a cost of 22 million more uninsured people than under Obamacare by 2026.

“A little negotiation, but it’s going to be very good,” President Trump said of the bill on Thursday, when it was first unveiled.

Whether removing all those people from medical coverage, and cutting their access to preventive care for diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer, would actually lead to more deaths has emerged as a point of contention in debate over repealing Obamacare, which has enrolled about 20 million people in health insurance and Medicaid plans since 2010.

In reality, people without health insurance face odds ranging from 3% to 29% higher of dying prematurely compared to someone who has health insurance, concludes the Annals Of Internal Medicine review. Taking the midpoint of those odds as a benchmark, Woolhandler suggested that about 1,300 people a year die prematurely every year in the US for every one million people who lose health insurance.

Obamacare, which added about 20 million people to the ranks of the insured, likely preserved lives at that same rate, she said.

. . . . .

Worth noting, the American College of Physicians, which publishes the journal that released the review, has opposed Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, joining the American Medical Association and the National Association of Medicaid Directors, among medical groups criticizing the Senate’s draft bill. Woolhandler and Himmelstein served as unpaid advisors to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and founded a doctor’s organization that advocates for universal health care.”

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the CBO predicts that an additional 22 million individuals would lose coverage under the GOP’s Senate Bill:

“Senate Republicans’ bill to erase major parts of the Affordable Care Act would cause an estimated 22 million more Americans to be uninsured in the coming decade — roughly a million fewer than similar legislation recently passed by the House, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The forecast issued Monday by Congress’s nonpartisan budget scorekeepers also estimates that the Senate measure, drafted in secret mainly by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and aides, would reduce federal spending by $321 billion by 2026 — compared with $119 billion for the House’s version.

The CBO’s analysis has been awaited as a crucial piece of evidence as McConnell (Ky.) and other Republican leaders try to hurry a vote on the bill this week. But they are navigating an expanding minefield of resistance from their own party’s moderate and conservative wings, while Democrats are united against it.

The additional deficit savings gives those leaders plenty of room to add more spending to win votes from skeptical moderate Republicans like Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Bill Cassidy (La.), who want more money and a dedicated fund to help treat opioid abuse. Senate budget rules require that the final legislation save at least $133 billion, more than was saved in the House bill, giving senators $188 billion to make the bill more palatable.

Any extra spending risks alienating conservatives, however, and could threaten a delicate balance McConnell must strike to win votes from at least 50 of the 52 Senate Republicans. And some moderates have said they will decide whether they can support the Better Care Reconciliation Act based on how it will affect Americans who have gained coverage under the ACA during the past few years.”

Read the entire report by Amy Goldstein and Kelsey Snell in the Washington Post here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/imminent-cbo-report-could-prove-pivotal-for-senate-republicans-health-care-bill/2017/06/26/cb8d61e2-59f7-11e7-a9f6-7c3296387341_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_cbosenate-12pm:homepage/story&utm_term=.9f84cd94af4c

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When the Grim Reaper shows up, a GOP party card and a Trump “Make America Great” hat won’t do any good. You’ll have to go so that Trump, McConnell, Ryan, and their “fat cat” buddies can live “higher on the hog.”

PWS

06-26-17

 

 

 

 

FORMER DEPUTY AG SALLY YATES SLAMS SESSIONS’S “GONZO APOCALYPTO” PLAN TO TURN AMERICA INTO “INCARCERATION NATION!”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/sally-yates-jeff-sessions_us_594eb52ee4b02734df2ac45b

According to this article from HuffPost:

“Sessions has long been a staunch conservative on crime. He once supported legislation in his home state of Alabama that would have required the death penalty for a second drug trafficking conviction, including for marijuana, which is now legalized in a number of states. Before the 2016 election, there was bipartisan agreement from groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Koch Industries, and on Capitol Hill about the need to pursue criminal justice reform. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to advance it.

Yates defended the work of Obama’s Justice Department, saying by allowing prosecutors to use their discretion on sentencing for low-level offenses, officials could dedicate resources to prosecuting the most dangerous individuals.

“Under Smart on Crime, the Justice Department took a more targeted approach, reserving the harshest of those penalties for the most violent and significant drug traffickers and encouraging prosecutors to use their discretion not to seek mandatory minimum sentences for lower-level, nonviolent offenders,” she wrote. “While there is always room to debate the most effective approach to criminal justice, that debate should be based on facts, not fear.”

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Fear and loathing are, of course, key ingredients of the “Gonzo Apocalypto Program.” Let’s see, in Tudor England they publicly hanged, mostly poor, folks for minor crimes; traitors were drawn and quartered; and the upper classes were beheaded for political, offenses, real or imagined. So, given the obvious deterrent effect, crime should have largely disappeared from the Anglo-Saxon heritage. No real historical record that even the most grisly and gruesome punishments had any real deterrent effect, not to mention that justice was often more or less arbitrary and imposed by an entrenched upper class. But, learning from history, or even knowing much about it, is hardly a Trump Administration specialty.

And, the opposite of “Smart” on Crime would be . . . ?

PWS

06-26-17

“TRUMP(Hell no, we don’t)CARE” Likely Would Destroy Health Insurance Market, According To Experts — Trump GOP’s “War On America & Americans” Shifts Into High Gear!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/06/23/republicans-say-the-health-insurance-market-is-in-a-death-spiral-their-bill-could-make-it-really-happen/?hpid=hp_regional-hp-cards_rhp-card-business%3Ahomepage%2Fcard&utm_term=.e61d8234b1ca

Kim Soffen writes in the Wonkblog columns in the Washington Post:

“Senate Republican leaders unveiled their health-care bill Thursday morning, after weeks of crafting it behind closed doors. The bill keeps some popular parts of the Affordable Care Act, such as the provision preventing insurance companies from charging people more or denying them coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and eliminates some unpopular parts, such as the individual mandate which requires people to buy insurance or pay a penalty.

[What the Senate bill changes about Obamacare]

But those two provisions, taken together, are likely to send the individual marketplace into a “death spiral,” ending with only the sickest people insured, sky-high premiums, and insurers exiting the individual market, according to experts across the political spectrum. The bill has a $112 billion market stabilization fund to prevent this, but experts doubt it, or a similar measure in the House bill, would be enough.

Here’s how a death spiral would happen. People shopping for insurance in the individual market all sit on a spectrum from healthy to sick.”

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Lots of “neat” graphics with the full article. Clink the link and see the GOP’s plan to “deconstruct” American healthcare in action.

Sobering thought: Millions of Americans voted to destroy their own healthcare and endanger their own lives and those of family members who can’t vote. Unfortunately, their lack of prudence and sound judgment is likely to take the rest of us into the abyss with them. The “silver lining:” Guys like the Koch Bros, Tom Price, Wilber Ross, et. al. will pay lower taxes. (I didn’t include Trump in this list because there is no hard evidence that he currently pays, or ever again will pay,  income taxes.)

PWS

06-24-17

NEW GAME IN TOWN: “GRAND THEFT GOP” — Party Plans Biggest Heist In US History — To Be Carried Out In Broad Daylight — GOP Voters Expected To Provide Getaway Car!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/senate-republicans-ready-themselves-for-a-massive-theft-from-the-poor/2017/06/22/902a1a96-5777-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-b:homepage/story&utm_term=.6918f77c4db1

Eugene Robinson writes in a Washington Post op-ed:

“The “health-care bill” that Republicans are trying to pass in the Senate, like the one approved by the GOP majority in the House, isn’t really about health care at all. It’s the first step in a massive redistribution of wealth from struggling wage-earners to the rich — a theft of historic proportions.

Is the Senate version less “mean” than the House bill, to use President Trump’s description of that earlier effort? Not really. Does the new bill have the “heart” that Trump demanded? No, it doesn’t. The devil is not in the details, it’s in the big picture.

Fundamentally, what Republicans in both chambers want to do is cut nearly $1 trillion over the next decade from the Medicaid program, which serves almost 70 million people. Medicaid provides health care not just for the indigent and disabled but also for the working poor — low-wage employees who cannot afford health insurance, even the plans offered through their jobs.

Additionally, about 20 percent of Medicaid spending goes to provide nursing home care, including for middle-class seniors whose savings have been exhausted — a situation almost any of us might confront. Roughly two-thirds of those in nursing homes have their care paid by Medicaid.

 

Why would Republicans want to slash this vital program so severely? You will hear a lot of self-righteous huffing and puffing about the need for entitlement reform, but the GOP’s intention is not to use the savings to pay down the national debt. Instead, slashing Medicaid spending creates fiscal headroom for what is euphemistically being called “tax reform” — a soon-to-come package of huge tax cuts favoring the wealthy.

That’s the basic equation in both the House and Senate bills: Medicaid for tax cuts. Both bills start with various of the taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act, but those are mere appetizers. The main course is intended to be big cuts in individual and corporate tax rates that would benefit the rich.

There is no other point to this whole exercise. All the “Obamacare is in a death spiral” talk is Republican wishful thinking, aided and abetted by active sabotage.”

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Undoubtedly, many of those who would die or suffer needlessly as a result of the GOPs “Reverse Robin Hood” operation would be Democrats and non-voters (like children). But, many in the GOP base also fall within the group of poor and “lower middle class” folks who would be sentenced to death or suffering by the GOP. Killing off your own voters, with their support, is an interesting new twist in modern GOP politics. But, obviously Trump, McConnell, Ryan, and their Fat Cat handlers are confident in the gullibility and inability of many in their base to discern either their own or the general public’s best interests. Difficult to comprehend.

PWS

06-23-17

 

BREAKING: GOP SENATORS ANNOUNCE PLAN TO TRASH HEALTH CARE FOR 10S OF MILLIONS OF AMERICANS, FUND MORE TAX BREAKS FOR RICH CRONIES! — Why? — Because They CAN!

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2017/06/why_the_gop_would_pass_an_objectively_bad_health_care_bill.html

 writes in Slate:

“It is difficult to overstate the sheer unpopularity of the American Health Care Act, the Republican Party’s plan to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. And it’s not hard to understand why the bill is so unpopular. What’s mystifying is why Republicans insist on passing it, acting as if there won’t be political consequences for a plan that promises pain for tens of millions of Americans.

Jamelle BouieJAMELLE BOUIE

Jamelle Bouie is Slates chief political correspondent.

At Obamacare’s least popular moment, in the fall of 2014, 56 percent of Americans held a negative view of the law, versus 37 percent who approved. Compare that with the Republican version of the AHCA that passed the House of Representatives in early May. In a recent survey from CBS News, 59 percent of Americans disapprove of the GOP proposal, versus 32 percent who approve. A Roper Center analysis shows the proposal with just 29 percent support, making it the most unpopular piece of legislation Congress has considered in decades. And its unpopularity isn’t just a function of blue states like California, New York, and Illinois—there is no state in the union where a majority of voters support the bill.

If the AHCA ends up improving outcomes for Americans—if it delivers affordable health insurance or protects families from medical bankruptcy—it might recover some popularity in the implementation, as was true with the Affordable Care Act, which now has majority support. But we know from the Congressional Budget Office’s evaluation of the House bill that it would increase the number of uninsured by an estimated 23 million people; there are no signs the Senate version will be any less damaging. What’s more, the AHCA may upend the employer health market as well; its deregulatory measures could result in lifetime limits and substantially higher out-of-pocket costs for people who receive insurance through work. The universe of people potentially left worse off by the Republican bill is close to a cross-section of the American public: salaried employees, ordinary workers who rely on the Obamacare exchanges, and the millions of low-income people, children, elderly, and disabled Americans who rely on Medicaid.

Under most circumstances, this would be the ballgame. As a general matter, lawmakers don’t pass hugely unpopular legislation that might harm constituents in such a direct way. It’s easy to say that, for House and Senate Republicans, their “constituents” are those wealthy Americans who receive huge tax cuts under the bill. Still, it’s also true that winning donors isn’t the same as winning elections. Politicians don’t need to value the public interest to reject a bill like the AHCA; a survival instinct should be enough.

Which gets to what’s mystifying about the present situation. If the health care bill becomes law, there’s every indication the Republican Party will suffer for passing it. It is already responsible for a substantial and so-far enduring decline in the president’s approval rating, and it is fueling grass-roots opposition to the already-unpopular Trump administration. If Republicans face an increasingly difficult environment for the 2018 general election, it is at least in part because of the AHCA. And yet, Republicans are intent on passing the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has cannily adopted an unprecedentedlysecretive process meant to insulate the proposal from criticism and expedite its passage. There have been no hearings and no debate. The plan, as it exists, is for a one-week period of public input before Congress votes.

It’s likely that Republicans know the bill is unpopular and are doing everything they can to keep the public from seeing its contents before passing it. As we saw with the Affordable Care Act, the longer the process, the greater the odds for a major backlash. But this presupposes a pressing need to pass the American Health Care Act, which isn’t the case, outside of a “need” to slash Medicaid, thus paving the way for large-scale, permanent tax cuts. The Republican health care bill doesn’t solve any urgent problem in the health care market, nor does it represent any coherent vision for the health care system; it is a hodgepodge of cuts and compromises, designed to pass a GOP Congress more than anything. It is policy without any actual policy. At most, it exists to fulfill a promise to “repeal Obamacare” and cut taxes.

Perhaps that’s enough to explain the zeal to pass the bill. Republicans made a promise, and there are forces within the party—from hyperideological lawmakers and conservative activists to right-wing media and Republican base voters—pushing them toward this conclusion. When coupled with the broad Republican hostility to downward redistribution and the similarly broad commitment to tax cuts, it makes sense that the GOP would continue to pursue this bill despite the likely consequences.

But ultimately it’s not clear the party believes it would face those consequences. The 2018 House map still favors Republicans, and the party is defending far fewer Senate seats than Democrats. Aggressively gerrymandered districts provide another layer of defense, as does voter suppression, and the avalanche of spending from outside groups. Americans might be hurt and outraged by the effects of the AHCA, but those barriers blunt the electoral impact.

The grounds for political combat seem to have changed as well. If recent special elections are any indication—where GOP candidates refused to comment on signature GOP policies—extreme polarization means Republicans can mobilize supporters without being forced to talk about or account for their actual actions. Identity, for many voters, matters more than their pocketbooks. Republicans simply need to signal their disdain—even hatred—for their opponents, political or otherwise. Why worry about the consequences of your policies when you can preclude defeat by changing the ground rules of elections, spending vast sums, and stoking cultural resentment?

It seems, then, that we have an answer for Republicans insist on moving forward with the American Health Care Act. Because they can. And who is going to stop them?”

Here’s some analysis of the GOP Senate Bill from the Washington Post:

“The Senate proposal largely mirrors the House measure with significant differences, according to a discussion draft circulating Wednesday among aides and lobbyists. While the House legislation would peg federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income, as the ACA does.

The Senate measure would cut off expanded Medicaid funding for states more gradually than the House bill but would enact deeper long-term cuts to the health-care program for low-income Americans. It also would eliminate House language aimed at prohibiting federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions, a provision that may run afoul of complex Senate budget rules.

But McConnell faces the prospect of an open revolt from key conservative and moderate GOP senators, whose concerns he has struggled to balance in recent weeks. Republicans familiar with the effort said Senate leaders have more work to do to secure the 50 votes needed to pass the measure, with Vice President Pence set to cast the tiebreaking vote, from the pool of 52 GOP senators. No Democrats are expected to support the bill.

According to two Republicans in close contact with Senate GOP leadership granted anonymity to describe private conversations, McConnell is threatening to bring the bill to a vote next week even if he doesn’t have the votes to pass it. But some believe that message is aimed at trying to pressure Republicans to support the bill, rather than an absolute commitment. A McConnell spokeswoman declined to comment.

Republican aides stressed that their plan is likely to undergo more changes to secure the votes needed for passage, but there were major concerns Wednesday from senators on opposite ends of the GOP spectrum.

“My main concern is I promised voters that I would repeal — vote to repeal Obamacare. And everything I hear sounds like Obamacare-lite,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), whose state expanded Medicaid and has been pushing for a more gradual unwinding of that initiative than many conservatives prefer, said she is waiting to scrutinize what is released but has not seen anything yet that would make her drop her concerns with the proposal.

“Up to this point, I don’t have any new news — tomorrow we will see it definitively — that would cause me to change that sentiment,” she said.

Like the House bill, the Senate measure is expected to make big changes to Medicaid, the program that insures about 74 million elderly and lower-income Americans and was expanded in most states under the ACA. In effect, the revisions would reduce federal spending on the program.

The Senate measure would transform Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to one in which federal funding would be distributed to states on a per capita basis. The Senate measure would also seek to phase out the program’s expansion — although at a more gradual rate than the House version.

Yet the Senate bill would go further than the House version in its approach to cutting Medicaid funding in the future. In 2025, the measure would tie federal spending on the program to an even slower growth index than the one used in the House bill. That move could prompt states to reduce the size of their Medicaid programs.”

Here’s a link to the complete Post article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/senate-gop-leaders-set-to-unveil-health-care-bill/2017/06/22/56dbe35c-5734-11e7-a204-ad706461fa4f_story.html?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_healthcare835am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.31690d0232b7

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As long as folks stubbornly keep voting for their own demise, that is, against their own best interests, Trump and the GOP are going to take them to the cleaners every time. The GOP Congressional leadership has “bought into” the Trump “Time Square” theory:   “There’s absolutely nothing that we could do that would make these folks vote against us. And, we’re going to take full advantage of them by sticking it to them just like they were Democrats or minorities (or both).”

I suppose if it works, why not line your pockets (and those of your buddies) to the full extent possible at the expense of the People until the party ends (which it might never do — and, if it does, the GOP will be laughing all the way to the bank)?

PWS

06-22-17

POLITICS: David Leonhardt In The NYT: Don’t Get Distracted From GOP’s Dishonesty & Cruelty!

“David Leonhardt
Op-Ed Columnist
The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the House health care bill is a devastating indictment.
The report, released yesterday, showed that millions of Americans would lose health insurance and the quality of insurance for millions more would deteriorate. The savings from that carnage — to borrow a favorite word of President Trump’s — would pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.
And yet the immediate reaction to the C.B.O. report also shows why you should be worried that the Senate will nonetheless decide to pass a version of the House bill.
Here’s what I mean: Much of this initial reaction has missed the point. It has focused on the modest differences between the new C.B.O. report, which analyzed the final House bill, and a C.B.O. analysis from March of an earlier version of the bill. Among the differences, the final bill would deprive an estimated 23 million people of insurance, compared with the 24 million in the March analysis.
Don’t be distracted by these small differences.
Distraction is a tactic of the politicians who are trying to take away health insurance from people. These politicians can’t sell their proposals on the merits. That’s why both the House and, thus far, the Senate have refused to hold any hearings. They know that virtually every expert across the ideological spectrum — including groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, patients and senior citizens — opposes the bill.
Unable to win a debate on its merits, Republican leaders need to change the subject. They can’t let their proposals be judged on whether they improve the American health care system, because they don’t. They need to create a lower standard by which the plan will be judged.
The House did so in the frantic week that it passed its bill by pointing to a last-minute amendment that made a superficial improvement. House members then claimed they had fixed their bill.
Senate leaders are showing signs of following the same path — and the C.B.O. report gives them a chance to start down it. The report will encourage top Republicans to claim that their bill is already getting better and that the Senate will keep improving it in coming months.
In truth, the bill is fatally flawed. Its objective is to reduce federal spending on health insurance for the middle class, poor, sick, elderly and disabled in order to cut taxes for the wealthy. Maybe the final version, once the Senate has made its tweaks, will take insurance from 23 million people, or maybe 15 million people. But any law based on the House bill is guaranteed to worsen the health care system.
That’s the overwhelming message of the C.B.O. report.
The saddest part of this situation is that our health care system, including Obamacare, very much needs improvement. And there are solid bipartisan ideas out there, including some that would increase states’ flexibility or lower consumer expenses. The Senate has members from both parties with the savvy and the policy chops — like Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray — to turn those ideas into a bill.
Is it too much to hope that they cast aside the distractions from the House’s failed plan and start fresh?
The full Opinion report from The Times follows, including Abbe Gluck on the G.O.P.’s sabotage of Obamacare.”

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Read more in today’s NYT.

PWS

05-25-17

 

GOP’S WAR ON AMERICA EXPOSED — 23 Million Would Lose Health Coverage To Provide Tax Breaks To Fat Cat Cronies!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/24/us/politics/cbo-congressional-budget-office-health-care.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

Robert Pear reports in the NYT:

“WASHINGTON — A bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that narrowly passed the House this month would leave 14 million more people uninsured next year than under President Barack Obama’s health law — and 23 million more in 2026, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. Some of the nation’s sickest would pay much more for health care.

Under the House bill, the number of uninsured would be slightly lower, but deficits would be somewhat higher, than the budget office estimated before Republican leaders made a series of changes to win enough votes for passage. Beneath the headline-grabbing numbers, those legislative tweaks would bring huge changes to the American health care system.

In many states, insurance costs could soar for consumers who are sick or have pre-existing conditions, while premiums would fall for the healthy, the new estimate concludes.

The forecast by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Capitol Hill’s official scorekeeper, is another potential blow to efforts to undo Mr. Obama’s signature domestic achievement. Republican senators have said they will make substantial changes to the measure passed by the House, but even Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, sounds uncertain about his chances of finding a majority to repeal and replace the health law.”

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Read Robert’s complete article at the link. Decades ago, when we were both young, Robert covered the “immigration beat” for the NYT. In the days before Administrations of both parties went to war with the press, he used to call me on a regular basis to get the “official INS position” on various controversies, particularly those involving legal issues.

PWS

05-24-16

POLITICS: GOP Senate’s “Stealth Plan” To Strip Health Care From Millions While Enriching Fat Cats Exposed!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/opinion/health-care-bill-senate.html?emc=edit_ty_20170523&nl=opinion-today&nlid=79213886&te=1&_r=0

David Leonhardt writes in a NY Times op-ed:

“While the rest of the country has been transfixed by Trumpian chaos, members of the Senate have spent the last two weeks talking about taking health insurance from millions of Americans.

There is an alarmingly large chance that they’ll decide to do so. But if they do, they will almost certainly rely on a political sleight of hand to disguise their bill’s damage. Understanding that sleight of hand — and calling attention to it — offers the best hope for defeating the bill.

The effort to take health insurance from the middle class and poor and funnel the savings into tax cuts for the rich is a little like mold. It grows best in the dark.

That’s why Republican leaders in the House handled their bill as they did. They did not hold a single hearing, because they knew that attention would have been devastating.

Just imagine a hearing featuring the leaders of these groups, every one of which opposes the House bill: the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Hospital Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Lung Association, March of Dimes and AARP.
The House also passed its final bill without waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to estimate how many Americans would lose insurance. The C.B.O. will release that analysis tomorrow afternoon. There is no precedent, outside of wartime, for passing a bill this important in such haste.

After the House did, many observers assumed the bill was too flawed to have much chance in the Senate. Republican senators, aware of the bill’s unpopularity, were careful to say publicly that they would start fresh. But the early signs suggest that Mitch McConnell and his Republican caucus are actually mimicking the House approach.

Think of it as the Upton strategy, and I’ll explain the name in a minute.”

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Yet, the voters keep putting these guys in office. Unless you are part of the tiny percentage of over-privileged, rich elite in America, you’re voting against not only our country’s best interests, but your own!

Amazingly, however, the Democrats have failed to come up with an effective strategy to capitalize on this. And, to date, I’m not sure I’ve heard any compelling arguments as to how and why Democrats will do better in the next election.

Yeah, Trump and his cohorts have problems galore. But, highlighting/relying on that was Hillary’s primary strategy in 2016. And, it failed! Big time! What positive plan do Democrats have for making America better for everyone (including most Trump supporters)?

PWS

05-23-17