Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's "skinny repeal" bill targeting the Affordable Care Act failed 51-49 late last night in the U.S. Senate, or what is left of it. Reports suggest McConnell's team wrote the 8-page bill yesterday over lunch.
The mad spectacle of Senate Republicans throwing themselves at a legislative process that resembled anything but could only have been topped last night by them dousing the place with gasoline and setting themselves alight. Forget Obamacare's flaws. Forget prospective White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci's Sopranos threats. Forget the melodramatic lecture Tuesday by Senator John McCain, R-Az., about restoring "regular order." If Al Pacino had burst in and shouted the whole Congress was out of order, that would have felt more sane.
Late last night, all Republican senators but three solemnly voted for a bill they did not want passed.
At an impromptu press conference earlier, Sen Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., declared it "a disaster" and "a fraud." Joined by fellow Republicans McCain, Johnson of Wisconsin, and Cassidy of Louisiana, Graham told reporters they had been assured that if the shell bill passed, the real bill would be written, once again in secret, in the House-Senate conference committee.
"I'd rather get out of the way and let it collapse than have a half-ass approach where it is now our problem," Graham told the press. Before he could vote for it, Graham demanded assurances from House Speaker Paul Ryan that the House would not pass the "skinny" bill as is. Receiving none, Graham voted to pass it anyway.
The three Republican dissenters when voting closed about 1:30 a.m. EDT this morning were Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and John McCain.
Nothing that is happening tonight makes the slightest bit of sense. All of it violates every procedural principle and policy promise Republicans put forth in the aftermath of Obamacare’s passage.
We are watching indefensible policy being pushed forward in an indefensible process in the hopes that it will eventually be signed into law and implemented by an indefensible administration. And what’s stranger is everyone involved knows it. All this comes mere days after Sen. John McCain received a standing ovation on the floor of the Senate for excoriating the way this effort, and the way his institution, was being run.
After all of it, McCain cast the deciding vote to "kill the bill" as protesters outside the Capitol demanded.
The irony is Chafee-Romney-Obama market-based health insurance plans have been kicking around since Richard Nixon drafted one to keep any Democratic single-payer plans at bay. Today's Republicans have no alternative plan because their plan is already law. Beside their attempts to sabotage it, the problems inherent in Obamacare are the failures inherent in their preferred approach. The greater problem is, of course, Republicans derisively branded the standing, Republican-inspired law after a Democratic president and, whatever the costs, that Must Not Stand.
"It's time to move on," a disappointed McConnell told the Senate chamber after the voting closed. Until next time. There will be a next time.
"We are not celebrating. We are relieved," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. said afterwards.
Last night was a stinging defeat for Republicans. But there is little solace after McConnell and all but three of his caucus moved to abrogate democratic norms that have guided this country for decades if not centuries. All the protocols, all the arcane procedures senators from both parties learn to navigate and manipulate in their careers create, for better or worse, a known, predictable process for democratic governance. Like them or not, they provide some small stability at a time when Americans and the world could use some. All of that Republicans were poised to jettison in blind pursuit of an immediate "win." Not unlike the current resident of the White House, they are adrift without rudder or keel. And possessed perhaps by madness. There is little in that to find relief.
To adapt the aphorism, if you are not unnerved, you are not paying attention.
On Wednesday night, I received a phone call from Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director. He wasn’t happy. Earlier in the night, I’d tweeted, citing a “senior White House official,” that Scaramucci was having dinner at the White House with President Trump, the First Lady, Sean Hannity, and the former Fox News executive Bill Shine. It was an interesting group, and raised some questions. Was Trump getting strategic advice from Hannity? Was he considering hiring Shine? But Scaramucci had his own question—for me.
“Who leaked that to you?” he asked. I said I couldn’t give him that information. He responded by threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff. “What I’m going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we’ll start over,” he said. I laughed, not sure if he really believed that such a threat would convince a journalist to reveal a source. He continued to press me and complain about the staff he’s inherited in his new job. “I ask these guys not to leak anything and they can’t help themselves,” he said. “You’re an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I’m asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it.”
In Scaramucci’s view, the fact that word of the dinner had reached a reporter was evidence that his rivals in the West Wing, particularly Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, were plotting against him. While they have publiclymaintained that there is no bad blood between them, Scaramucci and Priebus have been feuding for months. After the election, Trump asked Scaramucci to join his Administration, and Scaramucci sold his company, SkyBridge Capital, in anticipation of taking on a senior role. But Priebus didn’t want him in the White House, and successfully blocked him for being appointed to a job until last week, when Trump offered him the communications job over Priebus’s vehement objections. In response to Scaramucci’s appointment, Sean Spicer, an ally of Priebus’s, resigned his position as press secretary. And in an additional slight to Priebus, the White House’s official announcement of Scaramucci’s hiring noted that he would report directly to the President, rather than to the chief of staff.
Scaramucci’s first public appearance as communications director was a slick and conciliatory performance at the lectern in the White House briefing room last Friday. He suggested it was time for the White House to turn a page. But since then, he has become obsessed with leaks and threatened to fire staffers if he discovers that they have given unauthorized information to reporters. Michael Short, a White House press aide considered close to Priebus, resigned on Tuesday after Scaramucci publicly spoke about firing him. Meanwhile, several damaging stories about Scaramucci have appeared in the press, and he blamed Priebus for most of them. Now, he wanted to know whom I had been talking to about his dinner with the President. Scaramucci, who initiated the call, did not ask for the conversation to be off the record or on background.
“Is it an assistant to the President?” he asked. I again told him I couldn’t say. “O.K., I’m going to fire every one of them, and then you haven’t protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks.”
I asked him why it was so important for the dinner to be kept a secret. Surely, I said, it would become public at some point. “I’ve asked people not to leak things for a period of time and give me a honeymoon period,” he said. “They won’t do it.” He was getting more and more worked up, and he eventually convinced himself that Priebus was my source.
“They’ll all be fired by me,” he said. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.” The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn’t been invited. “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: “ ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ” (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.)
Scaramucci was particularly incensed by a Politico report about his financial-disclosure form, which he viewed as an illegal act of retaliation by Priebus. The reporter said Thursday morning that the document was publicly available and she had obtained it from the Export-Import Bank. Scaramucci didn’t know this at the time, and he insisted to me that Priebus had leaked the document, and that the act was “a felony.”
“I’ve called the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice,” he told me.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“The swamp will not defeat him,” he said, breaking into the third person. “They’re trying to resist me, but it’s not going to work. I’ve done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they’re going to have to go fuck themselves.”
Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon declined to comment.)
He reiterated that Priebus would resign soon, and he noted that he told Trump that he expected Priebus to launch a campaign against him. “He didn’t get the hint that I was reporting directly to the President,” he said. “And I said to the President here are the four or five things that he will do to me.” His list of allegations included leaking the Hannity dinner and the details from his financial-disclosure form.
I got the sense that Scaramucci’s campaign against leakers flows from his intense loyalty to Trump. Unlike other Trump advisers, I’ve never heard him say a bad word about the President. “What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the President’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people,” he told me.
He cryptically suggested that he had more information about White House aides. “O.K., the Mooch showed up a week ago,” he said. “This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, O.K.? Because I nailed these guys. I’ve got digital fingerprints on everything they’ve done through the F.B.I. and the fucking Department of Justice.”
“What?” I interjected.
“Well, the felony, they’re gonna get prosecuted, probably, for the felony.” He added, “The lie detector starts—” but then he changed the subject and returned to what he thought was the illegal leak of his financial-disclosure forms. I asked if the President knew all of this.
“Well, he doesn’t know the extent of all that, he knows about some of that, but he’ll know about the rest of it first thing tomorrow morning when I see him.”
Scaramucci said he had to get going. “Yeah, let me go, though, because I’ve gotta start tweeting some shit to make this guy crazy.”
Minutes later, he tweeted, “In light of the leak of my financial info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45.” With the addition of Priebus’s Twitter handle, he was making public what he had just told me: that he believed Priebus was leaking information about him. The tweet quickly went viral.
The Boy Scout Chief Executive has had to apologize for the remarks by our cretinous imbecile of a president:
In the last two weeks, we have celebrated the best of Scouting at our 20th National Jamboree with nearly 40,000 participants, volunteers, staff and visitors. The 2017 National Jamboree has showcased and furthered the Scouting mission by combining adventure and leadership development to give youth life-changing experiences. Scouts from Alaska met Scouts from Alabama; Scouts from New Mexico met those from New York, and American youth met youth from 59 other countries.
Over the course of ten days, Scouts have taken part in adventures, learned new skills, made new and lasting friendships and completed over 200 community service projects that offered 100,000 hours of service to the community by young men and women eager to do the right thing for the right reasons.
These character-building experiences have not diminished in recent days at the jamboree – Scouts have continued to trade patches, climb rock walls, and share stories about the day’s adventures. But for our Scouting family at home not able to see these real moments of Scouting, we know the past few days have been overshadowed by the remarks offered by the President of the United States. I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937. It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.
It was more than just politics, wasn't it?
This is what comes from having a pussy-grabbing bully in the White House. You can't even ask him to address a group of young boys for fear that he's going to brag about his "victory" insult previous presidents and former political rivals and chatter crudely about rich guys having orgies on yachts because "the boy scouts know..."
After all, his own wife excused him bragging about assaulting women by saying it was just "boys talk." She blamed Billy Bush for egging him on. Maybe these boy scouts did too.
On Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump had another Twitter tantrum about his “beleaguered” Attorney General Jeff Sessions and then impulsively announced that he was banning transgender people from serving in the military. Apparently some far right Freedom Caucus types in the House appealed to him directly and he just fired off a tweet as if he were the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland commanding “Off with their heads!”
After all that drama the president met with Boys and Girls Nationand then announced what he characterized as a yuuuge new jobs initiative — Foxconn, a Taiwanese corporation that makes computer components, will open a facility in Wisconsin. The electronics company announced that it plans to invest $10 billion in the LCD manufacturing plant and will employ about 3,000 workers. Trump said, “Foxconn joins a growing list of industry leaders who understand that America’s capabilities are limitless and that America’s workers are unmatched.”
The 3,000 jobs Foxconn says it will create in Wisconsin aren’t the kind of manufacturing jobs that so many laid off auto and steel workers have been clamoring for. Nor are they a pathway to the American-made iPhone President Trump promised during the 2016 election. They are, instead, part of a new generation of advanced manufacturing jobs, requiring high levels of engineering skills — skills that are still sorely lacking in the American workforce.
Obviously, this could be remedied if there were a serious effort to train people to work in these jobs. But most of those Rust Belt Trump voters are not out-of-work engineers. As Lapowsky observes:
Certainly, investing in advanced manufacturing is smarter than trying to slap a Made in America sticker on every iPhone, as President Trump wants to do. Such a move would require building an entire supply chain of the kind of low-skill assembly line jobs that Apple now offshores to countries like China. No livable wage in the United States could ever compete.
This is complicated stuff, which is not Trump’s strong suit. Nonetheless, it is good news; although if it follows his other “deals,” like the much ballyhooed Carrier plant in Indiana (and every other “deal” Donald Trump has ever done), it’s entirely possible that it won’t live up to the hype. Lapowsky reported that this isn’t the first time Foxconn has made such a commitment, and in the past it has failed to follow through. In 2013 the company promised to spend $30 million on a Pennsylvania factory that never happened.
If Trump were serious about this, he would lobby Congress to ensure that America is preparing a workforce that can fulfill the requirements of these new high tech manufacturing jobs. He’s not serious, of course, and has no intention of doing any such thing.
Trump gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal this week in which he repeated his criticisms of Sessions, which is what got all the play in the media. But he also talked about his plans for job creation and said something that I doubt his supporters in the Rust Belt understood him to be saying on the campaign trail:
In Tuesday’s interview, Mr. Trump said people in New York and other states without jobs will have to move to states like Wisconsin, Iowa and Colorado that are adding manufacturing. “You’re going to need people to work in these massive plants,” Mr. Trump said. “…I’m going to start explaining to people: When you have an area that just isn’t working like upper New York state, where people are getting very badly hurt, and then you’ll have another area 500 miles away where you can’t get people, I’m going to explain, you can leave. It’s OK. Don’t worry about your house.”
In other words, Trump isn’t promising to bring manufacturing jobs back to places where manufacturing used to thrive. He’s saying that all those people who are out of work need to move to other states to find work. Is that what his voters in those states thought he meant? I doubt it. And I doubt very seriously that the president telling them not to worry about their houses, or explaining that they “can leave,” is going to be persuasive.
Americans don’t move around like they used to, and nobody is really sure exactly why that is. There are many theories, including Trump’s obscure “house” reference, meaning that homeowners have a major investment that is not always easy to liquidate. Most families have two incomes, which means one spouse might have to give up a career he or she is happy with to accommodate a move. Many Americans are deeply rooted in their communities with a support network of family, friends and church.
Whatever the case, I suspect that when the average Trump voter heard their man say that he was going to bring back jobs, they didn’t think he was telling them that they had to learn engineering and move to a distant region of the country. They thought he was going to bring the jobs to them.
Trump said similar things during the campaign but nobody paid close enough attention. For instance, he told The Detroit News:
“You can go to different parts of the United States and then ultimately you’d do full-circle — you’ll come back to Michigan because those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it is less. We can do the rotation in the United States — it doesn’t have to be in Mexico.” He said that after Michigan “loses a couple of plants — all of sudden you’ll make good deals in your own area.”
Trump wants to have states compete with one another for the purpose of lowering wages and benefits. (He obviously had no idea that while foreign automakers may pay lower wages, the Big Three U.S. manufacturers have union contracts that must pay the same no matter where the plants are.)
The bottom line is that Trump doesn’t care about American workers. His issue is with foreign competition for American companies, which isn’t exactly the same thing. He said in a Republican primary debate, “We are a country that is being beaten on every front. Taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world.” His supporters had to pretend they didn’t hear that: Their wages were too high.
Polling is showing that Trump’s previously stable approval numbers on the economy are finally slipping. That’s mostly attributable to the health care debate, which is an important pocketbook issue where many people don’t like what they see. But his promises on jobs so far have consisted of feckless photo-ops and bragging about himself. You can’t blame his supporters if they’re starting to lose their patience. Wait until they find out he wants them to get in new skills (at their own expense), board up their houses and move across the country to work for lower wages.
So, this happened. Seems Trumpie really doesn't like it when a woman doesn't do what he tells her to do. For some reason he's decided Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski needs to be taught a lesson even though she's not up for reelection until 2022 so putting the squeeze on her makes little political sense. Plenty of men have voted against various aspects of the health care monstrosity. So this is more about grabbing her by the you-know-what:
President Donald Trump isn't going to just let go of Sen. Lisa Murkowski's no vote Tuesday against debating Obamacare repeal.
Early Wednesday, Trump took to Twitter to express displeasure with Murkowski's vote. By that afternoon, each of Alaska's two Republican senators had received a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke letting them know the vote had put Alaska's future with the administration in jeopardy.
The response follows Trump's no-holds-barred style of governing, even when it comes to his own party. It is his first strike of retaliation against Murkowski, however, despite her tendency to stray from the party line and the president's priorities.
Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said the call from Zinke heralded a "troubling message."
"I'm not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop," Sullivan said.
"I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans. … We're facing some difficult times and there's a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear," Sullivan said. The Interior secretary also contacted Murkowski, he said.
Murkowski was not available for comment. Spokespeople from the White House and the Interior Department did not respond to inquiries.
Uhm, she's not going to put up with it:
DELAYED: Hearing to confirm a series of nominees to Zinke's Interior. Murkowski also controls Interior $$ via approps subcom chair
The sitting president is only the most extreme version of the derangement infecting his party's leadership.
Listening to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., (among others) pontificate yesterday about the evils of Obamacare and the efficiency of the Market was further proof. He argued at length Americans should have a choice of what insurance to buy. Because that's freedom. Freedom is good, but ... You. Must. Be. A. Consumer.
(No transcript is available, so I'm jumping around a bit in his speech.)
Obamacare must be repealed, Rand Paul argues, because of rising premiums and lack of choice. "Obamacare is predicated on force and coercion," Paul argues. "This is what happens when you let government get involved in the marketplace." So surrender yourself to the Market. You. Must. Be. A. Consumer.
Because of Obamacare, many places in America have no choice, the senator worries. "It's about freedom of choice. It's about whether you as an American can make the choice whether you want insurance or don't want insurance," but ... You. Must. Be. A. Consumer.
See, the problem is really in the individual market. Group insurance works fine if you work for a large corporation, "Toyota or Ford or General Motors," says Senator Paul. If you get sick, you don't lose your job or see your rates skyrocket. But the individual market is a "terrible place to be." Paul proposes legalizing forming group markets across state lines so individual farmers or plumbers are free to join groups too. Just not one, national group.
"I don't think we can overstate the negotiating value of a group," Paul says. This is "collective bargaining for consumers." You liberals think that's okay for labor, right? Why not for consumers? But ... You. Must. Be. A. Consumer.
It is a strange definition of freedom that dictates you must be a consumer. It is stranger still coming from a Republican party that actively works to prevent workers from forming unions and engaging in collective bargaining. Yet with a straight face, Paul argues that, because collective bargaining works, consumers should be free to form groups to bargain for health care and drugs. Just not as one, national, not-for-profit group. Being a consumer is freedom. Belonging to a national community is tyranny. The Market demands tribute.
Paul twice condemned the unionized U.S. Postal Service for not making a profit. Authorized under the U.S. Constitution, USPS must now operate in the marketplace and work "toward more innovation, profit, and efficiency" in spite of the fact it is legally mandated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at a uniform price. And when this quasi-government agency cannot operate at a profit in a marketplace dictated for it, it proves government does not work. No matter that the Post Office operated for centuries before it was expected to compete as a common, for-profit business instead of as a community service.
"The federal government cannot deliver the mail. All right?" Paul explained. "They lose a billion dollars a quarter delivering your mail. Do you want them in charge of your doctor?" Or anything else, if it cannot operate in the black?
From what is publicly known, the Defense Department — another government bureau authorized by the Constitution — spent $600 billion last year. Meaning the Pentagon "lost" 150 times more a quarter delivering national security than what Paul condemns in the government delivering mail. You have no choice of national defense providers either. ("A lot of people don't know that.") And there's a penalty for not paying for the service.
So what is it with the Pentagon? Wasteful spending? Bad management? Poor marketing?
Surely there are wars around the world just begging for the United States military to fight them. Wars are not one-size-fits-all affairs, of course, and different countries have a range of budgets. So like the Obamacare exchanges, the Pentagon could offer consumers Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans. And because we believe in capitalism, we shouldn't fear competing with the Russians and the Chinese for the business.
We are the premier military in the world. The Mercedes of militaries. Naturally, our costs are higher because our quality is higher. So if we are having trouble winning war-fighting contracts on a time-and-expense basis, the Pentagon could offer to keep costs down for potential clients with a not-to-exceed contract option. With that added risk, of course, the Pentagon would have to insist on a bonus clause for victories brought in early and under budget.
Seriously, it costs money to keep our equipment and brave boys in uniform idle. We have nearly 900 unprofitable overseas outlets convenient to nearly every hot spot on the planet. Why not stir up foreign wars and hire out to keep them generating enough revenue to satisfy Sen. Paul and his colleagues that they are part of and not a drag on the Market.
Sure, that's perverse. But so is Mr. Paul's and his colleagues' view of what government for the people is about, and their insistence that You. Must. Be. A. Consumer. I'd rather be a citizen.
Debate continues in the Senate today on amendments to whatever Obamacare repeal bill Republican priests are hiding under their cloaks:
Fed up with the GOP’s constant vacillations over how to dismantle Obamacare, Democrats say they will hold back on offering any more amendments in the health care floor fight until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shows what plan the GOP will ultimately coalesce around.
“Democrats are not going to participate in this one-sided and broken process,” announced Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Wednesday evening. “Once the majority leader shows his hand, reveals what his bill will actually be, Democrats will use the opportunity to try and amend the bill.”
After a week sparring with his attorney general and steaming over the Russia investigation consuming his agenda, President Donald Trump was closing in on an important win.
House Republicans were planning to pass a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico.
But an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops was threatening to blow up the bill. And House GOP insiders feared they might not have the votes to pass the legislation because defense hawks wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations — something GOP leaders wouldn’t give them.
They turned to Trump, who didn’t hesitate. In the flash of a tweet, he announced that transgender troops would be banned altogether.
Trump’s sudden decision was, in part, a last-ditch attempt to save a House proposal full of his campaign promises that was on the verge of defeat, numerous congressional and White House sources said.
The president had always planned to scale back President Barack Obama-era policies welcoming such individuals in combat and greenlighting the military to pay for their medical treatment plans. But a behind-the-scenes GOP brawl threatening to tank a Pentagon funding increase and wall construction hastened Trump’s decision.
Numerous House conservatives and defense hawks this week had threatened to derail their own legislation if it did not include a prohibition on Pentagon funding for gender reassignment surgeries, which they deem a waste of taxpayer money. But GOP leaders were caught in a pinch between those demands and moderate Republicans who felt the proposal was blatantly discriminatory.
“There are several members of the conference who feel this really needs to be addressed,” said senior House Appropriations Committee member Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) on Tuesday. “This isn’t about the transgender issue; it’s about the taxpayer dollars going to pay for the surgery out of the defense budget."
That’s why House lawmakers took the matter to the Trump administration. And when Defense Secretary James Mattis refused to immediately upend the policy, they went straight to the White House. Trump — never one for political correctness — was all too happy to oblige.
“[P]lease be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
The president’s directive, of course, took the House issue a step beyond paying for gender reassignment surgery and other medical treatment. House Republicans were never debating expelling all transgender troops from the military.
"This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” said one senior House Republican aide. The source said that while GOP leaders asked the White House for help, they weren't expecting — and got no heads up on — Trump's far-reaching directive.
While Democrats and centrist Republicans are already blasting the move, one White House official said the decision would be "seen as common-sense" by millions — though likely vociferously protested by others.
"It's not the worst thing in the world to have this fight," the administration official said.
The announcement, multiple sources said, did not sit well with Mattis, who appeared to be trying to avoid the matter in recent weeks. Congressional sources say Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), the original author of the House’s transgender proposal, tried numerous times to phone Mattis to discuss the transgender issue.
He only got back to her the day she forced the matter on the House floor in mid-July.
It is unclear what Mattis told Hartzler at that time. But insiders say he felt there was no need to rush upending the policy, arguing the Pentagon needed time to study the issue. Their decision would affect at least 2,450 transgender active-military personnel, according to a Rand report — though military LGBT activist groups as many as as 15,000 soldiers fall into that category.
After lawmakers went around Mattis to engage the White House, Mattis was consulted before the announcement and knew the ban was being considered, according to several White House officials. But the decision ultimately came down from Trump and was "White House-driven," Trump aides said.
The president was also annoyed by the Pentagon delay, one person said. A different official said the White House had gotten positive reaction from conservatives, an important factor amid their displeasure with Trump's recent bashing of Jeff Sessions.
There was no deliberation, no understanding of the full dimension of the issue. The far right wingnuts went to him and told him that his favorite pet issues were being threatened and he just issued an edict. On twitter.
I hope people understand what this means. The president will act like a dictator without a second thought if he can get away with it.
At the Pentagon, the first of the three tweets raised fears that the president was getting ready to announce strikes on North Korea or some other military action. Many said they were left in suspense for nine minutes, the time between the first and second tweet. Only after the second tweet did military officials receive the news the president was announcing a personnel change on Twitter.
As a unit leader or staff member, you can help make the president’s visit a success by ensuring that any reactions to the president’s address are, as we state in our Scout Law, friendly, courteous, and kind. This includes understanding that chants of certain phrases heard during the campaign (e.g. “build the wall,” “lock her up”) are considered divisive by many members of our audience, and may cause unnecessary friction between individuals and units. Please help us ensure that all Scouts can enjoy this historical address by making sure that your troop members are respectful not only of the president, but of the wide variety of viewpoints held by Scouts and Scouters in the audience tonight.
What a sad comment on our country that the Boy Scouts had to warn their members about not joining in the disgusting divisive, misogynist, racist rhetoric of the President of the United States.
Even sadder that he went there --- and that the crowd booed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, led by that fascist creep who went on to allude to orgies on yachts in front of a group of teen-age boys.
1. Trump starts off by marveling at the size of the crowd and attacking the press.
“Boy, you have a lot of people here. The press will say it’s about 200 people. [Laughter.] It looks like about 45,000 people. You set a record today. [Applause.] You set a record. That’s a great honor, believe me. Tonight we put aside all of the policy fights in Washington, D.C. — you’ve been hearing about that with the fake news and all of that. [Applause.] We’re going to put that aside. And instead we’re going to talk about success, about how all of you amazing young Scouts can achieve your dreams … I said, who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts, right?”
2. Trump calls our nation’s capital a “cesspool.”
“You know, I go to Washington and I see all these politicians, and I see the swamp. And it’s not a good place. In fact, today, I said we ought to change it from the word swamp to the word cesspool, or perhaps, to the word sewer. But it’s not good. Not good.” [Applause.]
3. Trump boasts that ten members of his cabinet were Boy Scouts, then threatens to fire one of them.
“Secretary Tom Price is also here. Today Dr. Price still lives the Scout Oath, helping to keep millions of Americans strong and healthy as our Secretary of Health and Human Services. And he’s doing a great job. And hopefully, he’s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us, folks.”
[Applause. Crowd chants “USA! USA! USA!”]
“He better get them. He better get them. Oh, he better — otherwise, I’ll say ‘Tom, you’re fired!’ I’ll get somebody. [Applause.] He better get Senator Capito to vote for it. You got to get the other senators to vote for it. It’s time. After seven years of saying repeal and replace Obamacare, we have a chance to now do it. They better do it. Hopefully they’ll do it.”
4. Trump says we need more “loyalty,” doesn’t explain what he’s referring to.
“As the Scout Law says: ‘A Scout is trustworthy, loyal’ — we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.”
5. Trump marvels at the size of the crowd and attacks the “fake media” for refusing to show it (though CNN aired the speech).
“I’m waving to people back there so small I can’t even see them. Man, this is a lot of people. Turn those cameras back there, please. That is so incredible. By the way, what do you think the chances are that this incredible, massive crowd, record-setting is going to be shown on television tonight? One percent or zero? [Applause.] The fake media will say: President Trump — and you know what this is — President Trump spoke before a small crowd of Boy Scouts today. That’s some — that is some crowd. [Applause.] Fake media. Fake news. Thank you.”
6. Trump attacks his predecessor for failing to address the Boy Scouts (Obama sent a video message in 2010).
[Audience chants, “We love Trump! We love Trump! We love Trump!”]
“By the way, just a question, did President Obama ever come to a jamboree?”
[Audience shouts, “No!”]
“And we’ll be back. We’ll be back. The answer is no, but we’ll be back.”
7. Trump tells a long, meandering story about the real-estate developer William Levitt and alludes to “interesting” activities he engaged in on his yacht.
“[Levitt] he sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. At the time especially — this was a long time ago — [he] sold his company for a tremendous amount of money. And he went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go on any more than that because you’re Boy Scouts, so I’m not going to tell you what he did.”
“Should I tell you? Should I tell you?”
[Audience shouts, “Yes!”]
“Oh, you’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life. So — look at you. Who would think this is the Boy Scouts, right?”
“So, he had a very, very interesting life, and the company that bought his company was a big conglomerate …” [Trump explains that years later Levitt bought his company back.]
“He so badly wanted it, he got bored with this life of yachts and sailing and all of the things he did in the south of France and other places. You won’t get bored, right? You know, truthfully, you’re workers. You’ll get bored, too. Believe me. Of course, having a few good years like that isn’t so bad.”
8. Trump recalls meeting Levitt at a hot New York party.
“In the end he failed, and he failed badly. Lost all of his money. He went personally bankrupt, and he was now much older. And I saw him at a cocktail party, and it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party. It was the party of Steve Ross who was one of the great people — he came up and discovered — really founded — Time Warner and he was a great guy.”
“He had a lot of successful people at the party. And I was doing well so I got invited to the party. I was very young, and I go in — but I’m in the real-estate business — and I see 100 people, some of whom I recognize and they’re big in the entertainment business …”
[Trump recognizes Levitt.] “So I went over and talked to him, and I said, Mr. Levitt, ‘I’m Donald Trump.’ He said ‘I know.’”
9. Trump tells the boys the lesson to take from Levitt’s life is not to lose “momentum” — but if you do, that’s okay, too.
“But I’ll tell you, it was very sad, and I never forgot that moment. And I thought about it, and it’s exactly true. He lost his momentum. Meaning, he took this period of time off long — years — and then when he got back, he didn’t have the same momentum. In life, I always tell this to people, you have to know whether or not you continue to have the momentum, and if you don’t have it that’s okay. Because you’re going to go on and you’re going to learn and you’re going to do things that are great. But you have to know about the word momentum.”
10. Trump recalls his victory on November 8, and attacks the “dishonest people” for doubting that he could win.
“Now with that, I have to tell you our economy is doing great. Our stock market has picked up — since the election November 8. Do we remember that date? [Applause.] Was that a beautiful date? [Applause.] What a date. Do you remember that famous night on television, November 8, where they said — these dishonest people — where they said there is no path to victory for Donald Trump? They forgot about the forgotten people. By the way, they’re not forgetting about the forgotten people anymore. They’re going crazy trying to figure it out. But I told them, far too late. It’s far too late.”
“But do you remember that incredible night with the maps and the Republicans are red and the Democrats are blue, and that map was so red, it was unbelievable, and they didn’t know what to say?” [Applause.]
11. Trump goes through his victories state by state and criticizes Hillary Clinton.
And you know we have a tremendous disadvantage in the Electoral College — popular vote is much easier. Because New York, California, Illinois — you have to practically run the East Coast. And we did. We won Florida. We won South Carolina. We won North Carolina. We won Pennsylvania. [Applause.] We won and won. So when they said there is no way to victory, there is no way to 270, I went to Maine four times because it’s one vote, and we won. But we won — one vote. I went there because I kept hearing we’re at 269. But then Wisconsin came in. Many, many years — Michigan came in. And we worked hard there. My opponent didn’t work hard there because she was told —”
12. Trump thanks his audience — which again, consisted largely of children — for voting for him in November.
“[Clinton] was told she was going to win Michigan, and I said, well, wait a minute, the car industry is moving to Mexico. Why is she going to move — she’s there. Why are they allowing it to move? And by the way, do you see those car industry — do you see what’s happening, how they’re coming back to Michigan? They’re coming back to Ohio. They’re starting to peel back in.” [Applause.]
“And we go to Wisconsin — now, Wisconsin hadn’t been won in many, many years by a Republican. But we go to Wisconsin, and we had tremendous crowds. And I’d leave these massive crowds. I’d say, why are we going to lose this state? The polls — that’s also fake news. They’re fake polls. But the polls are saying — but we won Wisconsin.” [Applause.]
“So I have to tell you what we did, in all fairness, this is an unbelievable tribute to you and all of the other millions and millions of people that came out and voted for Make America Great Again.”
[Audience chants “USA! USA! USA!”]
13. Trump makes a false claim about the latest jobs reports, and updates the kids on his tax-repatriation plan.
“We had the best jobs report in 16 years. The stock market on a daily basis is hitting an all-time high. We’re going to be bringing back very soon trillions of dollars from companies that can’t get their money back into this country, and that money is going to be used to help rebuild America.”
14. Trump assures the Scouts, out of nowhere, that they can finally say “Merry Christmas” again.
“In the Scout Oath, you pledge on your honor to do your best and to do your duty to God and your country. [Applause.] And by the way, under the Trump administration, you’ll be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again when you go shopping. Believe me. Merry Christmas. [Applause.] They’ve been downplaying that little, beautiful phrase. You’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, folks.” [Applause.]
It makes me feel like crying. The celebration of rank stupidity, the crude brutality, the incessant bragging, the whining and the lying in front of a bunch of cheering and jeering boy scouts is almost physically painful to watch.
That's being imprinted on this next generation as leadership.
Apparently the geniuses in the Trump political operation think the next election is going to be about transgender people in the military instead of the deranged, cretinous, orange Commander in Chief of the military.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is so committed to his draconian white nationalist agenda that he’s willing to allow the president of the United States to repeatedly humiliate, denigrate and demean him in public rather than resign. And the president who made his name growling “You’re fired” every week on his reality TV show is reported to be unable to personally fire anyone in real life, so he’s instead displaying what MSNBC’s Chris Hayes has called “titanic levels of passive-aggressiveness” with his constant expressions of “disappointment” in his attorney general.
Donald Trump has always been a big fan of torture and according to Politico, that’s part of the fun for him here:
“He wants to fire him but he doesn’t want the confrontation,” said one adviser who frequently speaks to him. “He doesn’t mind the long negative storyline. He will torture him every single day.”
This person said Trump also wants to see how Sessions will respond to humiliation and has mocked his response so far.
It’s embarrassing to watch at this point. This administration is a bad soap opera on a good day, and these two are the rival divas of the moment. But the drama obscures the serious issue that lies at the heat of this dispute. Our president is abusing the powers of his office to try to stop an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential campaign and his own possible complicity in the crime.
It’s not necessary to go over all the weirdness of Trump’s strange affection for Russian President Vladimir Putin again. This has been well documented, and nobody has yet fully explained his motives in any persuasive way. Considering all the evidence of Russian government meddling and the contacts with members of his campaign, investigations are necessary. That Trump cannot seem to grasp this and is so determined to shut down any inquiry only raises the suspicions even higher.
Trump seems to be ordering Sessions to go after Hillary Clinton and James Comey, which is highly inappropriate in itself. Over the weekend, he sent this series of tweets:
So many people are asking why isn't the A.G. or Special Council looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes. 33,000 e-mails deleted?
Suggesting that the attorney general go after his defeated rival and the former FBI director and start hunting for leakers among their own ranks is bound to blow back on him. On top of his swipes at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Trump seems to be determined to antagonize the entire Department of Justice and the intelligence community for reasons that are both self-serving and self-destructive.
Trump has been complaining bitterly about people he perceives as disloyal to him; he disparaged Sessions’ early endorsement of his campaign in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, suggesting that it was to Sessions’ advantage, not his own. At a news conference on Tuesday with the prime minister of Lebanon, the president refused to say that he wouldn’t fire Sessions, saying, “Time will tell, time will tell …”
Trump is obviously upset by the revelations about Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner taking that meeting with the Russian lawyer and has reportedly told confidantes that he’s worried about special counsel Robert Mueller getting ahold of his tax returns. Clearly, he is also panicked by the fact that the Russia investigation is now turning to look at his family’s finances. Trump told the New York Times that he considers this a “violation,” as if he were unaware until now that law enforcement always follows the facts wherever they lead. This realization that his finances will be scrutinized seems to have unhinged him even more than usual. Believing that he could run for president without serious legal exposure, as may very well be the case, was the craziest thing he’s done — and that’s saying something.
Trump certainly has no understanding of the role the attorney general plays in our system and the requirement that he be independent from exactly this sort of interference. The irony is that during Sessions’ Senate career on the Judiciary Committee he was specifically known for his insistence that officials in the Department of Justice be completely independent of the executive branch, often haranguing nominees on the subject during confirmation hearings. (He memorably did that here to former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates — later fired by Trump for being too independent.)
Most experts speculate that the president believes that driving Sessions from office will allow him to appoint a new A.G. who won’t need to recuse himself or herself from the Russia probe and can then keep a tight leash on the Mueller investigation, or even end it. For a variety of reasons, that’s unlikely. And in the process, Trump is blowing himself up.
We’ve wondered for months what it might take for the president to lose his base of support, and treating a far-right loyalist like Jeff Sessions as his personal doormat might just be it. The right-wing media, starting with Breitbart News, is very unhappy about this. They have reminded their readers that it was Trump who backed away from their religious crusade to put Hillary Clinton in jail. (The congressional committees are following their president’s orders and getting ready to “investigate” Clinton again, so that should appease them a bit.)
Rush Limbaugh said that while he agrees there was no reason for Sessions to recuse himself, he’s a by-the-book legal mind and it’s “a little bit discomforting, unseemly for Trump to go after such a loyal supporter this way. Especially when Sessions made it obvious he’s not gonna resign.” The Drudge Report’s banner headline read “Civil War” on Tuesday morning.
Right-wing media is not Trump’s only problem. Republican senators are speaking out as well:
Jeff Sessions is a man of integrity, loyalty, and extraordinary character. 2/3
Despite his hiring of a new communications director, the president seems to be hurtling more and more out of control, and it’s finally starting to penetrate the right-wing bubble. So far they seem to be most concerned about the mistreatment of one of Trump’s most loyal soldiers. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet that this also demonstrates how little Trump really cares about their agenda.
Sessions is the most effective member of the Trump administration, working day and night to take the nation back to the ’50s — the 1850s. Donald Trump could not care less.
Trump only cares about Trump. It’s amazing it’s taken them this long to see that.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., appeared on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show last night after the Senate voted 51-50 to begin debate on ... something unspecified related to gutting Americans' access to health care. Warren was defiant, visibly shaken, and emotional at the prospect that Republicans might vote to take away health care coverage from tens of millions. Madame professor was gone. A mother was speaking:
For me, it's about the families ... This is about the mammas and the daddies who were out there, who ended up just creating a crowd this afternoon after our vote to stand on the steps of the United States Capitol and to plead, plead for health care coverage for their children.
Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote for Republicans to begin debate after Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a few days out of brain surgery, flew in on a private jet to vote for the motion. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who had reason to give Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) his middle finger, spent ten minutes speaking with a tense and red-faced McConnell before voting aye after McCain did.
There will be a lot of histrionics over the next few days, but even for Republicans they could be meaningless even if something passes out of the Senate. David Dayen and Ryan Grim explain at The Intercept:
This upends the long-standing promise McConnell made these wavering senators over health care. He said repeatedly that they would have the opportunity to amend the bill to their liking on the floor, if they’d only pass a motion to proceed. Even in his floor speech before the vote, McConnell referred to an “open amendment” process, where Senators could “work their will.”
But what McConnell has set in motion would rob these Senators of that ability.
That’s because skinny repeal is just a vehicle to advance the process, as Thune articulated. What’s in it doesn’t really matter, and that includes any additional amendments senators manage to attach. The real action would occur in that House-Senate conference negotiation, where the leadership teams of both Republican caucuses would hash out the final bill. Portman, Murkowski, Heller and their colleagues would be as distant from that negotiation as they were from knowing what they would voted on today.
And then the so-called moderates, with no chance to pass an amendment, would be told to vote for the bill out of party solidarity, to keep the seven-year promise of repealing Obamacare. They would face enormous pressure to advance a bill they had no say on. It is the exact opposite of what McConnell promised.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told a crowd following the vote:
Make no mistake about it: There is no doubt-and we all know when the bill gets to conference-who’s going to call the shots. The Freedom Caucus which will be for full repeal or something even worse than what came from the House. And remember-on the House bill, a whole number of Republican Senators said they wouldn’t vote for it.
Yes a lot of this is about getting everyone on the hook, and therefore ensuring that they cannot be the one to sink it.
Those Republicans promised they could make changes will face an up-or-down vote on whatever emerges from the conference, with even more pressure to pass it than they faced on Tuesday.
After the vote, McCain delivered a self-serving lecture about how the Senate doesn't behave like the Senate anymore, having just reaffirmed the non-deliberative process he decried. That he drew plaudits for a speech after failing to take a stand spoke more loudly than his words.
Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, spoke with Slate after the vote. What is on display in the Senate, particularly among Republicans "of otherwise admirable character and intelligence," is behavior similar to people fearful of being shunned by their tribes. "We have seen this with cults and religions." Ornstein explains our system is supposed to defend itself against, "I will be blunt, a deranged president." And yet, members with larger responsibilities are jumping to his tune. "This vote tells me: Be very afraid."
Clearly, some Democrats are. Warren is.
Yes, this is very tiresome. But that's how it is with zealots. When you run out of steam, they run right over you. Not this time. Look, I'm not the protesty type. But I ran by a dollar store the other day and grabbed a cheap pot and a wooden spoon to keep in the car. You never know where you'll be when a deranged president fires Robert Mueller and sparks "the greatest constitutional crisis since Watergate." Besides, I might need them before that. I thought what Icelanders did in 2008-2009 was pretty cool.
MSNBC finished as the most-watched network in all of basic cable in primetime on Monday, for the first time in its 21-year history, according to Nielsen Research.
The Comcast-owned network averaged 2.34 million viewers, edging Fox News and its average of 2.25 million. Disney's 1.74 million viewers, USA Network's 1.57 million viewers and HGTV's 1.51 million viewers rounded out the top five.
Cable news rival CNN finished ninth behind the Discovery Channel in total viewers in primetime, averaging 875,000 viewers.
Fox News still finished first in the "Total Day" (6 a.m. to 6 a.m.) category, extending its winning streak over all basic cable channels to 29 consecutive weeks, averaging 1.4 million viewers.
New daily developments regarding investigations into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with Trump campaign associates has been a boon for progressive MSNBC, particularly host Rachel Maddow.
Maddow again had the No. 1 program of the week in cable news, averaging 2.94 million total viewers and 711,000 in the key 25-54 demographic advertisers covet most. In all of basic cable, WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) on USA Network was the most-watched, with Maddow coming in second.
MSNBC's shows consistently have an interesting rotation of experts, pundits, reporters and political insiders while CNN hasa format of featuring the same people spouting predictable talking points day after day. It's dull.
We're being admonished not to say anything critical of John McCain's vote to proceed with the destruction of health care for millions of people because it would be indecent considering what he's dealing with.
At the end of a Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday morning, Chairman Susan Collins (R-Maine) didn’t switch off her microphone. Apparently speaking to Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), the ranking Democrat of the committee, Collins discussed the federal budget — and President Trump’s lack of familiarity with the details of governing.
After Reed praises Collins’s handling of the hearing, held by the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, she laments the administration’s handling of spending.
“I swear, [the Office of Management and Budget] just went through and whenever there was ‘grant,’ they just X it out,” Collins says. “With no measurement, no thinking about it, no metrics, no nothing. It’s just incredibly irresponsible.”
“Yes,” Reed replies. “I think — I think he’s crazy,” apparently referring to the president. “I mean, I don’t say that lightly and as a kind of a goofy guy.”
“I’m worried,” Collins replies.
“Oof,” Reed continues. “You know, this thing — if we don’t get a budget deal, we’re going to be paralyzed.”
“I know,” Collins replies.
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“[Department of Defense] is going to be paralyzed, everybody is going to be paralyzed,” Reed says.
“I don’t think he knows there is a [Budget Control Act] or anything,” Collins says, referring to a 2011 law that defines the budget process.
“He was down at the Ford commissioning,” Reed says, referring to President Trump’s weekend event launching a new aircraft carrier, “saying, ‘I want them to pass my budget.’ Okay, so we give him $54 billion and then we take it away across the board which would cause chaos.”
“Right,” Collins replies.
“It’s just — and he hasn’t — not one word about the budget. Not one word about the debt ceiling,” Reed says.
“Good point,” Collins replies.
“You’ve got [Budget Director Mick] Mulvaney saying we’re going to put in all sorts of stuff like a border wall. Then you’ve got [Treasury Secretary Steve] Mnuchin saying it’s got to be clean,” Reed continues. “We’re going to be back in September, and, you know, you’re going to have crazy people in the House.”
And now he's insisting that the DOJ prosecute Hillary Clinton.
Will Sessions be fired? I don't know. But this could be something that finally dislodges some members of the base.They don't care about much of anything he does but this might shake them a bit.
Going all the way back to the first months of Barack Obama’s administration, when the Tea Party rose up in the midst of the worst economic crisis in half a century to oppose heath care reform, I’ve been struck by the right’s visceral loathing for the concept of expanding access to health insurance. There’s almost a cultish component to this opposition, an apparent belief that health care is a devil’s bargain of some sort that will doom America to burn in hell. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated in the long months of hearings and town halls back in 2009, its opponents worked themselves up into a frenzy of outrage over a market-friendly program that would allow people to have access to health care at a reasonable cost and wouldn’t discriminate against sick people.
Did all the stories of suffering and financial ruin associated with lack of health care not move them at all? Did they believe it could never happen to them, that they or their loved ones could never lose their health insurance or go bankrupt from medical bills? Beyond the obvious fact that they hated President Obama and that their team was against government in general so they were too, I never understood the overwhelming rage this seemed to induce in so many Republicans. It exposed a streak of cruelty in some Americans that I have to admit surprised me.
Since last November’s election the ACA has grown substantially in popularity. Nonetheless,the GOP majority in Congress is hellbent on repealing it even though they clearly have absolutely no idea what to do about the inevitable chaos that will ensue. It’s a crusade whose purpose is no longer clear — the act itself is apparently the goal.
At this point, Republicans aren’t under particular pressure from the faction of their coalition one might expect to push for this repeal. Doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, many businesses and the AARP are all on record opposing the current GOP strategy. Some of their big ideological donors, including the Koch brothers, support repeal but don’t seem to be making a huge deal out of it. The most loyal base supporters want it, of course. They also want a 2,000-mile border wall and think that Donald Trump is going to bring back the Industrial Revolution. But the fear of the Tea Party running primaries against anyone who fails to vote for this seems overblown at this point. That bubble burst. (Early indications are that Republicans are lagging far behind in candidate recruitment for the 2018 midterms.)
This is just a mindless drive for a “win,” in order to justify a cynical political ploy that energized their voters to oppose the hated Obama and took on a life of its own. Now Republicans would rather see people’s lives destroyed than admit to all that.
The Senate will vote on Tuesday whether to proceed to debate on a bill that nobody except Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has seen. For all we know, the bill doesn’t yet exist. It’s possible they will be voting on the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA) — which is total repeal, causing 32 million people to lose their health insurance — or the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), the Senate’s “repeal and replace” bill that will cause 22 million to lose insurance. That latter bill has changed so many times that nobody has any idea what’s in it. There are a number of provisions that have been rejected by the parliamentarian, some of which will result in a death spiral for the individual insurance industry — although there’s no reason to think Republicans care about that in the least.
Nothing matters at all except somehow getting to 50 votes in the Senate. And the truly astonishing thing is that through this entire chaotic process, the leadership has consistently had well over 40 votes, no matter what insane proposal it was contemplating. As Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said on Monday when asked if he was worried about what was in the bill, “it doesn’t concern me. As I said, I’ll vote for anything.”
Late in the day it was announced that Sen. John McCain would return to D.C. today to cast a vote despite having just undergone brain surgery. Why GOP leaders could not hold off on this vote for a week or so to allow him to recuperate a little more is a mystery. They’re in a big hurry to get this done. It is assumed that McCain would not return under such circumstances if he weren’t going to vote for the motion to proceed, so that much is likely a done deal. Whether there will be enough votes for whatever monstrosity McConnell eventually gets to the floor is still unknown.
But as I wrote last week, even if this effort fails in the Senate, that’s not the end of the story. Even more dispiriting, perhaps, President Donald Trump believes that such a failure has a silver lining since he can then sabotage the existing Obamacare law and “blame it on the Democrats,” which he believes is smart politics.
According to the Daily Beast, the administration is already using money designated to encourage enrollment in Obamacare to spread propaganda against the program and urge people to push their congressional representatives to repeal it, which is against the law. Your tax dollars are being used to fund the cynical partisan work of the Trump administration and the Republican Party. That’s just for starters.
As Ian Millhiser of Think Progress explains, due to some complicated legal issues, it’s possible that the Trump administration will simply stop paying the subsidies that make the Obamacare exchanges work. They could basically pull the fiscal plug, and that would be that. Politico reported last week:
Trump has repeatedly told aides and advisers that he wants to end the subsidy payments, and he has not changed his position, according to several people who have spoken with him. “Why are we making these payments?” Trump has asked.
This will throw the Obamacare exchanges into turmoil and chaos, which is evidently something he would very much enjoy. Polling shows that six in 10 Americans will blame Republicans for the catastrophe, but bear in mind that Donald Trump’s entire life has been organized around blaming others for his mistakes, so he’s confident he can pull this off too.
Tuesday is going to be a dramatic. If this latest attempt at repeal goes down in flames in the Senate, Republicans may have to table their dream for a little while. But they’ll come back with something. It’s a fixation. And until they do, Trump will have his henchmen do everything in their power to undermine the existing program. Either way, these people are going to ensure that the poor and middle class who have the bad luck to need Medicaid or individual insurance will pay the price.