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Good Friday Morning!
Gaming out Obamacare repeal and replace 2.0
Republicans tabled the American Health Care Act in the House due to a lack of votes. The primary opposition came from the House Freedom Caucus, a group of House Representatives that links itself to the Tea Party movement.
I believe the bill should have passed. I have issues with the AHCA, but Republicans should have taken steps toward some reform instead of none. The other reason the GOP needs the bill passed is that they plan on using the deficit saving measures from Obamacare repeal/replace legislation to help fund their tax reform legislation. The AHCA is more than healthcare reform; it’s a building block to some Republican reforms.
Republicans can no longer simply be the party of “No.” The Party in power gets the responsibility and blame for most of the consequences in Government. When the higher Obamacare premiums hit in November, people are going to have sticker shock outrage. Republicans will get the blame for that sticker shock outrage. They will get the blame because they had a chance to change Obamacare and walked away. That’s not leadership or governance.
The House Freedom Caucus’s response to the AHCA was to accept all of Obamacare just because they disagreed with the reform measures. That is idiotic. I understand the problems with the AHCA, but none of them compare to hamstringing the rest of the President’s agenda or keeping Obamacare in place. Republicans need to reverse course and start governing. Tim Carney nailed this in the Washington Examiner:
Republican leaders haven’t figured out how to lead in the Tea Party era. The two most relevant changes since the Bush era are: (1) The social media-driven decentralization of information and money and (2) the death of earmarks.
Earmarks were the easiest way for leaders to win votes and influence conservatives. If a member is undecided on a bill, just promise him $11 million for a new athletic center in his district, and bam, he’s on board.
That’s the lesser of the handicaps John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell have experienced. The worse problem is that they lost their monopolies on the dissemination of information and fundraising.
Consider the question of whether the American Health Care Act counted as “repealing Obamacare.” Ryan stated that with the bill, Republicans were “Keeping Our Promise to Repeal ObamaCare.” Donald Trump spoke the same way. Ryan, being the speaker, had the megaphones of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Fox News, and CNN to declare that his bill was an Obamacare repeal. Once upon a time, that would have been enough to establish his bill as a repeal of Obamacare. Any member who had campaigned on repealing Obamacare would have felt overwhelming pressure to vote for the bill.
But party leadership can no longer control the message. Through Twitter, Facebook and conservative media came the argument that AHCA wasn’t really a repeal of Obamacare because it didn’t repeal Obamacare. It left in place the most substantial and costly regulations of that 2010 law. Meanwhile, conservative groups like Heritage Action and the Club for Growth were able to bombard the grassroots with emails and tweets opposing the law, and explaining that it didn’t fully repeal Obamacare.
I agree with him on bringing back earmarks. The prohibition on earmarks has not reduced corruption. It’s simply made it harder to provide unified governance. Congress is marked more by what it does not do, than what it does. Since the earmark ban, we no longer pass regular budgets or rational legislation. Parties have become polarized and less prone to compromise. Returning to a normal budgetary process would be a boon to the economy. Earmarks could help get us there. And they could assist in creating bipartisan health care reform.
Republicans will get another shot at Healthcare reform. Perhaps as soon as next week. Right now, I believe Trump is softening up the House Freedom Caucus, trying to fracture their faction. That’s why he tried forcing an initial vote, and why he has spent his time attacking the House Freedom Caucus. If he can break them, the AHCA, or some form of it, should pass.
Trump also sent a shot across Ryan’s bow with a tweet telling people to watch a TV show that spent its time blasting Paul Ryan, calling for Ryan to step down as Speaker. While Trump was complimentary of Ryan after the AHCA failure, his attacks on the House Freedom Caucus and Paul Ryan say three things:
- Trump doesn’t blame Ryan for losing the first round of Healthcare reform.
- Trump blames the House Freedom Caucus for stopping Ryan and the bill. Hence Trump’s repeated attacks on the House Freedom Caucus.
- If Ryan can’t pass healthcare reform with the House Freedom Caucus obstacle removed, Trump wants Ryan to step down as Speaker of the House.
Trump is showing that he isn’t loyal in politics. He will make any play and ally himself with any faction to get what he wants. His current goal is to force the House Freedom Caucus back to the table. The goal is making the Freedom Caucus beg for a deal. Trump wants some form of healthcare reform to pass. He’s going to hammer the House Freedom Caucus until he gets what he wants (hence why it is notable some of the House Freedom Cause members are already leaving / openly disagreeing with caucus). Right now, Trump’s war on the Freedom Caucus is working. Look for him to continue driving a wedge between them to achieve a legislative victory on the AHCA.
There is no option to simply walk away. Trump understands this point. Republicans and the House Freedom Caucus do not. Trump needs to give them a history lesson of what happens when you break major promises. When George H. W. Bush broke his promise, “Read my lips, no more taxes.” He lost. Republicans have spent seven years promising to repeal and replace Obamacare. Walking away and leaving Obamacare intact, as the House Freedom Caucus chose, is not an option.
The far too early look at the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary
Time Magazine published a story this week about Hilary Clinton’s speech to an audience in San Fransisco:
Speaking at a conference for professional businesswomen in San Francisco on Tuesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she is back. “I am thrilled to be out of the woods, in the company of so many inspiring women,” she said to an enamored crowd of about 3,500 at the Professional BusinessWomen of California’s annual conference, adding that there is no place she would rather be “other than the White House.
At the San Francisco speech, she articulated disappointment about the election but spent most of her time on stage sounding defiant tones. She called the advancement of women’s and girls’ rights “the great unfinished business of the 21st century” and concluded her speech by saying that she would be out in public fighting for progress on those fronts.
“The last few months haven’t been exactly what I envisioned, although I do know what I’m fighting for: I’m fighting for a fairer, big-hearted, inclusive America. And the unfinished business of the 21st century can’t wait any longer,” she said. “Now is the time to demand the progress we want to see … and I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.”
Everyone’s immediate thought: “She’s running.” If she did it would be her third Presidential run. Fifth if you count Bill Clinton’s campaigns. And while I do think Clinton will give it another shot, I don’t presume she is the favorite. So I’m going to map out what I see happening in the Democratic Party for 2020 and give you a list of people to watch.
Before my predictions, I want to lay out my methods when picking these names. Ostensibly, you could say anyone in the Democratic Party could run and win. Barack Obama and Donald Trump were long shot candidates. But while both were long shots, neither was an unknown when they decided to run for President. Obama was a rising Democratic Party star in 2004, delivering the keynote address at the DNC convention that year. Trump dabbled with running in 2012 (and several previous years). The point is, while both were surprise winners, it wasn’t impossible to see them as an option in the Presidential primaries. Furthermore, there are substantial restrictions on the Democratic Party that fences in both their opportunities and direction.
First, Democrats have a weak bench of candidates. From state to federal offices, Democrats have lost over 900 seats since 2008. Political Parties work a bit like baseball. Typically, politicians work their way up through a farm system until they’re ready to play in the big leagues. They run for state and local offices before jumping into the federal system (Obama was a State Senator, George W. Bush a Governor…etc). Occasionally you have people jump straight to the majors, but historically those are the exception rather than the rule.
The obvious rejoinder here: Donald J. Trump. And while, yes, Donald Trump has changed the rules, he’s only changed the rules for big name businessmen and celebrities. He’s the first non-politician/career military person we’ve had jump straight to the Presidency. Previous outsiders have become Governors or Senators (Fred Thompson, Al Franken, Jesse Ventura, and Arnold Schwartzenegger). Trump has provided a path for people with big platforms to jump right to the top. Everyone else remains in the traditional track. And for Democrats, their farm system has been decimated. Democrats have few stars and even fewer viable options.
Second, Democrats have to put forward someone who can win a broad coalition. What sunk Clinton was Trump winning over white rural voters who were Obama voters in 2008-2012 but voted for Trump in 2016. Nate Cohn illustrates this point perfectly in the NYT:
If turnout played only a modest role in Mr. Trump’s victory, then the big driver of his gains was persuasion: He flipped millions of white working-class Obama supporters to his side.
The voter file data makes it impossible to avoid this conclusion. It’s not just that the electorate looks far too Democratic. In many cases, turnout cannot explain Mrs. Clinton’s losses.
In county after county, Trump convinced white rural Obama voters to switch parties. The million dollar question is this: Is this a generational shift, or a temporary one? Neither parties know the answer. Democrats have no choice: they must win these voters back. If they choose to go against that advice, they’ll have to figure out a way to pick off a coalition of Republican voters and make them Democratic. Democrats can’t just increase minority vote turnout to erase their problems. They have to re-win the Obama coalition or create a new majority coalition.
Third, Democrats need someone who could face Trump now, not a new 2018 face. In 2012, I correctly predicted that Rand Paul and Ted Cruz would both run in 2016 because of their filibuster stunts. These performances gave them free media and political capital in the party. Look for similar out of Democratic politicians. Loud political grandstanding can raise a person’s platform.
In the end, what you’re looking for is someone who can bring a coalition to the table, win other coalitions, and provide good media optics for Democrats. When you apply these real restrictions to the party, the list shrinks considerably.
Likely 2020 Democratic Primary Challengers
The two primary candidates in 2020 are Senators Cory Booker, NJ and Elizabeth Warren, MA. Cory Booker is better positioned to win a general election, while Warren can win the primary. If I were assigning odds, I’d give Warren 35% and Booker 30% odds of winning the primary. While these two are the strongest candidates in the field, they have glaring weaknesses.
Warren is considered the firebrand populist. She’s highly popular among the wealthy, white progressives of the coasts. Her base is in the Northeast. Her biggest problem: She has no support with minorities (the Bernie Sanders issue). Warren is, frankly, too liberal for the major minority coalitions within the Democratic Party. Warren also struggles to relate with the critical block of white rural voters. For Democrats, this is like replacing Al Gore with John Kerry. Similar problems and likeability concerns.
Cory Booker faces two problems: 1) He lacks the white progressive support of Warren, and 2) He lacks any substantive experience. He’s a policy lightweight who trades mostly on social media stardom and media appearances. I’d look for him to try and fill out some of his resume over the next few years while aiming for a larger leadership role. Don’t be surprised if he tries to position himself as an Obama-lite politician. I’d expect a book tour with media appearances in his future.
In the primaries, they take different constituencies. Booker would fair better in the South and places with high minority populations, whereas Warren would win over the white liberals of the northeast and west coast. These two could split the Democratic Party in half. Neither has a platform of winning over lost Obama voters. Warren is more poorly positioned than Clinton to win a general election. Warren is far more likable than Clinton but fares worse with minorities. It’s doubtful Warren could meet Clinton’s numbers with blacks and Hispanics. Booker is frankly unproven.
Bring in, Hilary Clinton. I’d currently give her 20% odds of running and winning. She could come in as the savior of the party between Booker and Warren. Especially if it becomes apparent that neither Booker nor Warren can win rural white voters (Clinton’s blueprint would be her 2008 primary campaign and Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign). The key to a Clinton run is this: Do Democrats think Clinton illegitimately lost the Presidency? If Democrats believe Clinton lost, fair and square, then I don’t think she can run. But, if neither Democrats or Clinton accept the results of 2016, then it gives her an opening. She can run saying she is trying to win what was unlawfully taken, not what she lost.
Those three people are it for the Democratic Party’s bench. There are a few new Senators they may look to in 2020, but none of them have the star of Obama in 2004, or the power of Booker, Warren, and Clinton. Added together, I’d say these three have 85% odds of being the Democratic Party nominee in 2020.
Those odds brings us to the remaining 15%: the outsiders. With Trump’s victory, we must anticipate people in business and celebrities will try to run. Don’t be shocked if Kanye West tries to run for President. He won’t get far. But don’t be surprised. More realistically, though, the list of people I’d watch are:
Mark Zuckerburg (Ringer piece)
I’d give each of them 5% odds because they’ve made clear political moves.
I have one caveat on the Democratic Party and outsiders. It is much harder to win as an outsider in the Democratic Party than it is in the Republican Party. Democrats have super-delegates and tighter party control over who will win (see the Podesta and DNC email leaks). Any outsider jumping in would have to surge into the lead like Trump and maintain a commanding lead. And even then, Democrats could block the outsider from winning.
It’s a long way to go until 2020, but in American politics, campaign chess pieces for the future start now.
CBO Report: US Debt is exploding as deficits grow
The CBO’s annual report on long-term federal spending and revenue shows the federal debt, which has doubled since 2008 to about 77% of gross domestic product, would reach 150% of GDP in 2047, the highest level since its post-World War II peak. That is up from an estimate of 145% made this past January.
“Such high and rising debt would have serious budgetary and economic consequences,” the agency warned.
The increase reflects higher costs for health-care programs and Social Security, the result of an aging population, and higher interest payments on the government’s debts. CBO also lowered its projections for GDP growth over the next 30 years—in part because of slower productivity growth—which boosted the estimates of debt as a share of GDP.
The single largest drivers of the debt and deficit are entitlement programs. The big costs here are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Spending growth will continue as the Baby Boomer generation ages, as the CBO notes:
Much of the spending growth for Social Security and Medicare results from the aging of the population: As members of the baby-boom generation age and as life expectancy continues to increase, the percentage of the population age 65 or older will grow sharply, boosting the number of beneficiaries of those programs.In addition, growth in spending on Medicare and the other major health care programs is driven by rising health care costs per person, which are projected to increase more quickly than GDP per capita (after the effects of aging and other demographic changes are removed). CBO projects that those health care costs will rise—although more slowly than they have in the past— in part because of the effects of new medical technologies and rising personal income.
In addition, growth in spending on Medicare and the other major health care programs is driven by rising health care costs per person, which are projected to increase more quickly than GDP per capita (after the effects of aging and other demographic changes are removed). CBO projects that those health care costs will rise—although more slowly than they have in the past— in part because of the effects of new medical technologies and rising personal income.
Controlling entitlement and welfare program costs over the next half-century is one of the greatest challenges facing America. Runaway costs risk the fiscal health of the nation. One of the major provisions of the American Health Care Act is reform of Medicare and Medicaid. The reforms aim at controlling healthcare expenses. While Donald Trump has never shown interest in controlling entitlement costs, conservatives have under Paul Ryan’s leadership. Hopefully, Republicans can act to cut these costs. We are running out of time to deal with our ballooning entitlement programs.
Links for your radar
36 years ago: March 31, 1981 – President Ronald Reagan is shot – New York Times
President Reagan was shot in the chest today by a gunman, apparently acting alone, as Mr. Reagan walked to his limousine after addressing a labor meeting at the Washington Hilton Hotel. The White House press secretary and two law-enforcement officers were also wounded by a burst of shots. The President was reported in ”good” and ”stable” condition tonight at George Washington University Hospital after undergoing two hours of surgery. ”The prognosis is excellent,” said Dr. Dennis S. O’Leary, dean of clinical affairs at the university. ”He is alert and should be able to make decisions by tomorrow.” The hospital spokesman said surgeons removed a .22-caliber bullet that struck Mr. Reagan’s seventh rib, penetrating the left lung three inches and collapsing it.
Mike Flynn Offers to Testify in Exchange for Immunity – Wall Street Journal
Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, has told the Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional officials investigating the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia that he is willing to be interviewed in exchange for a grant of immunity from prosecution, according to officials with knowledge of the matter.
As an adviser to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, and later one of Mr. Trump’s top aides in the White House, Mr. Flynn was privy to some of the most sensitive foreign-policy deliberations of the new administration and was directly involved in discussions about the possible lifting of sanctions on Russia imposed by the Obama administration.
He has made the offer to the FBI and the House and Senate intelligence committees through his lawyer but has so far found no takers, the officials said.
Trump Russia dossier key claim ‘verified’ – BBC News
The BBC has learned that US officials “verified” a key claim in a report about Kremlin involvement in Donald Trump’s election – that a Russian diplomat in Washington was in fact a spy. So far, no single piece of evidence has been made public proving that the Trump campaign joined with Russia to steal the US presidency – nothing. But the FBI Director, James Comey, told a hushed committee room in Congress last week that this is precisely what his agents are investigating.
FBI Director James Comey attempted to go public as early as the summer of 2016 with information on Russia’s campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election, but Obama administration officials blocked him from doing so, two sources with knowledge of the matter tell Newsweek.
Well before the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence accused the Russian government with tampering with U.S. elections in an October 7 statement, Comey pitched the idea of writing an op-ed about the Russian campaign during a meeting in the White House’s situation room in June or July. “He had a draft of it or an outline, he held up a piece of paper in a meeting and said, ‘I want to go forward, what do people think of this?’” says a source with knowledge of the meeting , which included Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security director and the national security adviser.
The other national security leaders didn’t like the idea, and White House officials thought the announcement should be a coordinated message backed by multiple agencies, the source says. “An op-ed doesn’t have the same stature, it comes from one person.”
Kamala Harris teamed up with Planned Parenthood to target David Daleiden – The Washington Times
Officials from California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office and Planned Parenthood collaborated to draft legislation targeting the pro-life activist whose undercover videos showed officials for the nation’s largest abortion provider discussing the sale of fetal body parts, emails show. The emails depict conversations between the state agency and Planned Parenthood over AB 1671, which would amend the penal code to make secretly recording and disseminating communications with health care providers a crime. Gov. Jerry Brown has until the end of the month to sign or veto the bill.
AB 1671 is a response to the Center for Medical Progress’ undercover video series spearheaded by David Daleiden.
The documents are another indication of Ms. Harris‘ close relationship with Planned Parenthood and call into question the impartiality of her ongoing investigation of Mr. Daleiden, legal experts said. The emails show Beth Parker, chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, sending multiple drafts of AB 1671 to Jill Habig, who was at the time special counsel to the attorney general.
Devin Nunes Should Step Down as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee – David French, National Review Online
Just at the time when the nation desperately needs adults to step forward who can give the public confidence that they not only understand the stakes of the Russia investigation, they also can be entrusted to conduct that investigation in good faith, Nunes unnecessarily poured gasoline on an already-raging fire. The American body politic is awash in conspiracy theories, mistrust, and wild claims of espionage and criminality. It needs leaders. It needs competence. It needs integrity. Nunes isn’t Donald Trump’s lawyer. He’s not Trump’s spokesperson. It’s not his job to clean up Trump’s Twitter mess. The House Intelligence Committee faces the challenge of conducting an investigation that has at least some degree of bipartisan credibility. It’s not “success” for Nunes to produce a report that plays great on Fox News while his Democratic counterpart, Adam Schiff, writes a dissenting document for Rachel Maddow.
Are you unconvinced? Let’s indulge in the simplest exercise in political integrity. If the roles were reversed, what would you argue? If Adam Schiff was the chairman, Hillary Clinton was president, and Schiff was secretly meeting at the White House for solo briefings then presenting that same “evidence” to the press as if he’d discovered it, you’d want him to step down. And you’d be right.
Notes from Europe’s Periphery: Both ends of the Continent’s periphery are shifting away from the core – Georg Friedman, Geopolitical Futures
…[T]he heart of what I am arguing is that just as the British periphery is fragmenting, the Eastern European periphery is also fragmenting. Some regimes are now pulling away from other countries and the EU; other regimes are drawing closer. This fragmentation has critical geopolitical consequences in the short term. As the EU alienates Poland and Hungary, further fragmentation will take place as these two countries try to find a balance between Europe and Russia, rather than simply being committed to the center, particularly Germany.
It is odd to sit in London and think of the similarities between the English and the Poles and Hungarians, but in fact, they are in the same condition. They are pulling away –some would say being repelled away – from the EU and facing the geopolitical consequences. For Britain, it is a return to the configuration of the 17th century. Meanwhile Poland and Hungary are trying to establish their sovereignty outside the construct of a multinational entity. The western and eastern peripheries are undergoing not only the first experience of fragmentation but also post-fragmentation of the geopolitical system.
The EU was an attempt to freeze history in peace and prosperity. The prosperity having failed, the question of peace is now on the table. If peace fails, then the geopolitical reality shifts, and history continues.
A National Neighborhood Map of the Presidential Election – Decision Desk HQ
The Decision Desk HQ is extremely proud to host the most detailed interactive display of last year’s Presidential election. Ryne Rohla, a new contributor to the Desk, has spent months of meticulous work, accumulating the data from every state in the nation. Going above and beyond with an already wild project, Mr. Rohla has also acquired 2008 and 2012 precinct results, and the graphic we are about to display will allow you to look up your home precinct practically anywhere in the United States to see how it has voted over three cycles. Mr. Rohla and other contributors, including Alexander Agadjanian, Miles Coleman, and myself, will be reviewing the mountain of data to explore last year’s contest.
Headline of the week
DEERFIELD, Mass. — Police have arrested a trucker they say drove nonstop from Seattle to Massachusetts fueled by crystal meth, LSD, and cocaine.
Deerfield police say they responded to a convenience store parking lot off Interstate 91 on Tuesday for reports of a trucker who appeared to be despondent after locking himself out of his cab.
Officer Adam Sokoloski tells The Recorder of Greenfield that responding officers determined the driver was displaying signs of drug use.
The driver allegedly told police of his drug use and was reluctantly taken to the hospital after ‘‘quite the struggle.’’
The driver, identified as Gary Robbins, of Homer, Alaska, was charged with operating under the influence of drugs and several motor vehicle violations.
He will be summoned to court and could not be reached for comment.
Thanks for reading!