Sunday, January 11, 2015

Last Call For Off The Plan

And the Republican assault on Obamacare in the 114th Congress begins in earnest.

On Thursday, House Republicans will vote on an anti-Obamacare bill that could toss up to 1.5 million Americans off their employer-sponsored health plans. To make the case that this is a good idea, top GOPers are misrepresenting what the legislation would do. They claim the measure would help prevent companies from reducing worker hours in order to cut employees' health insurance benefits. Yet the legislation would likely encourage businesses to decrease hours so the firms could avoid providing health insurance to workers. "While political leaders often stretch the truth to make their case, they usually don't claim the opposite of the truth," Robert Greenstein, the president of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), noted Wednesday. "That, however, is essentially what Republican congressional leaders are doing."

The bill House Republicans introduced Wednesday would change the way the Affordable Care Act defines full-time work and, thus, who is eligible for employer-sponsored health care. Currently, the ACA requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide affordable health coverage to 95 percent of their full-time workers or pay a penalty. This measure, called the employer mandate, begins to go into effect this year. Under the 2010 health care law, full-time work is defined as 30 or more hours per week. The GOP bill would change the law's definition of full time to 40 hours per week.

The bottom line?  1.5 million Americans would lose their employer-sponsored health insurance, and because of the 40 hour line, they'd lose a host of other benefits too, like paid vacation, medical leave, and of course, hours.

In other words, employers could cut people to 39.5 hours a week and save a lot of money, rather than having to cut people to 29.5 hours a week just to keep them off insurance (and having to hire more people, which doesn't really save them money).

But that's what Republicans are fighting for, to cut benefits to millions.

As always.

Meawhile at Dick's House

America may love torturing brown people, but there are still some of us who remember that Dick Cheney and his buddies should be in prison on war crimes charges about now.

Two protesters were arrested at the McLean, Virginia, home of former Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday after 20 demonstrators, some in orange prison jumpsuits, walked onto his property to mark the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay prison.

The protesters from the anti-war group Code Pink walked up to the house before police arrived and asked them to leave, said Fairfax County police spokesman Roger Henriquez. Two members who refused to go were arrested on trespassing charges, he said.

Police identified the two as Tighe Barry, 57, and Eve Tetaz, 83, both of Washington DC. The pair face misdemeanor charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, police said.

Another Code Pink group demonstrated without incident outside the home of CIA Director John Brennan, also in the Washington, D.C. suburb of McLean, as part of its "Guantanamo Anniversary Weekend Torturers Tour."

I don't agree with everything Code Pink does, but harassing the hell out of Cheney?  Go right ahead, ladies.  In a fair and just world he'd be in prison anyhow.

The French Connection

As many as a million marchers and several European heads of state attended a rally in Paris today showing solidarity with France and the victims of this week's attacks.

President Francois Hollande and leaders from Germany, Italy, Israel, Turkey, Britain and the Palestinian territories among others, moved off from the central Place de la Republique ahead of a sea of French and other flags. Giant letters attached to a statue in the square spelt out the word Pourquoi?" (Why?) and small groups sang the "La Marseillaise" national anthem.

Some 2,200 police and soldiers patrolled Paris streets to protect marchers from would-be attackers, with police snipers on rooftops and plain-clothes detectives mingling with the crowd. City sewers were searched ahead of the vigil and underground train stations around the march route are due to be closed down.

The silent march - which may prove the largest seen in modern times through Paris - reflected shock over the worst militant Islamist assault on a European city in nine years. For France, it raised questions of free speech, religion and security, and beyond French frontiers it exposed the vulnerability of states to urban attacks.

"Paris is today the capital of the world. Our entire country will rise up and show its best side," said Hollande in a statement.

We sent Eric Holder over, and the irony of course is that Bibi Netanyahu is there, along with Turkish PM Erdogan, which really, really puts the concept of free speech into perspective.  Angela Merkeal and David Cameron, too.  These folks don't believe in freedom of speech any more than the guys who shot up Charlie Hebdo did.

A very different reaction than America's some thirteen years ago, but America has its own immigration fight now after Republicans politicized the Department of Homeland Security, and the stakes just got a lot higher in their quest to shut down the DHS over President Obama's immigration orders.

Senate and House Republicans are warning against a standoff with President Obama and Senate Democrats that could shut down the department tasked with protecting the homeland within weeks of terrorist attacks against Western targets. They worry the GOP could wind up taking the blame, which is what happened when a dispute over implementation of the Affordable Care Act shuttered the federal government for 16 days.

While Republicans are unified in their desire to reverse the executive order Obama issued after Election Day shielding an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation, some are warning Tea Party colleagues such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) not to take the fight too far.

“Defunding that part of the bill that deals with enforcing the executive order makes sense but we can’t go too far here because look what happened in Paris. The Department of Homeland Security needs to be up and running,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Former Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) on Friday called it “absolutely essential” that counterterrorism be funded given the spate of attacks around the world.

A Senate GOP aide warned that Democrats would pounce on a departmental shutdown to accuse Republicans of prioritizing the desires of their conservative base over national security.

“There’s no question that if the DHS shuts down in some way, Democrats will do everything to take full advantage of the situation,” the aide said.

It's the Republicans who set up this shutdown showdown.  Now they're complaining that it's a terrible idea?  It always was.   Now the plan is to put a bill on the table defunding immigration or risk shutting down Homeland Security completely anyway?


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