Sunday, July 30, 2017

Kellyanne Con-Job Gives Up The ACA Game

Right-wing news outlets are "useful" these days because Trump regime folks keep talking to them and giving away their plans.  Nobody's more guilty of this than regime TV mouthpiece Kellyanne Conway, who regularly makes the rounds on FOX to fly the colors (orange, mostly).  These guys aren't clever enough to lie, there's no need to read the tea leaves, Trump makes threats and tries to follow up on them whenever he can.

So where is Trump going after this week's Obamacare crash and burn?  Kellyanne knows and straight up told Chris Wallace of FOX News Sunday.

WALLACE: OK, let’s not waste any more time. Let’s talk -- Kellyanne, let's talk about ObamaCare.

The president put out a new tweet today. I want to put it on the screen. He wrote: Don’t give up Republican senators, the world is watching, repeal and replace, and go to 51 votes, nuclear option, get cross state lines and more.

Is that the president’s plan, stay on repeal and replace, change the Senate rules and legislative filibuster so that you can pass a fuller repeal and replace, including selling insurance across state lines?

CONWAY: The president will not accept those who said it's, quote, time to move on. He wants to help the millions of Americans who have suffered with no coverage. They were lied to by the last president. They couldn't keep the doctor. They couldn't keep their plan.

We’ve met with the ObamaCare victims at the White House several times now. They’re real people, they’re suffering.

And when he talks about the 51 votes, the president is basically making the case that so many of the components of real healthcare reform, Chris, requires 60 votes -- the drug pricing, the selling of insurance across state lines, the associated health plans that allow those who don't get their health insurance to the employers like you and I do, or to government benefits, who have been left out because the premiums are too high.

Premiums have doubled. We see in some states that there are no insurers --


WALLACE: Let's talk about that. Kellyanne --

CONWAY: So, he will. He will stick with it.

WALLACE: OK, failing it, and fail -- and then we should point out that both Republicans and Democrats say that there’s no chance they’re going to change the Senate rules.

Here’s what the president says his plan is.


TRUMP: I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode and then do it. I turned out to be right. Let ObamaCare implode.



WALLACE: Failing repeal and replace, is that really what the president intends to do? Does he intend to cut off what are called cost-sharing reductions which lower the out-of-pocket expenses for people, lower income people? And what about -- you talk about real people, what about the millions of people while ObamaCare is imploding that are going to lose healthcare coverage?

CONWAY: So, Chris, I saw the comment from Mr. Schumer, Senator Schumer, about this. What is their plan to help? The CSR payments are being made and we've already got an opinion by one court because you have members of Congress who sued to say that under ObamaCare, this money was never authorized through the Congress. And so, they would like an opportunity to do that, which is, of course, the normal course of business.

Can I just ask Senator Schumer --


WALLACE: Is the present going to cut off the CSR payments, the out-of-pocket payments? He can do it starting next month, this week.

CONWAY: Yes, he can. He can -- he's going to make that decision this week, and that’s the decision that only he can make.

I mean, that's as loud of an alarm bell as it gets, guys.  Trump has said on Twitter that he plans to cut off these CSR payments (He calls them "bailouts" when they're not, they fund the subsidies for Obamacare premium payments.)  If he does that, Obamacare basically collapses.  It will mean that health insurers will leave the program and that millions will be unable to afford health insurance, period.

So yes, Trump has been screaming about sabotaging Obamacare for weeks now, and guess what? He thinks he can do it.  I bet he's certainly going to try this week.

It's far from over, as I said earlier this morning.

Sunday Long Read: Nukes, Mooks, and Spooks

This week's Sunday Long Read is Michael Lewis's profile on the Trump Department of Energy, currently run by former Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry (who doesn't know Ukraine from Russia and doesn't bother to check.)  Perry famously said he wanted the agency abolished, and still has no idea what he's supposed to do with it.  That's okay, his boss doesn't either, and that should scare the crap out of all of us.

On the morning after the election, November 9, 2016, the people who ran the U.S. Department of Energy turned up in their offices and waited. They had cleared 30 desks and freed up 30 parking spaces. They didn’t know exactly how many people they’d host that day, but whoever won the election would surely be sending a small army into the Department of Energy, and every other federal agency. The morning after he was elected president, eight years earlier, Obama had sent between 30 and 40 people into the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy staff planned to deliver the same talks from the same five-inch-thick three-ring binders, with the Department of Energy seal on them, to the Trump people as they would have given to the Clinton people. “Nothing had to be changed,” said one former Department of Energy staffer. “They’d be done always with the intention that, either party wins, nothing changes.” 
By afternoon the silence was deafening. “Day 1, we’re ready to go,” says a former senior White House official. “Day 2 it was ‘Maybe they’ll call us?’ " 
“Teams were going around, ‘Have you heard from them?’ ” recalls another staffer who had prepared for the transition. “ ‘Have you gotten anything? I haven’t got anything.’ ” 
“The election happened,” remembers Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, then deputy secretary of the D.O.E. “And he won. And then there was radio silence. We were prepared for the next day. And nothing happened.” Across the federal government the Trump people weren’t anywhere to be found. Allegedly, between the election and the inauguration not a single Trump representative set foot inside the Department of Agriculture, for example. The Department of Agriculture has employees or contractors in every county in the United States, and the Trump people seemed simply to be ignoring the place. Where they did turn up inside the federal government, they appeared confused and unprepared. A small group attended a briefing at the State Department, for instance, only to learn that the briefings they needed to hear were classified. None of the Trump people had security clearance—or, for that matter, any experience in foreign policy—and so they weren’t allowed to receive an education. On his visits to the White House soon after the election, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, expressed surprise that so much of its staff seemed to be leaving. “It was like he thought it was a corporate acquisition or something,” says an Obama White House staffer. “He thought everyone just stayed.”

Oh, but it gets so much worse.

At this point in their administrations Obama and Bush had nominated their top 10 people at the D.O.E. and installed most of them in their offices. Trump had nominated three people and installed just one, former Texas governor Rick Perry. Perry is of course responsible for one of the D.O.E.’s most famous moments—when in a 2011 presidential debate he said he intended to eliminate three entire departments of the federal government. Asked to list them he named Commerce, Education, and … then hit a wall. “The third agency of government I would do away with ... Education ... the … ahhhh … ahhh … Commerce, and let’s see.” As his eyes bored a hole in his lectern, his mind drew a blank. “I can’t, the third one. I can’t. Sorry. Oops.” The third department Perry wanted to get rid of, he later recalled, was the Department of Energy. In his confirmation hearings to run the department Perry confessed that when he called for its elimination he hadn’t actually known what the Department of Energy did—and he now regretted having said that it didn’t do anything worth doing. 
The question on the minds of the people who currently work at the department: Does he know what it does now? D.O.E. press secretary Shaylyn Hynes assures us that “Secretary Perry is dedicated to the missions of the Department of Energy.” And in his hearings, Perry made a show of having educated himself. He said how useful it was to be briefed by former secretary Ernest Moniz. But when I asked someone familiar with those briefings how many hours Perry had spent with Moniz, he laughed and said, “That’s the wrong unit of account.” With the nuclear physicist who understood the D.O.E. perhaps better than anyone else on earth, according to one person familiar with the meeting, Perry had spent minutes, not hours. “He has no personal interest in understanding what we do and effecting change,” a D.O.E. staffer told me in June. “He’s never been briefed on a program—not a single one, which to me is shocking.

So if there's a real crisis that the Department of Energy -- or any Trump era executive agency has to deal with, because they're all in the same boat -- has to deal with, the potential for failure is spectacular.  The distinct issue with the Department of Energy is these are the guys that guard our nuclear weapons and track down rogue nuclear material, and the Trump regime could not give less of a good god damn about it.

The GOP pathology of starving government until it cannot work and then declare "see, we told you government is a failure" is being taken to its endpoint, and that endpoint is a government that cannot perform the most basic of functions, headed by people who have no idea how or any desire to even try to fix the problem.

And so it goes in the Age of Trump.

It's Not Dead Yet

Oh, did you think the Senate GOP was just going to walk away from destroying Obama's legacy after trying more than 70 times over the last 7 years to do so? Of course they have another arcane, byzantine Trumpcare proposal and this time it's Lindsey Graham's straight-out assault on Medicaid, effectively ending the federal program and turning into block grants for states, along with massive cuts to those grants from existing funding levels.

In theory, the Senate could bring back up their party line budget “reconciliation” effort to gut Obamacare as soon as next week. Graham’s bill has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office and did not receive a test vote this week. It currently has a small group of supporters and will likely need major work to pass the Senate, like language defunding Planned Parenthood which would likely alienate a pair of moderate senators.

Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Dean Heller of Nevada joined Graham at the White House on Friday, and each has joined Graham’s bill as the new alternative plan for Republicans. The bill’s supporters are telling administration officials and congressional aides that the bill will score far better than previous efforts, which CBO analyses project would cause millions more uninsured people and short-term spikes in premiums.

“I had a great meeting with the President and know he remains fully committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare. President Trump was optimistic about the Graham-Cassidy-Heller proposal. I will continue to work with President Trump and his team to move the idea forward.,” Graham said late Friday.

The South Carolina senator has been talking to Meadows about the bill as a possible way forward that both chambers could accept. Several GOP governors have signaled interest to Graham for the bill as a way to keep funding levels steady and give states more control. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is also monitoring those conversations, a Republican aide said.

Meadows has shopped the Graham proposal around to other conservatives to get their take on the bill. He said Thursday that Graham’s bill would need to ease the ability of governors’ to get waivers to ignore some of Obamacare’s regulations.

“We’re going to regroup and stay focused,” Meadows said Friday. “I’m still optimistic that we will have another motion to proceed, and ultimately put something on the president’s desk.”

Sure, it's a great deal for red states that refused Medicaid expansion and already make it impossible to sign up for the program like Texas and Alabama.  For the rest of states, it'll represent hundreds of billions in cuts, oh and states wouldn't have to actually spend any money on Medicaid *at all* if it's like previous GOP proposals, they just have to have a program like Medicaid.  It's not their fault if 99.9% of people don't qualify for it, right?

Meanwhile states like California, New York, and Illinois would see massive, draconian budget cuts, while red states would almost certainly take the money and give tax cuts to the rich.  Lost in the mess would be millions losing their health coverage and while Obamacare rules would stay in place, there wouldn't be any Medicaid to back up coverage for those who couldn't afford individual plans.

Yes, this plan too would devastate the individual insurance market and kicks tens of millions off healthcare plans.  But as the Senate GOP keeps saying, as long as they can pass something, anything, they can get it to conference with the House GOP and force a final bill without the Democrats being able to stop them.

The GOP's biggest enemy now is the clock.  September 30th would mean a government shutdown and no budget, and then they couldn't use budget reconciliation rules and a 50 vote plus Mike Pence threshold to pass repeal unless Mitch eliminates the filibuster, something he knows damn well would give the chamber to the Dems by 2020.

We'll see.

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