Saturday, March 28, 2020

Last Call For Bringing Home The Fakin'

Remember folks, Mitch McConnell is up for reelection in November. Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath is the front-runner in the (now June) primary, and McConnell knows his fortunes are irrevocably tied to Donald Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. McGrath knows damn well that McConnell is vulnerable on his treatment of Kentuckians in crisis.

Two weeks ago I received a letter from Angie, a working mom. She wrote to me about her 12-year-old daughter, Addison, who has had Type 1 diabetes since she was 3. Sometimes, Angie and her husband, Steve — who have insurance — pay as much as $1,000 out of pocket per month for the medication and supplies their daughter needs to stay alive. That’s in addition to the $1,250 she and her husband are paying every month for their health insurance premiums.

Angie has been fighting with insurance companies for nine years to get coverage for her daughter’s lifesaving health needs. And she’s not alone. As I talk to Kentuckians across the state, the No. 1 concern I hear about is access to affordable, quality health care.

Kentucky has some of the worst health statistics in the nation. We have the highest mortality rate for cancer and among the worst rates of lung disease, diabetes and heart disease.

Yet as Kentuckians struggle, Sen. Mitch McConnell has fought to make our health care system and its outcomes even worse.
As we are in the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic, let’s remember that McConnell has consistently voted to cut funding for medical research and immunization programs, and cut funding to the very agencies (CDC and NIH) that should be prepared for an infectious disease outbreak. Instead of acting immediately to include provisions in an emergency bill to control the costs of vaccines and treatments being developed in response to this outbreak, he held up coronavirus funding in order to make sure Big Pharma would still be able to gouge prices.

Businesses are shuttering, schools are closing, our front-line workers are at risk, and McConnell took off for a long weekend instead of working with his colleagues on the legislation we urgently need to curb this public health crisis. What good is a powerful senator if he treats Kentuckians like this?

But Mitch has drafted a new player in his battle to keep his seat: Gov. Andy Beshear.

As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell negotiated his chamber's $2 trillion coronavirus response package, he was turning to a Democrat in his home state for advice: Gov. Andy Beshear. 
McConnell and Beshear have been in frequent contact in recent weeks, as McConnell shaped the Senate's $2 trillion stimulus deal and Beshear led Kentucky's effort to slow the spread of coronavirus there, sources close to both men said. The conversations started with the state's basic needs -- tests and protective medical equipment -- and eventually encompassed how the federal government could help states, municipalities and hospitals. Top staff members continue to speak daily. 
"It has been really helpful to get ground truth on this while developing a bill of this magnitude," said Phil Maxson, McConnell's chief of staff. 
The link between the nation's most powerful Republican lawmaker and his home state's first-year Democratic executive, who was sworn in just three and a half months ago, underscores the central role governors like Beshear have played in attempting to slow the spread of coronavirus. 
Beshear's daily briefings, alongside Kentucky Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack and American Sign Language interpreter Virginia Moore, are sober and straightforward -- lacking the gusto of New York's Andrew Cuomo, but similarly accomplishing the dual tasks of providing instructions to his state's residents and outlining its needs and challenges for the federal government. 
"I will do what it takes. I will spend what it takes," Beshear said Thursday.

Beshear is caught in the middle, like many of us here in Kentucky.  On the one hand, he has done an amazing job getting out ahead of the state's COVID-19 cases when they were smaller in number, with social distancing and closures, two weeks ago.  We're still seeing a major spike in cases, going from 250 to 300 today alone, and from 5 reported deaths to 8.  But we're nowhere near in as bad as shape as neighboring Tennessee, Ohio, Missouri, Virginia, Illinois or Indiana are.

On the other hand, he's absolutely refused to attack Mitch McConnell for his role in weakening the nation's public healthcare system, trying to destroy Obamacare, and trying to take affordable healthcare way from more than 10% of Kentuckians.  Beshear needs to keep McConnell happy, and McConnell needs to keep Beshear happy, and it just so happens that there's enough enlightened self-interest there to keep Kentucky alive, too.

I don't expect McGrath to win, frankly.  McConnell is too canny a politician and will have too many opportunities to point to Kentucky's success in limiting the spread of COVID-19 so far.  When the checks show up in people's mail next month, they'll remember Mitch...and Donald Trump.

Even though Mitch made things infinitely worse.

These Disunited States Of America, Con't

The country is already coming apart under Trump in the COVID-19 social distancing pandemic era, quite literally, as governors are are decreeing that people entering from pandemic hot spot states are now subject to immediate quarantine.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed an executive order on Thursday that would require travelers from some coronavirus hotspots to self-quarantine: It provides that “every person” who flies into Texas from “New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or the City of New Orleans, or in any other state or city as may be proclaimed hereafter, shall be subject to mandatory self-quarantine for a period of 14 days from the time of entry into Texas or the duration of the person’s presence in Texas, whichever is shorter.”

Other states have imposed similar orders. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) imposed an order on Tuesday that requires anyone flying from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days. Alaska and Hawaii also imposed self-quarantine orders on people traveling from other states.

These orders implicate one of the fundamental premises of the union among the 50 states: the right of American citizens to travel among them freely.

As the Supreme Court recognized more than 170 years ago, “we are one people with one common country. We are all citizens of the United States, and as members of the same community must have the right to pass and repass through every part of it without interruption, as freely as in our own states.” The right of all U.S. citizens to travel freely among the states, the Court later explained in United States v. Guest (1966), “was conceived from the beginning to be a necessary concomitant of the stronger union the Constitution created.”

If states can decide that some US citizens are not welcome within their borders, it may cease to be a union at all. This right to travel is implicit in the notion that citizens are Americans, and not simply Texans or New Yorkers.

But should that principle hold during a pandemic? Does the Constitution forbid states from taking drastic actions to slow the spread of a potentially deadly disease within their own borders?

Gov. Abbott’s order, at the very least, is probably carefully drafted enough to survive constitutional scrutiny. That order applies to “every person” who flies into Texas from the designated areas, regardless of whether that person is a resident of Texas or some other state. Read in that light, it does not discriminate against non-Texans.

But orders like Gov. Abbott’s do raise troubling constitutional questions. And they cut against the concept of a union of states that has prevailed in this country, especially since the New Deal.

The modern notion that every US citizen has the same rights, no matter where they travel within the nation, is rooted in a notion of nationwide solidarity that depends on a strong and competent federal government. And the Trump administration is not holding up its end of that bargain.

Absolutely don't expect Trump to stop governors from quarantining those people, either.

I personally expect we're only weeks, maybe days away from Trump ordering airports in New York and California closed, and maybe a lot worse involving interstate highways.

Trump is taking the country apart. Right now every state governor in America is a contestant on Trump's daily reality game show hell, and they are playing for the lives of their states' people.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

And immediately after singing the COVID-19 bill into law yesterday, Donald Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr made it clear that the regime considers that the oversight provisions Congress put into the law are pretty much null and void and that Trump would fight any attempts at oversight of that $500 billion corporate slush fund.

In a signing statement released hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony in the Oval Office, the president suggested he had the power to decide what information a newly created inspector general intended to monitor the fund could share with Congress.

Under the law, the inspector general, when auditing loans and investments made through the fund, has the power to demand information from the Treasury Department and other executive branch agencies. The law requires reporting to Congress “without delay” if any agency balks and its refusal is unreasonable “in the judgment of the special inspector general.”
Democrats blocked a final agreement on the package this week as they insisted on stronger oversight provisions to ensure that the president and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could not abuse the bailout fund. They feared that Mr. Trump, who has previously stonewalled congressional oversight, would do the same when it came to the corporate aid program.

But in his statement, which the White House made public about two hours after the president signed the bill, Mr. Trump suggested that under his own understanding of his constitutional powers as president, he can gag the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, known by the acronym S.I.G.P.R., and keep information from Congress.

“I do not understand, and my administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the S.I.G.P.R. to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required” by a clause of the Constitution that instructs the president to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, the statement said.

Mr. Trump has a history of trying to keep damaging information acquired by an inspector general from reaching Congress.

The impeachment scandal began with the disclosure that a whistle-blower had filed a report about something that the intelligence community’s inspector general deemed to be an “urgent concern.” A federal law states that the director of national intelligence should send Congress such a complaint within seven days.

But the Trump administration decided it could lawfully withhold that report from lawmakers. It eventually reversed course under political pressure, bringing to light that an intelligence official had raised alarms about Mr. Trump withholding congressionally mandated military assistance to Ukraine to coerce that country’s government into announcing investigations that would give Mr. Trump personal political benefits.

The signing statement also challenged several other provisions in the bill, including one requiring consultation with Congress about who should be the staff leaders of a newly formed executive branch committee charged with conducting oversight of the government’s response to the pandemic.

Citing his understanding of his power to supervise executive branch staff positions, Mr. Trump said he would not interpret that as mandatory although he anticipated that they would be consulted anyway.

Mr. Trump’s legal team is led by Attorney General William P. Barr, who is known for his embrace of a maximalist interpretation of presidential power, including the so-called unitary executive theory. Under that doctrine, laws that bestow independent decision-making authority on subordinate executive branch officials are unconstitutional because the president wields total control over deciding how to exercise executive power over the government.

And again, House Democrats have not shown any indication of wanting a big Supreme Court fight over Trump ignoring the Constitution that they know they would almost certainly lose 5-4.

So yeah, the failed impeachment attempt earlier this year means Nancy Pelosi got played on this.  Trump will have Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pick the winners and loser businesses that this half-trillion dollars is supposed to save, but they will all be Trump donors.

Those who didn't play ball with Trump's grift and graft before government public health closures?

They will not be spared.
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