Republicans Take Another Stab At Health Care

Repealing Obamacare once again at the top of the agenda when Congress returns from recess next week

  • During their time away from DC, many Representatives have faced angry constituents who don’t want to lose their health coverage. At the same time, Republicans who opposed the original plan either because it was too harsh or not harsh enough, sat down together, reflected, and say they’re now on the same page, or almost. The head of the house Freedom Caucus (the group President Trump blamed for killing the first attempt) says an agreement with more moderate Republicans is just “2 or 3 days away.”
  • The White House meanwhile has been pushing hard. President Trump saying a health care bill would pass “next week or shortly thereafter” (which in Trump-speak could also mean “never.”)
  • Republicans have apparently decided that if they can reduce premiums for most people, those people won’t care as much if millions of others lose coverage. Congress can do this by eliminating mandatory benefits, and allowing companies to charge more to people who are already sick.
  • One editor’s opinion: While congress coming to terms on a health plan may seem like a long shot given its colossal bungle earlier in the year, I’d bet right now on a bill passing in the House. Here’s why: if it doesn’t, and Obamacare doesn’t “explode”, and premiums don’t skyrocket, and insurance companies don’t pull out of the market en masse, changes will become exponentially harder to sell to the public next year. Also, any big tax reform hinges on rolling back Obamacare-related taxes on the wealthy.
  • Another editor’s opinion: Just because President Trump needs a real accomplishment in his first 100 days and says a health care bill will pass means nothing. Congress is out of town so they really can’t get a true reading on whether members will go along with this compromise. Moderate Republicans just aren’t going to go along with what is really a way to stop covering people with pre-existing conditions even though they claim they are not doing that. Republicans are too divided on this to get enough votes for a majority.

Wikileaks May Not Be So Lovable After All…

  • It’d be easy to make fun of the fact that during the campaign, President Trump famously declared: “I love Wikileaks,” yet may now be targeting the group for criminal prosecution. (After all, Trump declared his undying love for at least 2 other women before settling on Melania.)
  • But there’s nothing funny about this Washington Post story suggesting Wikileaks is squarely in the Justice Department’s cross-hairs. The Obama administration had considered similar legal action but determined prosecuting Wikileaks would be the same as going after a newspaper that published classified documents.
  • If Justice proceeds, it will not focus on Wikileaks as a publisher, but rather as an abetter of those providing the leaks.
  • There are probably plenty of embarrassed Democrats who would like to see Wikileaks prosecuted. Still, with a President who is less than sanguine about defending press freedoms, the success of any prosecution could have lasting impact on the media.

How Dare A Judge “On An Island In The Pacific” Block The President!

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the chief law enforcement officer and chief lawyer for the U.S. government, is now attacking our independent judiciary.  In an interview on a conservative talk show, Sessions complained about the U.S. District Judge that blocked Trump’s revised travel ban, seeming to suggest that being from Hawaii disqualifies his legal actions:

“I really am amazed that a judge sitting on a island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional powers.”

  • Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat, responded first by pointing out Sessions voted to approve that judge. After the DOJ issued a statement saying “Hawaii is, in fact, an island in the Pacific,” Schatz gave Sessions a basic geography lesson tweeting “State of Hawaii has many islands, not one island… Please use the google.”

Trump’s Self-Imposed Deadline on Russian Hacking Passes, With Zilch

  • Remember when President-elect Trump said “I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office” to investigate Russian hacking in the election and cybersecurity? Well, that deadline came and went… As Politico put it, “There is no team, there is no plan, and there is no clear answer from the White House.” And really, there is no surprise here either.

Trump’s 1st Tariff Could Be on Steel Imports

  • Chinese steel now accounts for about 1/4 of the U.S. market. If the Commerce Department finds China is dumping (that is, selling below cost in order to gain market share) it could retaliate with tariffs.
  • Unlike a lot of the President’s executive orders which reflect intent but don’t have a lot of teeth, congress expressly allows the President to impose tariffs for reasons of national security. So Trump made sure to emphasize the importance of steel to the U.S. military.
  • Not surprisingly, steel stocks soared.

Thinking of Buying a Place In Canada “Just In Case”? That’s Getting a Lot More Expensive

  • Toronto implemented a 15% “foreign buyer tax”, matching a similar levy already in place in Vancouver. Local government says it’s not anti-immigrant, but speculation by overseas investors has made prime housing virtually unaffordable. As we reported yesterday, China recently loosened restrictions on overseas investment.