Sanders Reintroduces “Medicare For All” Today, This Time Joined By Many Top Democrats

Zero Of Bernie Sanders’ Colleagues Backed His “Medicare For All” Plan 2 Years Ago, Now A Quarter Of All Democratic Senators Do

11 Democratic Senators are signing on as co-sponsors in a largely symbolic gesture, since it has no chance of passing right now. Many of those backing the bill are rumored to be 2020 Presidential candidates, so there’s a lot of naked political opportunism going on. All but Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin (who’s up for reelection next year), are from states Trump lost. They’re taking on a lot of opportunity, and a lot of risk, because there’s a lot that could backfire.

Tammy Baldwin (D) Wisconsin

Remember how hard it is to get people to give up something once you’ve given it to them? One of the biggest hurdles to selling the Sanders plan, as good as it may be, will be telling people who get their health insurance through their jobs that they’re going to have to give that up, and instead get a much more generic plan from the government. Conversely, that’s easy pickin’s for Republicans to hammer at.

Still, Democrats overall seem to be shifting further to the left on health care.  Although other Democrats are leaning to less foundational changes, like lowering the age for Medicare enrollment to 55, and allowing anybody to buy into Medicaid.

Trump Tries Moderate Route To Tax Cuts

Fresh off his deal with “Chuck and Nancy”, President Trump invited three moderate Democratic Senators, and some moderate Republicans over for dinner to talk tax reform. The three Democrats: Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, and Joe Manchin, all have three things in common: they’re up for reelection next year, they come from states Trump won, and they were the only Democrats who didn’t sign on to a list of tax reform demands.

Trump will meet with a bipartisan group in the House today. Some suggest the sit downs are just a show to pressure Republicans not to splinter like they did with Obamacare. One top Republican quipped: “there better not be a curveball coming up.”

The main issues that still need hammering out (and they’re big ones):

• Budget cuts to compensate for tax cuts. The shape and size of the 2018 federal budget is completely dependent on how deep tax cuts go. Many Republicans and Democrats both say they won’t accept anything that will add to the federal deficit.

• Corporate tax rate. Trump’s said to be holding firm at dropping it to 15%. Almost no one else thinks that’s feasible.

Although Democrats are no fans of tax cuts, there are rifts on the Right as well, especially where to find the cuts to offset the impact. As Utah Senator Orrin Hatch succinctly put it in the Washington Post: “everything on the books has a constituency.”

That’s the narrow path the President is trying to navigate. And maybe he can. Democrats are making it  clear they’re laser-focused on opposing cuts that completely benefit the rich, like eliminating the estate tax. And there could be some method to that. Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer singled out the estate tax, calling it “egregious”, adding “we’re letting the administration know where we stand.” Like maybe doing less egregious things might get you Democratic votes? There’s been all this talk about DACA in exchange for “the wall”. What about DACA in exchange for some tax cuts?

Republicans aren’t taking any chances, and intend to fast-track this legislation like they did with Obamacare Repeal, so it’ll only need 51 votes to pass, not 60.

Meanwhile, Right wing folks are griping they don’t have their hands on any details yet, leaving them little time to get their 2-cents in, with the aim to vote on it by Thanksgiving.

Bipartisan Deals Fund Children’s Health Program For 5 More Years; Block Sessions From Restoring Asset Seizures

9-million children receive benefits through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which was set to expire this month. But Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Orrin Hatch, and the top Democrat, Oregon’s Ron Wyden say they’ve hammered out a last-minute deal. The program is for children of families that make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford individual coverage. It exists alongside Obamacare.

CHIP is partly Hatch’s baby: he worked with Ted Kennedy on the legislation that established it 20-years back. Originally, costs were shared between states and the federal government. In recent years, the federal government has been taking on more of the financial burden and provides all the funding now in 11 states. The agreement reverses that, making states partly responsible again, gradually, over the next 5 years.

Orrin Hatch (R) Utah

And the Hill reports a bizarre bipartisan grouping that matched some of the most Left and Right Members of Congress, voted late yesterday on an amendment that should block Attorney General Jeff Sessions from reinstating the practice of grabbing property from crime suspects even before they have been convicted. The Obama Administration had ended asset forfeitures, but Sessions recently announced he’d be bringing them back, saying they should be “encouraged”.

2.3 Million Floridians Get Their Power Back; Bridges Linking Florida Keys Deemed Safe

Florida Power and Light says it’s gotten more than 2-million customers back on the grid; more than double that number are still in the dark. All 42 bridges along Route 1 in the Florida Keys have been inspected by the Florida Department of Transportation and are considered safe. Still, the Keys remain open to residents only. Another sign things might be starting to get back to normal:

Record flooding continues however in Jacksonville and St. Augustine, and it could still get worse as floodwaters from South Carolina move out to the sea through the area.

St. Augustine, Florida

President Trump will go to Florida tomorrow. And according to the Virgin Islands Consortium he’ll also visit the U.S. Virgin Islands. We will applaud him if he does the latter. The U.S.V.I. needs someone to bring attention to what we understand from friends with family there is almost complete devastation in some areas of St. Thomas and St. Johns, and lack of services.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency this morning says higher gas prices caused by Hurricane Harvey won’t be a long-term problem. But drivers shouldn’t get their hopes up: the IEA also predicts the strongest demand for oil this year since 2015; another route to higher prices.

Where’s The “Carnage”?

According to new data from the Census Bureau, median U.S. household income rose to a new record: $59,039 last year, up 3.2 percent from the previous year. The nation’s poverty rate fell to 12.7 percent, about where it was before the 2008 financial crisis. And more Americans had health insurance than ever.

To be sure, the highest earners live on the East and West Coast. And most of the wage growth came on the West Coast, and in the South. Leaving the heartland lagging. Also, the top 20% of workers took home more than 50% of all earned income, a less enviable record.

Free-Marketeer Confirmed As President’s Chief Economist

We thought this was surprising, and worth a mention: the House approved Kevin Hassett as the Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Hassett has expressed views in opposition to Trump on the economic impact of immigration and globalization. How much power he’ll have is a big question: in previous administrations, Hassett’s job was a cabinet position. Not anymore.

Kevin Hassett


Guess Who’s Back?

We always kill the suspense: It’s Mitt Romney, that’s who! If Senior Utah Senator Orrin Hatch decides not to run for reelection next year, Utah Policy reported this week that Romney will run in his place. One can assume since Trump lambasted and then humiliatingly shafted Romney (or was it schlonged?) for the Secretary of State job, he would arrive on The Hill as an arch-adversary. Hatch, however, has not yet made his intentions known, although we’ve sure mentioned him a lot today: he seems to be in the midst of everything and loving it, but…?

Hatch and Romney

Philippines Presents Nightmare Scenario Of What A Popular Autocrat Can Do With Unflinching Support From Congress

The BBC reports that the Philippines’ Congress just cut the budget of its own official human rights watchdog to $20 a year. (Not a typo: $20). Right now it receives around around $15-million a year in funds. The Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights is investigating, and is highly critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, in which police and government sanctioned hit squads have murdered thousands of suspected drug dealers and users, without trials.

As always, every time we do a story about Duterte’s drug killings, we also link to this Pulitzer Prize winning photo essay from the New York Times.