Lo And Behold: A Bipartisan Health Care Deal!

Which Trump Supports! Or Does He?

The fact that the Senate HELP Committee (“H” is for Health) was able to come out with a plan to support Obamacare markets just one business day after Trump pulled crucial funds, is a bona-fide triumph for the President. His high-stakes, low-compassion gambit to use the health and well being of millions of poor people to force Congress’ hand paid off. If that indeed was his intention.

Trump, typically, sent mixed messages. Boastful early on. Uncertain later, when it became clear Far-Right Republicans might not even give him a “win” on this one (which should be a slam dunk!) Trump emphasized the agreement hammered out between Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray is only a short term fix, to be replaced by “Repeal and Replace.” And Democrats, not him, are to blame for anything bad that happens in the meantime.

Senators Patty Murray (D) Washington & Lamar Alexander (R) Tennessee

Radical Republicans’ main argument against is pretty much just that no Obamacare in any form is acceptable even for a short time. And Congress knows full well if they continue to be unable to hammer out “Repeal and Replace” this “short-term” replacement could easily transform into a “long-term” norm.

So far Mitch McConnell has not committed to bringing this bill to the floor, meaning even if it’s pristine and has enough support, it probably won’t come to a vote until well after 2018 open enrollment kicks in. Some Republicans say if it does pass, it’ll likely become part of a bigger package about something else.

So how to grab and maintain the President’s support?

We truly believe from the bottom of our hearts that what Trump truly wants most from the bottom of his heart(?) is just for Obamacare to stop being called “Obamacare”. Proof? Just look at this recent Trump quote (one continuous quote; we did not patch this together): “Obamacare is finished. It’s dead. It’s gone. It’s no longer — you shouldn’t even mention. It’s gone. There is no such thing as Obamacare anymore.”

If Democrats can be careful with the words they use, and figure out a way of calling it something other than an “Obamacare fix”, then we do see the scales tipping in the direction of approval. (And hey, pick up your phones, call your Senators: another concerted round of calls from constituents would not hurt.) But if Dems instead start bragging about it; of how they “saved” Obamacare, forget about it!

What Does That Health Care Agreement Do Exactly?

• First of all, it agrees to pay those contentious cost-sharing subsidies to insurance companies for 2 years. (Trump’s contention that amounts to a “gravy train” for insurers is a complete distortion.) And by the way, Mr. President, if you’re so against for-profit health insurance companies making profits, why not switch to “Medicare for all”?

• It allows the sale of catastrophic health plans to people over the age of 30. Right now they’re available only to the healthiest-of-the-healthy on an actuarial basis. These plans typically have lower premiums and much higher deductibles. They are sometimes referred to as “Copper” plans, in contrast to the Bronze, Silver, and Gold already in place under Obamacare.

• Finally, and this is where it’s likely to face the strongest opposition, the Alexander/Murray compromise gives more power to states to administer plans differently, but not however they please. They still must stick to the basic coverages under the law. As we’ve seen, many Republicans want to give insurance companies the ability in many states to completely skirt Obamacare regulations (for instance covering pre-existing conditions). Talk about a gravy train

In Order To Do Budget Reconciliation, You Need A Budget

And looks like Republicans have got that under control: John McCain saying he will support a budget bill. That paves the way for tax cuts only needing 50 votes in the Senate to pass. Because of the same arcane rules Senate Republicans used to try to pass Trumpcare.

Meanwhile, Trump pitched his tax plan to the Heritage Foundation last night, even though the Heritage Foundation more-or-less wrote it.

Trump Threatens To Go Apesh*t On McCain

“I’m being very, very nice but at some point I fight back and it won’t be pretty”. The President’s exact words.

Before that McCain, without mentioning Trump by name, slashed through a speech that suggested “half baked spurious nationalism” is just plain “unpatriotic”.

And before that Trump mentioned McCain by name (and McCain only) as one of the Republicans he’s not happy with for failing to adequately support him.

McCain’s response: he’s seen tougher. (And a smile).

Interestingly, we could not find a single, undoctored image of Trump and McCain together.

NFL Does Not Kneel Before Trump

NFL owners and management met with players, and the league decided not to change rules to require (or “force” as Trump prefers) players to stand for the national anthem. As Sports Illustrated reports it, the talks, perhaps surprisingly, were not adversarial and divisive, and focused on creating more opportunities for promoting social justice.

Trump’s Tweet this morning in reaction was par-for-the-course:

Meanwhile, Trump is sure to keep pointing at the fact that NFL ratings are falling, and that’s more likely to accelerate as Aaron Rodgers, arguably the league’s best Quarterback is out with a broken collarbone.

NAFTA Negotiators Extend Talks; Take A Breather First

Talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement are in peril, mainly because Trump keeps saying he wants out. (And even if he wasn’t saying that, no one trusts the President anymore to stick to an agreement.) One of the main “improvements” the U.S. is suggesting is a so-called “sunset” clause where the agreement could be abandoned by any party every 5 years, which would seem to be a non-starter, even if you’re willing to give in on other issues.

Still, representatives from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are scheduling more meetings, although they’ll take a pause first.

And while Canada’s chief negotiator says an agreement is “absolutely achievable” she also adds it’ll never be reached with “an approach that seeks to undermine NAFTA rather than modernize it.”

Trump’s Newest Travel Ban Seems Destined For The Supreme Court

A federal judge in Maryland this morning joined a judge in Hawaii blocking it. The judge in Hawaii saying simply it “exceeded the President’s authority.” In this, his 3rd attempt, Trump and his people came up with a clever work-around: adding two non-predominantly Muslim countries (Venezuela and North Korea) to the list, so they could argue it’s not anti-Muslim. Of course few people really try to come here from North Korea. And Venezuela’s doesn’t really ban tourists. And the judge in Maryland focused on that, calling it no more than a “reanimation” of Trump’s earlier bans.

The new ban was set to go into effect today.

ISIS Fades, But Not Out Of The Picture Yet

The US military says it’s too early to declare a definitive victory, but US backed militia say they’re pretty sure the battle for Raqqa in Syria is over, and ISIS is mostly gone. So is most of the city: rendered a ghost down after most residents fled, or were killed. Raqqa was ISIS’ de facto capitol. The New York Times has an impactful photo essay:

We were amazed by this Washington Post map, showing how just in 2 years, ISIS went from covering a huge swath of territory in Syria and Iraq to increasingly smaller and more remote regions. As you can also see, there’s still a ways to go.