12 Republican Senators Step Up, Stand Behind Obamacare Stabilization

24 Senators In All Sign On As Co-Sponsors Of The Alexander/Murray Bipartisan Proposal

• Quick recap on what’s contained in the proposal (it’s really just 3 things):

  1. Resumption of the cost-sharing payments Trump cut off that help poor people pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses
  2. An additional layer of Obamacare coverage: so called “Copper” plans that would cover less and cost less than the Gold, Silver and Bronze plans now available.
  3. Lower hurdles for states that want to offer their own plans

• Pitching the measure on the Senate Floor, the bill’s co-author, Lamar Alexander was practical and forthright, emphasizing that people will be hurt without government relief, and it’ll still represent a “win” for Republicans.

Here’s the nattily-dressed Alexander explaining why Republicans should support the proposal:

• The Republicans signing on include some names you’d expect: Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, and some you might not: Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy (authors of the most recent attempt to repeal Obamacare, which went down in flames).

• Let’s do the math: there are 52 Republicans in the Senate, and 48 Democrats. If we assume no Democrat is going to all of a sudden go crazy 48 + 12 Republican co-sponsors = 60. It passes! A cinch, right?

Whoa, there! You’re forgetting about the 40 Republicans who may be against, or at best are undecided. No way Mitch McConnell will bring a bill to the floor and see it pass with an overwhelming majority of Democratic votes. That just won’t happen.

• Over in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan is against it because he’s worried it will steal focus away from “Repeal and Replace.” And it will.

• So what’s most likely to happen is what we suggested yesterday: it gets wrapped into a year end spending bill, which then creates a dilemma for Democrats, since there will be other big issues for them in that: DACA, denying funding for “the wall”. So what are their priorities?

• And what about the White House? Seems simple to appease the President’s stated concern: It’s easy enough to add “strong”–heck, even “extreme”–language to the bill forbidding cost-sharing payments from “enriching” insurance companies, since they already don’t anyway.

(We are also probably going to have to find a way to call it something other than “Obamacare stabilization”)

Late yesterday White House Legislative Director Marc Short indicated the White House is really going to start moving the goalposts, saying the bill will have to contain things Democrats will never support like killing the individual mandate requiring everybody to buy health insurance in the first place.

• Here’s why that’s not necessarily a bad thing: if the proposal didn’t have momentum, The White House and Republican leadership wouldn’t bother pushing back on it so hard. The fact that they are is a sign they’re waking up to the idea that this damn thing (that they’ve abandoned every time another harebrained opportunity for “Repeal and Replace” popped up), has legs. It’s the only post-Obamacare health care measure that has gained popular support over time.

• And that’s also what worries Republicans: they are so bad at passing “Repeal and Replace” and now this thing comes along and could pass lickety-split? Sure it’s only a “2-year deal”. But given their abominable history of failure at killing Obamacare, there’s probably a better than even chance this is it.

Editorial: Once More Unto The Breach

This is something that absolutely calls for another flood of impassioned phone calls to Congresspeople and Senators, and yet (based on what we see people posting about on Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that doesn’t seem to be happening. Will we see it in the next day or two? Have people become too distracted by whom Trump might-or-might not have disrespected? Or have we just become too fatigued?

We know you’re tired of all the negative news, and of playing an entirely defensive game. We are too. We wish there were some new good ideas we could get behind, instead of fighting old bad ideas over and over again.

But like it or not, the President is a juggernaut: he does not stop, he does not rest. So neither can we. The alternative is to fool ourselves into thinking we’re making progress when Doug Jones loses by an impressively slim margin to the certifiably insane Roy Moore in the Special Senate Election in Alabama, when really, since Trump’s election we’ve won nothing at all.

The only way to start winning is to start winning. That takes stamina, and will, and sacrifice. We’ve got that in us, right?

Republican Voters Are Swallowing Trump’s Health Care Lies

Kaiser Family Foundation reports  a majority of Republicans believe cost-sharing payments to insurance companies should be stopped. Which will probably embolden Trump’s attacks on the big insurers’ “gravy train”, (while he’s simultaneously hyping the biggest tax cut ever for big business and the super-rich).

IRS Will Enforce Obamacare Mandate

The IRS just issued guidance for tax preparers to get them ready for next April 15th, saying they will not process returns in which taxpayers don’t show proof of health insurance as required by Obamacare. They also will assess penalties if taxpayers don’t show coverage.

Perhaps this doesn’t seem too surprising: after all, it’s the law. However, as part of his campaign to undermine Obamacare, it’d been rumored Trump would order the IRS (which as part of the Treasury Department is under the Executive Branch) to let people slide who aren’t in compliance. Apparently, not so.

Bush Speaks Great Truths About Trump

Without mentioning Trump by name, former President George W. Bush said out loud what a lot of people have been thinking: “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication,” and  “Bullying and prejudice in our public life…provides permission for cruelty and bigotry,” and “We’ve forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America,” and “[We’re] forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.”

But most interestingly, Bush seems to characterize Trump’s America not as a place with a bold new identity, or a place that’s trying to reclaim a past identity, but as a place that has truly lost its identity.

He suggests that identity can be rediscovered by breaking from the sway of divisiveness and looking at our shared history.

Here’s the full text of Bush’s speech at a George W. Bush Foundation event in New York. Here’s a video snippet:

Of course, it was Bush who now famously (and perhaps apocryphally–though probably not) said after Trump’s inauguration speech: “That was some weird sh*t!

So while maybe not entirely unexpected, it was a bold move for Bush, who stayed almost completely out of public politics during the 8 years Obama was in office.

Trump did not respond directly (yet) to Bush’s speech, but this morning Tweeted this:

“He Expressed His Condolences In The Best Way That He Could”

That’s how White House Chief of Staff John Kelly characterized the President’s words to the wife of an Army Ranger killed in Niger. (Which is probably, sadly, true).

Kelly, whose own son was killed in Afghanistan, was poignant and moving in his condemnation of and wonder at the politicization of the story, (then again, Trump didn’t have to take the bait and escalate). The former Marine General forcefully made the point that he was “stunned” Florida Congresswoman Fredrica Wilson was listening in on what was meant to be a very private and intimate phone call. Which we understand, although we’re not sure we completely agree with given what was apparently a long relationship between the Congresswoman and the family of La David Johnson.

Still, Kelly’s overall thoughtfulness and candor made us think for a second we’ve got at least one decent person in the White House.

Kelly didn’t contradict the Congresswoman’s account of the call, nor provide the “proof” of fabrication Trump said would be forthcoming.

Here’s some of what Kelly said:

Now there’s the question of what exactly happened before, during and after the deadly ambush in which 4 soldiers were killed. The Pentagon is conducting an investigation, and Defense Secretary James Mattis asked for patience. But Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, says he’s not satisfied with the level of communication, and would block Defense Department nominations until that improved.

Finally, This Has Nothing To Do With Our Mission, But We Present It As A Public Service

The National Weather Service’s winter forecast: Warmer than usual, and not that wet except for Northwest of the Great Lakes, and the Pacific Northwest.