Still Trying To FIgure Out What The Firing Of VA Secretary Shulkin Was All About?
Trump made it pretty clear in a speech last night in Ohio. He says it’s all about getting veterans “choice”. “And they didn’t give us choice”. Here’s a more free-flowing explanation (click on the photo to watch):
Trump (and Republicans too) have been getting a lot of mileage out of that euphemism. In fact it may be their all-time-favorite right now: Remember when he (and Republicans) were telling us that killing Obamacare was actually good because it would actually give us more “choice”? Or any of the programs he’s supporting that would give states more “choice” about how they distribute federal funds for food stamps, etc.? Right.
And in David Shulkin’s New York Times Op-Ed that we already linked you to yesterday, he asserts the “choice” Trump and his cronies are talking about “will hurt veterans.” While Shulkin was not against giving vets the option of seeing private doctors if they lived far from a VA facility, he’s concerned Trump’s talking about downsizing or closing VA facilities that currently serve vets now, and instead require them to navigate the world of private insurance companies like the rest of us. Salon has a pretty good explainer of what could happen, and what the impact would be.
Shulkin says “privatization leading to the dismantling of the department’s extensive health care system is a terrible idea. The department’s understanding of service-related health problems, its groundbreaking research and its special ability to work with military veterans cannot be easily replicated in the private sector.”
That’s your choice.
And what’s the role the Koch Brothers play in all of this? Most veterans groups oppose VA privatization, except for the leading advocate for it, a group called the Concerned Veterans for America. And a good chunk of their funding–more than $20-million according to sourcewatch comes from the Koch’s. It should also come as no surprise that the CVA’s former CEO is Pete Hegseth, “Fox and Friends” host and someone many people thought Trump would put into the VA’s top position. (Instead he named his personal physician Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson). But Hegseth’s still got Trump’s ear.
Since no one really knows (except maybe Trump) where Jackson stands on the issue, there’s a lot of uncertainty right now on all sides.
But why would the Koch’s be such strong advocates for something that doesn’t really affect any of their businesses? Because as we’ve told you for a long time, they’re true ideologues, and want to dismantle many programs that date back to the New Deal because they smack of socialism. (Not to mention the fact that if VA hospitals and clinics are seen as functioning efficiently, and they might, given reforms Shulkin did push through raising accountability for employees, it could become a good support argument for Medicare for all.) So that’s why they’re working so hard to reduce or dismantle it.
The Koch’s are getting an awful lot of what they want out of Trump these days. Interesting, because Charles Koch once likened the choice of Clinton vs. Trump as “cancer vs. a heart attack.“
Sessions Won’t Appoint Second Special Counsel To Investigate The Investigators, But Does Put More Muscle Behind Internal Review
Sessions’ reasoning: simply that looking into the F.B.I.’s handling of Trump/Russia did not yet meet the threshold of “extraordinary circumstances” required to appoint a Special Counsel. Trump, and some of his Republican allies in the House would probably disagree.
Instead, Sessions revealed he’d–some time ago–appointed Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber to conduct a review and support the Inspector General’s internal investigation. Depending on his findings, Huber could recommend appointing a Special Counsel. But it’s not happening now.
Russia Retaliates On Diplomat Expulsions
It’s ordering 60 U.S. diplomats out as well as the closure of the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg. That’s identical to the number of Russian diplomats the U.S. just expelled, as well as ordering the Russian Consulate in Seattle shut.
Russia is refusing to even discuss what role it may have had in a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. An attack that a unified group of countries including the U.S. have places squarely on the Russians.
Trump, as has become customary, made no mention of Russia in his wide-ranging speech last night, even as his Administration continues to intensify a hard-line approach.
And the Guardian reports the daughter of the Russian spy, Yulia Skripal is no longer listed in critical condition.
Meanwhile, Politico reports Russia’s new Ambassador to the United States, Antoly Antonov is lamenting that no one on Capitol Hill will meet with him about anything. Antonov replaced the now-infamous Sergei Kislyak.
Courts 3, Scott Walker 0
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has finally dropped his opposition to Special Elections to fill State Assembly seats vacated when he named 2 legislators to posts in his administration. That’s after months of delays, and 3 court rulings ordering Walker to call a special election as he’s required to do by law. It’ll be in May, with elections in June. Walker had argued since those seats will be up in November again anyway, a special election now would just be a waste of time and money. Opponents argued that would leave people in several districts unrepresented for nearly a year.
The Wisconsin Legislature is pretty heavily dominated by Republicans, so even if Democrats are elected to the seats, it’s not likely to tip the balance much. Still, the ruling and the outcome is seen as successful push back against one of the more divisive Governors in the nation.