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Republicans Are Brawling in Public over the New Health Care Bill

Yesterday the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), attacked the new health-care plan proposed by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), calling it "ObamaCare lite." He said his caucus would vote against it unless it is changed to reduce or eliminate the tax credits and does something to reduce premiums. Changing the bill the way Meadows wants would mean even more people would lose their insurance than in the Ryan plan.

However, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) appeared on ABC's "This Week" yesterday and said that as it stands the bill can't pass the Senate, and House members who vote for it would be walking the plank and will get punished in 2018. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), the GOP's most vulnerable senator in 2018, said much the same. So we have a situation where a key House member wants to reduce the scope of the bill and cover fewer people and a senator says the bill covers too few people as is and making it cover fewer would be suicide for the Republicans.

The only person who can resolve this dispute is President Donald Trump. He has to decide what changes, if any, he wants in the bill, and then use his great negotiating skills to get all the cats lined up in a neat row. The trouble is that he doesn't really understand all the policy details and probably has no interest in learning about them. However, if he calls Ryan, he will get one story and if he calls Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), he will get a different story. He will soon learn where the buck stops.

Already, Trump surrogates are peddling a very rosy spin on the proposed law, with HHS Secretary Tom Price declaring on "Meet the Press" that, "Nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we're going through." This is complete malarkey, so much so that Price's statement has been nominated for "lie of the year" by...Breitbart News. When you're Donald Trump, and even Breitbart isn't buying what you're selling, it's probably time to go back to the drawing board. (V)

CMS May Issue Report in Addition to CBO Report

It's acronym time. CBO is the well-known Congressional Budget Office, which is expected to score the Ryan health-case plan this week. However, it may not have the spotlight all to itself. A lesser-known agency, the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services has an Office of the Actuary that may also issue a report on the plan (CMMSOA is a bit long so it is generally known as just CMS.) The CMS provided estimates of the ACA's costs, and of the Medicare prescription drug bill's costs before that. The CMS would provide a report only if key members of Congress asked it to do so. It is entirely possible that one of the Democratic minority leaders, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) or Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), has made such a request. If two different government agencies both report that 10 million or more people would lose their health insurance if the Ryan bill passes, it will be even more difficult for the Republicans to find the votes than it now appears. When asked, the CMS was mum about whether it was working on a report. (V)

Merkel To Visit Trump Tomorrow with Some Bad News

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to meet with Donald Trump tomorrow at the White House. High on her agenda will be his plan to levy a tariff or border adjustment tax on goods imported into the U.S. Merkel is expected to tell Trump that if he does that, he can expect Germany to levy a comparable tax on American exports to Germany, which will hurt his plan to encourage American exports.

Elections will be held in Germany in September, and Trump is extremely unpopular in Germany. Merkel knows full well that standing up to Trump will be very popular back home, so it is unlikely that she will give a lot of ground. Trump can't give in either, because the border tax is a key part of his program to discourage American companies from exporting jobs. On the other hand, a trade war isn't going to create a lot of jobs, either, so he has to be careful, and issuing a few tweets isn't going to solve the problem. As with the health care battles, Trump is slowly learning that a lot of issues have unpleasant trade-offs, and you can't always have what you want without nasty consequences. (V)

Trump Turns Out to Be No Pacifist

During the campaign, Donald Trump presented himself as an early critic of the Iraq War (not true), as an opponent of intervention in Libya (also not true), and was also hypercritical of President Barack Obama's use of drones in the Middle East. Trump suggested that his foreign policy would be less violent and less militaristic.

As with so many campaign promises, this one has gone by the wayside, now that the shoe is on the other foot. To start, Obama ordered drone strikes about once every 5.5 days. Trump, by contrast, has ordered strikes once every 1.25 days. If he continues that pace, Trump will surpass Obama's eight-year total during his second year in office. Nor does it end there. As the New York Times reports, efforts are underway to loosen Obama-era restrictions on military strikes. If the Trump administration moves forward with this, there will be fewer protections for preventing civilian casualties, a wider geographic field of operations, and more liberal use of commando raids.

Almost every president becomes more "violent" once taking office, because that's the nature of the job. However, as he does in so many contexts, Donald Trump appears to be taking that tendency to extremes. (Z)

ACLU Has Raised $80 Million Since the Election

The American Civil Liberties Union has been at the forefront of opposing Donald Trump on his Muslim ban and other issues. The organization's lawsuits have won it not only praise from Trump's opponents, but also quite a bit of cash. Online donations to the group have topped $80 million since Election Day, and the number of card-carrying members has tripled.

Executive director Anthony Romero, who as a gay Latino knows first hand about discrimination, has been adamant about opposing religious or racial tests for anything the government does, including immigration. With all its newfound money, ACLU is going to "carpet bomb" the Trump administration with lawsuits. Romero said: "Litigation on a broad range of issues and jurisdictions can rob the Trump administration of its momentum, gum up their machinery and make it hard for them to move down their to-do list."

One new thing the ACLU is doing is organizing "resistance training" for thousands of volunteers. The first event was at Miami's huge Watsco Center on on Saturday. It was attended by thousands of people, as well as broadcast online to another 200,000. The speakers urged antendees and watchers at home to take to the streets in peaceful protests and informed them of their constitutional right to take photos and videos of law enforcement activities. The speakers also advised their audience to contact local sheriffs and city council members, because they have the power to confront some of Trump's policies. (V)

McCain to Trump: Put Up or Shut Up

The legal profession isn't Donald Trump's only problem. Yesterday Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called on Donald Trump to either prove his claim that Barack Obama tapped his phone or else apologize to him. McCain said that he didn't believe the charge, but if Trump could produce proof of it, he would certainly be open to seeing it. Several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked to see the warrant applications and court orders that would be necessary to carry out a wiretap. Trump has not produced any evidence at all of the wiretaps, but instead has asked Congress to investigate his claims. (V)

Time to Change the Voting Age?

Recently, The Economist penned an editorial arguing that the voting age in Western democracies should be dropped to 16 years of age, suggesting that this will be a way to foster civic engagement, and to counter the tendency toward disillusionment and low participation. They explain:

This would be no arbitrary change. The usual threshold of 18 means that young people's first chance to vote often coincides with finishing compulsory education and leaving home. Away from their parents, they have no established voters to emulate and little connection to their new communities. As they move around, they may remain off the electoral roll. Sixteen-year-olds, by contrast, can easily be added to it and introduced to civic life at home and school. They can pick up the voting habit by accompanying their parents to polling stations.

It's an interesting, though rather optimistic, theory. It's also somewhat speculative, since very few nations (Scotland, Austria, Argentina, and a few others) actually allow 16-year-olds to vote.

Beyond the hypothetical civic benefits, there is also a political benefit, at least for one American party. Young people tend to be Democrats, and so registering them means adding more Democratic voters to the rolls. This argument, more than the civic-minded one advanced by The Economist, is what is likely behind current efforts to lower the voting age. In California, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 10 would reduce the voting age to 17. Reportedly, liberal billionaire George Soros has set aside funding to back such efforts in other states. Of course, Republicans are well aware that lowering the voting age would be a net loss for them, so we are still pretty far from supplanting the 26th Amendment with a 28th Amendment. (Z)

Place Your Trump-Related Bets

As we have noted several times, European sports books take bets on American politics. The book Paddy Power is now offering over a hundred Trump-related bets for interested gamblers. Here are some of the more interesting ones, in order of lowest to highest odds:

  • Jeff Sessions to resign or get fired in 2017: 4/6 (equates to a 60% chance)
  • Trump to be impeached during his first term: 6/4 (40%)
  • Trump to withdraw the U.S. from the U.N.: 7/1 (12.5%)
  • Trump to ban the wearing of hijabs: 12/1 (7.7%)
  • Trump sex tape to leak in 2017: 14/1 (6.6%)
  • Steve Bannon to succeed Trump in 2020: 20/1 (4.8%)
  • Trump to be banned from the U.K.: 20/1 (4.8%)
  • Mexico to fund construction of wall: 25/1 (3.9%)
  • Trump to announce plans to open a hotel in Mexico: 25/1 (3.9%)
  • Trump to outlaw teaching the theory of evolution: 50/1 (2%)
  • Trump to have a Russian airport named after him: 66/1 (1.5%)
  • Joe Biden to punch Trump in the face before 2020: 100/1 (1%)
  • France to request the Statue of Liberty be returned: 100/1 (1%)
  • Trump to grow a Hitler mustache: 150/1 (0.66%)
  • Trump to ban Irish immigration: 500/1 (0.2%)

Anything with odds above 30/1 or so is wildly speculative, and is largely meant for entertainment purposes. But the lower odds are going to be more precise, because they could attract some actual money and create an actual risk for the book. Further, the list certainly gives a sense of how realistic certain developments are relative to others (for example, it seems pretty fair to say that Jeff Sessions is about 15 times more likely to lose his job than Mexico is to pay for the wall). (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar12 Trump Fires Prosecutor Preet Bharara
Mar12 It's Getting Harder to Gerrymander
Mar12 Major Insurance Company Supports ACA Replacement
Mar12 Trump Supporters Will Be Hit the Hardest by the AHCA
Mar12 Ads Targeting the New Health-Care Plan Have Started Already
Mar12 Mar-a-Lago Is a Spy's Paradise
Mar12 "Deep State" Conspiracy Theories Getting Wilder
Mar12 Cuomo Prepping to Throw His Hat into the Ring
Mar12 Dueling Bestsellers on Amazon
Mar11 Sessions Asks All Obama-appointed U.S. Attorneys to Resign Immediately
Mar11 "Deep State" Is Going Mainstream
Mar11 Transition Team Knew Flynn Should Have Registered as a Foreign Agent
Mar11 Every Day Brings More Russia Intrigue
Mar11 Trump: Jobs Numbers Aren't Fake Any More
Mar11 Congressional Budget Office Won't Pull Its Punches
Mar11 Nobody Wants His Name on GOP Healthcare Bill
Mar11 Why Jon Huntsman?
Mar11 Scott Pruitt No Fan of Science
Mar10 Cotton Says House Health-care Bill Won't Pass the Senate
Mar10 Ryan Sells Healthcare Bill, Underwhelms
Mar10 Brookings Study Says 15 Million People Will Lose Insurance If House Bill Passes
Mar10 What Is Trump's Plan B?
Mar10 Cruz Suggests that Pence Overrule the Senate Parliamentarian
Mar10 Can the Dots Be Connected?
Mar10 Huntsman Tapped for Russia Ambassadorship
Mar10 Four More States Will Sue Trump on Muslim Ban v2.0
Mar10 White House, Ethics Office Butt Heads
Mar10 D.C. Wine Bar Sues Trump
Mar09 Committees Begin Marking Up Health-Care Bill
Mar09 American Medical Association is Against the Ryan Plan
Mar09 AARP Comes Out Against GOP Health Plan
Mar09 Seven Pitfalls that Could Sink the Republican's Health-Care Plan
Mar09 Trump: Don't Worry, I'll Blame the Democrats
Mar09 Will the New Health Care Bill Pass the House?
Mar09 To Fund the Border Wall, Trump Will Slash National Security
Mar09 New Polls Today about Trump, Sessions, and Special Prosecutor
Mar09 Graham Says He Will Subpoena Information about Trump Wiretap
Mar09 Trump May Strike Out With Armed Services Secretaries
Mar08 WikiLeaks Posts CIA's Hacking Tools
Mar08 Lewandowski Approved Trump Adviser's Trip to Moscow in July
Mar08 Russian Billionaire's Jet and Trump's Jet Met Five Days before the Election
Mar08 Some Republicans Are Rejecting the ACA Replacement
Mar08 Hawaii Will Sue over Travel Ban
Mar08 Franken Says Sessions Perjured Himself
Mar08 White House Plagiarizes...from ExxonMobil
Mar07 Muslim Ban v2.0 Is Announced
Mar07 Is Trump Confusing the Alfa Bank Investigation with a Wiretap?
Mar07 GOP Releases ACA Replacement
Mar07 Senate Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearings on Deputy Attorney General Today
Mar07 Trump University Case May Not Be Closed Yet