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270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: (None)
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: FL IA MI OH PA WI

Fifty Republicans Skeptical of Ryan's Healthcare Bill

While it is too early to say that the AHCA healthcare bill proposed by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is dead in the water, we are rapidly approaching that point. According to the Washington Post's whip count, 20 GOP senators and 30 GOP representatives are skeptical about the bill. That almost certainly means the bill cannot pass in its current form. Part of the problem is that most of the conservative media and action groups oppose it as "ObamaCare lite," and many senators oppose it because it would deny health insurance to hundreds of thousands of their constituents.

The CBO report stating that the bill would cause 24 million people to lose their insurance is causing quite a few centrist Republicans to have second thoughts about the plan. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said she will vote against it because it would leave too many people in her district uninsured. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) doesn't want to walk the plank on a bill that will be scuttled by the Senate. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) is unhappy with the immense influence a small number of extreme conservatives have over the whole process. Dent also said that many other moderates share his concerns about the bill.

President Donald Trump has said he is flexible about the bill, but that doesn't solve the underlying problem. House Republicans want to get rid of the subsidies that allow poor people to buy insurance and Senate Republicans want to increase them. Doing both at the same time won't be easy. This is the first real test of Trump's deal-making abilities. In theory, he could agree to increase the subsidies, thus buying off the senators while making a side deal with the Freedom Caucus in the House, for example, by giving them more of what they want on the upcoming tax-cut bill in exchange for supporting the ACHA bill. In practice, Freedom Caucus members see "compromise" as a synonym for "sell out," so his negotiating skills will be sorely tested. Of course, there is always the possibility that instead of negotiating with House and Senate Republicans, he will just start emitting poisoned tweets to see how well that works. (V)

White House Analysis of Ryan's Healthcare Plan Foresees 26 Million Newly Uninsured

Documents obtained by Politico from the White House show that the executive branch is even more pessimistic about the new AHCA than the CBO, predicting that 26 million people will lose insurance (vs. only 24 million in the CBO analysis). The breakdown is 17 million people on Medicaid would lose insurance, 6 million in the individual market would lose insurance, and 3 million would lose insurance due to employers' dropping health insurance as a benefit as soon as their mandate to provide it is repealed. In the White House analysis, 54 million people would lack health insurance after 10 years, 2 million more than in the CBO report.

If Politico's story is true, it undercuts one line of the GOP's argument for Ryan's plan, namely, that the CBO analysis is bogus. After all, if the executive branch independently came to similar conclusions, then the Republicans will have to defend the plan on its merits (e.g., a smaller budget deficit), rather than just attacking the CBO. (V)

Two More Pages of Trump Taxes Leak

On Tuesday, two more pages of Donald Trump's tax returns were made public. They were mailed anonymously to author and journalist David Cay Johnston, who revealed them on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC program. They reveal that in 2005 Trump earned $150 million while paying $38 million in taxes (and taking $100 million in depreciation). We didn't actually learn much that we didn't already know, except that if Trump achieves his goal of eliminating the alternative minimum tax, he would have paid $31 million less in taxes in 2005.

There is already much speculation, starting with Maddow herself, that the "anonymous" leaker was none other than Donald Trump. The evidence is that: (1) The returns were marked "Client Copy," which means they came from Trump's organization and not his accountants or the IRS, and (2) The White House response was so well choreographed, with Trump, Sr., issuing an announcement denouncing the media and Trump, Jr., taking to Twitter to brag about how much taxes his dad pays, that it is hard to believe it was completely spontaneous. Why would Trump do this, assuming the speculation is correct? Well, the leak would seem to have two benefits to the President. The first is that it makes it seem like he pays a lot of taxes, at least as a total number (though only about 25% as a percentage). Of course, absent a wider range of tax returns, it's hardly definitive—it's conceivable that was the only year that decade that he wrote a big check to the IRS.

The second benefit to Trump is that the story may distract attention from the wiretapping allegations and the healthcare situation. And whether or not this was actually planned, Democrats are nonetheless worried about the possibility that the tax returns will deflect the spotlight from issues they regard as more pressing. Former representative John Dingell, for example, tweeted: "Most interesting # in Trump's taxes: 24,000,000. Oh no wait that's just how many Americans will lose health care under his terrible plan," while Rep. Brian Schatz (D-HI), tweeted, "Focus! $880b cut in Medicaid in order to pay for a $880b tax cut for rich. Plus an age tax." So, it seems unlikely that the returns are going to change the narrative much. (Z)

Sessions' Purge of the U.S. Attorneys Could Come Back to Haunt the Republicans

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions got rid of all the U.S. attorneys appointed by Barack Obama so that he could pick new ones, it looked like a win-win proposition. The U.S. attorneys would stop investigating voter suppression, and the new ones could start investigating voter fraud. However, there is a downside to the mass firing that Sessions may have overlooked. U.S. Attorneys appointed by Obama are probably mostly Democrats and most are media-savvy and well connected. The ones who have successfully prosecuted high-profile cases are well positioned to run for state attorney general or governor on a law-and-order platform. For example, Barbara McQuade successfully prosecuted the corrupt former mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, as well as the "underwear bomber." She is being urged to run for either Michigan attorney general or governor of Michigan.

History shows that U.S. attorneys make strong candidates. Chris Christie jumped from U.S. attorney to governor of New Jersey. Matt Mead made it to governor of Wyoming. Patrick Meehan, Tim Griffin, Susan Brooks, and John Ratcliffe were elected to the House. Sheldon Whitehouse skipped the House and was elected directly to the Senate. Democrats are going to be examining the 46 fired U.S. attorneys in the coming weeks, looking for statewide candidates among them. With 38 gubernatorial races in 2017 and 2018, they might well find a number of strong possibilities among them. (V)

Democrats' Unity in the Senate is Holding

With 10 Democratic senators from states that Donald Trump won up for reelection in 2018, the Republicans thought they had a good chance to pick them off on vote after vote. An analysis by Politico shows that the effort has largely failed. For example, Trump won Missouri by 19 points, yet Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) voted against all of the most contentious cabinet nominees and also against three-quarters of the regulatory rollbacks that have come to a Senate vote since Trump was inaugurated. In fact, she is one of the more Trump-friendly senators. On the average, eight of the most vulnerable Democrats have voted against Trump 80% of the time.

Grass-roots activism may be one factor keeping the Democrats in line. People like McCaskill understand that their reelection hopes are not tied to winning over Trump voters. That is not going to happen in large numbers no matter how they vote. But if they vote consistently against Trump, it may bring out large numbers of Democrats to support them.

Since we are academics, we just love giving spot quizzes. Here is a one-question quiz. Yesterday a U.S. senator made some remarks to reporters about the healthcare bill:

You've got to have a moral compass inside of you. You can't do that. Look at the elderly, look at the poor, look at the sick. How can you look at yourself and say, Okay, I'll help the person who needs help the least, the wealthiest people, with more tax cuts, because I'm going to be taking away from the elderly population?

To make it easy, let's make this a multiple choice quiz. Who said it?

  1. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
  2. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
  3. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)

The correct answer is (3), Manchin, who is probably the most conservative Democrat in the Senate. But on the AHCA, he is completely following the party line, no doubt because he comes from a poor state that benefits greatly from the ACA and which would suffer badly from its repeal. If the Republicans can't even pick off Manchin, then they are never going to get Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) or Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who also hail from states Trump won (albeit narrowly). (V)

Is Trumpism an Export Product?

Elections in The Netherlands, France, and Germany this year will test whether right-wing, anti-immigrant parties can upset the established order worldwide. The first test is today in the Netherlands, where 28 parties will be vying for seats in the 150-seat lower chamber of the parliament. Seats are allocated to parties in proportion to the popular vote, with no geographic restrictions. According to some polls, the leading parties are the VVD (Party for Freedom and Democracy) led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the PVV (Party for Freedom), led by anti-Islam zealot Geert Wilders.

Wilders is even more fanatically anti-Islam than Trump. His platform includes securing the borders, closing mosques, closing centers for refugees, banning the Koran, and forbidding women from wearing headscarves. He also wants the Netherlands to follow the U.K. out of the European Union.

He has some things in common in Trump besides his dislike of immigrants. In particular, he communicates with people by tweeting, in order to avoid the media filter. His hair is also somewhat unconventional. His economic policies are generally left wing, though, and so he will attract some votes on that basis alone. What is extremely unusual is that his official platform (in Dutch) fits on a single page and has only 11 items, as follows:

  • De-Islamitize the Netherlands (with 8 bullets about specific items such a banning mosques and the Koran)
  • Leave the European Union
  • Introduce binding referendums on policy issues
  • Eliminate all deductibles in health insurance
  • Lower the rents on apartments
  • Bring the age for Social Security back to 65 (it is creeping up to 67)
  • No government financing for foreign aid, windmills, art, innovation, public radio or TV, etc.
  • Eliminate previously imposed austerity measures in home care and care for the elderly
  • Expand funding for defense and the police
  • Lower income taxes
  • Reduce the vehicle registration tax by half

A recent dust-up with Turkey could have an effect on the election, just as James Comey's last-minute discovery of new Clinton emails did, so the polls could be way off. There was also a televised debate last night, which could swing some votes.

There is no danger that Wilders will become prime minister, but if he comes in first it will provide a shot in the arm for Marine Le Pen in the April 23 French elections and possibly the Alternative for Germany party in the German elections in the fall.

One interesting aspect of Dutch elections, and one the U.S. could learn from, is the issue of voter ID. A few weeks before the election, every registered voter is sent a "postcard" with bits of embedded metal to make it unforgeable. On it is printed the address of the nearest polling place to the voter's home, although voting at any precinct within the voter's municipality is allowed. The voter is instructed to bring the card, which serves as proof that the voter is eligible to vote. Such a system wouldn't be hard to introduce in the U.S. An additional security feature could be a digital photo of the voter taken when the voter registered. In fact, some states already send each voter a pamphlet with candidates' names and statements before the election. Putting a voter ID card in the same envelope would be easy. (V)

"There's No Global Warming" May Soon Become Official U.S. Government Policy

Sometime this week, the Trump administration will issue its latest executive order, this one ordering government agencies to discount or ignore global warming when evaluating the consequences of policy decisions. In particular, the estimated financial impact of releasing carbon in the air will be steeply reduced, from its current $36 per ton. The general suspicion is that this is just the first salvo in an all-out war against global warming. The carbon costs are probably going to be zeroed out entirely, the EPA website will be rewritten, Obama-era limits on leasing federal land for coal mining will be lifted, and so forth. This will all make EPA administrator Scott Pruitt happy—the Earth, not so much. (Z)

Justice Department to Go After Russians...For Hacking Yahoo

On Wednesday, Democrats will get 50% of what they want. The Justice Dept. will file charges against hackers with ties to Russia. However, it will be over their targeting of Yahoo, and not over anything related to, say, the DNC's e-mail server. The Internet giant was compromised at least twice in 2014, exposing tens of millions of e-mail addresses, names, encrypted passwords, and security questions (which can be used to re-set passwords, and thus gain access). It will be interesting to see where this goes. After all, if Russian hackers are proven to have mucked around with Yahoo, then it becomes all the more plausible that they mucked around with the election two years later. Stay tuned. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar14 CBO Concludes that 24 Million Fewer People Will Have Insurance Under Ryan's Plan
Mar14 Can GOP Win on Healthcare Bill?
Mar14 Trump Drops Obama Wiretap Claim...Or Maybe Not
Mar14 Economic Populism May Not Help the Democrats
Mar14 Steve King Goes Full White Supremacist
Mar14 Schumer Threatens a Government Shutdown in April
Mar14 Congressional Democrats to Propose Bill Banning LGBT Discrimination
Mar14 Kushners Get $400 Million from Chinese Firm
Mar14 Top Science Jobs in the Administration Are Nearly All Unfilled
Mar13 Republicans Are Brawling in Public over the New Health Care Bill
Mar13 CMS May Issue Report in Addition to CBO Report
Mar13 Merkel To Visit Trump Tomorrow with Some Bad News
Mar13 Trump Turns Out to Be No Pacifist
Mar13 ACLU Has Raised $80 Million Since the Election
Mar13 McCain to Trump: Put Up or Shut Up
Mar13 Time to Change the Voting Age?
Mar13 Place Your Trump-Related Bets
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