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Trump Was Deeply Involved in Getting the AHCA Bill Passed

The first time the AHCA bill came before the House, President Donald Trump left it to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to round up the votes. He failed. This time, Trump decided to get involved directly, and it worked. As late as Tuesday, things looked grim for the bill. That's when Trump got going. He called one of the bill's key opponents, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), and browbeat him, even swearing at times. Trump didn't argue the merits of the bill, which he probably didn't even understand. His point was that he needed a win. Upton stood his ground and said he wanted more money for the high-risk pools. Somehow, magically, $8 billion over 5 years appeared and Upton changed his mind. Not only that, but he brought a few more moderates with him, and that was just enough.

The fundamental strategy the Republicans used in the House was to give the conservative Freedom Caucus everything it wanted on pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits and then try to pick up just enough moderates, one at a time, to get past the finish line. That strategy may have to be reversed in the Senate because there are more moderates who are unhappy than conservatives and the margin for error is much smaller—as few as three defections kills the bill. The Senate is planning to ignore the House bill and write its own, and it will probably be a much more generous bill. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) said that he is not voting for any bill that does not pass the Jimmy Kimmel test, meaning that if a newborn baby needs major and expensive surgery, the bill must provide for it. Saying that it is the baby's fault and a pre-existing condition is not going to fly with him. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is already on the same page as Cassidy and very likely Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is as well. That's three and enough to sink any bill. Add to that Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the Democrats' top Senate targets in 2018, and we're likely to get a very different bill from the Senate.

That's when it gets tough. A Senate-House conference committee will have to hammer out a compromise bill, which neither chamber will like. Then, many senators and representatives will have a gun put to their heads and be told: "Either you vote for this or live with Obamacare forever." It's won't be pretty. (V)

Senate Names Health Care Team

Senate leadership has chosen the individuals who will be responsible for trying to hammer out a health care bill. They are:

  • Leadership: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Thune (R-SD), John Barrasso (R-WY)

  • Committee Chairs: HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Budget Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY), Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

  • Conservatives: Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Tom Cotton (R-AR)

  • Moderates: Cory Gardner (R-CO), Rob Portman (R-OH), Pat Toomey (R-PA)

A couple of things immediately stand out. The first is that there are no Democrats in sight. It's unfortunate that the members of Congress don't make so much as a gesture of bipartisanship, but that's a street that goes both ways. Even if McConnell had tried to recruit a Democrat for the team, it's likely none of them would have agreed.

More significant, and causing much more commentary, is the fact that there are no women on the list. A GOP aide dismissed such concerns: "We have no interest in playing the games of identity politics." This is remarkably short sighted. First, as shocking as this might be to the elderly white men who run the Senate, a female member might actually have some useful input. Second, just having a woman present—or, for that matter, anyone who is not a white guy—would be good for appearances. Third, if the Senate bill does anything anti-woman, like declaring that pregnancy will not be covered, then the bill's opponents will have been handed an easy line of attack. Particularly if it turns out that the bill does cover something like prostate exams or Viagra. One would think that the Senate GOP, made up of more experienced statesmen, would avoid the mistakes of the House GOP. Thus far, however, they are not inspiring confidence. (Z)

Congressman Savages Health Care Legislation

Few issues are as contentious as health care, and whenever a new bill is passed, members of Congress tend not to be shy about sharing their views. One prominent member, who was particularly incensed, appeared on a number of news programs and lashed out against a piece of legislation he regards as totally unacceptable. Among his numerous denunciations:

  • Congress is moving fast to rush through a health care overhaul that lacks a key ingredient: the full participation of you, the American people.

  • We shouldn't rush this thing through just to rush it through for some artificial deadline. Lets get this thing done right.

  • Congress and the White House have focused their public efforts on platitudes and press conferences, while the substance and the details have remained behind closed doors.

  • The more Americans learn the details of what is being rushed through Congress, the more folks will be looking for alternatives.

  • If you rush this thing through before anyone knows what it is, that's not good Democracy.

  • This is not bipartisan. For bipartisanship to work, the majority has to be willing to collaborate with the minority. That has not occurred.

Now, time for a pop quiz: Who was speaking? Perhaps it was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)? Nope. Maybe Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) or Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)? Wasn't them, either. Nor was it Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), or Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), or Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), or any of the other usual suspects. In fact, it was Paul Ryan, speaking in the days after Obamacare passed. And now the Speaker is left with a double whammy. Back then, most of what he said wasn't even true, since the yearlong process was hardly a rush job. And now, his partisan spin comes back to haunt him, making him—and, by extension, the GOP—look hypocritical. Ryan should make a point of avoiding the news, the late night talk shows, and "Saturday Night Live" for a few weeks, since everyone is looking up those old clips of the Speaker and showing them. (Z)

Democratic Groups Raise Millions after AHCA Bill Passes

Democrats may learn to love the AHCA bill after all. It is really good for fundraising. One group, Swing Left, which is targeting vulnerable House Republicans, raised $1 million since the AHCA passed the House. Swing left isn't the only Democratic group that has raised $1 million as a result of the bill. The Democratic activist Website Daily Kos also raised $1 million, and in only 24 hours. No doubt the 2018 election is going to be awash in money on both sides.

The effects of the bill are starting to crop up in other ways as well. Veteran political handicapper Charlie Cook has changed his ratings on 20 House races, moving all of them more towards the Democrats, mostly in races where a Republican in a swingy or slightly GOP-leaning district voted for the bill. But Cook notes that even Republicans who voted no may feel a headwind because midterm elections tend to be a referendum on how people feel about the White House rather than a detailed analysis of the incumbent's voting record. (V)

We Have Our First Healthcare Political Ad

It took only 24 hours for a Democratic candidate for office to produce an ad making political hay out of the GOP's health care maneuvering. The politician in question is Tom Perriello, who is running for governor of Virginia. The spot features him standing in front of an ambulance that is being crushed while he says, "Republicans are trying to do this to affordable health care." He also notes that he voted for the ACA while he was in Congress, and promises that the Republicans will never destroy the health care coverage that Virginians enjoy. It's very effective.

Perriello's ad reflects the fundamental problem that Republicans face, a problem that they simply cannot solve. As Slate's Mark Joseph Stern and Perry Grossman point out, seven years of Obamacare have caused most Americans to conclude that health care is now a right. Currently, Ryan, Donald Trump, & Co. are spinning the new law as an improvement that will mean better care for all. But talk is cheap; ultimately the rubber will meet the road. If some version of the AHCA becomes law, many people are going to lose coverage, and many others are going to have reduced coverage, or are going to pay more for the coverage they have. To what end? So that the GOP can declare a political victory, and so that rich people can get a tax break. The further this goes, the more that Republicans will be punished at the polls. Already they've facilitated commercials like the one above; if they're smart, they're hoping that the Senate and House never manage to reach a compromise, and this whole thing fades away as much as is possible. (Z)

Secretary of the Army Pick Withdraws, Again

Donald Trump's first pick for Secretary of the Army was Vincent Viola, who ultimately withdrew because he couldn't extract himself from his business empire fully enough to satisfy government ethics laws. A month later, Trump made a second nomination, Tennessee state senator Mark Green. Green does not have a vast financial empire, but he does have some baggage. Like, for example, being an outspoken creationist. And openly and regularly expressing his view that those who are transgender suffer from a psychiatric disease. Also, some pretty extreme Islamophobia. Taken as a whole, it was a bit much, even for Senate Republicans (though they didn't have a problem with their former colleague, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, who has said similar things on all of these subjects, and has mixed in substantial racism to boot). In any event, Green and Trump were both warned that the nomination was in serious jeopardy, so Green withdrew his name from consideration.

This is actually the fourth service secretary to fail; Trump has not only lost two nominees to lead the army, but also lost one for the navy, and lost one for the air force. He is likely to finally get one through on Monday, as the Senate is expected to confirm Heather Wilson to lead the air force. Still, the high-profile failure of Green has raised a pair of obvious questions. The first is whether Trump will ever get a proper vetting process in place. The things that torpedoed the would-be secretary were not hard to discover—all it takes is a 0.048 second Google search. The second is exactly when Trump will actually get his administration staffed. Of the 556 positions that the Senate needs to confirm, Trump has filled a mere 26 (4.7%), and has offered up nominations for only 15 more (2.7%). He clearly does not plan to fill all of the jobs, and he's likely also happy to have an excuse to keep certain Obama appointees around as long as possible. Still, he can't govern with 4.7% of an administration forever. Or can he? (Z)

Unemployment Is at the Lowest Level in 10 Years

The economy is humming along nicely, with unemployment now at 4.4%, the lowest level since May 2007. In April, 211,000 new jobs were added, leading some economists to say the economy is now at full employment. Not surprisingly, Donald Trump has taken credit for the economy. Presidents generally claim the credit when the economy is getting better but it is never their fault when it goes south. The bull market on Wall Street has gone on for a little over 8 years now, which is very long in historical terms. At the moment, there are no dark clouds on the horizon, but the market can change in a heartbeat if something unexpected happens. (V)

Bullock Gives Democrats Some Advice: Go West

National Democrats have basically given up on winning anything in the Mountain West. According to Washington Democrats, out there it is red as far as the eye can see and completely hopeless. According to an op-ed piece by Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT), it's only hopeless because they are too dumb to even try. He points out that while Hillary Clinton got 36% of the vote in Montana, he won reelection against a self-funding Republican multimillionaire. His predecessor, Brian Schweitzer, was also a two-term Democratic governor. One of the senators, Jon Tester, is a Democrat, and before Tester, Max Baucus, another Democrat, was elected to the Senate seven times from Montana.

Bullock's point is that to compete in Montana, and elsewhere in the Mountain West, the candidate has to show up, talk to people, listen to what they have to say, and take them seriously. Talking about gun control is not going to be a winning issue out there, but protecting the beautiful unspoiled environment from polluters is a hugely powerful Democratic issue in the West. Very few people in the West like the idea of a handful of billionaires buying elections. Even abortion might be salable among people who distrust the government if phrased as "it's none of the government's damn business what a woman does with her own body." The bottom line of his pitch is that Democrats can and do win in the Mountain West at the state level, but they have to try a lot harder than they are now if they want to win presidential elections. (V)

Judge Reopens Voter Registration for GA-06 Runoff

U.S. District Judge Timothy Batten, a George W. Bush appointee, has ruled that the state of Georgia must reopen voter registration immediately and keep it open until May 21 in GA-06, where a hotly contested runoff for the House is taking place between Jon Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R). Polls show it is a virtual tie. Keeping voter registration open for another two weeks might help Ossoff, since Democrats typically do better when turnout is high. A huge amount of money is pouring into the district from outside as many Democrats see the race as a referendum on Donald Trump, even if Ossoff is mostly campaigning on using the taxpayers' money more wisely. (V)

Macron Hacked

There have been many parallels between the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the current French presidential election, where the final round of voting is now underway. And now, another big one has popped up. On Friday, center-left candidate Emmanuel Macron announced that he had been "massively" hacked by a group who was trying to help his far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen.

Though it has not been confirmed that the hackers are Russian, all indications point in that direction. If it is indeed confirmed, it serves as more evidence of Vladimir Putin's underhanded efforts to undermine democracy in general, and liberal candidates in particular. In this case, however, it is not going to work. There is universal agreement that Macron is headed for a landslide victory. So, Putin's batting average for the last six months is going to drop to .500. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May05 House Narrowly Passes a Bill to Repeal the ACA
May05 Fourteen Vulnerable House Republicans Voted for the AHCA Bill
May05 The Woman Who Could Decide the Future of Health Care for Millions of People
May05 House Bill Could Affect All Health Plans
May05 GOP Representatives Go off Script
May05 Trump Signs Meaningless Executive Order
May05 Can Rosenstein Rein in Sessions?
May05 French Head to the Polls Sunday
May04 Upton Flips Again
May04 California Republicans May Swing AHCA Vote
May04 Tuesday Group May Fire MacArthur
May04 Details of AHCA Reveal GOP Priorities
May04 Kushner Finances Under Scrutiny
May04 Comey Defends His Decision to Bring Up Clinton's E-mails Days Before the Election
May04 Trump May Issue an Order Allowing Churches to Support Candidates
May04 Pelosi and Perez Disagree on Abortion
May04 Chaffetz Gunning for Obama's Pension
May03 ACA Repeal Is Dead Again
May03 Yates to Contradict Trump Administration on Flynn
May03 New Study Examines Why Clinton Lost
May03 Clinton Blames Her Loss on Comey and Putin
May03 Trump Responds to Clinton
May03 Poll Has Georgia Race as a Tossup
May03 Why Jim DeMint Was Kicked Out of the Heritage Foundation
May03 Trump Teaches History
May02 It Is Now or Never for Repealing the Affordable Care Act
May02 Trump Willing to Meet with Kim, Going to Meet with Duterte
May02 Trump Runs Ad Touting His Successful First 100 Days
May02 Trump Administration Dismantles Michelle Obama Initiatives
May02 Cabinet Secretaries Are Pushing their Minders Out of the Way
May02 Trump University Student Rejects Settlement Deal
May02 Professor Trump Gives a History Lesson
May01 Government Funded Through September
May01 Gorka Off National Security Council
May01 Biden Speaks in New Hampshire
May01 Democrats Can't, Won't Work with Trump
May01 How Good a Negotiator Is Donald Trump?
May01 Priebus Says the Administration Has Considered Changing Libel Laws
May01 Ros-Lehtinen to Retire
Apr30 Trump Commemorates 100th Day with Rally, "Deeply Disturbing" Speech
Apr30 This Week's March: Environmentalists
Apr30 Should Trump Worry About His Polls?
Apr30 The Trump Economy, 100 Days In
Apr30 2.13 Falsehoods Per Day
Apr30 The Next 100 Days Begins Today
Apr30 Democrats Feeling Bullish
Apr29 President Trump Very Impressed with President Trump
Apr29 North Korea Not Backing Down
Apr29 Trump's America Is Less Safe
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