• Democrats May Contest 90 House Districts
• The GA-06 Special Election Is the Most Expensive House Race in History
• Get Ready for the AHCA Blowback
• Five Ways the Senate's Healthcare Bill May Differ from the House's
• Trump's Relationship with McConnell Will Be Sorely Tested in the Months Ahead
• Paul Asks if He Was Spied on by Obama
• Non-Lobbyist Lewandowski Quits Lobbying Firm
Thus far, most of the travel Donald Trump has done as president has been to rallies, or to the golf courses he owns. He has yet to leave the United States during his term. That will change on Monday, as he undertakes his first international trip since taking office.
It is customary for chief executives to travel to either Mexico or Canada their first trips abroad. It's a good way to warm up, and for a president to get his diplomatic feet wet before taking on a bigger challenge. The problem is that Trump is wildly unpopular in Canada and is utterly loathed in Mexico, and so would face a chilly reception in either of those places, presumably including massive protests. Further, showman and reality star that he is, he doesn't like to do things small, he likes to make a splash. Or, perhaps more accurately, a SPLASH. So, he has instead chosen just about the most difficult itinerary possible—the Vatican, then Saudi Arabia, then Israel. That's right, the seats of three major, often antagonistic, religions. Trump knows, however, that he's likely to get a warm reception in the latter two, where Barack Obama wasn't terribly popular. As to Rome/the Vatican, well, two out of three ain't bad.
In one way, Trump is certainly improving on his predecessor. Obama avoided Israel on his first trip to the Middle East, which helped set the stage for the poor relationship with that nation that marked most of his term. However, the trip is nonetheless fraught with the potential for trouble. The President, who is not a details kind of guy, has not appointed a chief of protocol to help him navigate the niceties of his various visits. He also disdains local culture and local cuisine, and tends to be loath to participate in rituals he does not like or does not understand. So, there will be much opportunity for him to cause offense, particularly in Saudi Arabia, whose customs will be quite foreign to him. Not helping matters is the fact that Trump adjusts very poorly to time changes, and is constantly jetlagged when he travels, so he will likely be tired during the entire five-day journey.
Trump's long game here is to start laying the groundwork for some sort of progress on Israel and Palestine. Earlier this week, he said that resolving the seven-decade conflict will be, "frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years." Depending on how substantive his discussions are with the various leaders he meets, he may be in for a rude awakening. When he arrives back in America, he might be singing a very different tune, like "Who knew bringing peace to the Middle East could be so complicated?" (Z)
The House vote to pass the AHCA bill has upended the 2018 elections. Midterms tend to be a referendum on the incumbent president, and the current one is the least popular president at this point in his term since pollsters began keeping track. Given that fact, Democrats are already focusing on more than 90 Republican-controlled congressional districts in which Trump got less than 55% of the vote. Liberal groups have raised millions of dollars for candidates who haven't even announced a run yet. All the Democratic energy is making it easier for Democrats to recruit candidates, even in Republican-leaning districts with a Republican incumbent.
A problem for Republicans is potential retirements by members who have had it easy for years but now see a big fight coming up and don't have the stomach for it. For example, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who represents a Miami-based district (FL-27) that Hillary Clinton won by 20 points, has announced that she's done. That one is a lost cause for the Republicans, although the Democratic primary is certain to be crowded. The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee has said he has a list of 10 Republican representatives who are planning to retire and the list could easily grow as members in districts where Trump did poorly assess their own situation. It is rare that the midterm election campaign starts only 100 days into a new president's term, but that is what has happened. (V)
Speaking of energy, who would have thought that a special election in a heavily Republican district in the Georgia would turn out to be the most expensive House race in all of U.S. history? But the candidates and outside groups involved in the race between Jon Ossoff (D) and Karen Handel (R) have already spent or reserved $30 million worth of TV ads. These will be directed at portions of three well-off suburban counties north of Atlanta that compose the GA-06 district once represented by Secretary of HHS Tom Price, and earlier by Newt Gingrich, Johnny Isakson, Carl Vinson, and Howell Cobb.
Most of the money has been raised by liberal groups that are supporting Jon Ossoff. It is not only a matter of flipping one seat. If Ossoff wins, it changes the narrative. If a district with a PVI (Partisan Voting Index) of R+8 in the deep South can be flipped by a young (30) Jewish filmmaker who has never before run for public office, every Republican in the House in a district that is R+8 or more Democratic is going to become nervous and the Democrats will find it much easier to recruit top-tier candidates everywhere.
Ossoff has gotten so much money showered upon him that he doesn't know what to do with it. He is doing things unheard of in a special election, like running ads on a Korean radio station and paying for Lyft rides to get voters to the polls on Election Day, as well as pumping millions of dollars into direct mail and get-out-the-vote operations.
Republicans see all this energy and are fighting back. A super PAC with ties to the Republican leadership is going to put $8.5 million in the race, a record for a House election. Its ads say that Ossoff will be a rubber stamp for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is about as popular as the devil among Republican voters in the South. The total amount of political advertising is so great that the Atlanta NBC station has bumped its regular 7 p.m. program to add a new newscast—and provide more air time to run political ads. Former GOP representative Tom Davis summed the situation up like this: "Everybody has shoved their chips into the middle of the table, and neither side can afford to lose." The runoff is on June 20th. (V)
The primary purpose of passing the health care bill was to give Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) a "win." They got it, such as it is, but now it is time to pay the piper. Trump and Ryan were able to crank out all sorts of spin when there was nobody to ask critical questions, but that won't last. There remain certain indelible facts that can't be spun away: The AHCA, as currently constituted, will deprive millions of people of health care, and will make it nearly-impossible for large numbers of very sick people to get medical treatment. It was rushed through the House, and most (all?) members who voted for it didn't even read it.
The first people to feel the heat will be the 200-plus Republican representatives who voted for the bill. They know that it is going to be difficult to account for themselves, which is why every single one of the 217 "yea" voters declined to appear on Joy Reid's MSNBC show to discuss their vote. But while it's easy enough to dodge a liberal cable channel, the representatives cannot dodge their constituents. They are on a two-week break from Washington; during that time many of them will have town halls or other events, and nearly all will have some sort of constituent availability. There are going to be lots of angry people, lots of difficult questions, and all sorts of opportunities for the members to put their feet squarely in their mouths.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) was among the first to be hit with a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease. At a constituent event on Friday, he defended his pro-AHCA vote, explaining to the crowd that, "Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care." It's hard to screw up that much in only ten words; not only is the statement clearly false, but it suggests that Labrador—who, after all, has excellent health insurance—is utterly out of touch with the issues of those who are less fortunate than he is. Clips of the Congressman saying this quickly flooded Twitter, Facebook, and other sites. If the Democrats are smart, they are already compiling a reel of Republican statements like this one, and Rep. Thomas Garrett's (R-VA) declaration that he doesn't care about those who will be hurt by the AHCA because "none of those people did vote for me." You put all those clips together, add a voiceover about how much Republicans care about the American people, and leave room for a five-second tag where candidate John Q. Democrat introduces himself and says he's running for Congress to save healthcare. You thus have a ready-made, powerful commercial that can be adapted and deployed for just about any district in the country.
Meanwhile, sometime later this week, the think tanks will begin to weigh in with its analyses of the bill, and some of the unintended consequences it will bring. The Congressional Budget Office will presumably also announce their conclusions, revealing the economic damage that will be wrought by the bill. And so, at a time when memories of the Trump/Ryan "victory" will already be fading, the newspapers and websites will be full of unfriendly coverage. It's probably not a coincidence that Trump will be out of the country for most of the week, while his Congressional partners take the heat for him. (Z)
There is no way the Senate will pass the healthcare bill the House sent it. In fact, it won't even vote on the bill at all. Instead it will draw up its own bill and vote on it. The Hill has compiled a list of five ways the Senate bill is likely to differ significantly from the House bill. Roughly summarized, these are:
- More tax credits will be offered to low-income people
- The Medicaid phase-out will be pushed from 2020 to a later date
- One way or another, many more people will be covered
- People with pre-existing conditions will not be left out in the cold
- The MacArthur amendment to allow states to opt out of essential health benefits will be challenged
Throwing in a bit more money for poor people is easy. Pushing the phase-out of Medicaid to a further date is technically known as "kicking the can down the road." Congress does it all the time. Covering more people is obviously possible but will cost a lot more money.
The whole business of not covering pre-existing conditions is going to be tough. The Republican strategy of having two insurance pools, one for healthy people (with low premiums) and one for sick people (with hardly any funding), is something that could fall apart during the process. If the Senate is too generous to sick people, coming up with a compromise bill later on in the House-Senate conference committee will be extremely difficult.
The last point deserves special attention. The House Freedom Caucus got on board only after the MacArthur amendment was added to the bill. It allows states to say that insurers in their state can decide for themselves what to cover. This is a key to getting premiums down, something Republicans want. Senate Republicans may not want to change this popular provision of the ACA, and they could enlist Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough to solve the problem for them. If she rules that the MacArthur amendment is not allowed under the budget reconciliation process, then the senators in the conference committee can say to their House colleagues: "Great amendment. We love it to pieces. But dang, Elizabeth says we can't do it." That gives them a way to defuse a potentially critical issue. (V)
While the House was working on the healthcare bill, Donald Trump was mostly dealing with Paul Ryan. Now he has to deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The dynamic here will be completely different. Ryan cares a lot about the content of bills, but not much about process and procedure. McConnell is the opposite. He cares a lot about how the Senate operates, and very little about actual policy. When Trump told McConnell to get rid of the rules that make it hard to pass bills with fewer than 60 votes, McConnell instantly said he wasn't going to do that. McConnell's biggest challenge won't be in crafting a bill, but in managing Trump, who doesn't understand why the Senate moves slowly and why McConnell can't and won't just ram the House bill through the Senate. If Trump pushes McConnell too hard, it could hurt their relationship going forward on other bills, and Trump probably doesn't realize that he needs McConnell more than McConnell needs him. (V)
On Friday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) took to Twitter to share some...interesting news:
I have formally requested from the WH and the Intel Committees info on whether I was surveilled by Obama admin and or the Intel community!— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 5, 2017
Paul, of course, did not provide any evidence for the accusation. There has been no proof that Obama ordered anyone surveilled during the campaign, and it is particularly unlikely that the he would bother to spy on a third-tier candidate who had trouble even making it to the main stage for the Republican debates.
The point here is not to suggest that Paul is kooky and paranoid. Although, to be honest, he kind of is. No, it's to note that the Senator keeps doing things to draw attention to himself and to curry favor with a certain segment of the GOP faithful. He also, for example, made a big point of standing outside the locked door where House Republicans were meeting to iron out the details of the AHCA. Paul's point was to protest the "secrecy" of the process. There's no particular need for a senator with more than 5½ years left on his term to make so many headlines; Clearly, he's got his eye on some other office. He might make another run at the presidency in 2020, though that is a fool's errand, since Paul's brand of Republicanism is out of step with most of the country's GOP voters. More probable is that he's thinking about the Kentucky governor's mansion, which will next be contested in 2019. While Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is eligible to run for re-election, his dismal 33% approval rating makes him one of the most unpopular governors in America—he trails only Sam Brownback (R-KS; 26%), Dan Malloy (D-CT; 29%), and Rick Snyder (R-MI; 32%). As governor, Paul would have influence of the sort that he's not ever going to enjoy in the Senate, given his non-mainstream views and unwillingness to play nice with Senate leadership. (Z)
Once Donald Trump was elected president, his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski quickly headed to K Street to cash in, helping to found lobbying firm Avenue Strategies. Given Trump's promise to "drain the swamp" and to bar former members of the administration from lobbying, Lewandowski did not register as either a lobbyist or a foreign agent. He explained that his job was to "facilitate," and not to lobby, and so such registrations were not necessary.
Since this seemed a distinction without a difference, Politico decided to look into what Lewandowski was doing with his time. They discovered that when he wasn't visiting Trump at the White House, he was contacting foreign governments around the world and trying to sell access to the President. This would certainly seem to be lobbying and/or acting as a foreign agent, and so would mean that Lewandowski was in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 or the Lobbying and Disclosure Act of 1995 or both. Under intense scrutiny, he threw in the towel and quit his firm on Friday.
Lewandowski's official reason for resigning was that, "The most important thing is my reputation." Since his reputation is already in tatters, that's a bit hard to swallow. Insider speculation is that he was warned either to quit his firm or to quit coming to the White House. And, it would seem, Lewandowski decided that his ego or his pocketbook (or maybe both) would be better off if he kept his access to Trump. So, he's now looking for work once again. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
May06 Senate Names Health Care Team
May06 Congressman Savages Health Care Legislation
May06 Democratic Groups Raise Millions after AHCA Bill Passes
May06 We Have Our First Healthcare Political Ad
May06 Secretary of the Army Pick Withdraws, Again
May06 Unemployment Is at the Lowest Level in 10 Years
May06 Bullock Gives Democrats Some Advice: Go West
May06 Judge Reopens Voter Registration for GA-06 Runoff
May06 Macron Hacked
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