Tick, Tick: Countdown to Obamacare Repeal

Senate Republicans have until September 30 to repeal Obamacare through the budget reconciliation process before the end of the fiscal year.

The “Graham-Cassidy” bill is their last real shot at doing so this time around. The bill works by doling out block grants to the states, who would then be responsible for overseeing their own system of insuring residents and helping them to pay for their healthcare. The bill would reduce the amount of federal spending overall, and would also repeal the individual and employer mandates.

The Democrats’ leaders have demanded a review of the bill’s impact on Americans by the Congressional Budget Office, but the CBO says that a comprehensive review could take multiple weeks to conduct.

Among Senate Republicans there are also critics of the bill, like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who says it does not go far enough, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who has expressed concerns about her state getting shortchanged under the new block grant process.

Even if the Senate manages to pass Graham-Cassidy, there still needs to be time to send the bill to the House for a vote in that body, where criticisms and concerns remain as well.

 

Liberal GOP State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker Announces Candidacy for Michigan Attorney General

PC: misenategop.com

Michigan State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker announced her candidacy for Attorney General today.

Her fate will be decided next year, when delegates vote for the Attorney General Republican nominee at the GOP State Convention.  Delegates to state conventions tend to be much more conservative than the primary electorate.

Many delegates will pass on Schuitmaker, in search of a more conservative option. Schuitmaker hasn’t exactly been a strong proponent of limited government.

MIRS News does an annual ranking based on voting record to determine the most conservative and liberal legislators.

Schuitmaker came in at just 64% conservative last year, making her one of the most liberal GOP senators in Michigan.

Only 2 Republican senators in Michigan were ranked more liberal than Schuitmaker.

And since this ranking just takes into account 2016 votes, it’s only a small snapshot of her overall liberal record as a state senator.

She voted in favor of Michigan road bills in the house that would have raised taxes and fees upwards of $145 million.

She supported the “Good Jobs” package this year, that promised $250 million of taxpayer dollars to private corporations in exchange for creating jobs.

She was also a vocal supporter of Common Core legislation before back tracking and cosponsoring repeal legislation in attempt to try to show she was against it.

The list goes on and on, but there is already plenty of evidence for conservative delegates to reject Shuitmaker as their Attorney General and select a more conservative option.

Many believe that her run for Attorney General is really just a setup at Mackinac to position her to run for Congress in the 6th Congressional District when Congressman Fred Upton decides to move to the US Senate race.

The potential candidate for Attorney General that most conservatives across the state are urging to run his Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard.  Leonard has been a leader on conservative issues such as the 2nd Amendment and Right to Life, while showing a willingness to challenge the powerbrokers in Lansing.  He is consistently rated one of the most conservative legislators, a sharp contrast with the more liberal Schuitmaker.

Schuitmaker served in the Michigan House of Representatives for three terms. She was then elected to her current position as State Senator of Michigan’s 20th District.

Prior to her time in the state legislature, she unsuccessfully ran for a Van Buren County Circuit Judge seat, after practicing law for 3 years at her family’s law firm, Schuitmaker, Cooper, and Schuitmaker.

Time for single-payer? Most Americans are not on board.

Contrary to Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) and company, most Americans—when considering higher costs and even more government spending—are not on board with the idea of single-payer healthcare.

This past July, the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a poll that showed 53% of Americans in favor of government-run healthcare. However, this number shrunk to 40% when those polled were informed that many citizens would pay higher taxes under such a proposal.

An Associated Press fact-check cites a few other polls that echo this melody: when faced with the question of who signs the check, Americans are much more cautious about embracing single-payer:

“People were about evenly divided in an AP-NORC Center survey in January, 39 percent against having everyone get their health insurance from one government plan and 38 percent in favor. Support dropped substantially when the prospect of a large increase in federal spending was introduced. . . .

“The Pew Research Center in June found 60 percent who believe the federal government is responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans, with 39 percent disagreeing. That supports Sanders’ contention that people want health care as a right. But ensuring coverage is not the same as paying for it. Support for a single-payer system registered at only 33 percent in that poll. Many of those who felt the government has a responsibility for making sure people have coverage instead supported a mix of public and private programs.”

Sen. Sanders’ home state of Vermont also attempted to implement a single-payer program, but called it quits in 2014 after heavy tax increases proved an unpalatable proposition.

The Briefing, Vol. V, Issue 39

The Briefing, Vol. V, Issue 39

This week:

  • Democrats’ turnout advantage shows up again in Oklahoma special
  • Rep. Trott quitting after two terms.
  • Trump takes sides early in Michigan governor primary

Outlook

Once more on Obamacare? Senate Republicans are now aiming to take one last stab at Obamacare in the U.S. Senate — and they are working on an important time deadline. The current reconciliation bill still has not passed the Senate, and must do so by the end of fiscal 2017, which is September 30. The aim now is to pass the Graham-Cassidy health care bill through reconciliation by that date, after which it could be backed through the House.

The bill is not as ambitious as earlier repeal efforts, but it has the backing of at least one and possibly two Republican senators who voted against the last repeal bill. The basic idea is to create block grants that would free the states up to create their own health care policies. They could keep Obamacare in place as is if they wanted, or find another way to run their state programs and marketplaces. Meanwhile, the employer and individual mandates would be eliminated, although certain subsidies for insurers would be preserved at least temporarily.

Some conservative groups have embraced this as a last-ditch effort to do something, save face, and come away with a badly needed win.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear that he is willing to put this at the top of the list, provided that there are 50 votes for it. Expect to see more in the next two weeks. The vote, if it occurs, will be next week, the last week of September, just getting the bill under the wire.

Slightly aiding the push: The CBO’s admission that once again there will be double-digit premium increases next year, to the tune this time of 15 percent.

Deal or no deal? Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer claimed last week that President Trump had offered them a deal: They would all accept a legislative version of DACA — the program legalizing childhood arrivals — without any funding for Trump’s Mexico border wall. It seemed to many of Trump’s supporters like he had gone soft. He had negotiated away his most important priority and was about to waste DACA, his best bargaining chip on immigration policy.

Some have suggested, by way of explanation, that there’s much less to this “deal” than meets the eye. At least one of Trump’s most dogged defenders believed the reports of a deal, but incredibly blamed it all on Republicans’ failure to cooperate with Trump, which supposedly forced him to do it.

But let’s just say there is a deal — because there is likely to be some kind of deal soon in any event. It’s worth thinking in advance about just how far Trump can go before he starts losing support with his actual voting base.

Trump’s appeal is based mostly on his personality, and not necessarily on ideas alone. This is evidenced by his willingness, throughout the 2016 election, to take multiple sides of many issues. What’s more, Trump hinted during the election both that the Mexican border wall might not be a true wall (at least not all along the border) and that he was interested in coming up with a deal to legalize childhood arrivals. Trump also took multiple sides on issues such as trade, abortion, and the government role in healthcare.

Neither this nor any of his other ideological inconsistencies and departures from conservative orthodoxy really hurt Trump with his base at any point during the election.

And for all the same reasons, there’s no basis for believing that it will hurt him now. Trump’s base continues to love him, even as his overall popularity remains in dangerous negative territory. His supporters will be satisfied to revel in the absurdities of Hillary Clinton’s new book and its claims about why she lost in 2016, rather than to focus on obscure debates about what exactly constitutes “amnesty.”

The 2016 election was a true eye-opener for many mainstream conservatives because it changed their ideas about what most conservative voters care about. It turned out that they care less about ideas and more about personalities than a lot of people thought.

By the same token, the new set of conservative-leaning media and activists that defend the new Trump-establishment may be surprised to discover that the average Trump enthusiast really wants to see Trump humiliate Democrats, and is far less interested in what constitutes an “amnesty” or other fine points of immigration policy.

Of course, in the end, Trump needs a majority in Congress for any such deal. Republicans can prevent anything he negotiates with Democrats, if they want to.

Special elections 2017

Oklahoma: Once again, the Democratic advantage in enthusiasm and turnout makes itself felt. The Oklahoma legislature is nowhere near flipping or anything of the sort, but last Tuesday, a Democrat managed to pick up an open Republican state House seat in Oklahoma by a rather shocking 21-point margin. The incumbent had simply quit to take a job with a non-profit. The same candidate who had lost to him in 2016 defeated the GOP nominee in this special election race.

As we’ve argues previously, this is a problem that Republicans underestimate at their own peril. Yes, of course, they hung on to all the congressional seats that were up for grabs this year. But there will be a lot more at stake next November, and all at once, both at the federal and state level. They will have to improve their turnout figures across the map without the sort of ludicrous campaign spending that a one-at-a-time special election can sometimes allow.

Governor 2018

Michigan: President Trump has taken sides early in Michigan’s gubernatorial primary, endorsing state Attorney General Bill Schuette over Lieutenant Gov. Brian Calley. The apparent reason is that Calley severely criticized Trump during the presidential race — in particular, he called on Trump to drop out of the race after his infamous Access Hollywood tape was released in October 2016.

Considering that Michigan is an actual Trump state, his endorsement in a GOP primary surely carries some value, and Calley surely has a lot to lose being on the wrong end of Trump’s endorsement. Republicans will be seeking to hang on to this open position after the term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder leaves office.

House 2018

Michigan-11: Last week, we mentioned how Republican House retirements were pointing to trouble for the GOP House majority. Then Rep. Dave Trott, R-Mich., announced his retirement after just two terms in a suburban Detroit district. This seat, historically Republican, is not impossible for Democrats to win, and gave only 49.7 percent of its vote to President Trump last November.

It is worth noting that most members of Congress try to serve at least three terms, because their health benefits don’t kick in until five years of service. Does Trott see trouble on the horizon? Do the various other Republicans in vul

Planned Parenthood Fears Pro-Life Michigan Speaker Tom Leonard

Planned Parenthood just created a deck of cards featuring Republican elected officials they dislike and deem “bad for women” and “bad for Michigan” for a euchre fundraiser. The deck is beginning to get quite a bit of play on social media in both liberal and conservative circles.

Cards were created with the name and face of Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and a few Michigan elected officials.

Speaker of the House Tom Leonard is featured on all the diamond cards. At the bottom of each card, is a factoid about the featured elected official.

They called out Leonard for being “endorsed by Michigan Right to Life in each election” and having a “100% anti-choice voting record.”

Not exactly breaking news, considering Leonard has been open about being pro-life since first campaigning for his state house seat.

The cards also hit on other issues, in addition to their pro-life records. For Leonard, it included facts such as, “voted to privatize teacher pensions” and “authorized individuals to carry firearms without permits.”

Successfully leading the charge on MPSERS reform and constitutional carry in the House are two of Leonard’s biggest accomplishments thus far as speaker, so he probably doesn’t mind Planned Parenthood spreading the word.

Leonard has made a name for himself for standing strong for conservative values, even when harshly criticized by Democrats, the media, and more moderate Republicans.

The courage and ability to get things done Speaker Leonard has displayed is the reason why Planned Parenthood fears him so much.

He was asked by MIRS News what he thought of the cards, and responded “On Thursday, I celebrated my miracle daughter’s first birthday. On Friday, I’m attacked by Planned Parenthood because I value her life. I’d say this has been a pretty good week!”

Leonard and the other elected officials featured are getting a kick out of the cards, and don’t mind them being shared since being on Planned Parenthoods most hated list is generally viewed as a good thing in conservative circles.

On Facebook, Leonard said, “I consider this a badge of honor, and am proud to see they understand my commitment to protecting life here in Michigan.”

Tada!

Burn!

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Dances with Democrats

The Briefing, Vol. V, Issue 38

This Week:

  • Trump’s deal with Dems — who wins?
  • Whose deal was better for conservatives? Ryan’s or Schumer’s?
  • Are moderate House Republicans jumping ship?

Dances with Democrats: What is one to make of the mighty #Resistance to President Trump, given that Democrats are now cutting deals with him and it’s the Republicans in Congress who are being left out in the cold?

This is a strange moment for Trump’s presidency, and one that you could even say some anti-Trump conservatives predicted. Ted Cruz was arguing during the New Hampshire primary in 2016 that Trump would get to Washington and cut deals with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and this is just what he did last week.

Then again, the Democratic deal that Trump took might actually be better for conservatives than what the GOP leadership had in mind. Republicans and conservatives are certainly not all agreed on this point, but it cannot be dismissed lightly. House Speaker Paul Ryan was bargaining for an 18-month deal on the debt ceiling, holding the fight over borrowing and spending until after next year’s Midterm election. By March 2019, anything could have happened. It’s possible Republicans will have even lost control of Congress by then.

Ryan’s long-term deal would have blocked conservatives from ever having a chance to use the debt ceiling fight as leverage to demand spending reforms, something they’ve been hoping to do for years. Thanks to the Democrats’ deal, they will now have just such an opportunity in three months’ time. Republican leadership, meanwhile, doesn’t have the luxury of avoiding such a fight until the 116th Congress.

Sed cui bono? Democrats, however, seem to think they will be the ones to benefit from the coming debt ceiling showdown. And they will, if enough Republicans in Congress go along with them. A few temporary alliances with Trump might be all Democrats need to kill his agenda and cripple his presidency.

Then again, if Democrats are planning to use the threat of a default on the national debt to their advantage, Trump can do the same thing. What happens, for example, if Democrats have to choose between funding his wall and forcing a default? How far are they willing to go, especially after all their 2013 rhetoric about how the debt limit is sacrosanct and off-limits for politics? If they do bring the nation to the brink of a default some time around Christmas, how much blame will they actually forced to swallow as the midterm election year begins?

Which of course brings us to the consideration with which we are always particularly concerned. What does this mean for the parties in electoral terms? Will Republicans benefit in some places from having distance from Trump? Will Democrats benefit in some places from working with him? Surely, in both cases, yes. And the reverse also has to be true — that some Republicans will lose if they try to distance themselves from Trump, and some Democrats will suffer the wrath of their progressive base if they even treat him like he’s actually the president.

As we learned in 2016, there’s no one right answer when it comes to the effect Trump has on the voters. There are several right answers, depending on which state and which district you’re talking about.

Democrats still enjoy only a modest single-digit lead in generic ballot polling at this point, with all recent polls testing registered (rather than likely) voters. They have all the advantages of a midterm election, but Trump is too unpredictable And Trump’s administration, unpopular as he is, has gotten rave reviews on all sides for its handling of what’s been a very challenging hurricane season. He could get a bump, and his party might (or might not) benefit from it.

There should be, at this point, a vague sense that Democrats will gain ground in 2018, at least in the House. But anyone who says they know more than that is surely bluffing.

House 2018

Republican retirements: One of the things party leaders work hard to prevent each cycle is retirements. Yes, everyone has to retire (or die) someday, naturally, but you never want it to happen in a year and in a seat where it makes the loss of a seat more likely.

There have been two recently announced GOP House retirements that might perhaps suggest a bit of trouble for Republicans. This past week, the retirement came in Pennsylvania-15, where Rep. Charlie Dent, R, called it quits.

Dent, a moderate, has taken several shots at Trump for various reasons over the last few months, and it’s possible he just feels vulnerable. He is leaving open a 52 percent Trump district that has a long history of swingy behavior between the two parties. Note that this Allentown seat is the one Sen. Pat Toomey once held.

The other potentially concerning new retirement is that of Rep. Dave Reichert in Washington-8. Reichert, the much-admired former sheriff who captured the Green River Killer, is also a moderate. For many years, he held down a far more Democratic district than the one he currently represents. Even so, his current Suburban Seattle seat is definitely winnable for Democrats — Hillary Clinton carried it with 48 percent of the vote. They will have a much easier time winning it as an open seat than they would against a popular longtime incumbent.

Moderate Republicans who hold swing-y districts are always the last ones you want to see quit in a tough year. That’s because it is never as easy for a newcomer to hold a potentially tricky seat like the ones these two both represent.

Between Reichert, Dent, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., there is at least a small early movement by Republican moderates to take the occasion to bail out of the House ahead of a challenging midterm.

Nothing yet to be too alarmed about, but if a few more of these retirements crop up, it could be a sign of tough times ahead for the GOP.

 

The Dreamer

 

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Heller Defies President Trump Again – Says He Supports DACA

M.Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

Just when everyone thought Senator Dean Heller couldn’t be more out of touch with the Republican voters in Nevada that elected him, he’s proven us all wrong once again.

President Trump announced on Tuesday he’s ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which was previously implemented by the Obama Administration. Immigration reform was a critical piece of Donald Trump’s campaign since day one, and so far he’s keeping his promise to voters.

Just hours before the announcement was made, Dean Heller said in a written statement to the Reno Gazette-Journal he supports the progam.

“The DACA program was born out of an executive order from President Obama and it’s another example of why it’s important that Congress debates and tackles any policy that significantly alters our nation’s laws,” he said. “While I remain concerned about the way in which DACA came to life, I’ve made clear that I support the program because hard working individuals who came to this country through no fault of their own as children should not be immediately shown the door. This is why I am a cosponsor of the Bridge Act, which provides legal status for these individuals while Congress works toward a permanent solution through the proper Constitutional process.”

Despite Republicans in Nevada overwhelmingly caucusing for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, Heller made a name for himself as a Never Trumper. When President Trump took office, Heller said he’d work with the President, and support him if he liked his policies.

But so far, he’s fought Trump’s agenda every step of the way. He was in the national spotlight for being one of only a few Republican Senators to vote against the repeal of Obamacare.

Then, he publicly came out against the pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right before President Trump announced he would be pardoning him.

Couple this with his statement this week regarding DACA, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that Senator Heller is unwilling to work with the President at all on many important issues Americans face.

Corruption and the Fate of Obamacare

The Briefing, Vol. V, Issue 37 – Happy Labor Day to all our readers.

This week:

  • Trump’s pending action on DACA
  • Menendez trial an underestimated potential game-changer
  • Another special House election likely coming soon

DACA: President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on immigration is really less surprising that you might expect. It’s not a final policy decision. He is actually doing just what House Speaker Paul Ryan asked — giving Congress a chance to make immigration policy going forward instead of relying on constitutionally dubious unilateral executive action.

Trump has repeatedly shown signs that he is willing to make a deal to let those brought to the U.S. as children before 2007 receive legal status. But with this latest action, he has put the ball in Congress’s court. And that’s really as it should be, but it also puts some pressure on Democrats. Congress needs to make policy on immigration and naturalization, as Article I of the Constitution demands. Trump is now forcing them to do it, and perhaps pressuring Democrats to bargain legislatively for a policy they promised to defend.

President Obama made a lot of last-minute political moves — DACA being just one among them — that are hard to justify from the perspective of the balance of powers that the Constitution demands. The courts have frowned upon DACA consistently since its creation for this very reason. But they won’t if Congress adopts such a policy as part of a deal for immigration enforcement — again, something Trump has repeatedly signaled he is open to.

Senate 2017

Alabama: The White House has not officially backed away from its endorsement of Sen. Luther Strange in this month’s GOP primary, but it has done so in practical terms by refusing to follow through. Recall how big a role Trump’s late endorsement played in getting Strange through the first round of the primary. If Trump has dropped him like a hot rock, what then?

A new poll by Harper suggests that Strange’s might not be the lost cause that it appeared to be earlier. He may trail only by single digits — by just two points in this poll. Still, there is not one poll showing Strange with a lead, and that’s not good for an incumbent senator in his own party primary.

Strange can’t be counted out, but if he really can’t count on Trump’s full-throated support in the final stretch, then his days in the U.S. Senate may well be numbered.

New Jersey: Here’s a fun thought-exercise. Let’s say Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial, for which a jury has now been seated, results in a felony conviction and his expulsion or resignation from the Senate between today and January 16, 2018, Gov. Chris Christie’s last day in office.

Christie would then be empowered to appoint an interim senator — perhaps Jeffrey Chiesa again, or a member of the state’s Republican congressional delegation, but perhaps even himself. At which point the U.S. Senate could suddenly bring to the floor and pass the Obamacare repeal bill that it came within one vote of passing this summer, thanks to a new New Jersey Republican in its ranks.

In this scenario, Democrats could try to avoid this fate by circling the wagons around a convicted Menendez. But it won’t look good, and it’s anyone’s guess how long they can actually hold out. Assuming that a conviction does occur, a lot of it depends on the timing. For example, if he is convicted on corruption charges in early October, it’s very difficult to imagine him clinging to his seat until mid-January, but he could try to do just that.

Again, this is just a thought experiment. Menendez could well be exonerated. But can you think of a crazier possible end to Christie’s political career? To Menendez’s? To Obamacare?

This really could all happen, depending on the strength of the government’s case against Menendez. The trial begins on September 6. No one seems to be taking this possibility too seriously, but it’s staring everyone in the face right now. It looks a heck of a lot more likely today than Trump’s election as president ever was in June 2015.

House 2018

Pennsylvania-10: Earlier this year, it appeared that Republican Rep. Tom Marino had given up any thought of an appointment in the Trump administration. Turns out it isn’t so.

Marino will in fact be Trump’s Drug Czar, so long as the Senate is willing to confirm him. That would open up his northeast and central rural Pennsylvania seat — a Republican seat that Democrats (specifically, former Rep. Chris Carney) managed to seize in the 2006 wave and hold until 2010.

The opening up of a solid Republican House seat like this one would normally be unremarkable, except that Republicans have fought hard and had a devil of a time with House special elections throughout 2017. To be sure, they have won every single defensive race they faced, but it has become clear that they face an environment in which even an apparently easy victory can be extremely expensive and is not guaranteed even in normally solid Republican constituencies.

Assuming Marino is confirmed, Pennsylvania law dictates that the governor must issue a writ within ten days, and an election will follow 60 days or more after the writ. Depending on how quickly Marino’s nomination moves, there could be a special election at year’s end or sometime early next year.

Look out for whether this race gets traction among Democratic activists. If Democrats can find a decent candidate, and they are still spoiling for an opportunity to keep their base engaged in the fight, they might well try to make this a marquee contest, like the Ossoff-Handel race in suburban Atlanta earlier this year.

But note that the electorate in this district is very much unlike that of the seat where that epic confrontation played out. Pennsylvania’s Tenth has a heavy non-college-white demographic, and it went 66 percent for Trump — two factors that make it very much unlike Georgia’s Sixth District. If Democrats contest this one, it is because they are eager to win this demographic back and trying hard to find the message and tactics that could do it for them. If they are smart, they will not pass up a chance to turn this special election into a proving ground for their 2018 strategy, even if their chances of winning are not very good.

New York-11: Former Republican Rep. Michael Grimm is out of jail after a seven-month tax fraud sentence, has been writing opeds in D.C. publications defending President Trump. Now he possibly angling to run for his old Staten Island-southwest Brooklyn congressional seat.

Recall that in 2014, Grimm won re-election despite being under indictment for seven months. He won without official Republican Party support over an astoundingly incompetent Democratic candidate, but then resigned and pleaded guilty just a few weeks after his victory.

Grimm has attacked the current Republican incumbent, Dan Donovan, for failing to be sufficiently supportive of President Trump. He’s making it pretty obvious that he would run as the Trumpist candidate.