The Briefing, Vol. V, Issue 13

This week:

  • An early Republican disaster on health care reform
  • Dems try for a deal on Gorsuch, but may provoke a nuclear crisis instead
  • Democrat reaches 40 percent in poll of key House special election

Healthcare reform: The defeat of the Obamacare replacement bill was a complete disaster for Republicans. It raises questions about how effective the party can be during Trump’s presidency if its officeholders cannot reach consensus on an issue they all ran on.

It is also arguably President Trump’s most serious setback since the announcement of his presidential candidacy in June 2015.

This was not Trump’s first setback, obviously. Trump seemed to bounce back effortlessly from election losses in states like Iowa and Wisconsin during the primaries. Later, he bounced back from difficult moments during the general election campaign — the Access Hollywood tape being the most memorable.

But this legislative defeat, which befell not just Trump but also the congressional GOP leadership and Speaker Paul Ryan in particular, just wasn’t quite the same as an electoral defeat. It put the question to Trump, for the first time, about governing. As Obama’s failure to govern effectively after the 2010 election taught Americans, governing is not at all like running for office or scoring well in polls.

Trump had a very clear eye about his own role in last week’s events. He viewed it as a serious defeat for himself, and evidently he took it quite personally as well. White House advisor Steve Bannon encouraged him to make a list of disloyal Republicans for future retribution. And in his meeting with the House Freedom Caucus before the legislative process for repealing Obamacare imploded, Trump made it quite clear that what followed would be a disaster for him, and not just for Republican leaders on Capitol Hill:

Trump wanted to emphasize the political ramifications of the bill’s defeat; specifically, he said, it would derail his first-term agenda and imperil his prospects for reelection in 2020.

The rest is history, of course. And the result — whomever you want to blame for it — is that Democrats are celebrating a success, attacking Republicans as unable to govern and impugning Trump’s competence as president.

Perhaps they celebrate a bit too much. Perhaps Trump isn’t derailed quite yet, and perhaps health care reform is even still on its way, just a bit delayed. But there are nonetheless some big lessons Trump and congressional Republicans need to take away from this debacle, because it genuinely was a debacle.

One of those lessons is simply that “negotiation” doesn’t work in Washington the same way it does in the business world. Even Trump, who had successfully used a version of his negotiating strategy to win nearly every PR battle he engaged in for the last 20 months, hit a brick wall when it came to the legislative process simply because the rules there are different.

The Washington Examiner’s Byron York put it this way:

‘The Art of the Deal’ doesn’t work with ideologically-driven politicians. The pundits mentioned Trump’s most famous book thousands of times during the Obamacare negotiations. But in dealing with the doctrinaire conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, Trump was facing differently-motivated partners than in the deal-making recounted in his 1987 book. If the president wants to succeed in Washington, he’ll have to learn how to deal with people who aren’t in it just for the money.

That goes not only for Trump’s dealings with conservatives, but also for his future dealings with House and Senate Democrats. Negotiation does have its place in politics, but it’s still a different game, not the same as Trump is accustomed to in business.

Another lesson is that over-promising can be fatal. Republicans promised to move quickly and undo something that it took Democrats more than a year to put into place. The House leadership discovered the downside of a shock and awe campaign: When it fails, it can have exactly the opposite of the intended effect.

Politically, this defeat makes passage of most other legislation seem less likely. Before, Trump’s infrastructure plan seemed unstoppable. Now, everything seems pretty stoppable. Surely last week’s events will embolden Democrats to fight everything tooth and nail.

It also harms the possibility of tax reform in a more concrete way. By repealing Obamacare’s tax hikes, Republicans had hoped to lower the baseline for a revenue-neutral tax reform package. Now, at least in theory, they will have to work with a higher revenue baseline, resulting in higher overall taxes after reform is enacted.

Will health care reform come up again this Congress? Both Trump and Ryan are acting as if it will not, and as if they have simply moved on. The chairman of the Freedom Caucus, whose members neither negotiations nor threats proved able to persuade, hinted that the legislation could make a Tom Brady-style comeback.

If there is any silver lining to all this, it is that the bill under consideration was predicted to have a seriously negative effect on many people. Because of the rigorous requirements of the reconciliation process, it would have curtailed Obamacare coverage subsidies, but without the reforms needed to bring insurance premiums back down to where they were before Obama’s law went into effect.

Still, that’s small consolation, considering that elections are contested and won, presumably, with the goal of changing policy, not just for the sake of winning and clinging to power. Also, Trump would have liked to score a win here by corralling the Freedom Caucus where others — Ryan and former Speaker John Boehner — had tried and failed.

Gorsuch confirmation: Last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer floated the idea of cutting a deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: Promise to preserve the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations, and we’ll let Garland through.

McConnell, however, is dealing from a position of strength. He doesn’t need a deal. And Democrats now appear to be acting like there won’t be one.

It should be remembered that, before the election, vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine was openly talking about going nuclear to push through Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court nominations. Democrats’ problem is that, having already made the decision themselves in 2013 to strip the Senate minority of its rights, they lost their Senate majority and now find themselves on the wrong end of the gun.

They are, in fact, looking for a face-saving way out of a fight which they cannot win but which they also cannot appear to lose through capitulation. The nuclear option represents one such way out, but it is the least desirable one for them. It would allow Republicans to avoid making a controversial power grab if and when the debate over the next Supreme Court appointment occurs, assuming Trump is the one making it and they still hold the Senate majority.

This time, Democrats would much prefer to put up a show of resistance yet fall short of the 41 votes it takes to sustain a filibuster. If they made a deal this time around, it would leave the option there for next time. Which is of course why McConnell isn’t interested.

It is easy enough for Democratic senators — especially those in red states — to declare their opposition to Gorsuch without committing to a filibuster against him. If eight of them choose this route, the nuclear crisis is averted. For now.

It is worth bearing in mind throughout that, had Harry Reid not invoked the nuclear option in 2013, its invocation now would be viewed as something unthinkable.

One more point: Democrats’ best argument for blocking Gorsuch is that Republicans blocked President Obama’s last nominee, Merrick Garland. Turnabout is fair play, they can say.

Yet the context of the situation here is different in at least one crucial respect: Republicans blocked Garland from the majority. They won the right to block him in an election.

The Garland fight had its roots in the earlier decision, by former Democratic Leader Harry Reid, to invoke the nuclear option. Having been thwarted in their filibusters against several lower court nominees by Reid’s action, minority Republicans were determined that once they regained the Senate majority, very few judges would be confirmed. And beginning January 7, 2015, after they returned to session with nine additional Republicans and the majority, they confirmed only 22 of the 76 judges Obama appointed, compared to the 134 that had been confirmed in the previous Congress. By slowing the confirmation process to a crawl, the new Senate Republican majority held Obama to roughly the same overall number of confirmed lower court judges as George W. Bush had enjoyed.

Republicans might well have blocked Garland either way. But between the lack of comity in the Senate that followed the nuclear option, and the decisive gain of political power that the election brought about for Republicans, the conditions for ignoring a president’s Supreme Court nominee were all present when McConnell made his fateful decision. And that brings us to where we are today.

House 2017

Georgia-6: In a field of 18 candidates from both parties, and with no one taking sides on the Republican side, the Democrat enjoying his party’s institutional support is obviously going to rise above all others. But how far should he be able to rise before Republicans panic?

A poll released last week shows Jon Ossoff at 40 percent in the jungle primary, which takes place April 18. Assuming nobody gets 50 percent, the top two candidates, regardless of party, will go to a runoff.

This is a House district where Republicans have no business losing. Tom Price, who vacated the seat to become President Trump’s HHS secretary, typically won with 60 to 65 percent of the vote. This would be the equivalent of Scott Brown’s 2010 victory in Massachusetts — a real warning shot for Republicans, and the defeat of the GOP health care bill is likely to damage the party’s cause.

The Republican favorite is 2014 Senate candidate and former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who stood at 20 percent. The Club for Growth has backed Bob Gray.

Montana-At Large: If Georgia is the exciting House special election, this one is the opposite. Republicans are playing it safe, with Speaker Ryan’s group spending a large six-figures on the race, but the opposite party is largely absent. Having unfortunately nominated Rob Quist, a musician who favors mandatory gun registration, Democrats failed to put their best foot forward and may have blown a chance in a state where Trump won big, but where Democrats do sometimes win.

Defund Obamacare: Trump Administration Should Stop Obamacare’s Theft of Funds that Would Have Helped Middle America and Inner Cities

The inability for Congress to repeal Obamacare or replace it with an alternative brings to light another way for the Trump Administration to right the wrongs that Obamacare unleashed on the American middle class.

Families across America are threatened by an undercapitalized Fannie and Freddie because the funds were instead used to fund Obamacare. The Obama Administration took $260 Billion that would have normally helped lower and middle-class families in rural America and inner cities buy homes and instead diverted the money to pay for the failed health care plan.

This was a complete circumvention of Congress’ authority and was very likely an illegal action by the Obama Administration.

It can be fixed by Treasury instructing the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FIFA) Director Mel Watt that the Net Worth Sweep is over. Mr. Watt is on record with his concern over the undercapitalization that has been caused by the sweep and presumably he would prefer not to make this payment and would follow this directive.

The Trump Administration has an opportunity on March 31st to right this wrong. It is time to pull the financial plug out of Obamacare and protect middle-class taxpayers.

They could also demand the Justice Department launch an investigation into how the money was spent.

Drew Johnson wrote on this for the Daily Caller:

“If President Donald Trump is truly committed to draining the swamp, he should look no further than putting an end to the Net Worth Sweep. There is simply no place in the federal government for a scam that improperly funded Obamacare behind the backs of Members of Congress, while ripping off the investors who bailed out America’s housing market.

Rather than allowing the Net Worth Sweep to continue, President Trump should stop the sweep payments, demand the Justice Department turn over 11,000 Net Worth Sweep-related documents the previous administration refused to make public, and fully investigate how every dime of Net Worth Sweep money has been spent.”

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Bills For Babies

It’s stealing from tomorrow to pay for today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conservative Intel is excited to announce we have partnered with Pat Cross Cartoons!

Pat loves drawing, America, and the Big Man upstairs. His work aims to combine these three elements into a petri dish and see what happens. We hope you will find his work thought-provoking, insightful, profound and maybe, just maybe, a bit humorous.

We encourage you to visit his website and like his Facebook page!

Birdbrained

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conservative Intel is excited to announce we have partnered with Pat Cross Cartoons!

Pat loves drawing, America, and the Big Man upstairs. His work aims to combine these three elements into a petri dish and see what happens. We hope you will find his work thought-provoking, insightful, profound and maybe, just maybe, a bit humorous.

We encourage you to visit his website and like his Facebook page!

GOP Healthcare Reform Plan: ‘Phase Two’

Republicans of the House will be deliberating multiple healthcare reform proposals in hopes of bringing over hesitant GOP lawmakers to move forward with eliminating Obamacare. These proposals focus on reforming lawsuits for medical malpractice, allowing interstate insurance purchases, and should improve market competition. Republicans believe that these factors will help gradually reduce the cost of health insurance.

The Washington Examiner reports, “”We have always acknowledged that we must move separate legislation to fully repeal and replace Obamacare with a patient-centered, free-market system,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “In the weeks to come, we will consider several bills to increase patient choice and market competition and prevent abusive medical lawsuits. These bills are just the beginning of phase three of our continued efforts to reform our healthcare system so it works for the American people.”

By moving the legislation alongside the Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, Republicans hope to make the main bill attractive enough to cobble together a House majority.”

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Trump Blasts ‘Fake News’

President Trump firmly stands against claims of working with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton in the election. Trump went to twitter to defend himself from any upcoming allegations suggesting Russia was involved in any way with the outcome of the election.

The Washington Examiner reports, “The House Intelligence Committee is set to hear testimony from FBI Director James Comey on Monday over Russia’s alleged meddling in the campaign. Mike Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, will also testify.

Among the topics set to be discussed is Trump’s claim that President Obama had the phones in Trump Tower “wire tapped” during the campaign.”

 

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Trump’s negotiating skills put to the test

The Briefing, Vol. V, Issue 12-
This week:

  • Trump brings conservatives along on health care bill
  • Gorsuch hearings begin
  • Dems have to settle in Wisconsin, Ohio governors’ races

Congress

Obamacare repeal: TrumpCare, RyanCare — you can call it whatever you want, but President Trump is already bringing conservatives around on the Obamacare replacement package.

He began simply by being open to changes to the bill, and it wasn’t long before Speaker Paul Ryan and the leadership were saying the same thing.

This week, his administration will try to seal the deal with as many of the remaining skeptics as possible by highlighting “Phase Two” of the three-part process of repeal. That is to say, the Trump administration will highlight for members of Congress what he can do administratively to cancel out Obamacare’s effects on the price of insurance, above and beyond the limited amount that the reconciliation bill can do under the complex rules of the Senate.

In theory, administrative action plus the reconciliation repeal bill could dramatically reduce the number of people who are expected to lose coverage — a number that the Congressional Budget Office placed at 24 million.

Republicans have promised repeal of Obamacare ever since it passed, and they have rode that promise to three big victories in four elections. But Republican officeholders of all stripes are anxious about what the results of repeal could be. They remember when Obamacare passed, upending the health insurance system and launching a voter rebellion.

As long as it’s just angry liberal activists storming those town halls, Republicans are fine. But that could be just the tip of a much larger iceberg if millions of people lose insurance they wanted, or suddenly find themselves paying double or triple.

It was often noted at the time of Obamacare’s passage that the word “Secretary” appeared more than any other in the 2,000-plus page bill. Congress delegated immense authority to the Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1,442 different passages of the bill. Trump’s appointee, Secretary Tom Price, can thus undo a great deal of it administratively, relaxing and removing the teeth from enforcement of the minimum benefit requirements to the extent possible.

As of Friday, both of the major Republican conservative caucuses in the House — the Republican Study Committee and the Freedom Caucus — appeared far more willing to vote for the bill in the House, with changes, than they had seemed early on.

There is still plenty of work to be done in the House, and even a victory there means that Trump’s skills as a negotiator will be tested further as Republicans try to keep as many of the 52 GOP senators on board as possible. One concern among conservatives is that the provisions defunding Planned Parenthood might be scrapped to accommodate Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. Without their support, the bill could not afford even one more GOP defection.

Gorsuch hearings: This week will feature two extremely important hearings on Capitol Hill: One investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and the other on Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.

For conservatives who felt demoralized a year ago by the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Gorsuch is the answer to their prayers — and the fulfillment of a promise Trump made at a time when conservatives were especially skeptical of his bona fides. Gorsuch, who has previously gone through confirmation hearings and has a large body of written opinions and dissents, will probably not have too much of a problem navigating the same minefields as John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

The bigger question is about how Democrats behave outside the hearing room, assuming Gorsuch does not say anything too crazy. The smart money is betting against their being able to sustain a filibuster against him. Trump simply picked someone who is so well qualified that all of the objections seem petty and ideological.

But they need to put up a show of resistance, and to that end Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., trotted out several people who lost cases in which Gorsuch wrote the court’s opinion on the Tenth Circuit. Of course, there exist such people for every judge, but Schumer needs to put on this show. He has been on a crusade for nearly two decades to politicize the judiciary, and he now finds himself a victim of his own success. He won’t lose any sleep when Gorsuch is confirmed, because Democratic partisans won’t be able to blame him for what appears to be inevitable.

President 2020

Too soon: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has been spending enough time in Iowa that he might have to pay income taxes there for this year. If you weren’t sure whether he isn’t already running for president, his leaderhip PAC commissioned a poll of the Hawkeye State. It shows O’Malley narrowly leading Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., ahead of the 2020 caucuses. But the poll is kind of a joke, considering that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a progressive favorite, was left out of it.

Governor 2017

New Jersey: It was already painfully obvious, but there’s very little chance that Republicans will hang on to this governorship. With Chris Christie now the most unpopular governor in America, his lieutenant governor and the likely GOP nominee, Kim Guadagno, trails Democrat Phil Murphy by 22 points in the latest Quinnipiac poll.

Murphy, Obama’s ambassador to Germany for four years and a longtime Democratic Party fundraiser and donor, is something of a reincarnation of former Gov. Jon Corzine, coming to politics as he has from Wall Street and Goldman Sachs.

Virginia: Democratic former Rep. Tom Perriello earned a rather high-profile endorsement in his insurgent candidacy for governor from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager. This comes at a good time for him, a month after a poll showed him tied with the establishment candidate, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam.

Northam won in 2013 alongside Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe, another major player from ClintonWorld who is all in behind him. But Northam isn’t getting the clear field he had hoped for, as left-wing enthusiasm seems to be on Perriello’s side.

As Podesta argues, the two candidates are very similar on the issues. He argues, however, that Perriello has the progressive style that the party needs. It’s not necessarily clear that this is a good argument, but Perriello is much more actively attempting to tap into left-wing frustration with the Trump presidency.

That may just be code for the fact that Northam is 15 years older. Or maybe there’s more to it than it seems. In any event, he seems to have wrapped up more of the “old” party officials (like McAuliffe) and campaign organs, having recently won the endorsement of the National Abortion Rights Action League.

On the Republican side, former RNC Chairman and 2014 Senate candidate Ed Gillespie dominates the primary field over state Sen. Frank Wagner and fired former Prince William County board of supervisors chairman Corey Stewart, who was fired by the Trump campaign during the recent presidential election. The primary takes place June 13.

Governor 2018

Ohio: Many had suspected that Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan only ran for House minority leader against Nancy Pelosi because he was trying to raise his profile for a gubernatorial run. And he would have been just the candidate in Trump’s America, representing a district typical of the working-class Trump Democrat. But now Ryan has decided against a bit for governor, and so Democrats look to a bench that is as thin as it ever was.

Democrats will likely face a choice between former Rep. Betty Sutton (who lost her seat in 2012 to redistricting), state Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, and possibly Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

Republican Gov. John Kasich may never have made nice with President Trump, but he finishes his second and last term in the knowledge that he rebuilt a state party that had self-destructed. The Ohio GOP is in better shape than when he was elected — a sharp contrast with some other governors, such as Chris Christie of New Jersey and Sam Brownback of Kansas.

The Ohio GOP is arguably stronger now than it was even in 2005, and Ohio Democrats are weaker than they have been in quite some time. After a brief revival that began in 2006 due to major Republican scandals, Democrats in Ohio had their backs broken over the last two election cycles. They desperately need to show some signs of life — signs that their state isn’t on its way to becoming the next Red Missouri.

After fielding a scandal-laden and hopeless gubernatorial nominee in 2014, Democrats were crushed again by the Trump tsunami in 2016. After so many thinkpieces about the conundrum that Donald Trump’s nomination created for Republican Sen. Rob Portman, he defeated former Gov. Ted Strickland by an astounding margin, more than 20 points. Keep in mind, he was probably running against the best candidate Democrats could possibly have recruited in the state.

In addition to controlling all of the state constitutional offices, Republicans now have their largest majority in the state House since the 1960s and in the state Senate since the 1950s. The only statewide elected Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is up for re-election in 2018, and as we have noted, he seems at least a bit vulnerable.

Wisconsin: The decision by Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., not to run for governor is a big boost for Republican Scott Walker, who is seeking a third term.

Wisconsin is always a close state in partisan terms, and

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Walker will not have an easy race even if Democrats fail to find a top-tier candidate. But Kind, a moderate representing a district that swung from Obama to Trump, would have been a very formidable opponent.

Walker just barely carried Kind’s western Wisconsin district (by about 2,000 votes) in his 2014 re-election against Mary Burke.

Wisconsin’s elections are usually framed as a contest of which party can run up the score most in their respective strongholds. For Democrats, that means Milwaukee and Dane County (Madison). For Republicans, that means the WOW counties in the Milwaukee Suburbs (Waukesha, Ouzakee, Washington) along with a few other conservative towns in the Fox River valley.

But Western Wisconsin, a largely rural but traditionally Democratic area, has become Republicans’ secret weapon in recent elections. It certainly was for Trump. Kind might have been just the Democrat to test whether anyone in his party could take it back.

For now, at least, there is no one quite as formidable for Dems on the horizon. A Milwaukee-area businessman named Bob Harlow is giving it a look, as is former state Sen. Tim Cullen.

Star Players

Come on coach!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conservative Intel is excited to announce we have partnered with Pat Cross Cartoons!

Pat loves drawing, America, and the Big Man upstairs. His work aims to combine these three elements into a petri dish and see what happens. We hope you will find his work thought-provoking, insightful, profound and maybe, just maybe, a bit humorous.

We encourage you to visit his website and like his Facebook page!

FOXNEWS Reporter Maria Bartiromo Talks Obamacare Stealing Money from Fannie and Freddie

Money that Would Have Helped Low Income Families Afford Homes

The explosive information from last week that the Obama Administration was taking money from Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac to pay for Obamacare moved from online news sites to cable television as Maria Bartiromo emphasized it on Fox News.

The money could have otherwise helped low income families buy homes in rural areas across the country, and in inner cities that voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

According to documents presented by Infowars, the Obama administration planned in 2011 to take funds from Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, two Government Sponsored Organizations that helped provide middle-class Americans with home loans, in order to fund his failing healthcare plan.

What the Treasury document reveals is that top Obama Treasury officials engineered the “Net Worth Swap” as the strategy designed to “wind down” Fannie and Freddie, so the GSEs ultimately could be closed altogether.

Financial expert Joshua Rosner concluded that the actions of the Obama administration were premeditated and defended with false statements, which lead to the eventual bankruptcy of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The Obama administration implemented this strategy knowing that this would lead to fewer mortgages for the middle-class in the future, depriving the market power of public financing, while concentrating the mortgage market into the grasp of Wall Street and big global banks – the “too big to fail” the Democrats relied on as top financial donors to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Essentially, Obama’s White House took away affordable housing for the middle class to give them Obamacare. The $260 billion diverted to the U.S. Treasury under the “Net Worth Swap” to fund Obamacare is perhaps the largest theft in U.S. financial history of stock dividend payments from private investors – the legal and rightful recipients of those dividend payments.

 

“Environmentalists” Vandalize Trump Golf Course

Over the weekend, environmental activists destroyed one of President Trump’s golf courses by tearing out a huge message into of the holes. The vandals scraped the words, “no more tigers, no more woods” into the green of the fifth hole at Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.

Video footage courtesy of Fox & Friends:

The group of so-called environmental activists refer to themselves as an “anonymous environmental activist collective” who wrote a letter to the Washington Post saying, “In response to the president’s recent decision to gut our existing protection policies, direct action was conceived and executed on the green of his California golf course in the form of a simple message: NO MORE TIGERS. NO MORE WOODS.”