Author: Ian Millhiser

Your complete Republican-to-English guide to understanding the GOP’s health care rhetoric

We speak their language so you don’t have to. President Obama and his “anger translator” Luther CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci Republicans thought they could come to power and quickly deal Obamacare a mortal wound. Instead, they are in for a long, hard fight with an uncertain outcome. Monday evening, five Republican senators introduced an amendment that effectively extends the GOP’s self-imposed deadline for passing legislation to kill the law. This amendment follows a number of statements by other Republicans questioning what was, until recently, the leading GOP proposal for killing Obamacare. Yet, even as Republican leaders gear up for a long, slow slog to end a law that extends health coverage to 20 million Americans, they have even more ambitious plans for the remainder of America’s health care safety net. Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to privatize Medicare would increase health care costs for seniors by about 40 percent. He hopes to cut Medicaid, the primary program providing health care to poor people, by between one-third and one-half. He also hopes to invalidate of web of state laws ensuring that health insurance covers well child care, maternity stays, and mammograms. By the end of President-elect Trump’s four-year term, the American social contract could be completely rewritten. Yet the lawmakers eager to rework this contract rarely speak in clear terms. They dress many of their most aggressive proposals in sterile language...

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A key Republican senator just trapped the GOP on Obamacare repeal

Turns out, health policy is hard. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and is thus one of the most important figures in the Republican Party’s quest to figure out exactly what they are going to do with the Affordable Care Act. So this statement by Alexander is a big deal: Key ACA chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “You won’t be disqualified from getting insurance if you have a pre-existing health condition — @BenjySarlin It’s a big deal because millions of people with pre-existing conditions are likely to lose their insurance if Congress passes an aggressive rollback of Obamacare. But it is just as significant because, if Alexander holds to this promise, then he will have a very difficult time making major changes to one of the most important segments of President Obama’s health reform bill. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers are no longer permitted to refuse to cover an individual because that individual has a pre-existing condition. This provision, however, cannot stand alone. If individuals are allowed to wait until they are sick to buy health insurance, and then insurers are required to cover them anyway, then sick people will drain all the money out of insurance pools that they did not pay into, leaving nothing left for other patients. Obamacare...

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GOP Congressman says Russian hackers did ‘what the media should have done’

Can I read your private emails then, Mr. Franks? President Barack Obama announced a new set of sanctions against the Russian government Thursday, which were issued in part because of hacks targeting the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The intelligence community believes these attacks were backed by Russia. President-elect Donald Trump, for his part, suggested on Wednesday that he would rather move past discussing these hacks. “I think we ought to get on with our lives,” the incoming president said. “I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind, the security we need.” In response to the new sanctions and the broader discussion of Russia’s efforts to place Trump in the White House, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) claimed on MSNBC Thursday afternoon that President Obama’s “main motivation is to delegitimize this election.” Then Franks suggested that Russia may have provided America with a public service with its targeted attacks on Democrats. “If Russia succeeded in giving the American people information that was accurate,” Franks claimed, “then they merely did what the media should have done.” As a reminder, the Russian-backed hacks targeted business emails exchanged within the DNC, as well as the personal email...

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House Republicans will ring in the new year with a plan to permanently cripple government

CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik They want to break it so badly it can’t be fixed again. House Republicans think Washington is just too nimble and too able to respond to unanticipated complications— and they’ve got a plan to nip that problem in the bud. The incoming House majority plans to schedule a vote on the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act) soon after new members are sworn in next Tuesday. A top priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the leading lobby group for big business, REINS would fundamentally alter the federal government in ways that could hobble federal agencies during periods when the same party controls Congress and the White House — and absolutely cripple those agencies during periods of divided government. Many federal laws delegate authority to agencies to work out the details of how to achieve relatively broad objectives set by the law itself. The agencies do so by drafting regulations that interpret and elaborate upon these statutes and which have the force of law. REINS, however, effectively strips agencies of much of this authority. To understand why this matters, consider one such federal law: The Clean Air Act, for example, requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set “standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines” if the EPA...

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Trump falsely claims he created thousands of new jobs, and news outlets lap it up

When Trump doesn’t tell the truth, say so in your headline. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci It was a huge announcement. An announcement so full of winning that we may even get tired of winning. “Because of what’s happening and the spirit and the hope,” President-elect Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday, “I was just called by the head people at Sprint and they’re going to be bringing 5,000 jobs back to the United States.” And just in case there’s any doubt about who deserves credit for these jobs, Trump was happy to take it. “I just spoke with the head person,” Trump claimed, “he said because of me they’re doing 5,000 jobs in this country.” There’s just one problem. It’s not true. Or, at least, the suggestion that Trump is responsible for new, previously unannounced jobs is not true. The jobs are coming to the United States, but they are coming as part of a series of investments that were first announced in mid-October. Sprint’s parent company, SoftBank, said in October that it would partner with a Saudi sovereign wealth fund to invest about $100 billion in the tech sector. On December 6, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son told Trump the company would use some of these funds to bring 50,000 jobs to the United States. Trump promptly announced as much on Twitter. SoftBank confirmed to the tech news site...

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The Constitution of the United States has failed

This is not fine. What kind of nation allows the loser of a national election to become president — and then does it again 16 years later? What kind of nation retains an electoral process that was originally designed to inflate the influence of slaveholders? What kind of nation permits its Congress to write a time bomb into law that periodically forces rival factions into a game of chicken that could wreck the world economy? What kind of nation fights a civil war over the question of whether people of African descent are people or property, and then looks the other way when the loser ignores the resolution of that war? What kind of nation waits until 1965 to guarantee black people’s right to vote? Americans speak of our Constitution as if it were a religious text. To label a law “unconstitutional” is not simply to say that it violates some procedural rule or legal technicality, it is to label it fundamentally unAmerican. To do so is to question the values of any lawmaker despicable enough to support such a law, and to suggest that those values are at odds with who we are as a nation. But our Constitution has not served us nearly as well as we would have been served by other systems adopted by our peer nations. Nor has it lived up to the expectations of its drafters....

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Trump elector is a former right-wing militiaman who made violent threats against abortion providers

Can we get rid of the Electoral College yet, please? Unidentified abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court in 1996 CREDIT: AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee Tim Dreste joined the First Missouri Volunteers, a right-wing “patriot” militia that some activists link to “white supremacist and violent activity” in 1995. The ex-marine served as the militia’s “chaplain.” Four years later, a federal court implicated him in a conspiracy to make violent threats against abortion providers. As the Riverfront Times summarized the allegations against Dreste in a 1999 profile, the militiaman and anti-abortion activist “co-conspired and threatened to kill, assault, or do bodily harm to physicians who provide abortions.” And now, Dreste is one of the short list of Americans who gets to cast a vote that matters in the 2016 presidential election. The voters already made their choice earlier this month, casting nearly 2.6 million more votes for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump. But the real decision will rest with men and women like Dreste, who will soon convene and almost certainly give the presidency to Trump, the loser. A classic justification of the Electoral College is that it will impose the views of excellent men between the people and their new president. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, “the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” To that end, “a...

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Trump’s plan to no longer participate in his company’s ‘business operations’ is a sham

CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster It’s not enough if he still knows where the money is coming from. President-elect Donald Trump, who’s been widely criticized by constitutional experts and former White House ethics attorneys for the conflicts of interests presented by his business, attempted to defuse these concerns Wednesday morning with a series of four tweets. Trump now says that he will be removed from the operations of the business that bears his name. Trump’s full tweetstorm proclaims that he will hold a press conference with his children in December to announce that his is leaving his business. He also claims, falsely, that he is “not mandated” to do so, but that it is “visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.” However, if all that Trump does is turn over “business operations” to someone else, that does little to overcome the conflicts of interest he currently faces. So long as Trump is aware that he is earning income from his businesses, he doesn’t just have a conflict of interest — he is flouting the Constitution. The Constitution’s Emoluments Clause provides that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under” the United States “shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” It’s an anti-corruption...

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