Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Paul Ryan And Señor Trumpanzee In League To Destroy Senate Bipartisan Efforts


Lamar Alexander (R-TN) voted to repeal Obamacare but when the repeal failed he decided he doesn't really want to hold folks in Tennessee who get healthcare coverage through Obamacare hostage. A former governor of his state and the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, he started working on a bipartisan fix that would at least stabilize the insurance markets while Congress figures out how to proceed. I've been hearing reports that his efforts have been going well. But then someone ratted him out to Trump and yesterday Trump-- with Paul Ryan in tow-- tried to put the kibosh on the whole endeavor. Ryan and White House extremists went to McConnell and Cornyn and told them to make Alexander stop, claiming that if a catastrophe is looming, there will be more pressure on senators to pass this new version of TrumpCare-- the one 10 governors, including Republican governors of Ohio, Massachusetts, Alaska, Nevada and Vermont, came out against yesterday and the one, also yesterday, the AMA said "would result in millions of Americans losing their health insurance coverage, destabilize health insurance markets, and decrease access to affordable coverage and care," and the one Vet Votes told their members "would be the single largest cut to veterans' health care in the history of our nation. If this bill passes, tens of thousands veterans will lose their health care, and countless military family members as well." That one.
Republicans say that while the bipartisan talks between Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) initially seemed promising, many in the GOP fear providing money for Obamacare but offering little for conservatives-- especially after Republican lawmakers have been throttled by President Donald Trump and the GOP base for failing to repeal the health law.

Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that the Trump administration is all-in on the latest repeal effort, flying to Washington with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to deliver a message to the Senate GOP on repeal: "This is the moment. Now is the time," according to a pool report. Ryan and Trump called them during the plane ride as well.

Trump has threatened to withhold billions in Obamacare subsidies, which would upend private insurance markets. Alexander and Murray are working on legislation to have Congress provide those subsidies while allowing states more flexibility.

But Republicans claim Democrats are not willing to bend enough. Democrats reject that claim and say it is intended to sink bipartisan negotiations.

The “speaker is drawing a red line” and said the House “would not be able to pass a bailout of insurers,” said one congressional source familiar with the dynamics. “The White House also told GOP leaders that [Obamacare subsidies] without repeal would not work.”

A House source familiar with the conversation confirmed that a call between Ryan and Senate GOP leadership occurred in which the stabilization approach was sidelined. A second House Republican source said a stabilization bill "would definitely make some in our conference pretty upset if we took it up."

"Our focus is on repealing and replacing this failing law, and we are encouraged the Senate is making progress," said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan.
Señor Trumpanzee by Nancy Ohanian

Instead, Ryan and the White House are backing the repeal bill written by Graham and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that would turn federal health care programs into state block grants, repeal Obamacare’s coverage mandates and wind down the law’s Medicaid expansion while capping the entitlement program’s spending for the first time.

Graham said his friend Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may support the bill, according to the pool report, a potentially significant development considering McCain's opposition to the last repeal attempt.

Asked about Graham's suggestion in an interview Tuesday, McCain responded: "I have nothing to say."

Pence called Graham Monday night to get him ready for the goal line push, and also called Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a moderate Democrat, to test his support. A Manchin spoksesman said Tuesday he opposed the bill.

Pence also spoke to Alaska Gov. Bill Walker about how the bill might affect Alaska, in a bid to reel in Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), another senator who helped tank the last effort.

However, a bipartisan group of governors-- including Walker and GOP Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Brian Sandoval of Nevada-- sent a letter to McConnell on Tuesday saying they oppose the Graham-Cassidy plan and want the Senate to concentrate on the bipartisan Murray-Alexander approach.

The Congressional Budget Office said Monday it would not be able to provide full estimates on how the Graham-Cassidy bill would affect insurance premiums or coverage for several more weeks. The bill would make deep spending cuts to Medicaid in the coming years; CBO has estimated that similar proposals would mean millions more would be uninsured.

...A senior White House official said there was never much interest in the Murray-Alexander talks and chalked it up to "the media talking about it,” though McConnell openly acknowledged the possibility that the two deal-making senators could strike a bargain. Trump listened to arguments for it and seemed intrigued, but it wasn't seriously considered as a possibility, this person said.

The bipartisan proposal would continue subsidy payments and would not be seen as repealing Obamacare, this person said. Other White House officials said Graham-Cassidy isn't their ideal bill, but it's a "final chance to actually get something done," according to a second administration official.

...Democrats portrayed the rejection of the bipartisan push as intended to create pressure on Senate Republicans to hold their nose and support the Graham-Cassidy bill, and as the only way out of the party's political quagmire. If that bill fails, Republicans may have to return to bipartisan talks, particularly if Trump again threatens to halt subsidy payments.

On Monday, Democrats said Murray was willing to make significant concessions to Alexander on more flexibility for states to run their health care systems if Obamacare subsidies were funded by Congress.

“Murray has agreed to basically everything that Alexander has been asking for,” a Democratic aide said.

If Democrats are able to perusade just three Republicans to endorse the stabilization effort, it could mark a death blow for the Graham-Cassidy bill, since it would suggest there are not 50 Senate Republicans willing to completely repeal Obamacare. Democrats say GOP leaders and the White House are trying to create a false sense of urgency with a deadline looming.

“It’s crystal clear that Republicans are trying to shut down those negotiations in order to close off the better, more bipartisan path that moderate Republicans could take,” said a second Democratic aide. “They know that if they have a choice between a good bipartisan bill and Graham-Cassidy, some of them are likely to choose to former.”

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