Wednesday, January 04, 2017

What Are The Boundaries Of GOP Disunity?


Last night we saw how the public, the media and a united Democratic opposition was able to force a confused Republican majority, pulled in different directions and further discombobulated by contrary indication from a disjointed and incompetent Trump team, to back down on their plans to gut ethics enforcement. I suspect we’re going to see a lot of this kind of anomie over the next couple of years while Ryan and the Republicans are still running the House. The Ayn Randian agenda programmed into Ryan’s tiny zombie brain isn’t necessarily the identical agenda of the rest of the Republican Party— not McConnell’s and the Senate’s, not his own caucus’ and certainly not Trumpanzee’s.

Trump may be getting an indication of the “insane kamikaze run” Ryan has signed him up for and he’s starting to react against it. His ethics tweets made himself look good at the House Republicans’ expense. But now Ryan’s serious crap is about to come to the fore— a race is to force his hand on repealing Obamacare before there is a replacement and repealing the popular parts of the legislation that Trump campaigned on keeping. Yesterday, writing for the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin explained how Congress and Trump aren’t on the same page on how to repeal Obamacare. “No one should be surprised,” she wrote, that President-elect Donald Trump’s vague and contradictory declarations on Obamacare put him — depending on the hour of the day — potentially at odds with House and Senate Republicans’ ‘repeal and delay’ strategy. This leaves open the very real possibility that House Republicans will plunge ahead, only to have Trump and/or the GOP Senate pull the rug out from under them.” Not even Jim Himes and Ryan’s other New Dem allies will be able to save his agenda if the virtual anarchy within the House GOP caucus continues to fester.
Trump campaigned on repealing “all” of Obamacare. After a conversation with President Obama, however, he has indicated that he wants to keep coverage for preexisting conditions and allow adult children to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26. Right there he creates a challenge to the “repeal and dawdle” tactic. If Congress repeals the subsidies and the individual mandate (which keep young and healthy people in the exchanges), what mechanism is going to allow those with preexisting conditions to afford coverage? Well, we don’t and won’t know until the House passes a replacement bill. That’s small comfort to those about to lose subsidies and be priced out of the insurance market.

Moreover, if the House thinks universal access will be an acceptable replacement, it might want to check with Trump. Kellyanne Conway said very clearly on Morning Joe today that “we don’t want anyone who currently has insurance to not have insurance.” That’s not access; that’s coverage. She also started hedging on the prospect of repealing Obamacare with no ready alternative, saying it was “ideal” to do this simultaneously.

Republicans should be very wary about taking a controversial, highly unpopular leap into the unknown — repeal with no alternative — so long as the president is not explicitly and completely on board. And with Trump’s propensity to reverse himself and leave open multiple interpretations of his utterances, House Republicans could very well act, thinking that Trump is with them. Then the hue and cry begins (especially as insurers bail out of the exchanges, people lose subsidies, etc.) and Trump declares he is shocked — shocked! — to see how the House ripped insurance away from his Rust Belt, working-class voters. Indeed, it would seem obvious that Trump will renounce whatever the House does that proves to be unpopular.

The only way to prevent this from happening is to repeal Obamacare and replace it at the same time. Even then, if Republicans put forth their own replacement — one that without the individual mandate only provides access to insurance — there is no guarantee that Trump will sign it. Republicans may have worked strenuously to pass something that — like all bills of this magnitude — is controversial and creates substantial criticism. Why should he take the heat if he sees public support plummeting? Truth be told, unless Trump signs a bill, Republicans can never be sure that he will defend it.

He did exactly this today, in criticizing the House GOP for its move to cut the ethics office. “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it … may be, their number one act and priority,” he tweeted. So much for the House Republicans’ claim that they had not weakened their ethics investigator.

With a normal president, the White House sends up legislation, in essence putting the president on record as to what he wants. With Trump, there is no indication that he is going to do that — and hence no guarantee that he will support what the House and Senate come up with. Again, a normal president would not hang his own party out to dry on such a critical matter. Trump, however, has demonstrated that he has no loyalty to the GOP per se and continues to show resentment toward Republicans who did not support him or did so only grudgingly.

House Republicans would be wise to force the president to show his hand — in writing — before risking their necks on an ill-conceived and potentially very unpopular scheme to repeal Obamacare and dawdle until it can pass something new. By the way, exactly what replacement bill is going to get 60 votes?
Meanwhile, McConnell is moving ahead with his Obamacare repeal plans today. The repeal legislation, part of a conciliation strategy that allows repeal with just 51 votes was introduced yesterday.

UPDATE: Ted Lieu Smells A Rat In The GOP’s Plans For Social Security

This afternoon, Ted told us he’s prepared to fight to defend Social Security for the entire time Ryan remains Speaker and Trump and his cabinet are working to undermine it. “The Republican plan to ‘reform’ Social Security isn’t a plan to strengthen the program, it’s a special-interest-driven scheme to eviscerate it,” he told us.  “I have a good deal of experience –as a State and federal legislator – working on responsible budgeting approaches.  However, it is disgraceful to ask American seniors – some of whom will live and die by their Social Security benefit – to pay more, while giving massive tax cuts to billionaires who don’t need them.  This unconscionable scheme to pay for yet another billionaire tax break on the back of our seniors is at the heart of Republican ‘reform.’  Another special interest wish list item is to raise the retirement age.  Raising the retirement number to 69 is manageable if you work at a desk, but is backbreaking if your trade is manual labor.  Sticking it to honest, hardworking blue collar American workers is another foundational element of House GOP ‘reform.’  Finally, the whole idea of chained CPI is nothing more (for lack of a more elegant phrase) than special interest mumbo jumbo.  Keeping up with the cost of living for America’s seniors should be the focus of any plan to strengthen Social Security, not gutting already falling cost of living adjustments in the program. The House GOP plan for Social security is a failure of vision and values that my fellow Democrats and I intend to fight tooth and nail every day of the week and twice on Sunday.”

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At 6:17 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Let's face it, Trump is a bull in china shop. Everyone who has paid the slightest attention the this awful election knows that he lies, goes back on his word and changes his tune from one minute to the next. No one knows which way he will end up on any issue, let alone Trump and certainly not the Republicans. He does not really care about anything other than enriching himself. He is too impulsive and has such a short attention span - he does not really give a hoot about the details of government (and seems to know little about it anyway) unless it has some personal enrichment attached to it.

Go Digby! Start impeachment proceedings ASAP. impeachable offenses are already hanging over Trump like the sword of Damocles.

At 7:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantasy. der fuhrer lacks interest in details but won't get in the way. Rs religiously want obamneycare to just go poof... because it's named after a black(ish) muslim Kenyan. And it's truly a shit law that forces 30 million more hapless people into the corporate black hole for health care.

Now, there ARE some aspects that have been advantageous, but those help people, and as we know Rs hate helping people.

And der fuhrer could stand up on 1-20, shoot nancy Pelosi dead, and he wouldn't be impeached (they'd prolly immediately put his statue on the mall for it). So don't fantasize about that. Besides, that'd leave us worse off with prez pence.

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the Democrats stop bending over for Republicans, I MIGHT have a glimmer of a faint hope that something positive may well get accomplished - at least until the GOP can figure out a way to crush it to dust.


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