‘we should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy’
On Monday, Senators Jerry Moran (R-KA) and Mike Lee (R-UT) announced on Twitter that they would not support the motion to proceed (MTP) that would have moved the revised healthcare bill to the Senate floor for a vote, effectively killing the bill. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Susan Collin (R-ME) had previously announced their opposition.
Following the setback, President Trump suggested on Twitter that “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate,” – a suggestion that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to take seriously: after ceding defeat on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), McConnell called for a “repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period to a patient-centered health-care system that gives Americans access to quality, affordable care.” However, as the New York Times observes, repealing the Affordable Care Act without replacing it with something “has almost no chance to pass, since it could leave millions without insurance and leave insurance markets in turmoil.” And indeed, three Republican senators – Shelly Moore Capito, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski – publicly announced they would vote “no” on any motion to repeal Obamacare without a viable replacement. Despite this, McConnell announced on Tuesday that the Senate would vote on Obamacare repeal next week.
Following McConnell’s announcement, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report projecting that 17 million people would lose insurance in the first year of a repeal-only scenario, with premiums “jump[ing] 25 percent over that same period,” while another 15 million would lose insurance over the course of the next decade.
BONUS: Trump also urged the Senate to end the filibuster, although, as The Hill points out, this “would not have guaranteed the success of the GOP plan,” since they were already considering the bill under budget reconciliation rules, which only requires 51 votes to pass.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reacted Monday night with schadenfreude, announcing on Twitter that “this second failure of #Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,” while also asserting that Democrats were willing to work on a bill “that lowers premiums, provides long term stability to the markets and improves our health care system,” – a call echoed by other Democrats.
On Wednesday, 49 Republican senators met for lunch with Trump, who urged them to keep trying to repeal-and-replace Obamacare, threatening electoral consequences for those who didn’t support the effort – singling out Nevada senator Dean Heller in particular, who’s up for reelection in 2018 in a state that Hillary Clinton won. Later that day “roughly two dozen GOP senators” met with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services director Seema Verma for nearly three hours, with several senators afterward describing the talks as productive, although “none would name specific areas of progress.”
At the New Yorker, John Cassidy autopsies the bill and concludes that “the larger lesson of this sorry episode is that nobody…can resolve the contradictions of today’s Republican Party.”
At the Federalist, Ben Domenech blames the bill’s demise on Mitch McConnell’s leadership ability and “a collection of moderates who spent years lying about their opposition to Obamacare for political reasons.”
This week in Russia
On Sunday, the US Secret Service “denied a suggestion from President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer that it had vetted a meeting between the president’s son and Russian nationals during the 2016 campaign.” Jay Sekulow, “a member of the president’s legal team,” wondered earlier that day, on ABC’s program “The Week,” “why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in.” A Secret Service spokesman claimed in an email response that Donald Trump Jr. was not under Secret Service protection at that time.
Both Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, the former chair of Trump’s 2016 campaign, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 26th.
President Trump plans to put Washington lawyer Ty Cobb “in charge of overseeing the White House’s legal and media response” to the Russia investigation, according to Bloomberg. Cobb, who’ll serve as special counsel, has known Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the links between Russian intelligence and the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, for years.
On Tuesday, the White House confirmed reports that Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin had a previously undisclosed conversation at the G20 Couples’ Dinner that lasted “nearly an hour.”
Also on Tuesday, the White House announced that former Utah governor and 2012 presidential nominee Jon Huntsman would be named the new ambassador to Russia (and misspelled his first name in the process). As ABC News reports, Huntsman is “the son of a billionaire industrialist whose company Huntsman International LLC currently has a handful of businesses in Russia.” Huntsman himself “played a role in the family’s early business dealings in the country shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union.”
In an exclusive interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, Trump claimed that former FBI director James Comey brought him the Russia dossier as “leverage,” and that had he known Attorney General Jeff Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation, “[he] would have picked somebody else.” Trump also revealed that Robert Mueller had interviewed to replace Comey just days before he was appointed special counsel. At a news conference Thursday, Sessions brushed away Trump’s comments, saying he’ll stay in his position “as long as that is appropriate.” Earlier this year, Sessions had offered to resign over his recusal, which Trump refused.
According to a Washington Post report published Thursday, “some of President Trump’s lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation,” specifically by compiling what they believe are various conflicts of interest and discussing the president’s pardoning powers. According to that same report, “Trump has asked his advisors about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe.”
At the National Interest, Daniel McCarthy argues that Trump “knows something his foes don’t know…he knows that as low as he might go in the polls, his enemies are truly, comprehensively, utterly bankrupt in the public’s eyes.”
On the climate crisis
On Monday, California lawmakers voted to extend a landmark cap-and-trade bill through 2030, “providing a key tool for meeting the state’s ambitious goal for slashing emissions,” according to the Los Angeles Times, while also providing revenue for a proposed bullet train that would run from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The bill received bipartisan support, with eight Republicans joining Democrats to pass the bill.
Joel Clement, the former director of the Interior Department’s Office of Policy Analysis, is “accusing the Trump Administration of reassigning him to a lesser position for speaking out about the dangers of climate change.” In an op-ed for the Washington Post, Clement claimed he “was retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities.”
A day after the State Department’s recertification of Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal reached in 2015 – the second recertification during Trump’s tenure, despite Trump’s hatred of the deal, as reported by Axios – the US government placed additional sanctions on Iran targeting “18 entities and people [who] had backed Iran’s military or Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps by developing drones and military equipment, producing and maintaining boats, and procuring electronic components.” Iran vowed to retaliate with sanctions of their own, while Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told CBS News that the Trump administration’s actions “poison the atmosphere” and “violate the spirit of the deal” – the same charge levied against Iran.
On Monday the House released its 2018 federal budget proposal. The $4 trillion budget “includes deep cuts to social programs such as Medicaid and food stamps…[and] also calls for a fundamental reshaping of Medicare over the next decade by introducing a voucher system to rework and shrink costs as the country’s population ages.” The draft is based on a projected 2.6 percent GDP growth rate over the next decade, and assumes the passing into law of the American Health Care Act, the House’s healthcare bill.
Also on Monday: Trump threatened to take “strong and swift economic actions” if Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro created a super-legislative body known as the Constituent Assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution. Trump’s statement came a day after 98 percent of opposition supporters “in an unofficial vote rejected the proposed assembly.” The opposition currently holds the National Assembly, Venezuela’s unicameral legislative branch. Economic sanctions would be “unprecedented,” as Reuters observes, because the US would target the energy sector, which accounts for 95 percent of the country’s export revenues.
In a “much-anticipated document sent to lawmakers,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer laid out the US’s top priority in renegotiating NAFTA, saying “he would seek to reduce the trade imbalance,” among the US, Canada, and Mexico by “improving access for U.S. goods exported to Canada and Mexico under the three-nation pact.”
BONUS: according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday, 70 percent of Americans think it is “very important or “somewhat important” to purchase goods made in the US, but 37 percent would not be willing to pay more.
After Senator John McCain (R-AZ) had surgery to remove a blood clot over his left eye (which delayed Senate Republican’s ultimately failed attempt at passing new healthcare legislation), doctors “confirmed the presence of brain cancer associated with the blood clot,” according to CNN. McCain was diagnosed with a primary glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer.”
above image: "mitch mcconnell," gage skidmore / flickr