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A Less-Than-Typically-Informed Old Man Who Watches Fox News All Day is Now President of the United States

[ 80 ] July 20, 2017 |

The Times interview with Trump is even more insane than the story Paul refers to below makes it sound. For example:

TRUMP: It was good. We are very close. It’s a tough — you know, health care. Look, Hillary Clinton worked eight years in the White House with her husband as president and having majorities and couldn’t get it done. Smart people, tough people — couldn’t get it done. Obama worked so hard. They had 60 in the Senate. They had big majorities and had the White House. I mean, ended up giving away the state of Nebraska. They owned the state of Nebraska. Right. Gave it away. Their best senator did one of the greatest deals in the history of politics. What happened to him?

I can’t believe that Trump can’t remember poor Ben Nelson, who pulled off one of the greatest deals in the history of politics when he got ownership of the entire state of Nebraska in exchange for his vote. And he got it even though the Cornhusker Kickback wasn’t even in the final bill! Anyway, Obama could have given Lieberman the state of Connecticut for his vote for a public option, and he Didn’t. Even. Try.

So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

Also, Trump legitimately doesn’t seem to understand the difference between health insurance and life insurance.

On foreign relations:

HABERMAN: He was very deferential to you. Very.
TRUMP: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.
HABERMAN: I’ve noticed.
TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.
_________
TRUMP: I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand

And let us not forget his skills as a military historian:

TRUMP: Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather? [garbled]
[crosstalk/unintelligible]
TRUMP: Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army.

And let us not forget his vast list of domestic policy accomplishments!

But I’m talking about for my time. I heard that Harry Truman was first, and then we beat him. These are approved by Congress. These are not just executive orders. On the executive orders, we cut regulations tremendously. By the way, I want regulations, but, you know, some of the — you have to get nine different regulations, and you could never do anything. I’ve given the farmers back their farms. I’ve given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things.

Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States of America.

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Criminalizing Dissent

[ 278 ] July 19, 2017 |

Whatever what one thinks of boycotts as a strategy for opposing Israeli policy, there’s no possible defense for this legislation:

But now, a group of 43 Senators – 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats – want to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: anyone guilty of violating its prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000, and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.

[…]

The bill’s co-sponsors include the senior Democrat in Washington, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, his New York colleague Kirsten Gillibrand, and several of the Senate’s more liberal members, such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Maria Cantwell of Washington. Illustrating the bipartisanship that AIPAC typically summons, it also includes several of the most right-wing Senators such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Marco Rubio of Florida.

There’s no excuse for any of these Democratic senators to co-sponsor this bill, and this is a major test for Gillibrand if she’s running for president — she needs to pull her support from this bill, and soon. This punishing people for constitutionally protected views and actions.

The ACLU’s letter is here.

The Coming War on the CBO

[ 52 ] July 19, 2017 |

One of the most important reasons the effort to repeal the ACA appears to have failed is that the Congressional Budget Office — despite being supervised by a Republican — provided accurate information about the effects of AHCA and BCRA. And this in turn compelled the media to do what it do disastrously failed to do during the campaign — provide accurate policy coverage of Republican health care proposals. The media will take claims made by Democratic politicians about the effects of Republican policy — even if unassailably true — as “views differ,” but the CBO carries real authority, and this matters.

The Republican response will be predictable:

The Trump administration is not fond of the Congressional Budget Office.

The independent, highly respected agency that analyzes the impact of legislative proposals has said the numbers in President Trump’s budget don’t add up and that Republican health care proposals would cause huge insurance coverage losses. And it will hold immense sway over the fate of Republicans’ next legislative priority: tax reform.

The White House has embarked on a rhetorical war against the agency without precedent. The White House’s official Twitter account sent out a “fact-check” video trying to debunk the CBO’s findings that Republican health bills would reduce health coverage by more than 20 million people. (At one point, the video misspells the word “inaccurate.”)

In an interview in May, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney attacked the group, saying, “At some point, you’ve got to ask yourself, has the day of the CBO come and gone?”

It’s normal for politicians to be frustrated with the CBO. It’s a highly respected nonpartisan research group whose estimates of budgetary cost and other effects of legislation are treated as very credible in Washington. That can cause problems for members of Congress and the administration when the numbers don’t come out how they like, and has earned the CBO criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike in the past, some deserved and some not deserved.

What’s not normal is trying to erase the CBO’s formal role in policymaking. The agency normally gets to decide which bills reduce the deficit, meaning they can pass the Senate with a bare majority and avoid a filibuster. That could change this year or next. Senate Republicans got a competing analysis of their health care bill from the Department of Health and Human Services. They’ve also suggested they might do the same with tax reform.

If that happens, the CBO will be weakened like never before, and face a fight for its own relevance and survival.

A  political party committed in any way to the public interest would look at the massively unpopular policy it just put forward and look into reorienting its priorities and objectives. A party that isn’t will prefer to shoot the messengers.

The “Of Course We Colluded, So What?” Stage

[ 397 ] July 18, 2017 |

It’s becoming pretty hard to assert that Trump is being subject to a witch hunt when he openly admits his campaign was doing what’s it’s accused of doing. The transition to “what’s the big deal about colluding with Russian ratfuckers anyway?” has been seamless:

There’s a transition point that comes in many scandals when the facts make it impossible to sustain the argument the administration’s allies had been using. Specifically, it requires them to go from saying, “These accusations are false; it never happened” to saying, “Sure, it happened, but there’s nothing wrong with it.”

That is where Republicans now find themselves, and there’s a deep irony at work. Donald Trump rode into office on the widespread belief that politics is corrupt and only an outsider like him could clean it up. Now, it looks like his all-purpose excuse for his own misdeeds and those of his family and advisers will be, “Hey, don’t blame me — we all know politics is corrupt!”

[…]

As numerous politicians and political professionals from both parties have attested since the story of the meeting between Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a group of Russians who were explicitly presented to them as acting on behalf of the Kremlin, that’s not just untrue but absurd. When a hostile foreign government offers you help in your campaign, what you do is call the FBI.

I can say without hyperbole that accusing the Trump campaign of doing what it admits to having done is worse than McCarthyism and birtherism put together, although needless to say I support a full investigation. And I certainly hope we don’t lose focus on the most critical question going forward, that someone who will never be the Democratic nominee for president again sucks.

 

 

Are There Any Bullets Left In McConnell’s Gun?

[ 157 ] July 18, 2017 |

McConnell makes it official that, at least for now, he’s giving up on BCRA:

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, conceded Monday night that “the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful.” He outlined plans to vote now on a measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with it taking effect later. That has almost no chance to pass, however, since it could leave millions without insurance and leave insurance markets in turmoil.

But President Trump was not ready to give up. He immediately took to Twitter to say: “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!”

Evidently, this is enormously unlikely to work. It’s worth considering that a repeal bill that could pass under the Byrd Rule (i.e. a repeal of the Medicaid expansion and the tax credits but not the regulations) would be far worse than BCRA:

Its findings aren’t pretty. CBO estimates that, compared to what’s already projected to happen under current law:

  • 18 million more people would become uninsured in the first full year after the bill’s enactment — rising to 32 million more people by 2026;

  • premiums in the individual insurance marketplaces would soar — they’d go up 20 to 25 percent above currently projected increases in the first full year after repeal, and “would about double by 2026”;

  • and access to coverage on the individual markets would plummet — about half of the US population would live in areas “that would have no insurer participating” in the individual market, CBO projects.

If McConnell brings this to a vote it would almost certainly be to call the bluffs of Trump and the recalitrant senators; it’s very hard to see this passing if BCRA couldn’t. The only thing that gives me pause about BCRA is that except for Collins the bullshit-moderate is remaining silent. Until there are at least two nays from Capito/Heller/Portman/Murkowski/Flake, the possibility of an AHCA ressurection (as Erik implies below) is there. Not very strong, but there.

It also should be obvious that the stalling of the BCRA is not part of some masterful 11th-dimensional chess strategy to guarantee the failure of an unpopular bill. If that was the case, they just would have let the AHCA drop after it was pulled the first time — nobody gets primaried based on a vote that doesn’t happen. Republicans wanted to gut the ACA, and McConnell was playing to win all the way. They’re now likely to fail this Congress, but major healthcare policy changes are an extremely hard lift. They came a lot closer than, say, Bush did to gutting Social Security, and they’re not going to give up on the goal. The fight will continue — but an important battle was won tonight, and countless Americans who made their voices heard deserve a lot of credit.

 

What We Know Now Is a Major Scandal, And the Truth is Probably Much Worse

[ 146 ] July 17, 2017 |

I have a piece at the Week perpetuating the McCarythite Birtherist witch hunt against the Trump campaign, whose serial lying about contacts with Russia surely has an innocent explanation:

The story of Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections in favor of Donald Trump and the Republican party continues to become more tragic and more farcical. On Friday, it was revealed that the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and top Trump campaign operatives Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner was also attended by Rinat Akhmetshin, an American citizen and accused spy who is connected to the Kremlin. Then, on Sunday, the Secret Service denied having vetted the meeting, a claim made earlier in the day by President Trump’s legal team.

As more details of the meeting continue emerge, and the lies by Trump Jr. and the Trump team keep piling up, it’s looking more and more likely that there was significant collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian state, and it is now beyond dispute that the Trump campaign wanted to collude with the Russians. This alone is already a huge political scandal, and things are likely to keep looking worse for Trump than better.

One thing that’s remarkable about this is that the focus on “collusion” is in large measure the result of goalpost-moving by the Trump administration and its apologists. It was never necessary for collusion to be proven for this to be a major scandal. There is overwhelming evidence that Russia used illegal, privacy-invading hacks to help skew the election in the favor of Trump and congressional Republicans — which, particularly in a presidential election decided by fewer than 100,000 votes in three states, is a huge deal. And we also know that Trump and other campaign associates openly invited and cheered the hacks and their release by WikiLeaks, and we also know that Trump isn’t interested in punishing the Russians for their interference in the election. All of this is really bad. Talking about collusion was a way of changing the subject that was valuable for Trump in part because collusion would apparently be much harder to prove.

The problem is that Trump’s associates are so corrupt and incompetent that the tactic has backfired. Earlier this year, Trump Jr. denied that the meeting Akhmetshin attended even took place. This week, his lies kept unravelling as he admitted to what had been proven, while making further claims which would immediately be disproven. In short order, Trump Jr. admitted that the meeting with a Russian official took place but said it was about adoptions, and then admitted that actually, the Trump campaign was seeking dirt on Clinton from the Russians, but only after leaked emails gave him no choice. Revealing that Akhmetshin was at the meeting constitutes a lie by omission at best.

Still, I support a full investigation!

“Neoliberalism” and the Democratic Party

[ 260 ] July 17, 2017 |

President Clinton prepares to sign legislation in the Rose Garden of the White House Thursday, Aug. 22, 1996, overhauling America’s welfare system. Visible, from left, are former welfare recipients Lillie Harden, of Little Rock, Ark., and Janet Ferrel, of West Virginia, Vice President Gore, West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton, Sen. John Breaux, D-La., and former welfare recipient Penelope Howard, of Delaware. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

I found more to agree with in Chait’s big “neoliberalism” essay than Erik apparently did, but I agree that it has some major flaws that undermine its central point. I don’t mean to preempt Erik’s analysis, but since I’ll mostly be on the road tomorrow I thought I’d briefly pinpoint what I agreed with and didn’t. (I’m guessing Erik and I won’t be that far off, but obviously I’ll let him speak for himself. And, hey, at least I don’t study military history!)

Where I agree with Chait:

  • Left critics of the Democratic Party have a bizarre tendency to romanticize the New Deal/Great Society Democratic Party. Even during their brief peaks of progressive legislation, these coalitions were heavily compromised by the fact that the liberal faction of the party needed the support of Southern segregationists and marginal Republicans, respectively. And FDR’s first term and LBJ before the 1966 midterms were anomalous — during most of the period associated with the New Deal Congress was controlled de facto by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats. (The whole Taft-Hartley passing with veto-proof majorities conveniently vanishes from these accounts, although this statute had far more to do with Trump winning than Hillary Clinton’s campaign tactics.)
  • “Neoliberalism” has increasingly become little more than an attempt to win an argument through the use of a pejorative term.
  • Worse than that, the “neoliberal” label is too often used to minimize the massive and growing gulf between the Democratic and Republican parties.

Where I disagree:

  • The term “neoliberal” is at least potentially valuable, describing a fetish for market-based solutions irrespective of the merit. One problem with indiscriminate usage of the “neoliberal” term is that it equates, say, the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of public insurance and much more stringent industry regulations with, say, Rahm Emmanuel’s regime passimOne reason not to conflate “liberalism” with “neoliberalism” is that the latter describes a real thing.
  • Chait is wrong to handwave away the obvious right turn in the Democratic Party in the 80s and 90s. I agree that the party has shifted left in the last decade, and Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievements — the ACA, ARRA, Dodd-Frank — are well within the New Deal/Great Society tradition in terms of both their achievements and compromises. But the four years of unified Democratic control under Carter were bereft of similar achievements, and the Democrats under Clinton failed on the one hand to pass comprehensive healthcare reform on the one hand while Clinton signed multiple conservative bills, including a welfare “reform” bill that if BCRA fails will be the worst welfare-state retrenchment in American history.

TL;DR: the tendency to conflate “liberalism” and “neoliberalism” is bad and irritating, but it’s bad in part because neoliberalism used carefully is a useful description.

A Horrible Bill Delayed

[ 117 ] July 16, 2017 |

Mitch McConnell won’t be able to hold a vote on his bill to take health insurance away from tens of millions of people to pay for present and future tax cuts next week because John McCain is a principled maverick sick.

The 35% cut to Medicaid is, of course, in itself sufficient to make the bill not merely not worth voting for but monstrous. But we should remember that everything about the bill is terrible:

The measure kills the birth control and women’s health screening requirements. The Affordable Care Act advanced women’s healthcare rights immensely by mandating that health plans cover contraceptives, as well as a range of preventive screenings, without deductibles or co-pays. Conservatives have been trying to roll back those guarantees since the ACA’s enactment. The new Senate bill eliminates them.

That action is part of the Cruz Amendment, on which more below. It allows states to authorize the sale of health plans that don’t include the women’s health provisions. Observes Dawn Laguens of Planned Parenthood, “Insurance companies would once again be allowed to refuse to cover basic preventive healthcare, as well as charge women co-pays for birth control, immunizations and cancer screenings.” She calls this “a major step backward for women.”

[…]

That action is part of the Cruz Amendment, on which more below. It allows states to authorize the sale of health plans that don’t include the women’s health provisions. Observes Dawn Laguens of Planned Parenthood, “Insurance companies would once again be allowed to refuse to cover basic preventive healthcare, as well as charge women co-pays for birth control, immunizations and cancer screenings.” She calls this “a major step backward for women.”

There’s more where this came from, and another week to disseminate this information as widely as possible.

“I probably like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz, and I hate Ted Cruz”

[ 56 ] July 15, 2017 |

The Cruz amendment has caused the one major medical-industry interest who could live with BCRA into staunch opponents:

Two organizations representing the U.S. health insurance industry just called a new provision of the Senate Republicans’ health care proposal “simply unworkable in any form” and warned that it would cause major hardship, especially for middle-class people with serious medical problems.

The organizations, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, speak for the businesses that would be responsible for making the new system work ― or at least attempting to do so.

That may help explain why, with a vote on the bill planned for next week, they are letting loose with what, by Washington lobbying standards, sounds like a primal scream.

In a publicly posted letter to Senate leaders, the two groups focused their attention on an amendment that would undermine the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The amendment, crafted by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), would allow insurers to resume sales of policies that leave out key benefits, such as prescription drugs or mental health. More important, it would allow insurers to discriminate among customers based on medical status, charging higher premiums or denying policies altogether to people with existing medical problems ― from the severe, like cancer, to the relatively mild, like allergies.

Krugman had a good column about the naked fraud behind TrumpCare, most notably promises to protect Medicaid turning into a bill that cuts it 35%. But in a way the fraud behind the Cruz Amendment is even more telling. Obviously, the Republican conference want to end the ACA’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. But the public hates the idea, and there are a few “moderate”* Republican senators who need to convince themselves that they’re not ending these protections. So Ted Cruz came up with an idea: effectively end protections for pre-existing conditions, and indeed essentially ending any insurance being made available on the individual market that isn’t a massive fraud, but in an direct, chickenshit way. Worse, many consumers will buy into the fraud and probably won’t realize, for example, that buying junk insurance won’t count as maintaining continuous coverage. It’s just unbelievably disgusting. It may not work with the public, but the real target is “moderate”* Republicans, and what’s scary is that it might work.

While we’re here, shorter Erica Greider: “People say Ted Cruz is bad, but he created an amendment that means that the BCRA will destroy not just Medicaid but insurance exchanges too! And he makes this bill that will take insurance from more than 20 million people and make insurance for people who have it to pay for present and future upper-class tax cuts worse-to-useless more likely to pass. Where’s his parade?” I rate this take 100 Baylesses on a scale of 1 to 5.

*”Moderate” Republicans, an illustration:

Little Donald Is Probably Still Lying

[ 170 ] July 15, 2017 |

The raspberry road that led to Abu Ghraib was paved with bland assumptions that people who had repeatedly proved their untrustworthiness, could be trusted. There is much made by people who long for the days of their fourth form debating society about the fallacy of “argumentum ad hominem”. There is, as I have mentioned in the past, no fancy Latin term for the fallacy of “giving known liars the benefit of the doubt”, but it is in my view a much greater source of avoidable error in the world. Audit is meant to protect us from this, which is why audit is so important.

There has been a consistent pattern in which Little Donald denies something, the truth is revealed, and then he admits to what has been proven while making more easily disprovable lies. Has the pattern now stopped? As Yglesias says, anyone who believes this has probably already paid the $100,000 nonrefundable charge for a Ph.D from Trump University:

But there is still such a thing as common sense. I don’t believe Trump Jr.’s account, and neither should you. He’s a man with negative credibility on this matter, and despite his father’s talismanic invocation of the word “transparency,” he’s been anything but transparent about it.

It’s certainly conceivable that he’s telling the truth and no valuable information changed hands. But when you are caught lying over and over again about a meeting — first by saying it never happened and then slowly being caught out in lie after lie — a reasonable observer is going to doubt you when you claim that this time you’ve fully come clean.

Until Trump Jr. answers a lot more questions and produces a lot more information, there’s no reason to assume good faith on his part. The benefit of the doubt is a valuable commodity, and it’s one that those at the highest levels of Trumpland have squandered.

[…]

But as the old saying says, fool me twice, shame on me. Trump Jr. has already tried to fool us four or five times about this meeting, and there’s absolutely no reason we should trust him. Fox News, tellingly, has in part already moved on to justifying collusion, showing little faith from Trumpworld that the denials of collusion will hold up over the long run. Those of us who aren’t in the tank ought to muster at least the same level of skepticism.

As a couple of commenters has observed, the most likely Trump endgame is “sure, we collaborated with the Russians to beat Crooked Hillary, we won, fuck you.” The fact that Fox News is already there is pretty telling.

As a counterpoint from an anti-anti Trump “left” that is considerably slower on the uptake than Fox & Friends, let’s consider this particularly derpy illustration of the “Hitchens Pinciple” — that is, when someone preemptively describes their argument as being “contrarian” there is a 95% chance this means “idiotic”:

This is risible from soup to nuts, obviously, but I especially like the chickenshit qualifying “the Russian ratfucking scandal is like Birtherism” line with “not with his claims of his foreign birth.” Since the analogy is intelligence-insultingly false if it has any actual content, back away just enough so that if anyone calls you on it you didn’t really mean it. And the “actually Trump collaborating with the Russians is excellent political news for the Republican Party” punchline — perfect.

The Possibility Exists That Donald Trump Jr. May Not Have Been Telling the Whole Truth

[ 119 ] July 14, 2017 |

Finnish national football team players carry a goal during a training session at the Puskas stadium in Budapest on October 10, 2011 on the eve of their EURO 2012 qualifying football game Hungary. AFP PHOTO/ ATTILA KISBENEDEK (Photo credit should read ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s more details about the meeting Little Donald, that adorable young scamp, and other top Trump operatives had in which they hoped to get damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russians:

The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and others on the Trump team after a promise of compromising material on Hillary Clinton was accompanied by a Russian-American lobbyist — a former Soviet counterintelligence officer who is suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence, NBC News has learned.

The lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, denies any current ties to Russian spy agencies. He accompanied the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Donald Trump Jr.; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; and Paul Manafort, former chairman of the Trump campaign.

The Russian-born American lobbyist served in the Soviet military and emigrated to the U.S., where he holds dual citizenship.

Nevertheless, any suggestion that the Russian state attempted to influence the 2016 elections or that the fine, upstanding gentlemen running the Trump campaign may have actively sought their assistance is surely McCarthyism of the worst order. Although of course I support a full investigation.

Seriously, as Scocca observed recently, “[s]kepticism is fine but at this point ‘Trump didn’t collaborate with Russia’ requires a more convoluted explanation than the alternative does.” Hence, this truly epic goalposts-shifting by Kellyanne Conway.

McConnell’s Utter Contempt For Republican “Moderates” May Well Be Justified

[ 113 ] July 14, 2017 |

Above: “Why so glum, chum? My health insurance is going to be fine!”

With Collins and Rand Paul having claimed their golden tickets, the remaining marginal votes in the Republican conference — several of whom declared the massive Medicaid cuts in BCRA unacceptable — have enormous leverage. As we discussed yesterday, in his revised bill McConnell offered them…nothing on their most important ask. McConnell, apparently, assumes they can be bought off for pennies on the dollar with some piddlyshit pork from the slush fund he created by keeping some of the ACA’s tax increases.

The problem for the country is that he may well be right:

When the Senate Republican leadership unveiled its latest plan to roll back Obamacare, senators Rand Paul and Susan Collins quickly announced opposition. With the two free passes to vote no claimed, the next Republican to oppose the bill would deny it a majority. That Republican would apparently be Nevada’s Dean Heller, who had denounced in unequivocal terms the plan’s enormous Medicaid cuts, which are unchanged in the latest bill. But Heller has remained curiously silent.
Ominously, Mike Allen reports, “Republicans keep telling me Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, a third apparent ‘nay,’ will be ‘bought off.’” If Republicans can manage to buy off Senator Geary — I mean, Heller — then they stand a decent chance of working the remaining senators who have expressed concern about the bill.

One of the key dynamics of this legislative saga is that Republican objections to the bill, however strong or unambiguous, tend to melt away in the face of partisan pressure. Senator Bill Cassidy had once articulated the strongest opposition to Trumpcare, arguing that coverage gains in Obamacare should actually be expanded rather than rolled back. Cassidy endorsed the “Jimmy Kimmel test,” saying he would not support any bill that makes medical care unaffordable for an American with preexisting conditions. His new version of the Kimmel Test seems to be that he will not vote for anything unless it satisfies the following conditions: (1) It is a piece of legislation (2) that Republicans want to pass.

Meanwhile, even as of a few days ago, reports indicated that an outright majority of Republican senators rejected Ted Cruz’s amendment to allow insurers to sell plans that don’t protect preexisting conditions. Now that resistance is “melting away,” reports Caitlin Owens, because, as a GOP aide tells her, “No one wants to be bad guy.” (You might think “bad guy” means a person who denies medical care to sick people, but in this context, it indicates precisely the opposite.)

We are on the verge of a rollback of a major welfare benefit that is unprecedented in scope, one that would have utterly devastating consequences. People across the country, and especially Nevadans and West Virginians, need to make their voices heard. I’ve never understood people who were confident that the Trump administration would be a Carter-like dead-end in policy terms, and the high level of danger the still-robust Reagan coalition poses to the country has never been more evident.

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