Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016



The Supreme Court's Gift to Republicans


Conventional wisdom suggests the Supreme Court's ruling -- that federal subsidies are not illegal despite the sloppy language of the Affordable Care Act -- is a huge blow to Republicans, who have long been trying to dismantle an odious law that conservatives believe will inevitably make health insurance more expensive and greatly reduce quality of care.

Indeed, earlier this month President Obama warned that overturning the federal subsidies would be a loss for Republicans:

"This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another," he said. "It seems so cynical to want to take health care away from millions of people."

And now that the Supreme Court has allowed the law to stand as it was originally drafted, Democrats are basking in the victory. Hillary Clinton tweeted, "Yes! SCOTUS affirms what we know is true in our hearts and under the law: Health insurance should be affordable and available to all. -H"

Of course, it's not the first time Americans have been told to just ignore the language of the Affordable Care Act, but Republicans needn't lick their wounds over the defeat. Politically, this is actually a win -- and Democrats shouldn't be so quick to gloat.

For one, while invalidating the subsidies would have been a symbolic victory for the Republicans who have been insisting the law was badly written and ill-conceived, it would have brought huge new problems for the GOP and at the worst possible time.

Twenty-six of the 34 states affected by the ruling -- where many people would have lost their health insurance -- have Republican governors, as well as 22 GOP senators up for re-election in 2016. When people who once could afford health insurance are suddenly without it, they don't go to the ballot box blaming Obama's lousy law-writing abilities. They blame Republicans.

Then there was the practical issue of what to do if the law collapsed, as many said it would if the court ruled against it.

In April, Sen. Ron Johnson rightly warned, "Without an effective response from Republicans, there is little doubt that the crisis would allow President Obama to permanently cement Obamacare in place."

To that end, he and others, including Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander, Orrin Hatch and John Barrasso, offered up the idea of stop-gap legislation to keep subsidizing health insurance for a transitional period while states came up with their own markets. That sounds good, but probably easier said...

It's Time For The GOP To Embrace The Obamacare Exchanges

Here’s a wake-up call to conservatives: Unless you change something fast, your response to the Affordable Care Act will go down in history as a series of tactical errors that created a gigantic government mandate while simultaneously betraying your own principles.

The Supreme Court’s resounding 6-3 rejection of King v. Burwell — a challenge to Obamacare that was based entirely on an overly fussy reading of a six-word phrase – is a loss for the GOP. It is a win for big business, the GOP’s traditional ally, with stocks for hospital chains like HCA and Tenet getting a nice boost. And it is symbolic of the way that the right has forced itself into a polarizing argument about the ACA instead of keeping its eye on its overall goals.

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority decision. Republicans need to step up and do the same.

Obamacare is shoddily written, but 11.7 million people are enrolled in its exchanges (some will not continue coverage for the full calendar year) and 10.8 million have enrolled in Medicaid and CHP, the government’s programs for the poor, since 2013. And the law has actually worked as a catalyst to encourage free market solutions to our broken health care system. If such solutions aren’t found, we’re going to end up in the same position as most other modern countries: with nationalized, single-payer health systems.

Here’s a summary of what’s happening: Hospitals are taking on the financial risks that were once borne by insurers, incentivizing them to find ways to save money and improve care. More data is flowing into the system, and more and more consumers – inside and outside the system, are picking their own insurance plans, often giving up the freedom of choice in order to save money. “It’s a great experiment,” says Michael Dowling, the Chief Executive of North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York.

Instead of trying to push these changes, the GOP finds itself making pigheaded arguments based on technicalities. That distracts it from fighting the Medicaid expansion – the part of Obamacare that truly violates conservative principles – and leaves it working against its own policy interests and against the interests of business in general. If they were looking at the long-term, Republicans would embrace the exchanges...


With expiration of Patriot Act, Mitch McConnell's maneuver fails


Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell thought he could use Sunday's Patriot Act deadline to get senators in line. It didn't work, thanks in large part to Sen. Rand Paul.

WASHINGTON — As promised by Sen. Rand Paul, the federal government’s massive gathering of Americans’ phone records “went dark” at midnight Sunday, dealing a blow to the program’s advocates – including Senator Paul’s fellow Republican from Kentucky, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

The expiration of the program and other anti-terrorism surveillance provisions under the Patriot Act, although expected to be only temporary, is Sen. McConnell’s first serious defeat as majority leader. It shows just how difficult it can be to keep his own members in line – particularly when they are running for president, as is Paul.

And it shows that sometimes, the longtime strategy of using deadlines to force consensus in Congress just doesn’t work. “Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah. “It’s tough to lead this bunch,” he added.

Especially Paul. The libertarian has made ending the data gathering program his signature issue, and has featured his spirited Senate fight in campaign ads and fundraising appeals. 

In the wee hours of May 24 and again in an unusual Senate session on Sunday, Paul used parliamentary rules to disrupt floor action on the issue. A vote on a House compromise known as the USA Freedom Act is not expected until later this week.

This is exactly what McConnell was trying to avoid.

The House bill passed overwhelmingly and has President Obama’s support. It leaves the job of data gathering to phone companies, rather than the government, and requires the government to get a search warrant to access it.

McConnell worked hard to build opposition to the House bill, which he has criticized as a hurdle to intelligence gathering. But he lost supporters as senators coalesced around the House bill, 77 to 17, in a procedural vote to advance the bill on Sunday. The leader had wanted to simply extend the provisions of the Patriot Act, but Paul – eight days ago and on Sunday – blocked even short-term extensions.

Republicans blamed Paul rather than the leader for the expiration.

“I’m sure we’re not going to let the whole program lapse, but because Senator Paul is taking advantage of the rules of the Senate, [we] will delay and there will be an interim period where the nation is less secure,” Sen. John McCain (R) of...

Patriot Act Expiring Despite McConnell Cave on Reform Bill


At midnight, three government surveillance powers were due to expire. And it appears likely the chamber will eventually pass the USA Freedom Act instead.

May 31, 2015 The Patriot Act is dying, and even a last-minute cave by Mitch McConnell couldn't save it.

Sections of the controversial intelligence law were set to expire Sunday night, after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to move forward on debating the USA Freedom Act following an aggressive plea from the majority leader to clear the the surveillance-reform bill's path. The chamber adjourned before 10 p.m. with no further votes planned.

Sen. Rand Paul, who demanded votes on two amendments he wanted to offer, helped force an expiration by holding up the chamber's progress, making it likely the Senate won't approve the USA Freedom measure for days. That means a final vote on the measure likely won't come until Tuesday at the earliest, more than a day after the lapse will occur and the National Security Agency will completely shut down its bulk collection of U.S. call data.

Amid an impasse caused by a fiercely divided Republican Party and the fundraising theatrics of Paul's presidential campaign, Sunday's vote marked an extraordinary turn from last Saturday, when the Senate failed to muster 60 "ayes" in favor of proceeding on USA Freedom. And it was a striking shift for McConnell, who has staunchly opposed the bipartisan measure that would renew but reform parts of the post-9/11 law and effectively end the NSA's bulk collection program.

Just as Paul's colleagues have grown increasingly frustrated with him, he made clear Sunday night on the floor that he was irritated by many of his critics.

"Some of them I think secretly want there to be an attack so they can blame it on me," Paul said.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, welcomed progress on the USA Freedom Act but still criticized the Senate's delay in voting on it.

"The Senate took an important—if late—step forward tonight," the White House said in a statement. "We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible."

McConnell on Sunday night moved to "fill the tree," a rare procedural step that will allow the Senate to consider a small number of amendments while heading off efforts by senators who hope to offer more.

Paul encountered procedural resistance as he rose to speak on the Senate floor earlier Sunday, as a disagreement broke out between him and Sen. John McCain, Sen. Dan Coats, and presiding Sen. Chuck Grassley over whether time...


Rubio: Serious Man, Powerful Message



RUSH: Marco Rubio is the latest to enter the Republican presidential sweepstakes.  Serious man, powerful message.  I wonder if with his speech last night he was able to bring back any of the Tea Party voters that had abandoned him.  Only time will tell. 

Something else interesting, too, that Jorge Ramos, who is with -- I forget which network.  Is it Telemundo or Univision?  Jorge Ramos, the largest audience, Hispanic viewers, in American TV, noted that it is Republicans who have nominated two Hispanics, or have two Hispanics in the field. Univision seeking the Republican nomination, the first would be Ted Cruz and the second, Marco Rubio.  And it's the same old -- he's an identity politics guy.  That kind of thing matters, but at least he pointed out that the Hispanic entrants are on the Republican side. 

I don't know what impact, if any, it'll have.  Too soon to say.  But one thing we know is that Marco Rubio is a serious man, he has a serious message, and he has a very unmistakable joy in spreading that message, in informing people. He knows how to deliver it.  He knows how to deliver it live.  He doesn't have to announce on Twitter.  He doesn't have to announce with a series of posts on social media.  He can do it live in front of real people with a real camera.  And he's an emotional speaker.  In fact, at some point last night, a couple of points it looked to me like he almost might tear up. 

Now, I know Rubio has lost a lot of luster with some people on the Tea Party side because of his flirtation with the Chuck-U Schumer gang on amnesty and immigration.  You can maybe chalk it up to two things.  Chalk it up to novice naivete, trying to get his feet wet and establish himself within the power circles of the Senate.  Or another explanation for it could have been that, given his Hispanic heritage, he almost had to, in the sense of identity politics, if he had any chance at all of securing any votes from that sector, he had to come out in favor of it.  But whatever, he's walked it back now, and we'll just see how this is all gonna play out with Tea Party people. 

It looks like, as you're gonna hear in the sound bites coming up, to the extent that we can believe it, it looks like the Clinton campaign seems to be more fearful of Rubio than anybody.  Now, they are admitting...

Get to Know Marco Rubio, the Biggest Idiot Running for President


A lot of people in the United States don't know anything about soon-to-be ex-senator Marco Rubio of Florida, which means he theoretically still has a chance to be president, the same way the Philadelphia Phillies can still theoretically win this year's pennant. It will not last, and it will never have been realistic.

Rubio's entry in the 2016 presidential race will fuck up his hitherto inexplicably promising career. It will cost the Republican Party dearly in Florida and in Washington. It will prove to be one of the dumbest moves in the dumb history of politics. This will happen because Marco Rubio is that rare youthful combination of un-telegenic bumbling incompetence and malign corruption only Florida can nourish to maturity.

The Marco Experience

Rubio has two major political achievements. First, he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives—an annual beauty pageant of ugly Republicans, by ugly Republicans, for ugly Republicans, so that ugly Republicans shall not perish from the earth. Second, he took an election from political changeling Charlie Crist, something that a reanimated pygmy skink could do, and has done. The thickest section of Rubio's resumé is his involvement in some truly ghastly internecine political and financial corruption. But he's running against a Clinton, a Bush, and a Texan. So much for that advantage.

Sure: On paper, Rubio looks like a formidable candidate, a nod to consensus wisdom on Republican electoral demographics. Part of the problem is not with him, so much as with the contradictions inherent in that wisdom. He sounds like a doctrinaire conservative, who hates social welfare and undocumented immigrants and alternate lifestyles. But! He's young and Latino! Who better to deliver a grumpy retrograde anti-minority vision of America's future?

It's true, Rubio's face is taut next to that of his rough contemporary and fellow Cuban-American,Ted Cruz. But it doesn't really exude freshness—like a Winn-Dixie cheddar log whose expiration date is months into the future, but whose suspicious shrink-wrapped languor still makes you pass it by in the supermarket cooler. You've gotta be really hungry to give it a chance.

The Marco Gamble

Cruz—who also will not be president in 2017—provides a perfect contrast to Rubio. Because Ted Cruz, however much of a detestable pandering creeper he might be, is an astute...


Harry Reid vs. the Smooth Deal


WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is an acquired taste. It may surprise people outside of his Democratic caucus that many of his colleagues will miss him. But they will.

Charismatic he is not. He sometimes stumbles in his choice of words, and utterly fails a series of other Beltway tests. For example, our era claims to revere authenticity but prefers contrived personalities that seem warm and solicitous. Reid refuses to try to be someone he isn't -- I doubt he could pull it off even if he wanted to -- and gets little credit for being resolutely himself.

There is a vogue for admiring Lyndon Johnson's take-no-prisoners canniness as a legislative leader. But there is actually an unacknowledged tilt in our media and political culture toward politicians who wrap the knives they wield in political battles with velvet. Harry Reid isn't into velvet and he also doesn't pander very well to journalists. We like being pandered to, even though we don't admit it. Reid has no compunction about picking up the phone and issuing a scolding when he dislikes something he sees in print.

But there is a big upside to Reid's approach, which is candor. Reid grew up in difficult circumstances in a tough little mining town called Searchlight, Nevada. I once asked him if he'd go back there when he retired. "Have you ever been to Searchlight?" he replied, suggesting that no one in his right mind would aspire to such a thing. Asked and answered.

In many of the accounts since Reid announced on Friday that he would not be running for re-election, his power has been explained in part by his capacity as a listener who understood his colleagues and their needs. That's true.

Democrats also realized that having a former boxer with a pugilistic personality at the helm was absolutely essential in the face of a Republican Party that had moved sharply to the right. It picked up from the House that Newt Gingrich built in the 1990s a far more partisan and combative approach to legislating.

The Senate, in its self-importance, loves to characterize itself as "the world's greatest deliberative body." But veterans of the Gingrich House steadily made their way to the Senate's Republican ranks and brought a new style with them. The differences between the two bodies shrank.

Reid took over the Democratic leadership after the 2004 elections that saw the defeat of his predecessor, Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the first...

Harry Reid’s Real Reason For Retiring?


Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate leader from Nevada, has announced he will not be seeking reelection to his U.S. Senate seat, the New York Times reported yesterday. Reid would have faced a tough challenge from Republicans if he sought re-election in 2016. Many believe the reason Harry Reid is retiring is due to an eye injury he sustained on Jan. 1 of this year, but he dismisses that or the Democrats being in the minority in the Senate as reasons for his retirement.

“He also said he was worried his race would consume campaign money that would be needed in other competitive states as Democrats try to regain control of the Senate,” the New York Times reported, and quote Harry Reid as saying, “I think it is unfair for me to be soaking up all the money to be re-elected with what we are doing in Maryland, in Pennsylvania, in Missouri, in Florida… These are big, expensive states.”

Breitbart News also reported this as the stated reason from Harry Reid on why he’s retiring, but also reported another possible reason for Reid’s retirement. Perhaps investigations of some of Reid’s past might otherwise become a problem if he had decided to seek re-election in 2016. Breitbart suggested investigations by a Republican Attorney General, if the GOP wins the White House in 2016, might be on Harry Reid’s mind.

“A Republican Attorney General would be almost certain to initiate a criminal investigation into Reid’s abuse of his political power in a brazen intervention in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) issuance of EB-5 visas to investors in a Las Vegas casino and hotel that was represented by his son, Rory Reid, as was highlighted in a report released by the Inspector General of DHS last week,” Breitbart News reported.

Former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova told Breitbart, “I think Harry Reid’s getting out of town ahead of the posse” and also said,”[t]here is no doubt in my mind that an independent Department of Justice or an independent U.S. Attorney would open a preliminary criminal investigation into Harry Reid’s intervention into the expediting of EB-5 visas and would in addition convene a grand jury.”

Several issues related to Harry Reid were listed, including alleged involvement with abuse of power by Senator Robert Menendez, involvement of his son Rory Reid in a casino project, and other...