The Long(?) and Winding Road of H.R. 1628: The American Health Care Act of 2017

After passing H.R. 1628, the ACHA orTrumpcare, by 217 votes to 213. the jubilant House Republicans loaded en masse on shiny motor coaches for the trip to the White House Rose Garden and their awaiting Champion. Nevermind that passage in the House was only the first play of several complex plays involved before it becomes the law of the land. Pesky details aside, the celebration was symbolically reminiscent of the winning Super Bowl team piling on in the end zone as the winning touchdown is thrown and simultaneously caught by the ‘Star Quarterback.’ Have you got that visual? Well, it wasn’t quite that physically raucous but the jubilation was there.

Keeping with the Super Bowl metaphor…Wait! The game isn’t over yet and there’s  a flag on the play! The referees in the Senate will call for an instant replay!  Yea, Senators!! I’ve never looked forward to a touchdown being called back so much in all my life. To what extent the Senate will go to correct the devastating consequences of the ACHA remains to be seen; however, initial reaction by some Senators is promising. Counting on nothing, the people’s fight–Democrats and Republicans–must be taken to the Senate.

Before any of us take comfort from the Senate phase of the ACHA , it’s sobering to note that “Republicans are using the ‘budget reconciliation’ process to move their bill forward. Budget reconciliation makes one bill each year immune to a filibuster (in the Senate), and the AHCA is this year’s bill.” This means Democrats can’t filibuster the bill in the Senate and it only takes 51 votes to pass.  Under the current rules of the Senate–which can be altered by a majority vote–it takes 60 votes to proceed to a vote on a bill when some senators want to continue debate forever, or filibuster.

H.R. 1628 has been in the making since March 23, 2010, when President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted. House Republicans have been making meaningless but loud gestures to repeal the ACA for seven long years at a taxpayer cost amounting to $millions.  Republicans have squandered $millions  and wasted seven years in time, effort and resources only to have zilch on January 20, 2017; hence, the mad scramble to satisfy Trump’s call to repeal and replace President Obama’s ACA.

Trump’s call was heeded and the House Leadership scrambled to cobble together a disastrous repeal and replacement bill amid warring factions. In spite of pleas and rebukes by the healthcare industry and stakeholder groups across the nation, the ACHA was speedily crafted and ultimately brought to passage. H.R. 1628 was actually sponsored by our own  Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-6). It was introduced on March 20, 2017; failed to come to a vote twice; revived again; and, after several tweaks to satisfy the Freedom Caucus, was passed on May 4, 2017 without floor debate.

The following is a good summary of the vote, activity and  some of the more important components of H.R. 1628. It also has links for additional explanatory information. If we take the people’s fight to the Senate and beyond to the 2018 midterm elections, we have to know and understand what we’re fighting for and against.
https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/h256

 

GOOD NEWS and BAD NEWS!!

The Good News–the 100th Day of the new Trump administration has come and gone. Thank goodness!

The Bad News–following that mark, there are 1,360 days of the new Trump administration remaining. Woe is us!

The first 100 days of a new president in his first term are considered to be the time when his power, influence and persuasion are at the highest level. This period of time has become a traditional  measurement of the new president’s successes and accomplishments and, to a degree, a harbinger of what is to come.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the term in a radio address back in 1933 but he wasn’t referring to the presidency or his administration–he was actually referring to the 100-day session of the 73rd Congress. Regardless, the term has become embedded in the political lexicon as dealing with a new president’s first 100 days.

What successes and accomplishments mark President Trump’s first 100 days? His successes are a matter of opinion and, as we might expect, subject to partisan viewpoints. His accomplishments, viewed in the simplest terms, are actions he has executed and major legislative proposals passed.

  • After much controversy and just shy of his 100th day, all of Trump’s cabinet were confirmed.
  • Judge Neil Gorsuch was finally confirmed and sworn in as the 9th Justice of the United States Supreme Court.  It took Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pulling the “nuclear option” to do it but it was done! Trump extolls this as his greatest accomplishment.
  • He gave the go-ahead for the previously planned military raid in Yemen while having dinner with his son-in-law,  Jared Kushner. The mission went awry from the start. CPO William Ryan Owens was killed and three others were injured. Trump issued a statement branding the raid a success.
  • He ordered a missile strike on Syria following the chemical gassing attack on its own citizens. Several  Cabinet members who are  not usually part of military operations were inside the makeshift situation room at Mar-a-Lago as the missile strike was underway–Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of the Treasury and the Chief Economic Adviser. Their presence appears to be explained by subsequent comments from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: “It was in lieu of after-dinner entertainment. The thing was, it didn’t cost the President anything to have that entertainment,” Ross said at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference in California.
  • He either ordered directly or gave his authorization to the military (he wouldn’t clarify) for a MOAB (Mother of All Bombs) dropped on an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan. There have been no reports whether the president watched the drop or if dinner guests were present; however, he did say it was “another successful job.”
  • While he signed 28 pieces of legislation before the 100th day, none of Trump’s bills can be considered “major” legislation according to political science standards and certainly none were his own major proposals.  Glaring in its failure to even come to a vote, not once but twice, was Trump’s attempt to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act. He’s still trying.
  • With a surge and a fit of activity, he has signed 78 executive actions. Executive actions are categorized as Executive Orders, Presidential Memoranda and Proclamations–each having different authority and effect. Of the 78 actions, 30 Executive Orders, the most impacting, were signed by his 99th day.

Executive Orders (EO)  are authorized by the Constitution and typically direct members of the Executive Branch to follow a new policy or directive.  As with all things Trump, he had bashed Obama mercilessly for using the EO as the constitutionally authorized presidential means to implement and effect certain directives and policy matters. But that was during Obama’s time. Now it’s Trump’s time and EO has suddenly transformed into a very good thing when this president executes them.

In a matter of hours after being inaugurated, Trump signed his first EO aimed at repealing Obama’s landmark legislation– the Affordable Care Act. Of course a president can’t repeal legislation. Only Congress can do that.  It was transparently clear this  EO was meant to exorcise Obama from the White House and, perhaps, send a message. It was signed on January 20, 2017.

Immigration was the subject of several EOs.

  • The third EO dealt with immigration policies but, primarily, it directed federal grant funding to be taken away from so-called sanctuary cities.
  • The fourth EO also dealt with immigration and his infamous Wall along the southern border with Mexico. It directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to prepare a budget request to fund the wall even though he had promised that Mexico would pay for it.
  • The fifth EO was probably the most publicized of any–the first Muslim Ban. Immediately, airports in the US and worldwide were thrown into chaos as the DHS attempted to enforce the directive and crowds of protesters descended upon them.  Numerous legal challenges were filed and the state of Washington prevailed with a temporary restraining order upheld by the US Ninth District Court of Appeals. Undaunted, Trump would try again with another revised EO, the sixteenth in the series I believe. Alas, it met the same fate.

Without qualifying his executive actions as either beneficial or detrimental to the nation, AOL News summarizes some of the other more important EOs.

  • Order reversing multiple Obama-era offshore drilling restrictions, review of limits on drilling locations.
  • Order directing a review of national monument designations from prior administrations.
  • Order freezing hiring for some federal government workers, excluding the military.
  • Orders reviving both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.
  • Order issuing a five year-ban on officials becoming lobbyists after leaving government work, along with a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.
  • Order mandating agencies abolish two regulations for ever new regulation introduced.

This is just my synopsis of the first 100 Days of Trump’s actions as president and is not intended to be complete by any standard. Trump celebrated the end of his 100 days with a rally in Harrisburg, PA where, in typical Trump fashion and fervor, he touted his accomplishments and declared that his was the most successful 100 days ever. Only his staunchest base supporters believe that. It would take a much longer column than this one to discuss the actionable things he’s woefully behind on; his unforced missteps and miscues; his inexplicable and unsettling twitter banter on North Korea; the paradoxical and serial dramas of the Russian connection, conflicts of interest; etc., etc., etc. Yes, there is much more to come from the most disturbing and controversial president in our nation’s history. Woe is us!

 

 

 

 

Democrat Jon Ossoff so close to winning Georgia’s special election

Trump weighed in with a trademark snarky Tweet on  Georgia’s 6th District special election tomorrow. Looks like even “himself” is worried and trying to put his thumb on it. This election is to fill the vacated seat of Tom Price who was confirmed as Trump’s HHS Secretary. Democrat newcomer, Jon Ossoff, has made a valiant primary run but is projected to be just short of the majority necessary to avoid a second round runoff vote.  Let’s hope that projection is off and the surge of last minute efforts and donations will put him over the majority line tomorrow.

Why should we Tennesseans be interested? Simply put,  Ossoff’s first round victory would put another Democrat in the House prior to the 2018 midterms! That is HUGE!  Republican Tom Price had been re-elected with ease time and time again from this district.  A win by Ossoff would be a major upset and a clear signal that Democrats are on the move to refute and reject the Trump/Republican agenda.  Even more importantly, issues and votes will be at stake in the interim before the midterm election. Another “go” at the ACA could very well be on the horizon and even one seat strengthens the Democratic position.

Should this race go into a runoff against the leading Republican, Karen Handel, winning the seat becomes much harder. Competing Republicans will be out of the running and all funds and efforts will be dedicated to Handel. Indications are that Trump himself will campaign and rally the troops. In this event, we can’t vote but we can and should help Ossoff finance his runoff campaign with whatever amount we can afford to contribute.  We need Jon Ossoff and every other Democrat running in these special elections in the Congress!