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#WNWU 7/21 “Moving On”

Week of 7/21 “Moving On”

In 2009 as the Affordable Care Act was being voted on, Mitch McConnell said if leadership was proud of the bill, they wouldn’t vote on it late at night. Last night, at about 1:30 a.m. EST, the Senate tried and failed for the third time this week to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

What happened in the Senate this week was not normal, and it certainly was not responsible. Normal rules were suspended. Bills and amendments were submitted for votes without any time for Senators to read what they were voting for, let alone for the CBO to score the bills. The normal 60 vote threshold was replaced with a simple majority as McConnell tried to sneak the legislation in under reconciliation. The ‘repeal and replace’ legislation was barred from this by the Senate’s parliamentarian, forcing a 60 vote majority for that bill’s passage, one it came nowhere close to achieving.

The final bill that failed last night was called “Skinny Repeal” most of the Senators who voted for it did not want it to become law. They voted aye on legislation they hoped the House would change. Speaker Paul Ryan, however, was ready to invoke ‘Martial Law’ to pass whatever came out of the Senate immediately, without the normal 24 hour waiting period. It didn’t matter what was in the bill if it made it through the Senate, there was a good chance it would become law.

We should be paying more attention to the 48 Senators who voted yes on a bill they didn’t want to become law. Instead, most of America is fixated on McCain’s dramatic floor vote. Praise also must be given to Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Maine Senator Susan Collins. Both women have been threatened this week with physical violence by another lawmaker for standing up for their constituents and against the repeal efforts. Murkowski, and the entire state of Alaska was threatened with political retribution from the Trump administration. McCain in the twilight of his career has little to lose for his showmanship last night, but these two women have a lot to lose.

After the final vote failed, McConnell said it was time to urge on, and the Senate voted to advance to the next bill up for consideration. He also implored Democrats to step up to the plate and lead on health care. Minority leader Schumer offered a gracious speech following McConnell where he committed Democrats to just that. It is certain that Congress will try repeal and replace again before the midterms. I implore the majority party to reflect on the protests, the surge of calls and emails, the opinion of every major medical interest group in America.

It is time to move on from repeal and replace and focus on a fix. Skinny Repeal started to acknowledge that there is a lot of good in the ACA. The law significantly reduced discriminatory practices by insurance companies, it provided millions of Americans with coverage they didn’t have before. And while premiums did increase, they increased at a slower rate than they did before the ACA. Let’s not undo that progress. The GOP would be wise to accept that these things are good and focus on the areas where the ACA was not so successful. Let’s pass legislation that helps the American people and strengthens and improves the existing law.

Administration:

  1. The President tweeted a major policy change in regards to transgender people serving in the military. The news blindsided Pentagon officials who were completely unaware that the move was coming. In the meantime, the Joint Chiefs are making no policy changes until guidelines have been issued. (CNN)
  2. New White House Communication Anthony Scaramucci called a New Yorker journalist on Wednesday night and unloaded a profane and attack-filled tirade against White House Chief of Staff Reince Pribus, Steve Bannon, and communications staff. In response to the interview, Press Secretary Huckabee-Sanders said that Trump likes competition among his staff, more or less condoning the behavior as ‘normal.’ It is not normal. (The New Yorker)
  3. The Justice Department has filed paperwork requesting that a district appeals court rule that a major federal civil rights law does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The insertion of the Justice Department into this district case is abnormal and opposed by even the case’s defendant. (New York Times)
  4. The President’s very long, political and awkward speech to 40,000 boy scouts has received much criticism. The Boy Scouts Chief issued an official apology saying that leadership regretted that politics were inserted into the scouting program. (Politico)
  5. A long standing belief is that a sitting president cannot be indicted, and first must be impeached. However, Bill Clinton Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr argued that yes, a sitting president can be indicted. (New York Times)
  6. After proposing a $9.2 billion budget cut to the Department of Education, Trump donated his quarterly salary of $100,000 to the DOE. (Business Insider)
  7. A judge has determined that the White House’s collection of voter data can continue. The judge ruled that since the White House isn’t a federal agency, it does not have to comply with federal privacy laws. The commission was originally going to use a Pentagon portal to accept the information, but it changed it to a White House portal to avoid complying with this law. (Washington Post)
  8. Betsy DeVos regularly points to Florida as a model for how she believes all states should run their education departments. The state’s education system is in chaos, with significant budget shortfalls as districts are forced to share capital funding with charter schools. (Washington Post)
  9. Jeff Sessions said multiple times under oath that he never discussed the campaign with any Russians. Unfortunately for him, Russian Ambassador Kislyak called the Kremlin to relay details of his conversations with Sessions. Those conversations were on the campaign, and they were recorded by U.S. intelligence organizations. (Washington Post)

Congress:

  1. Why, after seven years of promising to repeal and replace Obamacare has the GOP been unable to do so? There is a lot of reasons why it is much easier to promise to replace major policy than it is to actually succeed in doing so. From dueling factions to unpopular legislation, here’s a breakdown of why the bills failed. (Fivethirtyeight)
  2. While everyone was focused on the Senate, the House passed a $788 billion spending bill that includes a $1.6 billion for a border wall and increased spending for the Pentagon.  With health care behind them, this is the next bill the Senate will take up. (PBS)
  3. A top Democrat on the House National Resources Committee is asking for an investigation into the Trump Administration and Interior Secretary Zinke for potential political retaliation. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski voted no on opening the floor to debate the health care legislation. Afterward, she received a call from Zinke suggesting the administration would not support key projects in Alaska. (The Hill)
  4. Devin Nunes, who was forced to step aside from the House Russian Investigation after leaking information to the White House, is being accused of drumming up accusations against the Obama Administration. His claims that Susan Rice unmasked Trump campaign officials who spoke to Russian officials, are without evidence, and would not have been illegal, according to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairperson Richard Burr. (The Hill)
  5. Texas Congressman (and footie pajama enthusiast) Blake Farenthold challenged three female Republican Senators who voted against the Senate health care bills to a duel. In a hot mic recording, a democratic senator is heard saying to Senator Collins that he threatened her to a duel because she could “beat the sh** out of him.” (Business Insider)
  6. Some Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have drafted a letter to the DOJ asking that a special counsel be appointed to investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails. Much time was already dedicated to this investigation last year where the FBI concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing. It has been rumored that the Congressmen are trying to use a new Clinton investigation as a bargaining chip to end the Russian/Trump investigations. (MSNBC)
  7. With McCain’s cancer dire diagnosis, many are speculating as to how long the Senator will continue to be able to discharge his duties. In his floor speech on Tuesday, he showed he is still a Senator with conviction and grit. But this isn’t stopping the vultures from circling. Kelli Ward drew much criticism this week when she said McCain should step down so she could be appointed into his place. (AZ Central)
  8. When Trump announced his transgender service member ban, the first explanation I heard was that it was political calculous to make transgender rights a campaign issue during the midterm elections for Democrats in swing districts. This seemed far more strategic than most things that come out of Trump’s fingers, but, he must have some people working for him who get how these things work, right? Then I read this article in Politico about moderate Republicans in the House taking a stand. Earlier this month they blocked an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have banned the Pentagon from paying for gender reassignment surgery. I believe Trump is retaliating against his own party.  (Politico)
  9. Trump cannot fire Special Counsel Mueller. Jeff Sessions cannot fire Special Counsel Mueller. Only Rod Rosenstein can, and he won’t. However, if an Attorney General who has not recused himself from the Russian investigation is appointed, he could fire Mueller. Much speculation abounds that Trump’s attacks on Sessions are to start this process to put someone in place, probably using a Recess Appointment (Washington Post), to fire Mueller. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has made it clear that the Senate supports Sessions. He is planning on introducing legislation next week that would require the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the firing of any Special Counsel. (CNN)
  10. Congress has overwhelmingly approved new sanctions against Russia for their role in the meddling in the 2016 election. This bill has not yet been signed or vetoed by Trump, but Russia is already retaliating. Russia’s new actions against the US are direct retribution to the retaliation of the Obama administration against election hacking in December. (New York Times)

State/Other:

  1. Arizonans have below average savings, according to the nonprofit Prosperity Now. The group points to low wages as the primary reason for the low savings rate in the state. (AZ Central)
  2. Solar installation rates around the nation are slowing down as fossil fuel and utility interest groups fight to make it harder and less financially attractive for consumers to choose how their energy is produced. (New York Times)
  3. Four Republican Congressmen have sent a letter to the Interior Department asking that federal lands be given to the state. Their claim is that the states lose money without access to these lands and that it prevents citizens from enjoying them. As a note, all of these monuments allow access in the form of hiking, camping, off roading, and even hunting. Representative Raul Grijalva penned a letter to AZ Central calling out his colleagues for what he calls disingenuous claims. (AZ Central)
  4. North Korea fired a ballistic missile Friday which landed in Japan’s waters. (NPR)