Tag Archive: Mitch McConnell


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US Puts off Decision on Keystone XL Pipeline

 

The Obama administration is putting off its decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, likely until after the November elections, by extending its review of the controversial project indefinitely.

In a surprise announcement Friday as Washington was winding down for Easter, the State Department said federal agencies will have more time to weigh in on the politically fraught decision — but declined to say how much longer. Officials said the decision will have to wait for the dust to settle in Nebraska, where a judge in February overturned a state law that allowed the pipeline’s path through the state.

Nebraska’s Supreme Court isn’t expected to hear an appeal to that ruling until September or October, and there could be more legal maneuvering after the high court rules. So President Barack Obama will almost surely have until after the November congressional elections to make the final call about whether the pipeline carrying oil from Canada should be built.

Approving the pipeline before the election would rankle Obama’s allies and donors in the environmental community, but nixing it could be politically damaging to vulnerable Democrats running this year in conservative-leaning areas.

“This decision is irresponsible, unnecessary and unacceptable,” said Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a difficult re-election in oil-rich Louisiana. Landrieu said Obama was signaling that a small minority can tie up the process in the courts, sacrificing 42,000 jobs and billions in economic activity.

In an ironic show of bipartisanship, Republicans joined Landrieu and other Democrats like Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska in immediately condemning the announcement — the latest in a string of delays in a review process that has dragged on for more than five years.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., accused Obama of kowtowing to “radical activists” from the environmental community, while House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the decision “shameful” and said there were no credible reasons for further delay.

“This job-creating project has cleared every environmental hurdle and overwhelmingly passed the test of public opinion, yet it’s been blocked for more than 2,000 days,” Boehner said in a statement.

But environmental groups fighting the pipeline hailed the delay, arguing that it shows the State Department is taking the arguments against the pipeline seriously.

“This is definitely great news,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for the League of Conservation Voters. “We are very confident as they continue to examine the issues with the lack of legal route in Nebraska and the terrible climate impacts, at the end of the day the pipeline will be rejected.”

Keystone XL would carry oil from western Canada’s tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The project requires State Department approval because it crosses an international border. The State Department vowed to move forward with other aspects of its review even while the situation in Nebraska remains in limbo.

“The agency consultation process is not starting over,” the State Department said in a statement.

State Department officials said other U.S. agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, won’t be notified of their new deadline for comment until the legal situation in Nebraska becomes clearer. Driving the delay is a concern that the legal wrangling could lead to a change in the pipeline’s route that would affect agencies’ assessments, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.

 

Read More Here

 

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ABC News

US Extends Keystone Review as Pipeline Supporters Cry Foul

By Ali Weinberg

Apr 18, 2014 3:16pm

The State Department says it needs more time to make a decision about whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project, citing uncertainty about the route’s direction through Nebraska, which is currently under litigation there.

The department is delaying the deadline for eight federal agencies to submit their recommendations to on the pipeline, which President Obama had requested they do via an executive order. The original deadline was early May, but because Nebraska’s Supreme Court is hearing a case on the proposed Keystone route through that state, the agencies will have about two weeks after the case is closed to submit their recommendations.

The process ahead, including whether the State Department will have to redo its initial assessments on the project, now depends on the outcome of the Nebraska case – the conclusion of which a senior State Department official declined to speculate about Friday.

“I can’t render a judgment on when the final decision could take place. We want this to move as expeditiously as possible,” the official told reporters on a conference call.

The officials also noted that there had been an unprecedented 2.5 million public comments regarding the pipeline, which State Department staff and private contractors are still going through. Usually, the official said on the call, there are less than 100 public comments on pipeline projects.

 

Read More Here

 

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By TODD J. GILLMAN

Washington Bureau

  • Published: October 16, 2013 10:39 PM

    Updated: October 17, 2013 10:05 AM

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he wouldn't try to block the Senate agreement. “There’s nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days. The outcome will be the same,” Cruz said. “Once again, it appears the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he wouldn’t try to block the Senate agreement. “There’s nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days. The outcome will be the same,” Cruz said. “Once again, it appears the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people.”J. Scott Applewhite / The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — It might be time for Ted Cruz to get a dog.

Because as the saying goes, if you want a friend in Washington, that’s what you do. And by the time Cruz’s crusade to defund Obamacare finally crashed to a halt Wednesday, the Texas senator had precious few friends left.

The government shutdown alienated colleagues in both parties. It generated fresh animosity toward the tea party and a flurry of recriminations toward Cruz. Voter support for the Republican Party plunged.

And the health care law survived unscathed.

“This is a terrible deal,” Cruz said moments before the deal to reopen the government sailed through the Senate with bipartisan support. He blamed the defeat on colleagues who lacked the political courage to stand with him.

“The outcome could have been different,” he said. “Imagine a world in which Senate Republicans united to support House Republicans.”

Cruz willed himself to the center of the fight. For months, he predicted that Democrats would cave if Republicans stood together to strip funding from the health care law. He dramatized the cause with a 21-hour overnight Senate speech, soaring to unusual prominence for a freshman senator. He refrained from using the risk of a catastrophic default on U.S. debt as leverage. Still, the defeat was so resounding that it left his political future in doubt.

The vast majority of his colleagues repudiated his tactics. Some accused him of promoting himself more than any attainable goals or the health of his party.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, called the last few weeks an “agonizing odyssey.”

“This has been one of the most shameful chapters I’ve seen here,” he said, lamenting damage to the GOP for little gain. “We’re in a hole. We have to dig out. We weren’t going to defund Obamacare, and we weren’t going to keep the government shut down.”

About the only praise flowing toward Cruz on Wednesday pertained to his decision not to stand in the way of the deal Senate leaders hatched.

“At some point, when you’ve reached the end of the road, to then make life miserable for no reason, with absolutely no outcome in sight — then the pendulum swings,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Cruz maintained that he never had any intention of allowing default, though he hadn’t made that clear until he stepped in front of TV cameras, right at the same moment Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had taken to the Senate floor to unveil the eleventh-hour deal he’s struck with Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“There’s nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days. The outcome will be the same,” Cruz said, adding that “once again, it appears the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people.”

Cruz and his aides insisted the fight actually paid off. The flaws of Obamacare are now a topic of daily conversation in Washington and across the country, they argued.

 

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File:Capitol, Washington, D.C. USA3.jpg

Image Source  :  Wikimedia . Org
By  Poco a poco

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New York Post

WASHINGTON — Senate leaders announced last-minute agreement Wednesday to avert a threatened Treasury default and reopen the government after a partial, 16-day shutdown. Congress raced to pass the measure by day’s end.
The Dow Jones industrial average soared on the news that the threat of default was fading, flirting with a 200-point gain in morning trading.

“This is a time for reconciliation,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of the agreement he had forged with the GOP leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

McConnell said that with the accord, Republicans had sealed a deal to have spending in one area of the budget decline for two years in a row, adding, “we’re not going back.”

One prominent tea party lawmaker, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, said he would oppose the plan, but not seek to delay its passage.

That was a key concession that signaled a strong possibility that both houses could act by day’s end. That, in turn, would allow President Barack Obama to sign the bill into law ahead of the Thursday deadline that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew had set for action to raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit.

Officials said the proposal called for the Treasury to have authority to continue borrowing through Feb. 7, and the government would reopen through Jan. 15.

There was no official comment from the White House, although congressional officials said administration aides had been kept fully informed of the negotiations.

In political terms, the final agreement was almost entirely along lines Obama had set when the impasse began last month. Tea party conservatives had initially demanded the defunding of the health care law as the price for providing essential federal funding.

Under a strategy set by Obama and Reid, Democrats said they would not negotiate with Republicans in exchange for performing what the White House called basic functions of keeping the government in operation and preventing Treasury from defaulting on its obligations.

A long line of polls charted a steep decline in public approval for Republicans in the course of what Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., pronounced a “shameful episode” in the nation’s history.

While the emerging deal could well meet resistance from conservatives in the Republican-controlled House, the Democratic Leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, has signaled she will support the plan and her rank and file is expected to vote for it in overwhelming numbers.

Read More Here

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Will Boehner break the “Hastert Rule” today? The Hastert Rule explained

By | Get In Touch: @lynnsweet | lsweet@suntimes.com Sweet – October 16, 2013 9:19 am

WASHINGTON–In a 2003 speech, then Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Ill.) discussed his House management guidelines that became known as “The Hastert Rule.” The rule calls for a leader not to send legislation to the House floor for a vote unless it has the support of the majority of the majority. On Wednesday, with just hours left to raise the debt ceiling or risk default, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)–who has been holding fast to the Hastert Rule–has to decide whether to break it.

My column on the role the Hastert Rule played in the runup to the partial government shutdown–Wednesday is Day 16–is HERE. Read the 2003 Hastert speech HERE.

Excerpt: Here is the Hastert Rule background and math:

At present, there are 232 Republicans and 200 Democrats, with three vacancies. If the House Democrats stick together — and so far they have — they would just have to pick off a handful of House Republicans.

While there are not many moderate Republicans — and they are drowned out by their Tea Party colleagues — there are enough to get to 217 votes to pass a bill.

But if Boehner went that route, he would violate the informal “Hastert Rule,” which calls for any legislation first mustering the support of the majority of the majority. The reality is that any measure with provisions to win the backing of 116 House Republicans will not be supported by House Democrats.

Read More Here

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The Washington Post
Shutdown Live Updates

Boehner concedes ‘we just didn’t win’

In an interview on a local radio station, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) conceded that Republicans “didn’t win” the current budget debate.

“We’ve been locked into a fight over here, trying to bring government down to size, trying to do our best to stop Obamacare,” Boehner said. “We fought the good fight; we just didn’t win.”

Boehner also said he would “absolutely” allow a vote on the Senate plan even if a majority of House Republicans don’t support the bill.

“There’s no reason for our members to vote ‘no’ today,” Boehner told conservative radio host Bill Cunningham, adding that he expected the government to open again Thursday.

Listen to the  Interview Here

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McConnell’s primary foe bashes his ‘surrender’

Not surprising, but worth noting: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) primary opponent, businessman Matt Bevin, is out with a statement denouncing the deal McConnell helped craft

Here’s part of Bevin’s statement:

“McConnell just negotiated the GOP surrender to Harry Reid, leading the charge to give President Obama a blank check and lifting the debt ceiling once again without any spending reforms. Harry Reid has even praised McConnell for his ‘cooperation.’

“After falsely promising that he would fight to eliminate Obamacare ‘root and branch,’ Sen. McConnell has instead given us more spending, more borrowing, and the Obamacare train wreck with exceptions for liberal pet interests.”

Bevin’s primary challenge — which is likely to be well-funded thanks to Bevin’s personal wealth — has long hung over McConnell’s negotiations in the current budget debate. Expect Bevin to keep up this line of attack in the months ahead, as he seeks to be a formidable opponent to McConnell.

See  More  Updates Here

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Boehner urges House GOP to support Senate deal

 

Watch this video

Shutdown deal announced on Senate floor

 

By Tom Cohen, CNN

Washington (CNN) — Senate leaders on Wednesday announced a deal to end the partial government shutdown and avoid a possible U.S. default, and House Speaker John Boehner urged fellow Republicans to support it while a key GOP conservative said he wouldn’t try to block it in the Senate.

“We fought the good fight; we just didn’t win,” Boehner told a radio station in his home state of Ohio in reference to GOP efforts to dismantle or defund President Barack Obama’s signature health care reforms and extract deficit reduction concessions around the need to fund the government and raise the federal borrowing limit.

The Democratic-led Senate was expected to pass the agreement in a vote expected to take place by 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday night, followed within hours by a vote in the Republican-led House.

Both chambers will have to take special steps to get the legislation passed that quickly, raising concerns that tea party conservatives led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas would block or delay it in a final effort to include provisions intended to harm Obama’s signature health care reforms.

However, Cruz told reporters that he wouldn’t mount a filibuster or employ other procedural moves against the agreement. At the same time, he criticized his Senate colleagues for what he called their failure to listen to the American people and said the fight against Obamacare will continue.

National polls conducted since the start of the shutdown on October 1 indicate that while all sides are feeling the public’s anger over the partisan political impasse, Republicans are getting blamed more than than Democrats or Obama.

Boehner and other House Republican leaders told their caucus they would vote for the agreement at an afternoon meeting that participants said ended with a standing ovation for the embattled speaker.

“Blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us,” Boehner said in a statement. “Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president’s health care law will continue.”

News of the deal brought some relief to Wall Street as well as Washington, where the shutdown reached a 16th day with the government poised to lose its ability to borrow more money to pay bills after Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed the agreement he worked out with his GOP counterpart Mitch McConnell as “historic,” saying that “in the end, political adversaries put aside their differences.”

Obama praised Senate leaders for reaching a compromise, and urged Congress to act quickly, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

“As soon as possible is essentially the recommendation we have from here,” he said.

U.S. stocks rose on the news of an agreement, with the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average jumping more than 200 points on the day.

Short-term plan

Reid said the Senate deal under discussion would reopen the government by funding it until January 15. It also would raise the debt limit until February 7 to avert a possible default on U.S. debt obligations for the first time.

It includes a provision to provide back pay to furloughed federal workers, leadership and congressional sources told CNN.

In addition, the White House supports a provision in the deal that strengthens verification measures for people getting subsidies under Obamacare, spokesman Jay Carney said.

Carney called the change “a modest adjustment,” and said it didn’t amount to “ransom” for raising the federal debt ceiling because both sides agreed to it and the White House supported it.

The Senate agreement also would set up budget negotiations between the House and Senate for a long-term spending plan.

McConnell fired an opening salvo for those talks, expected to begin soon and continue until December, when he said any ensuing budget deal should adhere to spending caps set in a 2011 law that included forced cuts known as sequestration.

“Preserving this law is critically important to the future of our country,” McConnell said of the Budget Control Act, which resulted from the previous debt ceiling crisis in Washington.

The focus on an agreement shifted to the Senate after House Republicans failed on Tuesday to come up with a plan their majority could support, stymied again by demands from tea party conservatives for outcomes unacceptable to Obama and Senate Democrats, as well as some fellow Republicans.

Cruz, despite being in the Senate, is credited with spearheading the House Republican effort to attach amendments that would dismantle or defund the health care reforms known as Obamacare to previous proposals intended to end the shutdown.

All were rejected by the Democratic-led Senate, and Obama also pledged to veto them, meaning there was no chance they ever would have succeeded.

Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire called the House GOP tactic of tying Obamacare to the shutdown legislation “an ill-conceived strategy from the beginning, not a winning strategy.”

However, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa advocated continued brinksmanship to try to change Obamacare, which conservatives detest as a big-government overreach.

“If we’re not willing to take a stand now, then when will we take this stand?” he told CNN’s “New Day,” adding that if “the conservative Republican plan had been implemented five years ago, say at the inception of what is now the Obama presidency, we would have far less debt and deficit.”

Read More Here

 

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I have a better  question.  Why is any  member  of the  Government (  That  includes  the  President )  getting paid during  a government shutdown. There  is plenty  of blame to go around.  Not to mention owning up to their responsibilities.    Perhaps it is time they  all paid the  piper.  A bit  of hardship would change the way they  look at  things.  And  would go a long way  in  helping them understand  how  their petty  differences and partisanship  affects The People.   As it  stands they  have nothing to lose and they  still get  paid no matter how lousy a job  they do.  That  is unrealistic and quite unfair.  IMHO

 

~Desert Rose~

 

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KING5.com

 

 

Why is Congress getting paid during government shutdown?

Credit: Getty Images

Members of the House of Representatives leave the U.S. Capitol after passing a continuing resolution to fund the U.S. government that would also delay enrollment in the Affordable Care Act for one year September 30, 2013 in Washington, DC.

 

by TRAVIS PITTMAN / KING 5 News

Posted on October 1, 2013 at 8:37 AM

Updated today at 11:41 AM

 

 

 

The majority of blame for the U.S. Government shutdown is being put on the shoulders of Congress. However, members of the House of Representatives and the Senate will still be paid.

Their pay is protected by the 27th Amendment to the Constitution.

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened,” reads the amendment, which was passed in 1992.

USA Today reports that the point of the law was to prevent members of Congress from voting a pay raise for themselves. But, it also protects them from taking a pay cut.

 

Read More Here

 

CBS News

 

Blame game starts with no end in sight for government shutdown

By

Rebecca Kaplan /

 

 

Updated at 1:30 P.M.

 

“Government is closed, because of the irrationality of what is going on on the other side of the Capitol,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the floor of the Senate Tuesday morning. “They’d rather see the government shut down than do anything to protect the American people from the consequences of Obamacare,” countered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

 

With the parts of the federal government officially closed for business today – and no path out of the political gridlock in sight – lawmakers are trying to assign blame for the first government shutdown in 17 years.

 

President Obama in particular laid the blame on thick in an afternoon news conference where he said a small group of lawmakers were responsible for an ideologically-driven “Republican shutdown.”

 

“One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government shut down major parts of the government all because they didn’t like one law,” Mr. Obama said. “This Republican shut down did not have to happen, but I want every American to understand why it did happen. Republicans in the House of Representatives refused to fund the government unless we defunded or dismantled the Affordable Care Act. They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans. In other words, they demanded ransom just for doing their job.”

 

The House and Senate spent the better part of Monday and the early hours of Tuesday morning passing back and forth a short-term spending bill with no agreement. Even after midnight, when funding to keep the government open had run out, the House still voted to send the bill back to the Senate. That legislation, in addition to funding the government, also included an amendment to delay the individual mandate in Obamacare for one year and eliminate subsidies for Congressional staffers buying healthcare in the new exchanges. It also appointed eight Republican members to participate in a budget conference with the Senate, something Democrats in the upper chamber had been requesting for months to no avail.

 

Read More  and  Watch Video Here

 

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What makes the Republican position on Medicaid expansion truly sick

In their ideological vendetta against Obamacare, red states seem more willing to let low-income people die than get healthcare

US health insurance, Medicaid

Republican-controlled states argued before the supreme court that the ACA law’s expansion of Medicaid is unconstitutionally coercive. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you want to get a sense of the enfeebled and wanton state of the modern Republican party, there really is no better place to start than on the issue of Medicaid, the federal program that provides healthcare coverage for the poor.

In a desperate effort to undermine the law they hate, Obamacare, Republican governors and state legislatures in half the states have either rejected or intend to reject a key part of the president’s signature domestic initiative – namely, billions in federal dollars to extend Medicaid coverage to their poorest citizens. While Republicans argue they are acting out of highminded fiscal rectitude, the reality speaks to something else altogether – petulance and hyper-partisanship.

Accepting billions in federal dollars and expanding care to the uninsured would mean tacitly accepting the reality of Obamacare. And that is tantamount to treason in the Republican party. So, as a result, when the law goes into full effect next year, millions of Americans will be left on the outside looking in, denied coverage for no other reason than the misfortune of residing in a red state.

If we lived in a country where both major political parties shared a sense of social empathy, the Medicaid expansion piece of Obamacare would be among its least controversial provisions. Under the law, Medicaid coverage would become available for those living below 138% of the poverty line. The federal government would fully pick up the bill for the first few years of the law, and then eventually cover 90% of the costs.

But when the US supreme court upheld Obamacare last year, it overturned the provision of the bill that gave the federal government authority to penalize states that did not agree to expand Medicaid coverage. Though this decision gave states the right potentially to reject the expansion, few at the time thought this would be an issue. Ron Pollack, director of the consumer group Families USA, expressed the views of many:

“I think the states are going to pick this up. It would be an act of fiscal malpractice for states to turn this down.”

Considering the billions of Medicaid dollars that would be pumped into state coffers, it was hard to disagree. But what liberals had not fully countenanced was the continued refusal of Republicans to come to grips with Obamacare.

Indeed, a year after the supreme court ruled on the legality of the law, congressional Republicans are continuing their futile struggle to scrap it. Earlier this month, House Republicans voted for the 37th time to repeal Obamacare. Beyond such peevish symbolic gestures congressional Republicans are trying to put as many roadblocks as possible in front of the healthcare law’s rollout. They refuse to consider any technical corrections to the bill in order to assist with its implementation.

Prominent Republicans, such as Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, claim the bill is simply too broken to be fixed and repeal is the only option. But the unlikely possibility of repeal is a figleaf for the GOP’s real interest: sabotaging the bill in order to gain a political advantage in the 2014 midterm elections. The more Obamacare is seen as a disaster, the better chance of voters punishing Democrats at the polls, or so the political argument goes.

The problem is that this obstructionism is having real and enduing consequences. According to a survey maintained by the Kaiser Foundation (pdf), fewer than half the states have agreed to fully partake in the Medicaid expansion, with 20 not moving forward at this time.

What do all these states have in common? Either a Republican governor or a legislature controlled by Republicans. In some states, even the support of a GOP governor has not been enough to bring along recalcitrant legislators. In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer – no friend of the Obama administration – is locked in a heated battle with her state legislature over the issue and has threatened to veto every bill that comes to her desk until the Medicaid issue is resolved.

Read Full article Here

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Reverse LePage: Conservative Arizona governor threatens to veto all bills if lawmakers don’t OK Medicaid expansion

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, shown here greeting delegates Aug. 28, 2012, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., is one of several Republican governors pushing state legislators to approve Medicaid expansion allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Brian Cassella | MCT
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, shown here greeting delegates Aug. 28, 2012, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., is one of several Republican governors pushing state legislators to approve Medicaid expansion allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Posted June 02, 2013, at 9:52 p.m.

Republican fissures over the expansion of Medicaid, a critical piece of the 2010 health-care law designed to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, continue to deepen, with battles in Arizona and elsewhere showing just how bitter the divisions have become.

Despite expressing distaste for the new law, some GOP governors have endorsed an expansion of Medicaid, and three — Jan Brewer of Arizona, John Kasich of Ohio and Rick Snyder of Michigan — are trying to persuade their Republican-controlled legislatures to go along. The governors are unwilling to turn down Washington’s offer to spend millions, if not billions, in their states to add people to the state-federal program for the poor. But they face staunch opposition from many GOP legislators who oppose the health-care law and worry that their states will be stuck with the cost of adding Medicaid recipients.

In one of the most explosive of the internal Republican battles, Brewer, a firebrand tea party favorite who once famously wagged her finger at President Barack Obama, has declared a “moratorium” on all other legislation until her Medicaid plan, which would add 300,000 Arizonans to the program, is approved. She has backed up her threat by vetoing five unrelated bills.

In Ohio and Michigan, the governors are pressing for last-minute compromises before their legislatures adjourn this summer. In Florida, the legislature, which has adjourned, rejected Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to expand Medicaid.

These conflicts over the health-care law illustrate a larger divide within the Republican Party over an array of issues, including immigration and automatic budget cuts.

The Medicaid expansion is one of the two main ways the health-care law would provide coverage to the uninsured. The other is through health insurance exchanges, which will sell policies to individuals whose incomes are too high for Medicaid; many of those people will receive subsidies to buy the health plans.

Medicaid eligibility varies from state and to state and depends on income and other factors. The health-care law, in an effort to make eligibility uniform, mandated that anyone earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, or $15,856 in 2013 dollars, be eligible for the program. But last June, the Supreme Court, while upholding most of the health-care law, ruled that states could refuse to expand their Medicaid programs. That set the stage for bitter debates — ones ruled as much by ideology and politics as by financial realities — that have been occurring in state capitals nationwide.

Under the law, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of newly eligible Medicaid recipients for the first three years, beginning in January. After that, the federal contribution will taper, leveling off at 90 percent for 2020 and beyond.

Twenty-three states and the District have agreed to the Medicaid expansion. Nineteen states have decided against the expansion and eight are debating it, according to Avalere Health, a consulting firm. States that decline to expand Medicaid now could still sign up in later years.

The debate over Medicaid has been emotional and vitriolic in many states. In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry, R, was heckled during a recent speech for opposing an expansion. In Montana, chaos erupted after a lawmaker accidentally voted against expanding the program, causing the measure to fail. Pro-Medicaid advocates in some states, frustrated by inaction from their elected leaders, are working to put the matter to voters in the form of ballot initiatives.

The hostility is evident in Arizona, where authorities are investigating a threatening phone call and emails directed at lawmakers who support expanding the program. Opponents of the expansion have condemned the alleged threats.

Read Full Article Here

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Democrats’ New Argument: It’s A Good Thing That Obamacare Doubles Individual Health Insurance Premiums

Bridge across North Lake, Woodbridge, Irvine, ...

Irvine, California, where health insurance premiums for the average 25-year-old who purchases insurance for himself will nearly double under Obamacare. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, it’s been an interesting week in health care land. For a while now, independent analysts—and conservative critics—have raised concerns that Obamacare will dramatically increase the cost of individually-purchased health insurance for healthier people. This would, of course, contradict President Obama’s promises that “if you like your plan, you can keep it” and that the cost of insurance would go down “by $2,500 per family per year.” What’s new is that liberal columnists, facing reality, are conceding that premiums will go up for most people in the individual market. But they’re justifying it by saying that “rate shock” will help a tiny minority of people who can’t get insurance today. If they had said that in 2009, would Obamacare have passed?

Last month, progressive pundits were trumpeting news out of California that the cost of health insurance under Obamacare in that state was surprisingly low. “Well, the California bids are in,” wrote Paul Krugman on May 27. “And the prices, it turns out, are surprisingly low…So yes, it does look as if there’s an Obamacare shock coming,” the shock that Obamacare will work just fine.

It turns out, however, that Krugman was uncritically regurgitating California’s misleading press release. In fact, the average 25 and 40-year-old will pay double under Obamacare what they would need to pay today, based on rates posted at eHealthInsurance.com (NASDAQ:EHTH). More specifically, for the typical 25-year-old male non-smoker, the average Obamacare “bronze” exchange plan in California will cost between 64 and 117 percent more than the cheapest five plans on eHealth. For 40-year-old male non-smokers, it’s between 73 and 146 percent more.

Democrats now: It’s ok if premiums double for average people

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, in response to my article on this topic, checked out the eHealth rates for plans in his hometown of Irvine, California, and compared them to a similar website sponsored by the government at healthcare.gov. He found that the third-cheapest plan there cost only $109 a month, “if they’ll sell it to you for that price.” According to the government, Ezra notes, 14 percent of people who tried to buy that plan—Health Net’s IPF PPO Value 4500—were turned away. Another 12 percent were asked to pay more than $109.

To Ezra, it’s galling that three-fourths of his compatriots can pay $109 for health insurance, because 12 percent were not eligible for the plan, and another 14 percent had to pay somewhat more. This is why Obamacare is a great achievement, he says, because Health Net will have to serve all comers, regardless of prior health status.

And I appreciate Ezra’s perspective. I, too, am a supporter of universal coverage, so I understand Ezra’s passion for providing health insurance to the sick. But what we didn’t know last week—and we do now—is how much more the healthy will have to pay for that insurance, under Obamacare. In Orange County, where Irvine is located, the three-fourths of the 25-year-old population that is in good health will have their premiums jacked by 95 percent.

And that’s for Obamacare’s “catastrophic” coverage; the more comprehensive “bronze” plan increases premiums by 130 percent. For the fraction—one-eighth of the total—who, under the old system, would have been charged more, the premium increase due to Obamacare will be somewhat less.

And the vast majority of those who were turned away are able to find insurance—albeit at a higher price—elsewhere. Based on enrollment in Obamacare’s high-risk pool program, the number of people in America who are truly uninsurable is closer to 150,000. That’s a pretty small number in a nation of 300 million. Previous estimates of the uninsurable population came in around 2 to 4 million people, but it’s likely that for many of these individuals, the principal problem is not that they’re denied coverage, but that the premiums are high.

Experts in the economics of health insurance understand that this has been Obamacare’s central flaw from the beginning. The law’s heavy-handed approach to the health insurance market massively drives up premiums for the average person.

Ezra makes another accurate point that is important to emphasize: these increased premiums affect people who shop for insurance on their own. If you get insurance through your employer, especially if your employer is large, you should be significantly less affected. But an increasing number of people shop for insurance on their own, because fewer and fewer employers are sponsoring health coverage. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 2022, around 25 million people will be purchasing coverage for themselves, and another 25 million will be enrolled on the exchanges. That’s a lot of people. And it doesn’t include the 30 million that will remain uninsured.

Universal coverage, done right, can address these problems in a way that makes insurance affordable for everyone. But Obamacare’s sops to special interests—from the various services all plans are required to cover, to the fact that the law forces young people to pay more to subsidize well-established older people—is not the right way, because it makes insurance too costly.

Democrats then: Rate shock is a right-wing myth

The key thing to remember is that back when Obamacare was being debated in Congress, Democrats claimed that it was right-wing nonsense that premiums would go up under Obamacare. “What we know for sure,” Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber told Ezra Klein in 2009, “is that [the bill] will lower the cost of buying non-group health insurance.” For sure.

In 2009, was Ezra saying that it’s ok that premiums will double for the average person, because a minority of people will pre-existing conditions will benefit? No.

Earlier that year, AHIP, the private insurer trade group, commissioned a report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers to analyze the impact of Obamacare on health insurance premiums in the individual market. That report, which I reviewed here and elsewhere, found that the version of Obamacare then being considered by the Senate Finance Committee would increase premiums by 14 to 32 percent, depending on the year you looked at. In retrospect, the PwC report was a bit optimistic.

But Ezra described the PwC analysis as “the insurance industry’s deceptive report,” comparing it to sham research put out by the tobacco industry and Big Oil. Ezra did concede at the time that “buying better insurance will cost somewhat more,” because insurers would no longer be able “to sell a deceptive and insufficient product.”

But high-deductible, catastrophic insurance isn’t cheaper because it’s dishonest. It’s cheaper because it’s more efficiently designed. And it’s precisely that sort of efficiently-designed insurance that Obamacare abolishes.

Businesses in competitive markets can’t survive by cheating

This idea that high-deductible insurance, freely purchased in a voluntary exchange, is a “dishonest” product is an article of faith in some quarters. My good friend and Forbes colleague Rick Ungar recently dedicated an entire blog post to the subject. The numbers that come out of eHealthInsurance.com, Rick says, are lies. What data does Rick cite to prove this? He doesn’t cite any actual numbers. Instead, he cites…anonymous reviews on the internet.

Rick went to epinions.com, and pulled out quotations from people who were unhappy with eHealth’s customer service. And eHealth should certainly do what it can to address customer’s complaints. (The company, however, isn’t directly responsible for the customer service of the insurers whose products it sells.) Remember that, unlike with Obamacare, eHealth is a private business. No one is forced to use their services. Those who do have a bad experience on eHealth can go elsewhere, like healthcare.gov. eHealth, unlike the government, has an economic incentive to make its customers happy. Indeed, the default setting at eHealth is to sort the listed plans by customer popularity.

Read Full Article Here

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GOP lawmakers battle GOP governors over Obamacare

WASHINGTON (AP) – It’s Republican vs. Republican in the latest round of political battles over health care.

Conservative Republican legislators in major states are trying to block efforts by more pragmatic governors of their own party to accept health insurance for more low-income residents under President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Unlike their congressional counterparts, who’ve misfired in repeated attempts to torpedo the law, state Republicans may well sink the expansion of Medicaid in populous states such as Florida and Michigan.

That would mean leaving billions of dollars in federal matching funds on the table and hundreds of thousands of the poor uninsured. Expansion opponents say it’s an issue that goes to their core beliefs.

“It’s an ideological principle piece to us on the conservative side,” said state Rep. David Gowan, majority leader in the Arizona House of Representatives. “We don’t believe in the expansion of Medicaid itself – it’s within the process of mandating health care. We don’t believe it’s the government’s duty to do that. It should be open for people to go get their health care.”

Nine Republican governors supported or accepted the Medicaid expansion, a major component of the health care law taking effect Jan. 1. It’s designed to provide coverage to about 20 million uninsured people if all states accept. Washington would pick up the full cost for the first three years and 90 percent over the long haul.

Those helped would mainly be low-income adults with no children at home, people working jobs that pay little and don’t come with health insurance. For uninsured adults below the poverty line, expanded Medicaid is the only way to get coverage under the new law. But middle-class people will be eligible for subsidized private insurance.

Overall, 23 states plus the District of Columbia, are planning to expand their Medicaid programs. About a dozen are undecided.

The nine GOP governors supporting expansion are Jan Brewer in Arizona, Rick Scott in Florida, Terry Branstad in Iowa, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Brian Sandoval in Nevada, Chris Christie in New Jersey, Susana Martinez in New Mexico, Jack Dalrymple in North Dakota and John Kasich in Ohio.

Initially, some observers saw a shift toward pragmatism among Republicans and predicted the governors would get their way. Now experts are not so sure.

Four of the GOP governors have run into real battles. Expansion prospects are flickering in Florida and Michigan. In Ohio, Kasich’s legendary deal-making abilities are being tested. In Arizona, Brewer is trying to stare down Republicans in the state House, and the coming week may determine who prevails.

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Bridenstine on Repealing Obamacare

RepJimBridenstine RepJimBridenstine

Published on May 14, 2013

Rep. Jim Bridenstine speaks on the House floor concerning the repeal of Obamacare.

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Obama calls IRS flap ‘inexcusable,’ announces resignation of acting IRS chief

 

 photo ObamacallsIRSflapinexcusableannouncesresignationofactingIRSchief_zps7151de08.jpg

NBC’s Chuck Todd examines the White House’s attempt to take control of the IRS scandal, saying if the public thinks the government has lost control on the IRS front, then the Obama administration will have more difficulty in implementing new policies.

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he was “angry” at IRS officials who inappropriately targeted conservative groups for scrutiny, announcing that his administration had sought and accepted Steven Miller’s resignation as interim commissioner of the IRS.

“I’ve reviewed the Treasury Department watchdog’s report, and the misconduct that it uncovered was inexcusable,” Obama said in a statement at the White House. “It’s inexcusable, and Americans are right to be angry about it, and I’m angry about it.”

The president said that he expected the IRS to act with even higher levels of integrity than other government agencies and that, to that end, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had sought and accepted Miller’s resignation — something many Republicans had demanded.

A great deal of what IRS has said regarding the targeting scandal was proven to be incomplete or flat out wrong prompting genuine outrage among both Democrats and Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner is now asking who is going to go to jail over this as the IRS continues to blame targeting of conservatives on a few rogue employees. Now Attorney General Holder has promised an investigation to see if IRS employees broke the law. NBC’s Lisa Myers reports.

Obama also pledged to work with Congress in its emerging investigation into the controversy, pledging his administration would work “hand in hand with Congress” to further its oversight. But the president also cautioned lawmakers to conduct their probe “in a way that doesn’t smack of politics or partisan agendas.”

“If the President is as concerned about this issue as he claims, he’ll work openly and transparently with Congress to get to the bottom of the scandal — no stonewalling, no half-answers, no withholding of witnesses,” the top Republican senator, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, said in a statement.

 

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President Obama said Friday that even though the $85 billion in federal spending cuts are “going to hurt,” the country will get through it. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

By Carrie Dann, Political Reporter, NBC News
Obama: Sequester ‘not going to be an apocalypse’
March
1

Lamenting the idea that only a “Jedi mind meld” could prod the GOP into compromise, President Barack Obama said Friday that the “dumb” automatic across-the-board cuts taking effect Friday are the fault of Republican resistance to a reasonable deal to avert the sequestration’s budget reductions.

“I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that’s been floating around Washington,” Obama told reporters after meeting with congressional leaders. “Even though most people agree that I’m being reasonable, that most people agree that I am presenting a fair deal —  the fact that [Republicans] don’t take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what’s right,” he said.

Obama spoke hours before signing an order officially enacting the cuts, which take effect at midnight Friday.

Asked why leaders did not negotiate more vigorously to get a deal before sequestration deadline day, Obama said that his ability to negotiate is limited by Congress’s unwillingness.

“I’m not a dictator,” he said. “I’m the president. So ultimately if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say ‘I need to go to catch a plane,’ I can’t have Secret Service block the doorway, right?”

Obama acknowledged that the sequester’s effects will be painful but predicted that the cuts will be manageable by a resilient American people.

 

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As Obama signs the order, sequester is enacted

By Carrie Dann, Staff Writer, NBC News

It’s official.

Late Friday evening, President Barack Obama signed an order – as required by the “sequester” legislation – to enact broad cuts to federal spending, according to a White House release.

Those cuts will now officially go into effect at midnight Friday.

The low-key statement, unaccompanied even by a White House-authorized photo of the signing, comes after weeks of finger-pointing with little urgency from Democrats or Republicans to avert the cuts.

In the week leading up to Friday’s deadline, Obama administration had warned of the consequences of the sequester, with Cabinet officials taking to the airwaves and the president hitting the road to highlight the measure’s effect on jobs, education, and even delays for air travelers.

On Friday, Obama acknowledged that while the cuts will be “painful,” they won’t be completely catastrophic.

“We will get through this,” he said. “This is not going to be an apocalypse, I think, as some people have said. It’s just dumb. And it’s going to hurt.”

By Alexander Bolton

 

The bill was approved in an 89-8 vote that came after only 10 minutes of formal floor debate and no official score from the Congressional Budget Office. The Joint Committe on Taxation estimated it would reduce federal revenue by $3.93T over the next decade compared to current law.

Five Republicans and three Democrats voted against the bill: Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Tom Carper (D-Dela.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) missed the vote.

A ninety-minute meeting of Senate Democrats ending shortly before midnight sealed the deal negotiated between Vice President Biden and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

It would permanently extend the Bush-era income tax rates on individual income up to $400,000 and family income up to $450,000. It permanently sets the estate tax rate at 40 percent, up from 35 percent, and exempts inheritances below $5 million.

It postpones the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester for two months and offsets the $24 billion cost of the delay with a mix of spending cuts and new revenues. It extends unemployment benefits for one year without offsetting their impact on the deficit, preventing 2 million people from losing government assistance.

It also would prevent a hike in congressional pay that authorized by an executive order from President Obama raising federal worker pay.

Biden made a late-night visit to Capitol Hill to convince Democrats to back the agreement but did not need to do much arm-twisting.

“I am feeling very, very good. I think we’ll get a very good vote tonight,’ Biden said, leaving the meeting with Democrats.

Senate approval sends the bill to the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the House will review the Senate bill.

The House Rules Committee has already waived the requirement of a three-day review period, setting the stage for a New Year’s Day vote.

“The House will honor its commitment to consider the Senate agreement if it is passed,” Boehner said. “Decisions about whether the House will seek to accept or promptly amend the measure will not be made until House members —and the American people — have been able to review the legislation.”

Yet the bill would appear to be a hard sell with House Republicans, many of whom objected to an earlier bill sought by Boehner that extended tax rates on annual income under $1 million as a tax hike.

The Senate bill also includes few spending cuts, which House Republicans have repeatedly demanded.

“I don’t see any balance yet, that’s the fundamental problem,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told The Hill. “If you don’t cut spending, there’s no way you’re going to pick up Republican votes.”

Heritage Action for American, a conservative advocacy group, urged lawmakers to oppose the deal.

“To be clear, this is a tax increase.  In 2013, the top marginal rate, death tax, and taxes on long-term capital gains and dividends will all be higher than in 2012.  Comparing tax rates to hypothetical rates that have hardly any support is nothing more than misleading Washington spin,” the group declared in a statement.

Liberal groups and labor unions have begun to line up against the deal, as well. They complained the White House and Democrats were giving up too much, particularly after Obama campaigned on a pledge to raise tax rates on households with annual income above $250,000.

 

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Deal to avert fiscal cliff appears within reach

Updated at 9:46 p.m. — An agreement in principle to avert broad tax increases and spending cuts appeared imminent Monday night.

A senior Democratic source told NBC News that an accord had been reached. A senior GOP source said it “looks good” and that the outcome in the Senate would be clearer after Vice President Joe Biden conferred with Senate Democrats. Biden arrived at the Capitol to meet with Democratic senators Monday night.

Although a Senate vote later Monday night was possible, it’s not clear how an accord would fare in the House.

The interim New Year’s Eve tax deal negotiated by Biden and Senate Republican Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky would raise income taxes on single earners with annual incomes above $400,000 and married couples with incomes above $450,000.

MSNBC’s Milissa Rehberger talks with contributor Ezra Klein and outlines the potential Senate deal that avert the Fiscal Cliff.

As of mid-afternoon Monday, the sticking point involved the “sequester,” the cuts to spending – about $100 billion to start in 2013 — that were mandated by the Budget Control Act which President Barack Obama signed into law last year. Republicans have signaled they might let the sequester take effect unless it was offset by other spending cuts; the GOP has also said it might accept a delay, but only for a few months.

The Obama administration, however, is pushing for a longer delay in implementing the sequester. Otherwise, the president said, replacing those automatic cuts must be “balanced” — shorthand for a combination of new taxes and other spending cuts.

Obama tried to push talks over the finish line earlier in the afternoon with a statement from the White House.

“Today, it appears that an agreement to prevent this New Year’s tax hike is within sight,” the president said at the White House. “But it’s not done.”

In the absence of a broader agreement to resolve the sequester, McConnell appeared in the Senate floor to request a vote only on the tax element of the fiscal cliff.

“Let’s pass the tax relief portion now,” he said. “Let’s take what’s been agreed to and keep moving.”

Read Full Article and Watch Video Here

By Alexander Bolton – 12/31/12 08:51 PM ET

Democratic opposition to a fiscal cliff deal negotiated between Vice President Biden and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is holding up a deal to extend tax rates and postpone spending cuts.

Biden will meet with the Senate Democratic caucus at 9:15, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office announced. The meetings comes after labor leaders, progressive groups and some Democrats have criticized the tax deal Biden negotiated.

Senate Democrats say they will not sign off on the deal because of details related to the extension of the estate tax. Biden and McConnell agreed to set the estate tax at 40 percent and exempt inheritances below $5 million.

But Senate Democrats do not want to index the estate-tax exemption to inflation, even though Republicans say Biden already agreed to the indexing.

“That’s never going to happen,” a senior Senate Democratic aide said of the Republican demand to raise the inheritance tax exemption to keep pace with inflation. The aide denied that Biden had ever agreed to indexing the level.

But Democrats are divided on the issue. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said he supports pegging the estate tax exemption to inflation.

Republican aides familiar with the talks say Biden signed off on the deal early Monday morning in order to prevent tax hikes from hitting the middle class. With no action, most households would see their taxes rise and the estate tax would jump to 55 percent for inheritances over $1 million.

“Biden signed off on all of it last night,” said a GOP official.

A senior Democratic aide, however, countered, “that’s not true.”

President Obama in comments Monday afternoon also appeared to suggest the deal between McConnell and Biden would hold, saying the sides were close to an agreement though it was “not done yet.”

Republicans say Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has raised various last-minute objections to the deal. They say the first one came at 6 a.m. Monday when Reid balked at language relating to the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.

The Senate went into recess subject to the call of the chair after 8 p.m. on Monday, leaving it unclear whether there would be a deal or votes in the upper chamber before midnight, when tax rates are set to expire.

A Senate Democratic aide insisted Reid has not yet signed off on what Biden negotiated.

It even appeared that Reid was not fully aware Biden and McConnell had begun substantive negotiations on Sunday as one Senate Democratic aide expressed doubt at the time that the talks were actually taking place.

 

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