Chris Hayes thinks that Republicans are admitting by their behavior that they are in trouble over Obamacare. The tell is sometimes word salad, or at best changing the subject when you ask them for details about repealing Obamacare, especially repealing successful Medicaid expansions and taking health care away from hundreds of thousands of people who had been without it for years. Some simply refuse to answer at all.
Hayes, Steve Kornacki (sitting in for Rachel Maddow), and Alex Wagner (sitting in for Lawrence O'Donnell) of MSNBC all had segments in the last two days on Republican problems now that the ACA is clearly a success.
Nobody should think, however, that any of that will stop the doubling down by many others any time soon. Mitch McConnell, for example, is still running furiously against Obamacare in Kentucky, both the KYNexct exchange and Medicaid expansion.
We don't have a hearing date for Sylvia Burwell to replace Kathleen Sebelius at HHS, but we already have plenty of bloviation and demagoguery to report.
The big number for ACA signups extensions is due out from HHS tomorrow, covering extensions up to yesterday. Except that it won't be the final number. For example, Hawaii extended its extension to April 30. Also Hawaii apparently has the heartbleed security hole in its Exchange Web site. And DC and Minnesota extended their deadlines, too.
Today's Diary is already huge, so I don't plan on any updates.
ACA News and Numbers
Sylvia Burwell Hearing
Burwell will appear before the Senate Finance Committee after it returns from the current two-week Easter recess. That would mean early in May. The committee does not have her on its published schedule yet. She will also testify at the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
Cue the crazy. There is far too much for me to unpack it all. Anybody who feels like diarying this nonsense in more detail is welcome.
Washington Times: HHS nominee Burwell faces tight scrutiny
Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican and member of the Senate Finance Committee that will vet Mrs. Burwell, said he wants to know whether HHS will put Americans first, or if it considers "the administration's policies and trying to carry the water for the president as their primary responsibility."Marc Thiessen, Washington Post: Let HHS nominee Sylvia Burwell explain Obamacare lie
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican and outspoken Obamacare critic, said the law is not actuarially sound, so they needed a budget guru "to kind of spin the numbers."
"And this is something, with Burwell coming from OMB, I think they're expecting her to be able to do for them," she told CBS's Face the Nation.
You know, the "If you like your doctor" claim that Republicans and insurance companies worked so hard to sabotage. Because OMB, which Burwell led, is supposed to fact-check the President, according to Thiessen.
Haberkorn, Politico: Sebelius resigns as HHS secretary
"Secretary Sebelius may be gone, but the problems with this law and the impact it's having on our constituents aren't," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. "Obamacare has to go too."Cleveland [Ohio] Plain Dealer: Sylvia Burwell lugs her baggage to the Hill, where the grilling should go on long after Cliven Bundy's cows come home: Kevin O'Brien
The American Spectator: Meet Sylvia Burwell, The Titanic’s New Captain
Because Burwell ordered national monuments shut down when Republicans ordered the entire government to shut down, and because Obamacare is the
disastrous beast under which our entire health care system and 1/6 of our nation's economy is forever fundamentally transformedDoes anybody remember the Starve the Beast Dog Whistle for cutting programs for the poor, minorities, women, the young, the old…?
Anyway, who says Palin and the Breitbart lying machine can't make stuff up?
Lawmakers should use Burwell's confirmation hearings to "figure out first and foremost who actually has benefited from the so-called success of Obamacare and its rollout," Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday."Politico: Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s hurdles
The Obama administration is "going to have to have somebody to kind of spin the numbers," [Marsha] Blackburn said. "And this is something, with Burwell coming from OMB, I think they're expecting her to be able to do for them."
“The challenge for Ms. Burwell, or any other successor, is to help Congress find the right way to repair the damage Obamacare has done to American families,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.CBS News: 3 big Obamacare challenges for Sylvia Mathews Burwell
"Secretary Sebelius oversaw a disastrous rollout of ObamaCare, but anyone can see that there are more problems on the way," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. "The next HHS Secretary will inherit a mess--Americans facing rising costs, families losing their doctors, and an economy weighed down by intrusive regulations. No matter who is in charge of HHS, ObamaCare will continue to be a disaster and will continue to hurt hardworking Americans."But John McCain tweeted
Sylvia Burwell is an excellent choice to be the next #HHS Secretary.Sen. John Thune's Senate Web site: Alexander, Thune, Hatch, 22 GOP Colleagues Call on Administration to Immediately Rescind Rule Giving Unions a Carveout from Obamacare
Senators say they will consider options such as the Congressional Review Act to prevent the rule from taking effectWall Street Journal: Advice and ObamaCare Consent
Non-stop sneering. This is only a tiny taste.
Ostensibly positive developments—7.5 million enrollees!—can be produced seemingly on demand, while HHS feigns bewilderment when challenged with more substantive questions. This information blackout seems to be deliberately political.Washington Monthly: Burwell’s Confirmation Will Be a Boring Circus
Commenting on the Wall Street Journal nonsense above, Martin Longman says,
In other words, the GOP should make unreasonable document requests and then raise bloody hell when they don’t get everything they asked for.Longman says
Her hearing will be held by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, which is chaired by the retiring Democrat, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa. A look at the Republican membership shows that the Journal may be in for something of a disappointment. The Republicans are led by Ranking Member Lamar Alexander, who is probably the closest thing to courteous the Republicans have in the Senate. Other mild-mannered senators like Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, and Tim Scott of South Carolina are not known for lighting up a room with their heated rhetoric. Moderates Mark Kirk of Illinois and Lisa Murkowski aren’t going to stir any wingnut hearts. And, while Orrin Hatch of Utah and Pat Roberts of Kansas can both be downright nasty when they want to be, they can’t come close to the fiery rhetoric of Ted Cruz. The best bet for fireworks is Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. He’s the only member of the committee who is likely to be a presidential candidate and he will want to make a mark.Political Ticker: Senate Democrats upbeat about confirming Burwell
Senate Finance Committee
Here are the Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee, in their own words. Not all of them have weighed in publicly on Burwell, but all have let their crazy flow on Obamacare.
Orrin Hatch, Ranking Member:
On the one hand, he claims, on the committee Web site,
This is “America’s Priorities” Committee. Orrin Hatch is fighting to lower taxes, strengthen Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and open markets to American products.and on the other
The President’s signature domestic policy achievement is an unmitigated disaster. This deeply flawed law has hurt millions of hard-working American families, job creators, and seniors in the form of rising premiums, higher taxes and fewer choices. Ms. Burwell has been nominated to one of the most challenging roles in our government and must outline how she will right the wrongs of this misguided law. I look forward to a frank discussion on this front and working with my colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee to move forward with a fair and thorough vetting process.Chuck Grassley, Iowa
Anybody put in charge of Obamacare would be set up to fail. Secretary Sebelius was asked to promote something unready, poorly structured, and unpopular…The next secretary might have a fresh start with the public and Congress but the flawed law is still the law.Mike Crapo, Idaho
Before the enactment of Obamacare, I was deeply concerned about the damage this legislation would inflict upon family incomes, jobs, and health care prices. Since passage, I have been committed to delaying, defunding and repealing this damaging law.Pat Roberts, Kansas, gets cheers from the National Right to Life Council.
Senator Pat Roberts (R-Ks) today introduced the “Repeal Rationing in Support of Life Act,” which targets the four key rationing components of Obamacare identified in a March 6, 2014, report by the National Right to Life Committee’s Powell Center for Medical Ethics.The New York Times reports that Kathleen Sebelius is thinking of running against Roberts. He also faces a Tea Party primary challenger, Milton Wolf.
Mike Enzi, Wyoming
Did the Administration consider eliminating ineffective and duplicative pre-school programs before proposing a massive new one?John Cornyn, Texas
Spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs is expected to double over the next 10 years. This is not sustainable. Has the Administration any idea how to actually make the programs sustainable or any desire to?
These are questions U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. asked Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director of the Office of Management and Budget about the Administration’s FY2015 budget request.
John Thune, South Dakota
Another leader in slamming Burwell at OMB on the supposed union carveout from Obamacare referenced above.
Unfortunately for the American people, Secretary Sebelius’ resignation will do nothing to protect them from ObamaCare’s canceled coverage, skyrocketing costs, and fewer choices. ObamaCare is fundamentally flawed and a personnel change at HHS won’t change that ugly reality. The only way to protect American families, workers, and small businesses from ObamaCare’s consequences is to scrap this law and start over with common-sense reforms that actually reduce health care costs.Richard Burr, North Carolina
Defunding and repealing Obamacare is smart, and is a worthy objective. Unfortunately, the "strategy" of shutting down the government to achieve that goal is not smart, nor will it help us achieve our shared objective.That makes him a Moderate, a RINO even.
To be clear, I believe the law is a disaster for the American people. It is putting a wet blanket on job creation, squeezing more of Americans' hard-earned take-home pay, increasing health care costs, and decreasing access to quality healthcare. That is exactly why I fought against passage of the bill and have repeatedly supported efforts and legislation to defund and repeal Obamacare in its entirety.
Johnny Isakson, Georgia
In her current position, Burwell recently prevented Georgia’s number one economic development project – the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project – from moving forward. She ought to prepare for some tough questions I’ll be asking on behalf of Georgians during the confirmation process in the Senate Finance Committee.Rob Portman, Ohio
President Obama’s big government health care bill was supposed to bend the cost curve down. Instead, the average Ohio individual premium payer is out nearly an extra $100 a month. That’s money that could be going toward retirement, groceries, and their children’s higher education; instead it’s going to cover President Obama’s costly mandates.He should have gotten an earful. Does anybody know?
Please share your Obamacare story with me by taking a few minutes to fill out the form below.
Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania
I proposed a way to fund the government and to repeal some of the most egregious parts of this terrible law. Acknowledging that Senator Reid has the votes to strip the bill of its Obamacare defunding language, I sought to offer three modest amendments to the Senate bill. The first would repeal the medical device tax that is costing Pennsylvania jobs; the second would provide relief from the infringement on religious liberty in Obamacare; the third would delay the individual mandate for 1 year.MSNBC Socks It to Them Again
All In with Chris Hayes: The Obamacare Wars
Hayes calls out the tell among Republican politicians fiercely demanding repeal of Obamacare, but refusing to talk about rolling back Medicaid in their states. That means that many of them know they can't actually threaten the health care recently granted to hundreds of thousands of poor people in their states. Therefore, he concludes, the question about whether they would repeal the Medicaid expansion is their "soft underbelly".
There is no surer tell in electoral politics, no better indication a politician is fearful and anxious, and on treacherous terrain, than when he or she refuses to answer a yes or no question about whether they support a matter of major public policy. And that is particularly true when it comes to Republicans and Obamacare, because on that subject, as you well know, they do not mince words.Consider Rep. Tom Cotton, R-AR4, running for Senator from Arkansas against Democrat Mark Pryor, who has moved ahead in the polls recently.
Obamacare really is the symbol for the excesses of big government Liberalism.When asked what he would do about the Medicaid expansion in Arkansas, he replied,
We would repeal Obamacare and replace it entirely with many reforms for our health care program…We want every Arkansan, we want every American, to have quality, affordable access to health care.But he can't name one reform to put in his Affordable Care But Not At All the Obama Affordable Care Act.
In the Washington Post Plum Line blog, Greg Sargent noted more non-answers.
Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, of whom more below:
Terri believes that healthcare should be affordable and accessible to all Americans and that we as a society have a moral obligation to help those who are not as fortunate and their children. Terri applauds Governor Snyder for doing what he believes is best for Michigan families, while complying with mandates from Congress brought down in ObamaCare.Chris called that word salad.
Out of control government spending is killing jobs and has put the federal government more than $17 trillion in debt. Now, Congress is making big promises to the most vulnerable among us. We’ve already heard the President and Members in Congress break the promise that if you like your healthcare, you could keep it.
As a mom, business owner and public servant, Terri knows that ObamaCare does not work, and she supports health care reform that truly makes coverage affordable and accessible — that doesn’t kick people off their plan, force them to switch doctors, or increase their premiums.
Speaker of the House Thom Tillis vs. Kay Hagan in North Carolina
North Carolina GOP Senate candidate Thom Tillis wants to replace Obamacare with something, but won't say what, and when speaking generally about the issue, he says that of course he wants "some sort of safety net for preexisting conditions."That means the very expensive high-risk pools that we just got rid of. Because it's OK if you pay for your health care, even if you can't afford to. Just don't ask any heartless Republican to contribute a dime to save your life.
I think there’s a lot of things we can do if we focus on a systematic approach to eliminating the bad, and the majority of the stuff that is in Obamacare is bad, because it’s not fiscally sustainable. It’s a great idea that can’t be paid for. Let’s focus on the net problem versus a policy that’s creating as many problems as it fixes in terms of healthcare, and then it’s also creating the most devastating problem of a deficit and debt that we can’t afford.Tillis is getting hammered by his Tea Party opponent for saying that it is even a good idea, and trying to think about how to pay for any of it.
Michigan Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land vs. Democratic Rep. Gary Peters for Senate:
41%-36%, according to PPP, up from 40%-42% in December. Peters gained only one point, while Land lost six.
Likely GOP nominee for the U.S. Senate in Michigan Terri Lynn Land can’t just say “NO!” to the president’s health law.Scott Brown (R-MA) for Senate from New Hampshire, vs. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, has been caught carpetbagging and trashing Obamacare to Republicans who are benefiting from it. He is now on an Obamacare Isn't Working tour. However,
She has already flipped her position on Obamacare at least three times since she began her campaign, which has featured exactly zero preannounced public appearances.
First, she said she felt the law should be kept and fixed, the position of 64 percent of Americans. Facing a backlash and fearing a primary challenge, she said she was for full repeal the next day.
When Rep. Gary Peters — her likely opponent — called out her out for opposing Michigan’s Medicaid expansion, which will cover as many as 500,000 Michiganders when it goes into effect on April 1, Land flipped again to the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent, saying she was for expansion, even though that position directly contradicts the goal of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed group that has spent millions on her behalf attacking Peters.
Brian Beutler, The New Republic: Democrats Need to Start Blaming the GOP for the Death of Charlene Dill
How Liberals should talk about the Medicaid expansionbased on
Steve Kornacki on The Rachel Maddow Show:
Steve Kornacki reviewed the recent wave of good news stories and positive indicators surrounding the implementation of Obamacare and wondered when Republicans will be forced by sheer weight of fact to change their position on the program.Actually, Steve started off with a review of the troubled Healthcare.gov rollout, and the implacable Republican opposition we have seen over the last five years. Then he started on the accelerating rollout, and the resulting good news:
Nov. 2013 Council of Economic Advisers: Obamacare slowing rate of increase of health care costs
Feb. 2014, CBO: Obamacare will cost less than expected
March, Commerce Dept., noticed in the Wall Street Journal: Personal income up due to Obamacare
In April, Gallup's polling on the uninsured rate showed it at its lowest level since 2008. It was actually 14.5% in the last half of March.
just a few days ago the Associated Press and others reported on the 7.5 million exchange signups. Steve pointed out that it is at least ten million when you include newMedicaid enrollments.
Of course, we know that the news is even better than that.
On top of all that, the CBO says again this month that the law will cost even less than previously expected. They project a savings of $5 billion because insurers are saying that they will not have to increase premiums as some had feared.
So when will our politics catch up? Privately, an anonymous Republican Congressional staffer has admitted that any possible replacement will actually look a lot like Obamacare.
I would explain it this way. If you take all of the pieces of the law that people like, and string them together into a bill, then pretty much all that you have taken away is the name of the law. And if this is a Republican replacement, then it obviously isn't Obamacare. Problem solved. Except not, of course, because the Tea Parties don't care how popular the provisions of the law are.
The Last Word, with Alex Wagner in for Lawrence O'Donnell
Politico: Insurers see brighter Obamacare skies
CBO Prediction: 36 million people in Exchanges and Medicaid in 2017. No source given.
Howard Dean: New poll today, Democrats more trusted on health care.
Then there was this new ad from the Chamber of Commerce, just for laughs, for Mike Simpson of Idaho.
Mitt Romney ad: Mike Simpson, Conservative Choice for Congress. Romney talks about fighting wasteful spending, junk lawsuits, and Obamacare