Jeet Heer/New Republic:
The Death of Paul Ryan, Policy Genius
He's always been more con artist than wonk. After the health-care fiasco, the whole world knows it.
The Republican Waterloo
Conservatives once warned that Obamacare would produce the Democratic Waterloo. Their inability to accept the principle of universal coverage has, instead, led to their own defeat.
The bill was ill conceived from the start. In part because of the need to follow a special process that would allow the bill to pass with a simple majority in the Senate, it left much of Obamacare's essential structure in place--including insurance regulations, subsidies paid through the tax system for individuals purchasing coverage on the individual market, and a mandatory penalty, assessed by insurers, for those who go without coverage and seek to regain coverage. The bill would have transformed Medicaid into a per-capita block grant system, but not until the next decade, and in its initial form would have created incentives for states to expand the program. The bill would have resulted in individual insurance premiums rising 15 to 20 percent in the short term, and some 14 million people losing their insurance as of next year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. A final amendment of the bill, released late last night, might have sent the individual market into a complete and immediate meltdown.
The bill failed in part because it could not establish a balance between the concerns of moderate Republicans, particularly with regard to the way it treated the Medicaid expansion, and more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus, who argued that the bill was too much like Obamacare, retaining its core scheme of subsidies and regulations.
But it also failed because Trump proved himself an ineffective negotiator and dealmaker—one whose preference for shallow political victories over substantive policy wins ultimately proved insufficient in a complex policy negotiation.
Left out of AHCA fight, Democrats let their grass roots lead — and win
“It was the town halls, and the stories, that convinced me that people might actually stop this bill,” said Tom Perriello, a former Democratic congressman now running an insurgent campaign for governor of Virginia, with his career-ending vote for the ACA front and center.
The outsider approach to lobbying grew from there, in ways that quickly came to worry Republicans. Indivisible-affiliated groups advertised congressional town halls and flooded them. Like the Jan. 14 rallies, the town hall tactic mirrored what the tea party movement did in 2009. Like the Democrats of that year, many Republicans responded glibly, blaming out-of-state (or district) rabble-rousers and searching for the invisible hand of George Soros. Among the Republicans who took the protests seriously was Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who would go on to oppose AHCA from the right.
“I don’t know if we’re going to be able to repeal Obamacare now because these folks who support Obamacare are very active,” Brooks told a radio host in February. “They’re putting pressure on congressman and there’s not a counter-effort to steel the spine of some of these congressmen in tossup districts around the country.”
Politico has that memo about the 33 point approval hit.
The survey finds that information about the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act—combined with voters knowing theirRepublican member of Congress supports the plan—results in a net 13-point swing away from the Republicans in the vote for Congress, including substantial movement in districts President Trump carried in November.
So Much for ‘RyanCare’
Paul Ryan outmaneuvered the Trump wing on health care.
Trump’s reported pledge to support primary challenges against Republican holdouts is, in a way, a potent one. Conservative members who balk at voting for a bill their constituents see as too liberal aren’t going to be punished for voting their principles. Voters may be persuaded to abandon their representatives, however, if the issue isn’t the GOP’s health care bill but a litmus test measuring loyalty to President Trump.
That threat only works if the American Health Care Act is seen as a proxy for Trump, and that means the president has to endorse it enthusiastically. He’s done just that. Whether the White House likes it or not, it’s “TrumpCare” from this point forward. Clearly, that’s just how Paul Ryan wanted it.
Ross Baker/USA Today:
It is the responsibility of all congressional committees to exercise oversight on the activities of the executive branch of government not buddy up to it and provide it with political cover as Nunes did. Moreover, he cited unnamed sources for his statements, the very behavior that has been so roundly condemned by the White House.
However unconventional our new president chooses to be, the committees of Congress do not have a warrant to flout their Constitutional responsibilities to police the Constitutional lines of checks and balances and separation of power. To be a dupe and a puppet of a president dishonors the oath of the humblest member of the House. For a chairman to so abase himself casts himself and his committee into disrepute.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has made a key Republican motive for pushing ahead with the House GOP health plan explicit in recent interviews: passing the health package first facilitates deeper tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations in subsequent tax legislation.
That’s because the House GOP health plan reduces revenues by nearly $900 billion over the decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), including $592 billion in tax cuts largely for the wealthy. Passing these tax cuts now as part of a health package allows the GOP to offset their cost through cuts to health care spending — particularly in Medicaid, which CBO estimates the House health care bill cuts by $880 billion over ten years. If these tax cuts were part of tax reform legislation rather than being in the health bill, Republican leaders would have to offset their cost on the tax side to maintain revenue neutrality, as they have said they would do, limiting how sharply they can cut tax rates.
Instead, because these tax cuts are in the health bill, Republicans can, in writing their tax bill later this year, make much deeper cuts in tax rates — particularly for corporations — than they otherwise could do.
Whatever the outcome today, it's bad for House Republican leadership in general and for Paul Ryan specifically.
- Outcome 1: Trump cuts a deal with Freedom Caucus leader Mark Meadows, effectively hijacking the floor and the policy agency. Trump will have learned that if he wants to get anything done, he needs to deal directly with these guys. Meadows will have proven that he can keep his ultra-conservative caucus, which many expected to crack up now that Trump is president, together under the pressure.
- Option 2: Trump can't cut a deal with the Freedom Caucus and the bill fails. This is also terrible for leadership. It would show that Ryan oversees a truly ungovernable conference.
Also consider: No matter the outcome of today, Breitbart will go thermonuclear against Ryan. The website's biggest goal, shared by a number of members of the Freedom Caucus, is to remove the Speaker. Watch for that campaign to ramp up as soon as next week.
Charles M Blow/NY Times:
A few things are clear after the congressional testimony of James Comey, the F.B.I. director, this week:
First, Donald Trump owes Barack Obama and the American people an apology for his vituperative lie that Obama committed a felony by wiretapping Trump Tower. It was specious, libelous and reckless, regardless of the weak revelations of “incidental collection” that the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and Trump transition team member Devin Nunes outrageously made public, briefing the president without first briefing his fellow committee members. Nunes’s announcement was a bombshell with no bomb, just enough mud in the water to obscure the blood in the water for those too willfully blind to discern the difference.
Second, Donald Trump will never apologize. Trump’s strategy for dealing with being caught in a lie is often to tell a bigger lie. He seems constitutionally incapable of registering what others would: shame, embarrassment, contrition. Something is broken in the man — definitely morally and possibly psychologically.
American voters disapprove 56 - 17 percent, with 26 percent undecided, of the Republican health care plan to replace Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Support among Republicans is a lackluster 41 - 24 percent.
If their U.S. Senator or member of Congress votes to replace Obamacare with the Republican health care plan, 46 percent of voters say they will be less likely to vote for that person, while 19 percent say they will be more likely and 29 percent say this vote won't matter, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.
Disapproval of the Republican plan is 56 - 22 percent among men, 56 - 13 percent among women, 54 - 20 percent among white voters, 64 - 10 percent among non-white voters, 80 - 3 percent among Democrats, 58 - 14 percent among independent voters and by margins of 2-1 or more in every age group.
One out of every seven Americans, 14 percent, think they will lose their health insurance under the Republican plan. That 14 percent includes 27 percent of voters in families with household income below $30,000, 18 percent of working class families and 14 percent of middle class families.
Fewer Americans would be covered under the GOP plan than are covered under Obamacare, 61 percent of voters find, while 8 percent say more would be covered and 18 percent say the number would be about the same.