Weekly Newsletter

Vol. 19 – 137 P.E.

On the Highway to Health Care Reform Hell

On the Highway to Health Care Reform Hell

This week, the FBI Director said that the President’s team is under investigation for collusion with the Russians, hearings were held for a stolen Supreme Court seat, and the Secretary of State said he didn’t even want his stupid job, AND none of these were the biggest thing that happened!

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March 26, 2017 – National Nougat Day – Day 137 P.E. (Post Election)
It’s (C)Ryan Time Again

Under President Obama, the Republicans voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) over 60 times. Under President Trump, the total stands at 0. Despite having over seven years to come up with a viable alternative to rhe ACA, the Republicans pulled the plug on their incoherent Frankenstein monster of a health care plan on Friday, without even taking a vote.

Paul Ryan, who has somehow earned a reputation as a policy wonk, needed Congressional approval for his plan, but didn’t have the votes.  On one side, the far-right-wing Freedom Caucus was upset that a health plan that would take insurance away from 24 million people was too generous and leave too many poor alive and kicking. On the other side, the moderate Republican caucus known as the “Tuesday Group” (either because they meet on Tuesdays or because Tuesday is the most benign of all days of the week) wanted to actually have less people die due to repealing the ACA, so did not support RepubliCare. Ryan and Trump made a last ditch effort to win over the Freedom Caucus by degrading the required quality of the insurance, but alas too many of the poor might have survived, making it impossible for the Freedom Caucus to sign on.

in the face of certain defeat, Trump and Steve Bannon still pushed to hold a vote. What better way to compile a list of all those that dared to defy Lord Trump? However, for the first time, reason prevailed in the White House. Once it was clear the legislation was going down, Republican legislators would have jumped on the “No” train. Putting your name on a badly written, harmful legislation, which isn’t going to pass anyways, is not a good move politically. The vote would have been a landslide against Trump, so Ryan cancelled it.

This was a major embarrassment for Trump and Ryan. If there is one thing that the Republican Party has stood for over the past three election cycles, it’s that the Affordable Care Act must be repealed. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) summed up his own party’s scam well, “Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game. We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”

So who is at fault for RepubliCare failing? According to Trump, it was the Democrats. For some reason, the Democrats, who control zero branches of government didn’t want to help tear down something they had worked on for most of the past century. From non-delusional minds, blame is being thrown around to Ryan, the Freedom Caucus, and Trump. When reached for comment at his Ohio home, former Speaker John Boehner, who was pushed out by the Freedom Caucus said, “All alone. Watch them run. They will tear each other into pieces. Jesus Christ, this will be fun. Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da.”

Congratulations to all of you for pushing back against RepubliCare. Without the pressure at the Town Halls and constant phone calls, Republican moderates likely would have caved. It’s not over yet though, Trump and the Republicans have now shifted to a strategy of helping the Affordable Care Act implode and then blaming Democrats. Yes, the leaders of our country are actively hoping for our health care system to fall apart and millions to suffer so that the Republicans can get a “win”. The fight continues.

Stop! In the Name of Garland
This week the long awaited Supreme Court confirmation hearings for centrist jurist Merrick Garland began. Just kidding, I was stuck in that alternate reality for a moment. Here, in the Upside Down, Neil Gorsuch, called a “Scalia clone” by FiveThirtyEight, began his Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.

Gorsuch was smooth, congenial, and more or less said that he has no ideas of his own, but is a vessel through which the law is applied. All evidence though, such as his ruling in support of Hobby Lobby to withhold birth control from its employees because of the religious beliefs of Hobby Lobby’s owners, suggests that he is strongly pro-life and pro-corporation.  

Democrats managed to land only a few punches on Gorsuch during the hearings. In fact, the most embarrassing moment of his hearing was when, coincidentally, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned one of Gorsuch’s decisions.
 
Democrat Senator Al Franken, continuing to impress by calling a spade a spade, challenged Gorsuch on why he was the only one of eight judges to side with a company who fired a truck driver who left his truck in order not to freeze to death. “It is absurd to say this company is in its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or causing other people to die possibly by driving an unsafe vehicle. That’s absurd. Now, I had a career in identifying absurdity, and I know it when I see it. And it makes me—you know, it makes me question your judgment.”
 
The biggest news from the Gorsuch hearings is that the formerly invertebrate Democrats may have found a backbone. Early in the week, rumors were that the Democrats would not filibuster Gorsuch’s nomination if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who spent the last year ignoring the Constitution and tradition by denying Merrick Garland a hearing, pinky-swore that he’d let the Democrats filibuster the next Supreme Court nomination, which would dramatically shift the Court’s balance.

Pressured by people like you, the Democrats have now said they will filibuster Gorsuch. They are finally realizing this is not about Gorsuch’s qualifications, but rewarding Republicans for subverting the Constitution. There are now three outcomes: the Democrats blinking, Trump pulling Gorsuch and putting in someone more moderate, or McConnell “going nuclear”, i.e. rewriting Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster as a tool for Supreme Court nominations. Odds are that McConnell eliminates the filibuster and puts Gorsuch on the Court in a party-line vote, further reducing any hope of bipartisan cooperation in our broken system. In this scenario, the Democrats would lose the filibuster option for any future Supreme Court nominees. However, if you trusted McConnell to allow the Democrats to filibuster during the next nomination, then I’ve got a Merrick Garland robe to sell you (new with tags!). 

This Week on As The Tяump Turns 
After making a big splash in his guest appearance during the election, FBI Director James Comey has returned in a lead role on As The Tяump Turns. This week, Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Russian interference in the election. Two big takeaways are that the FBI is investigating possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia and that there is no evidence supporting Trump’s claim that President Obama tapped his phones.
 
The other takeaway is that the Republicans really have no interest in getting to the bottom of this. Democrats peppered Comey and Rogers with questions about Russian interference, while Republicans (except for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) who was actually interested in the investigation) spent their time saying who could know what Russia wanted and that Russia didn’t manipulate actual votes (which wasn’t in question), so it doesn’t really matter.
 
The ranking Democrat and Republican on the Committee each also made news this week. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) was impressive in his summary of the events that led to the hearing. Seriously, spend seven minutes and watch it. On the other hand, Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) did his best impression of Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes.
 
Nunes, who was a member of Trump’s transition team, had quite a wild ride this week – literally. On Tuesday night, Nunes was in an Uber with a staffer when he got a phone call. Nunes then immediately left the car and didn’t tell his staff where was going and what was happening. No one saw Nunes until he appeared the next day at a hastily called press conference that he stumbled through. In this conference, he said that “The intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.” He then left the conference to brief President Trump.  Just in case you weren’t aware, it’s not normal to disclose publicly information on intelligence reports or to brief the subject of an investigation on the evidence against him if you are the one investigating him.
 
Nunes has not shared either the alleged information or the source of the information with the Congressional Committee. Democrats suspect the source of the alleged information. Nunes then brought his independence into further question by cancelling a second scheduled public hearing with Comey and Rogers. Democrats have now begun to call for Nunes to resign and to be investigated himself. Even Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has now called for an independent Trump-Russia commission.
 
This upcoming week may be our most shocking week yet on As The Tяump Turns with rumors flying around that former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn may have flipped and long-time buddies of both Trump and Russia, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, may be looking for a deal.
The “Well, I’m Not Going to Argue with You” Quote of the Issue
“I’ve been in this job eight years, and I’m wracking my brain to think of one thing our party has done that’s been something positive, that’s been something other than stopping something else from happening.”
– Representative Tom Rooney (R-FL)
Quick TrumpShakes
For an Audience of One – Trump had a brilliant idea to send Paul a message as subtle as a horse’s head in a bed. On Saturday, Trump tweeted out for everyone to watch Judge Jeanine (a Fox News show) that evening. Judge Jeanine led off her show with, “Paul Ryan needs to step down as speaker of the house. The reason? He failed to deliver the votes on his healthcare bill.”

Ivanka: Now Available at a White House by You – Ivanka, despite not being a government employee, is now getting an office in the West Wing. She’s also getting top security clearance. To give you an idea about how odd that is, Hillary Clinton did not have security clearance while First Lady. Ivanka though has said it’s all good, since she has deigned to voluntarily follow government ethics rules. Since Ivanka’s husband may receive $400 million from a Chinese firm, her father’s administration is under investigation by the FBI, and she vacationed with Putin’s girlfriend this summer, I’m thinking we may need something stronger than her word.

Check Please – Recall last week when Trump embarrassed the United States by not shaking the hand of the leader of the free world, Angela Merkel, and dragging her into his Obama wiretap lies? Well, wait, there may be more! Trump, like a father confronting his lazy unemployed son, allegedly presented Chancellor Merkel with a bill for $375 billion, the amount plus interest(!) that his staff had calculated as Germany’s unpaid NATO contributions. The White House denies this occurred.

Well, He’s Doing Someone’s Bidding – In a recent article, former Exxon CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he didn’t even want the job, that he’s not really doing. He wasn’t going to take the Secretary of State position until his wife told him to because “God’s not through with you.” If you’ve spent most of your career hiding evidence of climate change and now you work for Donald Trump, it may not be God who is acting as your career counselor.

No Artificial or Real Intelligence – Secretary of Treasury Steve “Scrooge McDuck” Mnuchin said this week that artificial intelligence replacing human jobs, “is not even on our radar screen . . . 50-100 years away . . . I’m not worried at all.” No word on if he got into his self-driving Uber after saying this.

I Always Feel Like My ISP’s Watching Me  – The GOP Senate overturned internet privacy rules passed by the FCC last year so that now your internet service provider (e.g., everyone’s favorite company, Comcast) can sell your web browsing history without your permission. It now heads to the House.

If Congress Doesn’t Get Trump, Maybe The Hague Will – Trump has loosened the rules of engagement and stepped up the U.S. attack on ISIS. This most recently led to an airstrike in Mosul where more than 200 civilians died. This was done in our name.

Put the Intern Who Came Up with this on Mt. Rushmore – To track who is visiting Trump at all of his many homes, Senate Democrats introduced the Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act, or the MAR-A-LAGO Act.

Just a Little Light State Sanctioned Kidnapping – Former CIA Director James Woolsey said that in September, Mike Flynn met with the Turkish government to discuss delivering a foe of Turkish President Erdogan from the United States (where the target, a cleric, resides legally) and should Trump win the Presidency. At the time of the meeting, both Woolsey and Flynn were Trump campaign advisors.

Sleep With One Eye Open, Winnie the Pooh – Frustrated by not being able to kick 24 million off of their health care, the GOP was able to find another outlet to be cruel. On a party line vote, the Senate voted to eliminate federal protections for hibernating bears i.e., you can now hunt bears that have been sleeping for months. Well, at least Stephen Colbert can sleep easier now.

Featured Articles of the Week

Time Magazine interviewed Donald Trump this week on “Truth and Falsehoods”. Trump concluded the interview with “Hey look, in the mean time, I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not. You know. Say hello to everybody OK?”

The Washington Post helpfully fact checked all the falsehoods in the above interview.

Action Center
Call Your Senator to Oppose Gorsuch

Give yourself a pat on the back for stopping RepubliCare and then get on the phones to tell your Senator that she/he should stand strong and oppose Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
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