White House tries to woo senators on Obamacare repeal

Reporting by John Roberts

In the State Dining Room today President Trump gathered together all of the Republican senators who would come for a spirited sales pitch on getting rid of Obamacare.

“Any senator who votes against starting debate is really telling America you’re fine with Obamacare,” said Trump. “But being fine with Obamacare, it isn’t an option for another reason: it’s gone. It’s failed.”

While the vote next week is to simply repeal Obamacare and replace it later, President Trump today repeated his call to repeal and replace Obamacare at the same time and that Congress should stay in Washington until it is done.

“My message today is really simple: we have to stay here. We shouldn’t leave town. We should hammer this out and get it done.”

The president also chastised senators who repeatedly voted to repeal Obamacare during the Obama Administration when they knew their vote was nothing more than a political show.

“For seven years, you had an easy route. We’ll replace, we’ll replace and he’s never going to sign it. But I’m signing it. So it’s a little bit different. I’m ready to act. For seven years you promised the American people you would repeal Obamacare. People are hurting. Inaction is not an option.”

The three senators who voted to repeal Obamacare in 2015, but say they’re against it now will come in for some special White House attention—as did Senator Dean Heller of Nevada—an opponent of repeal and replace who found himself seated right next to the president at lunch.

“You didn’t go out there. This was the one we were worried about, you weren’t there. You’re going to be,” Trump joked. “Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn’t he?”

Heller is considered to be one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2018 and will likely vote to save the seat—not the president’s plan. Two of the opponents of repeal, Lisa Murkowski and Rob Portman, were just re-elected. Shelly Moore Capito isn’t up for re-election until 2020 so it’s unclear how much leverage the president will have over them.

As he seeks to woo senators on Obamacare repeal, President Trump is lashing out at reports he had a ‘secret’ second meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at last week’s G-20.

The president tweeting: “Fake News story of secret dinner with Putin is “sick.” All G 20 leaders, and spouses, were invited by the Chancellor of Germany. Press knew!”

The President talked with Putin for more than two hours in a bilateral meeting in Hamburg on July 7th. That night, at the official G20 dinner, the president spent more time with Putin one-on-one with only a Russian interpreter. The White House denied a report the two spoke for nearly an hour and would not disclose the content of the conversation.

The White House has accused the press of a double standard, pointing out that President Obama had private conversations at previous G20’s that the press never made an issue of.

On Obamacare, the White House will continue its sales pitch tonight by hosting a special meeting with senators who are having a difficult time getting to a yes.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Omnibus and Health Care This Week in the House

Reporting By Chad Pergram-Capitol Hill

 
Here is the latest on the state of play on the omnibus spending bill and the health care bill.
 
The omnibus seems to be moving. Some conservatives have issues with it. Republicans will need help from Democrats to approve the bill. It's unclear if the GOP will be able to score a "majority of the majority (the so-called and ill-named "Hastert Rule"). Regardless, that bill goes the House Rules Committee tomorrow and to the floor Wednesday in the House. The Senate will handle the bill to fund the government either later in the day Wednesday or Thursday, ahead of the 11:59:59 pm et Friday funding deadline.
 
As such, the House appears to be reserving Thursday as the day to handle the health care measure on the floor..if they can.
 
One source said they were "confident" there would be a vote Thursday. But the same source said they were "not as confident" the bill would pass. 
 
Fox is told they are getting closer. But they are still short. One senior House Republican source expressed concern about the White House predicting when the House may vote…but was even more exasperated by word from the White House that they were five to six votes short. 
 
"You don't announce a whip count. You just don't," said the source. 
 
The whip tally on any major issue is an extremely closely held figure…often just between the whip and a couple of key staffers or other members. Several sources on Capitol Hill openly contested that the vote tally was truly that close. Of the White House, one Republican source said "They just don't know."
 
Moreover, Republicans leadership sources point out that they need more than just one vote to win. They need several. That's because they don't want anyone to be able to point to a given member as casting the deciding vote on health care. Moreover, you always need a cushion, and a handful of "in case of emergency, break glass" votes to bail out the leadership should a vote begin to go sideways. 
 
Republicans want to be ultra-confident that they have the votes on this before they put it on the floor.
 
As to sticking around later this week or next? Fox is told the GOP believes it could actually lose votes..because lawmakers sit around for a few days with nothing to do. So, they may be prepared to wait until later in May to advance the bill if they aren't ready this week. 
 
Republicans are very leery about calling a vote and then having the measure fail on the floor. There are some theories on Capitol Hill now that the GOP should just roll the dice and go with it. But, as they say in the movies, "You play a dangerous game, Mr. Bond." If they call a vote and it fails, they can't put the genie back in the bottle. Moreover, the House GOPers are considering this health care plan under special budget reconciliation rules. Budget reconciliation doesn't mean a lot in the House. But it means EVERYTHING in the Senate. It allows the Senate to sidestep filibusters. THE ONLY WAY THE SENATE CAN PASS A HEALTH CARE BILL IS UNDER BUDGET RECONCILIATION. If the House goes to a roll call vote and fails..they have burned that reconciliation package. You only get one per year. This reconciliation package is technically the one from last year. The GOP needs to reserve "this year's" reconciliation package to do tax reform. 
 
Vice President Pence came to the Capitol tonight to talk to a number of lawmakers. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) huddled with members in a separate office, known as the "Board of Education." So named, the "Board of Education" suite is where legendary House Speaker Sam Rayburn (R-TX) often summoned lawmakers for "bourbon and branchwater" and to "educate" them as to how they should vote. 
 
Ryan spoke at length on the House floor with Rep. Billy Long (R-MO). Long is a no vote..and very conservative. He would be a key member to watch for potential movement. Other members to keep an eye on are Reps. Tim Murphy (R-PA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA, JAY-mee herr-AIR-uh BUTT-lerr) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). If any or all of those members flip to yes, that could be a good signal that the GOP has the votes to pass the bill. 
 
It should also be noted that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), out for foot surgery..but not yet resigned..plans to return this week. That helps the cause. 
 
So, all eyes should be on Thursday. 
 

The CBO Scores the Republican Obamacare Replacement Plan

By Jake Smith

The Congressional Budget Office released their score of the GOP replacement for the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – the Republican placement is called the American Health Care Act.

The CBO projects the AHCA will reduce the federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017-2026 period. The CBO writes “the largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid and from the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) subsidies for nongroup health insurance.”

The Republican replacement would increase the number of uninsured people by 14 million by 2018 and 24 million by 2026 – “an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law” – according to the new report.

Under the Republican’s American Health Care Act, by 2026 “premiums in the nongroup market would be 20 percent to 25 percent lower for a 21-year-old and 8 percent to 10 percent lower for a 40-year-old – but 20 percent to 25 percent higher for a 64-year old.”

The average premiums for single policyholders would also increase by 15 percent to 20 percent due to the elimination of the individual mandate penalties.

Additionally, the CBO estimates an 18 percent increase in premiums under the new GOP healthcare bill.

The Congressional Budget Office’s new score projects a reduction in the deficit, but this new score will be tough to sell to conservative Republicans and Democrats because of the increase in uninsured and rising premiums.

(Video above from Bret Baier's interview with House Speaker Paul Ryan following release of CBO report)

Health Care Hurdles?

Senior White House officials say the health care bill is open for negotiation and could possibly be changed along the way to passage.  And when the final bill is presented, the administration and the congressional leadership will make it a binary choice if you vote for it or you watch Obamacare collapse and insurance companies flee this year.

The question now is does President Trump have any leverage on skeptical Republicans or even some Democrats to push the health care bill across the finish line?  Senior officials say the President will make a number of trips to push the healthcare bill.  The White House is not yet confirming a trip Saturday but the "Louisville Courier Journal" is reporting officials there are preparing for a presidential visit to Kentucky.

Kentucky is, of course, home to Senator Rand Paul, one of the most vocal critics of the American Health Care Act as it stands today.  Worth noting that candidate Donald Trump won 118 of Kentucky's 120 counties in November, six more counties than sitting Senator Rand Paul won in his reelection bid.

That election math may play out with House members too.  For the Conservative Freedom Caucus, candidate Trump overwhelmingly won each member's district and their state as well.  And Trump actually got more votes than several of the representatives in the caucus.

In Freedom Caucus Chairman Congressman Mark Meadows district--North Carolina's 11th congressional district-- President Trump won 16 of the 16 counties , 76 of 100 counties in North Carolina, and he came just shy of the congressman's vote total in that district.

In Florida's sixth district, candidate Trump got more votes than Freedom Caucus Congressman Ron DeSantis, winning all four of the four counties in that district, 58 of 67 in Florida.

In West Virginia's second district, candidate Trump got almost 20,000 more votes than Freedom Caucus Congressman Alex Mooney, overwhelmingly winning all 17 counties in that district in West Virginia.

It is not just the leverage on health care, but also on the Judge Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court.  The pressure will be on 11 Senate Democrats who are up for reelection in 2018 in states where candidate Donald Trump won more than 80 percent of the counties.



In Missouri candidate Trump won 111 out of 114 counties in the state where Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill is running for reelection.

In Montana, Democrat Jon Tester runs in a state where candidate Trump won 50 out of 56 counties.

West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin is running for reelection in the state where all 55 counties voted for the Republican Donald Trump.

And finally in Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly is running in a state where 88 of 92 Hoosier counties went to Donald Trump.

There are seven other states just like that which is why outside groups supporting the Trump administration are already running issue ads in many of these 11 states.  One can be seen at the top of this post.

 

Trump v Pataki: Who answered it better

 

We have paired the 2016 GOP candidates up NCAA bracket style on key issues. The placements are based off of the candidates Real Clear Politics average of recent polls. First up we have Donald Trump versus Governor George Pataki on Obamacare. Cast your vote and tell us who answered the question better? 

Senator Cruz: ''Under no circumstances should Republicans in Congress extend ObamaCare."

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Wednesday on 'Special Report' that he would not extend health care subsidies to 6 million Americans who face the very real possibility of losing their subsidies when the Supreme Court issues a ruling on King v. Burwell this month.

"Under no circumstances should Republicans in Congress extend ObamaCare," the Republican presidential candidate said in response to George Will. "If the Supreme Court concludes that President Obama violated the law, the last thing Republicans in Congress should step up and do is codify his lawlessness and extend the subsidies."

He went to suggest lawmakers should allow states to opt out of ObamaCare, but agreed that the country "absolutely" needs health care reform and listed three specific ideas for doing just that.

"Let people purchase health insurance across state lines," Cruz suggested, saying it would create more choice for consumers. He also proposed expanding health savings accounts and said we need to "delink health insurance from employment."

"You or I lose our jobs, we don't lose our life insurance, our car insurance, or our house insurance. There's no reason we should lose our health insurance," Cruz stated. "We should be empowering patients, not putting government bureaucrats between us and our doctor." 

President Obama says the Supreme Court has no business messing with healthcare law

President Obama says the Supreme Court has no business messing with his health care law. The comment comes as the Justices consider what to do about language in the law that would seem to make a key element of Obamacare illegal.
 
 

HHS: Obamacare Premiums to Increase in 2015

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

Many looking to purchase health insurance from Healthcare.gov will see slightly higher costs, according to a Health and Human Services report issued today.

The federal Exchange’s most popular plan—lowest cost silver plan—will increase by an average of 5%.

But it “Pays to Shop,” as multiple officials said today, likely to become an administration mantra.

“65% of current Marketplace enrollees can get coverage for $100 dollars [per month] or less for 2015, after tax credits, if they shop for a more affordable plan within their current metal level, compared to 50%” of those who would stay in their 2014 plan, the report says.

Consumers can choose from an average of 40 health plans in 2015, up from 30 in 2014, which HHS hopes will “enhance competition, expand choice and promote affordability.”

The administration has often lauded the recent historic low growth of health spending, increasing just 3.9% each year from 2009-2011—the lowest growth rate since the government began keeping track in 1960.

And though they attribute this to the Affordable Care Act, a 2013 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 77% of the slowdown can be explained by the sluggish economy.

How the price of Healthcare.gov premiums react to the slowly recovering economy in the next few years will be a real test for the healthcare law.

Gruber and Supreme Court Thrust Obamacare into the Spotlight

By: David Bastawrous—Special Report College Associate

On November 5th, in their first press conferences following the midterms, reporters swarmed President Obama and newly elected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell with many of the same questions—how will the GOP wave alter Washington’s actions on the issues?

Each gave similar answers. They would work to find common ground, with priority given to defeating ISIS and containing Ebola. Dealing with Obamacare would inevitably come, but later.

‘Later’ lasted about 2 days.

On November 7th, the US Supreme Court announced it would take up King vs. Burwell and decide the legality of health insurance subsidies given to those enrolled through the federal Exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

The legal dispute arises from the letter of the law that gives the IRS authority to grant subsidies to those enrolled through an “Exchange established by the State.”

To date, only 14 states plus D.C. have established their own state Exchanges, while the rest of the nation’s enrollees receive subsidies through the federal healthcare.gov Exchange.

On July 22, 2014, two similar cases in Federal Appeals courts gave opposite rulings. In Halbig vs. Burwell, the court ruled that the IRS does not have the power to grant subsidies through the federal Exchange according to the health care law. But in King vs. Burwell, the court ruled in favor of the IRS.

The King vs. Burwell Appeals court sided with the government on the grounds of “ambiguous language” in the law, defending the administrative deference taken by the IRS in granting subsidies to those enrolled through the federal Exchange as well as state Exchanges.

However, the court opinion also states that they “cannot ignore the common-sense appeal of the plaintiffs’ argument; a literal reading of the statute undoubtedly accords more closely with [the plaintiffs’] position.”

The US Supreme Court will hear King vs. Burwell in March 2015, with a decision expected by June 2015.

Should the lawsuit succeed, about 4.6 million people who enrolled through the federal Exchange would be deemed ineligible for federal subsidies—which covers, on average, about 76% of the plans’ premiums.  

Premiums across all states would be expected to rise by an average of about 422%. Ron Pollack of Families USA (a liberal health policy and Obamacare advocacy group) called the legal argument “the most serious existential threat” to the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

And one man who had previously made the plaintiffs’ case? Jonathan Gruber—an Obamacare architect, MIT professor, and a nearly $400,000 paid Department of Health and Human Services consultant.

In July, a video surfaced of Gruber speaking on a January 18th, 2012 forum stating, “… if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at state here in setting up these Exchanges.”

Shortly after, Gruber told Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic, “I honestly don’t remember why I said that. I was speaking off the cuff. It was just a mistake.”  

However, that wasn’t the only time Gruber “mistakenly” spoke of the need to establish state Exchanges in order to get federal subsidies. Soon after, Breitbart uncovered another video of Gruber speaking at a different forum 8 days earlier, making the same points.

More recently, Gruber was caught up in yet another scandal.

Footage from a 2013 Obamacare forum at the University of Pennsylvania showed Gruber saying, “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really, critical for the thing to pass.”

And while the US Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the individual mandate on the grounds that the repercussion for not doing so was actually a “tax,” not a “penalty,” Gruber indicated that the law was purposely written in a “tortured way,” saying, “If the CBO scored the [individual mandate] as a tax, the bill dies.”

Though he told MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow that he regretted the remarks and that he, again, was “speaking off the cuff,” at least 2 other videos have since been uncovered of Gruber giving similar “off the cuff” remarks.

The Democrats are today playing cleanup.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi today said, “I don’t know who he [Gruber] is. He didn’t help us write the bill . . . let’s put him aside.”

However, the former House Speaker’s website cites Gruber’s Obamacare analysis, and CSPAN today unearthed video of Pelosi publically mentioning Gruber in 2009.  

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also weighed in, saying, “the process associated with writing, passing, and implementing the ACA has been extraordinarily transparent,” adding, “the fact is I think it is Republicans who haven’t been transparent or particularly honest about the true impact of this.”

For more on Gruber and the political and legal implications of his remarks, tune into Special Report tonight.  

Obamacare Architect Under Fire Over Comments

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