We Need To Have A Chat About Senate Leadership

This week marked the utter collapse of health care reform efforts in the U.S. Senate. With several GOP defections, the Senate’s bill was mercifully put out of its misery.

Of course, Mitch McConnell has put forward the very idea he appears to have wanted to avoid by calling for a floor vote for a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act… which, if you recall, is the entire reason the voters supported the GOP in three of the last four election cycles.

However, to say that there is a lack of confidence that this current plan will succeed is an understatement.

The GOP struggles in Congress when it comes to leadership. And, the Senate is the prime example of leadership failure. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, bears a lot of the blame for the chamber’s failure to push a conservative agenda.

To be fair, Mitch McConnell is great at winning battles. He thrives in a fight, and he is an able tactician when it comes to orchestrating a floor fight. Where McConnell struggles is long-term strategy and pushing an agenda, and it is a weakness that has caused the GOP-run Senate to flounder even while the party holds the White House.

One of the problems is that McConnell’s heart is simply not into conservative agendas. A lot of his best fights are ones that involve his power base. He can make conservative-ish decisions when they ensure his position or elevate his profile. But, when it comes to making conservative legislative choices for the sake of ideology, he simply cannot make himself do it.

Another big problem is that McConnell and his ilk do not like to start from the right on any issue. They start from the middle. Whether it is a liberal streak that keeps him from putting too much conservatism into his legislative efforts or just laziness in wanting to avoid negotiation, the result is that he always finds himself having to deal with conservative insurgency just to get a single idea put in.

The health care reform battle is a case in point. With more than half a decade to come up with a plan, the Senate puts forward a bill that violates the spirit of the GOP’s central promise to its voters (repeal Obamacare), and it is a bill that would have done better if it were the end result of negotiations, and not the first and seemingly only draft McConnell and other GOP leaders wanted to put forward.

So, on health care reform, the single biggest reason that the GOP has enjoyed electoral success since 2010, the GOP has absolutely dropped the ball, and the problem (no matter what GOP leadership like McConnell will tell you) is not that conservatives are obstructionists. The problem is on the liberal streak running rampant through the GOP in Congress.

What made Ronald Reagan, one of the templates of conservative leadership, so great is that he led his party by starting as far to the right as possible on an issue and negotiating his way inward. Sure, the Democrats picked up some victories, but there was a lot of moving the ball down the field when it came to conservatism.

Those days are long gone now as McConnell and gang skip the negotiation part and start in the middle. The result is that they give up so much and the Democrats pick up greater victories as a result. And that’s when McConnell can manages to get a bill passed.

There is no easy solution here. McConnell excels at short-term battles, so dethroning him is not going to be easy. He and his friends also direct a lot of resources to beating any challengers to the more liberal senators in the GOP caucus. If conservatives want to get anywhere, they have to overcome these factors and get conservative fighters into the Senate.

Until then, however, call your senators and apply as much pressure as possible. They ran for years on certain promises, and they have to be held accountable here. If they aren’t, then we can kiss good conservative reform under a GOP administration goodbye.

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Thank You, Senator Mike Lee

The Republican effort to amend the Affordable Care Act is halted until further notice thanks to the fact that several Republican Senators were not on board with the broken promises it represented.

For the longest time, Senator Mike Lee of Utah was on the fence about the bill, and days of radio silence on his social media feeds left me wondering which way he would go. I remained hopeful that he was going to end up against it, given that the inclusion of an (albeit extremely watered down) amendment originally supported by he and Ted Cruz didn’t get him on board immediately.

Tonight, as we reported earlier, Lee officially came out and effectively killed it, along with Senator Jerry Moran.

Conservatives owe Mike Lee a huge amount of thanks, because he has effectively killed this so-called Better Care Act – an act which, in reality, was no matter than what we already have under Obamacare.

Because of this, Trump called for full repeal now and replace later, which was followed up by a statement from Mitch McConnel’s office saying that repeal now/replace later would come to the floor for a vote later. This is perhaps the biggest conservative victory since Trump took office.

However, conservatives are not the only ones who should be thanking him.

McConnell and Senate Leadership owe Lee thanks for putting the bill to rest permanently instead of letting it limp along to failure under an actual vote. Had he not come out and said anything until the vote were happening, it would have been a major embarrassment for McConnell and gang, moreso than it is now.

Also owing Lee thanks would be the conservative Senators who felt like compromising on this would give them the opportunity to amend it and make it better. The truth is that there was no making this monstrosity any better, no matter how many amendments you add to it.

The bottom line is that the bill was atrocious. There was nothing about it that was truly good. The people who will claim Lee and the others are “making the good the enemy of the perfect” are fooling themselves into thinking they were doing a good thing. The bill was anything but that, much like the House bill, and killing it now means work can actually get done.

What kind of work? That’s up to the grown ups who might actually still be in the room and realize they ran on promises of repealing Obamacare, not amending it. Maybe there are enough of them to make some headway into actually improving the American health care system, not making it a more convoluted, over-regulated government scheme.

Whether there are or there aren’t, thank you to Mike Lee, and the others, who have put this beast to bed.

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BREAKING: Mitch McConnell Says Forget Replacing Obamacare, Let’s Go with Plan A

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already announced the GOP’s next move on health care reform, and it’s precisely the strategy they should have taken up in the first place.

It is a plan that will make conservative activists very happy, as well as go along with what President Donald Trump called for following the original Senate bill’s death.

This is a very good step in the right direction for the Senate, and it is hopefully the beginning of the the GOP keeping its promises on health care reform.

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BREAKING: Donald Trump Tweets Call For Clean Repeal

President Donald Trump took to Twitter this evening to call for a clean repeal of Obamacare, following the collapse of the Senate’s health care bill.

The call for an immediate and full repeal comes after the president helped advocate for both the House and Senate health care reform bills.

Trump’s tweet went up soon after Mike Lee and Jerry Moran, two Republican Senators, came out against the Senate’s Better Care Act, effectively killing it. The bill could afford no more opposition after Rand Paul, who has also been calling for full repeal, and Susan Collins declared last week they would not vote for it.

The GOP leadership in Congress has not commented on the future of health care reform efforts since Lee’s and Moran’s announcement.

Democrats, however, are expected to oppose repeal efforts, despite Trump’s claim that they will join in any discussions to start from a clean slate.

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BREAKING: GOP’s Health Care Bill Is Officially Dead

In news that is just coming out over the wire, Senators Mike Lee and Jerry Moran, both Republicans, have announced their opposition to the Senate’s health care bill, effectively killing it in its current form.

A vote to move the bill forward was put on hiatus after John McCain had surgery to remove a blood clot, and Senate leadership was already looking for a 50-50 vote at best, assuming Lee were to support it.

The bill has received criticism from the conservative and moderate wings of the party for various reasons. GOP leadership in both chambers of Congress were looking for a quick passage of the bill to get it to President Donald Trump’s desk.

Health care reform is effectively shelved in Congress now as leadership determines its next move… if there even is one.

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The Senate Health Care Bill Is Dead, But Nobody’s Admitting It Yet

The first clue was Mike Lee still being on the fence. The second clue was John McCain’s surgery becoming an excuse to delay the vote.

And now, a story out of Wisconsin pretty much confirms what has been the fear/hope of folks across the nation:

[Wisconsin Senator Ron] Johnson said Friday in Green Bay that a reported comment by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that Medicaid reform will probably never happen under the plan, is a “breach of trust.”

Johnson did not say he would vote against the bill, but he has moved from strongly favoring a procedural motion to get the bill on the Senate floor for debate to being undecided.

[…]

“I am concerned about Leader McConnell’s comments to apparently some of my Republican colleagues — ‘Don’t worry about some of the Medicaid reforms, those are scheduled so far in the future they’ll never take effect,’” he said. “I’ve got to confirm those comments … I think those comments are going to really put the motion to proceed in jeopardy, whether it’s on my part or others.”

So, at the current count, that’s 46-50. McCain isn’t available to vote, Susan Collins and Rand Paul won’t vote for it, and Mike Lee and Ron Johnson are on the fence.

That is far less than ideal for McConnell, who was hopeful about getting this done quickly. As time goes on, more and more Republicans are on the fence about the bill itself, and it’s not just a conservative issue. Conservatives aren’t happy with the broken promises the bill represents, and moderate Republicans aren’t thrilled with the reforms to Medicaid and other entitlements the bill would bring.

The result is an ugly monster of bad ideas. Even the Cruz-Lee amendment ended up so watered down that it very well could make the situation worse, not better.

This will not be something as simple as “the conservatives screwed this up for us,” either. The big issue here is that the entire Republican spectrum, from conservative to liberal-moderate, has problems with it, and to get the bill to a floor vote at all would have taken a lot of nose-holding. The amount of amending that would then have to take place is not only immeasurable, it’s the only way the bill could get worse.

Republicans ran on a promise, as Rand Paul has said repeatedly: to repeal and replace. This bill, and the House’s bill, did not do that, and if their very first chance to get rid of Obamacare was this bill, I shudder to think what going back to the drawing board is going to look like.

Conservatives and Republicans alike for years said they had a plan to replace Obamacare once they repealed it, despite what Democrats said. What they’ve been doing since they took up health care under Trump is proof the Democrats were right. It’s a slap in the face to voters who put these very Republicans – including Trump – in power.

This moment is McConnell’s best chance to take the bill off the table and do some work. It’s going to involve meetings with every Republican, not just leadership and its lackeys, to come up with an idea that is palatable for 51 people.

To do otherwise just invites more embarrassment to Republicans in Congress.

 

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Three Little Words Could Save Donald Trump, Jr.

In the legal world, words can mean just as much actions, and sometimes more. Law is determined by words, phrasing, and interpretation (moreso the latter if you disagree with the law you’re fighting at the time).

In the case of Donald Trump, Jr., the law is simple: you cannot solicit any aid from a foreign nation for election purposes. The statute in question is

(a)Prohibition It shall be unlawful for—

(1) a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make—

(A) a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election;
(B) a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party; or
(C) an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 30104(f)(3) of this title); or
(2) a person to solicit, accept, or receive a contribution or donation described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1) from a foreign national.

There is a plethora of legal opinion out there that suggests Don Jr. can indeed go down for breaking election law, and it’s not difficult to see why.

However, LawNewz dug up a counterpoint that could get Don Jr. off the hook, and it just comes down to three little words that can have a big impact on law:

Most of FECA’s prohibitions, including those related to the solicitation of contributions/donations from foreign nationals, create criminal consequences only when a person “knowingly and willfully” commits a violation of the statute…

This heightened mens rea standard means that a person must know that he is breaking the law to trigger a criminal prosecution, and must know about the relevant statute duty: The “words [‘knowingly and willingly’] of specific criminal intent require proof that the offender was aware of what the law required, and that he or she violated that law notwithstanding that knowledge…

Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I have watched enough crime procedurals (like Law & Order) to know that proving what a person thinks and knows is incredibly difficult. You cannot prove Don Jr. knew the law here.

Or, at least you can’t with the evidence we have publicly available. Lord knows what investigators have on Don Jr. or anyone else involved.

However, you can bet this is one of many defenses being tossed around a legal war room somewhere as this story refuses to leave the news cycle.

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Spare Me The Whining About Being Called “Fake News”

Donald Trump woke up this morning and decided today was a good day to attack the media, which usually means he doesn’t like the coverage he’s getting.

To be fair, a lot of Trump’s negative coverage is from a series of own-goals he and his team have made in its opening salvo as the administration that is supposed to lead the United States. The Donald Trump Jr. story that’s been dominating the news cycle says a lot more about how clueless the people surrounding Trump are than it says about the media coverage.

But, being called “FAKE NEWS” by Trump certainly seems to set some folks *coughCNNcough* in a tizzy.

Call me old fashioned, but perhaps the best way to avoid being called “FAKE NEWS” is to stop filing stories that end up being wrong, retracted, misleading, or otherwise completely and totally fake, no?

It also doesn’t help that Acosta’s outlet, CNN, has openly declared war on Trump and has gone out of its way to focus on what end up being non-issues. This has led to a lot of the controversial (read: incorrect) stories on Trump. After all, how could we forget that three journalists at CNN got a story so wrong they had to RESIGN over it?

CNN isn’t the only guilty party, mind you, but Acosta and CNN really love to cry the loudest over being called “FAKE NEWS” by the president.

The president is being totally insecure, unpresidential, and immature by doing so, but CNN and the rest of the media who whine and cry over this day in and day out are being just as immature and insecure.

As someone who is not a fan of the media or the president, it’s one of those situations where maybe it’s best to root for injuries (in the metaphorical sense, lest Andrew Kaczynski come after me next). Acosta’s assertion that the president calling any media “FAKE NEWS” is bad for democracy is absolutely absurd. First of all, we’re a Constitutional Republican. Secondly, the democratic process existed long before news media as we know it came into being.

Journalists like to think of themselves as world-changers and democracy-saviors, but in reality, they are scribes who simply record history as it happens. They are not the great experts of the world they think they are, and nowhere near as many people care what a D.C. bureau reporter thinks about a story as that D.C. bureau reporter would like to think.

People read, watch, and listen to the news to find out what’s going on. They rarely actually care what you think. If you report news that is fake, don’t be mad when someone calls you “FAKE NEWS,” even if it’s the President of the United States.

Just do your damn jobs.

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BREAKING: Senate Health Care Vote Delayed

The Senate will be waiting a bit longer to take up consideration of a GOP-led health care reform effort following a medical procedure to one of the GOP’s members.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted out a statement on Saturday night, saying consideration would be deferred to a later date while Senator John McCain recovers from have a blood clot removed above his eye.

McConnell is already pressed for votes as two Republicans, Susan Collins and Rand Paul, have said they will not vote for the bill, and Mike Lee has yet to decided if he will support it or not. The best case scenario for the Majority Leader, if McCain were there, is a 50-50 vote. Without McCain, he cannot get the bill passed.

McCain’s condition was discovered during a routine physical, according to his office, and he underwent a procedure to have the clot removed at the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix. He is currently at home recovering.

McConnell’s statement gives no indication as to when the Senate will take up the vote as it is unclear when McCain will be returning.

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The Fate of the Senate’s Health Care Bill Rests On One Man’s Shoulders

Hanging on by a very tenuous thread, the Senate’s health care reform bill is in trouble.

Susan Collins and Rand Paul have each said they will not vote for it, though for drastically different reasons. Paul, taking a principled, conservative stance, disagrees with any effort to change the current system set up by the Affordable Care Act without repealing it outright and starting over. Collins, taking a more liberal stance, doesn’t want Medicaid to suffer under the bill.

So, if we were to take a vote right now, we’re looking at 49-50… because one man is considering his options.

Mike Lee, who is still reviewing the bill, hasn’t said publicly which way he’ll go on this. His hesitation is understandable. The Cruz-Lee amendment to the original Senate version as not included in this one. It’s just a version of it that doesn’t exactly do what Cruz and Lee wanted. However, Cruz is on board with the bill as it is.

I believe Cruz being on board with it is a mistake, however, and I think Lee is right to be undecided right now. For that matter, I would not for a minute begrudge Lee opposing the bill.

Mitch McConnell needs Lee’s vote to get the bill to a 50-50 deadlock, allowing Mike Pence to come in and vote to break the tie in the Republicans’ favor. The two Republican defections make this tough on both McConnell and Lee.

From a conservative standpoint, this bill is nowhere close to ideal. The fundamental premise of the Republican position on health care has been to repeal Obamacare. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Republican controlled chambers passed numerous repeal bills, each one vetoed and unable to be overturned. Now that Republicans have the presidency, they simply do not want to do it.

I suppose it’s a bit understandable, what with the scary CBO numbers about the millions who will lose… er, not be forced to buy insurance and all. Still, the legal and foundations infrastructure set up by Obamacare has done nothing to help our health care system and has done major damage to our health insurance markets. Conservatives in Congress should be looking at repeal as the first step.

And it is very clear that Lee knows this. What it comes down to is mathematics – what does the most Americans the most amount of good? Leaving Obamacare in place until a new, better, and more conservative option comes forward? Or start undoing some of the damage now and whittle away at it legislatively?

Tough questions to answer, because they all rely on a Republican-controlled Congress to do what it is supposed to do in the future, and we all know their track record on such.

I do not envy Lee, and I do not envy the hatred and vitriol that will come his way regardless of the choice he makes. However, I do admire his ability to remain principled and not just join a bandwagon for the sake of being liked. We need more of that.

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