The Graham-Cassidy Bill Must Pass

In nine days, the Senate’s time limit to get some sort of Obamacare reform effort passed expires. There is one last plan available to them – the Graham-Cassidy Plan – and it is currently the best and only chance to make some movement on the issue of health care reform.

Let’s be honest though: This isn’t Repeal And Replace. Not even close. A large chunk of Obamacare’s regulatory structure remains, pre-existing conditions are still covered, and it spends a whole lot of money at a time when you can reasonably argue the nation can’t afford to. However, the benefits of the plan currently outweigh that.

There are certainly great benefits to repealing the individual and employer mandates, as well as block-granting money to the states to establish their own system, rather than rely on a large federal government structure to tell them what to do. However, the biggest benefit of Graham-Cassidy is that it inches us toward a more conservative system.

If you’ll recall, most of us here at RedState opposed the original House plan to “repeal and replace.” I specifically mentioned that the House bill opened with a line about amending the Affordable Care Act, which is decidedly not “repeal and replace.” Moreover, the House plan was a classic example of Republicans not knowing how to negotiate. The Republican Party’s leadership is often a group that writes and presents the bills that represent what they expect to get all along. They don’t give themselves negotiating room.

Had they done so, it would have been fine for them to sit down with conservatives and liberals alike and negotiate toward the middle. That way, there would be assurances that each side would get some sort of “victory” out of the eventual bill. That is the type of negotiating that made the Reagan era so great for conservatism. He kept the ball moving down the field.

Republicans don’t do that, because they give up all the ground possible so they can put out a bill that they think could get passed the quickest. They don’t want debate or negotiating.

With the Graham-Cassidy plan, we are now left with the option of gaining back some ground or forfeiting it, perhaps for good. That is not a good option, and we need to back Senate Republicans in order to get it passed and walk away from this year with something done on Obamacare.

That’s what makes Rand Paul’s stance so infuriating. He is voting against the Graham-Cassidy plan because it doesn’t repeal and replace. He is willing to cede ground because we wouldn’t be gaining enough ground. It’s a dumb argument, because, as the editors at National Review said this week, not being what you want it to be is grounds for committee or debate, not outright rejection.

There is good that will come from this bill, should it pass. Conservatives should back it now, because we currently have the chance to land a blow to Obamacare. It’s not a knockout, but it’s still a blow.

Plus, John Kasich hates the bill, which makes it all the more likely that it’s not a terrible bill.

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REPORT: President Trump Has Decided to Refuse to Certify Iran’s Nuclear Deal Compliance

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, leaves the parliament after his speech in a session to debate his proposed cabinet, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. Iran's president issued a direct threat to the West on Tuesday, claiming his country is capable of restarting its nuclear program within hours — and quickly bringing it to even more advanced levels than in 2015, when Iran signed the nuclear deal with world powers. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center, leaves the parliament after his speech in a session to debate his proposed cabinet, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. Iran’s president issued a direct threat to the West on Tuesday, claiming his country is capable of restarting its nuclear program within hours — and quickly bringing it to even more advanced levels than in 2015, when Iran signed the nuclear deal with world powers. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

 

NBC is reporting, citing several sources, that President Trump will refuse to certify that Iran is in compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal, the JCPOA, and he will do so before the October 15 deadline to report to Congress on Iran’s performance.

President Trump is leaning toward decertifying the Iran nuclear deal and putting the decision of whether the U.S. will withdraw from the accord in the hands of Congress, according to four sources — including one senior administration official — familiar with the White House deliberations.

Such a move would come prior to an Oct. 15 deadline and would trigger a 60-day window for lawmakers to determine whether to reimpose sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program that were lifted as part of the 2015 agreement. The president’s goal during that time is to prod America’s European allies, who are part of the nuclear deal, to agree to renegotiate some provisions, and pressure Iran back into talks.

Still, several of the sources caution the president could change his mind over the next three weeks as he faces pushback from allies internationally.

As I posted a few days ago, Trump has several paths he could take on certification:

These are the options and there are factions in the government in favor of all of them:

1 – Decertify and stay in the deal, then focus on Congressional action — this is the mainstream “waive & slap then decertify & fix” option. It came out of policy shops like FDD and ISIS, and was outlined last week by Ambassador Haley. The deal should be decertified because it fails condition 4 (it’s not “vital to national interest”) and/or condition 1 (Iran is not “fully implementing” the paragraph 28 of the JCPOA, the weapons and personnel prohibitions of UNSCR 2231, the military site access requirements of the Additional Protocol, etc. The administration would then use leverage created by the threat or reality of Congressional action to strengthen weaknesses in the deal.

2 – Decertify and stay in the deal, then threaten to reimpose secondary sanctions — this is a new option. It comes from a plan that’s been circulating but hadn’t been described before today’s AP story. Here’s the AP outline: “… decertify Iran and threaten to restore nuclear sanctions on Iran at any point as well as so-called “secondary sanctions” that could cut off European and other banks and businesses that do business with Iran from the U.S. financial system.” The administration would then threaten to get physical with banks unless the Iranians modified their behavior and agreed to strengthen the deal.

3 – Decertify and stay in the deal, then focus on executive action — Here’s the AP outline: “… have Trump issue a new executive order setting out a timeline for the agreement to be amended or supplemented with bans or further limitations on uranium enrichment and ballistic missile testing.” The administration would then use leverage created by the move to strengthen weaknesses in the deal.

4 – Decertify and withdraw from the deal — this option has been outlined and advocated most prominently by Amb Bolton. The argument is that the deal can’t be enforced or fixed. In August Bolton published a white paper charting the tactics and strategy that would be used to manage to withdrawal.

5 – Certify — this is the State Department option. Secretary Tillerson says he disagrees with the president on the Iran deal and the State Department is reportedly in “open war” against the White House on the issue. After the July certification, Iran deal advocates inside the State Department launched multiple open-ended initiatives to ‘test’ and ‘strengthen’ the deal, which would allow them to indefinitely argue that decertification is premature. This AP report says Tillerson presented the president with the latest version of State’s certification plan this week, which promised to pursue ‘fixes’ earlier this week.

According to NBC, Trump has added an additional course of action:

The senior administration official said the president has resolved not to continue the “status quo,” but that he’s considering at least one other option related to the deal.

That option, according to two officials, would give European allies the option of 90 days to get on board with renegotiation — rather than punt the decision to Congress. Administration officials are still in talks with those allies, and with Republicans on Capitol Hill.

I don’t see this happening, not that the Euros won’t get on board but that Rouhani can’t politically survive the climb down that would be necessary for Iran to renegotiate the deal.

My personal view is that the best solution here is for Trump to declare Iran out of compliance and kick the matter to Congress. Hopefully, he can use that as an opportunity that will structure future sanctions against Iran in a way that requires Congressional approval of lifting/modifying them rather than giving the president carte blanche to lift sanctions, as was the case with Obama. Going forward will require close coordination between Congress and the White House and not is a good time to get everyone on the same sheet of music.

Well, good luck with that.

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Iran’s Hassan Rouhani Makes an Demand of President Trump

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani  listens during a news conference on his visit for the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani listens during a news conference on his visit for the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

While much attention was focused on the message President Trump directed at North Korea in his speech to the UN General Assembly yesterday, he also blistered the criminal regime in Tehran:

We face this decision not only in North Korea. It is far past time for the nations of the world to confront another reckless regime — one that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. The longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are, in fact, its own people.

Rather than use its resources to improve Iranian lives, its oil profits go to fund Hezbollah and other terrorists that kill innocent Muslims and attack their peaceful Arab and Israeli neighbors. This wealth, which rightly belongs to Iran’s people, also goes to shore up Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship, fuel Yemen’s civil war, and undermine peace throughout the entire Middle East.

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. (Applause.) The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.

It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction. It is time for the regime to free all Americans and citizens of other nations that they have unjustly detained. And above all, Iran’s government must stop supporting terrorists, begin serving its own people, and respect the sovereign rights of its neighbors.

The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most. This is what causes the regime to restrict Internet access, tear down satellite dishes, shoot unarmed student protestors, and imprison political reformers.

Tehran used to eight years of being sucked up to by the Obama regime seemed taken aback by the speech.

And this nugget:

Mr. Rouhani followed his United Nations speech about an hour later with an hourlong news conference, in which he denounced what he called Mr. Trump’s “completely baseless allegations” about Iran, demanded an apology and said the Iran nuclear agreement was final and could not be amended, reopened or renegotiated.

I’m sure if Rouhani consulted with a rando rug merchant in Tehran’s bazaars he’d discover that there is no such thing at a deal that can’t “be amended, reopened or renegotiated.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that this is probably not going to happen.

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A Must-Watch: The O’Donnell-O’Reilly Meltdown Mash-up You Didn’t Know You Needed

Mediaite published leaked video it received of MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell melting down in spectacular fashion while off-air on August 29. The video is exactly what you’d expect from O’Donnell’s ilk. Lots of swearing and over-the-top outrage that would make his Irish ancestors proud.

Of course, it brought recollections and comparisons to another Irish American television host’s epic meltdown. Bill O’Reilly’s famous “We’ll do it live!” video lives in infamy.

Naturally, a mash-up video was a must in the age of the internet and our friends at the Washington Free Beacon did not disappoint. It’s simply hilarity perfected.

Watch:

Nice work, guys. (And by “guys” I mean people of all genders working there, obviously).

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With the Iran Nuclear Deal on the Table, Tillerson and Haley Find Themselves at Odds

Nikki Haley would make a better Secretary of State, anyway, if you ask me.

The Washington Free Beacon is reporting on an internal rift between Ambassador Haley and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in regards to the ill-advised Iran deal.

The Reader’s Digest version is that Tillerson loves the deal and wants to keep it, as is. Haley, on the other hand, balks at the notion of Tillerson’s support, and feels he’s working directly against President Trump’s agenda.

The division is one of several that Tillerson has sparked within the administration, particularly in the West Wing, where the secretary of state has been described as in “open war” with Trump on a series of major foreign policy issues, including Iran and the Israel-Palestinian impasse.

“The tension between Rex and Nikki is the worst kept secret in the State Department,” according to one veteran foreign policy hand who has been in close contact with the State Department on the issue.

Haley “thinks that [Tillerson is] trying to undermine the president and preserve Obama’s Iran legacy, which is true,” explained the source, who would only discuss the sensitive matter on background. “He thinks she’s running her own foreign policy and auditioning for his job, which is also true.”

You can count me as Team Nikki, here.

They’ve managed to keep the tensions under wraps, for most part, not willing to let the world see anything but absolute unity, at least on the surface.

Both Tillerson and Haley attended a meeting together on Wednesday with world leaders, to discuss the future of the Iran deal.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

There have been some more public clashes, but those were shut down quickly, in order to protect that veneer of teamwork.

“It will keep happening as long as the secretary keeps working to force Trump to certify while the ambassador keeps working to promote what Trump says he wants,” the source said.

Opponents of the bill are looking to Haley, who they see as an ally.

“Tillerson is buying what the Europeans are selling and he’s really pushing the president to recertify,” said the source, who also requested anonymity to discuss internal conversations. “The Republicans on Capitol Hill don’t want this to fall into their lap so they’re backing Tillerson for now. Haley is doing what she can to fight for what’s right, but it might not matter if [Secretary of Defense] Mattis backs up Tillerson.”

“President Trump’s going to be totally humiliated by the Iranians if he falls for something this stupid,” the source said.

So does Mattis back Tillerson?

Remains to be seen.

“Haley clearly understands that the status quo is unsustainable,” said one senior congressional official involved in the matter. “She recognizes that the nuclear deal has been a complete disaster for the United States and our allies.”

“Meanwhile, Tillerson continues to pursue his own agenda at State with little regard for the president’s priorities,” the official said. “It’s good to see Haley stand firm as the voice of reason, and urge Tillerson and other Iran sympathizers to end their rogue behavior.”

One thing is for sure: Europe can’t be trusted to stand up to Iran, and they don’t like the idea that the U.S. might not recertify.

Foreign policy strategist, Richard Goldberg, was an architect of the sanctions against Iran, as a senior congressional adviser. He’s advising against recertifying and against trusting Europe to get tough with Iran in extreme situations.

“The president would be foolish to recertify Iran on Europe’s empty promise of “fixing” the deal,” said Goldberg, the author of a recent memo outlining for the Trump administration how it can remove the U.S. from the nuclear deal. “Unless European leaders credibly believe President Trump might reimpose sanctions at any moment, they will say nice things in meetings and do absolutely nothing to ‘fix’ a fundamentally bad deal they already accepted.”

Tough talk, but I believe him.

Goldberg goes on to suggest Trump’s best move would be to deem Iran as in violation of the agreement and to apply new sanctions.

“The president has no other option than to decertify and hold the re-imposition of sanctions over both Europe and Iran as a financial Sword of Damocles until we see behavioral change by the regime,” he said.

That sounds like a plan, but first, the internal issues with the administration need to be addressed, meaning, get Rex Tillerson on board with everybody else.

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Don’t Mistake Rand Paul’s Political Move on Obamacare for Morality

There are good reasons libertarians — and especially the Libertarian Party — has trouble ever successfully running a third-party campaign. One of them is likely the fact they never seem able to come to the table and compromise just to get things done.

The line has always been that libertarians take the moral high ground, even on some of the establishment conservative moves; loosely translated that means they are doing the hard job of protecting the freedoms of the average American from the mission-creep of the two-party system.

And so it is with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been very vocal, chatting up the press more than many of his colleagues, about just what he will deign to sign onto when it comes to the repeal and replace of Obamacare.

And he has no love for the newest iteration of repeal and replace, the Graham-Cassidy bill. RedState’s Kimberly Ross broke down the particulars of this new (and, frankly, surprising) effort to save the nation from single payer before the Sept. 30th deadline, after which repeal is no longer an option with a simple majority vote.

So, what’s driving our favorite libertarian conservative? After all, he voted for the sham “skinny” repeal that was only half-heartedly crafted last minute because everyone knew Sen. John McCain (AZ) was going to give it a thumbs down. Why is he back to being the principled libertarian now, especially since Graham-Cassidy is, by most conservative estimates, the better bill?

The Weekly Standard thinks they know.

Paul’s primary opposition — and it switches almost daily — has to do with the block granting of some of Obamacare’s spending back to the states with the caveat that the grants must be used for healthcare. Paul isn’t a fan of this idea, even though “skinny” repeal didn’t even offer this choice to the states, opting instead to retain all of Obamacare’s spending. And remember: Paul voted for that. So what gives?

Paul’s opposition to the block-grant approach is all the more puzzling because in July Paul voted for an amendment that would have block-granted most of the Obamacare spending. For procedural reasons, the block-grant approach is believed to be the only realistic way the Senate can stop Obamacare funding from paying for insurance plans that cover elective abortion.

Given his past comments and voting history, Paul seems more opposed to the particular way Graham-Cassidy distributes the block grants and not the overall amount of Obamacare spending it retains or the mere principle of block-granting Obamacare’s spending.

“It takes money from the Democrat states and gives it to the Republican states,” Paul said on Monday. Because the bill redistributes all of Obamacare’s spending nationwide, states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare like California and New York would get less than they would under the Obamacare status quo, but non-expansion states like Virginia and Wisconsin would get more. Paul’s Kentucky expanded Medicaid.

And there you have it. Paul, like every other politician, has a constituency and he knows that if he wants to keep in good standing (and therefore keep his job) he needs to make sure that his state is getting paid, as it were.

The strange thing about this is that no one faults politicians for going to bat for their constituencies. It’s expected, if a little frustrating at times. Especially when it means the difference between single-payer and something not quite so market-busting.

But what makes Paul even more frustrating as a politician is that he doesn’t seem to want to admit that he’s a politician, playing principled outsider to the extent he has to change his mind, day to day, and with a blistering lack of rational motive.

If conservatives feel the frustration of Paul’s slippery moral stance, imagine how libertarians must feel. Their principled outsider is really just playing to his base, same as everyone else.

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