Last week I told you about the devil’s bargain that the mythical moderate from Maine, Sen. Susan Collins, made in exchange for her vote on the Senate GOP tax bill. The Senate GOP tax bill is also an assault on health care (excerpt):
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has now scored the bill negotiated by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) to stabilize the “Obamacare” market, and it also comes up woefully short. The CBO just released a report that should worry Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski:
A new report from the Congressional Budget Office dealt what should be a crushing blow to the tax bill: The deal that was crafted to win key senators who objected to the bill’s provision that would leave millions uninsured won’t actually stanch the loss in coverage.
With moderates expressing concern over a provision that would repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate — leaving an estimated 13 million more uninsured by 2027 — Republican leadership hatched a plan to simultaneously pass a bill to stabilize the Obamacare marketplaces, a proposal negotiated by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA).
But this proposal hit a major snag Wednesday when a new CBO report found passing the Alexander-Murray proposal — the centerpiece of which is funding Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction subsidies that Trump has threatened to pull — would not in fact help mitigate the coverage losses and premium hikes triggered by repealing the individual mandate.
But wait, there’s more. In making this deal with the devil, Sen. Collins forgot about the other devil with whom she actually needed to negotiate, i.e., the GOP’s alleged boy genius and Ayn Rand fanboy, Paul Ryan, “the zombie-eyed granny starver from the state of Wisconsin.”
Boy genius says “Deal, what deal? I have no deal with Sen. Collins.”
Steve Benen reports, Paul Ryan wasn’t part of Susan Collins’ tax deal:
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) surprised many when she threw her support behind the Republicans’ tax plan on Friday. Among other things, independent estimates showed that the GOP proposal would leave 13 million Americans without health insurance, and that’s ordinarily the sort of thing the Maine Republican would care about.
As part of an explanation, Collins said she’d reached an agreement with party leaders for votes on two other pieces of legislation, which she believes would mitigate the harm done by the GOP tax plan. There are, however, two problems with this, the first being that the proposals Collins has in mind appear inadequate to address the systemic harm done by her party’s proposal.
The second problem is that Collins’ deal didn’t guarantee success in the House. The Hill reportedyesterday:
Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office told a meeting of congressional leadership offices on Monday that the Speaker is not part of a deal to get ObamaCare fixes passed before the end of the year, according to a source familiar with the meeting.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a commitment to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that he would support passage of two bipartisan ObamaCare bills before the end of the year, a promise that helped win her vote for tax reform.
However, Ryan’s office told a meeting of staff from the four top congressional leadership offices on Monday that he has not made that same commitment, raising further questions about whether the ObamaCare bills, already opposed by House conservatives, can pass the House.
The Daily Beast had a related report on Monday, noting, “House conservatives are already indicating that they’re prepared to block some of the key legislative promises that Senate Republicans demanded in exchange for their votes on tax reform legislation.”
Axios.com adds, Everyone’s falling out of love with the bipartisan ACA bill:
Just a few weeks ago, the Affordable Care Act stabilization bill from Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray looked like a common-sense fix with a decent shot at finding its way into Congress’ big end-of-the-year package. But that was before Republicans were on the cusp of repealing the individual mandate. Now the bill’s constituency is eroding — on every front.
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The bottom line: Everyone agrees that repealing the individual mandate will lead to higher premiums and probably less competition among insurers. No one is quite sure how bad those effects will be, which makes it hard to say for sure how much Alexander-Murray would help or hurt. But given the choice, experts say they’d rather try to figure out a post-mandate world without Alexander-Murray than with it.
Steve Benen concludes:
The fact that Donald Trump apparently promised Collins he’ll back her proposals will likely work in her favor if the president honors his commitment.
But it’s also easy to imagine Collins having reached a deal that will soon fall apart. As New York’s Ed Kilgore wrote yesterday, the Maine senator appears to have secured a promise “written in vanishing ink.”
Not only is Paul Ryan dreaming of destroying “Obamacare,” but this evil GOP bastard now has his sights set on his fondest dream: Ryan says Republicans to target welfare, Medicare, Medicaid spending in 2018:
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America’s
The GOP tax bill’s redistribution of wealth upwards to corporations and plutocrats while taxing the middle-class and poor more will add more than a trillion dollars to the national debt over the next decade. If boy genius really wants to reduce America’s debt, he should start by scrapping this terrible GOP tax bill. Not going to happen.
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show. “… Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”
Ryan said that he believes he has begun convincing President Donald Trump in their private conversations about the need to rein in Medicare, the federal health program that primarily insures the elderly. As a candidate, Trump vowed not to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. (Ryan also suggested congressional Republicans were unlikely to try changing Social Security, because the rules of the Senate forbid changes to the program through reconciliation — the procedure the Senate can use to pass legislation with only 50 votes.)
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Ryan’s remarks add to the growing signs that top Republicans aim to cut government spending next year. Republicans are close to passing a tax bill nonpartisan analysts say would increase the deficit by at least $1 trillion over a decade. Trump recently called on Congress to move to cut welfare spending after the tax bill, and Senate Republicans have cited the need to reduce the national deficit while growing the economy.
“You also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn’t the driver of our debt. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said last week.
While whipping votes for the tax bill, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) attacked “liberal programs” for the poor and said Congress needed to stop wasting Americans’ money.
“We’re spending ourselves into bankruptcy,” Hatch said. “Now, let’s just be honest about it: We’re in trouble. This country is in deep debt. You don’t help the poor by not solving the problems of debt, and you don’t help the poor by continually pushing more and more liberal programs through.”
Jared Bernstein adds, Two top Republican tax writers reveal their prejudice and their strategy:
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), said this regarding Congress’s failure to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides Medicaid coverage to 9 million kids in low-income families: “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is because we don’t have money anymore, and to just add more and more spending and more and more spending, and you can look at the rest of the bill for the more and more spending.”
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On Saturday, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and member of the Senate’s tax writing committee, said this about repealing the estate tax:
“I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
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It’s awful enough for Grassley to spout such ignorance. But the worse crime was to embed it in tax policy.
Turning to Hatch’s statement, I cannot state the following adamantly enough:
Because they have used the deficit to pay for a tax cut that blatantly favors the rich over the rest, Republicans have forfeited their ability to tell us what we can and can’t afford.
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For decades, the Republicans have employed deficit-induced fearmongering as a reason to oppose any ideas from Democrats. They never stop caterwauling about the unsustainability of our social insurance and safety-net programs. But their deficit-financed gift to wealthy asset holders belies such posturing. Affordability is a choice, and they’ve shown whose side they’re choosing.
Back to The Post:
Trump has not clarified which specific programs would be affected by the proposed “welfare reform,” though congressional Republicans are signaling that they aim to impose work requirements on food stamps and direct cash assistance for the poor.
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Liberals have alleged that the GOP will use higher deficits — in part caused by their tax bill — as a pretext to accomplish the long-held conservative policy objective of cutting government health-care and social-service spending, which the left believes would hit the poor the hardest.
“What’s coming next is all too predictable: The deficit hawks will come flying back after this bill becomes law,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the finance committee, during a speech on the tax debate. “Republicans are already saying ‘entitlement reform’ and ‘welfare reform’ are next up on the docket. But nobody should be fooled — that’s just code for attacks on Medicaid, on Medicare, on Social Security, on anti-hunger programs.”
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Many conservatives have long argued for cutting and changing social safety net programs, arguing that anti-poverty programs have failed and that Social Security spending is growing at an unsustainable rate.
Still, members of both parties have long been reluctant to cut benefits, especially for seniors, due in part to the potential political cost of doing so. And in discussing changes, Republicans, including Rubio, have largely confined their ideas to plans that would affect new beneficiaries, rather than current ones.
But it may be particularly difficult for Republicans to push those measures ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, in which many in swing states and districts face well-funded Democratic challengers hoping to ride an anti-Trump wave into office.
Ryan said he’s optimistic, adding that Republicans could target the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid next year in addition to Medicare, despite their failure to repeal the health care law in 2017.
The battle lines are drawn. Of course your realize, this means war!
UPDATE: House Tea-Publicans are embracing the Senate’s repeal of Obamacare’s mandate that most people have insurance, but they are not buying Sen. Susan Collins’ side deal to stabilize health insurance markets. Tax Bill Is Likely to Undo Health Insurance Mandate, Republicans Say. So how’s that “deal” working out for you, Senator Collins? Susan Collins is getting played. Will she really vote for the tax bill in the end? (yes). In any event, Sarah Kliff analyzes Sen. Collins’s health proposal isn’t going to save Obamacare.