While the media has been obsessed with trivialities such as Game of Thrones and royal babies this past week, you may have missed that House Democrats are aggressively passing the legislative agenda that Americans elected them to do. Republicans, however, are engaged in a policy of “total obstruction” to do nothing and thwart the will of the American people.
House Democrats began making good on their campaign promise to shore up the Affordable Care Act on Thursday, passing a bill that would bar the Trump administration from granting states some waivers to the landmark health-care law.
Next week, the House will vote on a package of seven health-care bills, several of which would reverse administration actions that Democrats have described as efforts to sabotage former president Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
The votes come as President Trump recently renewed his vow to repeal the 2010 law and directed the Justice Department to support a lawsuit aimed at invalidating the law entirely — including its popular protections for Americans with preexisting medical conditions.
The White House threatened to veto H.R. 986, the “Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act of 2019,” ahead of the vote. White House Threatens Veto of “Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act”. “The Democratic health-care bills have sparse Republican support, and none are expected to be considered by the GOP-controlled Senate.”
Trump has vowed to run on health care and has said his campaign would present a plan to voters. Republicans, however, have failed to come up with an alternative to the law and there is no GOP effort in Congress to craft a replacement.
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[U]nder Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House leaders are pursuing a measured strategy aimed at highlighting Democrats’ efforts to protect coverage for people with preexisting conditions without wading into the murky political waters of a Medicare-for-all type of plan.
That’s not entirely accurate. The House Budget Committee on Friday announced that it will hold a hearing on single-payer health care on May 22, marking another step forward for the progressive proposal on Capitol Hill. House Budget Committee announces hearing on single-payer health care. The hearing will be the second one on the idea of single-payer, sometimes called “Medicare for All,” that House Democrats have held this year since taking back the majority.
Roll Call today reports on House health care week again:
It’s health care week, part two, in the House as the chamber will vote on a package of seven bills designed to strengthen the 2010 law and lower prescription drug prices — after passing a measure last week that Democrats said would protect people with pre-existing conditions.
The health care package, titled the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, is composed of seven bills reported out of committee.
The legislation would ban so-called junk insurance plans, provide funding for states to establish their own insurance marketplaces under the terms of the 2010 health care law and restore funding the Trump administration cut for the law’s marketing and the navigator program, which helps people sign up for insurance coverage, among other policies.
Most of those components, designed to strengthen the 2010 law, are ones most Republicans do not support.
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The health care bill Democrats passed last week with the assistance of just four Republicans — called the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act — would require the administration to rescind 2018 guidance that made it easier for states to change their individual insurance markets and bypass the health care law.
Republicans voting against it argued that the Section 1332 waivers at the center of the legislation don’t allow states to waive pre-existing condition protections.
But the health care package won’t be the only marquee legislation on the floor this week. Democrats will be halfway through advancing their top 10 bills out of the House after a vote on HR 5, the Equality Act.
HR 5 led by Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and co-sponsored by all but one member of the Democratic Caucus, would amend the Civil Rights Act to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations, education, housing, employment, jury service and federal financing.
The bill, which would expand the 1964 law to ban discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender, is set to get a vote in the House as soon as Thursday.
House Democrats pledged shortly before last year’s midterm election that they would bring up the legislation if they won back the majority. They also gave the legislation a low bill number, H.R. 5, underscoring its importance to the House Democratic agenda.
“LGBT Americans and their families deserve to be protected against all forms of discrimination no matter where they live,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said on the floor. “This legislation would ban discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment, education, jury service, credit and financing, and public accommodations.”
The bill is expected to receive broad support from Democrats and centrists. Two Republicans have signed on as cosponsors — Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) — and with 240 cosponsors it’s all but guaranteed to pass the House this week.
But it’s been met with sharp pushback from conservatives including groups like the Heritage Foundation and the Family Research Council, which have slammed the bill.
The Business Coalition for the Equality Act — which is comprised of roughly 200 companies including Facebook, Google, Hilton, JP Morgan Chase amongst others — have come out in support of the measure.
If the bill, which was first introduced in 2015, was signed into law it would be the first national nondiscrimination law for LGBTQ Americans.
But it faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, where supporters would face long odds of convincing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring it up for a vote. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) told NBC News earlier this year that “if you just had an up or down vote, we would have sufficient votes in both houses.”
Also last week, the House passes plus-upped disaster aid package:
The House passed a $19.1 billion disaster aid package to help victims of recent storms and flooding rebuild, with the price tag growing by about $1.8 billion on the floor through amendments to add funds for repairing damaged military facilities, highways, levees, dams and more.
The vote was 257-150, with 34 Republicans crossing the aisle to support the bill drafted by the Democratic majority. President Donald Trump and GOP leaders tried to tamp down defections on the bill, which they oppose because it would pump more money into Puerto Rico, which hasn’t yet been able to spend much of the $20 billion previously appropriated after 2017′s Hurricane Maria.
Republicans are focused on the Senate, where bipartisan negotiations are ongoing on a separate aid package. The White House and Republicans want to impose more financial controls on Puerto Rico’s management of funds run through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program.
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But the Senate package is stuck over a variety of unrelated issues, including a Trump request for $4.5 billion in border-related resources and a push by Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby to free up some $2 billion in year in harbor maintenance funds that currently have to compete with other discretionary programs. House Republicans from disaster-afflicted areas faced immense pressure back home to support the House Democrats’ bill, which is currently the only moving vehicle to deliver long-delayed relief.
House Democratic chairmen on Friday reintroduced a bill to protect U.S. election systems against cyberattacks, including requiring President Trump to produce a “national strategy for protecting democratic institutions.” House Dems reintroduce bill to protect elections from cyberattacks:
The Election Security Act is aimed at reducing risks posed by cyberattacks by foreign entities or other actors against U.S. election systems. The national strategy from President Trump would “protect against cyber attacks, influence operations, disinformation campaigns, and other activities that could undermine the security and integrity of United States democratic institutions.”
The bill is sponsored by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), the chairman of the Democracy Reform Task Force.
The bill would also require the establishment of cybersecurity standards for voting system vendors, and require states to use paper ballots during elections. Further, the legislation would establish a National Commission to Protect U.S. Democratic Institutions that would be tasked with countering efforts to undermine democratic institutions, and require the Director of National Intelligence to assess threats to election systems 180 days prior to an election.
Portions of the Election Security Act, which was introduced during the last Congress by Thompson, were included in H.R. 1, the For the People Act, which also included broad electoral reforms. This legislation was passed by the House earlier this year, but does not appear likely to see action in the Senate, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) referring to the bill as the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”
Thompson on Friday urged Republicans to work with him and the other sponsors to move the Election Security Act through the House, commenting that “nothing less than the integrity of our democracy is at stake,” and criticizing the Trump administration for not doing enough on election security.
Sarbanes, the primary sponsor of H.R. 1, said that “with our intelligence agencies increasingly warning us about the impending foreign attacks on our elections in 2020, we must act quickly to shore up our defenses and protect our democracy.”
A bipartisan election security bill co-sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) has been stymied in the Senate and “is all but dead amid a distinct lack of enthusiasm from Senate GOP leadership and the Trump White House.” Election security push stumbles amid White House resistance.
This is because the Trump campaign is soliciting foreign assistance – again – in 2020.
There was an apparent agreement between the Trump White House and Democratic leadership a couple of weeks ago on a big infrastructure funding proposal, but Republicans in Congress are opposed to paying for it. Dems eye big infrastructure package, with or without Trump:
That strategy, backers argue, would demonstrate to voters that they’re making good on the campaign promises that won them the lower chamber last year — and remain focused on those bread-and-butter issues looking ahead.
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Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, said he still intends to move a sweeping infrastructure package through his committee this year — even if talks with the White House break down.
Whether it gets a floor vote, he emphasized, is up to leadership. But he was quick to note that Democrats ran their successful 2018 campaign on a bare-bones message that featured just three line items: clean government, health care and infrastructure.
“One of the three key issues in us winning back the House was infrastructure,” said DeFazio, who attended the first new White House meeting on the issue on April 30. “I would certainly write a transportation bill.”
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), another member of the Transportation panel, is endorsing that idea enthusiastically.
“I have always thought we should simply be full speed ahead. Waiting for the goalposts to stop moving with this administration, I think, is a recipe for paralysis and inaction,” Huffman said.
The price tag — and the difficult task of finding money to offset those costs — should not discourage Democratic leaders from forging ahead, Huffman said. DeFazio backs a gas tax hike, while progressives are pushing for corporations that now pay zero taxes to fork over money for infrastructure.
“Having promised to do infrastructure, we can’t be afraid of the pay-for and let that be an excuse for inaction,” Huffman said, advocating a plan of “at least” $2 trillion. “We’ve got a lot of need out there.”
DeFazio, however, questioned why Democrats would stick their necks out to come up with offsets for a package that was sure to go nowhere in the GOP-controlled Senate. Some of those pay-fors would likely be unpopular, and could prove politically perilous to centrists who face tough elections next year.
“Probably the Republicans wouldn’t be very supportive,” he said, “If it’s just going to be a one-house bill, I don’t think there’s a great desire to walk the plank on funding.”
The debate comes as many Republicans, particularly those in control of the Senate, are balking at the enormous $2 trillion price tag for infrastructure that Trump agreed to in talks with Democratic leaders earlier in the month. The GOP grumbling has led to widespread doubts about the fate of the negotiations.
The problem, as always, is “The Enemy of The People,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and his policy of “total obstruction” that he developed against President Obama and is now deploying against House Democrats. McConnell has President Trump adopting his policy of total obstruction for all things now.
America has a problem, and it is obstructionist Republicans. They all need to be sent packing.