Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Meanwhile In Congress, Con't

With all the serious allegations surrounding the Trump regime right now, it's important to note that House Republicans have their own agenda, and at the top of the list is burying Obamacare and throwing tens of millions of people off various Medicaid expansion programs. The GOP hardliners led by NC Rep. Mark Meadows in the House Freedom Caucus aren't waiting around for this to magically happen (surprise, they don't trust Paul Ryan) so Meadows and his Tea Party crew say they want it gone completely by this time next month.

The situation: Republicans have two different opportunities to pass major legislation without Democrats through a process called budget reconciliation. The plan has been to use the first reconciliation bill on Obamacare repeal and replace and the second on tax reform. But while leadership has been exploring how much of a replacement it can fit into the repeal bill, Meadows — along with a growing number of conservatives — are saying they want repeal and replacement done in separate bills voted on at the same time. He then wants to use the second reconciliation to replace Obamacare, along with tax reform. 
Here's what he wants: 
  1. Within the next 30 days, a vote on full repeal of Obamacare. This includes the individual mandate, the employer mandate and the law's insurance regulations. While these laws weren't included in a 2015 repeal bill because of reconciliation rules, Meadows thinks there are ways around that.
  2. Immediately vote on a replacement plan, also within the next 30 days. The replacement must include a way of dealing with pre-existing conditions. Assume it doesn't pass the Senate filibuster.
  3. Potentially vote on a tax reform package under normal procedure, without the border adjustment tax. Meadows thinks this would have a chance of passing with some Democratic support in the Senate.
  4. Include Obamacare replacement in the second reconciliation bill "that is, quote, being used for tax reform, but it doesn't have to be just used for tax reform."
House conservatives are generally united in their Obamacare strategy. 

Ahh, but when you talk about tax reform and separate, multiple votes, that starts making Republicans nervous, and Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and the Dems may yet have an opening to strike.

Ok, but: Putting an Obamacare replacement and tax cuts in the second reconciliation bill — without a border adjustment tax — will cost a ton of money. It's unclear where that money will come from, but it could very well require the bill to need 60 votes in the Senate if it's not paid for. Democrats are very unlikely to help pass anything Republicans put forward after an Obamacare repeal, especially if they also don't like the tax components. Republicans know this and could be very unwilling to jeopardize tax reform in this way.

In other words, by tying expensive tax cuts for the wealthy to Obamacare repeal in order to get the double whammy, the GOP may have bitten off more than they can chew and left the door open for the Democrats to scrap the entire plan.  Impatient GOP House conservatives are getting a lot of static from constituents about not having this done already, and the pressure on them is about to get turned up to 11.

For the past three weeks, Democratic protesters have swarmed Republican town hall events across the country, booing, shouting down and trying to embarrass GOP lawmakers seeking to gut ObamaCare. 
In the coming weeks, grassroots conservatives will be fighting back. 
FreedomWorks, the Tea Party-aligned outside group, beginning next month will be organizing rallies and urging its nearly 6 million activists to turn out at town hall events to ensure members of Congress are also getting an earful from ObamaCare detractors.

“There will be more grassroots hand-to-hand combat than we’ve seen in Washington for a long time,” FreedomWorks President and CEO Adam Brandon said Monday during an interview in his office near the Capitol. 
“The conservative [lawmakers], they need to see us out there pushing. And if they see that, they’ll be bold,” he continued. “If they don’t see grassroots there on the ground, they’ll start slipping.”

In other words, the odds that House GOP blockheads are going to move too far, too fast on Obamacare is increasing exponentially, and that the whole thing my come apart at the seams. It certainly wouldn't be the first time Obama-era legislation would be saved by GOP incompetence, and it would certainly not be the last.

Skinned Like Flynn, Con't

Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn is OUT, resigning late last night.  His ties to Putin became too much to ignore after the questions raised this weekend over communication with the Russian ambassador over sanctions before Flynn or Trump were even in their jobs, and especially after the Washington Post dropped the bombshell that Trump was warned about Flynn's ties by the Justice Department.

The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.

The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that ­Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the Russian diplomat, had told Vice ­President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the information.

Flynn resigned Monday night in the wake of revelations about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

You remember Sally Yates, right?  The acting Attorney General who was dismissed by Trump over advising the President that his Muslim ban was unconstitutional?   Turns out Yates had warned the White House along with Jim Clapper and John Brennan that Flynn was compromised by the Russians and was a threat to national security.

But here's the explosive stuff:

In the waning days of the Obama administration, James R. Clapper Jr., who was the director of national intelligence, and John Brennan, the CIA director at the time, shared Yates’s concerns and concurred with her recommendation to inform the Trump White House. They feared that “Flynn had put himself in a compromising position” and thought that Pence had a right to know that he had been misled, according to one of the officials, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

A senior Trump administration official said before Flynn’s resignation that the White House was aware of the matter, adding that “we’ve been working on this for weeks.”

The current and former officials said that although they believed that Pence was misled about the contents of Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador, they couldn’t rule out that Flynn was acting with the knowledge of others in the transition.

The FBI, Yates, Clapper and Brennan declined to comment on the matter.

Pence is the Vice-President.  There's only one other person who outranks him in the Trump camp, and that's Mango Mao himself.

Supposedly Flynn is being fried up and served over hot coals because he lied to Pence.  I'm wondering why he's being fired at all, the Trump regime said at late as yesterday afternoon that they had "full confidence" in Flynn and that he wasn't going anywhere.

That's all garbage of course.  But things have shifted in the Trump regime.  Nobody at this point believes the Trump line that Flynn acted on his own.  Democrats have been handed the keys to dismantle the Trump regime, and possibly to go straight for Trump, but they can't do it without help.

And that leads us to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.  Sooner or later something's got to give there.

Whether or not Flynn ever testifies to Congress remains very much unknown.


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