Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Last Call For Trumpcare Or Else

Donald Trump has decided what he meant by mentioning he'd be open to "working with" Democrats on Obamacare earlier this month.  What he meant was "working over" Dems, not to mention tens of millions of Americans by threatening to sabotage government payments to insurers unless Dems surrender totally.

President Trump suggested to the Wall Street Journal Wednesday that he would withhold from insurers Obamacare subsidy payments that are the target of a House GOP lawsuit in order to force Democrats into negotiations over repealing the Affordable Care Act, a move that could bring chaos to the individual health insurance market.

In the same interview Trump said he believed Democrats still “own” the Affordable Care Act, but acknowledged that the longer he was in office the more likely it was he would be blamed for problems with the law.

“That’s part of the reason that I may go the other way” on the insurance subsidies, Trump told the Journal. “The longer I’m behind this desk and you have Obamacare, the more I would own it.”

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans are under increasing pressure to continue the subsidies, known as cost sharing reduction payments, at least through 2018 as insurers prepare to submit their plans for next year. The Department of Health and Human Services, as well as GOP leaders on Capitol Hill, have signaled that the payments will continue through the next stage of the legal case, which has been delayed until May.

House Republicans in 2014 sued the Obama administration over the payments, claiming they were illegal because they were not explicitly appropriated by Congress, and won a favorable ruling from a federal judge last May who then halted her decision to allow the Justice Department to appeal it.

Trump’s threats to end the payments come as the Obamacare repeal effort in Congress has faltered. He also told the Wall Street Journal that he will not release the White House plan for tax reform—the next item on the GOP’s agenda and where congressional Republican leaders have shifted their attention—until an Obamacare repeal bill is passed.

Trump said he believed that withholding the payments for insurers would bring Democrats to the table on negotiations.

“I don’t want people to get hurt,” Mr. Trump said. “What I think should happen—and will happen—is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating

Extortion, plain and simple.  And Trump thinks that treating tens of millions of voters like poker chips that can be sacrificed will help him with his dismal approval ratings.

Sure, Donny.  You go right on believing that.

Revenge Of The Bathroom Bill

Because North Carolina Republicans will never, ever stop hating LGBTQ folks, and will never stop trying to codify LGBTQ folks as second-class citizens, my home state will never stop being a national embarrassment.

Just two weeks after repealing and replacing its controversial and costly HB2 "bathroom bill," North Carolina lawmakers have introduced legislation that seeks to invalidate same-sex marriages in the Tar Heel state. 
"Marriages, whether created by common law, contracted, or performed outside of North Carolina, between individuals of the same gender are not valid in North Carolina," House Bill 780 states. 
The Republican-sponsored bill, titled the Uphold Historical Marriage Act, asserts the U.S. Supreme Court "overstepped its constitutional bounds" when it struck down North Carolina's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. 
"The General Assembly of the State of North Carolina declares that the Obergefell v. Hodges decision of the United States Supreme Court of 2015 is null and void in the State of North Carolina, and that the State of North Carolina shall henceforth uphold and enforce Section 6 of Article XIV of the North Carolina Constitution, the opinion and objection of the United States Supreme Court notwithstanding," the bill reads. 
Rep. Deb Butler, one of the only openly LGBTQ lawmakers in the North Carolina General Assembly, called the legislation "despicable." 
"Nothing surprises me out of this legislature anymore," Butler told NBC Out. "As if we haven't already been in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons this year with HB2, we're now going to prove just how draconian and ridiculous we are." 
"It seems that these alt-right legislators don't learn from mistakes made, and they feel this sort of damaging and disruptive behavior is somehow going to get them reelected, and I think the contrary will prove true," Butler added.

I guess it's really up to whether or not NC Republicans believe in outright discrimination enough to make this law, because there's nothing stopping them from passing this bill and overriding Gov. Roy Cooper's veto, either.

I'm not sure what the NC GOP is trying to pull here, but the much larger question is what if this leads to actual, outright nullification, and in the Trump era I don't even expect the Sessions-led Justice Department to take action against NC for this.

Why would they?  What's stopping Trump from saying "They're right, we refuse to enforce this."

Who's going to make them?  We could very well have another Nullification Crisis on our hands, only this time it wouldn't be the Obama administration in charge.

At this point I'd be very concerned.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Another puzzle piece in the Trump/Russia story today from the Washington Post on the board today, and it's a key one.  Surveillance of Russian nationals ensnared members of the Trump campaign, but so far we didn't have a exact identity on who, if anyone, that NSA surveillance led to on the Trump side. Today we now know that the FBI used that surveillance to get a FISA warrant to investigate former Trump adviser Carter Page.

The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said. 
The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials
This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor
Page has not been accused of any crimes, and it is unclear whether the Justice Department might later seek charges against him or others in connection with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections began in July, officials have said. Most such investigations don’t result in criminal charges. 
The officials spoke about the court order on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of a counterintelligence probe.

This is pretty big.  NSA surveillance of foreign nationals leading to a FISA warrant on a US citizen is no small matter, which means whatever Carter Page was saying to the Russians at the time was of strong enough interest to the FBI to go to a judge and get the ball rolling on an investigation into Page being a foreign agent possibly at the time he was working for Trump. If that last part is true, this thing just got deadly serious (if it wasn't somehow deadly serious before.)

Again, the very curious defense of Trump by the right continues to be "If there were any actual criminal wrongdoing here, it would have leaked months ago!" which conveniently ignores the existing Trump/Russian connections with Paul Manafort and Mike Flynn as irrelevant.  That rings especially hollow coming from the party that spent literally years on Hillary Clinton's emails, and then had those emails...wait for it...leaked by multiple sources over those years.

We'll see where this goes, but at this point we have at least one Trump campaign adviser under investigation as a foreign agent.  My guess is we'll find out that FBI investigation is much larger than Page.


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