Pfaff: GOP Leadership Undermining the Trump Agenda Setting Up 2018 Fight with House Freedom Caucus? – Breitbart News

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It turns out that isnt the case at all. The House Freedom Caucus and conservative groups like Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, Freedomworks and Club For Growthamong otherscame out opposing the plan. And the furor began. Whats being revealed as this plays out is the real challenge it will be to drain the swamp. And as the fault lines between conservatives and leadership in the House widen, the Trump agenda is truly at risk.

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Paul Ryan in his now famous PowerPoint Press Conferencesent a message to the House Freedom Caucus and conservative groups. They dont understand the reconciliation process, he said. He drew a line in the sand against to their efforts when he said, The time is here. The time is now. This is the moment, and this is the closest this will ever happen. It really comes down to a binary choice.

Its a binary choice over something which has no costs associated with it. The Congressional Budget Office has not released their report on its budget effect. And some members of Congress are openly concerned the report might show severe impacts on future spending. House leadership hasnt been forthcoming on the fiscal impact either.

Paul Ryan has been sending a message to conservatives. He is telling them to either accept the plan or not. And while conservatives arent yet falling into line, an effort to oppose them during the 2018 campaign is beginning to emerge. It may be a repeat leaderships 2016 efforts to take out conservative members.

Just this week, a group began a $500,000 ad campaign targeting 30 House Freedom Caucus members calling upon them to support what is now being called Ryancare. Similar efforts were initiated against Freedom Caucus members like Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) last year taking out Huelskamp.

Ultimately, Paul Ryan is causing severe harm to the agenda of President Trump. The Speaker knew the bill he released would have strong opposition from conservatives. Sen. Rand Paul was already explaining the reasons for opposition when he complained how the House was hiding the bill in the last few weeks. As the politics in the House continues to deteriorate, there is speculation that while feigning support for the Presidents agenda, House leadership is using the legislation to set up an electoral fight with conservatives next year.

I found myself in the middle of this give and take serving Cong. Tim Huelskamp as his Chief of Staff. Immediately after the 112th Congress began in January 2011, leaders in the House offered a spending cut of $38.5 billion in the budget. They claimed they were taking aggressive steps to get spending under control. But no CBO report had been issued to confirm that number. Our office found the actual CBO research which revealed the cut was only $352 million (not billion but million). House leadership was apparently hiding the report. We released it to a furor of condemnation in the House. I met with Boehners Chief of Staff Barry Jackson. He was furious. Ill just say this meeting set the tone for the ongoing backlash against House Freedom Caucus members and John Boehner ever since.

A typical pattern emerged in the House after 2011. Bills were written in the Speakers office. They were forced through the committees with limited amendments. They proceeded to the Rules committee which is stacked with members loyal to the speaker. Conservative amendments were killed there. And the bill reached the floor with rules taking away the right of members to amend the bill.

Conservatives have been shut out of the process for years. And it seems nothing has changed.

The House could have offered a full repeal bill. Speaker Ryan is making a passionate plea against the idea saying it would be filibustered in the Senate and die. But experts are saying that might not be the case at all.

Reconciliation is a mystery to the average Americanmostly because members of Congress make it so. Reconciliation is a process created through the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 that allows changes to budget items to reconcile with the then current budget on a simple majority vote. Spending items only are allowed under Reconciliation.

Some experts believe Congress can pass a full repeal of Obamacare in a reconciliation bill. Paul Winfree of the Heritage Foundation argued this in a Politico article last November:

it is clear that those rules are inseparable from the rest of the ACAs structure. In fact, the Obama administration argued this before the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell, the case over whether enrollees who buy insurance through the federal exchange are eligible for subsidies. As a result, Congress may repeal those regulations via reconciliation.

The Senate Parliamentarian could certainly rule against a bill with full repeal language, but there is a simple fix to that. The presiding officer can rule against the parliamentarian, and the Senate can overrule her with a simple majority vote.

GOP leadership in the Senate and House know this. But they are unwilling to take the risk.

This is where President Trump can use his political heft to bring a solution. And it just might save his agenda from an initial defeat.

He can sit down with Speaker Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and conservatives and hash out a full repeal now. President Trump can send Mike Pence to the Senate to override any negative ruling by the parliamentarian, and Obamacare can go to the ash heap of history.

The Swamp doesnt want this. But Donald Trump could once again defy the odds and make winning great again.

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Pfaff: GOP Leadership Undermining the Trump Agenda Setting Up 2018 Fight with House Freedom Caucus? – Breitbart News

Trump says ‘great progress’ made on health care bill, but GOP congressmen say bill ‘will fail’ – TheBlaze.com

President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Saturday the current efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act are going smoothly.

We are making great progress with healthcare. ObamaCare is imploding and will only get worse. Republicans coming together to get job done! the president tweeted.

The tweet came just two days after Trump delivered a similar message on Twitter, writing on March 9, Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great. We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture!

Trumps confidence in Republicans current health care reform efforts seems to contradict the numerous reports that have surfaced over the past week suggesting many Republican congressmen and think tanks are staunchly opposed to the House GOP leaderships proposed Obamacare replacement, the American Health Care Act.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) called the bill a stinking pile of garbage and said he believes the bill will fail.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on Thursday on Twitter the health-care bill cant pass Senate w/o major changes. To my friends in House: pause, start over. Get it right, dont get it fast.

Cotton later added, What matters in long run is better, more affordable health care for Americans, NOT House leaders arbitrary legislative calendar.

In an interview with Fox News host Neil Cavuto, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said the AHCA is Obamacare lite and would incentivize young, healthy people to stay out of the private health insurance marketplace. Paul also told Cavuto he believes congressmen are very, very divided on how to replace the ACA.

The Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Tea Party Patriots, FreedomWorks, and Americans for Prosperity, among many other conservative groups, have also said they do not support the AHCA in its current form.

Trumps claim about the alleged great progress being made on health care reform came just a few days after Trump hosted influential conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) at the White House on Wednesday night. Reports issued by The Hill and Newsmax suggest Trump planned on soliciting Cruzs help in promoting the AHCA to conservative members of the Senate.

Cruz has reportedly said he has serious concerns about the House bill as drafted.

The AHCA sailed through its first two obstacles on Thursday, gaining the approval of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee along party-lines.

The legislations next hurdle will be the House Budget Committee. If it passes there, it will then be considered by the full Congress.

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Trump says ‘great progress’ made on health care bill, but GOP congressmen say bill ‘will fail’ – TheBlaze.com

Employees who decline genetic testing could face penalties under proposed bill – Washington Post

Employers could impose hefty penalties on employees who decline to participate in genetic testing as part of workplace wellness programs if a bill approved by a U.S. House committee this week becomes law.

In general, employersdon’t have that power under existing federal laws, which protect genetic privacy and nondiscrimination. But a bill passed Wednesday by theHouse Committee on Education and the Workforce would allow employers to get around thoseobstacles if the information is collected as part of a workplace wellness program.

Suchprograms which offer workers a variety ofcarrots and sticksto monitor and improve their health, such as lowering cholesterol have become increasingly popularwith companies.Some offer discounts on health insurance to employees who complete health-risk assessments. Others might charge people more for smoking.Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are allowed to discount health insurance premiums by up to 30 percent and in some cases 50 percent for employees who voluntarily participate in a wellness program.

[Obamacare revision clears two House committees as Trump, others tried to tamp down backlash]

The bill is under review by other House committees and still must be considered by the Senate. But it has already faced strong criticism from a broad array of groups, as well as House Democrats. In a letter sent to the committee earlier this week, nearly 70 organizations representing consumer, health and medical advocacy groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, AARP, March of Dimes and the National Women’s Law Center said the legislation, if enacted, would undermine basic privacy provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act(GINA).

Congress passed GINA to prohibit discrimination by health insurers and employers based on the information that people carry in their genes. There is an exception that allows for employees to provide that information as part of voluntary wellness programs. But the law states that employee participation must be entirely voluntary, with no incentives for providing the dataor penalties for not providing it.

But theHouse legislation would allow employers to impose penalties of up to 30 percent of the total cost of the employee’s health insurance on those who choose to keep such information private.

[Rich Americans seem to have found a way to avoid paying a key Obamacare tax]

It’s a terrible Hobson’s choice between affordable health insurance and protecting one’s genetic privacy, said Derek Scholes, director of science policy at the American Society of Human Genetics, which represents human genetics specialists. The organization sent aletter to the committee opposing the bill.

The average annual premium for employer-sponsored family health coverage in 2016 was $18,142, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Under the plan proposed in the bill, a wellness program could charge employees an extra $5,443 in annual premiums if they choose not to share their genetic and health information.

The bill, Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, HR 1313, was introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx, (R-N.C.), who chairs the Committee on Education and the Workforce. A committee statement said the bill provides employers the legal certainty they need to offer employee wellness plans, helping to promote a healthy workforce and lower health care costs. It passed on a party-line vote, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed.

The bills supporters in the business community have argued that competing regulations in federal laws make it too difficult for companies to offer these wellness programs. In congressional testimony this month, the American Benefits Council, which represents major employers, said the burdensome rules jeopardize wellness programs that improve employee health, can increase productivity and reduce health care spending.

A House committee spokeswoman told CNBC that those opposed to the bill are spreading false informationin a desperate attempt to deny employees the choice to participate in a voluntary program that can reduce health insurance costs and encourage healthy lifestyle choices.

Read more:

Deadly fungal infection that doctors have been fearing now reported in U.S.

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These 12 superbugs pose the greatest threat to human health, WHO says

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Employees who decline genetic testing could face penalties under proposed bill – Washington Post

Cotton warns House GOP about health care bill – Politico

The bill probably can be fixed, but its going to take a lot of carpentry on that framework, Cotton said. | AP Photo

The House legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare would not only fail in the Senate but could also ruin Republicans’ reelection efforts in 2018, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said Sunday.

The bill probably can be fixed, but its going to take a lot of carpentry on that framework, Cotton told host George Stephanopoulos on ABCs This Week. As its written today, this bill in the House of Representatives cannot pass the Senate. And I believe it would have adverse consequences for millions of Americans. and it wouldn’t deliver on our promises to reduce the cost of health insurance for Americans.

Story Continued Below

Cotton is among a number of Republicans who have expressed opposition to the Houses plan to replace former President Barack Obamas Affordable Care Act. House leaders unveiled their plan, the American Health Care Act, last week, and it has already been marked up and advanced through two committees as leaders move to send the legislation to the Senate and President Donald Trumps desk before a congressional recess in April.

Cotton, however, warned fellow Republicans in the House not to acquiesce to a plan they dont support.

I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve, Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote, he said.

The Arkansas senator advised the House to slow down and resolve issues with regard to Medicaid and the individual insurance markets before the measure reaches the Senate.

I’m afraid that if they vote for this bill, they’re going to put the House majority at risk next year, he said. I just do not think that this bill can pass the Senate. And, therefore, I think the House should take a pause and try to get as close as we can to a good result before they send to it the Senate.

Originally posted here:

Cotton warns House GOP about health care bill – Politico

Adviser: Trump willing to accept improvements to healthcare proposal – The Hill

Gary Cohn, President Trumps chief economic adviser, said Sunday that Trump is open to negotiating with House conservatives who are demanding changes to the current GOP health care proposal.

The president has been very open and transparent on the issue, Cohn told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.

He has been willing to accept improvements to the bill. Weve gone out of our way, and the president has said this, to say that anything that makes the bill better for Americans, we are willing to accept.

Some demands include an end the expansion of Medicaid by 2018 instead of 2020, and the removal of insurance mandates that provide certain benefits such as maternity care.

Cohn on Sunday also defended the bill, saying it provides Americans with health insurance coverage.

We believe if you want to have coverage, and we believe everyone should have coverage, were providing you access to coverage, Cohn added.

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Adviser: Trump willing to accept improvements to healthcare proposal – The Hill

Trump’s health care bill is the first true test of his powers as salesman-in-chief – Quartz

US president Donald Trump is in sell mode, and plans to throw his full deal-making prowess behind the new healthcare bill designed to replace Obamacare in coming weeks, the White House said this week.

The president is very proud of the product we have produced, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told a packed press briefing on March 7.

Since then, Trump has hosted Tea Party and traditional Republicans at the White House, dined with Ted Cruz and Cruzs wife, and offered a dark message about Obamacare to Americans in his weekly address, warning The law is collapsing around us. Bowling appears to be a key part of the charm offensive, with House Republicans hitting the lanes under the White House this week, and Tea Party ones scheduled to bowl next week.

But opposition is unrelenting. Retirees, doctors, hospitals, right-wing talking heads, conservatives Republicans, Tea Party Republicans, and even Trump campaign booster Breitbart have come out against the bill. They all want changes, but sometimes diametrically opposed ones.

Sure, other White House-backed bills introduced in Congress have faced stiff bi-partisan opposition in recent history, and still passed. The TARP bill, for example, which bailed out the USs big banks at the end of George W. Bushs term, was ultimately backed by an unexpected number of Republicans. But they made it plain at the time that decision was to avoid an absolute calamityan economic slump the likes of which we have never seen, as Republican leader John Boehner said after the vote.

Thats not the case here. Despite the Trump teams insistence that Obamacare is failing, the uninsured rate in the US is at an all time low of 10.9%, and a majority of Americans would like to see the health insurance system remain as it is. The new healthcare bill will need 218 votes to pass the 435 seat House and the vote is expected to be a nailbiter. Then it goes to the Senate, where if it loses more than three of the 52 Republicans in the Senate it will not pass. And before it goes to Trumps desk to be signed, it needs to go back to the House, which needs to approve changes in the Senate.

Heres why so many people are against it.

While it is no surprise that Democrats dont like a bill that tears down former Democratic president Barack Obamas legacy, their disgust with its replacement, which will cut $600 billion in taxes on the wealthy while potentially increasing the cost of health insurance for many Americans, has sparked new levels of condemnation of the Trump administration.

Joe Kennedy III, a representative from Massachusetts, berated Paul Ryan in the House just after midnight on March 8 for suggesting the plan was an act of mercy and calling it an act of malice instead. Nearly 8 million people have viewed Kennedys remarks on Facebook so far.

There is no mercy in a systems which makes healthcare a luxury, Kennedy said.

The American Medical Association, a group of nearly 225,000 physicians, issued a letter to Congressional leaders on March 8, saying it cannot support the bill as drafted because of the expected decline in health insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations. The letter went on:

As drafted, the AHCA would result in millions of Americans losing coverage and benefits. By replacing income-based premium subsidies with age-based tax credits, the AHCA will also make coverage more expensiveif not out of reachfor poor and sick Americans.

The group spent $19 million lobbying in 2016, and is a key donor to many regional political campaigns.

Both the American Hospitals Association and The Federation of American Hospitals, which collectively represent over 6,000 hospitals, are concerned about the plans effect on Medicaid. It would reduce enhanced funding levels to Medicaid that 31 states rely on to extend health coverage to the poorest Americans, by banning new enrollments after December 2019, and by capping the amount states can spend on individual Medicaid recipients.

The effort to restructure the Medicaid program will have the effect of making significant reductions in a program that provides services to our most vulnerable populations, the AHA said in a letter to Congress.

We want to make sure that whatever comes out of this change really supports particularly those low-income Americans, who frankly dont have the resources to afford coverage, said Chip Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals.

Four Republican Senators have already vowed not to support the bill as written. They, too, are worried about the Medicaid reductions.

We are concerned that the February 10th draft proposal from the House of Representatives does not provide stability and certainty for individuals and families in Medicaid expansion programs or the necessary flexibility for states, they wrote in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The American Association of Retired Persons, the USs largest nonprofit with about 38 million members, quickly dubbed the provisions in the bill that give tax credits based on age and not income an age tax.

In a letter to Congress, the nonprofit estimated premiums for current coverage could increase by up to $3,200 for a 64 year old. The AARP spent over $8 million lobbying in 2016.

The white nationalist website Breitbart has dubbed the new healthcare plan Obamacare 2.0 and slammed it for failing to fully repeal Obamacare, while Coulter, the anti-immigrant talk show circuit regular, asked on Twitter What are names of the brain trust that wrote this piece of crap? Coulter did not explain why she thought the bill was so bad, but has espoused free market health care in the past, which seems to mean no government involvement at all.

Tea Party politicians, which hold 48 House seats (and four in the Senate), want exactly the opposite of traditional Republicans: theyre say the plan doesnt get rid of the Medicaid expansion that made Obamacare work fast enough, and they do not support the tax credits included for lower-income Americans.

After a meeting at the White House, at least one Tea Party group sounded an optimistic note, though. We believe we can get to yes on the bill and throw Obamacare into the dustbin of history, said Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks, a DC-based libertarian advocacy group.

Despite the opposition, Trump remains upbeat. We have some great results. We have tremendous spirit, Trump said on Friday. And I think its something that is just going to happen very shortly.

Read the rest here:

Trump’s health care bill is the first true test of his powers as salesman-in-chief – Quartz

GOP acts fast on health care, aims to avoid ire Dems faced – ABC News

It took former President Barack Obama and his Democrats more than a year to pass the Affordable Care Act, a slow and painstaking process that allowed plenty of time for a fierce backlash to ignite, undermining the law from the very start.

Republicans are trying to avoid that pitfall as they attempt to fulfill years’ worth of promises to repeal and replace Obama’s law.

After going public with their long-sought bill on Monday, House Republicans swiftly pushed it through two key committees. They hope to pass the legislation in the full House during the week of March 20 before sending it to the Senate and then, they hope, to President Donald Trump all before Congress can take a recess that could allow town hall fury to erupt.

Democrats are crying foul, accusing Republicans of rushing the bill through before the public can figure out what it does. Republicans dispute the criticism, arguing that their legislation enshrines elements of a plan House Republicans worked on for months last year and campaigned on under House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“We offered it up in June. We ran on it all through the election. And now we’ve translated it into legislation,” Ryan said.

Yet after seven years of Republican promises to undo Obama’s signature health law and without ever uniting behind a plan to achieve that, the fact that they produced a bill at all came as something of a surprise.

And now, after months of confident predictions that Republicans would not be able to get their act together on health care, Democrats find themselves wondering anxiously whether the GOP could actually succeed in wiping away those arduous months of work from the dawn of the Obama administration.

“Nobody believed Republicans had a bill,” said the No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, “until Monday night.”

It’s a far cry from eight years ago, when Democrats held countless hearings and debated at length, in public and private, how to enact the most significant changes to the nation’s health care system in a generation.

While Republicans are not trying for bipartisan support on their repeal bill, Democrats spent arduous months in the Senate with a bipartisan working group of three Republican and three Democratic senators, known as the Gang of Six, trying to agree on a bipartisan bill. That effort ultimately failed.

The GOP legislation is 123 pages long. The Affordable Care Act rang in at more than 900 pages.

“We held hearings and we just spent seemingly endless hours working it over very different from what the Republicans are doing,” said Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich.

To be sure, creating an enormous federal program requires more time and effort than jettisoning some pieces of an existing one while replacing others with new, or in some cases retooled, conservative-friendly solutions.

The GOP legislation would eliminate the current mandate that nearly all people in the United States carry insurance or face fines. It would use tax credits to allow consumers to buy health coverage, expand health savings accounts, phase out an expansion of Medicaid and cap that program for the future, end some requirements for health plans under Obama’s law, and scrap a number of taxes.

Republicans have proceeded thus far without official estimates on how much the bill will cost or how many people will be covered, though it’s expected to be millions fewer than under Obama’s law. The Congressional Budget Office estimates are expected Monday, and that could affect Republicans’ chances.

Despite the momentum claimed by GOP leaders and the White House, deep divisions remain in their party. Conservatives argue that the legislation doesn’t do enough to uproot the law. Other Republicans express qualms about the impact on Medicaid recipients in their states. Some Republicans accuse Ryan and House GOP leaders of moving too quickly.

“We should have an open process, we should allow all of the members to amend legislation, within reason,” said GOP Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a perennial leadership foe.

But Democrats paid a price for their lengthy process, and there was second-guessing even then over the length of time Obama allowed the Senate’s Gang of Six group to spend in its ultimately fruitless quest. As the months dragged on, public opposition grew. Over Congress’ August recess in 2009, that rage overflowed at town halls that spawned the tea party movement, which would take back GOP control of the House the next year.

There’s little question that if the GOP process were to drag out for months, especially over a long congressional recess, a similar dynamic could emerge, especially given the consumer and senior groups that have lined up against the legislation and the energized Democratic base already on display at marches and town halls this year.

If Republicans succeed in shoving the bill through this month, such opposition will have less time to make itself known.

Instead, even some congressional Republicans are expressing some amazement at finding themselves, eight years later, undoing the law Democrats forged through those many months of turmoil and debate.

“I’m pleasantly surprised,” said GOP Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who gained notoriety for yelling “You lie!” at Obama during a health care speech to Congress in 2009.

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GOP acts fast on health care, aims to avoid ire Dems faced – ABC News

Conservatives Craft Their Wish List On The GOP Health Care Bill – Huffington Post

WASHINGTON As House Republicans prepare to bring their health care proposal to the floor, conservatives are demanding a slate of major changes that they say are necessary to bring them on board and, ultimately, pass the bill.

According to members familiar with negotiations among the House Freedom Caucus, GOP leadership and the White House, conservatives are still demanding that the rollback of the Medicaid expansion begin in 2018, not 2020, as currently written in the Republican bill.

House Republican leaders have been emphatic that they cant move up that date, and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Friday that the 2020 date to begin the Medicaid expansion phaseout was what President Donald Trump supported.

Its not a question of negotiation, Spicer said.

But, based on their own conversations with the White House, conservatives believe it is still a question of negotiation.

We had tremendous conversations with the president a couple of times yesterday, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Friday, and we found him to be not only willing to negotiate, but a desire to really make this bill the very best it can be. His willingness to find common ground shows why The Art of the Deal is not just a distant memory of a previous life.

Meadows was joinedin the White House meetingsThursday by former HFC Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who also noted the receptiveness of the president to strike a deal.

Were still working on those changes that we think would make this bill consistent, Jordan told The Huffington Post on Friday, adding that they hadnt settled on any of their negotiations.

But based on conversations with members familiar with the negotiations, in addition to the Medicaid timeline, conservatives also want to allow insurance companies to offer plans that dont meet the coverage standards of the Affordable Care Act, which means plans could have higher deductibles or offer gaps in coverages for lower premiums.

The Republicans legislation already does some of this by repealing the rule mandating that plans cover at least 60% of medical expenses. There is some concern that other provisions on coverage would break the reconciliation status of the bill, which means those provisions would take 60 votes in the Senate to pass, but members want to look for ways to increase the number of insurance mandates and rules that could be repealed while still not violating that so-called Byrd rule.

Freedom Caucus members also want to allow people to use health savings accounts to pay their premiums, instead of just using them for deductibles and other out-of-pocket medical costs. Making that change would introduce an element of a plan by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) to allow tax-free dollars to be used to pay for insurance, which would not quite blow up the entire current GOP bill.

Finally, members want a 20-hour work requirement for able-bodied adults who are on Medicaid. That would further cut some Medicaid costs, but the idea seems based more on stereotypes than on potential savings. Thevast majority of people on Medicaid are ill, in school, already working or looking for work.

Freedom Caucus members still havent given up on overhauling a linchpin of the bill the advance refundable tax credits but some members now acknowledge that major changes to the basis of the replacement language would pretty much amount to Republicans starting over, which doesnt look apt to happen.

Still, one caucus member noted that if Republicans were willing to negotiate on the tax credits, there would be a universe of items that conservatives could give up in exchange, perhaps even lengthening the term of the Medicaid expansion past the 2020 date.

If Republicans actually adopted the changes conservatives are advocating for, however, it would instantly present the House with vote problems from moderates and even more problems in the Senate.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), the chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group, told HuffPost on Friday that if Republicans moved up the Medicaid expansion phaseout, it would be a big problem, and he indicated that a strong majority in the House probably every Democrat and a number of Republicans would oppose that change. If theres that discussion, they should allow an amendment on the floor to resolve the issue.

The problem for House leaders is that even if Republicans agreed to the conservative wish list, there still would be Freedom Caucus members voting against the bill.

HFC member Scott Perry (R-Pa.) noted on Friday that everyone knows there are some conservatives who are going to oppose the bill. But I think some members are more flexible, Perry said, adding that leaders needed to show some good faith and make changes that are meaningful and impactful.

Among the conservatives who appear unwilling to negotiate are Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who is upset with just about every facet of the bill and the process for the legislation, and his non-HFC buddy Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who has taken to calling the legislation a stinking pile of garbage.

My calls are running 30 to 1 to oppose it, Massie said Thursday night.

Massie went on to ridicule House Speaker Paul Ryans three-pronged approach to repeal and replace, which involves passing this reconciliation bill, letting Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price handle some aspects administratively and then passing other bills (with a challenging 60-vote threshold in the Senate) to address health care costs.

Theres three baskets: Theres the repeal-and-replace basket, theres the Tom Price basket and the Easter basket, Massie said.

And there are other hard-line right members who look apt to oppose any bill resembling this plan if it maintained the 2020 date for rolling back Medicaid. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) told HuffPost on Friday that Republicans shouldnt agree to any Medicaid expansion whatsoever, and Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) suggested he couldnt support any measure that didnt address the expansion until after 2018.

Which is all to say, even if Republicans adopted the other changes conservatives wanted, without the most contentious modification, the Medicaid expansion date, there would still be a group of Republicans who would probably oppose the measure. And if Republicans did change the date of the Medicaid expansion, they would face a mutiny from moderates.

Conversely, if House GOP leadership continued to refuse to negotiate, they could probably still pick off a number of Freedom Caucus members, who are not united in their opposition to the bill.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) told HuffPost this week that the tax credits were a positive step, and his fellow Freedom Caucus Texan, Joe Barton, already supported the most contentious provisions in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Barton actually had an amendment in committee to shorten the time on the expansion, but he withdrew it when Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) asked, though Barton noted Friday he had a green light to offer it for floor consideration.

On the one hand, Freedom Caucus members hope their negotiations lead to floor votes on their demands, but on the other hand, they worry House leadership will rally members against their amendments.

We dont want anybodys thumb on the scale, Perry said this week. We want an honest run at the thing.

If we lose, I guess well have to determine how that factors into our decision. But if we lose an unfair fight, thats going to be problematic.

Jeffrey Young and Jonathan Cohn contributed reporting.

Read more here:

Conservatives Craft Their Wish List On The GOP Health Care Bill – Huffington Post

Freedom Caucus head fires Obamacare warning shot – Politico

Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows said he is confident that conservatives will be able to negotiate with President Donald Trump. | AP Photo

By Kyle Cheney

03/10/17 11:35 AM EST

Updated 03/10/17 01:22 PM EST

If Republican House leaders are counting on conservatives to cave and back their version of an Obamacare replacement bill, they should think again, a top conservative lawmaker warned Friday.

That would be a faulty assumption, said Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

Story Continued Below

The caucus two-dozen members have enough clout to sink any pending Obamacare replacement bill, but theyre under heavy pressure from GOP leaders to back the current version, which conservatives say doesnt go far enough to undo Obamacares mandates and Medicaid expansion.

Some allies of Speaker Paul Ryan are confident that the House’s conservative wing will ultimately support the bill in whatever form it takes. And in fact, at least two Freedom Caucus members Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) voted to advance the bill this week when it cleared two crucial committees. But conservatives have indicated they expect to negotiate for changes that could move the bill to the right.

Meadows, who met Thursday with President Donald Trump, said hes confident that the president is willing to negotiate in good faith with conservative lawmakers who would like to see changes to the pending legislation.

Do I expect all of the issues that many of the Freedom Caucus members would like to have will be in a final bill that passes? The answer is no, he said. And so its about a good-faith negotiation and I think all of our members are willing to do that.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and his top allies are warning that theres no room to make major changes to the bill, which relies on scaled back tax credits and a multi-year phase-out of Medicaid expansion to alter Obamacare. If they push the bill too far to the right, they risk losing support of House moderates, and the bill is already facing an uphill climb in the Senate, where only three GOP defections could sink its prospects.

Asked about leaderships reluctance to accept changes, Meadows said they may want to reconsider.

If thats the best that they can do then perhaps they have a different whip count than I do, he said.

Still, Meadows acknowledged that if Trump mounts a lobbying effort aimed at individual conservative members, he may make inroads.

“It would be disingenuous to suggest that a call from the president doesnt make a difference,” he said. “The policy differences are so strong right now that its not just a little nudge. It would have to be a shove to get us there. … Thats why we have committed to the president to negotiate in good faith to find a reasonable compromise that makes both moderates and conservatives happy.”

Asked about the Freedom Caucus’ reputation for always saying no to major legislation, Meadows said in his previous occupation he used to run a real estate development company “I only got paid for a yes.”

“So maybe thats what we have to get back to,” he said, “only getting paid if youre a yes.”

Originally posted here:

Freedom Caucus head fires Obamacare warning shot – Politico

Liberal backbenchers defy cabinet wishes and vote to enact genetic discrimination law – CBC.ca

Liberal backbench MPs joined forces with opposition partiesWednesday evening to reject attempts by the government to gut agenetic discrimination bill, overwhelmingly passing the legislation and defying the wishes of cabinet.

Recently retired Liberal senator Jim Cowan watched from the viewing gallery as 222 MPs voted in favour of his legislation, something he has long fought for through successive parliamentary sessions.

All cabinet ministers and most parliamentary secretaries in attendance voted against the bill. Only four Liberal backbenchers sided with the government, a rare displayof disunity within the Grit ranks.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybouldwas opposed to the bill andsaid she believes the legislation is unconstitutional as it could infringe on the provinces’ right to regulate the insurance industry.

Bill S-201 will add genetic characteristics as a protected ground under the Canadian Human Rights Act, introducepenalties for discrimination, and forbid employers from subjecting job applicants to a genetic test.

The legislation will also allow people to refuse to disclose the results of a genetic test to anybody. Medical experts have said the legislation is necessary to counter the fears associated with potentially life-saving genetic testing, which could produce resultsthat would help doctors better tailor health treatments.

A breach of the law could result in a fine of up to $1 million, or five years behind bars.

Aspreviously reported by CBC NewsTuesday, AnnaGainey, president of thefederal Liberals, penned a letter during the last election promising protections against genetic discrimination if elected.

Some have suggested the Liberal flip-flop was the result ofaggressivelobbying tactics by the insurance industry.

Theindustryhas not hidden its opposition to Cowan’s private member’sbill, a piece of legislation that easily passed the Senate last April and the House of Commons justice committee inDecember.

“The life and health insurance industry is extremely disappointed that Bill S-201 was passed today in the House of Commons without significant amendment.

“The industry agrees with the federal government’s position as expressed by the prime minister and the minister of justice, as well as a number of provinces, that an important element of the bill is unconstitutional,” Wendy Hope, a spokesperson for theCanadian Life and Health Insurance Association, said in an emailed statement to CBC News after the vote.

The federal government has to consider multiple factors when making decisions, Trudeau said Wednesday ahead of the vote, noting it needs to ensure it is defending the rights of Canadians and upholding their freedom from discrimination.

It also has to defend the Constitution and the balance between federal and provincial jurisdictions, he added.

“The government has taken a position that one of the elements in the proposed bill is unconstitutional,” Trudeau told a news conference.

“That is the recommendation we had and the government position is to vote against that particular … element in the bill.”

The Liberal government hadproposed stripping the bill of everything except the power to make genetic characteristics a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act, but those amendments were rejected Wednesday evening.

The bill has now cleared both the House of Commons and the Senate but will only become law when it receives royal assent, which could take place in the next few days.

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Liberal backbenchers defy cabinet wishes and vote to enact genetic discrimination law – CBC.ca

Congress Just Ordered NASA to Get Crackin’ on Mars and a Ton of Other Things – Gizmodo

Both the Senate and the House have approved a bill that will send $19.508 billion to NASA and sets some very ambitious directives. All thats standing between the space agency and getting to work is a presidential sign off.

According to Space News, the bill received no vocal opposition on the floor of the House despite its $208 million increase of the budget from 2016. The Senate gave its unanimous approval on February 17th.

Among other things, the budget demands that NASA create a plan to put humans near or on the surface of Mars in the 2030s. Most specifically, the bill mandates a human exploration roadmap should begin with low-Earth orbit, then address in greater detail progress beyond low-Earth orbit to cis-lunar space, and then address future missions aimed at human arrival and activities near and then on the surface of Mars. The section on Mars also instructs NASA to move away from its Asteroid Robotic Redirect Mission and to find ways to apply the progress on that project to the Mars directive.

What else is in the bill? A lot. Its 146 pages long. Lets just run through some of the highlights that jump out. The plan to send a probe to Jupiters moon Europa is approved. A vague directive for NASA to expand permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit is included under long-term goals along with a call for a thriving space economy in the 21st Century. And missions to launch the SLS and Orion spacecraft without a crew are set for 2018. A crewed mission that would go to the moon would come next, with a goal of it happening in 2021.

On the more practical end of things, the bill asks NASA to work on building hypersonic and supersonic aircraft that would enable new transportation capabilities. It also asks the agency to develop a plan to enhance its cybersecurity protections. An interesting inclusion considering the recent episode in which a scientist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently had his work phone compromised by border agents.

Theres a lot of exciting stuff in the bill. Its not necessarily calling for things that NASA hasnt already been working on, but its reassuring to see deadlines, a budget increase and ambitious support coming out of congress.

In regards to that presidential signature, there is a possibility that Trump would veto this bill. The administration has indicated that it wants to eliminate the Earth Science division of NASA that studies climate change among other things. The bill that passed today doesnt mention that at all. So, maybe Trump will just forget that was part of his agenda. The good news is he paid lip service to space exploration in his recent address to congress and he also has a lot of bigger problems to worry about at the moment.

[U.S. Congress via Space News]

Excerpt from:

Congress Just Ordered NASA to Get Crackin’ on Mars and a Ton of Other Things – Gizmodo

Liberals defy PM, approve genetic testing bill he calls unconstitutional – Medicine Hat News

By Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press on March 8, 2017.

OTTAWA Liberal backbenchers have defied Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, voting in favour of a bill that would bar health and life insurance companies from forcing clients to disclose the results of genetic testing.

Just hours before the vote late Wednesday in the House of Commons, Trudeau said the proposed law is unconstitutional because it intrudes on provincial jurisdiction. He recommended that MPs vote against it.

But most Liberal backbenchers, along with Conservative and New Democrat MPs, ignored Trudeaus warning. The bill passed by a vote of 222-60.

It was a free vote, meaning Liberal backbenchers were not required to toe the party line. They did, however, come under pressure from the government, including Trudeau.

Earlier in the day, Trudeau told a news conference that the federal government has to consider multiple factors when making decisions on legislation, including defending the rights of Canadians and upholding their freedom from discrimination.

He added that it also has to defend the Constitution and the balance of power between federal and provincial jurisdictions, he added.

The government has taken a position that one of the elements in the proposed bill is unconstitutional, Trudeau said. That is the recommendation we had and the government position is to vote against that particular element in the bill.

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould had gone to some lengths to rally opposition to the bill. Last week, she sent a letter to the head of the Council of the Federation, which comprises the countrys premiers, which appeared designed to solicit provincial and territorial support for the federal governments position.

Given the important constitutional issues in play, we call on the Council of the Federation to communicate its views on the constitutionality of Bill S-201s proposal to regulate all contracts, agreements, and goods and services to prohibit genetic discrimination, Wilson-Raybould wrote.

The insurance industry has fiercely opposed an aspect of the legislation that would make it illegal for anyone to require a person to undergo genetic testing, or disclose the results of previous tests, as a condition of signing or continuing an insurance policy or any other good, service, contract or agreement.

If passed, it would also prohibit anyone from sharing genetic testing results without written consent, although there are exceptions for physicians and researchers.

A breach of the proposed law would result in a fine of up to $1 million, or five years behind bars.

The government had proposed an amendment that would have stripped the bill of everything except the power to make genetic characteristics a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It was defeated by a vote of 218-59.

The amendment would have gutted the legislation, said Rob Oliphant the Liberal MP who shepherded the bill, originally proposed by now-retired Sen. James Cowan, through the Commons.

It would have meant the bill would apply only to federally regulated employees, who account for just five to seven per cent of the population.

Oliphant argued that the bill is an appropriate federal response in an area where provinces and territories have failed to act for a dozen years. And he noted that three legal experts testified before the Commons justice committee about its constitutionality.

with files from Joanna Smith

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Liberals defy PM, approve genetic testing bill he calls unconstitutional – Medicine Hat News

AHCA a case study in compassion, fairness and freedom – Washington Examiner

When legislators talk about health care, we’re talking about people’s livelihoods, their futures and, fundamentally, our credibility as an equitable, compassionate society. It makes sense, then, that as House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees conduct full markups of the American Health Care Act, the bill has raised questions from people on both ends of the political spectrum. Already, we hear the cries ring out, one side saying that the AHCA should repeal without any replacement and another decrying the bill as heartless. Detractors are wrong on both counts.

Conservatives coalesce around the perennial principles of compassion, fairness and freedom. These values are mutually inclusive, and I submit that the AHCA is a case study in their application.

Republicans are not afraid that our compatriots will measure us by how well the AHCA cares for people in need of protection. The AHCA guarantees that individuals can’t be denied affordable coverage because of pre-existing conditions and that young people can receive coverage under their parents’ insurance plans until age 26. Under this bill, insurance companies also can’t charge women higher premiums than men.

Yet concern for vulnerable Americans compels conservatives to go further. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion has manifold flaws, but two remain particularly harmful. First, the ACA expansion rejiggered federal funding to cover able-bodied adults to a greater extent than our elderly and disabled neighbors. The AHCA transitions away from prioritizing the former group, whom Medicaid was never designed to serve, in order to reinvest resources in our most vulnerable neighbors.

Second, Medicaid’s cost has tripled since the Clinton administration, and Obamacare’s expansion has torpedoed recipients’ access to quality care as providers increasingly decline Medicaid patients. Imperiling the long-term viability of Medicaid in order to bring more people under an expansion umbrella that offers individuals less access to the health resources they need is a form of federal racketeering. But that’s what the former administration did in order to defend its one-size-fits-all approach to health care. Unfortunately, that attempt at universal coverage has produced almost universally harrowing outcomes among Medicaid patients, and Republicans find it impossible to abandon the program to its current trajectory. We’re reining in Medicaid spending today to ensure the lifeline remains solvent for our loved ones tomorrow.

The AHCA responds to the needs of the young, the elderly, the disabled and the marginalized among us. Against the plumb lines of compassion, the conservative plan safeguards Americans more comprehensively, more thoughtfully than its misguided predecessor.

But what of fairness? What of relief for the 4.7 million Americans who have been ejected from their chosen coverage since the ACA’s inception or the families whose premiums now jump by about $4,300 each year? While 10.3 million individuals bought plans on the ACA exchanges, 19.2 million taxpayers opted for the individual mandate penalty or claimed an exemption.

The burden of Obamacare’s tax appetite falls on families and job creators, yet its $1 trillion in new taxes couldn’t deliver substantive care to middle America any more than an over-extended Medicaid could adequately serve those in need.

Penalizing businesses and industrious Americans for opting out of an ostensibly free market remains both unjust and ineffective as a means of strengthening the health care landscape. Here, we see that fairness and compassion call for the same remedya careful repeal of the mandates that drove healthier Americans out of the insurance markets and triggered the death spiral that has jeopardized affordable medical care for every single American.

Also from the Washington Examiner

“People will offer amendments, there are unlimited amendments unlimited,” McConnell said.

03/09/17 9:33 AM

Obamacare gave rise to a new American underclass who have found themselves dwelling in a land where leaping deductibles and premiums have made it impossible to make ends meet. Sustainable options for rehabilitating the market exist only in an ecosystem characterized by competition, innovation and patient empowerment.

Hope comes from restoring people’s ability to make free choices in a free market, so the fundamental issue is personal agency. Conservatives believe that individual and community decisions outperform federal health care directives. The AHCA, therefore, returns agency to patients, doctors and states by removing the mandates that punish personal choice, doubling the size and utility of health savings accounts, and giving states wide flexibility in administering federal Medicaid dollars in order to meet the particular needs of their unique populations.

At great personal cost to millions of Americans, we have learned from the unforced errors of the Affordable Care Act. When health care is filtered through bureaucrats, we see patient choices evaporate, premium and deductible costs surge, and resources contract as the market descends into a death spiral. Republicans find this brave new world unacceptable, and we’re responding accordingly.

House committees are currently marking up their respective portions of this bill, considering numerous amendments as both parties weigh in through a process that is so transparent that the entire bill text is available online at readthebill.gop. And while the American Health Care Act may not be an ideal remedy for every Obamacare ailment, it does bring conservative ideals to bear on what may be the greatest legislative challenge of our generation.

The AHCA reduces government reach, restores personal freedom and begins to repair the injustices that Obamacare imposed on our families and friends. We care too much about our fellow Americans to let reckless laws come to fruition at their great expense.

Also from the Washington Examiner

Conservative insurgents in the House and Senate oppose the bill.

03/09/17 8:52 AM

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga, is Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference.

If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions.

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AHCA a case study in compassion, fairness and freedom – Washington Examiner

MPs reject Liberal government’s attempt to gut genetic discrimination bill – CBC.ca

An attempt by the Liberal governmentto gut the genetic discriminationbill was defeated by a coalition of MPs from across party lines Tuesday evening, despite constitutional concerns raised by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Alberta Liberal MPRandyBoissonnaulthadintroduced a motion in the House to remove key sections of the legislation, including those relating topenalties for genetic discriminationand languageforbidding employers from subjecting job applicants to a genetic test. His efforts to dramatically reduce the bill’sscope weredefeated in a voice vote.

A number of Liberal backbenchers, including Toronto-areaMPs Jennifer O’ConnellandPam Damoff, spoke in favour of Bill S-201 An Act to Prohibit and Prevent Genetic Discrimination as originally drafted by recently retired Liberal senator Jim Cowan.

Conservative and NDP MPs also offered their support and chided the cabinet for accepting the “scaremongering” rhetoricof the insurance industry.

Now, at the request of the government, there will be a recorded vote (also referred to as a standing vote) on Boissonault’s amendmentsWednesday evening.

Cowan said in an interview with CBC News Tuesday that the Trudeau cabinet’s opposition to the bill is “curious” given the party’s vocal embrace ofsuch legislation during the last election campaign and raisedthe possibility that aggressive lobbying efforts by the insurance industrysoured support.

Anna Gainey, the president of the federal Liberals, wroteto the Canadian Coalition for Genetic Fairness in October 2015 promising a Liberal government would “introduce measures, including possible legislative change, to prevent this [genetic] discrimination.”

“Today, even people without symptoms can be denied life, mortgage and disability insurance and even rejected for employment based on genetic testing that shows risk of future illness. Many other countries have passed legislation on this problem. Canada is an outlier,” she said in the letter addressed to the chair of the coalition, Bev Heim-Myers, and obtained by the CBC News.

Public lobbying records show there have been a number of meetings between the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Associationand ManulifeFinancialand senior members of Wilson-Raybould’s office over thelast year where Bill S-201was the subject of conversation.

Liberal P.E.I. MP Sean Casey,who was, until recently,the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, was also lobbied by the insurance associationsix times in the last year.

Cowan, who introduced the legislation in the Red Chamber more than a year ago, pointed to the lobbying efforts as a potential explanation for the cabinet’s skittishness.

“All I can say is look at the number of lobbyists from the insurance industry; they have been very, very active at the federal and provincial levels, and they’ve been lobbying [the government] very heavily, and lobbying MPs and senators. Now, is that the reason [the cabinet] is opposed to this bill? Some would say yes. But, as they say, I couldn’t possibly comment.”

After a strong commitment for the bill from the party in the last election, “it makes no sense to me,” said Cowan.

Records are vague as to what was discussed during these lobbyist meetings, but the industry has not hidden its opposition to Cowan’s private member’sbill, a piece of legislation easily passed the Senate last April, and the House of Commons justice committee inDecember.

Bill S-201, introduced by Cowanin December 2015, would add genetic characteristics as a protected ground under the Canadian Human Rights Act, introducepenalties for discrimination, and forbid employers from subjecting job applicants to a genetic test.

Recently retired Liberal senator James Cowan says aggressive lobbying by the insurance industry could be the reason the Trudeau cabinet is now opposed to his genetic discrimination bill. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The bill would also allow people to refuse to disclose the results of a genetic test to anybody. Medical experts have said the legislation is necessary to counter the fears associated with potentially lifesaving genetic testing, which could produce resultsthat would help doctors better tailor health treatments.

The insurance industry recently committed to never asking an applicant to undergo a genetic test, but said it will ask for and retain the right to potentially use genetic testing information for life insurance applications for coverage over$250,000.

“The $250,000 limit helps ensure that individuals with knowledge of significant health risks through genetic testing information, cannot apply for unusually large life insurance policies without disclosing this information. Otherwise, the cost of insurance would increase for everyone and fewer Canadians would be able to afford coverage,” the group said in a statement.

Cowan said there is no proof of widespread fraud in any other jurisdiction that has protections against genetic discrimination, including in the U.S., Great Britain, France and Israel.

“Their initial point was this will ruin the insurance industry as we know it. What’s happened in all other countries that have protections like this? As far aswe know the insurance industry is doing just fine,” he said.

Wilson-Raybould has said she is opposed to the legislationbecause she believesit treads on provincial jurisdiction over the insurance industry. (The bill does not specifically mention the insurance industry by name.)

She recently wrote a letter to the Council of the Federation, the group that represents the provinces and territories, asking for its opinion on the legislation.Three provinces, B.C., Manitoba, and Quebec,have raised some issues with the bill as written.

NDP MP Don Davies said during the House debate on Tuesday that the government’sclaims of constitutional problems are “a smokescreen and no more.”

Cowanadded constitutional experts have been widely consulted on the bill, and have testified beforethe Senate and House committees that Parliament is well within its rights tolegislate in this area.

He said hewrote letters to the provinces when drafting this legislation and not one responded to his inquiries with any concerns about the bill.

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MPs reject Liberal government’s attempt to gut genetic discrimination bill – CBC.ca

Why everyone hates the GOP’s new health plan – The Week Magazine

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Just how pathetic is the contemporary Republican Party?

So pathetic that it voted dozens of times to repeal the Affordable Care Act without having any coherent idea of, or consensus about, what it wanted to pass as an alternative (despite repeated claims to the contrary).

So pathetic that it committed itself to passing a replacement bill on an arbitrary deadline that ensured the end result would be filled with flaws that experts on its own side could identify within a few hours.

So pathetic that it appears not to have realized that an army of conservative activists and right-wing health-care wonks, along with a bevy of Republican politicians, would respond to the American Health Care Act with open disdain.

So pathetic that some liberal commentators have speculated (in a half-serious way) that House Speaker Paul Ryan must have intended for the AHCA to go down in flames, since he couldn’t possibly be inept enough to oversee such a debacle of a rollout. (For the record, I don’t think Ryan is anywhere close to being clever enough to pull off something of that scope.)

On health care, Republicans know one thing: They despise the ACA with a blinding fury. But beyond that, they have no idea what to do.

How do we know that? Because the AHCA is a sloppy, muddled mess of a bill that’s seemingly designed to please no one, except for rich people who want their taxes lowered. (In which case it’s hard to understand why the House didn’t simply pass a deficit-financed tax cut for upper income families and leave the ACA alone.)

Aside from the perfunctory tax cut, there’s really nothing in the bill to satisfy the desires of the hardcore libertarian faction of the GOP that very clearly does know what it wants namely, a “free market” system of health care for everything except bare-minimum catastrophic coverage. That’s been the notional goal of Republican reformers at least since the ACA passed in 2010.

The only problem is that the transition to a more market-based system would inflict enormous pain on many millions of Americans who carry forms of insurance that are made available and affordable by the heavily regulated and subsidized system we currently have. Now, some of the Ayn Rand-quoting libertarian true believers who make up the House Freedom Caucus would undoubtedly vote for a such a bill, no matter how much suffering it imposed. Ideologues are like that. But most politicians are far too self-interested to willingly die for a cause.

And so we have the bill unveiled Monday, which, as several commentators on the right have pointed out, keeps the general architecture and assumptions underlying ObamaCare intact while merely fiddling with a lot of the details. Don’t get me wrong: Those adjustments will likely hurt plenty of people, though probably a lot fewer than a switch to a genuine market-based approach would have done. But it’s hard to estimate precisely what the AHCA’s real-world costs or fiscal effects might be because Ryan has decided to move ahead with marking up the bill without first getting it scored by the Congressional Budget Office.

So this is where the Republicans find themselves: trying to pass a bill that’s unpopular with the right for compromising too much with ObamaCare and unpopular with moderates for inflicting too much pain on voters. And they’re doing all of this while groping around in the dark because Ryan wants to keep the CBO out of the loop (no doubt partly out of fear of provoking even more opposition from the party’s deficit hawks, for example).

It’s a mess and a completely self-inflicted one.

And that’s without even mentioning the extra-large serving of Republican mess that is Donald Trump.

The president described the bill as “wonderful” in a tweet, but he can’t possibly be happy with how the rollout has unfolded so far. That’s not just because he craves praise and bridles at bad press. It’s also because, in the scheme of the contemporary Republican Party, Trump is a radical leftist when it comes to health-care policy.

One reason many rank-and-file Republicans and conservative-movement intellectuals originally denounced Trump as a closest liberal is that he once supported a single-payer system an option so far out in the direction of outright socialism that even Barack Obama and his Democratic majorities didn’t dare seriously consider it back in 2009. Trump doesn’t explicitly advocate such a radical reform today, but he alone among leading Republicans still talks in terms of providing “insurance for everybody.” Trump and the Freedom Caucus may agree, for utterly mysterious reasons, that ObamaCare is an unmitigated “disaster,” but they agree about very little else. Bridging that gap may well prove impossible.

The really interesting question is what Trump will do if the AHCA collapses (as it already appears likely to do). Will he encourage the writing of and play a bigger role in drafting a new “replacement” bill that cuts coverage for millions of Americans? Or will he turn on Ryan and much of the rest of his party, demanding that they scrap ObamaCare, not for a free-market utopia but for a single-payer system that provides open access to health care for all Americans?

Such a move would likely tear the GOP apart, while gaining Trump many surprising new allies in the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party.

Will it happen? When a party becomes as incoherent as the Republican Party is today, anything is possible.

More here:

Why everyone hates the GOP’s new health plan – The Week Magazine

UNL’s GSA passes bill to protect grad student free speech – Daily Nebraskan

The Graduate Student Assembly of the University of Nebraska met for its second to last meeting for the year in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Nebraska Union on Tuesday, March 7 to discuss four bills.

The four bills presented include the allocation of funds for Graduate Student Appreciation Week, an endorsement for the March for Science in Lincoln, a bill to support the protection of political speech for graduate students and an endorsement for the event #HackUNL.

GSA Bill 28 proposed an allocation of $2,000 from GSAs social budget to go toward Graduate Student Appreciation Week. Graduate Student Appreciation Week is a week that celebrates grad students through different activities throughout the week. The bill passed unanimously.

GSA Bill 29 asked for the assembly to endorse the March for Science on April 22. The March for Science is a march that supports scientists and the scientific community, while allowing the community to publicly take a stand. The bill passed unanimously.

GSA Bill 30 focused on supporting the protection of academic freedom, diversity and political speech for graduate students.

English representative Daniel Clausen proposed the bill to the assembly.

There is no current policy that directly pertains to protecting free speech, he said.

Clausen continued by saying the bill presented to the Graduate Student Assembly supports freedom of speech and asks the university to adopt a policy that explicitly defends graduate students right to free speech.

Lauren Segal, the co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, wanted to know if the bill asking for protection of free speech could be used against students regarding hateful political speech.

I was thinking of that as I wrote the bill, and I dont want to protect someones right to put up a swastika, Clausen said. But thats why I think having a policy that deals with deciding what is and isnt hate speech and then following a protocol is important.

Before the assembly voted on the bill, GSA President Ignacio Correas commented on how the bill would be enforced.

I will make sure that if this bill is passed that I will work with the appropriate university authorities to make sure that the regulations to determine what is and isnt hate speech has grad student input, he said.

After brief debating, the bill passed unanimously.

GSA Bill 31 asked for endorsement toward #HackUNL. #HackUNL is a 24-hour event in which UNL students can use coding and graphic design to come up with ideas to end cyberbullying and harassment. The bill passed unanimously.

news@dailynebraskan.com

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UNL’s GSA passes bill to protect grad student free speech – Daily Nebraskan

House passes NASA authorization bill – SpaceNews

The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 is the first NASA authorization bill to clear both houses of Congress since the fall of 2010.

WASHINGTON For the first time in nearly six and a half years, Congress has passed a NASA authorization bill with the approval of such a bill March 7 in the House of Representatives.

The House approved on a voice vote the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, S.442, after a brief discussion on the House floor where no members spoke against the bill. The same bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent Feb. 17.

The bill authorizes $19.5 billion in spending for NASA in fiscal year 2017. More importantly, it includes a number of policy provisions directing NASAs activities. They range from development of a detailed plan for NASAs human exploration programs, with the long-term goal of sending humans to Mars, to giving NASA the ability to establish long-term medical monitoring of former astronauts.

This bipartisan and bicameral bill grew to maturity through many long and serious discussions about the future of our nations space program, said Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), chairman of the House space subcommittee, during discussion about the bill on the House floor. Im encouraged by the bills persistent emphasis on the continuity of purpose and stability.

The bill is nearly identical to a bill the Senate passed in December, just after the House adjourned for the year. The new version includes a few provisions not found in the earlier one, including language directing NASA to study the use of the Orion spacecraft as a crew transfer vehicle for the International Space Station as a stopgap if commercial crew vehicles suffer additional delays.

While the bill had broad support, some members highlighted areas of concern that may become issues in later legislation. It is not a perfect bill, said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), ranking member of the House Science Committee. It does not directly address all of NASAs science programs, mainly Earth science and heliophysics. She said she was also critical of authorized funding levels for NASAs science, aeronautics and space technology accounts, but added she supported the bill overall.

The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 reaffirms our support for the bold visions and commitments that will shape Americas future in space, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee, said in a statement after the bills passage. This bill reiterates the importance of maintaining NASAs continuity of purpose to ensure America remains a leader in space exploration.

The bill is the first NASA authorization to pass both houses of Congress since the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which the House passed in September 2010 nearly two months after it cleared the Senate. The House worked on several authorization bills in subsequent years, including some which passed the full House, but none made it through the Senate.

This bill had a smooth ride through the House and Senate because of work behind the scenes to address issues before the bill was introduced in the Senate last month. In a January interview, Smith said he and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate space subcommittee, had been working to pre-conference the bill to resolve any problems before its introduction, allowing for a streamlined passage through both Houses. The bill also has the support of the White House, according to congressional sources.

The space industry welcomed the bills passage. Todays approval of the NASA Transition Authorization Act by Congress sends a clear message to the American people and our international partners that our nation remains committed to NASAs space exploration program, Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition of Deep Space Exploration, said in a March 7 statement.

Dittmar cited the support the 2010 authorization bill provided for human exploration programs, such as the Space Launch System and Orion, as well as space science programs. This new authorization will provide the framework for continued progress towards these national commitments, she said.

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House passes NASA authorization bill – SpaceNews

Healthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate – The Hill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellRight revolts on ObamaCare bill AARP rips GOP’s ‘harmful’ healthcare legislation Healthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate MORE (R-Ky.) has only three weeks to unify conservatives and moderates in his conference behind an ObamaCare repeal and replacement bill.

The American Health Care Act, which Vice President Pence on Tuesday declared the framework for reform, will move first in the House, but it faces perhaps an even steeper climb in the Senate.

Republicans control 52 seats in the upper chamber and can only afford to lose two votes, since Pence can vote to break a 50-50 tie. So far, at least eight Republican senators have voiced concerns with aspects of the legislation.

Three conservatives, Sens. Mike LeeMike LeeRight revolts on ObamaCare bill GOP senators to Trump: Pledge to veto bills with earmarks Healthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate MORE (R-Utah), Ted CruzTed CruzDoes GOPs health plan keep Trumps promises? GOP senators to Trump: Pledge to veto bills with earmarks Healthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate MORE (R-Texas) and Rand PaulRand PaulFreedom Caucus members say GOP doesn’t have votes to pass healthcare plan Right revolts on ObamaCare bill Trump: Rand Paul will ‘come along’ on GOP healthcare plan MORE (R-Ky.), are unhappy with parts of the House bill, which allied conservative groups have panned as not going far enough.

Lee blasted the House bill as a missed opportunity and a step in the wrong direction.

He warned that policymakers dont know how much tax credits proposed in the House legislation to help Americans buy insurance would wind up costing the federal government.

Paul dismissed the legislation as dead on arrival and a bailout for the insurance companies.

Cruz has been less vocal about his views on the bill. He skipped a press conference Tuesday afternoon that Paul and Lee held with House conservatives critical of the bill.

The Texas senator told reporters that he has a number of concerns but declined to say whether he would vote no.

The proper way to address those concerns is working with colleagues in the House, the Senate and the administration, and thats what Im doing right now, Cruz said.

Meanwhile, two influential Republican senators, Susan CollinsSusan CollinsHealthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate ObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood Planned Parenthood tells Trump it won’t end abortions in exchange for continued funding MORE (Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiAARP rips GOP’s ‘harmful’ healthcare legislation Healthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate Overnight Energy: Another setback for Dakota Access opponents MORE (Alaska), have objected to including language in the bill defunding Planned Parenthood a top priority of House conservatives.

Collins and Murkowski told reporters Tuesday that they were reviewing the newly released legislation.

Three other Republican senators Rob PortmanRob PortmanAARP rips GOP’s ‘harmful’ healthcare legislation Healthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate Conservative groups blast GOP healthcare plan MORE (Ohio), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Moore CapitoAARP rips GOP’s ‘harmful’ healthcare legislation Healthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate Conservative groups blast GOP healthcare plan MORE (W.Va.) and Cory GardnerCory GardnerAARP rips GOP’s ‘harmful’ healthcare legislation Healthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate Conservative groups blast GOP healthcare plan MORE (Colo.) along with Murkowski sent a letter to McConnell Monday warning him that a draft House healthcare plan that leaked last month failed to ensure stability for hundreds of thousands of people in their states who were newly enrolled in Medicaid under ObamaCare.

Sen. Dean HellerDean HellerHealthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate On the commercialization path: New research supports women in STEM Overnight Cybersecurity: Sessions recuses himself from Russia probe | Bill would help states with cybersecurity | Typo took down Amazon cloud MORE (R-Nev.), widely considered the most vulnerable Senate Republican incumbent in 2018, has also raised concerns about rolling back the Medicaid expansion. On Tuesday he said he hadnt yet reviewed the House bill.

Taken together, its clear that there will be a large number Republican votes for McConnell to shore up by the week of March 27, when he plans to bring the American Health Care Act to the Senate floor, provided the legislation passes the House on schedule.

McConnell wants to get the bill done before the Senate begins debate on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who is scheduled to reach the floor the first week of April. Congress is scheduled to leave town April 7 for a two-week recess.

Democrats made clear Tuesday that GOP leaders shouldnt expect any votes from their side of the aisle.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerWhy Jeff Sessions must resign Schumer promises Dems will try to defeat ‘Trumpcare’ Conway: Dems want ‘to stop everything’ Trump is trying to do MORE (N.Y.) vowed that his caucus would fight tooth and nail against TrumpCare.

TrumpCare means higher costs for less healthcare, plain and simple, he said. TrumpCare cuts taxes on the very wealthy while forcing average Americans to pay more. Premiums are going to go up.

McConnell called in the heavy artillery Tuesday by inviting Pence to a Senate GOP lunch to persuade wavering colleagues to get behind the House bill.

Pence told lawmakers pointedly that Trump supports the legislation, and while hes open to making changes, he will not scrap it and start over, as some conservatives would prefer.

Were certainly open to improvements and to recommendations in the legislative process, Pence told reporters after the meeting, though he emphasized that this is the bill.

Over the next several weeks McConnell and his leadership team will argue to colleagues that voters are expecting action from Congress, and this month presents them with a historic opportunity to deliver on their campaign promises to repeal ObamaCare.

The American people have given us an opportunity to govern. Were no longer floating ideas, McConnell said. We have an obligation now to the American people to deliver a replacement for ObamaCare that is better than the status quo.

He noted ObamaCare was a huge issue in the 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 elections.

Pence tried to reassure Republicans nervous about capping the Medicaid expansion that the House bill would return resources and flexibility to the states that will allow them to reform Medicaid so it can more effectively meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.

Gardner, who signed the letter to McConnell expressing concerns about Medicaid, said Tuesday hes still trying to understand the details of how the House bill would impact low-income constituents.

Were looking at it, he said.

Specifically, he wants to figure out whether new Medicaid enrollees starting in the year 2020 will still be eligible for the same federal subsidies that have covered the cost of expanding the program in 31 states under ObamaCare.

You can add new people to the program. At least, thats the way we initially understand it, he said.

Centrist Democrats showed no signs of being inclined to back the House GOP bill.

Sen. Jon TesterJon TesterHealthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate Liberals threaten to primary over Gorsuch Dem senator introduces bill to ‘drain the swamp’ MORE (D-Mont.), who is up for reelection next year in a state Trump won by 20 points, said he has serious reservations.

Some things theyre doing with Medicaid [are] not going to be helpful. Im not sure theyre helping with lowering premiums for people who are really getting gouged with big premiums, he said. On first blush, its certainly got some issues. Major issues.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinHealthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate Liberals threaten to primary over Gorsuch Get wise, GOP. The healthcare groundswell isn’t going away MORE (D-W.Va.), who is running next year in a state Trump won by nearly 42 points, said he was reviewing the bill.

Manchin said, however, that he would not vote for legislation he views as a straight repeal of ObamaCare.

Schumer told reporters that the House bill is an ObamaCare repeal, even though it will keep in place some of the laws reforms, such as allowing adults to stay on their parents health plans until age 26.

Republicans say it would also bar insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing medical conditions, but Democratic leaders are disputing that claim.

Jessie Hellmann contributed.

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Healthcare bill faces steep climb in Senate – The Hill

Conservatives oppose Adelson’s federal gambling ban – The Hill (blog)

For nearly two years, conservative and liberty-oriented organizations have warned congressional leaders about the danger of passing legislation known as Restore Americas Wire Act. The bill was written by lobbyists for Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson and is designed to overturn state laws that create competition for his brick and mortar casino empire.

This month, however, conservatives across the nation sent a clear message to Adelson and his cohorts that they will not tolerate such an egregious example of political cronyism.

An incredible nine in ten participants said they would oppose efforts to have the federal government overturn state laws regarding online gaming. In addition, 88 percent said they see RAWA as an example of cronyism. In an age of political division and factionalism, the results are staggering.

Despitemillions of dollars in Astroturf spending and political contributions, it is clear that conservatives see the bill for what it is one of the worst forms of crony capitalism in Congress today. RAWA is nothing short of an effort by one of the richest men in the world to ban a form of competition for his brick and mortar casino empire and everyone knows it. Worse yet, he is even willing to trample on the Constitution to do it.

RAWA wasintroduced by Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamTrump makes key changes to travel ban Senate panel to probe Trump’s wiretap claim Iraqs lobbyists mobilized after travel ban, documents reveal MORE (R-SC) in the Senate and by Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzWhite House on the defensive over wiretapping allegation Overnight Cybersecurity: Comey, Trump at odds on wiretapping | Obama advisers press Trump to act on cyber Republicans shrug off Trump wiretap claims MORE (R-Utah) in the House of Representatives. The bill has been sold as a means of stopping the proliferation of online gambling, but in reality it only targets states like New Jersey and Delaware that have legalized online gaming for their residents. The legislation also prohibits states like Georgia and Illinois from selling lottery tickets online.

During a congressional hearing on the bill, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.)noted that the bill would short-change half a dozen states that allow for the sale of online lottery tickets. Then, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.)pointed out that by regulating online intrastate commerce, the bill would open the door legislation sought by gun control advocates to bar the sale of online ammunition.

A diverse number of organizations ranging from the Institute for Liberty, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the American Conservative Union to the organization representing state lotteries all oppose RAWA.

To Sheldon Adelsons credit, he didnt get to where he is without being tenacious. Despite running into a brick wall of opposition, he is again trying to impose his will via Congress. RAWA has been re-introduced. Perhaps most troubling this time around were comments by then-Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsLiberals threaten to primary over Gorsuch Trump makes key changes to travel ban Grassley: ‘Too soon’ for decision on special prosecutor in Trump-Russia probe MORE, who at his confirmation hearingsinsinuatedthat he was willing to reopen the issue at the Department of Justice. This would be a grave error.

A core component of federalism is the right of states to govern themselves. Gambling has always fallen under that rubric. Some states allow for liberal gaming laws while others, like Utah and Hawaii, bar gambling all together. That is how things are supposed to be.

The federal government should not trample on states rights, and certainly not to satisfy the parochial whims of one of the GOP’s largest donors. As Justice O’Connor said in 1992, “The Constitution protects us from our own best intentions: It divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one location as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day.

That is a guiding principle that has served our nation well for more than two centuries. It would be foolhardy to violate it in this case.

Andrew Langer is president of the Institute for Liberty,a conservative public policy advocacy organization.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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Conservatives oppose Adelson’s federal gambling ban – The Hill (blog)