Tag Archives: republicans

Committee vote on Supreme Court nominee set for April 3

Senate Democrats have forced a delay in a committee vote on President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, who remains on track for confirmation with solid Republican backing.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, announced that, as expected, Democrats have requested a postponement.

The committee vote on Judge Neil Gorsuch now will be held April 3.

As the committee readies to vote, four additional Democrats said they are likely to vote against the Denver-based appeals court judge.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono said they will vote against Gorsuch, and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy tweeted that he still was undecided but inclined to oppose him.

Leahy is a senior member of the Judiciary panel and a former chairman.

Gorsuch “has an extreme record on everything from corporate accountability and workers’ rights to women’s health, and I fear that as a Supreme Court justice he will guarantee that the highest court in the land continues to favor powerful interests over the rights of average Americans,” Franken said in a statement.

That means at least 18 Democrats and independents, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have announced their opposition to the Denver-based appeals court judge, arguing that Gorsuch has ruled too often against workers and in favor of corporations.

The Democrats who have announced their opposition have also said they will try to block the nominee, meaning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will have to hold a procedural vote requiring 60 votes to move forward.

The Senate GOP has a 52-48 majority, meaning McConnell will need support from at least eight Democrats or independents.

It was unclear whether he would be able to get the 60 votes.

If he doesn’t, McConnell seems ready to change Senate rules and confirm him with a simple majority.

Republicans had hoped that they’d see some support from the 10 Democrats running for re-election in states won by Trump in the presidential election, but four of those senators — Nelson, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin — have already said they will oppose the nominee.

Leahy, however, signaled that he may be willing to break from Schumer and vote with Republicans on the procedural vote, while also signaling in a separate tweet he’d vote against Gorsuch in the final, up or down vote.

“I am never inclined to filibuster a SCOTUS nom,” Leahy tweeted. “But I need to see how Judge Gorsuch answers my written Qs, under oath, before deciding.”

Several Democrats have expressed frustration with the lack of answers Gorsuch gave during two lengthy days of questioning at his confirmation hearing last week, criticizing him for declining to give his personal views on most issues, including abortion, campaign finance and others they asked him about. They also expressed concerns that he wouldn’t be an independent voice from Trump, who nominated him in January.

“Judicial philosophy is important, and he just wouldn’t go there,” Hirono said in an interview shortly after she announced her opposition.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, also noted at the brief committee meeting Monday the “depth of feeling” among Democrats after Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama’s nominee for the same seat, Merrick Garland.

Within hours of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016, Republicans said they wouldn’t take up Obama’s eventual choice, saying the next president should have the say.

Opening the Senate Monday afternoon, McConnell said that if Democrats won’t confirm Gorsuch, they wouldn’t confirm any nominee from a Republican president.

McConnell urged his colleagues to give Gorsuch “the up or down vote he deserves.”

No vote on health care: A humiliating defeat for Trump

In a humiliating failure, President Donald Trump and GOP leaders yanked their bill to repeal “Obamacare” off the House floor when it became clear it would fail badly — after seven years of nonstop railing against the health care law.

Democrats said Americans can “breathe a sigh of relief.”

Trump said Obama’s law was imploding “and soon will explode.”

Thwarted by two factions of fellow Republicans, from the center and far right, House Speaker Paul Ryan said President Barack Obama’s health care law, the GOP’s No. 1 target in the new Trump administration, would remain in place “for the foreseeable future.”

It was a stunning defeat for the new president after he had demanded House Republicans delay no longer and vote on the legislation, pass or fail.

His gamble failed.

Instead Trump, who campaigned as a master deal-maker and claimed that he alone could fix the nation’s health care system, saw his ultimatum rejected by Republican lawmakers who made clear they answer to their own voters, not to the president.

He had“never said repeal and replace it in 64 days,” a dejected but still combative Trump said at the White House.

However, he had repeatedly shouted during the presidential campaign that it was going down “immediately.”

The bill was withdrawn just minutes before the House vote was to occur and lawmakers said there were no plans to revisit the issue.

Republicans will try to move ahead on other agenda items, including overhauling the tax code, though the failure on the health bill can only make whatever comes next immeasurably harder.

Trump pinned the blame on Democrats.

“With no Democrat support we couldn’t quite get there,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. “We learned about loyalty, we learned a lot about the vote-getting process.”

The Affordable Care Act was approved in 2010 with no Republican votes.

Despite reports of backbiting from administration officials toward Ryan, Trump said: “I like Speaker Ryan. … I think Paul really worked hard.”

For his part, Ryan told reporters: “We came really close … but we came up short. … This is a disappointing day for us.”

But when asked how Republicans could face voters after their failure to make good on years of promises, Ryan quietly said: “It’s a really good question. I wish I had a better answer for you.”

Last fall, Republicans used the issue to gain and keep control of the White House, Senate and House. During the previous years, they had cast dozens of votes to repeal Obama’s law in full or in part, but when they finally got the chance to pass a repeal version that actually had a chance to become law, they couldn’t deliver.

Democrats could hardly contain their satisfaction.

The outcome leaves both Ryan and Trump weakened politically.

For the president, this piles a big early congressional defeat onto the continuing inquiries into his presidential campaign’s Russia connections and his unfounded wiretapping allegations against Obama.

Ryan was not able to corral the House Freedom Caucus, the restive band of conservatives that ousted the previous speaker. Those Republicans wanted the bill to go much further, while some GOP moderates felt it went too far.

Instead of picking up support, the bill went the other direction, with several key lawmakers coming out in opposition. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, chairman of a major committee, Appropriations, said the bill would raise costs unacceptably on his constituents.

The defections raised the possibility that the bill would not only lose on the floor, but lose big.

The GOP bill would have eliminated the Obama statute’s unpopular fines on people who do not obtain coverage and would also have removed the often-generous subsidies for those who purchase insurance.

Republican tax credits would have been based on age, not income like Obama’s, and the tax boosts Obama imposed on higher-earning people and health care companies would have been repealed. The bill would have ended Obama’s Medicaid expansion and trimmed future federal financing for the federal-state program, letting states impose work requirements on some of the 70 million beneficiaries.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the Republican bill would have resulted in 24 million additional uninsured people in a decade and lead to higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many lower-income and people just shy of age 65 when they would become eligible for Medicare. The bill would have blocked federal payments for a year to Planned Parenthood.

Republicans had never built a constituency for the legislation, and in the end the nearly uniform opposition from hospitals, doctors, nurses, the AARP, consumer groups and others weighed heavily with many members. On the other side, conservative groups including the Koch outfit argued the legislation did not go far enough in uprooting Obamacare.

Ryan made his announcement to lawmakers at a very brief meeting, where he was greeted by a standing ovation in recognition of the support he still enjoys from many lawmakers.

When the gathering broke up, Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee that helped write the bill, told reporters: “”We gave it our best shot. That’s it. It’s done. D-O-N-E done. This bill is dead.”

‘We just pulled it’ Trump says after no vote on GOP health care plan

GOP House leaders pulled their health care bill from consideration on March 24 due to a shortage of votes despite desperate lobbying by the White House and its allies, dealing a big blow to President Donald Trump.

Republican leadership had planned a vote on the measure after Trump cut off negotiations with Republicans who had balked at the plan and issued an ultimatum to vote on Friday, win or lose.

Republican moderates as well as the most conservative lawmakers objected to the legislation. But the White House and House leaders were unable to come up with a plan that satisfied both moderates and conservatives.

Trump told the Washington Post: “We just pulled it.”

Amid a chaotic scramble for votes, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who has championed the bill, met with Trump at the White House before the measure was pulled from the House floor after hours of debate.

Trump told the Post the health care bill would not be coming up again in the near future and that he wanted to see if Democrats who uniformly objected to the Republican plan would come to him to work on health care legislation, a Washington Post reporter said on MSNBC.

For now, Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement, the 2010 Affordable Care Act — known as Obamacare — will remain in place despite seven years of Republican promises to dismantle it.

Repealing and replacing Obamacare was a top campaign promise by Trump in the 2016 presidential election, as well as by most Republican candidates, “from dog-catcher on up,” as White House spokesman Sean Spicer put it during a briefing on Friday.

The House failure to pass the measure called into question Trump’s ability to get other key parts of his agenda, including tax cuts and a boost in infrastructure spending, through a Congress controlled by his own party.

Trump already has been stymied by federal courts that blocked his discriminatory executive actions barring entry into the United States of people from several Muslim-majority nations.

Now members of his own party worry the defeat on the health care legislation could cripple his presidency just two months after the billionaire real estate mogul took office.

In a blow to the bill’s prospects, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen announced his opposition, expressing concern about reductions in coverage under the Medicaid insurance program for the poor and the retraction of “essential” health benefits that insurers must cover.

“We need to get this right for all Americans,” Frelinghuysen said.

Progressive groups overwhelmingly opposed the health care plan as offered by Ryan and the amendments intended to appease even more conservative members of his party.

House Speaker Paul Ryan departs following a meeting with President Trump at the White House. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Move to dump essential benefits could strand chronically ill

A last-minute attempt by conservative Republicans to dump standards for health benefits in plans sold to individuals would probably lower the average consumer’s upfront insurance costs, such as premiums and deductibles, said experts on both sides of the debate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

But, they add, it will likely also induce insurers to offer much skimpier plans, potentially excluding the gravely ill, and putting consumers at greater financial risk if they need care.

For example, a woman who had elected not to have maternity coverage could face financial ruin from an unintended pregnancy. A healthy young man who didn’t buy drug coverage could be bankrupted if diagnosed with cancer requiring expensive prescription medicine. Someone needing emergency treatment at a non-network hospital might not be covered.

What might be desirable for business would leave patients vulnerable.

“What you don’t want if you’re an insurer is only sick people buying whatever product you have,” said Christopher Koller, president of the Milbank Memorial Fund and a former Rhode Island insurance commissioner. “So the way to get healthy people is to offer cheaper products designed for the healthy people.”

Such a change could give carriers wide room to do that by eliminating or shrinking “essential health benefits” including hospitalization, prescription drugs, mental health treatment and lab services from plan requirements — especially if state regulators don’t step in to fill the void, analysts said.

As part of the push by House GOP leaders to gain more support for their plan, they amended the bill Thursday  to allow states to decide, starting next year, what if any benefits  insurers must provide on the individual market, rather than requiring health plans to include the law’s essential health benefits, according to House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas).

The Affordable Care Act requires companies selling coverage to individuals and families through online marketplaces to offer 10 essential benefits, which also include maternity, wellness and preventive services — plus emergency room treatment at all hospitals. Small-group plans offered by many small employers also must carry such benefits.

Conservative House Republicans want to exclude the rule from any replacement, arguing it drives up cost and stifles consumer choice.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump agreed after meeting with members of the conservative Freedom Caucus to leave it out of the measure under consideration, said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. “Part of the reason that premiums have spiked out of control is because under Obamacare, there were these mandated services that had to be included,” Spicer told reporters.

Pushed by Trump, House Republican leaders agreed late Thursday to a Friday vote on the bill but were still trying to line up support.

“Tomorrow we will show the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it’s collapsing and it’s failing families,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “And tomorrow we’re proceeding.” When asked if he had the votes, Ryan didn’t answer and walked briskly away from the press corps.

But axing essential benefits could bring back the pre-ACA days when insurers avoided expensive patients by excluding services they needed, said Gary Claxton, a vice president and insurance expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

“They’re not going to offer benefits that attract people with chronic illness if they can help it,”said Claxton, whose collection of old insurance policies shows what the market looked like before.

One Aetna plan didn’t cover most mental health or addiction services — important to moderate Republicans as well as Democrats concerned about fighting the opioid crisis. Another Aetna plan didn’t cover any mental health treatment. A HealthNet plan didn’t cover outpatient rehabilitative services.

Before the ACA most individual plans didn’t include maternity coverage, either.

The House replacement bill could make individual coverage for the chronically ill even more scarce than a few years ago because it retains an ACA rule that forces plans to accept members with preexisting illness, analysts said.

Before President Barack Obama’s health overhaul, insurers could reject sick applicants or charge them higher premiums.

Lacking that ability under a Republican law but newly able to shrink benefits, insurers might be more tempted than ever to avoid covering expensive conditions. That way the sickest consumers wouldn’t even bother to apply.

“You could see even worse holes in the insurance package” than before the ACA, said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University. “If we’re going into a world where a carrier is going to have to accept all comers and they can’t charge them based on their health status, the benefit design becomes a much bigger deal” in how insurers keep the sick out of their plans, she said.

Michael Cannon, an analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute and a longtime Obamacare opponent, also believes dumping essential benefits while forcing insurers to accept all applicants at one “community” price would weaken coverage for chronically ill people.

“Getting rid of the essential health benefits in a community-rated market would cause coverage for the sick to get even worse than it is under current law,” he said. Republicans “are shooting themselves in the foot if they the offer this proposal.”

Cannon favors full repeal of the ACA, allowing insurers to charge higher premiums for more expensive patients and helping consumers pay for plans with tax-favored health savings accounts.

In an absence of federal requirements for benefits, existing state standards would become more important. Some states might move to upgrade required benefits in line with the ACA rules but others probably won’t, according to analysts.

“You’re going to have a lot of insurers in states trying to understand what existing laws they have in place,” Koller said. “It’s going to be really critical to see how quickly the states react. There are going to be some states that will not.”

Mary Agnes Carey and Phil Galewitz contributed to this story.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. This is published here under a Creative Commons license.

Ryan’s legacy as speaker on line with health care vote

The vote on the Republican health care bill is a defining moment for House Speaker Paul Ryan that could boost his conservative agenda or send it off the rails.

If he fails? “It will be very hard to manage this,” the Wisconsin Republican told reporters ahead of Thursday’s likely vote.

The bill to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act, cap future funding for Medicaid and reverse tax increases on the wealthy is the kind of high-impact legislation that has become rare in a Congress that sometimes struggles with the routine like keeping the government open.

With the vote expected today, President Donald Trump spent some of his political capital on March 21, when he visited Capitol Hill to urge House Republicans to vote yes. Trump warned GOP lawmakers they could lose their majorities in the House and Senate in the 2018 midterm elections if they renege on promises to repeal and replace Obama’s signature health law.

“If it fails, then there will be a lot of people looking for work in 2018,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas.

But passage would have serious political consequences, as well, because Republicans would then own America’s health care system.

Ryan, his party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, understands the stakes, calling the vote “a rendezvous with destiny.”

Some conservative House members think the health bill is too much government regulation and too generous. Many of these same lawmakers essentially forced out Ryan’s predecessor as speaker, John Boehner of Ohio.

In interviews this week, no lawmakers suggested that Ryan could lose his post over the vote.

The political marriage of Ryan and Trump is an odd pairing as the speaker only reluctantly backed Trump last year and distanced himself from the presidential nominee after the audio emerged in October of Trump boasting about groping women. But they joined forces after the election.

Ryan and Trump now have an agenda for Trump’s first year in office. Ryan wants to re-write the tax code for the first time in 30 years after passing the health bill.

Under Ryan, the House has passed significant legislation, including a financial rescue package for Puerto Rico, ending a ban on crude oil exports and passing a law to deal with opioid addiction.

But Ryan’s dream of passing monumental legislation to change America’s big benefit programs has so far been elusive.

Over the years, Ryan has laid out proposals to revamp Medicare and Medicaid. The proposals came with catchy titles like “A Better Way” and “The Path to Prosperity.” But until now, they were more conservative campaign slogan than legislation with a chance to become law.

In the past, Republicans could blame Senate Democrats or Obama for blocking their ideas.

Not anymore.

Republicans control the House, Senate and the White House.

Still, Ryan has to navigate a House Republican conference that is not of one mind on health care. And if he’s successful, the bill would go to a Senate that is still short on votes to pass it.

Some moderate Republicans worry that too many people would lose health coverage under the bill. Over time, 24 million fewer people would have health insurance under the GOP plan, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

“Speaker Ryan has certainly put his speakership on the line with the president, saying he will deliver the vote on Thursday,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y. “We all campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare, each and every one of us. And yet we have a group of members threatening to continue Obamacare.”

Some conservatives don’t want to pass anything that looks like a new entitlement program. Some have dubbed the bill “Obamacare Lite,” and they warn that passing it will doom the Republican Party.

“It’s really a make-or-break moment for conservatives and Republicans,” said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. “If this passes, it does not bode well for conservatives in the House.”

Another conservative, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said, “The president did a great job” of selling the bill. But, he added, “The bill’s still bad.”

Hawaii lawmaker quits GOP to join Democratic Party

Hawaii state Rep. Beth Fukumoto, ousted last month as Republican leader of the House after publicly criticizing President Donald Trump, resigned from her party to seek membership as a Democrat.

Fukumoto, 33, the youngest Hawaii legislator to serve as House minority leader, said divisive campaign rhetoric during the 2016 elections convinced her the Republican Party no longer reflected her political values or the interests of her state’s diverse population.

“This election, I saw members of my party marginalizing and condemning minorities, ethnic or otherwise, and making demeaning comments towards women,” she said in an open letter of resignation to the Republican Party.

Fukumoto, who is of mixed Japanese and Irish ancestry, said she found Trump’s comments about banning Muslim immigrants and the possibility of establishing a registry of Muslim-Americans to be especially troubling.

“I wanted very badly to see the Republican Party denounce his comments and that didn’t happen,” she told Reuters, saying a Muslim registry struck her as “one step away” from internment camps.

“That for me was the issue that really changed how I felt.”

A self-described political moderate, Fukumoto was the first Republican in 26 years to represent the largely middle-class central Oahu district outside Honolulu, capital of the predominantly Democratic state.

She said she originally joined the Republicans out of a sense that Democrats were the status quo party, but she grew gradually disillusioned with the Republicans.

She recounted a fellow Republican caucus member admonishing her last year that they should be considered the “party of middle America” despite Hawaii’s diverse demographics.

Before making the switch, Fukumoto sent out a questionnaire to constituents seeking their opinions. Of those who replied, 76 percent said they would support her regardless, while most of the remainder opposed her changing parties, she said.

First elected to the state legislature in 2012, Fukumoto became leader of the state’s tiny House Republican caucus two years later, only to be removed by her peers in February of this year after she spoke out against Trump during the Women’s March in Hawaii the day after his inauguration.

As of Wednesday, Fukumoto, became the lone independent among 45 Democrats and five remaining Republicans in the state’s lower House, as she launches a process of applying for membership in the state’s majority party.

Court blocks law that’d close Mississippi’s only abortion clinic

A federal court earlier this month permanently blocked Mississippi’s law that threatened to close the state’s only abortion clinic by setting a hospital-privileges requirement the clinic couldn’t fulfill.

The ruling comes eight months after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a similar law in Texas.

In a statement, Center for Reproductive Rights President and CEO Nancy Northup called the ruling the latest victory for women’s health and rights.

“Our landmark win at the Supreme Court last summer continues to reverberate across the nation,” Northup said. “Any politician trying to roll back women’s constitutional rights should take notice and remember the law is on our side.”

An emailed request for comment from Republican Gov. Phil Bryant’s office was not immediately returned.

Bryant has said the law he signed in 2012 was designed to help women.

Mississippi was one of several states with laws saying physicians who work at an abortion clinic must obtain privileges to admit patients to a local hospital. Mississippi’s law never fully took effect because of a protracted court battle.

Jackson Women’s Health Organization sued the state before the law was to take effect in July 2012, saying the requirement could block access to a constitutionally protected medical procedure.

U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III let the law take effect but prevented the state from closing the clinic while physicians sought hospital privileges.

The state sought to overturn Jordan’s decision and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2014 that the law could cut off abortion access in Mississippi.

Republicans join Democrats against Trump’s Great Lakes cuts

It  sounds like an idea that would warm a conservative Republican’s heart: Kill funding of a regional environmental cleanup of the Great Lakes that has lasted seven years and cost the federal government more than $2 billion, with no end in sight. If states want to keep the program going, let them pick up the tab.

That is what President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget plan proposes for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an ambitious push to fix problems that have long bedeviled the world’s largest surface freshwater system — from invasive species to algal blooms and toxic sludge fouling tributary rivers.

During the Obama administration, the program generally got about $300 million a year. Trump’s offer is zero. His spending plan says it “returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.”

The response from Republicans in Great Lakes states: No, thanks.

“I think it makes sense for us to continue to make prudent investments in protecting and improving the Great Lakes,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told The Associated Press, adding that he would lobby the Trump administration and congressional leaders to put the money back.

Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan considers Great Lakes funding “very important to Michiganders, therefore we know there is strong support among Michigan’s congressional delegation and we will work with them to preserve the funding,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.

GOP lawmakers from the region also rushed out statements defending the program. It “helps protect both our environment and our economy,” U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said.

The reaction illustrates a political fact of life: Whether you consider something in the budget valuable or wasteful can depend a lot on where you’re from.

And it underscores the resistance Trump may encounter to some spending cuts he is proposing for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior and other agencies that draw frequent attacks from congressional Republicans yet fund projects and services with support back home.

The president’s spending blueprint also targets a Chesapeake Bay cleanup begun in 1983 that received $73 million last year, plus other “geographic programs.” It doesn’t identify them, but a proposal by the Office of Management and Budget this month called for cutting all or most funding for San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked for more details, EPA released a statement saying the plan “reflects the president’s priorities” and that Administrator Scott Pruitt “is committed to leading the EPA in a more effective, more focused, less costly way as we partner with states to fulfill the agency’s core mission.”

The Great Lakes region includes swing states crucial to Trump’s election — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. There’s also New York, Minnesota and Illinois. And Indiana, whose former governor, Mike Pence, is now Trump’s vice president.

Coincidentally, the budget plan was released as about 100 Great Lakes advocates paid a yearly visit to Washington, D.C., in support of the restoration initiative. They flocked to the offices of home-state lawmakers, reminding them that Congress voted only last year to extend the program another five years.

“We are going to turn once again to our bipartisan congressional champions,” said Todd Ambs, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

While Democratic lawmakers excoriated Trump’s proposal _ “incredibly short-sighted and reckless,” said Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan _ Republicans noted that former President Barack Obama at times recommended more modest reductions to the initiative, which Congress rejected.

Some also pointed out that former President George W. Bush signed initial legislation authorizing a wide-ranging Great Lakes cleanup, although he sought little money for it.

The initiative has funded nearly 3,000 projects across the eight states. Among them: efforts to prevent Asian carp from invading the lakes, prevent nutrient runoff that feeds harmful algal blooms, rebuild wetlands where fish spawn and remove sediments laced with PCBs and other toxins.

Nearly all the federal grants require cost-share payments from a state, local or tribal agency, or perhaps a nonprofit organization. But Ambs said they can’t afford to shoulder the burden alone.

Without federal support, “all of this restoration work would come to a halt,” he said.

 

Spring storm: Activists gathered outside Ryan’s Racine office to protest health care plan

About 250 people from Illinois and Wisconsin assembled outside House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office in Racine March 14 to demand he drop his health care repeal plan.

The demonstration took place days after the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis showed the House GOP health plan would cause 24 million Americans to lose their health coverage.

People from Fair Economy Illinois and the Jane Addams Senior Caucus joined with members of Citizen Action of Wisconsin — all People’s Action organizations — and with SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans.

Protesters marched from Racine’s Monument Square on Main Street to Ryan’s office with cans of dog and cat food — the kind of lunch organizers say some seniors will have  if House Republicans pass their health plan is passed.

Outside the speaker’s office, people shared stories and fears of living without health insurance.

Reggie Griffin, of Chicago, is in his 70s and works as a home caregiver. He said he would be devastated by the defunding of Medicare because of chronic health conditions. “I want to live a life of dignity,” Griffin said, according to a news release from organizers of the protest. “There are some members of Congress, like Speaker Paul Ryan, who think I don’t deserve to live with dignity.”

“This is a huge test for our democracy, because the Republican repeal can’t survive once the people understand it’s true implications,” said Robert Kraig, executive director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

“This attack on seniors and families will devastate Midwest communities. It is irresponsible and ruthless,” added Anna Marin, manager of civic engagement for the Jane Addams Senior Caucus.

One of the speakers at yesterday’s action, Tammy Wolfgram, is a small business owner from Hartland.

Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Wolfgram, her husband and her daughter could not find any health insurance company that would sell them coverage because all three had pre-existing conditions.

She said they struggled to afford costly insurance with high deductibles on Wisconsin’s high-risk pool.

“If ACA is repealed, I don’t know what we will do,” Wolfgram said.

A report by the Congressional Budget Office released this week shows 14 million people will lose their insurance coverage by next year and 24 million by 2026.

“Anyone who believed GOP promises that people would still have health insurance under the Republican repeal plan now know that they were lied to; they are going to be left out in the cold,” said LeeAnn Hall, co-director of People’s Action and executive committee member of Health Care for America Now.

Deciphering CBO’s estimates on the Republicans’ health bill

The Congressional Budget Office is out with its estimate of what effects the Republican health bill, “The American Health Care Act,” would have on the nation’s health care system and how much it would cost the federal government.

The GOP plan is designed to partially repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act passed during the Obama administration.

Here are some of the CBO highlights:

• $337 billion reduction in the deficit. That’s CBO’s estimate over the next decade, taking into account both decreased government spending in the form of less help to individuals to purchase insurance and lower payments to states for the Medicaid program. It also includes decreased revenue from the repeal of the taxes imposed by the ACA to pay for the new benefits.

• 24 million more people without insurance in a decade. The federal budget experts estimate that people will lose insurance and that the drop will kick in quickly. In 2018, they say 14 million more people would join the ranks of the uninsured. It would reach the 24 million by 2026, when “an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.”

• 15 percent of Planned Parenthood clinic patients would “lose access to care.” These patients generally live in areas without other sources of medical care for low-income people. The Republican bill would cut out Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood for a year.

• 15 to 20 percent increase in 2018 premiums, but relief would follow. Monthly costs for insurance would go up at first, due to the elimination of the requirement for most people to have insurance or else pay a tax penalty. After 2018, CBO estimates that average premiums would actually drop by 10 percent by 2026 compared to current law. That is because the lower prices for younger people would encourage more to sign up. By contrast, the law would “substantially [raise] premiums for older people.”

• 95 percent of people who are getting Medicaid through the health law’s expansion would lose that enhanced federal funding. The CBO estimates that only 5 percent of enrollees in the expansion program would remain eligible for the higher federal payments by 2024, since the bill would phase out those payments to states as patients cycle in and out of eligibility.

• 14 million fewer Medicaid enrollees by 2026. That’s 17 percent fewer than projected under current law. The projection includes people who are currently eligible and would lose coverage, as well as people who might have become eligible if more states, as expected, expanded coverage under the ACA. CBO projects that is unlikely to happen now.

• $880 billion drop in federal Medicaid spending over the decade. That comes primarily by imposing, for the first time, a cap on federal contributions to the program for those with low incomes.

Published under a Creative Commons license. Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation.