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Friday, July 14, 2017

***MUST READ!*** RSN: Does Anybody Know Who's in Charge Here?



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14 July 17
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FOCUS: Charles Pierce | Does Anybody Know Who's in Charge Here? 
Senator Mitch McConnell. (photo: Getty) 
Charles Pierce, Esquire 
Pierce writes: "Thursday brought us the most recent performance piece of the extended Republican shadow-play entitled, 'We Care About Sick People, Too.'" 
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The dog caught the car, now he might just go off a cliff.

et me explain this to you," said an influential Democrat of my casual acquaintance, twinkling just a bit as he talked. "This is the classic situation of the dog chasing the car and then, all of a sudden, the dog is in the driver's seat. Except that, this time, there are five dogs in the driver's seat. One of them is saying, 'Turn left,' and one is saying 'Turn right,' and another one is saying just drive right over the cliff there."
Thursday brought us the most recent performance piece of the extended Republican shadow-play entitled, "We Care About Sick People, Too." Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gathered his people in the Strom Thurmond room of the Capitol—and what a proud place that must be—and explained to them the latest iteration of whatever the hell his caucus us trying to do on the subject of healthcare. These now include what they call the "base bill," the newest iteration of the dead fish that was slung over from the House of Representatives a while back.
They also include the Cruz-Lee Amendment, the "compromise" produced by the Tailgunner and the konstitooshunal skolar from Utah. This is the provision that would re-introduce the country to the blessings of street-surance, eviscerate the protections regarding pre-existing conditions and, according to Cruz, free his fellow Americans from the jackboots of actual functioning health insurance. "If it were up to me," the Tailgunner told his moving gaggle, "we'd have moved forward to full repeal but that was not the will of the conference." Then, early Thursday morning, another dog grabbed the wheel.
(Spectacularly, in order to make his amendment work, Cruz's proposed amendment double-counts some of the money in order to finance a high-risk pool. This is as unwieldy a cluster of fck as the Senate has seen in quite a while.)
Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, Republicans of South Carolina and Louisiana, respectively, produced yet another alternative to the "base bill," and did so on CNN, largely because it was crafted with the help of CNN commentator Rick Santorum, which should be enough to get Santorum fired by the network, but likely won't, and have I mentioned recently what a colossal dick Rick Santorum is?
"Here is what will happen," Graham said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Kate Bolduan. "If you like Obamacare, you can re-impose the mandates at the state level. You can repair Obamacare if you think it needs to be repaired. You can replace it if you think it needs to be replaced. It'll be up to the governors. They've got a better handle on it than any bureaucrat in Washington."
Pardon me if I chant, "Brownback, Walker, Abbott," turn around three times, and spit.
"The essential health benefits will still be there. We can't repeal those as part of the process and so you'd still have the protection. This perfectly fulfills the Jimmy Kimmel test," Cassidy explained, referring to the exchange he had earlier this year with Kimmel after the late night host made an emotional plea about protecting people with pre-existing conditions like his newborn son, who was born with congenital heart disease.
With what we've seen out of the wild kingdom of Republican state legislatures, this is indeed quite an act of faith.
"The reason we can't pass a bill is because we are trying to do it in Washington, so stop it," Santorum, a CNN contributor, told CNN. (Ed. Note: What the unholy fck?) Both senators agree that the key to making their plan work, is giving states flexibility. "A blue state can do a blue thing, a red state a red thing," Cassidy said. "My state is going to repeal and replace Obamacare with something that gives power to the patient, but that starts with us giving power to the states."
The statistics of Cassidy's home state are not kind to his idea. For example, in its current form, whatever that is, the bill would throw 428,000 working-poor Louisianans off Medicaid. But the whole debate has become so confused and amorphous that the only thing anyone knows for certain is that the Republicans have to pass something to justify having their congressional majorities at all.
"It's the scalp they have to have for their base," said Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts. "They have to have something to show for that promise they made."
The senators in the middle of the rolling gaggles that filled the Senate halls after their big meeting all thought things were "moving in the right direction"; every one of the Republican senators whose gaggles I joined said that, one way or the other. Bob Corker of Tennessee still has questions, but he's going to vote for the motion to proceed, the parliamentary maneuver necessary to open debate on the bill, and a vote that isn't a sure thing at all. (Right now, Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky are definite no votes on that measure, and McConnell can't afford to lose another member of his conference, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is still frosted about how the bill defunds Planned Parenthood.) Collins is still unmovable because of what the Medicaid cuts will do to the elderly, especially those in nursing homes. Ron (Shreds of Freedom) Johnson of Wisconsin likes the Cruz amendment, and doesn't like the idea of having it scored by the Congressional Budget Office. Listening to all of them is like living through the classic conundrum of the blindfolded committee and the elephant.
One of the real scams produced in recent days by the negotiations is how McConnell allegedly dropped the huge tax-break for wealthy Americans that was such an awful political problem in selling the base bill. The current bill still redistributes wealth upwards; the bill depends greatly on Health Savings Accounts, which represent a huge tax break for people who can afford to shovel money into them and, anyway, those tax breaks are coming back in a little while when the Senate takes up tax reform. This remains a tax-cut bill with a lousy healthcare component, and not the other way around.
On Thursday, the Democrats took aim at the proposed $45 billion over 10 years set aside in the current iteration of the bill for the treatment of opioid addiction. (The Affordable Care Act promised twice that.) A great number of fence-sitters like Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia represent constituencies hit hardest by the epidemic. (Portman was asked about his vote no on the motion to proceed and made a terrible hash out of his answer.) Markey took the floor of the Senate and lambasted the new bill for trying to fight the epidemic on the cheap. "Right now," he said, "the Republicans have their heads in the sand." He also gave the knife a little twist by talking about the new healthcare bill's effect on the constituents of senators "whose states have been ravaged by opioid deaths."
The way things are going, new targets pop up like bears in a shooting gallery. The Republicans are miles from having their act together on this, and they still say they're planning on bringing it to a vote next week. This, too, may be mere shadow-play, because there's no indication yet of which dog is going to win the fight for the wheel, and the cliff is getting closer and closer.

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