Affordable Care Act

The Ted Cruz Show (Hair-on-Fire Apoplexy)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) responds to the 2015 State of the Union address in an online video, 20 January 2015.

“As ridiculous as Cruz’s posturing seems, it’s important to remember the broader context: national GOP candidates have a built-in incentive to be as hysterical as possible right now, in the hopes of currying favor with the party’s base. Mild, reasoned disappointment with the court doesn’t impress far-right activists; unrestrained, hair-on-fire apoplexy does.”

Steve Benen

This is an obvious point, or, at least one might think.

Steve Benen points to his msnbc colleague Benjy Sarlin’s report Friday last detailing the 2016 GOP presidential reactions following the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favor of same sex marriage:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) went so far as to call for a constitutional convention to overturn the court’s decision while campaigning in Iowa, according to CNN. In an interview with Sean Hannity he called the back-to-back rulings on health care and gay marriage “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history.”

While the Texas junior is hardly the only Republican presidential candidate opting to skip out on posturing his response within the realm of general dignity, Mr. Benen responded aptly:

Hannity, incidentally, found Cruz’s rhetoric quite compelling, responding, “I couldn’t say it more eloquently.”

For what it’s worth, it’s not hard to think of some genuinely tragic 24-hour periods in American history. The Lincoln assassination comes to mind. So does the time British troops burned the White House. There were days during the Civil War in which tens of thousands of Americans died on the battlefield. Just in the last century, we witnessed the JFK assassination, Pearl Harbor, and a corrupt president resign in disgrace.

For the Republican presidential hopeful, learning that Americans will have health benefits and loving couples will get married belongs on the same list.

The thing is that Mr. Cruz is not entirely wrong; the rest, as Benen points out, is a matter of perspective.

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The Messenger

Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall, in undated photo from Bloomberg News.

This is not surprising:

The economist that Republicans handpicked to run the Congressional Budget Office just told Republicans that one of their favorite arguments about Obamacare is wrong.

According to a report the CBO released Friday, repealing the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t reduce the deficit, as Republicans have long claimed. It would increase the deficit, by at least $137 billion over 10 years and maybe a lot more than that — with the effects getting bigger over time.

Of course, that’s in addition to the effect repeal would have on the number of Americans without health insurance. The CBO says the ranks of the uninsured would increase by 19 million people next year.

(Cohn)

While it doesn’t necessarily count as a surprise, there is still one mystery here: How does this keep happening?

After all, conservatives have a rough tradition of aiming to subordinate reality to politics in public service, with inconsistent results because enough of these appointed servants still remember what they’re on about. And once again, there is simply no way to twist reality to suit Republican fancy; after all their effort to find a CBO director who would say all the things they want, Keith Hall just couldn’t do it.

We might, then, wonder why they bother trying this sleight in the first place.

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Image note: Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall, in undated photo from Bloomberg News.

Cohn, Jonathan. “Obamacare Repeal Would Swell The Deficit Even Using GOP’s New Math, Budget Office Says”. The Huffington Post. 19 June 2015.

King v. Burwell (Wingnutshell Party Mix)

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), January, 2014.  (AP Photo)

“Just once, I want to hear an ACA critic admit what is plainly true: King v. Burwell is a brazenly stupid con, but they’re playing along with the charade because they really hate the president and his signature domestic policy initiative.”

Steve Benen

Really, it is a reasonable suggestion.

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Benen, Steve. “The importance of setting Sessions straight”. msnbc. 5 June 2015.

The Ben Carson Show (Interesting Pilot)

Ben Carson announces his candidacy for president during an official announcement in Detroit, Monday, May 4, 2015.  Carson, 63, a retired neurosurgeon, begins the Republican primary as an underdog in a campaign expected to feature several seasoned politicians.  (Photo: Paul Sancya)

This is going to be interesting.

As you might have heard, Dr. Ben Carson is running for president:

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson slammed “slick politicians” in both parties as he launched his bid on Monday for the 2016 Republican nomination for president, casting himself as a problem-solver whose experience sets him apart from the field.

Carson, a favorite of conservative activists, said the upcoming elections should bring in leaders with “common sense” to enact policies like reversing President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care overhaul and revamping the U.S. tax code.

“I’ve got to tell you something. I’m not politically correct, and I’m probably never going to be politically correct because I’m not a politician,” Carson said in a speech in Detroit, his hometown.

“Politicians do what is politically expedient, and I want to do what’s right,” he said.

Carson, who is 63 and the only black person currently seeking the nomination in either the Republican or Democratic parties, is a political neophyte. In polls of the Republican Party’s wide field of likely candidates, he currently gets about 4.8 percent of the vote, according to Reuters/Ipsos polls.

(Stephenson)

It is hard to know where to start. To the one, Dr. Carson presents the possibility of simply being yet another clown with delusions of the White House. Or maybe he is looking forward to book sales. Nonetheless, inasmuch as any candidate can tell us why he or she is running for office, a certain question sometimes remains, like, “But why are you running for office?”

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When the GOP Turns Against ‘Job Creators’

Mike Huckabee, circa 2012.  (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“But let’s not miss the forest for the trees – since when do Republicans argue, in effect, ‘Let’s stop listening to private-sector business leaders’?”

Steve Benen

It’s a fair question. And it’s also an ugly, sticky mess Republicans have gotten themselves into.

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Benen, Steve. “The GOP finds itself at odds with ‘job creators'”. msnbc. 6 April 2015.

Your Quote of the Day (Mix for the ACA)

President Barack Obama (D) smiles during the 2012 State of the Union Address. (Photo: Unknown)“I mean, we have been promised a lot of things these past five years that didn’t turn out to be the case: death panels, doom. A serious alternative from Republicans in Congress.”

President Barack Obama

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Obama, Barack. “Remarks by the President Marking the Fifth Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act”. White House Office of the Press Secretary. 25 March 2015.

A Note on Fact Checking, Equivocation, and the American Press

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

“Sometimes a lawmaker will wander on the floor of the House or Senate and begin speaking without any notes. That’s a big mistake, especially for someone like Sessions — who is chairman of the House Rules Committee and was speaking about the federal budget.”

Glenn Kessler

The American political discourse is a strange brew of curious and even counterintuitive histories. There are the politicians, as a general classification, and if everything that can be said about them has been, it still isn’t enough. Voters are viciously demanding, and often contradictory unto themselves, both generally as a classification and particularly as individuals. The press is a business proposition―not the Fourth Estate―that has discovered better profits pretending that all things are equal.

Perhaps we might recall John Kerry’s run for president in 2004. The former U.S. Senator and current Secretary of State encountered a familiar problem along the way, a group of right-wing scandalmongers that had dogged him with their complaints for decades. He did what he always did, what people in Massachusetts were accustomed to, which was try to ignore them.

In the end, that didn’t work, because the press didn’t just treat the Swiftboat controversy as a shiny object, but as a shiny new thing. The American mainstream press is a business proposition, not the Fourth Estate. Due diligence in American journalism is simply enough explained: If somebody says something about somebody else, ask that other person. If there is a history defining the original claim as false, that is not of any useful concern to the press.

For Kerry, the fix was essentially in. Addressing the fake scandal was to stoop; ignoring the fake scandal was bad politics. That these people were lying and always had been was not of any useful concern to the press, despite the dishonesty being apparent from the outset.

In the end, Kerry was vindicated when a Newsweek reporter tracked down the third person who received medals for his actions on the day in question, and even the official paperwork showed Larry Thurlow to be a liar. The press’ response? To complain about John Kerry.

Voters? Hell, most can’t even be bothered to read the state voters’ guides. They need the press to tell them what’s in it, except most years the press doesn’t bother, either.

The response over the years has become a specialized cottage industry within journalism: fact checking. And it needs to be a specialty, because, well, you know, even by allegedly respectable standards, facts have nothing to do with being a reporter.α

In the 2012 cycle, reporter Matt Appuzzo deliberately tanked a fact check, an act of journalistic activism the Associated Press defended as appropriate. And in a certain sense, one can argue it really was: The fact check would have been unkind to one candidate, which is a problem for a press in which equivocation is a professional standard, so poor Matt Apuzzo had no choice but to invoke irrelevant history in order to throw Romney a bone.

All of which leads us up to a consideration of “why lawmakers should not speak without notes”:

A 'pinnocchio', as awarded by Glenn Kessler, fact-checker for The Washington Post.Sometimes a lawmaker will wander on the floor of the House or Senate and begin speaking without any notes. That’s a big mistake, especially for someone like Sessions — who is chairman of the House Rules Committee and was speaking about the federal budget.

Kessler and the WaPo team awarded “four pinnocchios”, and advised that, “Senior lawmakers should not be uttering nonsense math on the House floor”. But this analysis falsely adheres to the notion of “all things being equal”, when in fact they are not.

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The Affordable Cow Act

"The MO Senate is now debating the Affordable Cow Act. Insurance subsidies for dairy cows is okay. Not for people though. #moleg" (Missouri State Rep. Jeremy LaFaver, R-25, via Twitter, 19 March 2015)Obamacow.

Obamacow.

Obamacow.

Missouri is the “Show-Me State”―

Touted by sponsor Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, as the Dairy Revitalization Act, the measure earned a second nickname Thursday: “Obamacow.” The name stems from a provision of the bill that would subsidize federal dairy insurance for up to 70 percent of farmers’ premium payments.

Before voting in favor of the bill, Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey of Kansas City questioned helping provide dairy insurance while the majority party has resisted growing a federal health care program for low-income adults. Silvey is one of the few GOP members who this session has joined Democrats in calling to expand eligibility for Medicaid.

Silvey called the bill “Obamacow,” drawing a parallel with the term “Obamacare.” That term is used by some Republicans to describe President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, under which states can receive enhanced federal funding if they raise eligibility for adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — or $33,465 for a family of four.

(Ballentine)

―and what they’re showing is not quite inexplicable.

And it’s almost funny.

Obamacow.

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Ballentine, Summer. “Bill to help Missouri’s dairy industry heads to governor”. SFGate.com. 19 March 2015.

LaFaver, Jeremy. “The MO Senate is now debating the Affordable Cow Act”. Twitter. 19 March 2015.

Morbid Hilarity (King v. Burwell Throwback Mix)

That King v. Burwell has even made it to the Supreme Court becomes even more of a mystery; the cynicism of the case is plainly apparent; even Justice Scalia is reduced to cheap politicking.

Perhaps, then, we ought not be surprised at Ian Millhiser’s report for ThinkProgress, which runs under the lovely title, “The Lawyer Telling The Supreme Court To Gut Obamacare Explained Why He Should Lose In 2012”, should surprise nobody:

On Wednesday, a lawsuit seeking to defund much of the Affordable Care Act appeared to hit a roadblock when Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed concerns that the plaintiffs’ reading of the law is unconstitutional. Though Michael Carvin, the lead lawyer challenging the law, attempted to extract himself from this roadblock, he quickly ran into an entirely different obstacle — his own past writings.

Attorney Michael Carvin, who argued King v. Burwell before the Supreme Court of the United States, 3 March 2015, on behalf of plaintiffs hoping to overturn the Affordable Care Act, in an undated photo.  (Image credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)Carvin claims, in a case called King v. Burwell, that Obamacare should be read to deny tax credits that enable millions of Americans to afford health insurance in states that elected not to set up their own health exchange (under the Affordable Care Act, states have “flexibility” to decide whether to set up their own exchange or to allow the federal government to do so). During oral arguments on Wednesday, however, several justices raised concerns about the catastrophic damage Carvin’s reading of the law could inflict on those states’ insurance markets ....

.... Carvin tried to downplay the risk that consumers would simply stop buying plans in the law’s health exchanges if the tax credits were cut off, claiming that these consumers would still be attracted to exchange plans by the fact that the exchanges offer “one-stop shopping” for people looking to buy insurance. He also claimed that Congress wasn’t worried about the risk of death spirals if the tax credits get cut off. According to Carvin, “there’s not a scintilla of legislative history suggesting that without subsidies, there will be a death spiral.”

But Carvin himself sang a very different tune three years ago. Indeed, Wednesday was not the first time he’s stood in the well of the Supreme Courtroom and asked the justices to gut the Affordable Care Act. Carvin was also one of the lead attorneys in NFIB v. Sebelius, the first Supreme Court case attacking the law.

In a brief filed in NFIB, Carvin explained that “[w]ithout the subsidies driving demand within the exchanges, insurance companies would have absolutely no reason to offer their products through exchanges, where they are subject to far greater restrictions.” And, contrary to his more recent suggestion that Congress never envisioned any danger if the tax credits are cut off, Carvin wrote in 2012 that “the insurance exchanges cannot operate as intended by Congress absent those provisions.”

In a subsequent brief, Carvin elaborated that “the federal subsidies are the incentive to participate in the exchanges, and without those subsidies, there will be no mechanism to sustain the exchanges.” He also seemed to contradict his central claim that different states are treated differently depending on whether their exchange is operated by a state or the federal government. The Affordable Care Act, according to the Michael Carvin of 2012, “enables uniform and acceptable federal premium subsidies”.

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The One About How Nine Justices Walk Into a Bar ….

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia testifies before the House Judiciary Committee's Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee on Capitol Hill May 20, 2010 in Washington, DC. Scalia and fellow Associate Justice Stephen Breyer testified to the subcommittee about the Administrative Conference of the United States. (Photo: Stephen A. Masker)

“Congratulations, Congress, you’ve literally sunk to the level of a punch line.”

Steve Benen

The proposition that Congress is a punch line strikes few as new material. Even the idea that a Solicitor General would take the shot is not so strange. Yet Steve Benen makes the point about Justice Scalia’s blithe view of the 114th Congress:

Scalia wasn’t kidding. “I don’t care what Congress you’re talking about,” he added. “If the consequences are as disastrous as you say, so many million people ­­ without insurance and whatnot – yes, I think this Congress would act.”

On a purely theoretical level, this is not ridiculous. Major new laws have routinely needed minor technical fixes for generations, and many of these corrections are intended to bring clarity to ambiguous phrases. Under normal circumstances, the King v. Burwell case wouldn’t even exist because Congress would have clarified the ACA structure years ago.

And, again in theory, if the Supreme Court were to decide in this case that the statute needs clarification, a sane, mature, responsible legislative branch would simply add a few words to the ACA law and ensure that consumers receive the same insurance subsidies they’re receiving now.

But that’s all the more reason to understand exactly why Scalia is wrong.

Perhaps it is Justice Scalia who is the punch line. Then again, neither is that news.

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