Republican senators return to work on healthcare bill amid resistance

At least one Republican senator predicted a consensus was still several more weeks away, and few senators have been willing to defend the bill publicly

Republican senators left Washington more than a week ago without voting time a long-promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act or their unpopular plan to replace it. The GOP lawmakers return on Monday with the daunting task of crafting a bill still very much in front of them, amid swirling doubts concerning the prospect of finding a solution any time soon.

My view is its probably going to be dead, Arizona senator John McCain told CBS on Sunday. I fear that its going to fail.

A vote is unlikely to take place this week, with at the least one Republican senator predicting that his colleagues are still several more weeks away from reaching a consensus on a healthcare replacement. Last week at a town hall, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell compared the process of negotiating healthcare reform with intransigent Republican senators to solving a Rubiks cube.

Im in the position of a guy with a Rubiks cube, trying to spin the dial in such a way to get at least 50 each member of my conference who can agree to a version of repealing and replacing Obamacare, McConnell said. That is a very timely subject that Im grappling with as we speak.

Republicans were not meant to still be grappling with healthcare over the Fourth of July recess. When Trump took office and the GOP kept control of Congress, they laid out an ambitious agenda that included repealing Obamacare as early as January and then moving on to taxation reform and infrastructure.

But intransigent Republican opposition and a groundswell of political activism following the completion of Trumps election derailed that timeline. Now its summertime and with merely a handful of running weeks left before the August recess, the Senate Republican leadership is still searching furiously for 50 votes, a tally that would only push them over the finishing line with a casting vote from the vicepresident, Mike Pence.

The clearest sign of Republican resistance to the bill was how few senators were willing to defend the bill publicly. During the Fourth of July recess politicians typically relish the opportunity to march in patriotic parades and clasp hands with constituents. But this year those appearances were scarce.

And the few Republican senators who made public appearances were met with protests and pleas from constituents concerned about the Republican healthcare plan.

Susan Collins. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/ AP

At a parade in Eastport, Maine, Susan Collins, whose opposition to an initial draft of the healthcare law helped delay the vote, said her constituents were singularly focused on healthcare.

There was only one issue. Thats unusual. Its usually a wide range of issues, Collins told the Washington Post. I heard, over and over again, encouragement for my stand against the present version of the Senate and House healthcare bills. People were thanking me, over and over again. Thank you, Susan! Stay strong, Susan!

Where a Republican senator refused to hold a town hall, voters stimulated their views known. Tens of thousands of liberal activists and concerned constituents turned out for dozens of rallies across the country to recommend their senators to vote no on the healthcare bill. Some groups coordinated protests and staged sit-ins at senators offices, and in Columbus, Rob Portmans constituents held a cookout.

As initially drafted, the Republican healthcare plan would repeal major pieces of the ACA, including the mandate that all Americans buy health insurance or face a penalty. It would also build deep cuts to Medicaid, a joint state-federal public health program for low-income Americans, compared with spending under the current law.

An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office( CBO) estimated that 22 million people would lose healthcare over the next decade for the purposes of the Republican healthcare plan. In a new report that assessed the plans impact over two decades, the agency estimated that spending on Medicaid under the replacement scheme would be 35% lower by 2036 than under current law.

McConnell has introduced a number of changes, including adding $45 bn to combat the opioid outbreak. Also under consideration is a compromise amendment by Ted Cruz, the conservative Texas senator who opposed the bill because it did not go far enough in repealing Obamacare.

Under the Cruz proposal, insurance companies could sell non-AC-Acompliant healthcare plans as long as they also offered at least one that fulfilled the laws mandates, including coverage for maternity care, mental health treatment and prescription drugs. Though the proposal is gaining traction among conservatives, healthcare experts on both sides of the political debate believe the measure would likely result in prohibitively high costs for comprehensive schemes, which sicker Americans would need.

McConnell sent an update, including the Cruz amendment, of the healthcare plan to the agency, and a new report is expected this week. The CBO is expected to release another analysis sometime next week, a likely indicator that Senate Republican will not vote on the scheme until later this month.

I think we are making steady progress, Cruz told ABC on Sunday. The conversations have been coordinated and in good faith.

If Republicans fail to reach an agreement on a replacing scheme, McConnell said he would work with Democrats to stabilize the insurance markets.

No action is not an alternative, McConnell told constituents at a Rotary Club lunch on Thursday, in agreement with the Associated Press. Weve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.

But Cruz said he agreed with a proposal by Trump seen as unhelpful and unrealistic by many Republican that the GOP should try to repeal Obamacare without concurring a replacing if the Senate bill fails.

If we cant get this done right now, I agree with the president, then lets honor the promise on repeal and expend more time to get it done, Cruz said on Sunday.

I believe we can get it done.

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Bernie Sanders Exploits Hillary Clinton’s Flaws In A Way Most Republicans Can’t

The tally from the Iowa caucuses shows that Hillary Clinton get more delegates than Bernie Sanders. But nobody outside of Clinton headquarters thinks she won anything.

Clinton took 701 “state equivalent delegates” from the caucuses, according to the Iowa Democratic Party, while Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, took 697. Basically, they tied.

The result represents a remarkable achievement for Sanders, who entered the race with almost no name recognition and who once trailed in the polls by 50 percentage points. It’s also a blow to Clinton, the presumptive front-runner who now faces an extended fight for her party’s nomination, with her liabilities as a candidate on full display.

But it’s easy to get carried away with results like this — to assume that votes from supporters of one party, in one unrepresentative nation, uncover how the rest of the party will pick a nominee or how the rest of the country will pick a chairwoman. In this case, they may not.

Most experts suppose Clinton remains the strong favorite to win the nomination, that she will begin to win competitions once the campaign moves past New Hampshire — and onto states where the electorate is more diverse and less liberal. And while Clinton has some serious vulnerabilities, at least some of those vulnerabilities would matter less in the fall, when she would be running against a conservative rather than a fellow progressive.

Within the Democratic primaries, Sanders seems to be a pretty good foil for Clinton. One reason is that he holds the same essential priorities that she does, but can promote himself as more of a true disciple.

Both favor a higher minimum wage, for example, but he would raise it to $15 an hour while she would bump it to simply $12 . Both believe in universal health care, but he favors creating a single-payer system while she opts incremental improvements to the Affordable Care Act. Both want to help families struggling with tuition bills, but Sanders would build college free while Clinton would distribute assistance more selectively and with work requirements.

These postures are exactly what liberals, like the kind who predominate the Iowa caucuses, want to hear.

In a general election matchup, against a Republican, the contrast would look different. Clinton would be the one arguing for the highest minimum wage, because her adversary would oppose any increase at all. She’d be calling to provide people with more protection from medical bills, while her opponent would be seeking to yank insurance away from millions. She’d be the one talking about helping households with tuition bills, or devoting new parents paid leave, while her opponent “wouldve been” one promising to slash taxes for the rich.

And on all of these issues, she would be closer to the public’s views than the Republican would be.

Elections don’t simply turn on policy postures, of course, and Sanders’ agenda is not the only reason he’s induced such inroads with Democratic voters. Like Donald Trump in the GOP primaries, Sanders has mastered the “meta-message” — conveying, through his affect and willingness to pick battles, that he is a champion of the little guy and scourge of the elites. Clinton, a creature of Washington who abides by its political conventions, cannot pull that off. That actually could hurt her in the general election.

But all candidates have liabilities and the Republican, unlike Clinton, seem to be acquiring new ones. Thanks to Iowa, the GOP contest is shaping up as a three-way race, pitting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz( who won Iowa) against Trump( who came in second) and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio( who finished third ). The GOP establishment is celebrating the strong indicate from Rubio, the supposed moderate and most electable of the three.

But to survive politically, Rubio has disavowed his earlier support for immigration reform, vowed to appoint Supreme court justices that would roll back same-sex matrimony, and taken a position on abortion — no exceptions for rape and incest — that puts him to the extreme right even of the GOP field.

Exit polls indicated a sharp generational divide among caucus-goers. Clinton’s big weakness, as HuffPost’s Zach Carter notes, was among young voters — and the margins were lopsided, with Sanders winning 84 percent of voters ages 17 through 24 . But Rubio’s positions on immigration and same-sex wedding, which Cruz and Trump more or less share, would be positively toxic in this generation.

In other words, the college students who stood up for Bernie in Iowa caucus foyers last night likely won’t hesitate to pull Clinton’s lever in the fall. Hurl in the supporting Clinton is likely to get from African-Americans and Latinos, two groups that hold her in high regard, as well as her very real assets as a candidate and potential chairman, and suddenly it’s easy to remember why so many people thought she was formidable in the first place.

It’s still possible that Clinton could lose to Sanders, who has his own skills as a campaigner and whose position on certain issues, like trade, might even win over some Republicans. It’s also possible Clinton could lose a general election matchup to Rubio — or to Cruz or even to Trump. The U.S. electorate is sharply divided, after all. The economy is creating jobs, but a majority of people think the country is headed in the wrong direction. It wouldn’t take much to tip the final result one way or another.

But the candidates in one party are get weaker as the nomination tournament unfolds and it’s not the Democrat. If anything, a hard-fought, substantive contest between Sanders and Clinton might actually make better campaigners out of them both, leaving the party with a candidate in a strong position to win this fall.

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Hillary Clinton racks up another win as Ted Cruz leads in Wyoming

Former secretary of state wins caucuses on Northern Mariana Islands, while Guam and Washington DC also distribute delegates

Hillary Clinton added to her primary victories and Ted Cruz took an early leading in Wyoming on Saturday, as the state, two territories and Washington DC doled out delegates in Republican and Democratic races.

Clinton won the first-ever Democratic caucuses on the Northern Mariana Islands, with 102 total referendums to 65 voting in favour of Bernie Sanders. Clinton won four delegates, increasing her pledged delegate result over Sanders to 223; an additional 22 votes were cast for uncommitted.

The tiny Pacific island represents Clintons 14 th primary victory to Sanders nine and was the only Democratic competition held this weekend.

On Guam, where Republican held their primary this weekend, Ted Cruz picked up a single delegate. The big winner, however, was reported as uncommitted. Guams unconventional system means that its six convention delegates do not have to announce their preferred candidate for two weeks, so that they can hear from all four Republican presidential campaigns.

In the run-up to vote, Cruz sent a letter promising the islanders that he would fight for their own future. Its Guams time, he wrote. Guam is of great strategic importance to the United States. It is time we treated it as such. Marco Rubio, meanwhile, sent a missive calling for a new generation of leaders, John Kasich stressed veterans health benefits, and Donald Trump vowed: Nobody will do the job that I can do. And on top of that, Im going to win, so its one of those things.

In Wyoming, another state with an unconventional system for selecting delegates, caucusing began for a Republican nominee. Ted Cruz appeared to be headed for victory there, winning at the least three delegates and virtually 60% of the vote with more than 13 of 23 precincts reporting. The state will decide 12 delegates on Saturday, another 14 delegates in a state convention in April, and three in a decision by party leaders.

Rubio trailed Cruz in Wyoming with around 30% of the vote, with Trump in third at 18%. Adding to the complicated nature of Wyomings primary process, the state has unusual rules about when its delegates go to this summers Republican convention, where a nominee will be anointed by the party.

The 29 delegates will go to the convention officially unbound to any candidate, though identified by a preferred choice. Merely North Dakota and the territory of Guam have similar rules, which mean their delegates do not have to vote on the first ballot according to the results of their voters elections.

If none of the candidates reach the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, these unbound delegates would be fought over tooth and claw in the contested convention that a few campaigns want to create.

Cruz and Marco Rubio have tried to woo provinces with an eye to the convention, which requires candidates to win a majority in eight countries or territories to have their name put into assertion. Rubio won Puerto Rico by more than 50% last week, earning the commonwealths 23 delegates. But he has only won a single country, Minnesota, compared with Cruzs four states and Trumps seven.

Americans who live in Guam, Puerto Rico or the Northern Mariana Islands cannot vote in the general election. Both Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands are virtually 6,000 miles away from Californias coast, and 15 hours ahead of eastern local hour. Slightly fewer than 54,000 people live on the islands, according to the 2010 Census, and about 165,000 live their lives Guam.

Republicans also voted in Washington DC, which has 19 delegates as many as Hawaii though results were not immediately clear.

Registered Republicans make up only about 6% of Washington DCs voters, though its delegates often include former officials from the Reagan and Bush administrations. In the last two presidential primaries, fewer than 6,000 people turned out to vote, awarding Mitt Romney 70% of the vote in 2012 and John McCain 68% in 2008.

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And now, in athletics news, Deadspin preparing victory lap in event of Sen. John McCain’s death

We’d always guessed Deadspin was a athletics website, but then “were in” unaware of the site’s peculiar animosity toward Sen. Ted Cruz. Of course, the site lately changed hands after a tweet from Cruz made it clear that the senator owned Deadspin outrightfor the indefinite future. As Twitchy reported, however, today is a day for progressives to concentrate their hatred on Sen. John McCain, who made a triumphant return to the Senatefollowing eye surgery and a brain cancer diagnosis to vote on a motion to proceed with debate on the Republicans’ health care bill, the passageway of which will kill 22 million people, according to some experts on Twitter.

Despite a standing ovation from his colleagues, plenty on social media made it clear they will no longer be party to anything that portrays McCain as a war hero, or a maverick, or even a decent human being. Even Deadspin by most accounts a website about sports slipped into first person to make it clear that news of McCain’s death is about all he could do of interest.

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