House Republicans Are Quietly Advancing Their Next Tactic To Dismantle Obamacare


CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

 

Reproductive health care policy has captivated the national conversation, thanks to Republican lawmakers threatening a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funds and planning congressional inquiries into the national women’s health organization. But these issues have, perhaps intentionally, overshadowed another legislative move in the health care arena.

On Tuesday, House Republicans quietly advanced a strategic bill gutting key parts of the Affordable Care Act — a move that could lay the groundwork for a future Obamacare attack if a Republican wins the presidency in 2016.

Legislation seeking to repeal Obamacare is far from novel; the House has voted on over 50 similar bills in the past, most dying in the Senate. But this specific measure may have a better chance of advancing further. That’s because it relies on a complex strategy to get around a potential Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

Using a method called “reconciliation” that allows tax-related measures to be fast-tracked to the president’s desk, GOP lawmakers can dodge the Senate by slashing the budgetary pieces of Obamacare. This complicated workaround wouldn’t repeal Obamacare outright. However, it would eliminate the central policy that the Affordable Care Act is founded on: The individual mandate that requires Americans to purchase health insurance, which was ruled a “tax” when it was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012.

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http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/09/30/3707235/obamacare-reconciliation-advance/

Clinton to Propose New Rules for Drug Makers – By LAURA MECKLER And PETER LOFTUS Sept. 22, 2015 12:01 a.m. ET


Democrat would force pharmaceutical companies to spend a set portion of revenue on R&D

Hillary Clinton at a campaign stop in Baton Rouge, La., on Monday.

Hillary Clinton at a campaign stop in Baton Rouge, La., on Monday. Photo: Lee Celano/Reuters

Hillary Clinton is proposing new rules that would pressure prescription-drug companies to spend a set portion of their revenue on research and development, one of several ideas aimed at controlling the rising cost of pharmaceuticals.

Her plan, to be laid out in Iowa on Tuesday, also would attempt to dissuade drug companies from spending large sums on consumer advertising by barring that from counting as a tax-deductible business expense.

The proposals are part of Mrs. Clinton’s effort to acknowledge shortcomings in the Affordable Care Act even as she aligns herself with what Democrats see as one of President Barack Obama’s biggest achievements. She is defending the law against both Republicans, who see it as far too much government, and, more subtlely, against her chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who says it is nowhere near enough.

At least for now, the campaign is highlighting the contrast with Republicans. On Monday in Louisiana, she criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is running for the GOP nomination, for not expanding Medicaid to more low-income Americans, as the law encourages states to do.

“Your governor turned away federal dollars that would have paid to expand Medicaid,” she said at an organizing event in Baton Rouge. “He put ideology ahead of the well-being of the people and families of this state. And everyone pays a price.”

Twenty-one states have declined to expand Medicaid. GOP governors, including Mr. Jindal, have said that neither the states nor the federal government can afford to expand the Medicaid program, which they contend is inefficient.

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http://www.wsj.com/articles/clinton-to-propose-new-rules-for-drug-makers-1442894461

 

Dem bill would cut lawmaker pay during shutdowns – By Cristina Marcos September 18, 2015, 06:13 pm


Rep. Rick Nolan introduced legislation on Friday to prevent future Congresses from getting paid during government shutdowns.

The Minnesota Democrat’s proposal wouldn’t apply to the current Congress, which faces a potential government shutdown on Oct. 1 if lawmakers don’t pass a spending bill in time.

The Constitution’s 27th Amendment prohibits any law that changes lawmakers’ salaries during their current terms. Lawmakers can only enact measures that affect future sessions of Congress.

Nolan said withholding lawmaker pay would put those serving in Congress on par with other federal employees who would be furloughed in the event of a shutdown.

“If hundreds of thousands of other federal employees are to go without their salaries — twisting slowly in the wind in a government shutdown — then the Congress should not be paid either,” Nolan said.

“This legislation would require the Congress to work full time — with no salary — during any government shutdown until they pass a bill to fund our government and pay the public employees who go to work on our behalf every day,” he added.

Many conservatives want to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of controversial undercover videos depicting the organization’s use of fetal tissue donations with a spending bill as leverage. But such a measure does not have the votes to surmount a Democratic filibuster in the Senate or President Obama’s veto.

Only a handful of legislative days remain for Congress to pass a stopgap funding bill. Neither the House nor Senate currently has plans to vote next week on a bill to avoid a shutdown.

Some lawmakers opted to donate their pay to charity during the 16-day shutdown in 2013 over defunding ObamaCare.

http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/254264-dem-introduces-bill-to-cut-lawmaker-pay-during-shutdowns

Court rules against ObamaCare birth control mandate – By Sarah Ferris – 09/17/15 04:23 PM EDT


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A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled against ObamaCare’s birth control mandate in a decision that could invite a Supreme Court review.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that four Christian nonprofits should not have to comply with the ObamaCare rule that all employer healthcare plans include contraception options or face a fee. While employers can seek exemptions to the law, the court argued that doing so poses a “substantial burden” on that organization’s religious rights.

The decision is particularly important because it directly contradicts another federal court’s ruling.

“With today’s decisions, the [Supreme] Court will have great reason to decide this issue in the next term,” one religious rights group, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, wrote in a statement Thursday.

The Supreme Court already has several cases involving the birth control mandate it could take up in its fall term.

Conservatives were quick to praise the decision, which reignites a years-long battle against the ObamaCare rule.

“This court ruling is a victory for the rights of freedom and liberty that were critical to our Founding Fathers and American exceptionalism to this day,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) wrote in a statement Thursday.

The ruling includes 30 references to Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the 2014 Supreme Court case that allowed certain for-profit companies to opt out of the mandate. Since that decision, multiple nonprofits, including universities, have taken legal action demanding to be granted the same permissions.

Under ObamaCare, employer healthcare plans are required to cover all federally approved forms of birth control. That includes, as the court notes, emergency contraception that some religious organizations believe is “functionally equivalent to abortion on demand.”

Groups can receive an exemption by writing a letter to the Health and Human Services Department or filling out a two-page form to document their objections. Houses of worships are automatically exempt from the law.

A White House spokeswoman on Thursday said the administration is “disappointed” in the decision, but believes the mandate will ultimately be upheld.

“As all of the other seven courts of appeals to address this issue have held, the contraceptive accommodation process strikes the proper balance between ensuring women have equal access to health care and protecting religious beliefs,” the spokeswoman said.

– Updated at 4:56 p.m.

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/254088-court-rules-against-obamacare-birth-control-mandate

Kentucky Is Obamacare’s Undeniable Success Story. This Man Is Trying To Burn It All Down. – BY EMILY ATKIN & JOSH ISRAEL SEP 14, 2015 8:20AM


CREDIT: AP PHOTO/TIMOTHY D. EASLEY Kentucky GOP gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/TIMOTHY D. EASLEY
Kentucky GOP gubernatorial nominee Matt Bevin

Though it has been largely ignored by national media and pollsters, Kentucky’s November gubernatorial election could mean striking changes for the Bluegrass State. The nation’s most unlikely Obamacare success story — a state system that has provided more than 500,000 Kentuckians with affordable health insurance — might well be ransacked by a Tea Party candidate named Matt Bevin.

From the earliest days, Kentucky’s efforts to implement Obamacare have earned national acclaim. As the troubled roll out of the national health care exchange website was ruthlessly mocked by late night television, Fortune praised “one health exchange success story“: Kentucky’s new state-level marketplace.

Unlike most southern states, Kentucky opted to both set up its own state exchange (the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange, commonly known as “Kynect”) and to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. These efforts, ordered by Gov. Steve Beshear (D) and overseen by Governing magazine’s 2014 Public Official of the Year Carrie Banahan, helped get 521,000 Kentuckians insurance coverage in the first year alone. According to a Gallup poll, by the first half of 2015, Kentucky’s uninsured rate had fallen from 20.4 percent in 2013 to just 9 percent, the second largest drop of any state. Governing fêted Kentucky as “one of the few states that got everything right.”

In testimonials provided to ThinkProgress by Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of health advocacy groups, many Kentuckians agreed. “Thank God for Kynect,” said Eddie Alvis, who after years of struggling financially was able to get health insurance, and discovered he had severe asthma. “It has really empowered me,” said Lynn Young, a Louisville resident who got insured despite her recent unemployment. And Helen Spalding, who lost her job and benefits after a serious car accident, was also able to purchase insurance. “Kynect has been here for me,” she said. “It’s a blessing.”

But with Beshear term-limited, Bevin, the GOP nominee, has made it clear he wants to reverse course. The Tea Party-backed candidate vows he’ll do away with both the successful state exchange and the Medicaid expansion that has helped hundreds of thousands get affordable health care — moves that the governor could likely make unilaterally.

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http://thinkprogress.org/health/2015/09/14/3698831/matt-bevin-kentucky-eliminate-health-care/

 

Right sees leftward tilt in Roberts Supreme Court era – By Peter Schroeder and Lydia Wheeler – 06/27/15 06:00 AM EDT


Getty Images

Supreme Court rulings affirming ObamaCare and gay marriage are unnerving the right, which sees a leftward tilt in the Chief Justice John Roberts era.

To be sure, the court has issued right-leaning rulings since Roberts was confirmed in 2005, perhaps most notably by opening up campaign coffers to private organizations in Citizens United v. FEC, and striking down a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

But in a series of other rulings, the court has issued decisions cheered by the left that have disappointed conservatives and soured them on Roberts.

“People had felt that the Roberts court might be one of the most conservative courts in recent history,” said Paul Rothstein, a Georgetown Law professor. “That expectation and belief has been a little bit beyond the mark.”

The court’s early direction under Roberts appeared in line with expectations.

In 2010, a New York Times analysis of the first five years of the Roberts Court found it to be one of the most conservative in decades, issuing conservative opinions 58 percent of the time.

Some of the recent decisions have highlighted a disturbing trend for conservatives.

While the court’s four liberal justices have ruled in unison on gay marriage, ObamaCare, discrimination in housing and other issues, conservatives on the court have been split.

While Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have generally aligned on the right, Roberts wrote both ObamaCare decisions and Kennedy has been a frequent swing voter.

Even Thomas broke with the other four conservatives last week in a ruling that said Texas could block people from putting the Confederate flag on license plates.

Given that Kennedy and Roberts were nominated to the court by GOP presidents, Ronald Reagan in the case of the former and George W. Bush in the latter, their surprise decisions have left a sour taste.

“They lied to the presidents who appointed them. Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind what Ronald Reagan wanted when he picked Anthony Kennedy?” said Matt Schlapp, president of the American Conservative Union. “I don’t trust the court. I don’t trust John Roberts to do the right thing. I definitely don’t trust Anthony Kennedy to do the right thing.”

Some legal experts say the court only appears more liberal because the big cases would have never come before the court if it weren’t so conservative.

“The only reason they heard the Obamacare case is because we have some really deeply conservative justices who thought this could be used as mechanism to strike it down,” said Kent Greenfield, a law professor and Dean’s Research Scholar at Boston College. “With same-sex marriage, they’ve been avoiding taking the case.”

But a ruling this week on fair housing shows it is not just the high-profile political cases where a conservative justice can surprise.

 

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http://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/246352-right-sees-leftward-tilt-in-roberts-supreme-court-era

Republicans Fear Victory for Health Care Could Pave Way for Education, Environment – BY ANDY BOROWITZ JUNE 25, 2015


Credit PHOTOGRAPH BY ROGER L. WOLLENBERG / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The Supreme Court’s decision to preserve Obamacare subsidies has drawn sharp rebukes from Republican Presidential hopefuls, who warn that the victory for health care might eventually pave the way for similar advances in education and the environment.

“The Supreme Court has decided, apparently, that every American should have access to quality health care,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “What if it decided to say the same thing about education? I don’t mean to be an alarmist but, after today, I believe that anything is possible.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) also blasted the Court, telling reporters that “a government that protects health care is one small, dangerous step away from protecting the environment.”

“The nightmare that I have long feared is now suddenly upon us,” Paul said. “Mark my words, we are on a slippery slope toward clean air and water.”

On the campaign trail in Iowa, the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee raised another doomsday scenario, telling his audience, “If the Court thinks people should be allowed to see a doctor when they want, they probably also think that people should be able to marry anyone they want. My friends, that is not what God intended when He created America.”

Speaking from New York, candidate Donald Trump offered his own scathing critique of the Supreme Court. “You look at them in their robes, and you say, ‘Those robes look freaking cheap,’ ” he said. “When I’m President, we’re getting more expensive robes.”

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