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Budget chairman dismisses rogue amendment to block BAT

Budget chairman dismisses rogue amendment to block BAT

House Budget Chairman Diane Black stopped an attempt to bar Republicans from considering a border adjustment tax. | AP Photo

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How Democrats Won the Healthcare War

“The mover on health care loses,” Democratic operative James Carville said in January. “To do something is to lose.” That cold-hearted political proverb has been repeatedly proven true, if the standard is short-term electoral gain. In terms of policy, it’s another story. Now that Obamacare repeal has fizzled, Democrats have officially won the eight-year health care war.

The victory was not by default. Trump might look silly blaming Democrats for the failure of repeal and replace when Republicans control all branches of government, but united Democratic resistance was critical to keeping the Affordable Care Act as law. Without a single Democrat in Congress breaking ranks, the ideologically divided Republican caucus found it impossible to stitch together a majority for a functional alternative to the status quo.

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But the euphoria of victory may quickly dissipate. Despite the fact that Obamacare was signed in this decade, many Democrats don’t appreciate the bill’s history and have not internalized the lessons of its passage and durability. Without a clear-eyed understanding of their own triumph, Democrats may hastily launch another health care war, repeat many of the Republican Party’s clumsy mistakes and prove Carville right all over again.

Many analysts will attribute the repeal bill’s demise to raw politics: be it Trump’s unpopularity, poor salesmanship by Republican leaders, incorrigible Republican backbenchers or Democrats cynically betting on gridlock. But the biggest reason why Democrats were able to unify was the substance of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However imperfect, however unpopular, the law was built to last.

The popular provisions were intertwined with the unpopular provisions. The program was designed with input from insurers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies; critics say they got off light (for example, POLITICO just investigated how much hospitals have been able to profit off of the ACA while cutting back on charity care), but all had a stake in Obamacare’s success. The bill was worked and re-worked until Democrats secured the blessing of the Congressional Budget Office. Finally, the law implicitly enshrined the principle that the government is responsible for making the health insurance system work for all Americans.

Plus, while there’s plenty of room for improvement, the simple truth is the ACA has helped many people, covering more than 20 million additional people and contributing to an approximately 50 percent decline in bankruptcies .

Facing off against these strong foundations, the Republicans were outmatched. Playing Jenga with Obamacare’s complementary elements was doomed to crash at the steps of the CBO. Leaving people to the mercy of the free market was a political non-starter. The insurance industry, long the bête noir of the left, plunged a stake in the final version of the Republican replacement plan, warning the last-minute addition of the “Cruz Amendment” made the bill “unworkable in any form.”

And where the Republicans collapsed, the Democrats stood firm. Some Democrats on the left never liked the Affordable Care Act’s compromises with the private health industry. Some red state Democrats were sensitive to complaints about rising

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Jeff Sessions Just Revived a Policy Nobody Supports

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

In The Arena

Why is the Justice Department going backwards on civil forfeiture?

By Robert Everett Johnson

July 20, 2017

Every day, law enforcement officials across the United States seize cash from motorists stopped at the side of the road. It’s called “civil forfeiture,” and the stories of abuse are legion: over $17,000 seized from the owner of a barbecue restaurant in Staunton, Virginia; over $13,000 seized from a former church deacon in DeKalb County, Georgia; and over $50,000 seized from a Christian rock band in Muskogee County, Oklahoma.

Civil forfeiture allows government to seize property based on the mere suspicion that it is connected to a crime. For instance, the fact that the cops think someone has too much cash is enough to warrant a seizure. After the property is seized, in a complete reversal of the way the American justice system is supposed to work, owners must prove their own innocence to get it back.

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Public outrage over the practice has grown as more tales of abuse have been reported. And fortunately, over the last three years, 24 states have passed reforms to protect property owners and curtail civil forfeiture. Less fortunately, on Wednesday Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new federal policy that threatens to undermine those reforms.

Speaking in a small conference room surrounded by law enforcement officials, Sessions announced the federal government was rolling back a Holder-era policy that had sharply curtailed so-called adoptive seizures. An adoptive seizure occurs when a state police officer seizes property and then transfers it to the federal government, which then forfeits the property under federal law. Importantly, state law enforcement gets to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds of the forfeiture.

To understand why that matters, imagine you are a motorist whose cash is seized in a state with strong protections for property owners. Under state law, state police can only take your property if they convict you of a crime. But, using an adoptive seizure, state police can take your property without convicting you of anything and can rely on federal prosecutors to forfeit the money and pay a kickback of 80 percent to the local police department. Those state-law protections no longer protect you from anything.

In other words, by reauthorizing adoptive seizures, the attorney general’s policy will allow state police to circumvent protections for property rights put in place by state legislatures. Worse, because proceeds from the sale go to state law enforcement, the federal government actually pays state police to circumvent their own law. It’s practically an open invitation to corruption and abuse.

A March 2017 report from the Department of Justice’s own inspector general makes the point. The report found that law enforcement in states with strong protections for property owners were more likely to engage in adoptive seizures and concluded—based on interviews of state police—that the “primary reason” was “that their states’ forfeiture laws restrict law enforcement’s use of forfeiture.”

Bringing back adoptive seizures is

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How Democrats Won the Health Care War

“The mover on health care loses,” Democratic operative James Carville said in January. “To do something is to lose.” That cold-hearted political proverb has been repeatedly proven true, if the standard is short-term electoral gain. In terms of policy, it’s another story. Now that Obamacare repeal has fizzled, Democrats have officially won the eight-year health care war.

The victory was not by default. Trump might look silly blaming Democrats for the failure of repeal and replace when Republicans control all branches of government, but united Democratic resistance was critical to keeping the Affordable Care Act as law. Without a single Democrat in Congress breaking ranks, the ideologically divided Republican caucus found it impossible to stitch together a majority for a functional alternative to the status quo.

Story Continued Below

But the euphoria of victory may quickly dissipate. Despite the fact that Obamacare was signed in this decade, many Democrats don’t appreciate the bill’s history and have not internalized the lessons of its passage and durability. Without a clear-eyed understanding of their own triumph, Democrats may hastily launch another health care war, repeat many of the Republican Party’s clumsy mistakes and prove Carville right all over again.

Many analysts will attribute the repeal bill’s demise to raw politics: be it Trump’s unpopularity, poor salesmanship by Republican leaders, incorrigible Republican backbenchers or Democrats cynically betting on gridlock. But the biggest reason why Democrats were able to unify was the substance of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However imperfect, however unpopular, the law was built to last.

The popular provisions were intertwined with the unpopular provisions. The program was designed with input from insurers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies; critics say they got off light (for example, POLITICO just investigated how much hospitals have been able to profit off of the ACA while cutting back on charity care), but all had a stake in Obamacare’s success. The bill was worked and re-worked until Democrats secured the blessing of the Congressional Budget Office. Finally, the law implicitly enshrined the principle that the government is responsible for making the health insurance system work for all Americans.

Plus, while there’s plenty of room for improvement, the simple truth is the ACA has helped many people, covering more than 20 million additional people and contributing to an approximately 50 percent decline in bankruptcies .

Facing off against these strong foundations, the Republicans were outmatched. Playing Jenga with Obamacare’s complementary elements was doomed to crash at the steps of the CBO. Leaving people to the mercy of the free market was a political non-starter. The insurance industry, long the bête noir of the left, plunged a stake in the final version of the Republican replacement plan, warning the last-minute addition of the “Cruz Amendment” made the bill “unworkable in any form.”

And where the Republicans collapsed, the Democrats stood firm. Some Democrats on the left never liked the Affordable Care Act’s compromises with the private health industry. Some red state Democrats were sensitive to complaints about rising

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The Hill Staffer at the Center of the Russia Intrigue

In the spring of 2016, a longtime Washington operative pulled aside French Hill during a trip to Moscow and introduced the conservative Arkansas congressman to two Russians who are now at the center of a firestorm over the activities of Donald Trump Jr.

In the brief encounter, which took place two months before their now-infamous meeting with the president’s son in Trump Tower, the jet-setting pair proposed the same trade they would soon be pitching all over Washington: Lift the sanctions on Russia, and we’ll make sure Americans can adopt Russian babies once again.

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Paul Behrends, the operative who set up that previously unreported Moscow meeting, has worked in security and foreign policy circles in Washington for decades while keeping a low profile, but he has never been far from intrigue.

Long before he took up his most recent post as an aide to California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, Behrends worked alongside the Afghan mujahideen , helped the future Blackwater founder Erik Prince get an internship on Capitol Hill (later, he navigated the security firm through the political fallout from a 2007 massacre of civilians in Iraq) and served as chief lobbyist for a firm at the heart of the Jack Abramoff scandal. More recently, he has become a confidant of the pro-Trump Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel and served as the Capitol Hill point-man for the right-wing government of Hungary.

While his boss—who was jokingly described by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a closed-door meeting last year as being on the Kremlin’s payroll—is the most vociferous defender of Russian interests in Congress and a staunch ally of President Donald Trump, it is Behrends who does much of the actual work, a role that now thrusts him into the spotlight as investigators and media sleuths suss out links between Trump’s allies and Moscow.

Behrends has been the chief Capitol Hill contact for the lawyer Natalia Vetlitskaya and the lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet intelligence officer, whose contacts with Trump Jr., along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, are now at the center of questions about whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

After arranging their impromptu meeting with Hill in Moscow, Behrends later escorted Akhmetshin around Capitol Hill—“almost by the hand” in the words of one congressional staffer—after the Moscow meeting last year, introducing him to lawmakers as part of an effort to undermine human rights legislation opposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, drawing on his significant experience and connections to give the Kremlin’s version of events a hearing.

One longtime acquaintance described Behrends as “sophisticated” and a “charming guy with a wonderful breadth of knowledge,” adding, “He is as comfortable dealing with good ol’ boys from Texas as he is with sophisticated European investors.”

But that same sophistication Washington foreign policy hands puzzling over the zeal with which Behrends —for decades a standard GOP hawk on Russia — has been promoting the Kremlin line of late.

His activities, and the scrutiny they are now drawing, have

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