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Why Progressives Shouldn’t Assume Republicans Will ‘Move On’ From ACA Repeal

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This isn’t the first time GOP leaders have said they’ll focus on other things.

Figuring out how Republicans plan to approach health care this year isn’t easy. A little more than a week ago, just before Christmas, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that his party would “probably move on” from full repeal of the Affordable Care Act now that Republicans have eliminated the individual mandate, which is a key piece of the law’s architecture. But just a few days later, some conservative House Republicans said they aren’t ready to back off: Repeal is “still on the table,” insisted Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).

Of course, this back-and-forth should feel pretty familiar by now. In March, after an initial effort to pass repeal legislation in the House failed, GOP leaders indicated they were ready to focus on other priorities. But some determined members of the Republican caucus kept at it. Within a few weeks the full House was voting on, and approving, new legislation.

In July, after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) cast a dramatic and decisive third vote to kill Obamacare repeal in the Senate, McConnell said “it’s time to move on” ― yes, the same phrase he used last week. But two Republican senators, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, had other ideas. They got to work on their own bill, rallying support among colleagues and eventually persuading McConnell to try again ― although that proposal, like the Senate’s previous effort, never got the votes it needed to pass.

This time could be different. By eliminating the mandate, which requires those who opt out of coverage to pay a penalty, Republicans have finally notched a significant legislative victory in their years-long crusade against Obamacare. President Donald Trump has taken to saying that Republicans have “essentially repealed” the 2010 health care law and polls show 44 percent of Republicans believe him. Plenty of progressives seem happy to encourage that notion, if only because it might keep Trump’s gaze focused elsewhere.

But progressives also know that, substantively speaking, Trump happens to be wrong. The law’s Medicaid expansion remains in place, as do its health insurance tax credits and protections for pre-existing conditions. That means there’s still plenty of Obamacare for Republicans to repeal. And if it’s easy to construct a coherent theory for why Republicans won’t seriously take up their campaign again this year, it’s just as easy to construct a coherent theory for why they will.

WHY REPUBLICANS MIGHT MOVE ON FROM REPEAL IN 2018

Probably the single biggest impediment to another run at full repeal is the vote count in the Senate ― and how it’s about to change.

The closest Republicans came to passing one of their bills was that late July vote, when McConnell and his lieutenants brought several measures to the floor in a desperate attempt to pass anything that could lead to negotiations with the House. The final attempt was on a “skinny repeal” bill that would have eliminated the individual mandate and done little else. It failed because, with Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joining McCain in voting no, Republicans were one short of the 50 votes they needed for a bill to pass. (Vice President Mike Pence would have broken the tie.)

Now, in theory, Republicans are two votes short because they lost one of Alabama’s Senate seats in the recent special election. With Democrat Doug Jones in the seat that Luther Strange had occupied, passing repeal would require flipping two votes (among Collins, McCain and Murkowski) to yes. Flipping just one of them was going to be hard enough.

That’s especially true now that the individual mandate will be disappearing. The mandate has played an important role in the newly reformed health insurance system by giving healthy people more incentive to get coverage. Without that penalty in place, insurers will have to raise premiums. But the mandate has also been among the least popular features of the Affordable Care Act, creating a serious political liability for the program as a whole. 

Now that liability is gone, leaving only the law’s more popular provisions. There’s the Medicaid expansion, through which millions have gotten coverage and on which states have to come to rely in their fight against the opioid epidemic. There are the guarantees of insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions. And there are tax credits worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year to people who use them.

Voting to undermine these provisions was difficult for many Republicans the first time around. Voting to undermine them now, with Republicans down in the polls and midterm elections much closer, is bound to be harder.  

WHY REPUBLICANS MIGHT NOT MOVE ON FROM REPEAL IN 2018

In normal political times, that combination of factors would all but guarantee Republicans stay far away from repeal in 2018. But these are not normal political times, as 2017 has made clear.

It’s not like repeal proposals were ever popular. House Republicans approved their bill anyway, while Senate Republicans came within just one vote of doing the same with theirs. Even those senators from the states most dependent on Medicaid for opioid treatment, Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, were willing to support cuts to the program under some circumstances.

Nor is it clear that any given Republican who voted against repeal previously will do so again, even if the circumstances are similar. When Collins, Murkowski and McCain voted against the skinny bill, all three cited, among other reasons, the rushed process that got legislation to the floor ― without full committee hearings, final cost projections or serious efforts to engage Democrats in negotiation. But Collins and Murkowski voted for the GOP tax cut bill, whose provision to repeal the mandate was functionally the same thing as the skinny repeal bill, and McCain would have done so if present ― even though Republicans were once again rushing legislation to the floor without the usual committee hearings, without a final cost projection and without serious efforts to engage Democrats.

An X-factor in all of this is how ending the mandate actually affects insurance markets going forward. It’s unlikely to cause a true unraveling because the biggest incentive in getting healthy people to sign up for coverage turns out to be those premium tax credits, and the discounts they produce, rather than the penalty for going without coverage. That guarantees a sizable market that will entice some insurers to stay in the program. It also protects people who qualify for the subsidies (who represent the majority of people buying insurance on their own) from having to pay more as premiums go up.

But people who make too much to qualify for tax credits will face much higher premiums, to the point where many if not most simply cannot pay for comprehensive coverage anymore. That’s already true in a handful of places, but, without the mandate, it’s likely to be true in more areas. Consumers will find out about this right before the midterm elections, because that is when insurers will finalize premiums for 2019 ― the first year that the mandate won’t be in place. Republicans might feel compelled to act, if not before consumers learn about the premium hikes than afterward, although whether they’d use that as an excuse to try repeal again is difficult to say. 

Less ambiguous is the GOP’s determination to focus again on cuts to Medicaid ― not because the program has problems but because tearing it down is such a defining cause for Republican leaders in general and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in particular. One possibility is that Republicans go after Medicaid but in a different way than they have so far this year. Instead of calling it Obamacare repeal, they could call it “welfare reform,” which Ryan has already said will be a priority for House Republicans in 2018.

WHY THE FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE STILL DEPENDS ON PROGRESSIVES

This is not a fight that progressives need to fear. Arguably the most surprising revelation of the repeal fights this year was the popularity of Medicaid, a program that has been a political afterthought for most of its half century in existence. Until this year, the conventional wisdom about Medicaid, which is primarily for low-income Americans, was that it lacked the deep public support of Medicare, which is primarily for seniors.

But polls now show Medicaid to be almost as popular as Medicare, perhaps because many of the people who qualify for Medicaid are working people who have become newly eligible because of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion. The program also includes many seniors and people with disabilities who use it to pay for services, including nursing home care, that Medicare does not cover.

Medicaid was even a factor in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race, although few people noticed. While the national media was (understandably) focusing on the character and conduct of Republican nominee Roy Moore, Jones in his ads and speeches was focusing more on bread-and-butter issues ― among them, why Alabama should join the majority of states that have expanded eligibility.

Progressives can also look back on 2017 and feel confident their efforts played a big, possibly decisive role in stopping repeal. One year ago, GOP efforts to wipe away the 2010 health care law seemed almost certain to succeed. But the program is still operating, and, by the official end of open enrollment for HealthCare.govnearly 9 million people signed up ― nearly as many as last year, despite huge cuts to enrollment outreach and other efforts by the Trump administration to sabotage the program. The public remains divided on the program, but for the first time clear majorities approve of it, according to polls.

All of these signs suggest that the Affordable Care Act, despite its very real problems that need very real attention, is more resilient than most people realized a year ago. But if 2017 has shown anything, it’s that the program’s critics are relentless. The surest way to stop them is to assume they won’t stop trying.

 

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FBI Affidavit Details Ex-Sheriff David Clarke’s Intimidation Of Fellow Passenger

David A. Clarke, Jr.

Feds dropped their case against him in May, but Milwaukee investigators determined he had abused his authority, the filing reveals.

Barack Obama is 'most admired man' for tenth year in a row, Gallup poll says

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Former President Barack Obama is the most admired man in the United States and has been for the past 10 years, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

The poll found that 17 percent of respondents declared Obama as the man they most admired, with President Donald Trump in second place with 14 percent. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was named the most admired woman with 9 percent of respondents, just surpassing the 7 percent who chose former first lady Michelle Obama.

A quarter of respondents did not name a man or a woman they admired most.

Gallup News notes that this year’s survey “marks the 16th consecutive year Clinton has been the most admired woman.” She’s held the title 22 times in total, more than any other person. The only man who has earned the distinction more times than Obama is former President Dwight Eisenhower, who was named the most admired man 12 times.

The polling group has asked Americans about their choice for most admired man 71 times since 1946 ― every year except 1976. The incumbent president has won 58 of those times. The incumbent presidents who did not place first included Harry Truman in 1946-1947 and 1950-1952, Lyndon Johnson in 1967-1968, Richard Nixon in 1973, Gerald Ford in 1974-1975, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George W. Bush in 2008.

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“All but Truman in 1947 and Ford in 1974 had job approval ratings well below 50%, like Trump,” Gallup notes.

This year’s poll was based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 4-11, with a random sample of 1,049 people aged 18 and older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

 

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Hours after signing tax bill, Trump reportedly tells friends: 'You all just got a lot richer'

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President Trump is spending the Christmas holiday with his family in Florida.

According to CBS News, he reportedly told friends at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, “You all just got a lot richer.”

The outlet notes Trump made the remark Friday night, hours after he signed the massive GOP tax bill in the Oval Office.

Proponents of the bill celebrate it as relief for the middle class that also provides a tax cut based spending stimulus for large corporations.

However, critics have blasted the legislation as being a giveaway to the rich.

“The rush to enact the tax bill was designed to mask — as a break for the middle class — what is, in fact, a $1.4 trillion package of benefits for key donors and lobbyists, the richest members of Congress, President Trump, his family and other families like his,” writes Thomas Edsall in a New York Times opinion piece.

 

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Ashes to Ascots: the Final Days of NewsOne Now With Roland Martin

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The staff wrap party for the last episode of NewsOne Now with Roland Martin was not supposed to feel like it did. I walked into the staff kitchen and saw Martin in all of his fuchsia glory, smiling, ascot crisp, happily chopping it up. “What’s up, baby?” he said, then hit me with a hug like we were at Essence Fest or the Republican convention, not the last day of an award-winning TV show.

It was 10 a.m., the final show had wrapped an hour earlier, and across a series of long tables, there was a tray of eggs, biscuits, fruit and two struggle strips of bacon left by the time I got there. A meal befitting the final episode of a morning news show. Considering that NewsOne Now was going off the air after four years, and almost 30 people were going to lose jobs or have their hours cut, the room wasn’t as sad as you’d expect. In fact, it was more like a murder mystery than a funeral. Who killed NewsOne Now? 

The more people I talked to, the more obvious it became that nobody knew for sure why NewsOne Now was going off the air, but the one thing on which they did agree was that black folks were going to be the worse for it.

“I’m sure Friday I’m gonna wake up like I usually do, ready to go, and the show won’t be there. That will be different,” said Martin when we spoke on the phone two days before the final show.

On Dec. 8, TV One announced the suspension (the network has not used the word “canceled” in any official statements) of NewsOne Now with Roland Martin for budgetary reasons, and since that time, Martin has never publicly questioned the network’s stated reason.

However, Tom Joyner has called for listeners to protest the network’s decision, and the National Association of Black Journalists has called on TV One to consider the harm to the black community if the only daily African-American television news outlet in America goes silent during the Trump administration.

Fellow journalists, like T.J. Holmes, Lawrence O’Donnell, Jemele Hill and Stephen A. Smith, have all publicly expressed dismay about the decision. For his part, Martin has mostly focused on the nature of the business.

“Sometimes it’s just the fundamental economics of the cable industry; there’s only so much you can stream, and that’s where a lot of the audience is,” said Martin.

TV One reaches about 59 million homes, and NewsOne Now is the network’s highest-rated program. However, the inability to regularly stream a show that came on at 7 a.m. often made it hard to connect with some of the 25- to 45-year-old demographic that advertisers are thirsty for.

“I fundamentally believe that a show can be a success in the digital world in which we are living. Whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter or some streaming service,” Martin said, pointing out that he regularly brings in huge audiences on Facebook Live and on Periscope.

The hot takes, speculation and rumors about why NewsOne Now was suspended continue to swirl around. Martin, of course, has haters, and some legitimate critics. Was NewsOne Now really suspended for being too expensive? No one I spoke to who was associated with the show fully bought that explanation, either on or off the record. NewsOne Now was expanded from a one-hour to a two-hour program in September. If the show was hemorrhaging money, why expand it to two hours, only to “suspend” it three months later?

Was NewsOne Now suspended because of Martin himself? Was he difficult to work with, or did TV One want to relaunch with new talent? Privately, staff commented that Martin could be hard to work with at times, but as one staffer who asked to remain anonymous stated: “Yeah, he was difficult. What talent in this industry isn’t? He’s brilliant, though. Best way to deal with Roland was to do your job, do it well and push back when you need to. He respects that.”

There seemed to be a sense, both at the wrap party and among others to whom I spoke, that if the end of the show came down to the budget or Martin, it wasn’t Martin’s fault. 

No matter what the full story is behind NewsOne Now’s being suspended, everybody seems to agree that the end of America’s only daily African-American-focused news show will hurt the black community, especially now.

Even if you weren’t watching his show, the stories it touched on ended up popping up in your timeline or on your feed or got magnified by other networks. It’s one thing to pick up a story about black lives for a five-minute segment, but NewsOne Now provided daily coverage about the death of Gemmel Moore, a young gay black man in Los Angeles found dead in a wealthy Democratic donor’s home.

NewsOne Now was the only show providing daily coverage of the Daniel Holtzclaw case where the now former police officer was convicted of serially raping black women. Not to mention the show’s daily coverage of taxes, health care and elections across the nation with specific relevance to the black community. People noticed and appreciated it.

“Sandra Bland loved Roland’s show,” said Susan Henry, an executive producer at TV One. “Her mother told us that she watched his show and said she wanted to be on it one day. It’s so sad, but it meant so much to her family that Roland brought national attention to her death.”

“Roland’s show gave a lot of people a platform—scholars, researchers, activists—to talk about issues that nobody else was covering; people got on that wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Avis Jones-DeWeever, a frequent guest on the show. 

TV One has made no formal announcements about launching another daily news program. This means that for the foreseeable future there will be no daily, African-American-focused televised news show covering the upcoming 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the 2018 midterm elections, and whatever unbelievable shenanigans Donald Trump and his minions come up with in the new year.

As for Martin himself, even if he won’t be hosting daily on TV One, he’ll still be out there. He’s on contract with TV One until August 2018 and is still in talks with the network about what he’ll be doing next year.

In the meantime, he’ll still be appearing on The Tom Joyner Morning Show, doing speeches, working on a book and tweeting about everything from the Texans to taxes.

As for the hundreds of thousands of black folks out there looking to know what’s happening in the world from an exclusively black perspective? The television may not have much to offer in 2018, unless some network out there is willing to fill some rather large fuchsia shoes.

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