July 28, 2017
By Chris Stirewalt
On the roster: Why both parties embraced phony 'repeal' label - Power Play: One for the books -White House war rages on - Next up on the Hill: Tax reform - Well, he did get a ride
WHY BOTH PARTIES EMBRACED PHONY 'REPEAL' LABEL
First, stop with the stuff about the defeat of Republican legislation to "repeal" ObamaCare.
That defeat happened almost five months ago when the House debuted its health insurance proposal, which was basically a stingier version of ObamaCare.
There were brief flickers for a proposal to repeal with a two-year delay, but most of the serious conversation has surrounded how Republicans would change ObamaCare, not repeal it.
The Senate measure that Sen. John McCain R-Ariz., gave a thumbs down early this morning had nothing to do with repealing ObamaCare and everything to do with propping ObamaCare up for next year.
This is one of those moments where both parties share a mutual interest in the same dishonest talking point. Republicans want to tell their base voters that they have repealed the law that President Trump says is "death," while Democrats want to tell members of their own base that Republicans really are trying to kill the law.
If both sides say it's a repeal, it must be a repeal, right?
What Congress has really been debating, though, is how to prop up the individual insurance market under the existing law.
A bit of history is useful here. Anxious Democrats crafted ObamaCare eight years ago with weak penalties for people who did not buy insurance, aka the individual mandate. As a result, fewer people signed up than expected.
A few years in, this began to be a significant problem because that entire component of the law is built on compensating insurers for onerous regulations by forcing Americans to buy policies.
Big insurance gets a beat down, but, it also got to be the first business Americans are required to patronize by federal law.
As lots of healthy, mostly young Americans continued to stay away from the insurance market, a provision in the law that provided automatic bailouts in the event that rosy promises for insurers did not come true came into play.
That was back when Republicans still thought they wanted to repeal the law, though. As a result, the GOP, led by Sen. Marco Rubio R-Fla., used a must-pass spending bill as leverage to force then-President Obama to sign a measure blocking the bailouts.
Imagine you are an insurance executive. Your company is facing steep losses for being a part of ObamaCare. Young, healthy costumers are still staying away but you are still forced to cover older, sicker patients. Now you find that the promised relief isn't coming. What do you do?
Now imagine you are one of the millions of Americans who got tangled up in the ObamaCare exchanges. You were forced to give up your existing policy under the law, and then herded into the exchanges in order to obtain subsidies in order to buy policies you couldn't otherwise afford. It's not your fault that the federal government is bad dealing with this issue, you just need coverage.
And boy do they need coverage.
We should remember here that health insurance is working fine for the overwhelming majority of Americans who get their policies through work or an existing government program like Medicare or Medicaid.
But the 20 percent or so of Americans in the individual market includes many of those who have the toughest cases, such as those with pre-existing conditions and those with special needs, many of whom work in jobs that lack the stability of the ordinary 9-to-5.
The ObamaCare exchanges have collected many of the toughest of the tough cases.
Their fate hinges on what insurance companies decide and regulators allow as rates are set this fall for next year. As it stands, many of the 12 million Americans who signed up for insurance through exchanges this year face either astronomical cost increases or even total unavailability as insurers continue to flee these lopsided marketplaces.
When the president talks about letting ObamaCare "collapse," it's these people who would be crushed under the weight. No one else gets hurt in the fall, just some of the most vulnerable members of our society, ones who find themselves in this predicament in the first place because the government screwed up.
Behind closed doors in Washington, there is a real bi-partisan sense of urgency about what to do for these people. If lawmakers wait too long to prop up markets with subsidies for individual policies, insurance companies will set their rates and close the door on many families.
It's a Dickensian cruelty for the 21st century: Being fined by the government for not having insurance that the government prevented you from buying. It's almost macabre.
Despite the hushed urgency here, few have dared to say its name. As we discussed above, it is too much in the interest of both parties to call the effort something else other than a fix.
Part of the reason that Republicans failed in their bid to find a remedy offset by modest reforms or savings was that they were trying to tart the legislation up to look like a repeal.
A more straightforward approach of offering a patch in exchange for a tax cut or a program change might have worked much better. But they were determined to pass off a box turtle as a brontosaurus.
We predicted long ago that once Republicans had abandoned the concept of systemic change to the American health insurance and health care system, the most likely outcome was a midnight special in which bi-partisan group of lawmakers shooed through a patch for next year at the last minute.
The reason we are drawing closer to that moment is that because once Republicans were too embarrassed to admit that they couldn't repeal, they were in no position to make a better deal about 2018.
THE RULEBOOK: HMMMMM…
"It will be found, indeed, on a candid review of our situation, that some of the distresses under which we labor have been erroneously charged on the operation of our governments; but it will be found, at the same time, that other causes will not alone account for many of our heaviest misfortunes; and, particularly, for that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights, which are echoed from one end of the continent to the other. These must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations." – James Madison, Federalist No. 10
TIME OUT: TOGA! TOGA!
Today marks the 39th anniversary of the release of "Animal House." The cult classic about fraternal misfits. America met unforgettable characters like Bluto, Flounder and D-day and began learning by heart lines like, "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life." The film was set at fictional Faber College, a stand in for its writers' Alma matter, Dartmouth College. But did you know that those grassy lawns really belong to the University of Oregon? Oregon Historical Society: "After being turned down by the University of Missouri, Universal Studios approached the University of Oregon in September 1977. University President William Beaty Boyd instructed Director of University Relations Muriel Jackson to negotiate with the studio, and an agreement was signed on October 4 to allow filming on campus in return for $20,000 and a commitment that the university not be identified in the film."
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump net job-approval rating: -17 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.2 points
[President Trump's score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]
POWER PLAY: ONE FOR THE BOOKS
Lordy day, it's time for Power Play! This week, Chris Stirewalt welcomes politics editor at the National Journal Josh Kraushaar and Fox News colleague Melissa Francis. Which guest knew who the longest serving senator is? Play along! WATCH HERE
WHITE HOUSE WAR RAGES ON
Fox News: "[Anthony Scaramucci], the newly minted White House communications director, set off a firestorm with a rambling rant loaded with expletives and threats that The New Yorker published. The coarse language directed at [Reince Priebus] and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, as well as blanket threats to fire people, left some inside the White House shaken. … Former Republican National Committee boss Priebus was left seemingly even more isolated in the aftermath. Scaramucci all but accused Priebus of media leaks, a recurring problem that has vexed the Trump administration. … Despite absorbing a brutal attack, Priebus received no outward signs of support. As of Friday morning, [President Trump] had not weighed in on the mushrooming controversy. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr., backed Scaramucci. … Priebus has not reacted publicly to the broadside from his West Wing adversary, but it is hard to imagine the two co-existing in the administration after the public eruption of animosity."
Bannon's personal press operation under scrutiny - Center for Public Integrity: "In an arrangement prominent ethics experts say is without precedent and potentially illegal, the White House is referring questions for senior presidential adviser Stephen K. Bannon to an outside public relations agent whose firm says she is working for free. Alexandra Preate, a 46-year-old New Yorker and veteran Republican media strategist, describes herself as Bannon's 'personal spokesperson.'"
Sessions: 'An attorney general who doesn't follow the law is not very effective' - Fox News: "Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in an interview Thursday with Fox News' Tucker Carlson, stood firmly by his recusal from the FBI's Russia investigation – saying he made 'the right decision,' despite the criticism he faces from President Trump. Speaking with 'Tucker Carlson Tonight' in El Salvador, Sessions admitted Trump's criticism has been 'kind of hurtful,' but insisted he would continue in the job unless Trump fired him. 'I serve at the pleasure of the president,' Sessions said. 'If he wants to make a change, he can certainly do so and I would be glad to yield in that circumstance, no doubt about it.' … 'I understand [Trump's] feelings about it, because this has been a big distraction for him,' Sessions told Tucker Carlson. '[But] I'm confident I made the right decision. The decision is consistent with the rule of law. An attorney general who doesn't follow the law is not very effective in leading the Department of Justice.'"
Senate jams Trump on Russia sanctions - NYT: "The Senate on Thursday approved sweeping sanctions against Russia, forcing President Trump to decide whether to accept a tougher line against Moscow or issue a politically explosive veto amid investigations into ties between his presidential campaign and Russian officials. The Senate vote, 98 to 2, followed the passage of a House bill this week to punish Russia, Iran and North Korea for various violations by each of the three American adversaries. In effect, the measure would sharply limit Mr. Trump's ability to suspend or lift sanctions on Russia… The Trump administration has opposed the sanctions against Russia, arguing that it needs flexibility to pursue a more collaborative diplomacy with a country that, by American intelligence consensus, interfered in last year's presidential election."
Russia readies reprisals - Fox News: "Russian President Vladimir Putin finally took his revenge on Friday, responding to a months-old censure from the Obama administration and new Congressional sanctions by closing down several American facilities in Russia and ordering a reduction in the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in the country. … the country's Foreign Ministry ordered a reduction in the number of U.S. diplomats in Russia by Sept. 1 and said it was closing down a U.S. recreation retreat outside Moscow as well as warehouse facilities. The Kremlin said the number of U.S. diplomats was being cut to 455, however, it wasn't immediately clear how many U.S. diplomats currently serve in Russia, thus it's not known how big of a reduction Putin actually ordered."
Continetti: Bonfire of the insanities - Free Beacon: "There are too many options, too many ways to go at the problem. That problem is a White House in turmoil, a Republican Party that does not know what it wants on health care, taxes, and foreign policy, and a nation that remains as confused, divided, and incomprehensible to itself as it was on the day Donald Trump was elected president. Satire, commentary, analysis—throw it all out the window. What's happening in Washington is beyond parody, beyond fiction. What will happen tomorrow, what will happen in the next hour? No one knows."
NEXT UP ON THE HILL: TAX REFORM
Politico: "House Speaker Paul Ryan said his party has already taken a lesson from the healthcare fight and applied it to another top goal: Tax reform. … The speaker said his party has taken its lead on tax reform from the White House, which outlined in broad strokes a tax reform proposal earlier this year but has yet to further clarify its plan. Republicans had hoped to repeal and replace Obamacare first, Ryan explained, because doing so would remove the law's related taxes and allow the GOP to lower tax rates even more dramatically… As part of the ongoing GOP-wide negotiations about tax reform, Ryan said the House abandoned its controversial proposal to institute a Border Adjustment Tax, essentially a tax on imports, in the spirit of compromise. 'That is why the House, who offered the Border Adjustment Tax, realized that that was preventing us from getting consensus to get to tax reform,' the speaker said."
Business Roundtable to back tax reform - Politico: "The Business Roundtable is embarking on a multi-million-dollar national TV and radio campaign, beginning in early August, to give tax reform extra momentum over the congressional recess. Done in cooperation with White House, Treasury, and House and Senate leadership, this is BRT's effort to cast a potential tax overhaul as a once-in-a-generation opportunity. 'Members of Congress will hear from business leaders — and more importantly, their constituents — that tax reform is the single best way to increase investment in U.S. communities, create good jobs and promote a stronger economy,' said Joshua Bolten, President & CEO of Business Roundtable. The ad campaign will kick off on August 4."
TRUMP TOUTS CRACKDOWN ON LATINO GANG
WashTimes: "President Trump [today visits] Long Island, New York, an epicenter of the MS-13 street gang violence, to call on Congress to fully fund the crackdown on illegal immigration that is key to stamping out the gang. 'He's going to be rallying Congress to fully support what we in the administration want to do to end this threat once and for all,' said a senior White House official. For the fight, the president wants thousands of more U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, more immigration judges, laws for quicker deportations and penalties for sanctuary cities, said the official. Mr. Trump's visit will highlight the nation's gang crisis that is evident in Long Island, where the MS-13 gang from Central America has been implicated in nearly 20 killings over the past 18 months. The spate of violence in Central Islip and Brentwood Communities grabbed the nation's attention in April when four young men were discovered slaughtered in a park."
What is MS-13? - Fox News: "Trumpeting his administration's crackdown on illegal immigration and violent crime, President Donald Trump is traveling to Long Island to urge Congress to dedicate more funding to the fight. Trump will speak Friday at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, New York – an area plagued by violence from the vicious street gang MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha. Read on for a look at the violent gang and how Trump has pledged to stop them."
House passes spending bill with $1.6B for Trump's border wall - NY Post: "The House passed a $788 billion spending bill Thursday that combines a $1.6 billion down payment for President Donald Trump's controversial border wall with Mexico with a whopping budget increase for the Pentagon. The 235-192 vote both eases a large backlog of unfinished spending bills and gives Trump and his House GOP allies political wins heading into the August recess. Challenging hurdles remain in front of the measure, however, which will meet with more powerful Democratic opposition in the Senate."
U.S. coal exports soar, in boost to Trump energy agenda - Reuters
Congress avoids shutdown of Veterans' Health Choice Program - AP
Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., announces 2020 presidential bid - WaPo
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
This Sunday, Chris Wallace sits down with Ohio's Republican Governor, John Kasich and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to discuss the future of health care and the ongoing chaos in the White House. Watch "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace" Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week's media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
AUDIBLE: EVEN SPIDERS?
"Last night proved, once again, that there is no anxiety or sadness or fear you feel right now that cannot be cured by political action." – Sen. Chris Murphy D-Conn., in a tweet.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
"I can understand why it may be difficult for Republicans to make the argument for less government assistance while their constituents are struggling to pay for healthcare, but why is no one making the argument for applying some federalism to the healthcare problem? Why is it universally assumed that healthcare and health insurance issues must be resolved on federal level, by the federal government? Wouldn't it be so much easier for each state to pass their own healthcare legislation? Individual states are much more homogeneous, both in terms of political views and specifics of the healthcare industry, than the whole country. So, in theory, it should be much easier to tackle healthcare problems on state level, but no one in the media (or in government) seems to be talking about that at all. Why?" – Dmitry Smalyuk, Port Jefferson, N.Y.
[Ed. note: Republicans had long talked about devolving the new federal responsibility for health insurance for the states, but two things seem to have gotten in the way. First, in the absence of a comprehensive plan or messaging, simply invoking the Tenth Amendment and walking away would have sounded a little slapdash. Second, federal lawmakers love federal power. As it turns out, the love of power often exceeds the attachment to any particular ideology.]
"Thanks for a great piece that adequately describes the courage of the GOP. I believe Cousin Myron could get the better of them. Not that the Democrats are any better. I think I will start thinking of them as Aunt Bernie." – Michael Johnson, Fairfield Glade, Tenn.
[Ed. note: The mind works in unusual ways. When I was writing about cousin Myron, my mind wandered to the late, great Myron Cope. He was the seemingly eternal voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the father of the "Terrible Towel," the rally towel he invented in 1975, that has since been copied by professional sport franchises around the country and the world. Cope was, by any empirical estimation, a terrible broadcast voice, sharp, gravely and heavily accented Yinzer dialect. But he was perfect in his own way: goofy, passionate, kind and funny (you can listen to him calling Super Bowl IX here.) That's a cousin Myron who you would have driven to see.]
"… I have come to the rather somber conclusion that the form of government our forefathers devised and fought so bravely for, has gone the way of the incandescent light bulb. George, Benjamin and Thomas must be rolling over in their graves, sickened by the current malaise and impotence on display in DC. As a 'cut me and I bleed Red, White & Blue American', I am enraged over the absolute arrogance Congress has for the American Taxpayer. These clowns, and they are clowns, get inside the Beltway and forget about the voters that sent them there to fix the mess that is Healthcare. I'm out here on the front lines of the Obamacare disaster, a 60 year-old without Healthcare because it became too damn expensive. Yet day after day, all I hear from Congress is how millions will lose their coverage if they kill the ACA. Well, I'm one of the millions of Americans that have already lost my coverage BECAUSE of Obamacare. Yet I hear nothing, not a peep from Capitol Hill about us, the folks forced out due to skyrocketing premiums and quadrupled deductibles. It is clearly evident we are on our own. The next time a candidate for office comes calling for my vote, regardless of party affiliation, I will tell them to kiss my uninsured American a**." – David Lutter, Goodyear, Ariz.
[Ed. note: Well, if strongly, said, Mr. Lutter. You have my sympathy for your predicament. It sometimes seems that both sides in this debate are more interested in exploiting victims of legislation than rescuing them. I wish you good health, but I hope you get good coverage if any politicians take you up on your offer. Some of what they have might be communicable.]
"I have lost count of how many times I have heard President's Trump base mentioned by media or as noted in [Thursday's note] 'that most Republican voters will side with the president—even over Sessions'. It was a mixed bag of Trump's base and a broad spectrum of voters who banded together to elect DJT President. Do polls indicate that there would be support by a good majority of that spectrum for the President in his handling of the sticky matters facing him?" – Steven Lentz, Cypress, Texas
[Ed. note: One of the problems we have in the press is that we cover the electorate the same way a cowboy eats dinner. The cowboy only has one dish, so he can only ever eat one thing at a time. Reporters tend to be the same way when it comes to talking about why elections are won and lost. We hear about "NASCAR dads," "security moms," "white working-class," "millennial minorities" and "singletons." After the 2016 election, an enormous amount of attention was paid to people in places in the country like where I grew up. The actual economic damage to the Rust Belt occurred over four decades, but suddenly all anybody wanted to talk about was OxyContin-addicted former steelworkers in MAGA hats. It's true that Trump's coalition was more male, older, whiter, less educated and more middle-class than his opponent's, but it would be a mistake to look only at those surface indicators. There are about as many Trump voters above the $100,000-threshold as there were below it. Trump did 11 points better with men than he did with women, but he wouldn't be president today without 41 percent of female voters. Politicians, like political journalists, have the tendency to overstate the importance of the most recent events. The Republican coalition is a tenuous one right now as more affluent suburbanites and blue-collar voters eye one another warily. The Republican Party of the conservative suburbs might have been really happy with the full repeal of ObamaCare. But try selling that in a hard-bitten, Rust Belt county where premium subsidies and expanded Medicaid are godsends for older voters still too young for Medicare.]
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WELL, HE DID GET A RIDE…
Treasure Coast (Fla.) Palm: "A 20-year-old man was arrested after police say he tried to steal a car. … With a Fort Pierce police officer in it. … It happened about 5 a.m. July 17 as Officer Robie Troutman was in his patrol vehicle at the main police station on South U.S. 1 writing a report, according to his report. 'While in my vehicle, I heard the rear passenger side door handle make noise and then the front passenger side door handle make noise, where I was positioned seated in the driver seat of my clearly marked Fort Pierce Police Department Patrol vehicle,' the report states. Troutman opened his door and reported seeing a man later identified as Aaron Orlando Rodriguez III run away and hide behind another vehicle. … 'Rodriguez said he saw my vehicle was running so he attempted to steal the vehicle so he had a ride home,' the report states."
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
"But, oh, the glory. With the White House on fire and the Congress in chaos and the world going to hell in a hand basket, we need happy news like this. This is why God created baseball late on the sixth day." – Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier" discussing a record-setting 15-2 victory for the Washington Nationals.