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Forum Post: GOP’s 2014 horror strategy: Exploit Americans’ misfortune, drum up fake outrage

Posted 10 months ago on Jan. 6, 2014, 6:57 p.m. EST by WSmith (1375) from Cornelius, OR
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GOP’s 2014 horror strategy: Exploit Americans’ misfortune, drum up fake outrage

Prepare for them to search high and low for people disappointed with Obamacare -- then pretend to share their pain. [Why does this sound so familiar?]

Brian Beutler, Salon

A quick look at the House and Senate vote calendars indicates that Congress did not in fact come back into session over the holidays to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which means that as of today (depending on how you count it) millions and millions of people who were previously uninsured now have comprehensive healthcare coverage.

There’s the 3-or-so million young adults under 26 who have been covered under their parents plans for a couple of years now, about 4 million new Medicaid beneficiaries, and some large percentage of the 2 million who have enrolled in a private plan via Healthcare.gov or one of 14 state-based insurance exchanges and submitted their first premium payment.

Their benefits are now active, which means proponents of repealing the law have a severe entropy problem on their hands. Just like you can’t re-create an erased image by unshaking an Etch-A-Sketch, you can no longer re-create the pre-Obamacare status quo by repealing the law. Some new beneficiaries would be returned to the ranks of the uninsured, just as they were before, but others would return to an individual market they were happy to leave behind, and even the thin skim of people who were happy with plans that have been canceled wouldn’t necessarily be able to reclaim them.

After spending three months effusing sympathy for people who’ve had their insurance plans canceled, Republicans can’t really continue to support repeal while ignoring the (2 million? 6 million? 9 million?) who would lose their coverage as a result. But the GOP lacks a consensus replacement for Obamacare, and the plans that caucuses within the party do support don’t do anything for the new beneficiaries, and fall well short of Obamacare’s coverage expansion in the long run.

They’ve walked into a cul-de-sac planting mines behind themselves along the way.

Under the circumstances, it’d make a lot of sense for Republican leaders to seek a New Year’s détente. Stop pandering to their own voters by behaving as if outright repeal is an eventual possibility; stop fogging things up for their own constituents, many of whom would be better off if they understood what the law has to offer them. Democrats want to fix flaws in the Affordable Care Act, Republicans could agree to support some improvements in exchange for making the law system more GOP-friendly without undermining its structure. advertisement

But in the least shocking news you’ll hear all year, Republicans lack both the intent and ability to adopt a less combative approach to healthcare reform. They like how the last three months of 2013 unfolded politically (a three week government shutdown notwithstanding!) and will do whatever they can to make 2014 look a lot like that. They’ll probably even fund the government and increase the debt limit without inviting crises to keep the media focused on Obamacare.

This week they will begin exploiting for political gain the misfortunes of people who seek medical care under the impression that they’re covered only to find out, for some reason, that they’re not. These might be beneficiaries who, due to technical woes and clerical backlogs, are having trouble accessing their benefits, or people who thought they had enrolled but never actually did.

When someone finds he’s eligible for fewer subsidies than he believed, conservatives will pretend to share his outrage; when a family earns more money than expected and must rebate subsidy dollars to the IRS (a clawback provision Republicans supported!) the GOP will be there.

Don’t believe me? Here’s Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., quoted in the New York Times.

“The hardest problem for us is what to do next,” Graham said. “Should we just get out of the way and point out horror stories? Should we come up with a mini Contract With America on health care, or just say generally if you give us the Congress, the House and the Senate in 2014, here’s what we will do for you on multiple issues including health care? You become a more effective critic when you say, ‘Here’s what I’m for,’ and we’re not there yet. So there’s our struggle.”

According to the Times, “Mr. Graham said that Republicans would probably get away with denouncing the Affordable Care Act through the midterm elections, but that by 2016 they would need to have a fully formed alternative.”

The Democratic response to these stories will take the form of aggregates as much as discrete stories. Some of Obamacare’s “winners” will win with lifesaving surgery or chronic care. But most will just benefit with access to routine care. “Area Man Gets First Colonoscopy” isn’t a great counterpoint to “Area Man Can No Longer See Same Doctor.”

So Democrats will also brandish a growing beneficiary total. By the end of March, that figure will probably exceed 10 million. Millions more, even the law’s greatest skeptics, will know people whose lives are better as a result of Obamacare. If they’re smart, supporters will organize devoted beneficiaries and their families so that Republican candidates begin to fear attacking the law, and Democratic candidates regain confidence in their ability to run on a platform of keeping and improving it.

By spring, we should have a clearer sense of how these conflicting constituencies stack against each other, and, thus, how the political story will play out. But until then I expect inertia will prevail on the right. They’ll continue to pretend that new beneficiaries don’t exist and to solicit horror stories as if the calendar still said 2013, and will do so for as long as they sense it’s to their political advantage.

http://www.salon.com/2014/01/02/gops_2014_horror_strategy_exploit_americans_misfortune_drum_up_fake_outrage/

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[-] 1 points by WSmith (1375) from Cornelius, OR 10 months ago

A more progressive America is emerging, but Republicans won’t go down without a fight

By Michael Cohen, The Guardian | Sunday, January 5, 2014

[Popular opinion is moving towards more progressive policies, though unscrupulous, America & Democracy Hating Republicons won’t go down without a fight, and taking the country down with it.]

Oh to be a liberal in America today. In New York City, a Democrat has finally been elected mayor after a 24-year absence from City Hall – and he’s a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. Gay marriage is legal in 18 states including, most bizarrely, Utah, one of the most conservative states. The minimum wage is going up around the country and you can even smoke a joint in Colorado. Obamacare, for all its speedbumps over the past few weeks, is the law of the land; the Senate filibuster just took a big hit (and along with it Republican obstructionism); a nuclear deal with Iran is in the works and even Obama is talking about the scourge of income inequality.

Everything, it seems, is coming up roses.

But before progressives start donning their Che Guevera T-shirts and popping their artisanal champagne corks the liberal moment is coming face to face with a difficult reality: conservatives are not going down without a fight.

In fact, just over a year since President Obama was re-elected and it seemed the country was moving in a more progressive direction, Republicans have thwarted much of his agenda and 2014 (as well as 2015 and 2016) promises more of the same.

Immigration reform, which was at the forefront of Obama’s re-election bid, is on life support; gun control was blocked in the Senate (and never would have made it through the House anyway). The harsh budget cuts from sequestration remain largely intact as government spending is growing at anaemically low rates.

In the states, the story isn’t much better. Twenty-three of the Republican ones have rejected Medicaid expansion, which is leaving more than 5 million Americans on the outside looking in on Obamacare. Emboldened by the Supreme Court decision to overturn a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, states across the country are enacting new and onerous voting restrictions; perhaps worst of all, 2013 was the culmination of a three-year period in which more state restrictions on abortion were enacted than in the entire previous decade.

Quite simply, as the country has taken a giant step forward on a number of progressive goals, it has also taken a major step back. Indeed, in key regards, while Obamacare represents an enormous victory for American progressives and is perhaps the most important piece of social policy in more than four decades, so many liberal priorities remain unfulfilled. And nowhere is that more true than on fiscal policy. While Democrats were finally able to wring tax increases out of the Republican party they’ve been unable to get conservatives to agree to the sort of government spending that is key not only to the country’s economic recovery but to creating new jobs and reducing income inequality.

While New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, ran on a platform of universal pre-kindergarten, the president’s own plan along these lines is dead on arrival in Congress. The same is probably true for his $50bn proposal for infrastructure spending. At the end of December, unemployment insurance expired for more than a million Americans and there seems to be little impetus in Congress to restore the funding. This comes only months after the Republicans ruthlessly cut food stamp benefits for poor Americans.

The reason for this is not surprising or new. Republicans have, since Obama took office in 2009, made it their number one goal to obstruct practically every piece of legislation that the president and his party supporters favour. With the Republicans in control of the House of Representatives this year – and for the foreseeable future – that is unlikely to change soon.

This speaks to a larger challenge of American democracy: it was constructed to be a bulwark against progress. Whether it’s the three branches of the US government, the separate legislative bodies, the 50 individual state governments or a court system with the power to strike down laws, the number of obstacles in the American political system are far greater than the number of glide points. This has always given conservatives a political advantage – it’s much easier to stop reform (or water it down) than it is to enact new laws. If anything, the liberal moment may find its greatest opportunities in the same places it did during the civil rights era – in the court system (as has been the case on the issue of gay marriage). Although even there it may have to wait for President Obama to get his court picks through the Senate before significant progress can be made.

But liberals shouldn’t lose all hope. On a range of issues, progressive goals have never been so strongly supported by the American people. From gay marriage and marijuana legalisation to raising the minimum wage, immigration reform, background checks for gun buyers and even the specifics of government spending, public opinion is strongly in their favour. Americans are more supportive of activist government, populist politics and socially liberal policies than at any time in recent memory. In addition, millennials (or those in their 20s and early 30s) are decidedly liberal, even going so far in a recent poll to prefer socialism to capitalism.

The failure of liberalism to enact the types of reforms that are essential to their vision of America does not come from an inability to move popular opinion in their favour – it comes from their failure to find a way around last-gasp conservative rejectionism. But as Republicans have taken increasingly extreme positions on a host of issues – from abortion to taxes and, most damagingly, immigration – they’ve marginalised themselves and diminished the appeal of conservatism, particularly to young Americans, women and Hispanics (the fastest growing demographic group in the country).

Indeed, the success of Republicans in blocking reform is more of a desperate rearguard action to hold back progress than it is an indication of conservative success or even political ascendancy. If anything, it is making the realisation of the liberal moment that much more likely by making conservatism that much more unpopular.

The problem is: that’s not much good for the woman today who is seeking an abortion in a Republican state or the person looking for a job who is about to lose his unemployment benefits or the next victim of gun violence.

In the near term, American politics is likely to look like an extreme version of the gridlock and dysfunction to which Americans have become all too accustomed. The question then is not will liberals get their day in the sun – it’s when. Unfortunately for them – and the voters who support them – 2014 is unlikely to be the year it happens.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014

[-] 0 points by WSmith (1375) from Cornelius, OR 10 months ago

House G.O.P. Trims Agenda, Looking to Avert Election-Year Trouble

Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

Representative Eric Cantor on Capitol Hill in October. As majority leader, he has drafted modest goals for the new year.

By JONATHAN WEISMAN | Published: January 5, 2014

WASHINGTON — The “do nothing” [GOP-hijacked] Congress is preparing to do even less.

Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, is quietly playing down expectations for any major legislative achievements in the final year of the 113th Congress, which passed fewer laws in its first year — 65 — than any single session on record. The calendar, drawn up to maximize campaign time ahead of midterm elections in November, is bare bones, with the House in session just 97 days before Election Day, the last on Oct. 2, and 112 days in all.

In 2013, the [GOP-hijacked] House was in session 118 days before November and 135 in all.

House leaders are warning rank-and-file Republicans that the passage in December of the first comprehensive budget in years is unlikely to herald a return to even the once-routine task of passing all 12 of the spending bills that Congress is supposed to approve each year. And in a noted departure from previous end-of-session breaks, Republican leaders held no conference calls or large meetings in the long hiatus between adjourning on Dec. 13 and preparing to return on Tuesday.

“Things are slow for sure,” said one House Republican close to the party leadership.

Expectations for the session are so low that lawmakers say early action on White House priorities like raising the minimum wage, restoring unemployment benefits that expired and overhauling immigration laws are likely to go nowhere. Instead, Congress is likely to focus on more prosaic tasks: finishing negotiations on a farm bill that has languished for two years, agreeing on a law authorizing water projects, passing a spending bill for the current fiscal year and raising the debt ceiling by March. Only then might lawmakers move on to modest, piecemeal immigration measures.

The chances are “relatively low in terms of the probability that truly substantive legislation will be advanced through the House,” said Representative Scott Rigell, Republican of Virginia and a critic of Congress’s work pace.

That is a stark departure from the last three years, each of which dawned with high expectations from Republicans for balancing the federal budget, shrinking government sharply and repealing President Obama’s health care law.

In a memo to House Republicans on Friday that was decidedly modest on legislative intent, Mr. Cantor promised “to exercise our constitutional duty of oversight of Obamacare” and to schedule a vote on a bill requiring “prompt notification” in the event of a data breach on the federal HealthCare.gov website. Under the “appropriations” heading, he wrote, “This spring, we can expect a robust season of oversight and continued emphasis on spending reforms.”

The House’s slack pace and narrow agenda have angered a few members, cheered others who face tough re-election fights and yielded some support from lawmakers burned by the lofty conservative goals of recent years. Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, said the only real achievement of 2013 came when Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, and Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, lowered their sights and struck a budget deal that reversed some across-the-board spending cuts and nudged down the deficit over 10 years.

“Big thinking has more often gotten us into trouble then led us to success,” Mr. Cole said.

Congress reopens on Monday with a set of issues it must address early in the session. On Jan. 15, much of the government will again run out of money unless lawmakers can pass a $1 trillion spending measure that fleshes out the instructions in the Ryan-Murray budget deal. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew says that by March he will no longer be able to borrow money to finance the government unless the statutory borrowing limit is raised. And in the coming weeks, much of the nation’s farm program will expire without a breakthrough in talks.

Addressing those issues without a major breakdown could create enough good will for lawmakers to at least begin consideration of more ambitious endeavors.

“If these things don’t go well, other things don’t happen, simple as that,” Mr. Cole said.

By playing it safe, House leaders hope to keep their rank and file from leading Congress into a conflagration like the 16-day government shutdown in October. Republican political prospects have roared back since then on a wave of anger at the troubled rollout of the federal insurance exchange website under the Affordable Care Act, and Republican leaders are loath to jeopardize that momentum.

“It’s pretty clear to me in the House, we don’t want to make ourselves the issue,” said Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania. “What happened in the fall with the shutdown, that was an act of political malpractice. We will be very careful not to make those kinds of unforced errors again.”

But Democrats insist they will not let doing nothing be an option. On Monday, the Senate Democratic leadership has scheduled the first legislative vote of the year, to cut off a threatened filibuster on restoring unemployment benefits that ended last month for 1.3 million Americans. On Tuesday, Mr. Obama will meet with some of the long-term unemployed now cut off from the federal lifeline.

A push to raise the minimum wage will follow the unemployment showdown. And Democrats are working aggressively to neutralize the political costs of the president’s health care law — or even to turn it into an asset by publicizing the millions of Americans now insured through it.

“We’re not going to let them get away with that,” Representative Steve Israel of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said of the “do-nothing” strategy. “One of the reasons the economy isn’t as strong as it should be is the Republicans’ avowed economic theory is to do nothing, and we intend to make that a central theme for 2014.”

The problem for Democrats is that Republicans simply do not fear their agenda. The nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report rates only 28 Republican House seats in play; 207 Republican seats are considered safe [Thanks to gerrymandering and low voter turnout in 2010]. Even Republicans in nominally swing districts, such as Mr. Rigell and Mr. Dent, evince little concern for the Democratic push on the minimum wage and unemployment.

Mr. Dent said he might consider both of those measures but only if they were tied to priorities that Republicans say would create jobs, such as building the Keystone XL oil pipeline, repealing the health care law’s tax on medical devices or changing the law’s definition of a part-time worker.

A version of this article appears in print on January 6, 2014, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: House G.O.P. Trims Agenda, Looking to Avert Election-Year Trouble.