Will conservatives blow up the Obamacare repeal?

Senator Mike Lee discusses criminal justice reform.

It seems possible:

Sens. Ron Johnson, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee made clear during a closed-door GOP meeting Tuesday that they’re not ready to support the party’s health care bill. One aide said the three threatened to vote no — Johnson because of process concerns, Lee and Cruz because of policy concerns — though other aides and lawmakers said the senators were vocally frustrated, but didn’t go as far as making serious threats.

“I don’t think a lot of people are at yes right now,” Sen. John Thune said after the meeting. “I wouldn’t characterize it as there were any, like, ultimatums. But there were concerns being voiced both with respect to substance and process, and that’s kind of a natural part of the conversation. I mean, we’re trying to work through both of those issues to get to, hopefully, a vote next week on a bill that we can all be for.”
Why this matters: Details about the health care bill are finally starting to emerge, forcing senators to say where they stand — and many don’t seem happy with what’s being presented.

One aide who attended Wednesday’s working-group meeting described it as “testy”; another said “there was a lot of brio in the room.” The meeting focused on waivers from certain Affordable Care Act regulations, as well as other market reforms. The waivers wouldn’t explicitly touch regulations protecting people with pre-existing conditions, and even those more limited waiver provisions will likely be removed from the bill next week if the Senate parliamentarian says they don’t comply with the rules for the reconciliation process. Losing that part of the bill would be a big loss for conservatives.


DeVos picks new head of Office of Federal Student Aid …

Education Secretary, Betsy Devos, has appointed Arthur Wayne Johnson, the CEO of private student loan company Reunion Student Loan Finance Corporation, to run the Office of Federal Student Aid, which manages $1.2 trillion in student debt.

The announcement Tuesday did not mention Johnson’s role as founder and chief executive of Reunion Student Loan Finance Corporation, based in South Dakota.

Rather, DeVos praised a dissertation Johnson, 61, completed last year through a weekend PhD program at Mercer University in Atlanta.


“He actually wrote the book on student loan debt,” DeVos said in a statement.

The announcement came almost a month after James Runcie abruptly resigned as chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). Runcie, as he left with three years remaining in his term, warned of what he described as brewing management problems within the Education Department. He complained in a letter to staff of being “encumbered from exercising” his “authorities to properly lead.”


DeVos, in a statement, called Johnson “the right person to modernize FSA.” She added:  “He will bring a unique combination of CEO-level operating skills and an in-depth understanding of the needs and issues associated with student loan borrowers and their families.”


It was a stark departure for Johnson, who had started his career as a financial consultant and ascended to executive-level positions with credit card and banking firms before starting his own student loan company in 2013.


That company, Reunion Student Loan Finance Corporation, targets the “underserved, premium quality segment of the private student loan market” to refinance debt into lower monthly payments, Johnson wrote on his résumé. The company’s website promotes Reunion as providing a “fast, smooth and efficient refinancing experience.”

I hope this choice is heavily vetted. It could mean ending government subsidized loans and outsourcing of the operations. Our young people have it hard enough trying to finance a college education.



Mueller will be looking into these kinds of things, too…

BloomberView has an opinion piece by Timothy O’Brien about Trump’s relationship with Bayrock Group, a real estate development firm.

Trump has repeatedly labeled Comey’s and Mueller’s investigations “witch hunts,” and his lawyers have said that the last decade of his tax returns (which the president has declined to release) would show that he had no income or loans from Russian sources. In May, Trump told NBC that he has no property or investments in Russia. “I am not involved in Russia,” he said.

But that doesn’t address national security and other problems that might arise for the president if Russia is involved in Trump, either through potentially compromising U.S. business relationships or through funds that flowed into his wallet years ago. In that context, a troubling history of Trump’s dealings with Russians exists outside of Russia: in a dormant real-estate development firm, the Bayrock Group, which once operated just two floors beneath the president’s own office in Trump Tower.

Bayrock partnered with the future president and his two eldest children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, on a series of real-estate deals between 2002 and about 2011, the most prominent being the troubled Trump Soho hotel and condominium in Manhattan.

During the years that Bayrock and Trump did deals together, the company was also a bridge between murky European funding and a number of projects in the U.S. to which the president once lent his name in exchange for handsome fees. Icelandic banks that dealt with Bayrock, for example, were easy marks for money launderers and foreign influence, according to interviews with government investigators, legislators, and others in Reykjavik, Brussels, Paris and London. Trump testified under oath in a 2007 deposition that Bayrock brought Russian investors to his Trump Tower office to discuss deals in Moscow, and said he was pondering investing there.

“It’s ridiculous that I wouldn’t be investing in Russia,” Trump said in that deposition. “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment.”

One of Bayrock’s principals was a career criminal named Felix Sater who had ties to Russian and American organized crime groups. Before linking up with the company and with Trump, he had worked as a mob informant for the U.S. government, fled to Moscow to avoid criminal charges while boasting of his KGB and Kremlin contacts there, and had gone to prison for slashing apart another man’s face with a broken cocktail glass.

In a series of interviews and a lawsuit, a former Bayrock insider, Jody Kriss, claims that he eventually departed from the firm because he became convinced that Bayrock was actually a front for money laundering.

Kriss has sued Bayrock, alleging that in addition to laundering money, the Bayrock team also skimmed cash from the operation, dodged taxes and cheated him out of millions of dollars. Sater and others at Bayrock would not comment for this column; in court documents they have contested Kriss’s charges and describe him, essentially, as a disgruntled employee trying to shake them down.

But Kriss’s assertion that Bayrock was a criminal operation during the years it partnered with Trump has been deemed plausible enough to earn him a court victory: In December, a federal judge in New York said Kriss’s lawsuit against Bayrock, which he first filed nine years ago, could proceed as a racketeering case…

Hit the link and read the whole thing. It is really fascinating.

Rachel Maddow did an interview with O’Brien the other night.



Mormons shame girl, 12, for coming out in temple

Salt Lake Temple

Savannah, a twelve-year-old member of a Salt Lake City Mormon congregation, made a courageous decision to ‘come out’ in temple this past Sunday. She originally mentioned that she wanted to do this in January of this year, but it took until May to convince her parents that this was the right path for her to travel.… Continue Reading →


On the campaign trail with Trump…

When will Donald get the notion in his head that he won the election?

He does not have to campaign anymore. Now he is proposing an immigration law that is already in place…

President Trump in a rally on Wednesday evening said immigrants who enter the United States should not be eligible for welfare benefits for five years, though such a law has already existed for 20 years.

“The time has come for new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years,” Trump told a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the U.S. Cellular Center.

The president said his administration would be “putting in legislation to that effect very shortly.”

But such a law is already in effect and has been in place since 1996.

Known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), the legislation was passed during the administration of former President Bill Clinton and said that an immigrant is “not eligible for any Federal means-tested public benefit” for 5 years, which starts on the date the immigrant enters the country…”

I try very hard not to go the route of ad hominem attacks on his advisors, but, for real, who is driving this bus?



Waiting on Mitch’s Healthcare Bill …

Today is the Mitch McConnell says the text of the Senate ACHA bill will be revealed. After the unveiling of the bill, we will have to wait until next week for a CBO score. The Senator’s goal is to have a bill through by the break for the Fourth of July holiday.

U.S. Senate Republicans plan to unveil the text of their draft healthcare bill on Thursday as senators struggle over issues such as the future of the Medicaid program for the poor and bringing down insurance costs.

Republicans in the chamber have been working for weeks behind closed doors on legislation aimed at repealing and replacing major portions of the Affordable Care Act, former Democratic President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, popularly known as Obamacare.

The effort has been plagued from the start by tensions between moderates and conservatives, which surfaced again on Tuesday. Democrats have also criticized the behind-the-scenes meetings, staging a protest on the Senate floor on Monday.

“Republicans are writing their healthcare bill under the cover of darkness because they are ashamed of it,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer charged.

Many Senators have expressed that they do not know what is in the bill. It is believed that a group of 13 Republican Senators has been working in secretive, closed-door sessions.

Here is what is known to be in the bill…

The bill is expected to repeal the biggest parts of the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate and the employer mandate. It is also expected to defund Planned Parenthood for one year by kicking the women’s health organization out of the Medicaid program. That provision could be dropped if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs votes from key moderates who oppose it….

It would eliminate Obamacare’s subsidy program and replace it with a different structure to help low-income people afford insurance. But Republicans are still trying to craft an alternative that would prohibit coverage of abortion without violating the strict reconciliation rules enabling them to pass the bill without a Democratic filibuster….

The bill is also expected to dramatically reshape Medicaid. Instead of an open-ended entitlement, states would get a set amount of money per person. In a win for conservatives, the Senate is expected to cut the program as aggressively as the House did until 2025 or 2026 and then make payments that grow in line with inflation. States are expected to have significant new flexibility for how they run their Medicaid programs. Republicans are likely to include a carve-out for certain children with complex medical needs, according to several sources…

The bill is expected to repeal Obamacare’s taxes, but how soon that is done is fluid because it would likely depend on how much tax revenue is needed to cover other costs associated with the GOP plan….

Public approval for the House version is dropping, even with Republican voters. It is predicted that the Senate version will be equally unpopular…

And while 16 percent of Republican voters opposed the bill in late April, about 30 percent of such voters now say they are against the bill, the Morning Consult/Politico survey found…

Just 35 percent of all voters now approve of the House bill, down from 42 percent at the end of April, according to that poll.

Another survey, also released Wednesday, found that majorities of voters oppose all the key provisions found in the House bill — even in congressional districts that voted strongly for Republicans in recent elections.



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