NEW YORK – Mayor Bill De Blasio expressed his commitment to combat the Boycott Divestment and Sanction movement and defend the Jewish community against antisemitism, during an event on Tuesday evening.
The event, held at the Mayor’s official residence of Gracie Mansion in Manhattan, aimed to celebrate Jewish heritage and included the participation of local Jewish politicians, Consul-General of Israel Dani Dayan and other leaders of the community. “We know there has been a rise in antisemitism in this country, and we will not tolerate it here in New York City,” De Blasio said. “We honor every faith in New York City, this is part of our mandate and this is something we have to teach the world.” “The message is abundantly clear: we cherish the community, we protect the community, we cannot be great without every one of our communities,” he added.
De Blasio also praised Israel as the “answer to industrial oppression going back thousands of years” and spoke about the proximity between the City of New York and the State of Israel.
“There is a lot of history that teaches us why the Jewish people have needed a homeland and finally having a homeland, they deserve to know that that homeland will be protected for the long haul,” he said. “This is why I oppose the BDS movement so strongly.”
The BDS movement, the mayor said, undermines “one of the things that could lead to peace, which is economic opportunity for all in Israel, in the region.”
“I’m saying this as a proud progressive, and as a proud democrat,” he told the audience. “There is no logic, there’s nothing right and just about a movement that seeks to undermine the economy of a place that has been a refuge for the oppressed. It’s as simple as that.”
“We cannot let BDS take away one of the things that could actually lead to peace for everyone,” De Blasio concluded. The mayor’s Jewish heritage celebration is held annually and honors a different Jewish leader every year. Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, was Tuesday’s honoree.
As the drama crests this week surrounding possible Senate passage of an extraordinarily punitive health care bill, we should ask, why is the GOP so heartless? Why are Republicans bent on cutting access to care for the most vulnerable people, especially the poor—including the white working-class voters who were said to be a pillar of Trump’s base?
After the election, many in mainstream and progressive media said that Trump’s base, and indeed the wave that lifted the GOP into its congressional majority today, were white working-class voters who abandoned Democrats en masse. The Atlantic heralded Trump’s “blue-collar” rise on “class, not ideology.” The AP pointed to “both parties’ working-class whites.” Thomas Frank—whose 2004 book, What’s the Matter With Kansas, traced the rise of white conservatives—described Trump’s base as mostly “working-class whites” worried about the economy.
It turns out that most of the Americans who helped elect Trump and the GOP are white, but they are not poor. In his crusade to dismantle Obamacare and cut Medicaid’s future appropriations by a quarter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not turning on his voters; according to recently released national survey data, those who voted for Trump and the GOP in 2016 are overwhelmingly white, yes; but the majority of them are not poor and not working class.
“A few weeks ago, the American National Election Study—the longest-running election survey in the United States—released its 2016 survey data. And it showed that in November 2016, the Trump coalition looked a lot like it did during the primaries,” blogged Duke University’s Nicholas Carnes and Vanderbilt University’s Noam Lupu for the Washington Post. “Trump’s voters weren’t overwhelmingly poor. In the general election, like the primary, about two-thirds of Trump supporters came from the better-off half of the economy.”
“In short, the narrative that attributes Trump’s victory to a ‘coalition of mostly blue-collar white and working-class voters’ just doesn’t square with the 2016 election data,” they said, explaining that most pollsters incorrectly assumed that the 70 percent of Americans who don’t have college degrees were working class and poorer—and many are not.
“Many analysts have argued that the partisan divide between more and less educated people is bigger than ever. During the general election, 69 percent of Trump voters in the election study didn’t have college degrees. Isn’t that evidence that the working class made up most of Trump’s base? The truth is more complicated: many of the voters without college educations who supported Trump were relatively affluent,” they wrote.
In the survival-of-the-fittest world of American capitalism and GOP politics, there’s no shortage of right-wingers bashing the poor, whether they are white or not. That mindset clearly has spilled over into those promoting the GOP’s health care bills, where a schism is emerging between the voters in the GOP’s 2016 base and those McConnell’s bill is targeting.
A typical example emerged this weekend on CBS-TV’s Face the Nation, where Ben Domenech, the Federalist’s founder and publisher, smeared Ohio’s Medicaid disability recipients as unworthy of public benefits.
“When Governor Kasich, you know, pushed for the Medicaid expansion in Ohio, he ended up having to throw 34,000 disabled people off of the program because it incentivized adding these working, able-bodied adults over people who actually were in the system who had disabilities or had other dependence,” he said, repeating the GOP’s old trope of deadbeats on welfare.
There’s nothing new about this undercurrent in the GOP. Last year, writing in the National Review, Kevin D. Williamson went after poor whites (drawn to Trump) as people who could do the nation a favor by dying.
“The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die,” he wrote. “Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. Forget all your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap. Forget your sanctimony about struggling Rust Belt factory towns and your conspiracy theories about the wily Orientals stealing our jobs….The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles.”
How much of this attitude is reflected in the Republicans’ health care bills? The answer is plenty. The House-passed bill takes $820 billion out of future Medicaid appropriations over the next decade, rapidly phases out government subsidies for insurance premiums bought by individuals on government exchanges and deregulates insurance without any coverage requirements or price controls. While those policies will cause chaos across the economic spectrum, including the middle class, the poor are the hardest hit.
The Senate bill has even harsher elements than the House bill. It would cut Medicaid more by turning it into a rationed-care system where states receive grants, and adopt a stingy new formula for annual increases. Health policy experts have noted McConnell’s plan wants “lower-income people to pay more.” Its use of tax credits to offset premium increases and deductibles will be of little use to the working-class poor and lower-income seniors, a new analysis from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found.
Just as mainstream media mischaracterized those who elected Trump and the GOP, it’s likely they are missing the same ingredient in who would be hurt most by the GOP’s health care proposals: non-GOP voters. It’s not just blue states that would see the largest rollbacks—as they are the states that most aggressively embraced Obamacare and its expansion of Medicaid. It’s also poorer people, working-class whites and non-whites, who, as the American National Election Study notes, didn’t elect Trump and the GOP.
Where McConnell’s plan is likely to fall off the rails is from the chaos it would bring to more middle-class and affluent whites—or red rural states like Alaska and Maine with high health care costs. That is, if his efforts to please corporate health care interests are seen as backfiring on Tea Partiers who infamously yelled, “Hands off my Medicare.” (Late Monday’s release Congressional Budget Office analysis may provide that catalyst, projecting the Senate bill will leave 22 million Americans uninsured by 2026.)
But as policy experts dug into the Senate bill on Monday, their analyses seemed to confirm that McConnell’s bill wasn’t targeting his party’s better-off base. One newly discovered provision would lock out anyone who missed an insurance payment from buying a new policy for six months. One-third of those with pre-existing conditions had this coverage gap in the past two years, but they tend to be poorer. Another report found the bill could push seniors out of nursing homes paid by Medicaid, as a subsidy of Medicare.
Those likely to be hardest hit include working-class whites, but they were not Trump’s voters, the analysis by Duke University’s Nicholas Carnes and Vanderbilt University’s Noam Lupu underscored. “According to the [American National] Election study, white non-Hispanic voters without college degrees making below the median household income made up only 25 percent of Trump voters. That’s a far cry from the working class-fueled victory many journalists have imagined.”
No one ever accused McConnell of not knowing what he is doing.
An emotional Donald Trump supporter on Tuesday told CNN’s Don Lemon he wouldn’t be able to afford health insurance if it weren’t for Obamacare, the signature legislation the president has promised to repeal.
Lemon also spoke with pastor and veteran Janice Hill, whose daughter would have died without the Affordable Care Act.
“You’re a life long republican, yet you and your wife are insured through Obamacare,” Lemon said to guest Don Riscoe. “What will happen to that insurance if Obamacare is repealed?”
“We probably won’t be insured,” a visibly upset Riscoe replied.
“You okay?” Lemon asked.
“Yes,” he said. “We won’t be insured if Obamacare goes away. We won’t be able to afford premiums.”
“I know we can’t afford $1,000 a month,” he continued. “I don’t know the exact number but … we wouldn’t be able to afford coverage without the infrastructure.”
Riscoe said Obamacare “does have problems” that need to get fixed. “I hope that there’s something that will be in place that we can still have coverage for myself and a lot of others,” Riscoe said.
Pastor Hill told Lemon the bill’s plan to slash funding for Medicaid is really what’s going to hurt.
“When they take away Medicaid, it’s not only going to hurt my daughter who is not on Medicaid now because she’s working full time, but it’s going to hurt the people in my state. It’s going to hurt veterans, which i’m a veteran. Ten percent of veterans are on medicaid.”
“It’s going to hurt the employment rate,” she continued. “It’s going to hurt people’s access to health coverage. They’re not going to go for any kind of preventive care. It’s going to be critical when they do go. It’s going to cost more money. This bill doesn’t make sense.”
WASHINGTON — Facing intransigent Republican opposition, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, on Tuesday delayed a vote on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, dealing another setback to Republicans’ seven-year effort to dismantle the health law and setting up a long, heated summer of health care battles.
Mr. McConnell faced resistance from across his conference, not only from the most moderate and conservative senators but from others as well. Had he pressed forward this week, he almost surely would have lacked the votes even to begin debate on the bill.
“We will not be on the bill this week, but we’re still working toward getting at least 50 people in a comfortable place,” said Mr. McConnell, who is known as a canny strategist but was forced to acknowledge on Tuesday that he had more work to do.
The delay pushes Senate consideration of the bill until after a planned recess for the Fourth of July, but it does not guarantee that Republican senators will come together. Opponents of the bill, including patient advocacy groups and medical organizations, plan to lobby senators in their home states next week. Senators are likely to be dogged by demonstrators. Democrats vowed to keep up the pressure, and some Republican senators have suggested that their votes will be difficult to win.
After meeting with President Trump at the White House, Mr. McConnell told reporters that if Republicans could not come to an agreement, they would be forced to negotiate a deal with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader.
“The status quo is simply unsustainable,” Mr. McConnell said. “It’ll be dealt with in one of two ways: Either Republicans will agree and change the status quo, or the markets will continue to collapse, and we’ll have to sit down with Senator Schumer. And my suspicion is that any negotiation with the Democrats would include none of the reforms that we would like to make.”
Republicans have promised for seven years to repeal the health law, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. But Mr. McConnell’s announcement on Tuesday was yet another major stumble in the unsteady quest by Republican congressional leaders to deliver a repeal bill to the desk of Mr. Trump, who has yet to sign his first piece of marquee legislation.
Mr. McConnell, the chief author of the Senate repeal bill, can afford to lose only two of the 52 Republican senators, but more than a half-dozen have, for widely divergent reasons, expressed deep reservations about the bill.
Mr. Trump, meeting with Republican senators at the White House, declared, “We’re getting very close.”
“This will be great if we get it done,” he said. “And if we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like, and that’s O.K., and I understand that very well.”
Mr. McConnell wrote his bill behind closed doors, betting he could fashion a product that would show significant improvement over the bill that was narrowly approved by the House last month. And he laid out an aggressive timeline for its passage, hoping to secure Senate approval roughly a week after unveiling the legislation.
Yet on Tuesday, just five days after releasing the bill, Mr. McConnell had to bow to reality: Republican senators were not ready to move ahead with the bill.
At least a small number might never be — raising questions about whether Mr. McConnell will be able to win over the votes for passage.
“It’s difficult for me to see how any tinkering is going to satisfy my fundamental and deep concerns about the impact of the bill,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who was among the lawmakers prepared to vote against taking up the bill this week.
Mr. McConnell and his leadership team are hoping to replicate the feat of Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who revived the House’s repeal bill and pushed it to passage six weeks after it appeared to be dead.
“I would hope, by the end of the week, that we have reached basically a conclusion with regard to the substance and the policy of this,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Senate Republican leadership.
Then, he said, it is just a question of timing.
Democrats are unified against the repeal bill, but they were not celebrating on Tuesday.
“The mantra on our side is never to underestimate Mitch McConnell,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut.
Mr. Schumer said: “We know the fight is not over. That is for sure.” Over the next few weeks, he said, Mr. McConnell “will try to use a slush fund to buy off Republicans, cut back-room deals, to try and get this thing done.”
At least four Republican senators — Ms. Collins, Dean Heller of Nevada, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rand Paul of Kentucky — had said they would vote against the motion to begin debate, enough to ensure it would fail. Other Republicans also appeared reluctant about moving forward with the bill.
“I’m just grateful leadership decided, let’s take our time, give this more thought and try and get this right,” said Mr. Johnson, who had been critical of the desire by Republican leaders to hold a vote this week.
After Mr. McConnell’s announcement, three other Republicans announced their opposition to the bill in its current form: Jerry Moran of Kansas, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Ms. Capito and Mr. Portman, who announced their opposition together, expressed concern about how the bill would affect Medicaid and the opioid crisis, which has had devastating effects in their states.
The release of a Congressional Budget Office evaluation on Monday made it much more difficult for party leaders to win over hesitant Republican members. The budget office said the Senate bill would leave 22 million more people uninsured after 10 years, and many people buying insurance on the individual market would have skimpier coverage and higher out-of-pocket costs.
The Senate Democratic whip, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, said the report by the Congressional Budget Office “did more to strike a dagger to the heart of this Republican repeal than anything else.”
In 2026, the budget office said, 15 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage under the Senate bill than under the Affordable Care Act, and seven million fewer people would have coverage they purchased on their own. Faced with deep cuts in Medicaid, the report said, state officials would face unpalatable choices: restrict eligibility, eliminate services, reduce payments to health care providers and health plans, or spend more of their own money.
Appearing in Washington, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio cited the 22 million projection and expressed bewilderment that fellow Republicans would be on board with the bill.
“And they think that’s great?” he asked. “That’s good public policy? What, are you kidding me?”
Doctors, hospitals and other health care provider groups have come out strongly against the Senate bill, as have patient advocacy groups like the American Heart Association. But business groups were ramping up their support. In a letter on Tuesday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged senators to vote for the bill.
The Senate bill “will repeal the most egregious taxes and mandates” of the Affordable Care Act, allowing employers to create more jobs, said Jack Howard, a senior vice president of the group. The bill, he noted, would repeal a tax on medical devices and eliminate penalties on large employers that do not offer coverage to employees.
A separate letter expressing general support for the Senate’s efforts was sent by a coalition of business and employer groups including the National Association of Home Builders, the National Restaurant Association and the National Retail Federation.
But Senate conservatives found themselves squeezed between business sentiment and their conservative base. The Club for Growth, a conservative group, came out against the Senate measure on Tuesday. The organization’s president, David McIntosh, noted that congressional Republicans had “promised to repeal every word” of the Affordable Care Act.
“Only in Washington does repeal translate to restore,” he said. “Because that’s exactly what the Senate G.O.P. health care bill does: It restores Obamacare.”
One of the country’s most notoriously outspoken “anti-Trumpers,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is on the receiving end of a massive attack by House Republicans who are demanding that “by law,” Ginsburg should recuse herself from hearing arguments about President Donald Trump’s travel ban when the court opens in the fall.
On Monday, according to The Independent Journal Review, Republicans in the House sent a letter to Justice Ginsburg stating, “We write to request that you recuse yourself from participation in Trump v. International Refugee Assistant Project.”
The letter went on to state that due to the letter of the federal law that governs judicial disqualifications — 28 U.S.C. 455 — “you are required to recuse yourself in cases in which your ‘impartiality might be reasonably questioned’ and where you have a ‘personal bias or prejudice concerning a party.’”
Justice Ginsburg has come under fire many times for the rhetoric in which she speaks about Trump. During the campaign trail, Ginsburg referred to the then-Republican nominee as a “faker.”
According to Politifact, during that exchange Justice Ginsburg berated Trump further saying, “He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns?”
Even though Ginsburg apologized for her comments, she couldn’t keep her mouth shut about the man she thought could never be president, though she tried to conceal t in future discussions.
In February, The Washington Post reported on an interview Justice Ginsburg participated in with BBC’s “Newsnight,” in which she stated, “We’re not experiencing the best of times.”
She did not mention Trump directly but instead said that the Women’s March and other protests were a sign that “we will see a better day.” She elaborated further saying, “A great man once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle; it is the pendulum, and when the pendulum swings too far in one direction, it will go back.”
Now that pendulum has taken its swing at Justice Ginsburg, and the House GOP is right in asking her to recuse herself from the upcoming hearing. This is not opinion, as shown by their letter, this is mandated by law.
“Given your repeated public criticism of both candidate and President Trump, the statute is triggered and your recusal in Trump v. International Refugee Assistant Project, is required by law,” the letter declared.
“There is no doubt that your impartiality can be reasonably questioned; indeed, it would be unreasonable not to question your impartiality. Failure to recuse yourself from any such case would violate the law and undermine the credibility of the Supreme Court of the United States,” the letter concluded.
It was was accompanied by four pages of signatures from House Representatives.
Of course, the letter assumes Ginsburg actually respects the letter of the law. Almost a quarter-century of her liberal opinions from the nation’s highest court should have gotten rid of that idea by now.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Courtruled on Monday that states must sometimes provide aid to religious groups even when their state constitutions call for a strict separation of church and state. The decision concerned a state program to make playgrounds safer that excluded those affiliated with churches, and it had implications for all kinds of government aid to religious institutions.
The vote was 7 to 2, though some of the justices in the majority differed about how broadly the court should have ruled.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said unjustified government discrimination against churches and other religious institutions is odious and unconstitutional. Officials in Missouri, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, were not entitled to reject a 2012 application from Trinity Lutheran Church, in Boone County, Mo., for a grant to use recycled tires to resurface a playground.
“The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor summarized her dissent from the bench, an indication of deep disagreement.
“This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government — that is, between church and state,” Justice Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, which was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “The court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church.”
The Missouri Constitution bars spending public money “directly or indirectly, in aid of any church,” and the state Supreme Court has called for “a very high wall between church and state.” Thirty-eight other states have similar provisions.
The Missouri recycling program was not available to all applicants. But the church ranked fifth among 44 applicants, and it was rejected solely because of its religious character. The state awarded 14 grants that year.
“In this case, there is no dispute that Trinity Lutheran is put to the choice between being a church and receiving a government benefit,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “The rule is simple: No churches need apply.”
Chief Justice Roberts added a footnote that limited the sweep of his opinion.
“This case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing,” he wrote. “We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.”
Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, refused to endorse that footnote.
“I worry that some might mistakenly read it to suggest that only ‘playground resurfacing’ cases, or only those with some association with children’s safety or health, or perhaps some other social good we find sufficiently worthy, are governed by the legal rules recounted in and faithfully applied by the court’s opinion,” Justice Gorsuch wrote.
“Such a reading would be unreasonable for our cases are ‘governed by general principles, rather than ad hoc improvisations,’” he wrote, quoting an earlier decision.
“And the general principles,” Justice Gorsuch wrote, “here do not permit discrimination against religious exercise — whether on the playground or anywhere else.”
Where Justices Gorsuch and Thomas would have written more broadly, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who voted with the majority but did not adopt its reasoning, said he would have written more narrowly.
“Public benefits come in many shapes and sizes,” Justice Breyer wrote. “I would leave the application of the Free Exercise Clause to other kinds of public benefits for another day.”
A 2004 Supreme Court decision, Locke v. Davey, allowed Washington State to offer college scholarships to all students except those pursuing a degree in devotional theology. That case involved direct support for religion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote. Playgrounds, he argued, were a different matter.
In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor said the court had made a grave error in ruling for the church.
“The church has a religious mission, one that it pursues through the learning center,” she wrote. “The playground surface cannot be confined to secular use any more than lumber used to frame the church’s walls, glass stained and used to form its windows, or nails used to build its altar.”
More broadly, she wrote, states should be allowed to make their own judgments about whether to support religious groups.
“The constitutional provisions of 39 states — all but invalidated today — the weighty interests they protect, and the history they draw on deserve more than this judicial brush aside,” Justice Sotomayor wrote, adding that the decision may have unintended consequences.
“In the end, the soundness of today’s decision may matter less than what it might enable tomorrow,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “The principle it establishes can be manipulated to call for a similar fate for lines drawn on the basis of religious use.”
The case, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, No. 15-577, took some twists and turns at the Supreme Court.
The court agreed to hear the case in January 2016, the month before Justice Antonin Scalia died. Apparently fearing a deadlock, it waited more than a year to schedule arguments, an exceptionally long time.
It was finally argued in April, soon after Justice Gorsuch joined the court, and it was easily the most important case of his freshman term.
Not long before the argument, Gov. Eric R. Greitens of Missouri, a Republican, announced a change in state policy. The state would no longer discriminate against religious groups in evaluating grant applications for programs like the one at issue in the case, he said.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the case was not moot under the doctrine of “voluntary cessation.” The state remained free, he wrote, to “revert to its policy of excluding religious organizations.”
(JTA) — Jared Polis is already on to the next thing. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has looked at his resume.
By the age of 25, he had founded three companies, which would shortly make him a multimillionaire. He then turned his focus to education, establishing two charter school systems to cater to immigrant and homeless youth and serving on the Colorado State Board of Education.
At 33, he entered national politics, when he was elected to represent Colorado in Congress.
Less than 10 years after his Washington debut, Polis now has his sights set on a new goal: to serve as governor of Colorado.
The Jewish Democrat announced earlier this month that he was joining the already crowded race with an ambitious three-pronged platform: to ensure Colorado uses only renewable energy by 2040, provide free preschool and kindergarten across the state, and fight income inequality.
If he wins, the 42-year-old would make history in more ways than one — by becoming both the first Jewish governor in Colorado and its first openly gay person to serve in the post.
Polis’ candidacy has upset the gubernatorial race, where Rep. Ed Perlmutter, also a Democrat, was previously seen as the front-runner, said David Flaherty, a political consultant who runs the Colorado-based firm Magellan Strategies.
“Perlmutter was the odds-on favorite for the Dem primary, and I also think he was the odds-on favorite to win the general election, but that’s not the case now,” Flaherty told JTA. “And some discussions I’ve had with Democratic political insiders have really felt that Jared has a good shot of winning the primary — but the general is more of a debatable issue.”
Perlmutter, 64, a Christian with Jewish ancestry on his father’s side, served in the Colorado state Senate for eight years prior to being elected to Congress. He appeals to the “established Democrat crowd,” including those who voted for Hillary Clinton in November, said Flaherty.
Meanwhile, Flaherty said Polis, with his focus on renewable energy, appeals to younger voters and Bernie Sanders backers. Sanders won nearly 60 percent of the vote in Colorado’s Democratic caucuses last year.
“Right now it’s an even fight between Ed Perlmutter and Jared,” said Flaherty, adding that some of the other Democratic candidates also should not be discounted.
Polis was exposed to civic involvement from an early age, growing up in a Reform Jewish family in Boulder.
“My parents were active in the anti-war movement in the 1960s, so I grew up with a tradition of civic activism around our dinner table and going to different marches for different causes,” such as civil rights and anti-nuclear proliferation, he told JTA.
His family moved to San Diego, where he attended La Jolla Country Day School. As a 19-year-old student at Princeton University, he founded his first company, the internet access provider American Information Systems, which he later sold for $23 million.
In 1996, Polis founded the online greeting card company Blue Mountain, a spinoff of a firm started by his parents. He later sold the dot-com startup for $780 million. In 1998, Polis launched the online flower retailer ProFlowers, which he later sold for $470 million.
Polis, who is among the top five wealthiest members of Congress — his net worth is estimated at $90 millionto $390 million — sees his business background as an asset to his political career.
“One, voters trust somebody who has a background creating jobs instead of just talking about it, who knows how to balance a checkbook, who knows how to build a business,” he said. “And second of all, the experience has been very helpful to me in creating policies that allow businesses to grow and flourish in our state and country.”
Polis dismisses accusations that he used his wealth to buy his way into office. He spent $1 million on his campaign to serve on the State Board of Education compared to his opponent’s $100,000, and $6 million on his 2008 congressional campaign, defeating Democratic establishment candidate Joan Fitz-Gerald in the primary.
“When people run campaigns they have to raise a lot of money, and I’ve been one of the top fundraisers nationally for the Democrats, and people do appreciate it when you’re able to say no to special interests and PACs, like I have. I’ve never accepted any PAC money,” Polis said.
His Jewish background has a large influence on his political beliefs.
“I derive a lot of the values that I try to bring into the public sphere from my private faith,” Polis said. “Certainly for me I focus a lot on education, and I’m running for governor to bring [free] preschool and kindergarten to our state and improve our schools, and that’s an important Jewish value.”
Polis, whose great-grandparents immigrated to the United States from Poland and Ukraine in the early 20th century, added: “And also being so close to the immigrant experience, I’m a strong defender of immigrant rights and refugees, of course with the experience that Jews had prior to World War II, that few countries wanted to accept Jewish refugees.”
Judaism also plays a big role at home for Polis, who with his partner Marlon Reis has two young children, 6-year-old son Caspian Julius and 2-year-old daughter Cora Barucha (named after Polis’ great-great-aunt Kasha Barucha). He is the first openly gay parent to serve in Congress.
Polis, who defines himself as “in between Conservative and Reform,” won’t pick favorites.
“They’re all great. I like to support Jewish life in our community, and they’re all doing great things,” he said.
He also recently joined his cousin Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, the rabbi of Ohev Sholom-The National Synagogue in Washington, D.C., for Shabbat dinner.
The lawmaker also has another way of connecting to the Jewish tradition — through food. When not cooking his way through his grandmother’s collection of recipes of traditional dishes, he and Reis, who also is Jewish, have been trying to re-create the cheese blintzes of Reis’ great-grandmother Dora.
Polis said they’ve tried “a few dozen times” but haven’t quite gotten it right yet. They aren’t giving up anytime soon.
“We’ll know when we get there if they taste the same as he remembers,” Polis said.
WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, have hired attorneys in the FBI investigation of Jane Sanders’ alleged bank fraud sought originally by the Trump campaign in Vermont.
In 2010, Jane Sanders obtained a loan of $10 million to expand Burlington College while she was its president. According to Politico, Jane Sanders is being accused of having “falsified and inflated nearly $2 million that she’d claimed donors had pledged to repay the loans.”
In January 2016, the U.S. attorney for Vermont received a Request for an Investigation into Apparent Federal Bank Fraud from Brady Toensing, chairman for the Trump campaign in Vermont. The four-page letter included six exhibits and two documents detailing how Jane Sanders managed the purchase of 33 acres of land for the college.
Prosecutors are also speculating whether Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., used his political position to urge the People’s United Bank to approve the loan. Sanders himself is not under FBI investigation, according to the Washington Post.
The financial difficulties in trying to repay the loan forced the college’s closing in 2006.
Bernie Sanders has called the investigation “nonsense,” but the couple did bring in Rich Cassidy, a well-connected Burlington attorney and Sanders supporter, and Larry Robbins, a Washington-based defense attorney who has represented high-profile political clients such as I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, to represent Jane Sanders in the matter, Politico reported.
Once the federal investigation is concluded, the Justice Department must decide whether or not to bring charges. Vermont currently has no U.S. attorney, as Trump demanded the resignation of most of the country’s federal prosecutors in March, saying it was necessary for a “uniform transition,” according to The New York Times. A replacement has not yet been nominated.
The allegations did not gain major traction as Sanders was gaining influence on the campaign trail. Sanders, the first Jewish candidate to win a U.S. presidential primary, lost to Hillary Clinton in his upset bid to gain the Democratic nomination. Clinton went on to lose to Donald Trump in November.
“This was a story that just, amazingly enough, came out in the middle of my presidential campaign, initiated by Donald Trump’s campaign manager in Vermont,” Bernie Sanders told the Washington Post on Saturday night between rallies in Pennsylvania and Ohio aimed at defeating the Republicans’ health care bill.
On Monday, the court said it would hear the appeals of two cases that had resulted from the travel ban, which aimed to keep the citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days and all refugees for 120 days.
The high court agreed to stay parts of rulings that had blocked the ban from being enforced. The partial stay means that foreigners with no US ties could be prohibited from entering the country, but those with ties such as through business or personal relationship would remain unaffected, The New York Times reported. Those who had been to the country previously also could enter.
HIAS — formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society — is among the plaintiffs suing Trump in one of the cases the Supreme Court agreed to take on. It called the announcement “mixed news” in a statement, praising it for limiting some of the executive order’s reach but criticizing the court for partially allowing the executive order to be enforced.
“HIAS welcomes the ruling as an affirmation that the president does not have unfettered unchecked authority to bar refugees from the United States without evidence to justify such action,” said the group’s CEO and president, Mark Hetfield. “We also welcome the ruling as confirmation that there are limits to the president’s ability to bar non-citizens from the United States based on unsubstantiated presumptions relating only to their nation of birth.”
Hetfield criticized the fact that those without such ties could now be barred from entering the United States.
“We are very disappointed, however, that others will be arbitrarily excluded,” Hetfield said. “Certainly in the case of refugees, this order will have a tragic toll on those who have fled for their lives and played by our rules to find refuge in the United States.”
HIAS was founded in the 1880s as a resource for newly arrived Jewish immigrants.
The Anti-Defamation League, along with its criticism, also praised the court for limiting the scope of the order.
“We were pleased that the court appropriately recognized that there are limitations on the president’s authority when it comes to immigration generally,” its national director and CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement. “But the court’s failure to recognize the plight of the world’s most endangered refugees – those fleeing countries where their lives are in imminent danger – is profoundly disappointing,”
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action sharply criticized the stay that would allow parts of the ban to be enforced, calling it “a deeply harmful decision.”
“At a minimum, because of the court’s decision today, we will be betraying a fundamental American and Jewish value by turning away countless individuals who are seeking a better life in our nation, some of them fleeing life-threatening violence,” the group’s CEO, Stosh Cotler, said in a statement.
WASHINGTON — The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act was edging toward collapse on Monday after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026.
Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, said Monday that they would vote against even debating the health care bill, joining Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who made the same pledge on Friday. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin hinted that he, too, would probably oppose taking up the bill on a procedural vote expected as early as Tuesday, meaning a collapse could be imminent.
“It’s worse to pass a bad bill than pass no bill,” Mr. Paul told reporters.
Ms. Collins wrote on Twitter on Monday evening that she wanted to work with her colleagues from both parties to fix flaws in the Affordable Care Act, but that the budget office’s report showed that the “Senate bill won’t do it.”
The report left Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, with the unenviable choices of changing senators’ stated positions, withdrawing the bill from consideration while he renegotiates, or letting it go down to defeat — a remarkable conclusion to the Republicans’ seven-year push to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
But the budget office put Republicans in an untenable position. It found that next year, 15 million more people would be uninsured compared with current law. Premiums and out-of-pocket expenses could shoot skyward for some low-income people and for people nearing retirement, it said.
The legislation would decrease federal deficits by a total of $321 billion over a decade, the budget office said.
Mr. McConnell, who is the chief author of the bill, wanted the Senate to approve it before a planned recess for the Fourth of July, but that looks increasingly doubtful. Misgivings in the Republican conference extend beyond just a few of the most moderate and conservative members, and Mr. McConnell can lose only two Republicans.
At least some of Ms. Collins’s concerns could be shared by Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, whose rural states would face effects similar to those in Maine.
“If you were on the fence, you were looking at this as a political vote, this C.B.O. score didn’t help you,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “So I think it’s going to be harder to get to 50, not easier.”
He added, “I don’t know, if you delayed it for six weeks, if anything changes.”
Under the bill, the budget office said, subsidies to help people buy health insurance would be “substantially smaller than under current law.” And deductibles would, in many cases, be higher. Starting in 2020, the budget office said, premiums and deductibles would be so onerous that “few low-income people would purchase any plan.”
Moreover, the report said, premiums for older people would be much higher under the Senate bill than under current law. As an example, it said, for a typical 64-year-old with an annual income of $26,500, the net premium in 2026 for a midlevel silver plan, after subsidies, would average $6,500, compared with $1,700 under the Affordable Care Act. And the insurance would cover less of the consumer’s medical costs.
Likewise, the report said, for a 64-year-old with an annual income of $56,800, the premium in 2026 would average $20,500 a year, or three times the amount expected under the Affordable Care Act.
The budget office report was a major setback to Senate Republican leaders, but it was too early to declare the legislation dead, and turmoil in health insurance markets could still induce Congress to take action this year. Many people thought the House repeal bill was dead after Speaker Paul D. Ryan pulled it from the floor on March 24, but a slightly revised version was narrowly approved by the House six weeks later.
Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Republican leadership, suggested that leaders would press forward with the Senate bill. He said that an argument could be made for delaying it “if you thought you were going to get a better policy,” but that that was not the case.
“This is the best we can do to try and satisfy all the different perspectives in our conference,” Mr. Thune said, adding that he did not think the politics would improve by waiting. “It’s time to fish or cut bait.”
The White House discounted the report, saying the Congressional Budget Office had “consistently proven it cannot accurately predict how health care legislation will impact insurance coverage.”
The Trump administration says the Senate Republican bill would not cut Medicaidbecause spending would still grow from year to year. But the Congressional Budget Office said that the bill would reduce projected Medicaid spending by a total of $772 billion in the coming decade, and that the number of people covered by Medicaid in 2026 would be 15 million lower than under current law.
In 2026, it said, Medicaid spending would be 26 percent lower than under current law, and enrollment of people under 65 would be 16 percent lower. And beyond 2026, Medicaid enrollment would continue to decline compared with what would happen under current law.
The Senate bill would make it much easier for states to obtain waivers exempting them from certain federal insurance standards, like those that require insurers to provide a minimum set of health benefits. The budget office said that nearly half of all Americans could be affected by these cutbacks in “essential benefits,” and that as a result, coverage for maternity care, mental health care, rehabilitation services and certain very expensive drugs “could be at risk.”
Before the budget office released its report on Monday, the American Medical Association had announced its opposition to the bill, and the National Governors Association had cautioned the Senate against moving too quickly.
The budget office’s findings immediately gave fodder to Democrats, who were already assailing the bill as cruel. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said Senate Republicans had been saying for weeks that their bill would be an improvement over the House bill, which President Trump had described as “mean.”
“C.B.O.’s report today makes clear that this bill is every bit as mean as the House bill,” Mr. Schumer said. “This C.B.O. report should be the end of the road for Trumpcare. Republicans would be wise to read it like a giant stop sign, urging them to turn back from this path that would be disastrous for the country, for middle-class Americans and for their party.”
The criticism was not confined to the Democratic caucus. Mr. Johnson, one of five Senate Republicans who came out against the bill unveiled last week, told a radio host that Senate leaders were “trying to jam this thing through.” He, too, suggested he would not vote even to begin debating the bill.
“I have a hard time believing I’ll have enough information for me to support a motion to proceed this week,” Mr. Johnson said later on Monday.
Beyond the number of Americans without health insurance, the Senate bill’s $321 billion in deficit reduction is larger than the $119 billion total that the budget office found for the bill that passed the House.
Earlier Monday afternoon, Senate Republican leaders altered their bill to penalize people who go without health insurance by requiring them to wait six months before their coverage would begin. Insurers would generally be required to impose the waiting period on people who lacked coverage for more than about two months in the previous year.
The waiting-period proposal was meant to address a notable omission in the Senate’s bill: The measure would end the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that nearly all Americans have health insurance, but it would also require insurers to accept anyone who applied. The waiting period is supposed to prevent people from waiting until they get sick to buy a health plan. Insurers need large numbers of healthy people, whose premiums help defray the cost of care for those who are sick.
Under one of the most unpopular provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the government can impose tax penalties on people who go without health coverage. Republicans have denounced this as government coercion.
The repeal bill passed by the House last month has a different kind of incentive. It would impose a 30 percent surcharge on premiums for people who have gone without insurance.
Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday that Republican senators were working hard to pass their repeal bill but were not getting any help from Democrats.
“Not easy! Perhaps just let OCare crash & burn!” Mr. Trump wrote, reiterating his assertion that the Affordable Care Act would be doomed if Congress did not come to its rescue.