Trump’s in Trouble: Republicans May Face a Massive Wave During the 2018 Midterms

In the last four midterm elections that ended with the party that controls the White House losing one or both houses of Congress, the president had an approval rating below 85 percent among members of his own party and approval ratings among independents that were no higher than in the low 40s percentage range, according to The Cook Political Report. It then pointed out that, according to a recent Gallup survey, Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is at 85 percent, but he is has a treacherous 33 percent rating among independents.

“If he drops a few points among GOPers, Trump’s ratings today would look exactly like those of President George W. Bush right before his party was routed in 2006,” Cook wrote.

Democrats seem to be more galvanized in their dislike of Trump than Republicans are in supporting him, with 81 percent of Democrats “strongly disapproving” of the president’s performance and only 54 percent of Republicans “strongly approving” of it Cook stated, citing a SurveyMonkey survey.  Forty-five percent of independents strongly disapprove of Trump, compared with 18 percent who strongly approve.

As Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight explained in February, however, Trump’s low approval ratings do not necessarily doom Republican legislators’ chances: Democrats will still have to nominate strong candidates in key House races, they will still be at a disadvantage due to gerrymandering, and there’s often a wide gulf between the public perception of a president and how that affects local congressional races. As Enten wrote, “Trump’s low approval rating is good news for Democrats. But they’ll have to work to capitalize on the national environment, or they might fall victim to the same structural forces that hurt [Hillary] Clinton and fail to take advantage of Trump’s unpopularity.”

 

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and his work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

Advertisements

Dealt a Defeat, Republicans Set Their Sights on Major Tax Cuts

WASHINGTON — Picking themselves up after the bruising collapse of their health care plan, President Trump and Republicans in Congress will start this week on a legislative obstacle course that will be even more arduous: the first overhaul of the tax code in three decades.

Mr. Trump’s inability to make good on his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act has made the already daunting challenge of tax reform even more difficult. Not only has Mr. Trump’s aura of political invincibility been shattered, but without killing the Affordable Care Act, Republicans will be unable to rewrite the tax code in the sweeping fashion that the president has called for.

The grand plans of lower rates, fewer loopholes and a tax on imports may have to be scaled back to a big corporate tax cut and possibly an individual tax cut.

A lot of people think Mr. Trump might go for this to get an easy win.

“They have to have a victory here,” said Stephen Moore, a Heritage Foundation economist who advised Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign. “But it is going to have to be a bit less ambitious rather than going for the big bang.”

Because of the arcane rules of lawmaking in Congress, there may be little choice. If Republicans intend to act again without the help of Democrats, they will need to use a procedure called budget reconciliation to have the Senate pass tax legislation with a simple majority. To make their changes to the tax code permanent, their plans cannot add to deficits over a period of 10 years.

Eliminating the $1 trillion of Affordable Care Act taxes and the federal spending associated with that law would have made this easier. Because they failed, Republicans will struggle to reach their goal of cutting corporate tax rates without piling on debt. Speaker Paul D. Ryan acknowledged on Friday, “This does make tax reform more difficult.”

Under pressure to get something done, some Republican deficit hawks appear ready to abandon the fiscal rectitude that they embraced during the Obama administration to help salvage Mr. Trump’s agenda.

In a rare shift, Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, whose House Freedom Caucus effectively torpedoed the health legislation, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that he would not protest if tax cuts were not offset by new spending cuts or new streams of revenue, such as an import tax.

“I think there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of some of my contacts and conservatives in terms of not making it totally offset,” he said. “Does it have to be fully offset? My personal response is no.”

The health care failure also makes the tax overhaul more politically complex as the fissures within the Republican Party have been laid bare. Mr. Trump followed Mr. Ryan’s lead and lost, making it more likely that the White House will try to steer the direction of tax legislation.

“I would be surprised given the health law debacle if the Trump administration sits back and lets Congress fashion the legislation without weighing in on the substance,” said Michael J. Graetz, a tax law professor at Columbia University. “That is one of the lessons that the administration will take from the failure of the health bill.”

It remains unclear whether Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan are in agreement on taxes.

Since last summer, Mr. Ryan and Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, have been aggressively pitching a reform blueprint that includes a “border adjustment tax.” It would be a 20 percent tax on imports that, by making imports more expensive, would spur domestic production, they say. They think the plan would raise $1 trillion to compensate for the lower revenue that much lower tax rates would probably bring in.

Mr. Ryan and Mr. Brady are unlikely to simply hand over tax policy to the White House. Mr. Brady said on Sunday that getting rid of the contentious border tax provision would have “severe consequences” and that he hoped to produce a bill based on the House plan this spring that would be passed later this year.

Mr. Brady’s tax-writing committee is expected to convene a meeting about an overhaul on Tuesday.

“We have so much in common with the Trump administration, it wouldn’t make sense to have a separate tax bill from Secretary Mnuchin, a separate one from Gary Cohn, a third from whomever,” Mr. Brady said on Fox News, referring to the Treasury secretary, Steven T. Mnuchin, and to one of Mr. Trump’s top economic advisers. “Why not take the basis of the House plan?”

Changing the tax code affects every person and industry. Lobbyists are already hoping to shape tax legislation. As plans become more concrete, business groups will be ready to pick them apart.

Mr. Trump has at times expressed admiration for some form of border tax as a way to give an advantage to American producers. However, facing a backlash from retailers, energy companies and conservative think tanks that warn that consumer prices will soar under the House Republican plan, Mr. Trump and Mr. Mnuchin have sounded cool to the idea.

Many Senate Republicans are also skeptical, raising the prospect that Mr. Ryan’s tax vision could suffer the same fate as his health plan, toppling under the weight of divisions within his party.

If Mr. Trump does try to go his own way, he could propose a tax cut plan that disregards deficits and assumes that robust economic growth will make up for lost revenue. Another idea would be reforming taxes in pieces, with a focus on reducing business tax rates first and then addressing tax rates for individuals later. Or, as Mr. Moore advises, he could try to make a grand bargain with Democrats that combines a tax overhaul with a plan for more infrastructure spending.

Mr. Trump is under added pressure not to again fail supporters who he promised would “get sick of all the winning.”

“They need to cut taxes, cut spending, and build the wall,” said Judson Phillips, the founder of the conservative group Tea Party Nation. “If they will do that, the base will be forever in love with them.” He said he did not want Mr. Trump to get bogged down in Mr. Ryan’s complicated tax agenda.

But after consuming the first two months of his presidency focused on health care, it is unclear how prepared Mr. Trump and his administration are to tackle taxes. The administration said last month that its tax plan was just weeks away, but nothing materialized. And the Treasury Department, which will take a leading role in crafting a plan, remains understaffed, with crucial policy positions unfilled and most of its leadership still awaiting Senate confirmation.

Mr. Mnuchin said last week that he was ready to get going, predicting that a tax overhaul would be simpler than health care. The fact that no one has seriously tackled tax reform since 1986 suggests otherwise.

“It’s like asking whether climbing Kilimanjaro or another mountain of equal height is harder,” said Mr. Graetz, who was a Treasury Department official in the early 1990s. “They are both very hard, very exhausting and seem to occur once in a generation.”

Trump Tells G.O.P. It’s Now or Never, Demanding House Vote on Health Bill

WASHINGTON — President Trump issued an ultimatum on Thursday to recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line behind a broad health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act vanish, demanding a Friday vote on a bill that appeared to lack a majority to pass.

The demand, issued by his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, in an evening meeting with House Republicans, came after a marathon day of negotiating at the White House and in the Capitol in which Mr. Trump — who has boasted of his deal-making prowess — fell short of selling members of his own party on the health plan.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan emerged from the session and announced curtly that Mr. Trump would get his wish for a vote on Friday. Mr. Ryan refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether he expected the measure to pass.

Although the House Republicans’ closed-door meeting became a cheerleading session for the bill, their leaders braced for a showdown on the floor, knowing they were likely to be at least a handful of votes short of a majority for the health insurance bill and would need to muscle their colleagues to the last to prevail.

Some conservatives were still concerned that the bill was too costly and did not do enough to roll back federal health insurance mandates. Moderates and others, meanwhile, were grappling with worries of their states’ governors and fretted that the loss of benefits would be too much for their constituents to bear.

Mr. Ryan had earlier postponed the initial House vote that was scheduled for Thursday to coincide with the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s signing. Mr. Trump confronted the possibility of a humiliating loss on the first significant legislative push of his presidency.

At a White House meeting with members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus earlier on Thursday, Mr. Trump had agreed to the conservatives’ demands to strip federal health insurance requirements for basic benefits such as maternity care, emergency services, mental health and wellness visits from the bill. But that was not enough to placate the faction, part of the reason that Thursday’s vote was placed on hold.

As House leaders struggled to negotiate with holdouts in the hopes of rescheduling the vote, Mr. Trump sent senior officials to the Capitol with a blunt message: He would agree to no additional changes, and Republicans must either support the bill or resign themselves to leaving President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement in place.

“We have a great bill, and I think we have a good chance, but it’s only politics,” Mr. Trump said earlier Thursday, as it was becoming clear that his negotiating efforts had failed to persuade enough members of his party to back the plan — which was years in the making — to repeal and replace the health law.

Privately, White House officials conceded that competing Republican factions were each demanding changes that could doom the effort, placing the measure in peril and Mr. Trump’s chances of succeeding at a high-stakes legislative deal in jeopardy. With some of its demands in place, the Freedom Caucus ratcheted up its requests, insisting on a repeal of all regulatory mandates in the Affordable Care Act, including the prohibition on excluding coverage for pre-existing medical conditions and lifetime coverage caps.

Mr. Trump, who has touted his negotiating skills and invited the label “the closer” as the vote approached, was receiving a painful reality check about the difficulty of governing, even with his own party in power on Capitol Hill.

“Guys, we’ve got one shot here,” he told members of the Freedom Caucus at a meeting in the Cabinet Room, according to a person present in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was private. “This is it — we’re voting now.”

The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, spoke to reporters on Wednesday. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“The choice is yes or no,” Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas and a member of the Freedom Caucus, said on Thursday night. “I’m not going to vote no to keep Obamacare. That’d be a stupid damn vote.”

Others were unconvinced.

Having secured Mr. Trump’s acquiescence to eliminate the requirement that insurers offer “essential health benefits,” members of the Freedom Caucus pressed their advantage. While they did not specify precisely which regulations they wanted to eliminate, the section they wanted to gut requires coverage for pre-existing health conditions, allows individuals to remain on their parents’ health care plans up to age 26, bars insurers from setting different rates for men and women, prohibits annual or lifetime limits on benefits, and requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premium revenue on medical care.

“We’re committed to stay here until we get it done,” said Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Freedom Caucus. “So whether the vote is tonight, tomorrow or five days from here, the president will get a victory.”

He said 30 to 40 Republicans planned to vote “no”; House leaders can afford to lose only 22 in order to pass the bill.

But for every concession Mr. Trump made to appease critics on the right, he lost potential rank-and-file supporters in the middle, including members of the centrist Tuesday Group who had balked at the bill’s Medicaid cuts and slashed insurance benefits. Moderate Republicans in that group went to the White House on Thursday but emerged unmoved in their opposition.

“There’s a little bit of a balancing act,” conceded Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.

Representative Leonard Lance, Republican of New Jersey, said he still opposed the bill because he did not believe it would give people “complete and affordable access” to health insurance.

At the same time, a new estimate of the bill’s cost and its impact on health coverage further soured the picture for wavering lawmakers. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Thursday issued a report on the revised version of the health care bill showing that it would cost more than the original version but would not cover more people. The report said the bill, like the original version, would result in 24 million fewer Americans having health insurance in 2026 than under current law.

But recent changes to the bill, made through a series of amendments introduced on Monday, would cut its deficit savings in half. Instead of reducing the deficit by $337 billion, the new version of the bill would save only $150 billion over the decade.

The budget office did not consider the effects of various additional changes that remain under negotiation, including eliminating benefit requirements and other health insurance regulations.

A Quinnipiac University national poll found that voters disapproved of the Republican plan by lopsided margins, with 56 percent opposed, 17 percent supportive and 26 percent undecided. The measure did not even draw support among a majority of Republicans; 41 percent approved, while 24 percent were opposed.

President Trump appealed to supporters to weigh in, assuring them in a video on Twitter, “Go with our plan. It’s going to be terrific.”

The chaotic process that unfolded on Thursday exposed Republicans to criticism that they were moving recklessly in a desperate bid to get their plan passed. Representative Raúl Labrador, Republican of Idaho and a Freedom Caucus member, said the party’s leaders had tried to ram through the measure over their members’ objections. He panned what he described as a “brute force” strategy that resembled the approach of former Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio.

“It’s better to get it right than to get it fast,” Mr. Labrador said.

It was not clear that the changes that Mr. Trump has agreed to and those being demanded could survive. Under the strict budget rules being used to advance the bill, changes to the Affordable Care Act must affect federal spending or revenues. Regulatory measures that affect private health policies, not government programs like Medicaid, are highly likely to be challenged by Senate Democrats. If the Senate parliamentarian rules in the Democrats’ favor, those changes in the House would be stripped from the bill.

The emerging power of the Freedom Caucus, a group that has been historically marginalized in policy making but a thorn in the side of leadership, is one of the surprises of the rushed health care debate. The group has been empowered by the addition of Mr. Mulvaney to the senior White House staff, and Mr. Trump’s disengagement from policy details, coupled with his intense desire to score a win after a rocky start to his presidency.

Mr. Obama stepped into the fray on Thursday with a lengthy defense of his law on the seventh anniversary of its signing, and a call for bipartisan improvements.

“I’ve always said we should build on this law, just as Americans of both parties worked to improve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the years,” he wrote in a mass email to followers. “So if Republicans are serious about lowering costs while expanding coverage to those who need it, and if they’re prepared to work with Democrats and objective evaluators in finding solutions that accomplish those goals — that’s something we all should welcome.”

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to provide “essential health benefits” in 10 broad categories, including maternity care, mental health care, addiction treatment, preventive services, emergency services and rehabilitative services.

Mr. Spicer defended the removal of the “essential health benefits” regulations, saying that it would accomplish Mr. Trump’s stated goal of reducing health care costs. “Part of the reason that premiums have spiked out of control is because under Obamacare there were these mandated services that had to be included,” Mr. Spicer said.

Family planning groups and advocates for women’s rights criticized Republican plans to roll back these requirements.

“Paul Ryan and his House members are willing to sell out the moms of America to pass this bill,” said Dawn Laguens, an executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Conservatives say the mandates, as interpreted in rules issued by the Obama administration, add to the costs of health insurance and make it difficult for insurers to offer lower-cost options to meet consumers’ needs.

Democrats say that the purpose of insurance is to share risk, and that without federal requirements, insurers would once again offer bare-bones policies. Before the Affordable Care Act took effect, maternity coverage was frequently offered as an optional benefit, or rider, for a hefty additional premium.

Why Are Republicans So Relentlessly Cruel to the Poor?

Christa Patton is 68 years old. She is frail and no longer able to leave her home. She lives on a fixed income. Patton told Van Jones on a recent episode of his CNN show “The Messy Truth” that she would not be able to eat without the Meals on Wheels program.

Paul Ryan is the speaker of the United States House of Representatives. By his own account, in college he used to hang out with his friends and drink beer while sharing his dreams of cutting Medicaid. When Ryan was 15 years old, his father died from a heart attack caused by alcoholism. Ryan and his family then received his father’s Social Security survivor’s benefits. Ryan used that money to attend college. This was not the only money that Paul Ryan received from federal government. His family built its wealth from receiving government contracts.

Like his idol Ayn Rand (who argued against the very idea of government and the commons yet received social security and Medicare). Paul Ryan has combined meanness, cruelty and callousness towards the weak and the vulnerable with gross and unapologetic hypocrisy.

Republicans like Ryan — along with the millionaires and billionaires who comprise Donald Trump’s Cabinet and inner circle — literally want to take food, shelter and health care away from poor people like Christa Patton. Today’s Republicans view these Americans as useless eaters to be disposed of by means both passive and active.

It is normal to feel aghast at and disgusted by the Republican Party’s war on the poor. The more challenging and perhaps even more disturbing task is to ask why today’s conservatives feel such antipathy, disregard and hostility towards poor and other vulnerable Americans. Certainly greed and a slavish devotion to a revanchist right-wing ideology are part of the answer. But they may not be sufficient

Conservatives are more likely to exhibit social dominance and bullying behavior. This is a function of their authoritarian tendencies. The election of Donald Trump  exemplifies this phenomenon.

American political elites often use language that robs poor and other marginalized people of their individuality, humanity and dignity. This language also creates a type of social distance between “middle class” or “normal” Americans and the economically disadvantaged.

Conservatism is a type of motivated social cognition that by its very nature is hostile to those groups located on the lower rungs of the social hierarchy.

Conservatives are more likely than liberals or progressives to believe in what is known as the “just world fallacy,” where people who suffer misfortune are viewed as somehow deserving their fates. Conservatives are also more likely than liberals or progressives not to use systems-level thinking as a means of understanding that individuals do not exist separate and apart from society.  Conservatives are also more likely to defend social inequality as “fair and legitimate.”

Social psychologists have shown that, in effect, poor people are invisible to the rich and upper classes.

The psychological dynamic known as the “diffusion of responsibility,” in which individuals tend to ignore people who are in crisis — especially if they are perceived to be a member of a different social group, race, ethnicity or class — also encourages a lack of empathy and concern. It undercuts policies meant to offer direct assistance to vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities. A perverse corollary to the “diffusion of responsibility” can also be used to legitimate punitive policies that target specific individuals and groups.

The myth of meritocracy and its cousin the myth of individualism exert a powerful hold over many Americans. This is especially true among conservatives. Social scientists and others have repeatedly demonstrated that American society is not a true meritocracy. Other research has shown that intergenerational income and class mobility are also relatively uncommon in the United States.

Likewise, the concept of the self-made person whose success is a function of “rugged individualism” is also a fantasy better suited to its dime-store origins than as a serious way of understanding American society. Nevertheless, these cultural mythologies do the practical political and social work of legitimizing the Republican war on the poor.

Race and class are intimately linked together in American (and Western) society. As such, poor people are incorrectly stereotyped as being overwhelmingly black and brown. In the United States, the intersections of race and class also impact the media narratives and cultural scripts that dictate who and what groups have historically been considered “deserving” (widows of war veterans, the disabled, single white mothers, children, the elderly) and “undeserving” (adult men and people of color).

Conservative media — and sometimes mainstream media as well — routinely uses false and misleading information to discuss the social safety net. For example, President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society as well as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives were extremely successful in terms of alleviating poverty and improving the general welfare of the American people. Yet right-wing media consistently tells its public that such programs were failures, a narrative that intentionally ignores the Republican Party’s efforts to undermine the effectiveness of those programs.

Among evangelical Christians, what is called the “prosperity gospel” has become increasingly influential. This grotesque interpretation of Christian doctrine assures its adherents that poor people deserve their circumstances because God has chosen not to bless them with money. Conversely, rich people have more money because God has deemed them worthy. Christian evangelicals — especially those who believe in the prosperity gospel — were a key constituency in Donald Trump’s winning coalition.

The brain structures of conservatives and liberals are quite different. Conservatives are capable of being empathetic. However, conservatives focus those feelings on their in-group such as immediate family and community. Liberals have a different biological inclination: They are able to feel empathy for those people and groups who are not part of their close social circle and community.

What can be done?

The bad news is that there is no evidence to suggest that the brains of conservatives can be modified to make them more empathetic and sympathetic towards their fellow human beings. Nor is the harmful messaging and narratives from the right-wing media about poor folks — and the Other more generally — likely to change in the foreseeable future.

On the level of practical politics, there have been no substantial negative electoral consequences to Republicans’ decades-long war on the social safety net and the common good. Thus, there is no reason in terms of electoral calculus for the Republican Party to stop pursuing such policies. Moreover, it is unlikely that conservative red-state voters will “wake up” and stop supporting a political party that actually leaves them less economically prosperous and financially secure. Here, poor and working-class Republican voters are like Pavlov’s dogs, seeking out abuse from their masters in the hope that the latter will hurt other Americans even more so.

But maybe there is hope. Americans must reinvigorate their social and political institutions across divides of race and class. This is the social glue that can be used to transcend the culture of cruelty that the Republican Party and the regime of neoliberal economics has imposed in the United States. Political messaging is critical: America should be a true “we the people” democracy that meets the needs of all people and not just those of the rich and the powerful. The Democratic Party must improve the way it communicates that vision to the American people.

Unfortunately, the Republican war on the poor is but one sign of the deep moral rot at the heart of American society. This crisis extends well beyond the election of Donald Trump and the cruelty both promised and so far enacted by his cadre and the Republican Party. If a society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable and weak, America is a country in decline, a country whose citizens should be ashamed of their leaders — and, in some cases, ashamed of themselves.

GOP speeding toward vote on altered healthcare bill

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/324458-gop-zeroing-in-on-changes-to-obamacare-repeal-bill

 

The Trump administration and House GOP leaders are making two significant changes to their ObamaCare replacement bill as they seek to add to their whip count ahead of a critical Thursday vote.

The White House on Friday won support from conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) leaders by agreeing to give states the option to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients and to block grant Medicaid instead of the cap system in the bill.

GOP leaders are using the RSC endorsement — and new words of support from President Trump — to try to build momentum for the measure.

But the far-right Freedom Caucus is still largely opposed to the measure, and there are still serious doubts about whether the bill has enough votes to pass yet.

Asked if the measure has the requisite 216 votes, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) declined to say yes on Friday, noting: “These changes definitely strengthen our number.”

In addition to the Medicaid agreement with the RSC, the White House and House leaders are also eyeing increasing the tax credits in the bill, something that could bring centrists on board.

Centrist Republicans have been pushing for changes to the tax credits in the bill so that they would give more financial help to low-income people and older people, whom they worry would not be given enough help to afford coverage under the current bill.

During the White House meeting, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) said Trump gave him a firm commitment to address concerns that tax credits central to the GOP bill are too small to ensure coverage is affordable for some people.

Aderholt told Trump that 80 percent of his district supported him in the election. But the conservative congressman explained that many of his constituents are low-income and elderly and would see enormous hikes in their premiums under the GOP bill.

“I understand those are people who supported me, and we’re not going to let them down,” Trump replied, according to Aderholt. Then he turned to some of his aides in the room and said, “This is going to be taken care of.”

In an extreme example under the current bill, the premium for a 64-year-old making $26,500, after factoring in financial assistance, would rise from $1,700 to $14,600 under the GOP plan.

Earlier Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price huddled with House Republicans in a closed-door meeting and told them that changes to the tax credits are a possibility.

“The Speaker said this a minute ago, he didn’t say the specifics of it, but he said that some tweaks will be made to the tax credits and probably that’s the older — old geezers like me that are 55 and up,” Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) said while leaving a House Republican Conference meeting Friday morning.

But the far-right Freedom Caucus still has strong objections to the bill. Its chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), took issue with work requirements being optional, saying that provision only moves the ball “a couple of yards” down a very large field.

In an interview filmed for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers,” Meadows said that there are at least 40 House Republicans who are opposed to the legislation, plus another 20 to 30 who are undecided.

The Freedom Caucus chairman made his comments before House GOP leaders announced Friday they were making modifications to the GOP bill.

A Freedom Caucus source on Friday afternoon said the conservative group “remains opposed” to the bill in its current form.

“Today’s announcement of the RSC’s support for the bill doesn’t change that,” the source said. “If the bill were brought to the floor today, it would fail to get enough votes.”

Scalise, who was in the White House meeting, is looking to Trump’s support to bring on additional lawmakers, arguing that the president has increased his backing for the bill after Friday’s changes.

“A lot of members were saying the president’s talking about an open negotiation, which means he’s not yet ready to sign onto this bill,” Scalise said. “What President Trump said very clearly this morning in the Oval Office is with these changes, I am 1000 percent for the bill and I want members to vote for it.”

Trump told reporters: “I want people to know ObamaCare is dead; it’s a dead healthcare plan.”

Some centrist lawmakers like Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) say that they want to see a new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of the bill before the vote.

But Scalise declined to commit to having a new CBO score before the vote.

“Obviously CBO works a lot slower than we’d like but that’s OK, that’s their method,” Scalise said, “but we’re moving forward with our bill because the American people want relief from ObamaCare.”

Republicans Rail Against President Trump’s Budget, Call for Even Larger Increases in Military Spending

President Donald Trump is determined to fulfill his campaign promise of shaking up Washington with his massively disruptive 2018 budget proposal. To hard-line conservatives in Congress,  however, Trump’s “Hannibal Lecter” budget still doesn’t cut domestic spending or increase military spending enough.

“We wrote it using the president’s own words,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told MSNBC on Thursday morning as the budget was released. “We turned those policies into numbers.” A look at the budget, however, finds funding proposals more directly in line with White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon’s vow — to achieve the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Trump’s first budget proposal, which he named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” would cut the funding of the Environmental Protection Agency 31 percent, the State Department 28 percent and the Department of Health and Human Services 17.9 percent. In total, Trump’s budget strips funding from more than 18 federal agencies.

The administration also proposed completely axing federal support for the Legal Services Corp., the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which funds anti-poverty programs nationwide, would also be eliminated.

There are a couple of discrete areas where the White House has proposed raising spending, however, including for Trump’s “fantastic” U.S.-Mexico border wall and on the military. Trump’s budget would allocate roughly a 10 percent increase or $54 billion more to defense and law enforcement programs than Congress approved this year. Separate from his 2018 budget, Trump also requested an additional $30 billion for defense spending in 2017.

Trump’s budget calls for a $54 billion boost to military spending, a roughly 10 percent increase from what Congress called for this year. Separate from his 2018 budget, Trump also requested an additional $30 billion for defense spending in 2017.

“There’s no question this is a hard-power budget,” Mulvaney said on MSNBC. “It is not a soft-power budget.”

But all these draconian cuts to domestic spending and the substantially increased spending for the Department of Defense doesn’t seem to be enough to satisfy the insatiable appetite of limited government conservatives in Congress who will have to vote on Trump’s budget.

Before the White House even released its official budget on Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called Trump’s governing priority list “dead on arrival,” based on a reported blueprint.

“What’s most disturbing about the cut to the State Department’s budget is it shows a lack of understanding of what it takes to win the war,” Graham told the BBC late last month. “If you take soft power off the table then you’re never going to win the war,” Graham said, calling Trump’s proposed plan to slash the department’s budget 28 percent “a disaster.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed Graham’s sentiments on Trump’s proposed cuts to U.S. diplomatic efforts around the world: “The diplomatic portion of the federal budget is very important and you get results a lot cheaper frequently than you do on the defense side,” McConnell told reporters earlier this month. “So speaking for myself, I’m not in favor of reducing the (foreign aid) account to that extent.” McConnell said a budget that cuts State Department funds by one-third is unlikely to pass in his chamber.

Republican Rep. Ed Royce of California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement, “I am very concerned by reports of deep cuts that could damage efforts to combat terrorism, save lives, and create opportunities for American workers.”

In a letter to the White House objecting to the proposed cuts to the State Department, more than 120 former military officers quoted Trump’s Defence Secretary, James Mattis, from his days as a field commander: “If you don’t fully fund the State Department then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Republicans in Congress also remain concerned about Trump’s campaign promise to force Mexico to pay for the construction of a wall along the border between the two countries. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said his nation will not fund Trump’s border wall. The budget plan released by the White House Thursday calls for about $1.5 billion in immediate funding to build the wall and another $2.6 billion to fund border security in 2018.

“If we’re paying for it, it’s a significant concern,” Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake told the Washington Post on the eve of Trump’s budget release.

“I support border security, but I think we need a little more definition of exactly what the plan is,” Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn cautioned on Wednesday. Another Texas Republican, Rep. Will Hurd, whose district spans more of the border than any other, called Trump’s proposed wall “the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border” in a January statement.

The White House budget is also facing opposition from Republicans on the Hill who fear the spending cuts aren’t deep enough.

“My fear is that the Trump budget will not be austere enough to minimize America’s risk of suffering the kind of debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy that is destroying the lives of Venezuelans right now,” Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama told Reuters this week. Brooks and other members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus want to see even further budget cuts.

As proposed, the Trump budget almost certainly will not pass Congress. A full budget, including economic and tax projections, will come in May, with the goal for Congress to adopt a plan before the new fiscal year begins at the end of September.

Trump Urges Supporters to Unite Behind G.O.P. Health Plan

NASHVILLE — President Trump made a plea on Wednesday for his supporters to unite behind the Republican plan to overhaul Americans’ health care as the only way to squelch Democratic attempts to scuttle the plan. At the same time, facing resistance to the bill from within his own party, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said it would be refined and improved.

“We want Americans to be able to purchase the health insurance plans they want, not the plans forced on them by our government,” Mr. Trump told about 10,000 supporters at the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville. He spoke against the backdrop of a giant American flag to a crowd dotted with red trucker caps bearing his signature slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

“We’re going to all get together, we’re going to get something done,” Mr. Trump said. “Remember this: If we didn’t do it the way we’re doing it, we’d need 60 votes, so we’d have to get the Democrats involved. So we’re doing it a different way, a complex way.”

“It’s going to be fine,” Mr. Trump added.

The remarks were a nod to the complicated and politically risky approach Republicans have taken in pushing through legislation to repeal the health care law. The House plan championed by Mr. Ryan is coming under strain amid resistance, both from conservative Republicans concerned it is too close to Obamacare and from moderates who fear it will provide insufficient coverage for Americans who lack health insurance.

Mr. Ryan, fighting to keep the measure on track, said Wednesday that he was making “some necessary improvements and refinements” to the package to answer the concerns, which intensified this week after the Congressional Budget Office released a report estimating that the legislation would increase the number of people without health insurance by 24 million by 2026.

“Now that we have a score, we can incorporate feedback to improve this bill, to refine this bill, and those kinds of conversations are occurring between the White House, the House and the Senate, and our members,” Mr. Ryan said.

Previously, the speaker had referred to the measure as a “binary choice,” suggesting that Republicans must accept what many of them see as a flawed bill or lose the opportunity to enact a health care overhaul.

Mr. Trump has thrown his full support behind the legislation but is plainly concerned that the arcane legislative process will prompt a backlash that could undermine his presidency.

“If we’re not going to take care of the people, I’m not signing anything,” Mr. Trump said Wednesday evening in an interview with Fox News. “I’m not going to be doing it, just so you understand.”

He said he considered himself “an arbitrator” for Republican factions warring over the bill, and, asked whether the measure was the best his party could offer, said, “I think we’re going to have negotiation.”

Mr. Trump made his case on health care as he prepared to unveil a budget on Thursday that is expected to slash scores of domestic programs and illuminate his vision for radically scaling back the government.

“We have proposed a budget that will shrink the bloated federal bureaucracy — and I mean bloated — while protecting our national security,” Mr. Trump said, to cheers from his audience.

But even as he sought to focus on his own agenda during the second campaign rally of his young presidency, Mr. Trump was being drawn into yet another controversy over his travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries. Just before he was scheduled to take the stage in Nashville, Mr. Trump learned that a district judge in Hawaii had blocked the second iteration of his executive order, and the president took the stage fuming about the setback.

“This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach,” Mr. Trump said during his speech. “We’re going to fight this terrible ruling. We’re going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court. We’re going to win.”

Wednesday was supposed to provide a respite for Mr. Trump from the questions and controversies that have consumed him in Washington in recent days. He left behind a capital astir over his allegation that President Barack Obama tapped his phone during the fall campaign, after a top Republican said there was no evidence to back up the claim.

As he strode to Marine One in the morning, he ignored questions shouted by reporters about the leak on Tuesday of a portion of his 2005 tax return, which returned the spotlight to his refusal, unprecedented among recent presidents, to release any portion of his tax returns.

Mr. Trump traveled to Detroit for a speech to automakers highlighting his move to halt Obama-era fuel efficiency standards, arguing that stripping away regulations would allow the manufacture of more cars in the United States.

His decision to hold a rally in Nashville suggested a desire to reach beyond his core supporters. While he won the state of Tennessee handily — claiming 61 percent in the state to Hillary Clinton’s 35 percent — he was deeply unpopular in Nashville, the seat of a largely urban county where he won only one-third of the vote.

But the event contained no glimmer of outreach. It was a raucous re-enactment of the fiery and hyperpartisan rallies that powered his 2016 campaign, complete with Mr. Trump vowing repeatedly to “build that wall” on the southern border — a refrain his supporters chanted loudly in response — and a dig at Mrs. Clinton. He also paused for several moments to allow shouts of “Lock her up! Lock her up!” to echo throughout the hall.

Before the rally, Mr. Trump paid homage to a former American president whom he has often invoked as a kindred spirit, stopping to lay a wreath at the tomb of Andrew Jackson at his home, the Hermitage, to honor Mr. Jackson’s 250th birthday. Mr. Trump, who has styled himself a populist even thought he advocates many policies sought by corporate interests, has often mentioned his admiration for Jackson, who is also considered a fighter for the working man.

“It was during the Revolution that Jackson first confronted and defied an arrogant elite. Does that sound familiar?” Trump told a crowd gathered in front of the Hermitage.

Openly Testy, Republicans Reject the President’s Wiretap Claims

WASHINGTON — In a striking repudiation, Republicans on Wednesday threatened subpoenas and vented openly about the lack of evidence behind President Trump’s tweet that President Barack Obama had wiretapped his phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.

The Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes of California, told reporters on Capitol Hill that “I don’t think there was an actual tap of Trump Tower” and that Mr. Trump, if taken literally, is simply “wrong.”

Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, said he had provided no information to Mr. Trump that might have formed the basis for the president’s claim.

And two Republican senators threatened to block Mr. Trump’s nominee for deputy attorney general until they get clarity from the F.B.I. about the accuracy of the president’s assertions. One of them vowed to issue subpoenas, if needed.

But Mr. Trump appeared defiant. In a Fox News interview, he hinted at a broader meaning to his Twitter messages and suggested that his online assertions would eventually be vindicated, saying that “wiretap covers a lot of different things.”

Mr. Trump added, “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks.”

It is unclear if Republicans will accept an effort by Mr. Trump and his aides to redefine what he meant. Mr. Nunes told reporters on Wednesday that lawmakers will have to confront that issue as hearings of the intelligence committee open on Monday.

In one of the most significant signs of pressure from within Mr. Trump’s own party, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he would block the nomination of Rod J. Rosenstein to be deputy attorney general unless the F.B.I. answered his questions. Mr. Rosenstein had been expected to win Senate confirmation easily. The Judiciary Committee has primary oversight of the F.B.I.

Photo

James B. Comey, center, director of the F.B.I., at a Senate hearing in January. Mr. Comey is to testify Monday at the House Intelligence Committee’s first public hearing on its Russian interference investigation and could presumably resolve questions about the wiretap. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, joined Mr. Grassley in the threat.

“We’ll hold up the deputy attorney general’s nomination until Congress is provided with information to finally clear the air as to whether or not there was ever a warrant issued against the Trump campaign,” Mr. Graham said on NBC’s “Today” program.

A delay on Mr. Rosenstein’s appointment would create a number of problems for the Justice Department. In particular, he was expected to oversee any department investigations into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election after Mr. Sessions recused himself because Mr. Sessions was an adviser to the Trump presidential campaign.

Previous presidents have faced similar uprisings within their own parties: Democratic lawmakers initially denounced President Bill Clinton’s behavior with an intern that led to his impeachment in the House, and Republican frustration with the Iraq war, as President George W. Bush’s approval ratings fell, hampered Mr. Bush’s second-term agenda.

But rarely does a president clash so forcefully with his own party so early in his first year. Mr. Trump already faces a difficult dynamic on Capitol Hill as he struggles to push through a major overhaul of the nation’s health care system that is already dividing the Republican-controlled Congress.

To overcome that intraparty opposition — not to mention the hostility to his health care plan from Democrats — Mr. Trump will need to woo the very Republicans who are increasingly growing weary of defending his online assertions.

In the days since Mr. Trump’s Twitter post on March 4, the White House has offered a series of shifting response, explanations and clarifications, some of which have been in conflict with each other.

Democrats have been particularly aggressive in assailing the president and his staff. Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, said Wednesday that if no evidence emerged to substantiate his claim, Mr. Trump should “explain himself.”

“You can’t level an accusation of that type without retracting it or explaining just why it was done,” he said.

Mr. Nunes and Mr. Schiff said the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, would testify Monday at the committee’s first public hearing on its Russian interference investigation. Mr. Comey could presumably resolve the question about the wiretap.

Photo

The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, at a news briefing last week. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

Mr. Schiff also challenged the statements of Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, who had said that while he was not aware of any investigation targeting Mr. Trump, the president spoke accurately when he said he had been wiretapped by Mr. Obama.

“Those two things cannot both be true unless he is suggesting that the F.B.I. was engaged in a rogue operation unsupervised by a court to wiretap Trump Tower,” Mr. Schiff said. “There is absolutely no evidence of that and no suggestion of any evidence of that.”

As part of the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election, agents are looking at whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government.

After Mr. Trump made the claim on Twitter that Mr. Obama had tapped his telephone, Mr. Comey asked the Justice Department to make a statement disputing Mr. Trump’s assertion.

So far the Justice Department has refused to say publicly whether it went to a judge to get a secret warrant to eavesdrop on Mr. Trump, putting the department in a difficult position. Silence from the Justice Department has frustrated Mr. Comey.

If the Justice Department says there was no wiretap, it undercuts the president’s accusation. If there was a wiretap, it suggests that F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors had probable cause to believe that Mr. Trump the candidate was operating as an agent of a foreign power.

It is not clear why Mr. Trump thought he was wiretapped or what led him to make the claim, which was flatly rejected by James R. Clapper Jr., a former director of national intelligence, and by a spokesman for Mr. Obama.

Mr. Graham and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, asked the F.B.I. last week for copies of any warrant applications and court orders “related to wiretaps of President Trump, the Trump campaign or Trump Tower.”

Mr. Graham said Wednesday afternoon that the F.B.I. had offered to respond to the letter from him and Mr. Whitehouse in a classified briefing.

Mr. Comey met behind closed doors Wednesday afternoon with Mr. Grassley, along with Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and top members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

As Many as 24 Million People Could Lose Their Health Care Coverage If GOP Gets Away with Repealing Obamacare

An astounding 24 million Americans will lose health insurance by 2026 under the House Republican leadership’s proposed Obamacare repeal, according to a Congressional Budget Office report detailing the estimated effects released Monday.

The 24-million figure comes in waves. The first is people who now have insurance under the Affordable Care Act purchased through state or federal insurance exchanges. The second wave is from lower-income people who would lose their coverage through state-administered Medicaid programs.

“In 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law,” the CBO’s summary said. “Most of that increase would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate. Some of those people would choose not to have insurance because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties, and some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums.”

“Later, following additional changes to subsidies for insurance purchased in the nongroup market and to the Medicaid program, the increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number under current law would rise to 21 million in 2020 and then to 24 million in 2026,” the CBO report continued. “The reductions in insurance coverage between 2018 and 2026 would stem in large part from changes in Medicaid enrollment—because some states would discontinue their expansion of eligibility, some states that would have expanded eligibility in the future would choose not to do so, and per-enrollee spending in the program would be capped.”

Taken together, the CBO estimates that the House Republican plan to repeal Obamacare would deprive 24 million people who now have health insurance of that coverage within a decade.

“In 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law,” CBO said.

Before Obamacare, over 15 percent of U.S. residents were uninsured. Today, that number is less than 10 percent, the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute said. Obamacare has seen 19.2 million newly insured individuals between 2010 and 2015, including 2.8 million children.

Meanwhile, health insurance costs would rise 15-to-20 percent for many buying coverage on the open market as early as next year, CBO said, because those seeking insurance would be generally sicker as a cohort, meaning their medical costs would be more.

“The legislation would tend to increase average premiums in the nongroup market prior to 2020 and lower average premiums thereafter, relative to projections under current law,” CBO said. “In 2018 and 2019, according to CBO and JCT’s [Joint Committee on Taxation] estimates, average premiums for single policyholders in the nongroup market would be 15 percent to 20 percent higher than under current law, mainly because the individual mandate penalties would be eliminated, inducing fewer comparatively healthy people to sign up.”

The CBO report also said the House GOP bill would lead to turmoil in insurance markets as a new mix of health plans, coverage options and deductibles emerge. Younger people would mostly be seeing lower costs, but middle-aged and older people would see sizable increases.

“Although average premiums would increase prior to 2020 and decrease starting in 2020, CBO and JCT estimate that changes in premiums relative to those under current law would differ significantly for people of different ages because of a change in age-rating rules,” the report said. “Under the legislation, insurers would be allowed to generally charge five times more for older enrollees than younger ones rather than three times more as under current law, substantially reducing premiums for young adults and substantially raising premiums for older people.”

The political reaction to the CBO report is as swift as it is predictable. Republicans seeking the repeal of Obamacare at any societal cost have been saying for days that CBO’s numbers can’t be trusted—another version of the right’s fact-dismissing alternative universe. Meanwhile, opponents of Obamacare repeal are saying CBO’s analyses are even more harmful than they anticipated.

“The CBO score only confirms what was already clear, that this bill is not an honest attempt at health care reform, it is instead a tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of the health of millions of everyday Americans,” said Patriotic Millionaires, a coalition of progressive business owners whose experience includes providing employee benefits.

“It is obscene to be cutting the taxes of people like me and my husband for any reason right now,” said Molly Munger, coalition member and co-director of Advancement Project, a nationwide civil rights group. “To cut rich old people’s taxes so that you can take health care away from younger low-income families is especially crazy. We should be investing in these younger people—they are our country’s future. Don’t do me this ‘favor,’ GOP.  It’s greedy and wrong at every level.”

“Because I have diabetes, am over 50, and self-employed, I was paying $5,000 a month for family policy that had a $20,000 deductible. Under the ACA, we now pay $1,400,” said Charlie Fink, director of the New Musical Development Foundation, and another coalition member. “We’re fortunate enough to absorb the hit when prices go back to what they were before, but what about the rest of America’s families, more and more of whom are in our position? A $4,000 tax credit will cover less than 10 percent of the increase in their insurance costs. This will crush them.”

 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

Obamacare Creators Tell GOP: We Told You So

http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/obamacare-creators-tell-gop-we-told-you-so-n730831?cid=eml_nnn_20170309

 

President Donald Trump said last week that “nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

But the aides and advisers who worked on health care for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — they knew.

“Maybe I should just say karma is a serious thing,” said Neera Tanden, who was a top health official in the Obama administration. “Health care is hard. Governing is hard. And Republicans are now living with the fruits of never putting forward a plan and making promises they can’t keep.”

It’s a strange place to be for the Democratic operatives and elected officials who saw their party devastated in part by Obamacare. And some can’t help but feel a bit of cosmic justice as they watch Republicans, who passed their plan Friday in the House Ways and Means Committee, stuck in a policy quagmire they know all too well.

Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who helped design the Affordable Care Act, said health care policy is both extremely complicated and extraordinarily personal.

“It’s healthcare, it should be easy. Everyone goes to the doctor. But it’s super hard,” Gruber said. “As a result, it’s easy to demonize everything.”

He added, “They (Republicans) have spent years trying to demonize Obamacare and say there was something better, but there was nothing better … It’s overall a sad story. I don’t think anybody can feel good about this.”

Related: Who Wins, Who Loses With the GOP Health Care Bill

Clinton strategist James Carville, a veteran of both recent Democratic reform efforts, has a maxim that “the mover on health care loses,” as he told Democratic donors at a January retreat in Florida. “To do something is to lose.”

After years of unpopularity, nearly six-in-10 Americans now say they want to keep Obamacare or make only minor fixes to it. Fewer than four-in-10 call for repealing it or replacing, according to a new Monmouth Poll.

Republicans “now own the American health care system, which is something that they very effectively said that we owned for seven years,” said Ben Wakana, a former spokesperson for Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services.

“As you see this circular firing squad, part of the problem is they don’t have any principles on health care,” he added. “The thing that kept us grounded when things got hard was we had principles. That kept us all on the same team and in the same room.”

“If you look at the big debates about health care starting with Truman, going to Nixon, going to Clinton, going to now, you find that on the surface, the issues look really straightforward because everybody agrees health care is a big mess. But then you peel it open and it’s unbelievably complex,” said Robert Blendon, a Harvard professor who studies the politics of health care. “It starts to break apart the minute you get into the details.”

That’s exactly what happened after House Republicans rolled out their draft bill to repeal and replace Obamacare Monday night. The response swift and largely negative, leaving a plan seven-years-in-the-making in critical condition less than 24 hours after its public debut.

“The Republicans have done what Democrats couldn’t: Brought the popularity of Obamacare to record levels. They made every election a referendum on Obamacare,” said former Rep. Steve Israel, a Democrat.

Israel led House Democrats’ election efforts during the brutal 2010 midterm, when Republicans rode an anti-Obama backlash to gain 63 seats. Now Israel anticipates Democrats will run on, instead of away from, health care.

“You can expect House Democrats to make the midterm election on ‘Ryancare,” he said.

Democrats have already started collecting sympathetic stories from people who credit the ACA with saving their lives.

Related: American Medical Association Comes Out Against GOP bill

And the party’s campaign arms are zeroing in on a handful of provisions in the proposed draft they think are politically toxic: Funding cuts to efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, penalties for Planned Parenthood, and a tax break for insurance company CEOs who make more than $500,000 a year.

The 2018 midterm elections are still a ways off, but Democrats say they intend to put repeal front and center.

“GOP Senate candidates will now have to defend an agenda that protects the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of Americans who actually work for a living,” said Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Regardless of whether it gets a vote, we’ll make sure there is no rock Republican Senate candidates can hide under.”