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Beware of budget gimmicks in push for massive spending deals

Beware of budget gimmicks in push for massive spending deals

WASHINGTON — Senators fashioning a pair of colossal bills that would deliver more than $4 trillion for infrastructure, health care, environment and other initiatives insist they will fully pay for both plans.Will they?In a Washington ritual as reliable as panic-buying when light snow is forecast, both parties have long relied on toothless budget gimmicks to help finance their priorities. The contrivances let lawmakers claim they are being fiscally responsible while inflicting little pain on voters and contributors with tax increases or spending cuts.Here’s how they may do it again:THE PRICE TAGFor political and procedural reasons, Congress’ Democratic leaders are slicing President Joe Biden’s domestic spending agenda into two bills. One is bipartisan effort providing about $1 trillion for roads, broadband and other public works projects. Bargainers hope to clinch a final deal and unveil this coming week.The other bill would aim $3.5 trillion at expanding Medicare coverage, slowing climate change and providing free prekindergarten and community college. This expansive package, which would also fatten tax credits for children and health care and help immigrants become citizens, is a Democrats-only push expected to take months and draw unanimous Republican opposition.With Washington already projected to spend $63 trillion over the coming decade, an additional $4 trillion would be just a 6% boost. Even so, finding $4 trillion in tax increases or spending cuts to pay its costs would be prohibitively painful for politicians.———GETTING REALSome of the savings proposals are legitimate.To pay for much of the $3.5 trillion package, Democrats led by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., want to increase taxes on the wealthy, big corporations and companies earning income abroad.Raising more would be tough. Lawmakers are boxed in between Biden’s pledge to not raise taxes on people earning less than $400,000 annually and GOP opposition to unraveling President Donald Trump’s big 2017 tax cut. “It’s the perfect storm for not doing anything real on the revenue side,” said William Hoagland, a former top Republican Senate aide.Also real are proposals to beef up the IRS budget so it can collect more unpaid taxes and, perhaps, to claim the bills themselves would generate more government revenue by stimulating economic activity.But either could go too far.———PICKING THE UMPIRESNo one doubts that a more muscular IRS would pry more taxes out of scofflaws. Bolstering programs that help people stay healthy, get educated and move goods more efficiently undoubtedly help the economy hum.The question, though, is exactly how much federal revenue those two ideas would yield. Government agencies and outside analysts have widely divergent views, especially for forecasting legislation’s impact on economic growth.Lawmakers eager to claim they have fully financed their proposals could gravitate to the highest plausible numbers they can find, to critics’ chagrin.“In basketball, you don’t get to choose your own ref,” said Marc Goldwein, senior policy director at the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.———DUELING IRS NUMBERSThe Congressional Budget Office, lawmakers’ nonpartisan accountant, estimated last year that Congress could collect $61 billion more in taxes over the next decade by giving the IRS an additional $20 billion.Others are more generous, which could help Democrats eager to finance their $3.5 trillion proposal.The Penn Wharton Budget Model, a nonpartisan research group, projected that Biden’s proposed $79 billion boost for the IRS would produce $480 billion more revenue. The Treasury Department pegged the revenue increase under Biden’s plan at $779 billion.———AN OLD, UNRELIABLE FRIENDDocuments show the bipartisan infrastructure proposal and Democrats’ separate $3.5 trillion measure may both claim savings from long-term economic growth the bills would supposedly spur.That concept is called dynamic scoring, and Republicans have long embraced it to paint their tax cuts as cost-free. That’s not happened.“The tax cuts will pay for themselves,” Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury secretary, said repeatedly about the 2017 tax law. Instead, The CBO estimated that even including increased economic activity, that measure will drive up federal deficits by $1.9 trillion over a decade.Democrats have long mocked dynamic scoring as a Republican ruse for claiming savings that may never materialize to hide the true cost of their tax-cutting agenda. Among its most virulent critics has been Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who in 2015 called it “voodoo economics.” Sanders’ office declined comment for this story.Yet Democrats argue that if tax cuts can spawn economic growth, so can fortifying productive programs such as education and transportation. That’s legitimate if you don’t put “so much spin on the ball that you’re basically closing a budget gap with magical thinking,” said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.Citing past GOP support for dynamic scoring, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said, “Maybe on this topic I would just say, ‘Welcome to the team.’”The CBO has provided some dynamic scoring estimates but cautioned that the projections are uncertain.———REPEALING A GHOST REGULATIONBoth bills’ negotiators are ready to claim savings by assuming Biden will repeal Trump administration regulations on drug rebates. The CBO projected those rules would cost the government $177 billion over a decade, so blocking them would reduce expected spending.But Trump’s rule has never been implemented. With Washington running record-setting budget deficits annually, claiming savings by repealing the rule and using that money to finance spending bills would be like a deeply indebted family canceling a $50,000 vacation and using those “savings” to buy something else.———OTHER QUESTION MARKSSenate Democrats say some proposed tax credits and spending in their $3.5 trillion bill may last less than the measure’s full 10 years. That would constrain the legislation’s price tag.Both parties have a history of putting early expiration dates on programs that, like some of these, are so popular that a future Congress will likely renew them. Republicans did that with much of President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cut, which was mostly extended.The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says the full 10-year cost of the policies in Democrats’ $3.5 trillion plan is $5 trillion.Other questionable proposals include selling oil from the government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which inevitably gets refilled, sometimes at higher cost, and taking credit for proceeds from the federal auction of 5G spectrum airwaves, which is happening anyway.

Dems hit McConnell, who says GOP won't back debt limit boost

Dems hit McConnell, who says GOP won't back debt limit boost

Senate Democrats are accusing Republicans of a cynical ploy that would damage the government’s credit rating and the economyBy ALAN FRAM Associated PressJuly 21, 2021, 5:49 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWASHINGTON — Senate Democrats accused Republicans Wednesday of a “shameless, cynical” ploy that would damage the economy and the government’s credit rating after the chamber’s GOP leader said his party would vote against raising the federal debt limit.In the latest chapter of a broad budget battle likely to linger well into autumn, Democrats reacted after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he believes all Republicans will vote against renewing Washington’s ability to borrow money. The government, which has been running huge budget deficits for years, needs to borrow cash constantly to pay its debts, but its legal authority to do that expires July 31.An expiration of the government’s borrowing authority could lead to a federal default, which has never happened. Analysts say a default could have a devastating impact on the economy, driving up interest rates, lowering the federal credit rating and driving up the government’s borrowing costs.“The leader’s statements on debt ceiling are shameless, cynical and totally political,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “This debt is Trump debt, it’s COVID debt,” he said, a reference to a massive 2017 tax cut enacted under former President Donald Trump and federal spending that’s mushroomed since the COVID-19 pandemic.It is not unusual for the political party out of power in the White House to threaten to oppose a debt ceiling increase as leverage to exact budget concessions.This fight comes as the two parties are also at odds over President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar proposals for bolstering federal domestic spending and raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to pay for it.Congress suspended the debt ceiling — the limit on federal borrowing — two years ago, but that suspension expires July 31.The Treasury Department can free up cash for short periods using accounting maneuvers, but it is unclear when it would exhaust that option. Some have suggested the government could run out of money during August, when Congress is scheduled to be on recess.To overcome a Senate GOP filibuster of legislation raising the debt limit, the chamber’s 50 Democrats would need support from 10 Republicans, which McConnell suggested will not be there.On Tuesday, McConnell said, “I can’t imagine a single Republican in this environment that we’re in now, this free-for-all for taxes and spending, to vote to raise the debt limit.” McConnell confirmed those remarks Wednesday to The Associated Press, a day after making them to Punchbowl News, a publication that covers Capitol Hill and politics.One option would be for Democrats to include the language in an enormous bill financing many government agencies next year that Congress is beginning to craft. A failure to enact that measure by Sept. 30, the end of the federal budget year, could produce a government shutdown.Democrats could also include a debt limit provision in the $3.5 trillion bill they plan to write financing environment, health, education and family programs. Democrats plan to use a budget maneuver to shield that bill from a filibuster, but it may not be ready for months.

Schumer wants Senate votes soon on Biden's domestic agenda

Schumer wants Senate votes soon on Biden's domestic agenda

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he wants his chamber to vote on budget and infrastructure legislation before lawmakers break for an August recessBy ALAN FRAM Associated PressJuly 9, 2021, 3:14 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday he wants his chamber to vote on pivotal budget and infrastructure legislation before lawmakers break for their August recess, and warned he may delay that summer break to allow more time for work on President Joe Biden’s top domestic goals.In a letter to his colleagues, Schumer, D-N.Y., also said Democrats “stand ready to expeditiously fill any potential vacancies on the Supreme Court should they arise,” a clear reference to the possibility that liberal-leaning Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, might retire. He also wrote that the Senate might vote again on Democratic legislation liberalizing voting procedures, which Republicans blocked last month.Schumer’s plans underscore the priority his party is giving to Biden’s push to pump trillions of dollars into building roads, pipelines and other infrastructure projects, as well as bolstering health care, services for families, programs combating climate change and other initiatives.The letter highlights the time pressure Democrats face as they try to enact those bills. Republicans are expected to vote solidly against most of Biden’s domestic legislation, and Democrats will need virtual unanimity to push the measures through the closely divided Congress. Gaining that unity will take time and will only get harder as the 2022 election campaigns approach.“Please be advised that time is of the essence and we have a lot of work to do,” Schumer wrote. “Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period.”The first hurdle for Schumer and the Democrats is for Congress to approve a budget resolution. The budget would then let them push a massive spending bill through the Senate without facing a GOP filibuster.That spending bill — a pillar of Biden’s domestic agenda — would finance health care, family, climate and other programs. It would be partly paid for with tax boosts on the wealthy and corporations, as well as expected savings from allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.Republicans are expected to solidly oppose Biden’s domestic spending spending bill. It would take 60 votes to end GOP delaying tactics — a virtually impossible hurdle for Democrats in the 50-50 chamber. That’s why Democrats first need to approve a budget resolution.Separately, Biden and 21 senators from both parties have also agreed to a framework for yet another measure, a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package. Schumer hopes the Senate will approve that bill before departing for recess.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said her chamber won’t consider the bipartisan infrastructure measure until Democrats have written their separate bill for family, climate and other programs.As if the budget, infrastructure and domestic agenda weren’t enough, a potential Supreme Court vacancy could also be in the mix. Liberals have been eager for Breyer to retire so Biden and the Democrat-controlled Senate could select a replacement for a court that tilts 6-3 toward the right. Congressional Democrats have been reluctant to pressure Breyer overtly to step down, and he has given no indication that he will leave.The Senate is currently scheduled to begin a summer recess after the week of Monday Aug. 2. Threats by congressional leaders to curtail recesses are common, but Schumer’s illustrates the pressures his party faces.

In hunt for infrastructure deal, every Dem has leverage

In hunt for infrastructure deal, every Dem has leverage

WASHINGTON — In a crucial moment for Democrats, party leaders are hunting for a sweet spot that would satisfy their rival moderate and progressive wings on legislation to finance President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar agenda of bolstering the economy and helping families.With virtually no votes to spare and saber rattling by both Democratic factions, leaders are finding their search for middle ground arduous — even though the president’s push for infrastructure projects and family-centered initiatives is his top domestic priority.With Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., winning the spotlight this year for pulling his party rightward by issuing demands on crucial issues, plenty of centrists and liberals are now using that same playbook. In a procession of meetings with White House officials and congressional budget writers, progressives have insisted that the emerging measures be big and aggressive, while moderates want them to be far more modest.“We’re all Joe Manchin right now,” said House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth of Kentucky.The leverage every Democrat has flows from simple arithmetic. Expecting unanimous Republican opposition to much of Biden’s package, they need total unity in the 50-50 Senate — plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote — and can lose only a very few House votes.With trillions in spending at their disposal, Democratic leaders have plenty of options for designing programs that appeal to lawmakers’ hometown interests to win votes. More broadly, however, the intraparty fight pits two ideologies against each other — progressives’ eagerness to help needy families, moderates seeking to do so but with fiscal constraints — and their differences are real.Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., recently floated an enormous $6 trillion proposal for infrastructure, climate change, health care and other programs that many progressives love. It goes well beyond Biden’s vision of spending roughly $4 trillion on similar projects. Manchin has said he wants to pare it back further, a view many moderate Democrats endorse but that progressives say would eviscerate the president’s agenda.Sanders is now immersed in talks with his panel’s Democrats on finding a compromise on spending and offsetting revenues.The party is hoping he can craft a budget resolution — the first step in Congress’ creaky process for churning out spending and tax bills — that Democrats can push through the Senate and House this month. Lawmakers would likely work on detailed bills actually providing the funds and revenue this fall.Lawmakers, aides and lobbyists say Sanders is running into resistance from moderates and will be lucky to come close to even Biden’s $4 trillion. And while moderates and progressives have generally refrained from sniping and publicly drawing lines in the sand, they’re not bashful about voicing their views.Among centrists, Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., has said he’ll oppose his party’s budget and subsequent progressive-backed legislation financing programs aimed at families, telling the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call that’s he’s concerned about excessive spending. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., a leader of the House’s bipartisan Problem Solvers group, calls Sanders’ $6 trillion “very aggressive.” And Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., a leader of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, said he wants to help families and businesses without “building castles in the sky.”Progressives are just as assertive. To maintain leverage, they’re demanding that Congress not approve a bipartisan Senate compromise providing $1.2 trillion for roads, pipelines and other infrastructure projects until there’s also a second bill providing additional money for health care, housing and other programs, which is unlikely to win GOP votes.That strategy has won support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., with Biden also favoring the two-track approach. But moderates anxious to notch an infrastructure win and less wedded to a huge, separate bill expanding family-centered programs are pushing back, saying they want Congress to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill as soon as this month.Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., co-chair of House Democrats’ centrist Blue Dog Coalition, says she thinks there will be enough votes to quickly approve the infrastructure measure. “And when you have the votes you should take the vote,” she said.Countering that, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, says “dozens” of her group’s nearly 100 members say they won’t vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill unless the separate package of health care and other family-oriented programs also moves.”Our leverage is saying we’re not going to be able to pass a piece of legislation unless you do the other one” for families, said Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., the progressive group’s vote counter.The progressive caucus has said it wants five priorities included in the legislation: health care, housing, child care and other family benefits, climate change and helping millions of immigrants become citizens.Moderates have voiced general support for health care, family benefits and other progressive priorities. But some have suggested, often without detail, downsizing liberals’ costly proposals like expanding Medicare coverage to people as young as age 60. They cite concerns about higher prices that some say federal spending could ignite.“There’s this ‘I’ word out there that’s called inflation,” said Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., a member of House Democrats’ Blue Dogs.Besides setting spending and revenue targets, a budget will be make-or-break for Democrats because under congressional rules, it would let them prevent Republicans from using Senate filibusters to kill later legislation actually providing the money for Biden’s plans. Filibusters, or endless procedural delays, take 60 votes to overcome, a nearly insurmountable obstacle in today’s hyper-partisan Congress.Democrats control the House 220-211 with four vacancies and can lose no more than four of their votes to pass bills. That number will shrink to just three after a Texas runoff late this month in which both remaining candidates are Republicans.“Everybody needs to advocate as clear as possible for their priorities,” said Yarmuth, the House budget chairman. “But everybody ultimately has to vote for whatever comes up, or we get nothing.”

GOP needs new health care target; 'Obamacare' survives again

GOP needs new health care target; 'Obamacare' survives again

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s latest rejection of a Republican effort to dismantle “Obamacare” signals anew that the GOP must look beyond repealing the law if it wants to hone the nation’s health care problems into a winning political issue.Thursday’s 7-2 ruling was the third time the court has rebuffed major GOP challenges to former President Barack Obama’s prized health care overhaul. Stingingly for Republicans, the decision emerged from a bench dominated 6-3 by conservative-leaning justices, including three appointed by President Donald Trump.Those high court setbacks have been atop dozens of failed Republican repeal attempts in Congress. Most spectacularly, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., flashed a thumbs-down that doomed Trump’s drive to erase the law in 2017.Along with the public’s gradual but decisive acceptance of the statute, the court rulings and legislative defeats underscore that the law, passed in 2010 despite overwhelming GOP opposition, is probably safe. And it spotlights a remarkable progression of the measure from a political liability that cost Democrats House control just months after enactment to a widely accepted bedrock of the medical system, delivering care to what the government says is more than 30 million people.“The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land,” President Joe Biden said, using the statute’s more formal name, after the court ruled that Texas and other GOP-led states had no right to bring their lawsuit to federal court.“It’s not as sacred or popular as Medicare or Medicaid, but it’s here to stay,” said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “And it’s moved from an ideological whipping boy to a set of popular benefits that the public values.”Highlighting the GOP’s shifting health care focus, in interviews and written statements Thursday, more than a dozen Republican lawmakers called for controlling medical costs and other changes, but none suggested another run at repeal. Congressional Republicans hadn’t even filed a legal brief supporting the latest Supreme Court challenge.“Just practically speaking, you need 60 votes in a Republican Senate, a Republican president, right? And we’ve tried that and were unable to accomplish it,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a leading voice on health care in the GOP.Polling shows the risks in trying to demolish Obama’s law. A Kaiser poll showed Americans about evenly divided on the law in December 2016, just after Trump was elected on a pledge to kill it. By February 2020, 54% had a favorable view while 39% disapproved.House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other top Republicans issued a statement illustrating one line of attack the party is preparing — trying to handcuff all Democrats to “Medicare for All,” a costly plan for government-provided health care backed by progressives that goes beyond what Biden and many in the party have proposed.Congress should “not double down on a failed health care law or, worse, move towards a one-size-fits-all, socialist system that takes away choice entirely,” the Republicans said.The GOP should focus on health issues people care about, like personalized care and promoting medical innovation, not repealing the health care law, said David Winston, a pollster and political adviser to congressional GOP leaders.“Republicans need to lay out a clear direction of where the health care system should go,” Winston said. “Don’t look backward, look forward.”Most people have gained coverage from either Obama’s expansion of the government-funded Medicaid program for lower-income people or from private health plans, for which federal subsidies help offset costs for many.The law’s most popular provisions also include its protections for people with preexisting medical conditions from higher insurance rates, allowing people up to age 26 to remain covered under their parents’ plans and requiring insurers to cover services like pregnancy and mental health.Key requirements like that are “locked in concrete,” said Joseph Antos, a health policy analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The political opening for Republicans would be if Democrats push hard for things like lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 because for many conservative-leaning voters, he said, “that’s a sign of government pushing too far” into private marketplace decisions.Yet serious problems remain.Nearly 29 million Americans remained uninsured in 2019, and millions more likely lost coverage at least temporarily when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, according to Kaiser. In addition, medical costs continue rising and even many covered by the law find their premiums and deductibles difficult to afford.In response, Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package enacted in March expanded federal subsidies for health insurance premiums for those buying coverage. His infrastructure and jobs proposal being negotiated in Congress includes $200 billion toward making that permanent, instead of expiring in two years.But his plan includes none of his more controversial campaign trail proposals to expand health care access, like creating a federally funded public health care option or letting Medicare directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. While those proposals are popular with Democratic voters, they face tough odds in a closely divided Congress.Still, Republicans gearing up for 2022 elections that will decide congressional control must decide where their next focus will be.One GOP strategist involved in House races, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe internal thinking, said the party should focus on issues like the economy and border security that register as higher voter concerns. A Gallup poll showed that in May, 21% of the public ranked the economy as the country’s top problem, with health care registering at just 3%.Other Republicans say the Supreme Court’s rejection of the latest repeal attempt will clear the political field for them to refocus their health care attacks on Democrats.“Now it’s Medicare for All that will be a top health care issue playing a role in campaigns,” said Chris Hartline, spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm.———Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe in Washington and Tom Murphy in Indianapolis, Ind., contributed to this report.

GOP needs new health care target; 'Obamacare' survives again

GOP needs new health care target; 'Obamacare' survives again

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s latest rejection of a Republican effort to dismantle “Obamacare” signals anew that the GOP must look beyond repealing the law if it wants to hone the nation’s health care problems into a winning political issue.Thursday’s 7-2 ruling was the third time the court has rebuffed major GOP challenges to former President Barack Obama’s prized health care overhaul. Stingingly for Republicans, the decision emerged from a bench dominated 6-3 by conservative-leaning justices, including three appointed by President Donald Trump.Those high court setbacks have been atop dozens of failed Republican repeal attempts in Congress. Most spectacularly, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., flashed a thumbs-down that doomed Trump’s drive to erase the law in 2017.Along with the public’s gradual but decisive acceptance of the statute, the court rulings and legislative defeats underscore that the law, passed in 2010 despite overwhelming GOP opposition, is probably safe. And it spotlights a remarkable progression of the measure from a political liability that cost Democrats House control just months after enactment to a widely accepted bedrock of the medical system, delivering care to what the government says is more than 30 million people.“The Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land,” President Joe Biden said, using the statute’s more formal name, after the court ruled that Texas and other GOP-led states had no right to bring their lawsuit to federal court.“It’s not as sacred or popular as Medicare or Medicaid, but it’s here to stay,” said Drew Altman, president of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “And it’s moved from an ideological whipping boy to a set of popular benefits that the public values.”Highlighting the GOP’s shifting health care focus, in interviews and written statements Thursday, more than a dozen Republican lawmakers called for controlling medical costs and other changes, but none suggested another run at repeal. Congressional Republicans hadn’t even filed a legal brief supporting the latest Supreme Court challenge.“Just practically speaking, you need 60 votes in a Republican Senate, a Republican president, right? And we’ve tried that and were unable to accomplish it,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., a leading voice on health care in the GOP.Polling shows the risks in trying to demolish Obama’s law. A Kaiser poll showed Americans about evenly divided on the law in December 2016, just after Trump was elected on a pledge to kill it. By February 2020, 54% had a favorable view while 39% disapproved.House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other top Republicans issued a statement illustrating one line of attack the party is preparing — trying to handcuff all Democrats to “Medicare for All,” a costly plan for government-provided health care backed by progressives that goes beyond what Biden and many in the party have proposed.Congress should “not double down on a failed health care law or, worse, move towards a one-size-fits-all, socialist system that takes away choice entirely,” the Republicans said.The GOP should focus on health issues people care about, like personalized care and promoting medical innovation, not repealing the health care law, said David Winston, a pollster and political adviser to congressional GOP leaders.“Republicans need to lay out a clear direction of where the health care system should go,” Winston said. “Don’t look backward, look forward.”Most people have gained coverage from either Obama’s expansion of the government-funded Medicaid program for lower-income people or from private health plans, for which federal subsidies help offset costs for many.The law’s most popular provisions also include its protections for people with preexisting medical conditions from higher insurance rates, allowing people up to age 26 to remain covered under their parents’ plans and requiring insurers to cover services like pregnancy and mental health.Key requirements like that are “locked in concrete,” said Joseph Antos, a health policy analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The political opening for Republicans would be if Democrats push hard for things like lowering the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 because for many conservative-leaning voters, he said, “that’s a sign of government pushing too far” into private marketplace decisions.Yet serious problems remain.Nearly 29 million Americans remained uninsured in 2019, and millions more likely lost coverage at least temporarily when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, according to Kaiser. In addition, medical costs continue rising and even many covered by the law find their premiums and deductibles difficult to afford.In response, Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package enacted in March expanded federal subsidies for health insurance premiums for those buying coverage. His infrastructure and jobs proposal being negotiated in Congress includes $200 billion toward making that permanent, instead of expiring in two years.But his plan includes none of his more controversial campaign trail proposals to expand health care access, like creating a federally funded public health care option or letting Medicare directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. While those proposals are popular with Democratic voters, they face tough odds in a closely divided Congress.Still, Republicans gearing up for 2022 elections that will decide congressional control must decide where their next focus will be.One GOP strategist involved in House races, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe internal thinking, said the party should focus on issues like the economy and border security that register as higher voter concerns. A Gallup poll showed that in May, 21% of the public ranked the economy as the country’s top problem, with health care registering at just 3%.Other Republicans say the Supreme Court’s rejection of the latest repeal attempt will clear the political field for them to refocus their health care attacks on Democrats.“Now it’s Medicare for All that will be a top health care issue playing a role in campaigns,” said Chris Hartline, spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm.———Associated Press writers Alexandra Jaffe in Washington and Tom Murphy in Indianapolis, Ind., contributed to this report.

Rep. Greene apologizes for comparing safety masks, Holocaust

Rep. Greene apologizes for comparing safety masks, Holocaust

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is apologizing after recent comments comparing the required wearing of safety masks in the House to the horrors of the HolocaustBy ALAN FRAM Associated PressJune 15, 2021, 8:38 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleWASHINGTON — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene apologized Monday for affronting people with recent comments comparing the required wearing of safety masks in the House to the horrors of the Holocaust.“I’m truly sorry for offending people with remarks about the Holocaust,” the Georgia Republican told reporters outside the Capitol, saying she had visited Washington’s U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum earlier in the day. “There’s no comparison and there never ever will be.”Greene’s comments were a rare expression of regret by the conservative agitator, a freshman whose career has included the embrace of violent and offensive conspiracy theories and angry confrontations with progressive colleagues.Her apology came more than three weeks after appearing on a conservative podcast and comparing COVID-19 safety requirements adopted by Democrats controlling the House to “a time and history where people were told to wear a gold star.” She said they were “put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany. This is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.” Pelosi, D-Calif., is House speaker.Greene’s comments were condemned by Republican leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who called the comparison “appalling.”GOP leaders have often been reluctant to castigate Greene, a close ally of former President Donald Trump. After social media posts were unearthed in which Greene suggested support for executing some Democratic leaders, McCarthy and most Republicans stood by her when the House took the unusual step of stripping her of her committee assignments in February.But as House members returned to the Capitol on Monday after a three-week break, Greene was contrite.“Anti-Semitism is true hate,” she said. “And I saw that today at the Holocaust Museum.”In 2018, two years before her election to Congress, she speculated on Facebook that California wildfires may have been caused by “lasers or blue beams of light” controlled by a left-wing cabal tied to a powerful Jewish family.On Monday, she told reporters that when she was 19, she visited the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in what during World War II was Nazi-occupied Poland. “It isn’t like I learned about it today,” she said of the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews and huge numbers of other people were killed. “I went today because I thought it was important,” she said, and wanted to talk about it as she apologized.House leaders have recently said vaccinated people no longer must wear masks in the chamber.Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., said he would introduce a resolution in the House this week to censure Greene.In addition, Republicans may try forcing a vote to punish Rep. Ilhan Omar. The Minnesota Democrat recently made remarks criticized by top House Democrats and Jewish lawmakers for seeming to compare the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban. Omar said she didn’t mean to draw that parallel.