‘Debate’ begins on health-care turducken

What will the Senate put in the Affordable Care Act replacement? Your guess is as good as anyone’s, because it’s still uncertain if any turducken-style combination of amendments and political pressure can reach the necessary votes. To borrow a quote, they’ll have to pass the bill so that we can find out what is in it. But after Tuesday’s “motion to proceed” vote, they’ll now have the opportunity to fine-tune the recipe.

Senators getting ready to shove stuff into the AHCA carcass


The Senate has voted to move ahead on health care legislation aimed at dismantling the Obama health law. The vote was 51-50 on Tuesday. Sen. John McCain returned from Arizona where he is battling brain cancer to cast a crucial vote. (July 25)

On Tuesday the Senate voted 51-50 on the motion to proceed with a Senate vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with special guest star Vice President Mike Pence casting the tiebreaking vote. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined the entire Democratic caucus in voting against the motion.

Technically, the Senate is considering the Affordable Health Care Act passed by the House of Representatives in May — you remember, it’s the one that Trump said was “mean.” In reality, they’re likely to gut the entire bill and begin voting on amendments (which may or may not include parts of the original bill) until they reach that magical 50-vote number again. The starting point will be the “clean repeal” without any sort of replacement. But before we get to voting, we’ll get hours and hours of “debate,” with GOP senators explaining the nuances of their positions and Democratic senators railing against the whole process. 

What’s NOT going to be in the final version? Anything that needs 60 votes, because none of the Democrats want any part of this process, and there aren’t nearly enough Mike Pences available to get to 60 votes without them. Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled Friday that several sections would need to reach that hurdle, including plans to defund Planned Parenthood for one year, preventing tax credits from being used to purchase health care that covers abortion, and imposing a six-month coverage waiting period on anyone who lets their coverage lapse at any point.

On Tuesday, two more sections were added to 60-vote threshold territory: Section 139, which would allow small businesses to create “association health plans” that could be sold across state lines, but still be exempt from providing benefits deemed essential by Obamacare; and Section 204, which would allow insurers to charge older customers significantly more than younger customers. 

What WILL be in this thing? It might be an empty plate, or it might be a bill stuffed with just enough amendments and kickbacks that 50 senators can swallow it. 

Scaramucci finds the one leaking all the leaks

Since the get-go, President Trump’s administration has been fighting leaks to the media from within the White House — including leaks about the effort to fight leaks. (Leak-ception!) But new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci says he’s about to put an end to it.

“I’m going to fire everybody, that’s how I’m going to do it,” Scaramucci told reporters when asked about how he was going to deal with leakers. “You’re either going to stop leaking or you’re going to get fired.”

Scaramucci offered “amnesty” to current staffers, but it seems that one guy has already been pushed out: Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Rebecca Ballhaus. 

Be prepared to make America great again


President Donald Trump is addressing thousands of Boy Scouts at a national gathering in West Virginia. Trump says that the country “has no better citizens than its Boy Scouts,” adding: “The Scouts believe in putting America first.” (July 24)

“Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m front of the Boy Scouts?” President Trump told Boy Scouts at the National Jamboree. He went on to speak about politics in front of the Boy Scouts.

Trump’s speech covered everything from his electoral college victory over Hillary Clinton, as well as the upcoming votes on the American Health Care Act (“jokingly” threatening to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price if nothing passes.) He also offered words of advice, telling the scouts, “Never quit … Never give up … Do something you love.” And if they succeed, they can buy a yacht and probably tie all the necessary knots for it.

Following the speech, the Boy Scouts of America issued a statement saying it is “wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies.”

Elsewhere in politics

Congress: Only cool kids allowed, apparently

Politicians — they’re just like us! In other words, they call each other fat and ugly, and challenge each other to duels. 

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