Essential Politics: Two very different healthcare battles

Soon this morning, the Supreme Court will issue its final rulings of the term. We’ll be covering them via Essential Washington, so keep an eye on that national news feed throughout the day.

Immigration matters and a religious freedom question are among the outstanding cases.

But the focus this week is on health care — what might be at the national level, and what won’t be here in California.

I’m Christina Bellantoni. Welcome to the Monday edition of Essential Politics.

As Friday news dumps go, the California Legislature shelving its single-payer healthcare proposal was a big one. Melanie Mason reported that the surprise decision from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon came as several key details about the legislation— which passed the Senate earlier this year — were unresolved. The most significant was how to pay for it. The program, which carried an estimated price tag of $330 billion to $400 billion, would have required new taxes, but no sources of tax revenue were specified in the measure.

Rendon explicitly warned his action shouldn’t be regarded as the death of the issue, writing in a late afternoon statement Friday that because it is the first year of a two-year session, it could be revived next year.

We’ll have lots more on this — and the final budget trailer bills coming this week — on our Essential Politics California news feed.


Before the plan was halted, Mason offered a primer explaining it. She heard from lots of readers with questions of their own. What did Times readers want to know about the plan? How it would differ from their Medicare coverage was a top question, as were concerns about how they would be covered while traveling out of state. Her Q-and-A answers those questions.


Some of California’s Assembly Democrats might be breathing sighs of relief they won’t be forced to cast a tough vote on healthcare legislation, but back in Washington, it’s Senate Republicans who are antsy about the American Health Care Act.

As Lisa Mascaro reported, there’s a lot of wiggle room in the negotiations as Republicans lay groundwork to tinker with the bill during a series of amendment votes to begin Thursday.

Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada is among those with reservations. Heller, the only Republican up for reelection in 2018 in a state Hillary Clinton won, said the proposal in its current form “will mean a loss of coverage for millions of Americans and many Nevadans.”

Here’s our look at what the AHCA would mean for Californians.

We’ll be closely tracking the debate this week on Essential Washington.


Vice President Pence made an unexpected stop in Colorado Springs, Colo., to meet with Charles Koch as the billionaire GOP donor hosted his semiannual confab of like-minded business leaders.

Pence, Koch and their top aides spoke for nearly an hour late Friday, talking about tax reform, the GOP’s healthcare overhaul and other heavy legislative lifts that have run into resistance in the Republican-controlled Congress.

The American Health Care Act was not well received at the Koch gathering.

“This Senate bill needs to get better,” said Tim Phillips, who leads Americans for Prosperity, the Koch network’s political arm. “It has to get better.”

GOP leaders are expecting a close vote.


California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Thursday that state employees will be prohibited from official travel to Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota and Texas based on his determination that they have enacted laws that are discriminatory toward sexual orientation and gender identification.

“Each of those states in the recent weeks have enacted legislation that may deprive some of the individuals of those states and individuals who visit those states of their constitutional rights,” Becerra said.

Texas struck back, arguing that California businesses are fleeing to the Lone Star State due to high taxes and over-regulation.

Patrick McGreevy reports the spat didn’t stop a group of politicians from the Golden State from getting to Dallas for the National Assn. of Latino Elected Officials for its major conference.


The future of California’s fight against global warming has been taking shape behind closed doors in the Capitol. Gov. Jerry Brown is meeting with lawmakers and lobbyists to negotiate the extension of the cap and trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gases. Chris Megerian and Mason shine a light on how the conversations have progressed, and they reviewed draft proposals the governor’s office has developed.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is dismissing calls from some in her party who say it’s time for her to step aside, especially after Democrats didn’t win four of five special elections held so far this year.

Pelosi said with Republicans controlling both chambers, and President Trump in the White House, now isn’t the right time for new leadership.

“I’m worth the trouble, quite frankly,” she said. “I love the fray.”


Rep. Brad Sherman has been known as a mostly locally focused congressman for the 20 years he’s been in office. But he’s made waves with congressional Democrats after he became the first House member to draft and circulate articles of impeachment against Trump, Christine Mai-Duc reports.

It’s a move that other Democrats, including Pelosi, have pushed against. “[Pelosi] is against 1,000 degrees of temperature on impeachment right now,” Sherman said. “I have one candle. How many degrees is that?”

It’s worth noting that Rep. Maxine Waters, another California Democrat who has been calling for impeachment, has not signed on to Sherman’s effort. She held a town hall meeting this weekend and was met with protesters who dressed in pro-Trump garb and called her “Dirty Waters.”

Keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed for the latest on California’s delegation.


Rep.-elect Jimmy Gomez has spent his entire political career as a member of a powerful majority. When he’s sworn in over the next few weeks as central and northeast Los Angeles’ newest member of Congress in the coming days, he’ll be the least senior Democrat — 194th out of 194 — in Congress.

Sarah Wire talked with Gomez, 42, about finding a path forward in a Congress dominated by the opposing party. Even if Democrats win back control of Congress, he’ll have many more senior and just as eager colleagues ahead of him in line.


Cathleen Decker took note of the Democrats’ special election losing streak and how running against Trump presents a problem for the party out of power.

Trump is so distinctive a politician that it’s hard to persuade voters that other Republican candidates are carbon copies of the president. Trump’s outsized persona makes even those Republicans who share his views seem more moderate, an important attribute to swing voters, she writes.

Before this becomes conventional wisdom, keep in mind the periods of time Democrats had lousy results in special elections and then went on to big midterm gains — including in 2005 and 2006. They had better success before the 2010 midterms, and then lost the House.


With Gavin Newsom chairing the state Lands Commission, the little-known but powerful agency is drawing fresh attention.

He and gubernatorial rival John Chiang, the state treasurer, are the latest in a long line of Democrats who have used the panel to showcase their environmental credentials. And former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer came calling on the Lands Commission as a lobbyist last month, as Michael Finnegan reports.

Chiang, meanwhile, is trying to raise his profile in the race by embarking on a yearlong tour of the state because few voters know who he is, Seema Mehta reports.

A critical fundraising deadline in the gubernatorial race is days away. Don’t miss this insightful look at the more than $20 million that has already poured into the 2018 contest, on an interactive built by The Times’ data team.


Northern California’s Marin County is one of the wealthiest regions of the state and has had a long history of problems with building low-income housing.

The region is now the beneficiary of a last-minute bill that would allow it to continue restricting growth more than other areas of the state. The bill’s author, Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), argues the measure will lead to more housing by lowering development costs. But Liam Dillon reports that housing advocates are furious Marin is getting special treatment to restrict development, especially as Brown and other lawmakers are pushing for more building to help stem the housing affordability crisis.


There is a key negotiation point in legislative talks over creating a state water and parks bond proposal: the Los Angeles River. And when it comes to hashing out the details, lawmakers are trying to determine to which parts of the river money should go. Should the money be directed to Senate leader Kevin de León’s district upstream from downtown L.A., or Rendon’s district along the lower river? But while this debate goes on, George Skelton writes in his Monday column, there are outside efforts to add more money for flood control in California in preparation for future volatile weather in the state.


California’s Legislature is controlled by Democratic supermajorities in both of its houses. And this legislative session, lawmakers have taken advantage of their platform, advancing a bill that increased the state’s gas tax to raise money for road repairs, a measure that would make California a so called “sanctuary state” for immigrants and the single-payer proposal. But how far left can Democrats go before they start racking up losses at the ballot box, Skelton asks.


Supporters of a new state law that seeks to move millions of Californians to voting by mail were surprised when a key county decided to take a pass on the plan.

In his Sunday column, John Myers looks at how the rejection of the law by Orange County supervisors serves as an important reminder for how change isn’t easy when it comes to revamping how elections are conducted. And what happened in the county is being viewed by some as being driven by partisan politics.


The press team defeated female members of Congress in their annual softball game last week, one week after the congressional baseball game that carried extra significance following the shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and others on the field at the GOP’s practice.

Sarah Wire, who plays on the press’ softball team, reports that tickets sales jumped. Crystal Griner, the special agent protecting Scalise who was shot during the attack, threw the first pitch. California members Rep. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) played catcher and Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-San Pedro) played outfield.


— On this week’s California Politics Podcast, the panel examines how a high-profile endorsement of the “sanctuary state” bill could help shore up concerns from law enforcement. Myers also leads a discussion on the newest candidate in the 2018 race for governor.

Rep. Tom McClintock‘s bill to streamline dam permits passed the House largely on party lines.

— California’s doctors in Congress donned their white coats to criticize the GOP healthcare bill.

— Beekeeper and farmer Michael Eggman, who twice challenged and lost to Central Valley Rep. Jeff Denham, said he won’t be running against the Republican again. But he’s launching a political action committee to help elect a Democrat in Denham’s district and six others that Democrats are attempting to flip in 2018.

— The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors would be expanded from five to seven members and an elected chief executive post would be created under a measure recommended Wednesday by a state Senate panel. But the county opposes it.

— Trump pledged “full support” for L.A.’s Olympic bid.


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