Open Thread

The Open Thread for January 10, 2017

I think the effort to repeal Obamacare is already dead.  “The House Freedom Caucus wants to delay a vote on a budget that includes Obamacare repeal instructions, a potential setback for the GOP’s — and Donald Trump’s — top priority,” Politico reports.

“The group of hardline conservatives wants more information about what a repeal bill and Obamacare replacement would look like before they support the fiscal 2017 budget. That budget blueprint — which is expected on the House floor later this week after being approved by the Senate on Tuesday or Wednesday — would unlock a fast-tracking procedure that will be used to speed a repeal through Congress.”

TPM reports that five GOP senators now want to delay the repeal vote until a replacement is agreed upon. That means if every Democrat holds firm against repeal, Republicans don’t have the votes to do it.

Jonathan Chait: “Republicans can use a budget reconciliation bill to defund Obamacare. A reconciliation bill can evade a filibuster and pass with just 50 Senators. But that bill can’t create a new system, because reconciliation bills can only be used to change taxes and spending… That means, if Republicans want to actually put a new system into place, and not just turn the health care market into a smoking crater, they need at least 8 Senate Democrats to join them.”

“What that means is that replacing Obamacare at the same time it’s repealed would create completely different parameters for what happens next. There aren’t going to be 8 Democrats willing to support a right-wing bill that throws people into catastrophic coverage plans that don’t cover basic medical care, as conservatives would like.”

“That’s why repeal and delay was the best chance to destroy Obamacare… But this plan only works if 50 Senate Republicans are willing to gamble that they can hold the one-seventh of the economy consumed by health care as a hostage and force a bunch of Democrats to go along. If that gamble fails, the ruin could easily trigger a backlash against the majority party. Apparently not enough Senate Republicans are willing to roll the dice. If this holds, Obamacare, or something substantially similar, is probably going to survive.”

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McClatchy: “According to a dozen prominent Democrats, Obama is planning a more politically active post-presidency than perhaps any other previous U.S. leader in modern times. He will work to rebuild the beleaguered party, mentor and train young people and plan strategy with Democratic lawmakers, possibly campaigning and raising money.”

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Playbook: “Republicans close to Trump are most worried about two Cabinet nominees: Steven Mnuchin for Treasury and Andy Puzder at Labor. Why? The combination of two factors: Neither of them have had particularly public-facing jobs and both have made a pile of money with practices some Americans might find objectionable. Democrats are expected to hit Mnuchin over his role in bank foreclosures and the financial crisis. And Puzder has made plenty of comments about minimum wage that are at odds with Democrats. Plus, his fast food company has a penchant for featuring attractive women in bikinis in the advertisements. That could also stir up some embarrassing fodder.”

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The White House has launched a new web page covering Vice President Biden’s key accomplishments over nearly four decades of public service.

The page at www.whitehouse.gov/vp, which went live Monday morning, highlights four topics that represent the cornerstones of Biden’s legacy: advancing the economic interests of the middle class, addressing violence against women, playing a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy, and, most recently, spearheading a global effort to find a cure for cancer under the “cancer moonshot” initiative.

Similar White House tribute pages have been created for President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

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Graham Vyse on Obama’s Farewell Speech tonight:

These aren’t ordinary times, so it’s not time for an ordinary farewell address. Though no president has ever attacked his successor by name in the speech—or even challenged the specifics of the incoming administration’s agenda—Obama should consider breaking these norms. He should lay out all of the American values that Trump threatens—religious freedom, racial and gender equality, pluralism, separation of powers, the very rule of law—and make clear he intends to fight for them over the next four years. The Trump resistance is in dire need of leadership, and there’s no one better to provide it.

“I think he’s been right to be as restrained as he has been,” said Lissa Muscatine, a former speechwriter for Hillary Clinton. “I do think, though, in this final speech, he should probably issue a shot across the bow of some sort.” She added, “I think this is an unprecedented situation, and I think it may call for n unprecedented acknowledgement of that from the outgoing president.”

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Barry Lynn at Washington Monthly says Democrats must become the Party of Freedom.

Monopoly is a main driver of inequality, as super-fat profits concentrate more wealth in the hands of the few. The effects of monopoly enrage voters in their day-to-day lives, as they face the sky-high prices set by drug company cartels and the abuses of cable providershealth insurers, and airlines. Monopoly provides much of the funds the wealthy use to distort American politics.

For these and other reasons, the Clinton campaign, along with the White House and the Democratic Party, made a huge mistake by failing to flesh out their anti-monopoly message. Yet the full dimensions of the missed opportunity are greater yet. Properly understood, the anti-monopoly frame doesn’t just offer a way to talk to Americans about their material needs; it’s also a way to connect to deeply and broadly held American ideals, like the freedom to be one’s own boss and the liberty to choose one’s own course.

For most of the twentieth century these values were hallmarks of the Democratic Party. This tradition, which dates to the time of Thomas Jefferson, found expression in anti-monopoly policies designed to protect Americans not just as consumers, but also as citizens and producers, from domination by the powerful. Yet today most Americans associate terms like “freedom” and “liberty” with Republicans, even as that party appears to be preparing to deliver something more like autocracy.

This is a tragedy. Going forward, Democrats should make anti-monopoly—in the name of liberty, democracy, community, family, and innovation—the foundation of their economic thinking and the leading idea of their economic messaging. If they do, Democrats will be attacking what’s actually wrong with America. They will also swiftly begin to split the Trump vote and to rebuild their own shattered party.

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Forbes: “Charles ‘Chuck’ Johnson, a controversial blogger and conservative online personality, has been pushing for various political appointees to serve under Donald Trump, according to multiple sources close to the President-elect’s transition team.”

“While Johnson does not have a formal position, Forbes has learned that he is working behind the scenes with members of the transition team’s executive committee, including billionaire Trump donor Peter Thiel, to recommend, vet and give something of a seal of approval to potential nominees from the so-called ‘alt-right.’”

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House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) told BuzzFeed he will continue the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email use at the State Department.

Said Chaffetz: “This was never a political targeting from the beginning. Just because there’s a political election doesn’t mean it goes away. So of course I’m going to continue to pursue that.”

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Norman Eisen and Richard Painter, who were chief White House ethics lawyers for Barack Obama and George W. Bush respectively, write in The Guardian:

The tone of ethical leadership and conduct is set at the top. The failure of Trump as president-elect to address the conflicts of interest and constitutional problems deriving from his own business interests is a serious problem.

Last week, there was a failed attempt by some congressional Republicans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics (President-elect Trump rightly dressed them down for that – on Twitter of course – and they quickly backed down). This week the serious and independent work of the Office of Government Ethics appears to be in jeopardy unless the Senate slows down and insists that each nominee take both financial disclosure and ethics agreements seriously.

To preserve the integrity of the ethics review process, we urge Senate leadership to postpone any confirmation hearing unless the nominee’s financial disclosure reports and ethics agreements are finalized in advance.

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“According to an official within the Department of Energy, this past Friday, the President-elect’s team instructed the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration and his deputy to clean out their desks when Trump takes office on January 20th,” Gizmodo reports.

“The NNSA is the $12 billion-a-year agency that ‘maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.’ It’s unclear when the two officials will be replaced.”

“Traditionally, all political appointees of an outgoing presidential administration turn in resignation letters effective on noon of inauguration day, January 20. But appointees in key positions—like the people who make sure our nukes work—are often asked to stay on in their roles until a replacement can be found and confirmed by the Senate, helping ensure a smooth transition and allowing our government to continue functioning. In fact, for the entirety of Obama’s first term and into part of his second, the NNSA Administrator remained a Bush appointee.”

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James Hohmann: “Trump is not just the most emotionally fragile president since Nixon: He’s literally planning to hang a framed letter from R.N. in the Oval Office. He modeled his RNC speech last summer off Nixon’s from 48 years earlier. Repudiating Reaganism, which won the Cold War, he’s embracing Nixon’s “madman theory” of foreign policy. He’s consulting with the disgraced former president’s advisers. He’s stocking his West Wing with his protégés – including one whom he has decided to stand by despite egregious plagiarism that no other White House would tolerate.”

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Eugene Robinson’s takedown of Trump’s Twitter tantrums:

[W]e cannot ignore his vitriolic tweet storms. No, we should not let them distract us from other news about the incoming administration. But the Twitter rants offer a glimpse into Trump’s psyche, and it’s not pretty. […]

I don’t believe Trump’s tweets are part of some sophisticated strategy to draw attention from other events and topics. To me, this looks like simple action and reaction. When someone criticizes him publicly in a way that threatens his stature, he seems compelled to hit back. He can’t seem to ignore any slight.

That’s a sign of weakness, not strength — as Putin and other world leaders surely have figured out.

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