The Open Thread for March 15, 2017

Steve Benen on Paul Ryan: “[I]t’s hard to overstate how much blame Ryan will take if/when his health care plan fails. The House Speaker took it upon himself to oversee every step of this process, and he managed to do just about everything wrong, writing a secret bill behind closed doors, seeking no input from his ostensible allies, getting no buy-in from the industry or stakeholders in the system, and crafting a wholly inadequate blueprint that seemed slapped together, despite seven years of effort.

Sure, the fight isn’t officially over, and weird things happen. If Donald Trump can become president, I can’t definitively rule out the possibility that “Trumpcare” might somehow become law. But as things stand, Paul Ryan took control of his party’s top priority, creating the first real test of his ability to be a political leader of consequence. The Speaker is failing spectacularly.

Why do I get the sense John Boehner is sitting quietly at home, laughing?”

My guess before the disastrous CBO numbers was that TrumpCare would pass the House but fail in the Senate.   Now I have no idea.   If it fails in the House, Paul Ryan will have to resign as Speaker.  But not if it fails in the Senate. Ultimately though, the GOP and Trump own this bill, not just Ryan. Run on that in 2018.

David Nather: “The next few days will tell us whether Republican leaders prepared adequately for the disastrous Congressional Budget Office estimates of the House Obamacare replacement bill. It’s one thing to say, ‘we’re not going to compete with a law that forces everyone to buy coverage.’ It’s another thing to fight headlines about 24 million Americans losing coverage.”

“It’s summed up in this tweet from former Senate Republican aide Rodney Whitlock: “Critical, soul searching moment for GOP. Ignore #CBOscore and plow ahead or admit that some ideas might just be problematic.”

Rick Klein and Shushannah Walshe: “With a semi-snow day in Washington to let the numbers sink in and the fallout spread, debate over whether the CBO offers good or bad news only hints at the disconnect in GOP circles. There are tensions everywhere – between what Ryan has long planned, what tea partiers and outside conservative groups have yearned for, and, critically, what President Trump promised.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned Republicans that they’d risk a government shutdown if they try to attach money for President Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall to a must-pass bill to keep the government, Politico reports. The same applies to any attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, Schumer said.

Said Schumer: “If they put these poison pill amendments in and try to shove them down the American people’s throat of course they might be responsible for shutting government down.”

Vox: “A key Trump friend and ally is urging the president to dump Paul Ryan’s Affordable Health Care Act and embrace something that sounds sort of like a lightweight version of a single-payer health care system. Christopher Ruddy, CEO of the conservative Newsmax brand, isn’t normally considered a major thought leader on policy issues, but he is a longtime friend of Trump’s, and counts as one of a relatively small number of conservative players who have closer ties to Trump than to congressional Republican leaders.”

“And he is warning loud and clear that Trump ‘could inherit the bad political baggage of both Obamacare and the House Republicans’ if he insists on going along with Ryan’s version of repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

The latest Gallup tracking poll finds President Trump’s approval rate suddenly tanking to  39% to 55%.

Jonathan Chait says TrumpCare is a historical calamity:

This proposal, the centerpiece of the new all-Republican government’s legislative agenda, is an expression of its shared philosophy. Donald Trump has altered the Republican stance on trade and immigration, not to mention self-enrichment by the First Family and the routine propagation of conspiracy theories by the chief executive. But he has hewed closely to the party’s conviction that the central problem in American life is a government that redistributes too much from the privileged to the underprivileged.

It remains to be seen whether enough Republicans have the courage of their convictions to follow through on this plan. Depriving millions of Americans access to medical care would impose pain more directly and widely than any legislative act in modern U.S. history.

Damon Linker at The Week analyzes the Republican disarray over the bill:

It would be one thing if Trump recognized how awful the GOP’s plan will be for the very people he was elected to help and vowed to fight it. He could turn his ire on Ryan and the factions of the House GOP that support his plans or who think they don’t go far enough in gutting ObamaCare. At least these voters would feel like their champion was going to the mat for them. They might even reasonably hope that the president would lead a charge to reform the GOP even further, by supporting “workers party” candidates to challenge Ryan and his ideological allies in the 2018 midterm elections. Such a shrewd, genuinely populist Trump might even come out in favor of a single-payer reform of the health-care system to provide security to American workers (as opposed to the greater health-care “choice” that very few outside of the House GOP’s Freedom Caucus seem to be clamoring for).

But instead, Trump is pushing to pass Ryan’s bill. That means he will own it — and if it passes and inflicts immense pain on these already angry voters? Then they will likely turn on the law and on Trump for supporting it.

“The Environmental Protection Agency isn’t fighting the White House’s initial budget that proposes to cut the agency’s budget by about $2 billion — or roughly 25% — and reduce the agency’s workforce by roughly 3,000 employees,” according to Axios.

“Climate change programs would be gutted under the proposal and the workforce attached to these programs would be cleared out of the agency — in line with the aggressive vision of EPA transition head Myron Ebell.”

Meanwhile, “the State Department budget won’t be getting cut as deeply as President Donald Trump initially suggested after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson successfully pushed back with the White House,” Politico reports.

“The budget blueprint expected later this week will still trim funding for both the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development next year, but by less than the 37 percent initially floated in preliminary documents sent out by the White House in late February. The budget revision is expected to include ‘staged cuts’ spread out over several years, instead of the immediate hit, according to a senior administration official, who said that the White House is giving Tillerson time ‘to do a deeper analysis on foreign aid.’”

But from Foreign Policy: “State Department staffers have been instructed to seek cuts in excess of 50% in U.S. funding for U.N. programs, signaling an unprecedented retreat by President Trump’s administration from international operations that keep the peace, provide vaccines for children, monitor rogue nuclear weapons programs, and promote peace talks from Syria to Yemen, according to three sources.”

“It remains unclear whether the full extent of the steeper U.N. cuts will be reflected in the 2018 budget.”

And then we have this: “President Trump’s budget proposal this week would shake the federal government to its core if enacted, culling back numerous programs and expediting a historic contraction of the federal workforce,” the Washington Post reports.

“This would be the first time the government has executed cuts of this magnitude — and all at once — since the drawdown following World War II.”

“The spending budget Trump is set to release Thursday will offer the clearest snapshot of his vision for the size and role of government. Aides say that the president sees a new Washington emerging from the budget process, one that prioritizes the military and homeland security while slashing many other areas, including housing, foreign assistance, environmental programs, public broadcasting and research. Simply put, government would be smaller and less involved in regulating life in America, with private companies and states playing a much bigger role.”

At The National Memo, Steven Rosenfeld explains “How James Comey’s ‘October Surprise’ Doomed Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy,” and notes, “Do you remember how you felt last October after you heard that FBI Director James Comey was reopening the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s possible illegal handling of classified communiqués while Secretary of State — just 11 days before the presidential election? That news, which left me with a sinking feeling that all but erased the confidence I had in Clinton’s prospects after the three presidential debates, was the moment that Donald Trump won the election, according to an analysis released this week by a data firm that tracks the psychological elements below patterns of consumer behavior, moods, and sentiment…According to Brad Fay, an executive with Engagement Labs, “Comey’s “October surprise” was the tipping point that turned voter sentiment away from Clinton—because people inclined to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt lost their enthusiasm, just as Comey’s announcement buoyed Trump voters…Immediately afterward, there was a 17-point drop in net sentiment for Clinton, and an 11-point rise for Trump, enough for the two candidates to switch places in the rankings, with Clinton in more negative territory than Trump,” he said. “At a time when opinion polling showed perhaps a 2-point decline in the margin for Clinton, this conversation data suggests a 28-point change in the word of mouth ‘standings.’ The change in word of mouth favorability metric was stunning, and much greater than the traditional opinion polling revealed.”

Marketwatch is running an excerpt of Ruy Teixeira’s new book, “The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think.” Teixeira presents several reasons why progressives shouldn’t over-worry about right-wing populism emerging in the U.S. and Europe, including “the right populist movement is riding on demographic borrowed time. Typically, the greatest strength of these parties comes from the votes of less- educated aging whites. But to a greater or lesser degree, the population weight of these voters is declining across countries. In the United States, the white non-college-educated share of voters declined by 19 percentage points just between the 1988 and 2012 presidential elections. Projections indicate that this group’s share of voters should continue to decline by 2–3 points every presidential election for decades…The flip side is that the left’s burgeoning postindustrial coalition is composed of groups for whom right populist cultural attitudes are anathema. As these groups continue to grow, their values too will be in the ascendancy, crowding out the space for right populism. This is not to say that right populism will not continue to be a problem for some time but rather that over the medium to long term the movement has intrinsically limited growth potential.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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