Republicans again fail to repeal & replace Obamacare

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Two more Republican Senators announced that they would oppose the latest attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, killing the measure.

What about just trying to repeal Obamacare, which has been floated as plan B?  Enough Republicans have said that they will oppose that too, so that proposal is dead in the water.

Republicans say that they want to do away with Obamacare.  But they are unable to do anything about it, even though they control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency.

I suspect part of the problem is that the proposed replacements are not that different from Obamacare in the first place, so that Republicans don’t want to be blamed for the next unpopular health care plan.

But repealing the Affordable Care Act and going back to the way it was before is also going to be unpopular, since entitlement programs are almost impossible to take back once they are passed.

Then again, the Republican majority seems incapable of passing any substantive program.  This is reportedly the least productive legislature in 164 years.

Why do you think the Republicans are having such trouble governing?

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Trump’s presidency after six months

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President Trump will have been in office for six months, as of January 20, so observers are assessing how he’s doing so far.

His popularity is at record lows; the claims of a Russian connection will not die; he hasn’t passed any of his legislative agenda (taxes, the wall, health care, infrastructure).

But he has put a young and brilliant conservative justice on the Supreme Court.  And his other judicial appointments are getting good marks from conservatives.  That is an important legacy that could last for decades and have a major impact on the direction of the country.

After the jump, a relatively objective analysis.  It makes the point that his biggest problem is that while the president makes mistakes, he doesn’t seem to be learning from them.  His lack of discipline, the dysfunction of his staff, and his constant tweeting keep causing him trouble and prevent him from achieving his agenda.  And he hasn’t done anything to make it better!

Other problems, of course, are the constant leaking and the hostile media coverage.  But the leaking, again, has to do with his staff.  Also a Republican-controlled Congress in disarray.

Yes, six months is early in his term.  He has three and a half years to turn things around.

Do you think he can and will?  Do you agree with those who think his presidency is a disaster that will get worse?  Or do you think he is doing all right?

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OK, try this health care bill

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has released yet another health care bill, designed to pick up support from both conservative and moderate Republicans who opposed the previous version for different reasons.

This new plan to replace–or, some say, revise–Obamacare keeps more of that program’s taxes and provides more money for opioid addiction, low-income subsidies, and insurance company relief.  A proposal aimed at conservatives is to allow insurance companies to offer stripped-down policies–not loaded up with government requirements–at a low cost.

McConnell can pass the bill with only two Republican defections.  Senators Rand Paul (Kentucky) and Susan Colllins (Maine) have already said they won’t support the revised bill.  (Ten Republican senators rejected the earlier option.)  So he has to win over the rest.

Do you think this bill is enough of an improvement to pass?  Do you think it should?  Details of the plan after the jump. [Read more…]

Why it was good that we broke away from Britain

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Some say that the American revolution was not really necessary.  That staying with Great Britain would not mean the loss of freedoms or succumbing to tyranny.  Great Britain and its former colonies that are now autonomous members of the Commonwealth under the monarchy are quite free today.  If the American colonies didn’t have their revolution, today they would be like Canada.  And is that so bad?

What do you think of that argument?  After the jump, consider three examples of how the British system makes the state far more powerful over individual citizens, whose rights have far fewer protections, than in the American system. [Read more…]

Russian adoptions and the Donald Trump Jr. meeting

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President Trump’s son, Donald, Jr., admits that after his father’s nomination, he met with a Russian lawyer who said that she could provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton.  But that he and his father’s key advisors Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner walked out when her story didn’t amount to anything and it became clear that what she really wanted to talk about was Russia’s adoption policy.

On the surface, this would seem to be a case of the Russians trying to influence the election.  Why else would they offer damaging information about the Democratic nominee to the Republican nominee?  Wouldn’t this be an attempt to help get the Republican elected?

But there is more to the story.  As Natasha Bertrand shows, after the jump, the lawyer represents a Russian who is trying to restore the ability of Americans to adopt Russian children.

In response to an American law denying visas to Russian officials and oligarchs alleged to have been involved with the killing in custody of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky.  In retaliation, Vladimir Putin ended the program allowing for Americans to adopt children from Russian orphanages.  (I know a family that adopted two Russian boys.)

To be sure, the Russian who started a foundation to restore American adoptions and sent his lawyer to talk with the Trump family may well have had ulterior motives in wanting the Magnitsky Act repealed.  He may or may not have connections to the Russian government.  He may well have been working for his own interests in trying to persuade the Republican candidate to take up his cause.

So, contrary to how this is being played in much of the media, this is not “a smoking gun” proving the Trump’s administration’s collusion with the Russia government in throwing the election.  I just wish Donald, Jr., were less interested in getting dirt on Hillary Clinton and more interested in restoring the Russian adoption program!

Read the complicated story of the Magnitsky Act and this particular Russian lawyer after the jump.

UPDATE:  The New York Times is reporting that in an e-mail setting up the meeting, Donald, Jr., was told that it was part of an effort by the Russian government to help his father’s candidacy.

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Happy birthday to America

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One of the few things Americans can agree on these days–conservatives or liberals, Republicans or Democrats, Trump supporters or Trump resisters–is that our government is highly dysfunctional.  Whether you believe we need to drain the swamp or turn the rascals out, you may well be sick of Washington, D.C., and all that it has become.

But the government is not America.  As bad as things can get among our leaders, our country keeps plugging along.  A free society is not totally dependent on government.  Our customs, our history, our ideals, our land, and our people define our nation.

Yes, we need to fix our government and maybe that is starting to happen.  But we also need to make sure it doesn’t get too big and too effective, less it encroach upon its citizens’ independence.  So happy Independence Day!

Our government was born on June 21, 1788, when the Constitution was ratified.  But the United States of America began on July 4, 1776.  That’s a distinction worth keeping in mind.  So happy birthday, America!