Tag Archives: house republicans

House Republicans unveil plan to replace health law

Six years after promising a plan to “repeal and replace” the federal health law, House Republicans are finally ready to deliver.

The 37-page white paper, called “A Better Way,” includes virtually every idea on health care proposed by Republicans going back at least two decades.

It would bring back “high risk pools” for people with very high medical expenses, end open-ended funding for the Medicaid program and encourage small businesses to band together to get better bargaining power in “Association Health Plans.”

What the plan does not include, however, is any idea of how much it would cost, or how it would be financed.

“It’s a framework,” a senior House Republican leadership aide said on a conference call with reporters on June 21, with the specifics to be determined next year by congressional committees, assuming the GOP maintains its majority. He likened the document to the white paper issued just after President Barack Obama’s election by then-Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat. That document foreshadowed many of the key elements of the Affordable Care Act.

The plan starts with repeal of the health law and its requirements and taxes, but it would then put back many of its most popular elements: Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health plan to age 26; banning insurers from charging people with pre-existing health problems higher premiums; and forbidding insurers from dropping coverage if a policyholder gets sick.

It would repeal the current scheme of exchanges where consumers buy insurance and government tax credits to help moderate-income Americans pay their premiums if they don’t have an employer to help. Instead, everyone buying policies in the individual market would receive tax credits. Older people charged more by insurers would receive larger credits, though the House Republicans don’t specify how much.

But the GOP plan also would likely make insurance more expensive for older people by proposing a broader range for premiums based on age. Current premiums can vary only three-fold based on age, which is “driving out younger and healthier patients” who can’t afford them, the GOP aide said.

Under the plan, insurance companies could not charge higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions so long as they maintain continuous coverage, whether from an employer or in a policy they purchase themselves. The new high-risk pools would be available for those who have a break in coverage, or who fail to purchase during a one-time open enrollment under the plan.

The plan would get rid of most of the coverage requirements under the Medicaid program for the poor, so states could make them more or less generous than they are currently. It would also limit funding. States could opt for either a per-person cap or a block grant to spend much as they wish.

On Medicare, the proposal would encourage the existing movement of patients from the program’s traditional fee-for-service program to managed care plans, and would transition from the existing financing structure based on benefits to a controversial structure called “premium support” that puts cost-controlling responsibilities more on private insurance companies. That change has been pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan for nearly a decade.

Backers of the existing health law were quick to criticize the GOP outline.

“Make no mistake, Ryan’s approach is not a better way forward, but a bitter path backward that returns us to the bad old days when vast swaths of Americans were left to the tender mercies of the insurance industry and could not afford needed care,” said Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack, who pushed hard for passage of the Affordable Care Act.

“While House Republicans continue their efforts to repeal and undermine the Affordable Care Act, Democrats will work to defend the ACA so that every American has access to affordable and quality health care,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

Published from Kaiser Health News, a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, under a creative commons license. 

House Republicans draw criticism from Clinton over budget plan

Hillary Rodham Clinton is taking on a tried and true foil — House Republicans — as she prepares for a likely 2016 Democratic presidential campaign.

Clinton blasted a budget proposal released by Republicans on March 17, saying on Twitter it “fails Americans” on investments in jobs and economic growth, would cut college aid for students and undermine President Barack Obama’s health care law. It was the second straight day that the former secretary of state turned to social media to criticize Congress, a tactic used extensively by President Barack Obama during his 2012 re-election campaign.

“Budgets reflect our priorities. They should help families get ahead, educate our kids, and spark small business growth,” Clinton said on Twitter. She said the “nation’s future — jobs & economic growth — depends on investments made today. The GOP budget fails Americans on these principles.”

Clinton’s Twitter response came hours after Republicans released a $3.8 trillion budget plan in the House that would overhaul the tax code and aims to balance the budget in a decade in tandem with deep cuts in social programs and the repeal of Obama’s health care law.

The White House on March 17 said the proposal failed to make investments in education, infrastructure and national defense, setting up a likely budget clash in the months before the next presidential campaign.

Clinton faulted the budget proposal’s outlook for education, saying cuts to Pell Grants “hold our kids back.” She also warned against another attempt to repeal the health care law, saying it would “let insurers write their own rules again, and wipe out coverage for 16 million Americans.”

Clinton has sought to present herself as an above-the-political-fray figure who would overcome Washington gridlock. But she has also ratcheted up criticism of Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress.

On March 16, she blasted Senate Republicans for holding up confirmation of Loretta Lynch, Obama’s choice to be Attorney General, until the Senate completed a human trafficking bill that was complicated by a provision related to funding for abortions. Clinton called it a “Congressional trifecta against women.”

Her approach offers parallels to Democrats’ attempt to tarnish 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney with the budget plan that included sharp cuts to social programs developed by Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who later became Romney’s running mate. It comes as Clinton is formulating policies that will form the foundation of her pitch to Americans, chief among them how to boost wages and create more economic opportunities for Americans.

Ryan, on March 17, issued a statement in support of the Republican budget proposal. He said, “I want to commend Chairman Price and his committee members for writing a responsible, balanced budget. This plan would get spending under control, bolster our national security, and balance the budget within ten years—all while promoting a simpler, flatter, fairer tax code. Our nation would be stronger and our economy would thrive. Chairman Price’s proposal is a serious, substantive document, and it has my full support.”

The Republicans’ budget proposal continued to draw responses on March 18.

“The deep cuts in this proposal – which start with privatizing Medicare – add to the already open wounds of our struggling economy. As quick as Republicans’ 180 during the campaign season to a sudden concern for the plight of working people, they’re back to showing their true colors,” said Eric Hauser, of the AFL-CIO. “Poking working people with a hot stick isn’t conservative economic leadership, its politics as usual. Thankfully there’s almost zero chance their dangerous proposals reach the American people in the next two years — and working people will make sure they never do.”

House Republicans move toward lawsuit against Obama’s immigration orders

House Republicans are moving toward authorizing a potential lawsuit against President Barack Obama on immigration.

House Speaker John Boehner announced the plans this week in a closed-door meeting with lawmakers, telling them GOP leaders are finalizing a legal plan with the best chance of blocking Obama’s moves, according to a person in the room.

Options include joining a lawsuit already filed by states over the issue, or filing a separate lawsuit. The person in the room spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

The plan emerged with Republicans short on realistic options for stopping Obama’s November executive actions, which extended work permits and temporary deportation relief to some 4 million people here illegally.

The House already has passed legislation to overturn the immigration policies, but the Senate looks unlikely to agree to the measures, which were added to must-pass legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security beyond February.

It’s not clear how that issue will be resolved. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised a vote on the House-passed bill, and said Tuesday that the Senate would take up the issue as soon as next week.

But nearly all Senate Democrats signed a letter to McConnell Tuesday urging him not to include immigration measures on the Homeland Security spending bill. With Republicans six votes short of the 60 needed to advance most legislation in the Senate, McConnell cannot move the bill without some Democratic support, leaving the way forward unclear. He has promised there will be no government shutdown.

“This is an important fight to have. I think we should do everything we can to persuade at least a half a dozen Democrats that they should join us to get this done,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “Sometimes you don’t know how these legislative battles go if you don’t have them, and we intend to have this one.”

The uncertainty has frustrated conservative Republicans who believe Congress’ top priority on immigration should be to hold firm against Obama. They united against a separate border security bill that was scheduled to come to a vote on the House floor Wednesday, and GOP leaders delayed action, citing changes to the House schedule caused by the inclement weather. It’s not clear when that bill will come back up.

House Republicans already have sued to try to undo Obama’s health care law.

Republicans push anti-abortion bill through House on Roe v. Wade anniversary

With thousands of abortion protesters swarming the city in their annual March for Life, Republicans muscled broadened abortion restrictions through the House on Jan. 22 after a GOP rebellion forced leaders into a retreat on an earlier version.

By a near party-line 242-179 vote, the House voted to permanently forbid federal funds for most abortion coverage. The bill would also block tax credits for many people and employers who buy abortion coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

A White House veto threat and an uncertain fate in the Senate mean the legislation has no realistic chance of becoming law. But on a day when crowds of anti-abortion demonstrators stretched for blocks outside Capitol windows – and hours after the embarrassing GOP stumble on another abortion measure – the vote let party leaders signal that the Congress they now command is at least trying to end abortion.

The GOP’s passage of one bill and the abrupt derailment of another forbidding most late-term abortions underscored the party’s perilous balancing act of backing abortion restrictions crucial to conservatives while not alienating women and younger voters wary of such restrictions.

Obama, out West to promote his State of the Union economic agenda, embraced the same 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion that the protesters were vilifying.

He said the decision in the Roe v. Wade case “reaffirms a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters.” He said the House-passed bill would “intrude on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care and unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio praised the marchers in a written statement that also seemed to acknowledge discord among Republicans.

“This march is part of a longer one, and our destination is clear: to secure and protect the rights of every unborn child. When there is disagreement, we should pause and listen closely. When there is movement, we should rejoice, and the House’s vote to ban taxpayer funding of abortion is cause for doing so,” he said.

Even so, the GOP sidetracking of the late-term abortion measure sparked grumbling from politically potent allies.

In a sharp statement that singled out Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., and others, National Right to Life President Carol Tobias criticized GOP dissenters on the late-term bill and warned, “Some of these lawmakers may ultimately conclude that they were ill advised to sacrifice the trust of their pro-life constituents so egregiously.”

Ellmers, who has had a strong anti-abortion voting record, was among those who had objected to portions of the late-term abortion bill. Her spokeswoman, Blair Ellis, declined to comment.

Dozens of protesters visited her Capitol Hill office on Jan. 22 to protest her role in scuttling that measure.

On the House floor, a debate that has raged virtually every year for decades was emotional, as usual.

“Abortion is not health care. It’s a brutal procedure that ends lives of unborn children,” said Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa.

“I urge my colleagues to stand with the hundreds of thousands of people out on the Mall right now by voting for this bill,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Democrats said such talk showed that Republicans were willing to subjugate women’s rights to political pandering to the crowds outside.

“Women’s rights should not be theater, it shouldn’t be drama,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.

The debate took a turn for the personal when Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., referred to “hypocrites on the other side of the aisle who have counseled their own girl friends to have abortions. It’s legal.”

Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., a doctor who opposes abortion rights, once urged a patient he was dating to seek an abortion. His aides did not return phone and email requests for comment.

Outside, thousands of demonstrators trudged up Capitol Hill to the Supreme Court in protest of the justices’ legalization of abortion exactly 42 years ago. Some wore religious garb while others carried signs with messages ranging from “I am a voice for the voiceless” to “Thank God my mom’s pro-life.”

No. 4 House GOP leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state told the crowd that her 7-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, has intensified her commitment to the anti-abortion fight.

The approved bill would permanently block federal money for nearly all abortions – a prohibition in effect for decades but one which Congress must renew yearly. Rape and incest victims and women whose lives were in danger would be exempted.

The bill would also bar individuals and some employers from earning tax credits for insurance plans covering abortion that they pay for privately and obtain through exchanges established under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. It would also block the District of Columbia from using its money to cover abortions for lower-income women.

The vote came hours after GOP leaders indefinitely abandoned a bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, retreating in the face of a revolt by women and other Republican lawmakers that left them short of votes.

GOP leaders had planned a House vote on that bill Thursday. But rebellious Republicans complained that while the measure exempted victims of rape and incest, it did so only if those women had previously reported the assaults to authorities.

Republican leaders flinched at the prospect of forcing passage of anti-abortion legislation opposed by GOP women.

House conservatives say no to immigration reform in 2014

Conservative Republicans this week ruled out any immigration legislation in the House this year, insisting that the GOP should wait until next year when the party could also control the Senate.

House GOP leaders unveiled their broad immigration principles last week that gave hope to advocates and the Obama administration that the first changes in the nation’s laws in three decades might happen in the coming months.

Immigration legislation is one of the top priorities for President Barack Obama’s second term.

But several of the conservatives were adamant that the House should do nothing on the issue this year, a midterm election year when the GOP is angling to gain six seats in the Senate and seize majority control. Democrats currently have a 55-45 advantage but are defending more seats, including ones in Republican-leaning states.

“I think it’s a mistake for us to have an internal battle in the Republican Party this year about immigration reform,” Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, told reporters at a gathering of conservatives. “I think when we take back the Senate in 2014 one of the first things we should do next year after we do certain economic issues, I think we should address the immigration issue.”

Labrador’s comments were noteworthy as he was one of eight House members working on bipartisan immigration legislation last year. He later abandoned the negotiations.

“This is not an issue that’s ready for prime time to move legislatively,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who said Republicans should use the principles to begin a dialogue with Hispanics.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said the House should focus on the four bills dealing with security that the Judiciary Committee approved last summer. Absent any action on those bills, Jordan said it would be tough to do any immigration legislation this year.

The definitive statements from the conservatives came as Douglas Elmendorf, the head of the Congressional Budget Office, told a House panel that the comprehensive, Senate-passed immigration bill would have a positive impact on the nation’s finances.

The Senate last June passed a bipartisan bill that would tighten border security, provide enforcement measures and offer a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.

The measure has stalled in the House where Speaker John Boehner and other leaders have rejected a comprehensive approach in favor of a bill-by-bill process.

Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee that a CBO analysis “found that that legislation would reduce budget deficits and lead to a larger economy and over time lead to higher output per person in this country.”

Specifically, he said additional workers, especially high-skilled, highly educated employees, would increase the nation’s tax revenues.

The House leaders’ broad principles would tighten border and interior security, establish a verification system for employers and legalize some of the 11 million immigrants. It would not provide a special path to citizenship to those living here illegally, though it would give children brought to the country by their parents a shot a citizenship.

Conservatives have said they distrust Obama to enforce any new law, citing his waivers and suspensions of provisions on the health care law.

Boehner said that Republicans were discussing “whether we should proceed, if we proceed and how we would proceed. It’s also clear from our members that we believe that securing our borders has to be the first step in this process.”

But he added that conversations are continuing and “no decision’s been made.”

Further tamping down any optimism for legislation this year was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who told reporters that differences between the Senate’s comprehensive approach and the House’s piecemeal strategy were an “irresolvable conflict.”

“I don’t see how you get to an outcome this year with the two bodies in such a different place,” McConnell told reporters.

Family fight: GOP debates next move on immigration

House Republicans wrestled inconclusively with the outlines of immigration legislation on Jan. 30, sharply divided over the contentious issue itself and the political wisdom of acting on it in an election year.

At a three-day retreat on the frozen banks of the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, GOP leaders circulated an outline that would guide the drafting of any House Republican legislation on the subject — a document that Speaker John Boehner told the rank and file was as far as the party was willing to go.

It includes a proposed pathway to legal status for millions of adults — after they pay back taxes and fines — but not the route to citizenship that President Barack Obama and many Democrats favor. Many younger Americans brought to the country without legal papers by their parents would be eligible for citizenship.

“For those who meet certain eligibility standards, and serve honorably in our military or attain a college degrees, we will do just that,” the statement said.

The principles also include steps to increase security at the nation’s borders and workplaces, declaring those a prerequisite for any of the other changes.

Many conservatives reacted negatively during the closed-door session in which rank and file debated the issue, in part on political grounds and in part out of opposition to granting legal status to immigrants in the country illegally.

“This is really a suicide mission for the Republican Party,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said. “While we’re winning in the polls, while `Obamacare’ is really dismantling, big government concepts of Democrats and Obama disintegrating, why in the world do we want to go out and change the subject and revive the patient?”

Underscoring the complex political situation, some Democrats reacted hopefully to the principles, even though the proposal for legal status falls short of the full citizenship that was included in a bipartisan measure that cleared the U.S. Senate last year with the support of Obama.

The White House issued a statement that said it welcomed “the process moving forward in the House, and we look forward to working with all parties to make immigration reform a reality.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the leader of House Democrats, said she hoped it was possible to find common ground. Yet she added that the Republican principles “raise more questions than answers,” including on the sensitive issue of citizenship.

The entire subject remains intensely controversial, particularly among conservatives in both houses of Congress.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who heads the Republican Study Conference, a group of conservative lawmakers, repeatedly declined to say on Thursday whether there were any circumstances under which he would be able to support legislation that bestowed legal status on adults currently living in the country illegally.

Another Republican, Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, told reporters that his constituents “definitely have big concerns about legalization.”

The drive to overhaul immigration laws flagged after the Senate acted, as House conservatives dug in. The House Judiciary Committee has approved four bills, but none has reached the House floor as conservatives have expressed concern about being drawn into an eventual compromise with the White House.

One of those bills would toughen enforcement of immigration laws, including a provision that would permit local police officers to enforce them as part of an attempt to raise the number of deportations. It also would encourage immigrants in the United States illegally to depart voluntarily, an echo of Mitt Romney’s call for “self-deportation” in the 2012 presidential race.

Other measures would create a new system for requiring employees to verify the legal status of their workers, establish a new temporary program for farm workers and expand the number of visas for employees in technology industries.

The political drive for immigration legislation among Republicans stems from the party’s abysmal showing in recent elections among Hispanic voters.

Yet many conservative House members are from congressional districts with relatively few Hispanic residents, and they have more to fear politically from a challenge from the right. Additionally, current polls suggest Republicans are well-positioned to retain control of the House and perhaps gain a Senate majority as well, so some strategists see even less reason for compromise on the issue than before.

As the House Republicans gathered, a prominent opponent of the Senate bill, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala, circulated a detailed point-by-point rebuttal to the proposal that Boehner and the leadership have prepared. Congress “must end lawlessness, not surrender to it,” he said.

Boehner is moving carefully after failing a year ago to persuade the Republican rank and file to support an overhaul.

“It’s time to deal with it, but how you deal with it is critically important,” he said at a news conference Thursday.

It’s one thing to pass a law, it’s another thing to have the confidence of the American people behind the law, he said.

Fleming said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, and California Rep. Jeff Denham spoke in favor of acting this year, but a number of Republicans questioned the timing, and several had serious reservations about the principles.

Numerous Republicans told reporters they wanted the party to be seen as offering alternatives to Obama this year rather than simply opposing him.

Aside from the immigration question, several said they favor drafting health care legislation for floor debate. Republicans campaigned as vigorous opponents of “Obamacare” when they won power in 2010, vowing to “repeal and replace” the law.

Three years later, they have voted more than 40 times to repeal or eviscerate the law, and they triggered a partial government shutdown last year in a failed attempt to defund it. But they have yet to produce an alternative, and some strategists argue the law is so unpopular that it would be a mistake to do so.

Republicans, industry vow to fight Obama’s climate change plan

Republican lawmakers and industry groups are vowing to fight President Barack Obama’s climate change plan and its first-ever emission limits on new power plants. But they’re finding their options are limited – at least in the short term.

Although the emission rules are just one component of Obama’s plan, critics are looking for an early win to show they have the fortitude to fend off other sweeping actions Obama plans to take, like pollution standards for existing plants.

Environmental Protection Agency officials say they’ve spent tremendous energy examining potential pitfalls and ensuring the rule holds up to scrutiny.

“Our best defense is to do it right,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said earlier this week. “We think that it will stand the test of time.”

The rules would require new coal-fired power plants to install expensive technology to capture carbon dioxide. No U.S. plant has done that, largely due to the cost. Opponents say that makes the rule ripe for challenges.

LEGISLATIVE

For Obama, the upside to using his regulatory powers is that no vote from Congress is needed. But if lawmakers don’t like a regulation, they can pass a resolution to block it. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, whose state of Kentucky is a major coal producer, says he’ll do just that.

The Congressional Review Act provides for expedited Senate consideration with a simple majority vote. And the Republican-controlled House would have little difficulty passing it.

Still, it’s incredibly tough to do. Since the act was established in 1996, it’s only been used successfully once.

Even if Republicans could muscle the resolution through both chambers, it’s nearly impossible they could override Obama’s certain veto.

Lawmakers could use amendments to other bills to undercut the regulation, or try to starve the EPA of funds. But Democrats who control the Senate would work to block those moves.

LEGAL

The Supreme Court has already ruled the EPA has authority, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate greenhouse gases. But that doesn’t mean the EPA won’t get sued.

“The chances for legal action are 100 percent,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, the EPA’s former air and radiation chief under President George W. Bush.

A large number of coal-friendly states are expected to join trade groups in suing. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which represents the coal industry, alluded to legal action when it accused Obama of effectively banning new coal plants. “It’s almost certain the courts will have to settle this issue,” said ACCCE President Mike Duncan.

Opponents say the rule’s key vulnerability is a Clean Air Act provision requiring the EPA standard to reflect the best emissions reduction technology that’s been “adequately demonstrated.” The EPA says four plants under development plan to deploy the technology. Critics say that’s hardly proof it’s commercially available or economically viable.

Still, lawsuits won’t be immediate. Opponents must wait until the EPA finalizes the rule before they can sue – a process that will take months.

POLITICAL

If all else fails, Republicans can try to bludgeon Democrats with the issue in the 2014 elections. After all, a slew of Democrats who backed cap-and-trade emissions legislation lost their seats in 2010, helping Republicans seize the House.

If Republicans strengthened their House majority and reclaimed the Senate, they’d be better positioned to obstruct Obama on this and other elements of his climate plan.

Many of the most competitive Senate races -like West Virginia, Kentucky and Louisiana – are in key energy-producing states where the issue could resonate deeply.

Not all Democrats support Obama’s plan, and the fact that lawmakers didn’t have to vote on the regulation may help. But National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said it’s up to Democrats to distance themselves from their president.

“It’s their responsibility to explain it,” Bozek said. “That D next to their name allows us to highlight their support for Obama’s policies that are hurting jobs in their district.”

Life in Wisconsin without the Affordable Care Act

Just what would happen in Wisconsin if House Republicans succeed in defunding the Affordable Care Act?

The prospect is too much for Sarah Conklin to contemplate.

Six years ago, the 58-year-old from Menasha was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and quickly rang up $90,000 annually in medical bills. She was hurtling toward her insurance cap.

She says she would have reached the cap this year or early next and, after that, her family would likely have been headed to the poor house.

But the ACA ended caps for policyholders with pre-existing conditions and, beginning next year, will forbid caps or prohibitions on pre-existing conditions for all new policies.

“I’m very grateful for Obamacare. I have a list a mile long of pre-existing conditions and nobody would have insured me. We would have had to declare bankruptcy. I would have lost everything,” Conklin said.

Ending the cap for new policies is only a part of an expansion of Obamacare that will take place in coming months.

Kevin Kane, a health care organizer for Citizen Action Wisconsin, says the upcoming reforms have been shown to keep health care costs down for everyone, but defunding or repeal would reverse this trend.

“It’s immoral that we would even be talking about denying people health care,” Kane said. “We all already pay the cost of health care for those without insurance who go to emergency rooms. Now we want to make sure people get care and they don’t pass on the costs.”

But now, in the fourth year after its passage and after an election that saw the bill’s namesake sent back to office by a commanding margin, Republicans in Congress and in Wisconsin are still trying to get rid of the law. The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to shut down the federal goverment if the Affordable Care Act is not defunded.

Conklin, for one, is perplexed: “It just makes no sense.”

Of course, the U.S. Senate is in the hands of the Democrats and the White House in the hands of the ACA’s author, so there is little chance the law will be repealed any time soon.

Devastating consequences

But advocates for the ACA say if Republicans did succeed in demolishing the law, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites would see their insurance coverage evaporate and their premiums skyrocket.

According to defenders of Obamacare, repealing the law in Wisconsin would mean:

More than 63,000 seniors would lose out on more than $46 million in rebates to close the so-called “doughnut hole” for prescription drug coverage for Medicare Part D.

More than 43,000 people ages 26 and younger in college would not have health care coverage through their parents’ plans.

Some 968,000 Wisconsin women and 482,000 seniors and individuals with disabilities would not receive free preventive care, a requirement of the ACA. The effects of this would be felt most in areas with higher population concentrations such as Milwaukee and Madison.

But those figures just represent the consequences of the parts of the law already implemented. The ACA’s major components, offering subsidies and tax credits and new marketplaces intended to keep down insurance costs, are to begin Oct. 1. After that, killing the ACA would mean:

Wisconsin wouldn’t be able to expand BadgerCare coverage to some 80,000 uninsured childless adults below the federal poverty level.

The option to buy insurance through the new marketplace wouldn’t be available for 274,000 uninsured non-elderly adults in Wisconsin with incomes over the poverty level. As it stands currently, 219,000 of these are in line for substantial federal subsidies for their policies.

House Republicans abandon defense of DOMA

House Republicans, who went to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act and lost, say they will no longer argue their case in the courts.

In late June, the High Court overturned Section 3 of the 1996 legislation, which said that the federal government could not recognize same-sex marriages. In a separate ruling, the Court also allowed same-sex marriages to resume in California.

House Republicans had hired lawyers to defend DOMA in the Supreme Court case and others at various levels in the federal courts because the Obama administration refused to defend the law.

But on July 18, in a challenge to DOMA brought by a military veteran seeking equal treatment for her spouse, the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group said the Supreme Court had resolved the constitutional question of Section 3.

The BLAG also said that the House wanted to withdraw as a defendant in the veteran’s case, according to a report on BuzzFeed.

BuzzFeed asked a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner about the court filing and Michael Steel said, “The document from the legal team speaks for itself.”

Under pressure to change tactics, Republican lawmakers refuse to budge

The Republican Party’s road map for winning presidential elections looks hazier than ever as the party’s lawmakers and others reject what many considered obvious lessons from Mitt Romney’s loss last year.

House Republicans are rebelling against the key recommendation of a party-sanctioned post-mortem: embrace “comprehensive immigration reform” or suffer crippling losses among Hispanic voters in 2016 and beyond.

Widespread rejection of warningas from establishment Republicans goes beyond that, however. Many activists say the party simply needs to articulate its conservative principles more skillfully, without modifying any policies, even after losing the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections.

Despite Romney’s poor showing among female voters, House Republicans this past week invited renewed Democratic taunts of a “war against women” by passing the most restrictive abortion measure in years, even though it has little chance of becoming law because of opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate and from President Barack Obama.

Despite corporate fears of the economic damage that would result from a default on U.S. obligations, Republican lawmakers are threatening to block an increase in the government’s borrowing limit later this year if Obama won’t accept spending cuts he staunchly opposes.

Republicans have lots of time to sort out their priorities and pick a nominee before 2016. They may need it.

Party activists appear far from agreed on even basic questions, such as whether to show a more conservative face to voters versus a moderate face, and whether to seek a libertarian-leaning, tea party-backed nominee as opposed to a more traditional Republican such as Romney.

“There are pretty vigorous debates going on within the party,” said Kevin Madden, a top Romney adviser.

The most immediate one centers on the only major policy recommendation from a party-commissioned report written after Romney’s defeat. Citing dismal showings among the fast-growing Hispanic electorate, the report said Republicans “must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform. If we do not, our party’s appeal will continue to shrink to its core constituencies only.” Obama received about 70 percent of the Hispanic vote last year.

Many Republicans flatly reject the advice.

“If the goal of it is to try to fix presidential politics, I think it’s the wrong thing to do,” said Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma. He and many other House Republicans say the best way to attract Hispanics is with the basic conservative pitch used elsewhere: less government, low taxes, personal freedom.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said these Republicans are fooling themselves. If Hispanics “think you really are going to deport their grandmother and you’ve got a hard heart about this kind of stuff,” Graham said, “your economic ideas don’t resonate.”

“It’s impossible winning the presidency getting 27 percent of the Hispanic vote, 30 percent of the Asian vote and 7 percent of the African-American vote,” Graham said. “America is changing.”

Actually, Romney did slightly worse. He won 26 percent of the Asian-American vote and 6 percent of the black vote. He did best among older white voters, a steadily declining share of the electorate.

Tone and temperament

Many Republicans say their biggest presidential problems involve tone and perceptions, not their stands on issues. If Republican Senate candidates avoid saying incendiary things, such as pregnancies don’t result from “legitimate rape,” the party’s appealing economic message can break through and thrive, these Republicans say.

Last November, “a huge chunk of our problem was tone and temperament,” said Mike McKenna, a Republican consultant and pollster. 

“A much, much smaller part of the problem was policy,” McKenna said. “It’s not like we’re the Whig party on the verge of extinction,” he said, so there’s no need for panic.

Opinion polls tend to support his view that perceptions are hurting Republican candidates more than policy positions are. A Pew Research Center poll in May found that those surveyed gave neither party an advantage on handling gun control, immigration or the economy.

In general terms, however, people view Republicans less favorably than they do Democrats. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted this spring found that 53 percent of registered voters felt the Democratic Party “cares about the needs and problems of people like you,” while just 37 percent said the Republicans did.

Republican strategist Steve Lombardo said the party needs to change its tactics and messaging, not its underlying principles. The problem, he said, is not “that the party is conservative, but rather that it spends too much time on issues that are not salient to a wide swath of Americans.” That includes, Lombardo said, “dozens of House votes to overturn Obamacare with no hope of Senate passage.”

ea-party activists say Republican candidates should push conservative values even more forcefully.

“Stop compromising,” said Jessica Johnson, 37, of Charleston, West Virginia, who attended a political rally this past week in Washington. “Some conservatives get frustrated and stay home” on Election Day, she said, so an unapologetic defense of low taxes and less regulation could improve Republican presidential chances.

From a presidential campaign standpoint, motivating the party’s base is only half the battle, said Dan Schnur, a former top Republican aide who teaches political science at the University of Southern California. The other half, he said, is attracting centrist voters who determine general elections in crucial states.

But a Republican House member who reaches out to moderate voters could invite a challenge from the right in his next Republican primary, Schnur said. “Doubling down on social conservatism is a perfect strategy for maintaining or expanding a House majority,” he said, but it won’t win the up-for-grabs voters a presidential nominee must have.

Some Republican strategists say it’s counterproductive to try to reconcile House members’ ambitions with those of presidential contenders. A successful presidential candidate “must differentiate himself from the very toxic GOP congressional brand,” said Steve Schmidt, a top aide to the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Schmidt said the most promising Republican contender will probably be a governor or “an iconoclast senator” who is seen as standing apart from Washington’s partisan gridlock that so angers voters.

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