Tag Archives: House Speaker Paul Ryan

Spring storm: Activists gathered outside Ryan’s Racine office to protest health care plan

About 250 people from Illinois and Wisconsin assembled outside House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office in Racine March 14 to demand he drop his health care repeal plan.

The demonstration took place days after the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis showed the House GOP health plan would cause 24 million Americans to lose their health coverage.

People from Fair Economy Illinois and the Jane Addams Senior Caucus joined with members of Citizen Action of Wisconsin — all People’s Action organizations — and with SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans.

Protesters marched from Racine’s Monument Square on Main Street to Ryan’s office with cans of dog and cat food — the kind of lunch organizers say some seniors will have  if House Republicans pass their health plan is passed.

Outside the speaker’s office, people shared stories and fears of living without health insurance.

Reggie Griffin, of Chicago, is in his 70s and works as a home caregiver. He said he would be devastated by the defunding of Medicare because of chronic health conditions. “I want to live a life of dignity,” Griffin said, according to a news release from organizers of the protest. “There are some members of Congress, like Speaker Paul Ryan, who think I don’t deserve to live with dignity.”

“This is a huge test for our democracy, because the Republican repeal can’t survive once the people understand it’s true implications,” said Robert Kraig, executive director for Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

“This attack on seniors and families will devastate Midwest communities. It is irresponsible and ruthless,” added Anna Marin, manager of civic engagement for the Jane Addams Senior Caucus.

One of the speakers at yesterday’s action, Tammy Wolfgram, is a small business owner from Hartland.

Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Wolfgram, her husband and her daughter could not find any health insurance company that would sell them coverage because all three had pre-existing conditions.

She said they struggled to afford costly insurance with high deductibles on Wisconsin’s high-risk pool.

“If ACA is repealed, I don’t know what we will do,” Wolfgram said.

A report by the Congressional Budget Office released this week shows 14 million people will lose their insurance coverage by next year and 24 million by 2026.

“Anyone who believed GOP promises that people would still have health insurance under the Republican repeal plan now know that they were lied to; they are going to be left out in the cold,” said LeeAnn Hall, co-director of People’s Action and executive committee member of Health Care for America Now.

If Republicans repeal health law, how will they pay for replacement?

Leading Republicans have vowed that even if they repeal most of the Affordable Care Act early in 2017, a replacement will not hurt those currently receiving benefits.

Republicans will seek to ensure that “no one is worse off,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in an interview with a Wisconsin newspaper earlier this month. “The purpose here is to bring relief to people who are suffering from Obamacare so that they can get something better.”

But that may be difficult for one big reason — Republicans have also pledged to repeal the taxes that Democrats used to pay for their health law. Without that funding, Republicans will have far less money to spend on whatever they opt for as a replacement.

“It will be hard to have comparable coverage if they start with less money,” Gail Wilensky, a health economist who ran the Medicare and Medicaid programs under President George H.W. Bush, said in an interview.

“Repealing all the ACA’s taxes as part of repeal and delay only makes a true replacement harder,” wrote Loren Adler and Paul Ginsburg of the Brookings Institution in a white paper out this week. It “would make it much more difficult to achieve a sustainable replacement plan that provides meaningful coverage without increasing deficits.”

The health law’s subsidies to individuals buying insurance and the Medicaid expansion are funded by two big pots of money.

The first is a series of taxes, including levies on individuals with incomes greater than $200,000, health insurers, makers of medical devices, brand-name drugmakers, people who use tanning salons, and employer plans that are so generous they trigger the much-maligned “Cadillac Tax.” Some of those measures have not yet taken effect.

However, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in early 2016 that repealing those provisions would reduce taxes by an estimated $1 trillion over the decade from 2016-2025.

The other big pot of money that funds the benefits in the health law comes from reductions in federal spending for Medicare (and to a lesser extent, Medicaid). Those include trims in the scheduled payments to hospitals, insurance companies and other health care providers, as well as increased premiums for higher-income Medicare beneficiaries.

CBO estimated in 2015 that cancelling the cuts would boost federal spending by $879 billion from 2016 to 2025.

The GOP, in the partial repeal bill that passed in January and was vetoed by President Barack Obama, proposed to cancel the tax increases in the health law, as well as the health premium subsidies and Medicaid expansion. But it would have kept the Medicare and Medicaid payment reductions. Because the benefits that would be repealed cost more than the revenue being lost through the repeal of the taxes, the result would have been net savings to the federal government — to the tune of about $317.5 billion over 10 years, said CBO.

But those savings — even if Republicans could find a way to apply them to a new bill — would not be enough to fund the broad expansion of coverage offered under the ACA.

If Republicans follow that playbook again, their plans for replacement could be hampered because they will still lose access to tax revenues. That means they cannot fund equivalent benefits unless they find some other source of revenue.

Some analysts fear those dollars may come from still more cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

“Medicare and Medicaid face fundamental threats, perhaps the most since they were established in the 1960s,” said Edwin Park of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a webinar last week.

Republicans in the House, however, have identified one other potential source of funding. “Our plan caps the open-ended tax break on employer-based premiums,” said their proposal, called “A Better Way.”

House Republicans say that would be preferable to the Cadillac Tax in the ACA, which is scheduled to go into effect in 2020 and taxes only the most generous plans.

But health policy analysts say ending the employer tax break could be even more controversial.

Capping the amount of health benefits that workers can accept tax-free “would reduce incentives for employers to continue to offer coverage,” said Georgetown University’s Sabrina Corlette.

James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, which represents large employers, said they would look on such a proposal as potentially more damaging to the future of employer-provided insurance than the Cadillac Tax, which his group has lobbied hard against.

“This is not a time one wants to disrupt the employer marketplace,” said Klein in an interview. “It seems perplexing to think that if the ACA is going to be repealed, either in large part or altogether, it would be succeeded by a proposal imposing a tax on people who get health coverage from their employer.”

Wilensky said that as an economist, getting rid of the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance would put her “and all the other economists in seventh heaven.” Economists have argued for years that having the tax code favor benefits over cash wages encourages overly generous insurance and overuse of health services.

But at the same time, she added, “I am painfully aware of how unpopular my most favored change would be.”

Republicans will have one other option if and when they try to replace the ACA’s benefits — not paying for them at all, thus adding to the federal deficit.

While that sounds unlikely for a party dedicated to fiscal responsibility, it wouldn’t be unprecedented. In 2003 the huge Medicare prescription drug law was passed by a Republican Congress — with no specified funding to pay for the benefits.

Republished under a creative commons license via Kaiser Health News.

Walker hints at lawsuit over Obama’s executive actions on guns

President Barack Obama’s plan to tighten restrictions on gun sales brought praise from Democrats in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation and accusations of executive overreaching from Gov. Scott Walker.

The president, on Jan. 5, detailed his plans to curb gun violence in America and offered his reasoning for taking executive action — Congress’ inability or unwillingness to act.

Central to the president’s 10-point plan is new federal guidance on who is in the business of selling firearms and who must acquire a license to sell guns. The president wants to close a loophole that allows dealers and buyers to avoid background checks in the retailing of guns online and at shows and flea markets.

The president also wants federal agencies to research technologies to reduce accidental shootings, increase funding for mental health care, implement procedures to better track lost or stolen guns and hire more federal examiners to conduct background checks.

“This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country,” said Obama, who wiped away tears as he spoke at the White House on Jan. 5. But the executive actions could “save lives and spare families the pain of these extraordinary losses.”

Walker, who has signed legislation weakening Wisconsin’s gun restrictions, suggested the state likely will sue over Obama’s executive actions. The Republican governor said he asked the attorney general to review the president’s plan and accused Obama of “disregarding the constitutional principles of separation of powers and exceeding his authority as chief executive.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, said the courts or voters would undo the president’s actions. “No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment,” Ryan said. “We will conduct vigilant oversight. His executive order will no doubt be challenged in the courts. Ultimately, everything the president has done can be overturned by a Republican president, which is another reason we must win in November.”

From Wisconsin’s Democratic leaders, there was praise for the presidential action.

State Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison said executive action is “desperately needed to stem the tidal wave of gun violence and deaths.”

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, welcomed “this practical and measured response to the ongoing inaction in the House and Senate that has compromised the safety of communities across the United States.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said Congress should build upon the president’s actions.

“Instead of Congress holding moments of silence on the House floor, we need moments of action to reduce the senseless gun violence that is rampant in our communities,” said Pocan, who supports the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, which would expand the background check program.

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan elected House Speaker, his remarks to Congress

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., delivered the following remarks following his election as the 54th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 29:

Thank you, Madam Leader. Before I begin, I want to thank the family and friends who flew in from Wisconsin and from all over to be here today. In the gallery, I have my mom, Betty; my sister, Janet; my brothers, Stan and Tobin; and more relatives than I can count. Most important of all, I want to recognize my wife, Janna, and our three kids: Liza, Charlie, and Sam.

I also want to thank Speaker Boehner. For almost five years, he led this House. And for nearly 25 years, he served it. Not many people can match his accomplishments: the offices he held, the laws he wrote. But what really sets John apart is he’s a man of character—a true class act. He is, without question, the gentleman from Ohio. So please join me in saying, one last time, “Thank you, Mr. Speaker.”

Now I know how he felt. It’s not till you hold this gavel and stand in this spot and look out and see all 435 members of the House—as if all of America was sitting right in front of you. It’s not till then that you feel it: the weight of responsibility, the gravity of the moment.

And standing here, I cannot help but think of something Harry Truman once said. The day after Franklin Roosevelt died and Truman became president, he told a group of reporters: “If you ever pray, pray for me now. . . . When they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”

We all should feel that way. A lot is on our shoulders. So if you ever pray, pray for each other— Republicans for Democrats, Democrats for Republicans. And I don’t mean pray for a conversion. Pray for a deeper understanding, because—when you’re up here, you see it so clearly—wherever you come from, whatever you believe, we are all in the same boat.

I never thought I’d be the speaker. But early in my life, I wanted to serve in the House. I thought the place was exhilarating—because here, you could make a difference. If you had a good idea and worked hard, you could make it happen. You could improve people’s lives. To me, the House represented the best of America: the boundless opportunity to do good.

But let’s be frank: The House is broken. We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. And I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean. Neither the members nor the people are satisfied with how things are going. We need to make some changes, starting with how the House does business.

We need to let every member contribute—not once they have earned their stripes, but right now. I come at this job as a two-time committee chair. The committees should retake the lead in drafting all major legislation. If you know the issue, you should write the bill. Open up the process. Let people participate. And they might change their tune. A neglected minority will gum up the works. A respected minority will work in good faith. Instead of trying to stop the majority, they might try to become the majority.

In other words, we need to return to regular order. Now, I know that sounds like process. But it’s actually a matter of principle. We are the body closest to the people. Every two years, we face the voters—and sometimes face the music. But we do not echo the people. We represent them. We are supposed to study up and do the homework that they cannot do. So when we do not follow regular order—when we rush to pass bills a lot of us do not understand—we are not doing our job. Only a fully functioning House can truly represent the people.

And if there were ever a time for us to step up, this would be that time. America does not feel strong anymore because the working people of America do not feel strong anymore. I’m talking about the people who mind the store and grow the food and walk the beat and pay the taxes and raise the family. They do not sit in this House. They do not have fancy titles. But they are the people who make this country work, and this House should work for them.

Here’s the problem. They’re working hard. They’re paying a lot. They are trying to do right by their families. And they are going nowhere fast. They never get a raise. They never get a break. But the bills keep piling up—and the taxes and the debt. They are working harder than ever to get ahead. Yet they are falling further behind. And they feel robbed—cheated of their birthright. They are not asking for any favors. They just want a fair chance. And they are losing faith that they will ever get it. Then they look at Washington, and all they see is chaos.

What a relief to them it would be if we finally got our act together—what a weight off their shoulders. How reassuring it would be if we actually fixed the tax code, put patients in charge of their health care, grew our economy, strengthened our military, lifted people out of poverty, and paid down the debt. At this point, nothing could be more inspiring than a job well done. Nothing could stir the heart more than real, concrete results.

The cynics will scoff and say it’s not possible. But you better believe we are going to try. We will not duck the tough issues. We will take them head on. We are going to do all we can so working people get their strength back and people not working get their lives back. No more favors for the few. Opportunity for all—that is our motto.

I often talk about the need for a vision. I’m not sure I ever said what I meant. We solve problems here—yes. We create a lot of them too. But at bottom, we vindicate a way of life. We show by our work that free people can govern themselves. They can solve their own problems. They can make their own decisions. They can deliberate, collaborate, and get the job done. We show self-government is not only more efficient and more effective; it is more fulfilling. In fact, we show it is that struggle, that hard work, the very achievement itself that makes us free.

That is what we do here. And we will not always agree—not all of us, not all of the time. But we should not hide our disagreements. We should embrace them. We have nothing to fear from honest differences honestly stated. If you have ideas, let’s hear them. I believe a greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us.

And there is every reason to have hope. When the first speaker took the gavel, he looked out at a room of 30 people, representing a nation of 3 million. Today, as I look out at you, we represent a nation of 300 million. So when I hear people say America does not have it—we are done, we are spent—I do not believe it. I believe, with every fiber of my being, we can renew the America Idea. Now, our task is to make us all believe.

My friends, you have done me a great honor. The people of this country have done all of us a great honor. Now, let’s prove ourselves worthy of it. Let’s seize the moment. Let’s rise to the occasion. And when we are done, let us say we left the people—all the people—more united, happy, and free. Thank you.