Paul Ryan Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Florida AARP raises concerns about new GOP health care plan

Although the House has not released all the details on a revised Republican plan to replace and repeal Obamacare, the Florida AARP says that over the past few days, they’ve learned enough to be concerned.

The senior advocacy group believes that about 454,000 Floridians age 50-64 enrolled and receiving tax credits in the ACA Marketplace would see higher health coverage premiums than they are currently paying, more than in any other state.

The American Health Care Act withered last month after House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the American Health Care Act from the floor when it became clear it didn’t have the votes. Most members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said at the time they would not vote for the bill as it was written.

One of the changes announced in the new plan would make it so insurers could secure a federal waiver that kept them from having to cover certain essential health benefits established by the federal government, and while it would still require that people with pre-existing conditions receive coverage, they could be charged higher premiums. That’s being called the MacArthur Amendment, named after New Jersey Republican Tom MacArthur, co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group.

Though a state like Florida might not want to secure that waiver, Jeff Johnson from the Florida AARP says that if the GOP plan ultimately allows buying coverage across state lines. This could still permit Floridians to purchase this health insurance “lite” plan for a low premium “perhaps not knowing that they’re not getting the coverage they would expect health insurance to cover.”

In turn, those with chronic conditions would be unlikely to choose a plan that wouldn’t cover a condition that they already have, and more likely purchase a more complete plan.

The problem with that, Johnson says, is if the healthiest people are paying for a cut-rate plan, forcing sicker people to buy a full plan, it will drive those costs up.

“So it affects those who don’t fall for the health-insurance-lite trick,” says Johnson.

Current essential benefits include:

— Outpatient care (essentially doctor visits outside the hospital)

— Emergency services

— Hospitalization

— Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care

— Mental health and substance use disorder services

— Prescription drugs

— Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, which help people with injuries and disabilities to recover

— Laboratory services

— Preventive care, wellness services, and chronic disease management

— Pediatric services, including oral and vision care for children

Another element in the new plan would allow states to end its “community rating” provisions. This would allow states to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, by creating so-called “high-risk pools” for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

“We’ve had high-risk pools in the past, and they’ve never really worked,” says Johnson. “They don’t bring in the people who need it. They’re not able to offer insurance at rates that real people can afford who actually need it, and I don’t know that there is anything that would lead us to believe that the results would be different this time around.”

Another element that Florida AARP says they’re trying to get clarity on is language that would allow states to offer a different age rating than the 5:1 that’s in the original AHCA bill. That ratio breaks down into charging those 50-64 up to five times more than those in their 20s. The AARP says that number could go higher, which “could mean worse,” said AARP’s Jeff Johnson.

Stella Mariani-Gonzalez was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2001 and ultimately spent hundreds of thousands on her treatment, after her original insurance company said they would only pay for four chemotherapy treatments. She said it was cheaper to remain uninsured after she recovered, and pay out of pocket for routine annual exams until she signed up for the Affordable Care Act in 2014.

“For the first time in years,” she said, “we had the relief of actually being able to afford health care.”

Mariani-Gonzalez acknowledges that she’s had to change doctors “a few times” and has large deductibles.

“At least I know I have something, after hearing about these high-risk pools, it’s just devastating,” she said. “I can’t imagine having to go back to that again.”

AARP also prepared a new analysis examining how Floridians of modest means would fare under the House health plan coverage, outside of high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions.

The report shows that in eight Florida counties, premium costs for those aged 50-64 would eat up most, or in some cases all, their annual income.

For example, a Miami-Dade County resident age 64 with an income of $15,000 a year would see an effective premium increase of $11,666 per year, or 77 percent.

In Collier County, a similar individual would see a premium increase of $15,923, actually more than their entire annual income.

A person age 64 in Miami-Dade County with income of $25,000 a year would see effective premium increases of $10,272.  In Collier County, a similar person would see an effective premium increase of $14,529.

While political prognosticators think the newly revised plan could get through the House, there still are no guarantees it would survive in the Senate, where the rules governing the Senate’s reconciliation process requires all changes to have a direct effect on the federal budget. It’s also doubtful such a bill could they garner 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

Ethics panel to probe complaints against Devin Nunes

The Latest on the congressional inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election (all times local):

10:20 a.m.

The House Ethics Committee is investigating allegations that intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes may have made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

The full 10-member committee is investigating the allegations, a departure from the usual procedure of having a smaller subcommittee handle a probe, and an indication of the seriousness of the claims.

The California Republican congressman says several left-wing activist groups have filed accusations against him with the office of congressional ethics.

Nunes says the charges are false and politically motivated. But he says it’s in the best interest of the committee to have Republican Mike Conaway of Texas temporarily take charge of the committee’s investigation.

___

10:15 a.m.

Two ethics watchdog groups filed complaints about the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Republican Devin Nunes of California.

Nunes says he’s temporarily stepping aside from the panel’s investigation of Russian meddling in the election because of the complaints.

Democracy 21 and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington say Nunes disclosed classified information, which violates House ethics rules.

The groups say Nunes publicly disclosed information he learned by viewing classified material.

Two of the four people who signed the March 28 letter alleging ethics violations served as White House counsels in Republican and Democratic administrations.

___

10:05 a.m.

Speaker Paul Ryan says Texas Republican Mike Conaway will take over the House investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election.

Ryan says an ethics complaint filed against Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes of California by government watchdog groups would be a “distraction” and that Nunes should no longer lead the probe.

Nunes has come under intense criticism for meeting secretly with White House officials to view intelligence regarding Trump associates.

Ryan says he is confident that Conaway “will oversee a professional investigation into Russia’s actions and follow the facts wherever they lead.”

___

9:49 a.m.

The chairman of the House intelligence committee says he will temporarily step aside from the panel’s probe into Russian meddling in the election.

In a statement on Thursday, Republican congressman Devin Nunes of California says that several left-wing activist groups have filed accusations against him with the office of congressional ethics.

Nunes says the charges are false and politically motivated. But he says it’s in the best interest of the committee to have GOP congressman Mike Conaway of Texas temporarily take charge of the committee’s investigation.

He says he will continue fulfilling other duties with the committee and wants to talk to the ethics committee as soon as possible to defend himself.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Congress seen as not likely to pass tax overhaul quickly

After their humiliating loss on health care, Republicans in Congress could use a quick victory on a big issue. It won’t be an overhaul of the tax code.

Overhauling the tax code could prove harder to accomplish than repealing and replacing Barack Obama‘s health law. Congressional Republicans are divided on significant issues, especially a new tax on imports embraced by House Speaker Paul Ryan. And the White House is sending contradicting signals on the new tax, adding to the uncertainty.

House Republicans also can’t decide whether to move on from health care. Ryan canceled a scheduled vote on a House GOP plan after it became obvious that Republicans didn’t have the votes. He said he will continue to work on the issue but one of his top lieutenants on health care, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, says he is now “100 percent” focused on a tax overhaul.

Ryan says Congress can work on both at the same time. It won’t be easy. Here’s why:

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REPUBLICAN DIVIDE

House and Senate Republicans largely agree on the broad outlines of a tax overhaul. They want to lower tax rates for individuals and corporations, and make up the lost revenue by scaling back tax breaks.

But they are sharply divided on a key tenet of the House Republican plan.

The new “border adjustment tax” would be applied to profits from goods and services consumed in the U.S., whether they are domestically produced or imported. Exports would be exempt.

House GOP leaders say the tax is key to lowering the top corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.

But good luck finding a single Republican senator who will publicly support the tax. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is the latest in a long line of Republican senators to come out against the tax.

___

ABSENT DEMOCRATS

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says he wants to work with Democrats to overhaul the tax code.

“A bipartisan bill would allow us to put in place more lasting reforms and give the overall effort additional credibility,” Hatch said.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said it is bad policy to pass major legislation without bipartisan support.

“Without some meaningful buy-in, you guarantee a food fight,” McConnell wrote in his memoir last year. “You guarantee instability and strife.”

But in the House, Republicans haven’t reached out to Democrats in any meaningful way.

___

WHERE’S THE WHITE HOUSE?

“Obviously we’re driving the train on this,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.

But President Donald Trump‘s administration has been all over the map on tax reform. Trump at one point said the House border tax is too complicated, then said it’s in the mix.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a Senate panel that “there would be no absolute tax cut for the upper class” in Trump’s tax plan.

However, the plan Trump unveiled during his presidential campaign would provide big tax breaks to high-income households.

Since taking office, Trump has promised “massive” tax cuts for the middle class.

A former Treasury official under President Barack Obama says the White House needs to stake out clear goals on tax overhaul to guide the debate in Congress.

“I think it’s important for the administration to signal early the general shape” of what they would like to accomplish so that there are fewer proposals vying for attention, said Michael Mundaca, a former assistant Treasury secretary now at Ernst & Young.

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TAX CHANGE IS DIFFICULT

There is a reason it’s been 31 years since the last time Congress rewrote the tax code. Since then, the number of exemptions, deductions and credits has mushroomed. Taxpayers enjoyed $1.6 trillion in tax breaks in 2016 — more than the federal government collected in individual income taxes.

That huge number could provide plenty of tax breaks that lawmakers can scale back so they can lower tax rates significantly. There is just one problem — all of the biggest tax breaks are very popular and have powerful constituencies.

Nearly 34 million families claimed the mortgage interest deduction in 2016. That same year more than 43 million families took advantage of a deduction of state and local taxes.

The House Republicans’ tax plan would retain the mortgage deduction and eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes.

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HEALTH CARE

Both Trump and Republicans in Congress made big campaign promises to repeal and replace Obama’s health law, so the issue won’t go away.

However, several players say negotiations on a way forward are non-existent. In the meantime, Trump is stoking animosity among a key voting bloc by criticizing them on Twitter.

Two factions in the House GOP had members oppose the health plan: the hard-right Freedom Caucus and the moderate Tuesday Group.

Ryan has suggested that they get together to sort out their differences, but it’s not happening, according to one key lawmaker.

“We are not currently negotiating with the Freedom Caucus. There was never a meeting scheduled with the Freedom Caucus. We will never meet with the Freedom Caucus,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a member of the Tuesday Group.

Trump tweeted: “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don’t get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”

To quote a favorite saying of the president, Not nice.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Jared Kushner, taking new White House role, faces rare scrutiny

Jared Kushner has been a power player able to avoid much of the harsh scrutiny that comes with working in the White House. But this week he’s found that even the president’s son-in-law takes his turn in the spotlight.

In a matter of days, Kushner, a senior Trump adviser, drew headlines for leaving Washington for a ski vacation while a signature campaign promise fell apart. The White House then confirmed he had volunteered to be interviewed before the Senate intelligence committee about meetings with Russian officials. At the same time, the White House announced he’ll helm a new task force that some in the West Wing have suggested carries little real influence.

Kushner became the fourth Trump associate to get entangled in the Russia probe. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the intelligence committee, said Tuesday that Kushner would likely be under oath and would submit to a “private interview” about arranging meetings with the Russian ambassador and other officials.

The news came as the White House announced Kushner would lead a new White House Office of American Innovation, a task force billed as a powerful assignment for Kushner. But the task force’s true power in the White House remained unclear, according to a half-dozen West Wing officials and Kushner associates who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The official White House line is that the group would have sweeping authority to modernize government, acting as strategic consultants who can draw from experiences in the private sector — and sometimes receive input from the president himself — to fulfill campaign promises like battling opioid addiction and transforming health care for veterans. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that it would “apply the president’s ahead-of-schedule-and-under-budget mentality” to the government.

But others inside and outside the White House cast doubt on the task force’s significance and reach, suggesting it was a lower priority for the administration and pointing out that similar measures have been tried by previous presidents with middling success. The assignment revived lingering questions about whether Kushner had opted to focus his time on a project that would put him at some distance from some Trump’s more conservative and controversial policy overhauls.

The announcement came just days after Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, were photographed on the ski slopes of Aspen, Colorado, as the GOP health care deal began to unravel amid protests from conservative Republicans that it did not go far enough in replacing President Barack Obama‘s Affordable Care Act. Kushner rushed back to Washington on Friday but it was too late to save the bill, which was scuttled hours later by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Two people close to Kushner vehemently denied the president was upset at his son-in-law for being absent, saying Trump had given the trip his blessing. And a senior White House official insisted the timing of the task force announcement was planned weeks in advance.

Kushner, who has been at his father-in-law’s right hand since the campaign, has long been viewed as a first-among-equals among the disparate power centers competing for the president’s ear. Kushner, who routinely avoids interviews, draws power from his ability to access Trump at all hours, including the White House residence often off-limits to staffers.

His portfolio is robust: He has been deeply involved with presidential staffing and has played the role of shadow diplomat, advising on relations with the Middle East, Canada and Mexico. Though Kushner and Ivanka Trump have been spotted with some frequency on the Washington social circuit, the president’s son-in-law is routinely in the office early and leaves late, other than on Fridays when he observes the Sabbath.

While those close to Trump flatly state that Kushner, by virtue of marriage, is untouchable, this is a rare moment when he has been the center of the sort of political storm that has routinely swept up the likes of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway. It points to a White House whose power matrix is constantly in flux.

Kushner has been closely allied with senior counselor Dina Powell and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive and a registered Democrat. That group has, at times, been at odds with conservatives led by Bannon, who to this point has been the driving force behind the White House’s policy shop.

When Kushner officially joined the administration in January as a senior adviser, it was suggested that the real estate heir would draw upon the private sector to streamline and modernize government. His task force has been meeting since shortly after the inauguration and started talking to CEOs from various sectors about ways to make changes to entrenched federal programs.

“Jared is a visionary with an endless appetite for strategic, inventive solutions that will improve quality of life for all Americans,” said Hope Hicks, Trump’s longtime spokeswoman.

A list supplied by the White House of some of those who have met with Kushner reads like a who’s who of the American business world, including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Tim Cook of Apple and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase. Kushner usually does more listening than talking in the meetings, largely avoiding ideological arguments while asking questions about efficiency and best practices, according to a person who has attended a gathering but is not authorized to discuss private conversations.

But the Trump team is hardly the first seeking to improve how the government operates. The Reagan administration tasked the Grace Commission in 1982 with uncovering wasteful spending and practices, while the Clinton administration sought its own reinvention of government in 1993 with what was initially called the National Performance Review. Previous commissions have not produced overwhelming results in changing the stubborn bureaucracy, casting some doubt on what Kushner’s team can accomplish.

Philip Joyce, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, said the domestic spending cuts in Trump’s budget blueprint suggest that this new committee would most likely focus more on shrinking the government than improving its performance.

Even then, any change would be unlikely to deliver significant budget savings compared to reforming entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

“It’s not the main thing we ought to be focusing on,” Joyce said. “It’s at the margins of the big issues facing the country, certainly in terms of the budget.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

 

National Dems ask if Ileana Ros-Lehtinen supports new petition to repeal ACA

No one knows when President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans will make another attempt at repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Some hard-line GOP lawmakers want to force a repeal-only bill back onto the floor, once again putting several House Republicans on the spot.

On Friday, Alabama Republican Mo Brooks, part of the House Freedom Caucus, filed a full ACA repeal.

However, Brooks says he must wait 30 days until he begins collecting signatures for a discharge petition, POLITICO reports.

That’s compelling the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to single out Miami Republican Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, who last week said she would not support the American Health Care Act because “millions of people would lose their coverage.”

However, like her GOP brethren, Ros-Lehtinen frequently sided with them when voting on bills to repeal the ACA over the past six years. According to the DCCC, Ros-Lehtinen voted 12 times to repeal the ACA. But since there’s not an alternative at the moment, Democrats are questioning whether she’d support the Brooks petition.

But since there’s not an option at the moment, Democrats are wondering whether she’d support the Brooks request.

“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has voted repeatedly to recklessly tear health care away from millions of Americans with absolutely no plan to replace it,” said DCCC spokesperson Cole Leiter. “House Republicans should be focused on improving the Affordable Care Act, but instead are again pursuing full repeal without a replacement, and Ros-Lehtinen’s constituents deserve to know where she stands on this petition.”

Ros-Lehtinen has represented parts of Miami in Congress since 1988. She defeated Democrat Scott Fuhrman last fall 55 to 45 percent.

Regarding another crack at health care, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday that “we want to get it right.”

 “We’re going to keep talking to each other until we get it right,” he said. “I’m not going to put a timeline on it because this is too important to not get right and to put an artificial timeline on it.”

Charlie Crist to host health care telephone town hall meeting Tuesday

Charlie Crist wants to hear from constituents about ways to improve health care in America

The St. Petersburg Democrat is hosting a telephone town hall meeting on the subject Tuesday night.

On Friday afternoon, Crist cheered the news that House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the vote on the American Health Care Act because there wasn’t enough support among Republicans.

Crist called the decision a “win for the American people.”

“It was a bad bill, plain and simple,” Crist said in a statement Friday. “It would have harmed our seniors, and particularly those who often don’t have a voice in the debate – ‘the least among us’ if you will, the poor and the disabled.”

Crist, a former Republican, has been consistent in his rhetoric since going to Washington in January that, when possible, he is willing to work with the Trump administration to improve the lives of Americans. “We have the opportunity now to drop the rhetoric, roll up our sleeves, and work together to fix what needs fixing to bring down costs, expand access, and protect the most vulnerable in our society,” he says.

At this point, nobody is sure if Republicans will attempt to take another crack at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, which remains the law of the land. Crist is a supporter of the ACA, but says it needs improvements.

Speaking in the Oval Office Friday, Donald Trump blamed Democrats for unanimously opposing the bill, saying Obamacare would soon “explode.”

“Now the Democrats own Obamacare 100 percent,” he said. They own it. It’s exploding now, and it’s going to be a very bad year. There are going to be explosive premium increases.”

If you want to participate in Crist’s telephone town hall, you need to register by 5 p.m. on Monday, which you can do so by going here.

Crist held a four-hour town hall meeting in St. Petersburg earlier this month.

Ted Deutch now wants select committee to investigate Russia’s alleged ties with Donald Trump campaign

Boca Raton Rep. Ted Deutch, the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee, is now calling for an independent inquiry into alleged ties between Russia and Donald Trump‘s campaign.

His comments come days after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes broke protocol by going directly to the White House to tell Trump about intelligence reports that involved some of his associates, and not telling committee members first.

That was followed Thursday by an Associated Press report that in 2005, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort pitched a plan to a Russian oligarch that he claimed would benefit Vladamir Putin’s image inside the U.S.

“When the Chairman of the Committee decided to share information first with the Speaker, then rushing to the White House to share it with the president, information that appears to be classified information, it makes it hard for people to have confidence in his ability to move forward,” Deutch said speaking on NPR’s Morning Edition. “That’s why there needs to be an independent investigation.”

Deutch is hardly the first Florida Democrat to call for an independent inquiry, but unlike other Democrats, he’s not calling for a special prosecutor or a 9/11 style commission, saying that will take too long to set up. Instead, he wants House Speaker Paul Ryan to name a special select committee to investigate the allegations about Russian and Trump, à la the committee that looked into Benghazi.

“We should also have a discussion about whether a select committee that would give Democrats and Republicans both the opportunity to issue subpoenas and work in a more dedicated fashion to this issue alone … but independence is what is necessary, and it’s necessary right now,” Deutch said.

The South Florida Congressman noted that Ryan has not been reluctant to commit resources toward appointing select committees during his tenure as House Speaker, referring to a select committee he called to investigate Planned Parenthood.

“Certainly, it would make some sense and show some leadership and allow us to move forward with an independent investigation into the Trump campaign and White House’ ties to Russia,” he said.

Florida politicians react to failure of the GOP health bill

As U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was gathering his conference and then announcing the failure of the Republican health care plan, many Florida Democrats were swiftly calling for bipartisan work to improve the Affordable Care Act instead.

Republicans who opposed the bill also responded swiftly, calling for a better bill to be crafted, and some even called for some bipartisan work but showed but showing no interest in using the Affordable Care Act as a starting point.

But Democrats, recognizing the ACA remains in trouble, are offering to work across the aisle on it — after criticizing the Republican bill.

Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz — Florida’s 1st Congressional District:

“We did so in the most cowardly, craven way possible — by failing to vote on the repeal of Obamacare. I share the frustration and disappointment of Northwest Floridians who expected and deserved action. We should know who was willing to stand with President Trump and who wasn’t. Now we never will.

“In the weeks and months ahead the Republican party must demonstrate the competence to govern. It is possible.

“I plan to redouble my efforts to bring a renewed sense of urgency to this corrupt and disconnected town. In the face of this setback, we need bold, conservative reform more than ever. The fate of our nation is at stake,”

Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn — Florida’s 2nd Congressional District:

“Obamacare will continue to harm Americans with higher costs, lost coverage, and fewer choices. That’s unacceptable. We were sent here with orders to end this law and replace it with a patient-centered approach that actually lowers the cost of care. Today’s events will not deter or discourage us from honoring the commitment we made to the voters that elected us.”

Republican U.S. Rep. John Rutherford — Florida’s 4th Congressional District:

“Maintaining a status quo is not an option. There is a widespread consensus that President Obama’s signature health care law is broken and unsustainable. I remain committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare to improve and protect Americans’ access to quality, affordable health coverage.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis — Florida’s 6th Congressional District:

“The House health care bill is a flawed piece of legislation produced by a hasty process and it shows: by leaving the core architecture of Obamacare in place, it does very little to address the core problems of rising health insurance premiums and lack of consumer choice that have harmed so many Americans,” DeSantis declared. “In fact, it very well may have caused insurance premiums to increase 15-20 percent over and above the anticipated Obamacare increases over the next several years, which is unacceptable.”

“There was no reason to rush this bill through the House to begin with,” DeSantis added. “Congress should take its time and pass a good bill that actually repeals Obamacare, puts a downward pressure on insurance premiums and expands competition in the marketplace. Failure is not an option.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy — Florida’s 7th Congressional District:

“I believe every American should have access to quality, affordable health care, which is why I’m pleased House leadership pulled this bill from consideration,” stated Murphy of Orlando. We must reform the Affordable Care Act, but it should be done in a transparent, bipartisan way that lowers costs and strengthens coverage for all.”

“What we must do now is come together to work to improve the Affordable Care Act,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee said in a statement. “It took us centuries to get to where we are now with our health care, and we’ve already helped 20 million people get the health care they need. Let’s improve the ACA to see how we can help even more people get the health care they need and deserve.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings — Florida’s 10th Congressional District:

The “voices of the American people were heard.”

“Republicans have been promising to replace the Affordable Care Act with something better for seven years, but the destructive bill that they proposed would force people to pay more for less coverage, erase protections for pre-existing conditions, deny veterans additional benefits, force seniors to pay more for care and prescriptions, and shorten the life of Medicare,” Demings said. “I will continue to stand strong for my constituents in my fight to protect the Affordable Care Act.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster — Florida’s 11th Congressional District:

“For six years, I have advocated for repealing the [un]Affordable Care Act and replacing it with real healthcare reform. Obamacare is collapsing across the country – currently 4.7 million people are without an insurer. This failed policy is raising costs for patients and forcing insurers out of the marketplace, which leaves patients and families with nowhere to go.”

“As I have said, I have concerns with the bill that was to come up for a vote today. In particular, it does not provide the dollars needed for the Medicaid-funded nursing home beds that many of our seniors rely on. I have expressed these concerns to House leadership and the administration.”

“It is my hope that House and Senate leadership and the administration will work together and bring to the floor the conservative, common-sense healthcare reform that Americans deserve.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis — Florida’s 12th Congressional District:

“My main concern has been, and will continue to be, making sure my constituents have access to the best possible health care. Our efforts do not stop here to ensure our nation’s health care system is stronger, more affordable, and truly patient-centered. That is my goal, and I will keep working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to accomplish it.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist — Florida’s 13th Congressional District:

“This is a win for the American people,” stated Crist of St. Petersburg. “It was a bad bill, plain and simple. It would have harmed our seniors, and particularly those who often don’t have a voice in the debate — ‘the least among us’ if you will, the poor and the disabled. We have the opportunity now to drop the rhetoric, roll up our sleeves, and work together to fix what needs fixing to bring down costs, expand access, and protect the most vulnerable in our society. I’m an optimist, this was a teachable moment, and I think the lesson will be learned. Work together, put people above politics.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor — Florida’s 14th Congressional District:

“Today, my neighbors in Florida and hardworking families across America can breathe a sigh of relief that the Republican TrumpCare bill failed thanks to the outpouring of opposition from citizens, doctors, nurses, hospitals and advocates. They knew it would rip coverage away, raise costs and provide a massive tax break to wealthy special interests.”

“Although we must remain vigilant about future Republican attempts to weaken health care in America, the failure of the Republican bill will allow millions of families to keep their health care and peace of mind. Hopefully we can work together to build on the success of the Affordable Care Act that has dropped the number of uninsured Americans to its lowest in history and ended discrimination against our neighbors with pre-existing conditions.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast — Florida’s 18th Congressional District:

“Over the last several months, one of my top priorities has been listening to people in our community about how they will be impacted by health care reform.  I’ve heard over and over again about the incredible burden that Obamacare has placed on 18th District families.  Because of Obamacare, two of our counties now have only one insurer on the individual exchange, while premiums and deductibles have become beyond unaffordable.

“During my more than 12 years in the Army, I never went into one battle that was finished with one shot and I never went in with the perfect plan either, but what I learned is that when we went in unified and we worked together, we never lost.  Our broken healthcare system will not be fixed overnight. As I have said from the beginning, the only way we can fix the failures of Obamacare is through a fully transparent process that engages voices all across the country.  Moving forward, I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in working to improve our nation’s healthcare system to ensure that everyone has the liberty to choose the health care that is best for their life.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings — Florida’s 20th Congressional District:

“House Republicans and President Trump tried to takeaway healthcare from millions of Americans and they failed. Today’s defeat of TrumpCare is a victory for seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, families, children, women, and every one of the 24 million people who would have had their health coverage stripped from them under the Republican plan.

“When Congress reconvenes next week, Democrats will continue to stand up for the most vulnerable among us. There are many aspects where healthcare in America can be improved. For many of my constituents, the cost of care remains far too high, while for others, access to care remains a challenge. I, like all Democrats, want to make healthcare better for all Americans. If Republicans are willing to join this process in good faith, I would welcome the conversation and work to make improvements that benefit all Americans.”

“President Trump’s plan failed today because his legislation did not prioritize the American people. It prioritized a select few – the millionaires and billionaires that President Trump has surrounded himself with – and ripped coverage away from millions of hard working and working poor Americans,” Hastings continued. “I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that all Americans have access to the healthcare they need. I hope Republicans learn from this experience and begin the process of working Democrats moving forward.”

Democratic U.S. Ted Deutch — Florida’s 22nd Congressional District:

“President Trump and Speaker Ryan should be ashamed of themselves for trying to force through a disastrous bill that would have ripped away health coverage from tens of millions of Americans, dramatically increased premiums, and severely cut Medicare and Medicaid,” Deutch of Margate declared. “The American people spoke loud and clear; they do not support gutting their own health benefits in order to give massive tax cuts to health insurance companies. House Republicans need to start working with Democrats on real policy solutions that will benefit the American people.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz — Florida’s 23rd Congressional District:

“America’s seniors, women, children and families scored a major victory today. Trumpcare was a horrible bill from the start, and was only made worse the more it was amended. The lack of transparency, hearings and proper vetting was appalling. President Trump obviously didn’t do his homework, and Republicans are clearly at war with themselves. This defeat was earned and well deserved.

“More importantly, for millions of individual Americans, Trumpcare would have been devastating. It reduced coverage for millions, gutted benefits and massively increased costs, and added what amounted to an “age tax” for older Americans. It was the worst bill for women’s health in a generation. In fact, for the entire health care system, it would have been a nightmare. The solvency of Medicare would have been weakened, Medicaid would have been gutted, and safety-net hospitals would have been further burdened to truly distressing levels. Doctors, nurses, hospitals and nearly every major medical or health advocacy group opposed it, with good reason.

“Hopefully, Republicans will now reach out to Democrats to improve the Affordable Care Act in a serious, meaningful way. We’re more than ready to participate if it means truly improving our health care system.”

 

Donald Trump blames Democrats for health bill’s failure

The Latest on an effort in Congress to pass a health care bill (all times local):

4:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump says his health care reform fell short because it lacked support from Democrats.

Trump made his first comments about the failure of a signature legislative item Friday in the Oval Office a short time after a House vote on the bill was canceled.

Trump told reporters “we were very close” and tried to blame Democrats, through Republicans control both the House and the Senate.

He also predicted the Affordable Care Act would soon implode, forcing Democrats to join the Republicans at the negotiating table.

3:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump has marked Greek Independence Day with a rather ominous message.

At a White House reception, Trump said that in the years to come “we don’t know what will be required to defend our freedom.”

But he says it will take “great courage, and we will show it.”

Greek Independence Day commemorates the start of the 1821 war that led to Greece’s independence after nearly 400 years as part of the Ottoman Empire. It’s celebrated annually on March 25.

Trump told the crowd, “I love the Greeks.” He also introduced Greek-American members of the White House staff, including chief of staff Reince Priebus (ryns PREE’-bus).

Trump said Priebus is “really terrific and hard-working,” along with being “one of the top Greeks in the country.”

Republican leaders have abruptly pulled their troubled health care overhaul bill off the House floor, short of votes and eager to avoid a humiliating defeat for President Donald Trump and GOP leaders.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., withdrew the legislation after Trump called him and asked him to halt debate without a vote, according to Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong. Just a day earlier, Trump had demanded a House vote and said if the measure lost, he would move on to other issues.

1:55 p.m.

The White House is no longer expressing confidence that the upcoming House vote on health care will be successful.

Instead, spokesman Sean Spicer says President Donald Trump is confident that the White House has done “every single thing possible” to corral the 216 votes needed to pass legislation to repeal the Obama-era health care law.

House lawmakers and aides say the bill is short of support before the vote Trump insists be held.

The White House says it expects that vote at 3:30 p.m., as scheduled.

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1:30 p.m.

The White House says it still remains optimistic about a troubled Republican-led health care bill to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer says President Donald Trump is looking forward to the House passing the bill and it expects the House to vote on the bill later Friday.

Spicer says the president is meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan to “discuss the way forward” on the bill.

He says the president has “left everything on the field” on the bill.

According to GOP lawmakers and congressional aides, House Republican leaders were short of the votes needed for the bill to pass.

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1:20 p.m.

House Republican leaders were short of the votes needed for their health care overhaul bill hours ahead of a vote demanded by President Donald Trump.

That’s the word Friday from GOP lawmakers and congressional aides as Speaker Paul Ryan met with the president at the White House to deliver the sobering news.

Separately, Vice President Mike Pence was meeting near the Capitol with recalcitrant members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus in a last-ditch effort to secure support.

Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., told reporters, “As of right now, I’m not sure that we are across the finish line. We’ve still got three or four hours and there’s still discussions happening.”

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12:40 p.m.

Democrats and some veterans’ groups say a provision of the Republican health care bill could raise costs for millions of veterans who use tax credits to buy private insurance. An amendment to the bill would make veterans who are not enrolled in government care ineligible for health-care tax credits.

Republicans said the veterans’ provision could be added back into the bill later.

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who lost both legs in combat in Iraq, said Republicans either were “intentionally sacrificing veterans and putting them on a chopping block” or wrote the bill so “haphazardly” they don’t know what’s in it.

Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz, the top Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs panel, called the GOP plan “shameful” and said it would leave many veterans without affordable insurance options.

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12:30 p.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is at the White House to brief President Donald Trump on the state of play on the health care bill.

The visit comes ahead of a planned showdown vote on the legislation later in the day Friday.

The outcome was looking dicey with the legislation apparently still short of votes around midday, and few public signs that the situation was changing.

A group of conservative hold-outs had yet to swing in favor despite lobbying from Trump and others, while opposition also came from moderate-leaning and rank-and-file Republicans.

The legislation is the GOP’s long-promised bill to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law. Trump decided Thursday that negotiations were over and it was time to vote.

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12:25 p.m.

House Democrats are trying to make the vote on the House GOP health plan personal for their Republican counterparts.

After each Republican speaks on the House floor in favor of the bill, Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., cites the number of people in their congressional district who will lose health insurance under the bill.

Under the bill, 24 million fewer people will have health insurance by 2026, according to congressional estimates.

Rep. Clay Higgins, a Republican from Louisiana, proclaimed that a vote against the bill is “a vote against freedom.”

Yarmuth replied that the bill would result in 50,100 people from his Higgins’ congressional district losing health coverage.

Republicans disputed the numbers. They noted that Yarmuth got his congressional district estimates from the Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group.

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11:05 a.m.

Republicans have pushed the GOP health care overhaul past an initial procedural hurdle in the House. That moves the chamber toward a climactic final vote that’s a big gamble for President Donald Trump and congressional leaders.

Friday’s procedural vote was 230-194.

The early vote inserted changes into the measure that leaders hoped would win over unhappy Republicans. It would improve Medicaid benefits for some older and handicapped people and abolish coverage requirements President Barack Obama’s 2010 law imposes on insurers.

It remained uncertain whether GOP leaders had enough votes to prevail on final passage.

Conservatives complain the Republican bill doesn’t do enough to erase Obama’s law. GOP moderates are unhappy that it would cause millions of voters to lose coverage and boost medical costs for others.

Democrats were solidly opposed.

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10:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump says, “we’ll see what happens,” in response to a question about what happens if the vote on the Republican-backed health care bill fails in the House.

Trump is offering his support for House Speaker Paul Ryan at a White House event announcing the presidential permit about the Keystone XL pipeline. Asked if Ryan should remain as speaker if the bill fails, Trump says, “Yes.”

The administration is trying to steer a GOP-backed health care bill through the House. The White House and Republican leaders say the vote will be tight and it’s unclear if the legislation will pass.

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8:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump is telling lawmakers who oppose abortion that a vote against the health care bill would favor Planned Parenthood.

The president tweeted Friday, “the irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!”

In a bid to coax support from conservatives, House leaders proposed a fresh amendment repealing Obama’s requirement that insurers cover 10 specified services like maternity and mental health care.

Lawmakers will vote later Friday.

Conservatives have demanded the removal of those and other conditions the law imposes on insurers, arguing they drive up premiums.

The president met with members of the Freedom Caucus Thursday in an effort to win them over. But the vote was postponed after administration officials fell short.

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8:25 a.m.

President Donald Trump is endorsing the Republican proposal on health care as “a great plan,” ahead of a make-or-break vote in the House.

The president tweeted Friday that “After seven horrible years of ObamaCare (skyrocketing premiums & deductibles, bad healthcare), this is finally your chance for a great plan!”

The vote had been scheduled for late Thursday but was postponed after administration officials failed to convince skeptical conservative Republicans to support the bill.

Trump claimed he was finished negotiating with GOP holdouts and determined to pursue the rest of his agenda, win or lose.

Barring any further delays, the vote is expected to take place later Friday.

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7:50 a.m.

White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney says he has “a lot of confidence” in President Donald Trump’s ability to salvage a congressional Republican health care plan, but warns that Trump “also wants to move on” if the deal collapses.

Mulvaney said Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” of the president: “He’s a tremendous closer. I wouldn’t count him out.”

Mulvaney delivered a similar message to House Republicans Thursday night, warning that Trump would turn to other priorities such as a tax overhaul if the health plan pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan is rejected by rebels in his own party.

Mulvaney also rejected a new Congressional Budget Office analysis that warns the latest health plan version would reduce cost savings by $200 billion. “The CBO score is just wrong on that,” Mulvaney said.

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7:55 a.m.

A lack of women in a photo of negotiations over the GOP health care bill that was tweeted out by Vice President Mike Pence is drawing criticism from Democrats.

The photo shows Pence at the center of a conference table during negotiations with the House Freedom Caucus. About two dozen men can be seen in the photo and not a single woman.

Washington U.S. Sen. Patty Murray drew attention to the absence of women in the room by retweeting the photo and sarcastically adding, “A rare look inside the GOP’s women’s health caucus.”

A repeal of a maternity care requirement is among the concessions the Freedom Caucus is demanding in exchange for support of the bill.

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press

Paul Ryan says the nation will be ‘living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future’

Speaker Paul Ryan says the nation will be ‘living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future’

In a humiliating setback, President Donald Trump and GOP leaders pulled their “Obamacare” repeal bill off the House floor Friday after it became clear the measure would fail badly.

It was a stunning defeat for the new president after he had demanded House Republicans vote on the legislation Friday, threatening to leave “Obamacare” in place and move on to other issues if the vote failed. The bill was withdrawn minutes before the vote was to occur.

The president’s gamble failed. Instead Trump, who campaigned as a master deal-maker and claimed that he alone could fix the nation’s health care system, saw his ultimatum rejected by Republican lawmakers who made clear they answer to their own voters, not to the president.

Republicans have spent seven years campaigning against former President Barack Obama‘s health care law, and cast dozens of votes to repeal it in full or in part. But when they finally got the chance to pass a repeal bill that actually had a chance to get signed, they couldn’t pull it off.

What happens next is unclear, but the path ahead on other priorities, such as overhauling the tax code, can only grow more daunting.

And Trump is certain to be weakened politically, a big early congressional defeat adding to the continuing inquiries into his presidential campaign’s Russia connections and his unfounded wiretapping allegations against Obama.

The development came on the afternoon of a day when the bill, which had been delayed a day earlier, was supposed to come to a vote, come what may. But instead of picking up support as Friday wore on, the bill went the other direction, with some key lawmakers coming out in opposition.

Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, chairman of a major committee, Appropriations, said the bill would raise costs unacceptably on his constituents. Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, a key moderate Republican, and GOP Rep. David Joyce of Ohio also announced “no” votes.

The defections raised the possibility that the bill would not only lose on the floor, but lose big.

In the face of that evidence, and despite insistences from White House officials and Ryan that Friday was the day to vote, leadership pulled back from the brink.

The GOP bill would have eliminated the Obama statute’s unpopular fines on people who do not obtain coverage and would also have removed the often-generous subsidies for those who purchase insurance.

Republican tax credits would have been based on age, not income like Obama’s, and the tax boosts Obama imposed on higher-earning people and health care companies would have been repealed. The bill would have ended Obama’s Medicaid expansion and trimmed future federal financing for the federal-state program, letting states impose work requirements on some of the 70 million beneficiaries.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the Republican bill would have resulted in 24 million additional uninsured people in a decade and lead to higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many lower-income and people just shy of age 65 when they would become eligible for Medicare. The bill would have blocked federal payments for a year to Planned Parenthood.

Democrats were uniformly opposed. “This bill is pure greed, and real people will suffer and die from it,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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