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Posts published in “Day: September 26, 2017”

A new sideshow begins


Following hard on news that congressional Republicans were really, finally, positively this time giving up on Obamacare repeal comes the news from Alabama, which ought to shake them up quite a bit more.

Or Moore.

Because Judge Roy is coming to town. Or maybe not. Either way, the news isn't good for Senate Republicans.

Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, on Tuesday defeated the appointed Senate incumbent Luther Strange, in the Republican primary (by a substantial percentage, about 56% as this is written). The win is not a surprise - polling had closely reflected the outcome - and the result might have been of interest mainly in Alabama except for those pesky details.

The results, first of all, are a massive smack in the face at both President Donald Trump and Republican leadership in Congress, both of which went all out to support Strange and - no less than that - keep Moore away from Washington. A number of Trump supporters are trying to cast the vote as a win for Trump, but that's hard to support since the president was in state only days ago to plead with voters to elect Strange. The powers that be in DC contributed masses of money, and Strange outspent Moore and had more television ads on air by a factor of something like four to one. (This election should be yet another demonstration of the ongoing diminishment of TV ads as decision levers in political campaigns.)

But more than all that is the nature of the winner. Roy Moore, if sworn in to the Senate (as seems likely), will in some ways be the equivalent there to Trump in the White House - an aimless whirlwind wreaking destruction wherever possible and damaging not least his own erstwhile allies in, you know, the Republican caucus. He will be a living, breathing encouragement for any Republican in-party tornadoes out there who want to take on incumbent Republican senators in next year's elections. And quite a few of them are waiting and ready, and after today's results likely will go pounce.

And not least next to all that, is that Moore is apt to become a face of the Republican Party second only to Trump. He does have a gift for grabbing attention, and the attention he grabs will thrill his base and appall much of the rest of the country, which is to say, the majority. A few sample headlines from a backgrounder piece on Moore: "Getting fired from the Supreme Court over a 10 commandments statue ... Likening the Koran to Mein Kampf and saying a Muslim shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress ... Being suspended for defying the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling ... Believing Obama wasn’t born in the US as late as Dec. 2016 ... Implying 9/11 happened because America was becoming “godless” ... Saying America might be the “focus of evil in the modern world” ..." and so on ...

Alabama being as Republican-dominated as it is, Moore starts the general election campaign - that election is in December - with a clear advantage over the Democrat, former federal prosecutor Doug Jones. But don't rule Jones out. Moore seems to have no limits or barriers; his self-righteousness is boundless, and even in Alabama there may be some pushback if he guns the gas pedal too hard. So don't consider the race a foregone conclusion just yet.

Either way, Senate Republicans and President Trump will have quite a time dealing with what's coming next.

Grossly irresponsible


I often wonder what happened to the Republican Party, whose banner I carried for many years, starting in the 1960s.

Republicans believed in responsible governmental policies, based on sound evidence. The U.S. Senate was characterized as the greatest deliberative body in the world. Hearings were held to give interested parties the opportunity to testify as to how legislation would affect them and to eliminate any potential problems in the bill before passage. From time to time there were party-line votes but for the most part Senators of both parties worked across party lines.

Beginning in the 1990s, the U.S. House embraced party-line voting but the Senate retained its deliberative process. That, however, has changed in the last decade or so. Now, party-line voting is the order of the day, often without regard to the merits of the legislation under consideration. The Senate, like the House, now trots out complicated bills that have not had the benefit of hearings and calls them up for a party-line vote, even before Senators have had a chance to read or digest them or learn from their constituents how they will be impacted.

The prime example of this irresponsible conduct is the succession of health care bills that the Senate has brought up for a vote this year without holding hearings or giving constituents the chance to read and comment upon the legislation. Each bill has been substantially different from the preceding one so constituents have been continually blind-sided. What we do know is that each bill eliminated health care coverage for large segments of the population and jeopardized those with pre-existing conditions. Based on apparently informed reports, the present bill will do the same.

It is highly irresponsible for the Republican leadership to essentially pull a bill out of its whatever, without having a single hearing, and immediately put it to a party-line vote, especially where it will affect the well-being of millions of people and one-sixth of the U.S. economy. The medical and insurance industries are largely opposed to the present bill because of the disruption and uncertainty it will bring to the marketplace. The Idaho Medical Association and Idaho Hospital Association have come out against the bill, as have many organizations representing people who stand to lose health coverage.

From what is known of the Republican bill, rural hospitals will be devastated, many children will be unable to get necessary care under the CHIP program, and insurance premiums for Idahoans and others will see substantial increases. Each of the 50 states will have two years to devise its own health care plan. We have already seen how well that has worked in Idaho with regard to only a part of the problem - trying to deal with the Medicaid gap.

This is no way to make important public policy. Legislation with such far-reaching effects should be thoroughly vetted. The public, including members of the Senate, should have a chance to learn what is in the legislation and the opportunity to be heard. The provisions of the bill should be supported by the evidence. At minimum, the Congressional Budget Office should be given enough time to thoroughly review the bill and inform Senators as to how it will impact the public. Why keep the bill in hiding until it is sprung on the floor for a vote? If it has the merits its proponents claim, why not let everyone see for themselves? Taking action on a bill without understanding how it may affect the economy or impact people’s lives is something that responsible Republicans would never have done back when I grew up in the party.

And, it is not enough to say that the other party did it when it was in power. Even if that were the case, it does not excuse bad conduct. When a party is in power it is obligated under our constitutional scheme to act responsibly and in the public interest. Just because Johnny acted bady on the playground did not excuse misconduct on my part, according to Mrs. Molyneuex, my grade school teacher. When Senators do not act responsibly or deliberatively, they should be retired by their constituents