Despite abandoning his secretary of health and human services nomination in disgrace in February 2009, the K Street tax cheat who evaded IRS rules for years remains a top White House confidante and policy strategist. In fact, he’s leading the drive to save Obamacare. He climbed up from under the bus back into the Oval Office and onto the sets of “Meet the Press” and “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” to offer his rescue plan.
“We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told us just weeks before Congress passed President Barack Obama’s health care plan. Well, the nation’s post-passage Obamacare education continued yesterday when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirmed that the federal government will have to spend an additional $115 billion implementing the law, bringing the total estimated cost to over $1 trillion. The estimate had been requested before passage of the bill by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), but the CBO was too overwhelmed with the Democrats’ other constant revisions to the law to get back to Lewis before the final vote.
This is by far not the only nasty little surprise that has come back to bite Obamacare after passage. Shortly after it became law, U.S. employers began reporting hundreds of millions if dollars in losses thanks to tax changes in the bill. AT&T and Verizon alone pegged their Obamacare tax losses at around $1 billion each. At first, Democrats in Congress were outraged by the announcements and threatened to hold hearings persecuting these companies. But then the Democrats not only found out the companies were obligated by law to report their Obamacare related losses, but that the losses were a signal these companies might have to dump their employees’ and retirees’ health care coverage all together.
Then the Obama administration’s own Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its final cost projections for Obamacare, finding that, contrary to White House claims, the legislation will increase national health care spending by $311 billion over the next decade. The CMS report also revealed that: 1) 18 million Americans will pay $33 billion in penalties for failing to comply with Obamacare’s individual mandate and still receive no health care; 2) U.S. employers will pay $87 billion in employer mandate penalties; 3) 14 million Americans will lose their current employer-based health coverage; 4) 7.4 million seniors will lose their current Medicare Advantage benefits; 5) 15% of all Medicare providers will be made unprofitable, thus “jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries.”
Facing this onslaught of reality, the Obama administration has swooped into full spin mode, devoting the Weekly Presidential Address to explaining the “real benefits” Obamacare is “already delivering” to Americans. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius then sent letters to House and Senate leaders touting her “progress” in implementing the law. And then last night White House aides Nancy-Ann DeParle and Stephanie Cutter briefed the House Democratic Caucus on the “tangible benefits” of the law. The sales pitch for all three events were the same: 1) “adults” age 26 and younger can be added to their parents’ plan (never mind that this drives up their parents’ health care costs); 2) new high-risk pools for Americans with pre-existing conditions (never mind that 19 states have rejected working with HHS since Obamacare massively underfunded the pools); 3) supplementing insurance for early retirees (never mind that the Medicare Advantage cuts and tax changes mentioned above are a big reason why seniors will need supplemental coverage).
Democrats know that Americans simply are not buying what they are selling. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) tells Politico: “It’s just like trying to explain the Encyclopedia Britannica.” And John Spratt (D-SC) adds: “You need to know what you’re talking about and this is extremely complex. It’s really difficult to remember, ‘was this in this bill, or was this in the bill Senate side.'” Maybe Spratt should have figured out what was and wasn’t in the bill before he voted for it.
Since the left can’t even figure out what is in the bill they are trying to defend, the latest Rasmussen Reports shows that 63% of likely voters now believe it will increase the federal deficit, and 56% now favor repeal. Not waiting for this November’s elections to change the leadership in Congress, states are leading the way on the road to repeal. According to The Washington Post 33 states have mounted legal and legislative challenges to the new law. Clint Bolick, litigation director of the Goldwater Institute, tells the Post: “This is going to be a long, protracted war of attrition and we haven’t even seen the first wave of regulations yet. … The initial challenges to McCain-Feingold were rejected. But since then, litigators found the vulnerabilities. Likewise, here I think you’re going to see a thousand flowers bloom in terms of lawsuits. I’m hoping that this will die a death of a thousand cuts.”
GOP lawmakers sent a clear message to thousands of anti-abortion activists gathered on the National Mall on Friday: The healthcare reform bill died because of the strength of the pro-life movement.
More than a dozen lawmakers remained in D.C. for Friday’s events organized by the March for Life Fund on the 37th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling in favor of a woman’s right to choose in the case Roe v. Wade.
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) rallied the crowd of anti-abortion compatriots, crediting those huddled together in the cold for keeping the pressure on Democrats to force a vote on a controversial amendment that would ban federal funding of abortion from government-run healthcare plans.
“You have changed hearts and minds. We have just won a debate on healthcare in that they are not going to have abortion funding in this bill and that’s because of your interest in it,” the longtime anti-abortion lawmaker said over loudspeakers.
The Stupak amendment, pressed into the House healthcare bill by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), has proven to be a sticking point for members of the House Democratic caucus as their leaders have attempted to gather the 218 votes needed to approve a Senate-passed version of healthcare reform that does not include the strict language on abortion.
Instead, the Senate bill has what was called the Nelson compromise, as in centrist Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), because it is a much watered-down version of the Stupak provision that would let states decide whether to allow funding for abortions.
After Tuesday’s “political rebellion” in Massachusetts, as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) refers to the unexpected landslide victory of Republican Sen.-elect Scott Brown, House Democrat leaders scrambled on Wednesday to rally a majority of their 257-member caucus in favor of the Senate’s bill, since Brown vowed to be the 41st vote to filibuster a House-Senate conference report healthcare bill.
And on Thursday morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) conceded that despite her efforts, she didn’t have the votes to pass the upper chamber’s bill “as-is.”
Though a number of hot-button provisions including creation of a government-run insurance plan and taxing so-called “Cadillac” health plans proved difficult to negotiate, restricting abortion funding for those on both sides of the issue appeared insurmountable.
As it is, the House-passed version of healthcare reform was approved by a razor-slim vote of 220-215. Only one Republican voted for the bill: Rep. Ahn “Joseph” Cao (La.) supported the measure due to the Stupak prohibitions on abortion coverage. Without that language, however, Cao has indicated he would likely oppose the bill.
With the recent resignation of Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), Pelosi could not afford to lose any other Democrats, which would be an unlikely outcome because of the abortion language, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins explained.
“She lost Cao (and Wexler) — she didn’t have the votes. And there were 37 Democrats who voted for the Stupak, who voted for the bill but have very strong pro-life records that I would be very surprised if you could get all 37 of them to vote for the Nelson language; you would probably have half of them peel off,” Perkins said in an interview late Friday.
Of those 37, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) indicated that at least 11 Democratic anti-abortion votes were in play.
Perkins said that without the phones calls, e-mails, rallies and “tea parties” on the part of the anti-abortion crowd, President Barack Obama’s healthcare bill would be law right now.
At an intimate gathering hosted by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in the Capitol Visitor Center for out-of-towners bused in to D.C. to participate in the March for Life, Perkins told a group of weary Ohioans that they helped to kill the measure.
“You stopped it, and you took a stand on the most principled aspect of the healthcare takeover initiative and that was stopping your fellow Americans from enforcement pay of an abortion, that one issue, more than any other, stopped, derailed what was attempted on the other end of the city,” Perkins said.
Rep. Mike Pence, currently being courted to run for Senate against incumbent Democrat Evan Bayh in Indiana, standing next to his fellow GOP colleagues on the National Mall, proclaimed to the anti-abortion activists that “life may be losing in Washington, D.C., but life is winning in America.”
The anti-abortion movement has grown to represent a majority of Americans for the first time in more than a decade, according to the Gallup organization.
Last summer, a Gallup poll taken in May 2009, 51 percent of respondents identified as “pro-life,” compared to 42 percent identifying as “pro-choice.”
In a similar poll of 1,006 respondents taken in July following the slaying of a Kansas doctor who performed late-term abortions, the number of individuals identifying as “pro-life” dropped to 47 percent but remained higher than the 46 percent “pro-choice” respondents.
But abortion-rights groups claim they have made progress in 2009, despite the controversial role abortion coverage has played in the healthcare debate.
The newly released annual NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation study on reproductive rights legislation and courts cases showed that 2009 was a “roller-coaster ride,” according to NARAL President Nancy Keenan.
Keenan conceded, however, that the anti-abortion interests “still outnumber our pro-choice allies.”
According to NARAL’s analysis of the current 111th Congress based on votes taken related to reproductive issues, the House has 185 “pro-choice,” 203 “anti-choice” and 47 “mixed-choice” lawmakers. In the Senate, the breakdown is 41 “pro-choice,” 40 “anti-choice” and 19 “mixed-choice” senators. Obama is rated “pro-choice,” while Vice-President Joe Biden is “mixed-choice.”
Those numbers leave activists in the abortions-rights arena uneasy and vowing to fight tooth-and-nail in the upcoming year.
National Organization for Woman President Terry O’Neill said that “in Washington, after months of debate over health care reform, we find ourselves wondering whether the leadership in Congress and the president we worked so hard to elect in 2008 will ultimately stand up to the Catholic Bishops and other extremists bent on dismantling Roe and reject their demands for sweeping anti-abortion provisions in the reform bill.”
Regardless, social conservatives such as Pence, a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, intend to press ahead with their fight to limit abortion rights.
Pence introduced a bill late Thursday that would repeal funding for reproductive health providers such as Planned Parenthood. The bill, referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee, has 92 co-sponsors.
For the past few days, I’ve received loads of emails urging me to get active regarding the healthcare vote – most of which had a subject line similar to: “Last Chance to Stop National Healthcare!”