Congress Is Back In Session — It’s Time To Resist Again
Since Trump has been inaugurated, the resistance has scored some significant victories and has stalled the Republican agenda in Congress. The first victory (and a sign of things to come) was in early January when the House Republicans tried to gut their ethics rules during a holiday weekend when most Americans were focused on watching football games. The effort failed due to a flood of outraged phone calls during and just after the holiday.
The biggest victory came with the demise of Trump Care in March. Due to numerous protests, millions of phone calls, emails and letters, the House GOP leadership had to cancel a vote on a bill that would have taken away insurance from 24 million people to finance a big tax cut for the top 1%.
We are not in a position to rest on our laurels since the Congress is returning from another undeserved vacation and going back into session on April 25. Once again, Trump and the GOP Congressional leadership have big plans. One thing we should never forget is that the Republicans are relentless. They never take a day off. We need to be just as relentless.
The first thing on the House Republican agenda may very well be the return of Trump Care. Several House Republicans have signaled that they are on the verge of a deal and Paul Ryan has said they are putting the “finishing touches” on a health care bill. The House Republicans had a conference call on Saturday to discuss this bill and the rest of their regressive agenda. Apparently, the Republicans would like to give Trump a “victory” before we reach the 100 day mark of his presidency.
The latest version of Trump Care has all of the bad features of the first bill. Once again, the GOP is hoping to finance a $600 billion tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and the special interests by kicking 24 million of our fellow Americans off insurance. This bill also cancels the Medicaid expansion — which has covered 14 million Americans.
The new version of Trump Care is worse than the first bill since it has been moved to the right in the hopes of satisfying the radical (and not easy to please) Freedom Caucus. This new legislation would gut the ban on pre-existing conditions clauses in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It would allow states to opt out of this necessary consumer friendly reform and once again return to the failed risk pool system to insure those who are sick or who may get sick.
The return of pre-existing condition clauses and risk pools would cause insurance premiums to soar for those with common conditions like asthma, depression, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and even pregnancy. Premiums for people with these conditions could rise anywhere from 106% to 352%. Insurance would simply not be affordable for cancer survivors. Healthy people between the ages of 50 and 64 could face an average premium increase in the amount of $3,200.
The ACA isn’t the only health care program that is in the cross hairs of the GOP. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in a recent interview indicated that ending Medicare as we know it and turning it into a voucher program is still on the table. In this interview, Mulvaney stated: “We’re working on it right now…(My) guess is the House will do either that or something similar to that.” When asked by a reporter if that would break Trump’s promise not to cut Medicare, the Budget Director testily responded: “That’s not a really conducive way to sort of maintain a relationship between the executive and the administrative branch.”
As I’ve discussed here before, one of the biggest problems with with the GOP’s Medicare phase out plan is that the vouchers wouldn’t keep up with the rate of medical inflation. Your average senior citizen would end up paying an additional $6,000.00 per year in additional out of pocket medical expenses. According to the Center For American Progress, ending Medicare as we know it could “increase costs for seniors by $60,000.00 reaching the age of 65 in 2023.” Simply stated, senior citizens would pay a lot more for vastly inferior coverage under the GOP plan.
The Trump Administration is posing another threat to Medicare and Social Security by seriously considering the idea of eliminating the payroll tax that funds both Social Security and Medicare. On the surface this sounds likes an attractive middle class tax cut but it takes away the funding sources for these successful programs that have reduced poverty among the elderly from 50% to 9%. It would be a lot easier for the Republicans in Congress to cut Medicare and Social Security in the future if there was no funding source specifically dedicated to these programs.
As Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “This is an absolutely terrible idea, partially because it smells like a back-door way of cutting Social Security benefits. It needs to be nipped in the bud.” “This proposal is a Trojan horse,” the long time Social Security champion Nancy J. Altman told Hiltzik. “It appears to be a gift in the form of middle-class tax relief, but would, if enacted, lead to the destruction of working Americans’ fundamental economic security.”
What the Republicans have planned is to gut the progressive reforms of the 20th and early 21st century and return us to the kind of social and economic order we had during the Gilded Age of the late 1800s and early 1900s. These plans aren’t conservative — they are radical!
Unfortunately, just about every Nebraska Congressional representative backs at least part of this extreme agenda. Fischer, Sasse, Fortenberry and Smith have all voted in favor of Medicare privatization. The only one who hasn’t committed himself on the issue is Don Bacon of CD02. With the application of sufficient pressure, Bacon may have no choice but to buck the GOP party line since he is facing a very difficult re-election in a true swing district.
All three members of Nebraska’s House delegation came out in favor of Trump Care last month. Fortenberry said: “My inclination is strong” to vote for Trump Care. Omaha’s Don Bacon said “Hell yes” to kicking 24 million people off insurance and Adrian Smith said he supported Trump Care.
As Nebraska progressives, our job is never easy. Nevertheless, we must be vigilant and active in opposing the agenda of the radical right. Please keep making the phone calls, writing the emails and writing the letters. Let’s flood the phone lines and the inboxes of our Congressional representatives. We must be relentless and never rest. That is our challenge. We must do it. Resistance works! Keep it up!