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Fri May 5, 2017, 09:14 PM

Friday Talking Points (435) -- DonTcare

The Republican healthcare reform bill is now officially out of Paul Ryan's hands, at least for the time being. Which means it's time for us to rebrand it here. Up to this point, we've been calling it Ryancare (Ryancare 2.0, for the latest go-round). Democrats have already been calling it Trumpcare, for obvious political reasons. But we have to say, we favor a suggestion we first read in someone's online comment to a healthcare reform article (which we read so long ago that we only remember the idea, and not the originator, sorry). It was probably in the Washington Post, but we couldn't swear to it. Wherever we read it, we got a good laugh out of it and have decided to adopt it as our own.

Instead of using his last name (which he loves), why not use a diminutive version of his first name (which he apparently hates) instead? Add in his last name's initial, and it becomes: "DonTcare." Personally, we feel this perfectly captures the entire Democratic argument, using only eight letters: Donald T's "don't care what's in it, don't care how many of my voters it will screw, as long as Congress passes some bill or another so I can brag about it!" health care plan. DonTcare. Rolls off the tongue, don't it? Well, typing it does take some getting used to -- but without that second capitalization, it'd be a lot harder to read. Trump DonTcare. And while we certainly can't claim credit for coining the term, we do encourage others to use it freely -- it even saves characters in tweets!

Nomenclature and meme-trolling aside, though, let's take a look at the week that was. We have to begin by praising Donald Trump's media skills. Because this week had one lesson for Democrats which may be lost in all the hoopla -- winning good press against Donald Trump usually doesn't last very long. He's a master at media manipulation, and this time he even backed it up with legislative action. Earlier in the week, we wrote about what a bad week Trump was having. He'd been made fun of at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, for the third weekend in a row there were massive anti-Trump rallies all over the country, Trump had tweeted and said some monumentally stupid things ("People don't realize, you know, the Civil War -- if you think about it, why?", and he got absolutely rolled on the budget agreement which will fund the federal government for the rest of the year (where Democrats got most of what they wanted, and Trump got very little -- including not one thin dime for his border wall). That was Tuesday. Wednesday, the congressional arm-twisting reached new heights, and by Thursday the DonTcare bill squeaked by the House. So even when Democrats seem to be winning the media framing battles, Trump can always turn things around in an instant.

This is an important lesson, and it's one that Democrats should never, never forget. Trump lives for the news cycle. Don't ever count out his ability to change the subject, for to do so always turns out to be folly.

Speaking of folly, let's get back to that DonTcare bill. Will this be all the ammo Democrats need to wrest control of the House back next year? Hmm... could be, could be. Of course, it's a long time until the midterm elections, so it's really impossible to say, but many are pointing out the parallels with the rise of the Tea Party in 2009 (during the Obamacare debates in Congress). Democratic voters are already energized and regularly marching in the streets, and now they've got a perfect target for their white-hot rage: every House Republican who voted for DonTcare.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is an awful, awful bill. Republicans were so scared how awful it is that they hustled it through before anyone knew the costs. In fact, they did pretty much everything they accused Democrats of doing on Obamacare, with lightning speed.

Don't believe us? Here is Paul Ryan himself, in an interview from July of 2009 (we wrote a whole article yesterday on the subject of Ryan's hypocrisy with many other of his past quotes, in case anyone's interested). See how many of these cause you to break out in laughter now, after what Ryan just did with DonTcare:

The problem we have here is the {Obamacare} bill that's being rushed to the floor next week; the House leadership is saying next week we will vote on this bill, no one's read this bill.... There is a way to get to bipartisan health care reform, but the bill they're trying to jam through Congress next week... is not the way to go. More importantly, this is too important to rush this thing through Congress. This is 17 percent of our economy. Let's sit down and do it right. And if they want to make it bipartisan, then you have to have collaboration with the minority, and they're not doing anything like that in the House.... I think we should talk to our constituents during the August recess. I'm holding town hall meetings on health care. We all should be doing that so we can talk to our constituents, get the public to see what this legislation is all about, and then come back in September well informed after having touched base with each of our employers -- the constituents we represent.


We'll just pause here, for everyone to get back up off the floor and wipe the tears of ironic laughter from your eyes.

Democrats did spontaneously erupt in one bit of political theater, which we also found bitterly amusing. Right after the vote was called in the House, Republicans tried to cheer and applaud. But they were soon drowned out by an extended chorus from the Democrats of: "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, good-bye!" The video's pretty priceless, if you haven't seen it (or only seen incredibly short clips of it).

Is this overconfidence, or prophecy? Time will tell. And less time than you might think. We are now officially one-fourth of the way between House elections -- six months into the two-year cycle. May the fourth be with you (OK, we couldn't resist that one, right after yesterday's annual punnery celebration).

Seriously, though, what are the chances that the Republican vote on DonTcare will create enough of a "wave" election in 2018 to hand the gavel back to Nancy Pelosi? So far all signs are pretty good, but Republicans have stacked this deck so much by gerrymandering that it's going to be a steep climb, no matter what historical midterm results show.

One further benefit to Democrats may be the increased attention on state-level races. If DonTcare actually passes, it's going to matter a whole lot which party is in governors' mansions and which party controls the statehouses. If major medical decisions on pre-existing conditions are going to be made at the state level, the Democrats could nationalize a lot of these races. Again, though, we'll see.

Donald Trump, so far, has managed to keep himself above the fray. He didn't care in the slightest what was in the bill, he just wanted to chalk his first win on the board. The bill is not even close to what he had promised would be in his healthcare plan (you know, the one that never materialized), but so far his supporters haven't seemed to notice. Maybe when some of them start becoming directly affected they will, but again, who knows?

Trump's got a long way until his next election, though -- House Republicans don't. And the Democratic ads are just going to write themselves. Consider, from just one rundown of the politics of the situation:

The eleven states with the highest percentages of people with pre-existing conditions all voted for Trump in 2016.

Fourteen of the 23 Republicans representing districts that voted for Clinton last November ended up supporting the legislation.

All seven of the California Republicans in districts Clinton carried voted for the bill.

{T}he highly controversial plan drew support from fully 46 of the 61 House Republicans in districts that voted either for Clinton in 2016 or for Obama in his 2012 or 2008 elections.... Only 15 of the Republicans from those districts voted "no."

Those who obtain health insurance through their employers -- about half the country -- could be at risk of losing protections that limit out-of-pocket costs for catastrophic illnesses.

Democrats warn that the bill could increase costs for up to seven million veterans who are eligible to receive health care from the V.A. system.


One race to watch will be the Virginia governor's race, which will take place this November. Democrat Tom Perriello is already up with a brilliant ad showing him defending Obamacare in front of an ambulance being crushed at a junkyard.

See? That's how easy these ads are going to be to put together.

The icing on the cake this week, however, was Donald Trump praising Australia's socialized, single-payer healthcare system, right after the DonTcare bill passed the House: "We have a failing health care -- I shouldn't say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia, because you have better health care than we do."

Bernie Sanders immediately snarked back at Trump in a tweet: "Thank you Mr. Trump for admitting that universal health care is the better way to go. I'll be sure to quote you on the floor of the Senate."

Let the 2018 midterm season begin!



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One Democrat has been growing in stature pretty much ever since Barack Obama left the national political spotlight. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has done a pretty bang-up job ever since Trump took office. This week, we've got two reasons to award her the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. As icing on this two-layer cake, we also have to point out she had the funniest gaffe of the week as well. In an interview last Sunday morning, Pelosi mistakenly said "President Bush" when she meant "President Trump." When this was pointed out to her, her reaction was hilarious (in an "it's funny because it's true" manner). Pelosi responded: "I never thought I'd pray for the day when George W. Bush was president." She's not alone in that nostalgia, either, we'd bet. But on to the two real reasons Pelosi was such a winner this week.

The first we're only going to briefly mention, since we've co-opted the entire talking points section to highlight it. Pelosi gave an incredibly good speech on the floor of the House in opposition to the DonTcare bill. You've probably seen short clips of it already on the news, but I'd encourage everyone to either watch her full address or at the very least read the transcript. It's a humdinger of a speech, and it provides dozens of ready-made talking points for Democrats to run on next year.

The second reason Pelosi deserves the MIDOTW this week is for showing once again how great her leadership skills are. Not a single Democrat voted for DonTcare. Not one.

Pelosi has always been pretty good at being what might be called "Cat-Herder-in-Chief," corralling the Democratic caucus to speak with one unified voice during critical votes. She has proven this ability whether Democrats are in the majority or the minority in the House. That's pretty impressive.

Pelosi was also instrumental in the discussions over the budget bill, which wound up tilted about 80-20 towards Democratic priorities, and successfully avoided all poison pills from the right (and from the White House). Once again, clear leadership skills from Pelosi.

In fact, should Democrats win back control of the chamber in 2018, it is absolutely inconceivable that any other Democrat would even challenge Pelosi for the speaker's gavel. Why would they, when she's shown time and again her ability to whip votes is second to none? With Barack Obama off the main Democratic stage for now, Pelosi is one of a handful de facto leaders of the Democratic Party. And if the midterms do return control of the House to Democrats, she will then become its loudest voice on the public stage once again.

She deserves it. This week's vote count was just the latest proof. Which is why we're glad to award Pelosi her twentieth Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, putting her in sole possession of third place on the all-time list (behind Obama at 57 and Hillary Clinton at 22, while edging out Harry Reid and Bernie Sanders, both of whom have 19). Congratulations, Leader Pelosi, and we look forward to the day when you pick up that gavel once again!

{Congratulate House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on her House contact page, to let her know you appreciate her efforts.}



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Every Democrat voted against DonTcare, so we have no complaints this week. So unless someone's got a miscreant Democrat they'd like to nominate in the comments for our belated consideration, we're simply not going to award the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this time around.

One technical note, however. The mainstream media jumped all over Hillary Clinton this week, for purportedly blaming everyone but herself for her election loss. This was simply not true, and we think Clinton got an underserved rap for doing so. So we'd like to explain why she was not even a candidate for the MDDOTW this week.

She's writing a book about her campaign. She wants everyone to (eventually) buy and read her book. We certainly cannot fault her for that. When it is published, then we'll see what she has to say about her own culpability and what mistakes she thinks she made. But until then, the media should accept her word at face value. Here is a part of Hillary's appearance that was almost completely ignored (which cherry-picking the "it's someone else's fault" lines). The interviewer asked Clinton:

Your supporters are sad, they're devastated, they're disappointed, and some are angry. And some say, you know, could it have been different? Could the campaign have been better? Could you have had a better rationale? He had one message, your opponent, and it was a successful message: "Make America great again." And where was your message? Do you take any personal responsibility?


Clinton responded:

Oh, of course. I take absolute personal responsibility. I was the candidate. I was the person who was on the ballot. I am very aware of, you know, the challenges, the problems, the shortfalls that we had. Again, I will write all this out for you. But I will say this -- I've been in a lot of campaigns, and I'm very proud of the campaign we ran. And I'm very proud of the staff and the volunteers and the people who are out there day after day.


She also later said:

So did we make mistakes? Of course we did. Did I make mistakes? Oh my gosh, yes. You know, you'll read my confession and my request for absolution.


Once again, she's writing a book that she wants people to read. She's fully allowed to hold back some of her thoughts and feelings to generate interest in the book. She got wrongly portrayed this week, and she didn't deserve the media snark that resulted. So, no, we didn't even consider her for MDDOTW this week, just to be clear.



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[center]Volume 435 (5/5/17)[/center]

As previously mentioned, we're turning this entire section over to Nancy Pelosi. The speech she gave in opposition to DonTcare (which she prefers to call Trumpcare) was just that good. It was hard to even limit it to seven discrete talking points, because almost every one of them contains its own list of pre-made talking points. Any Democrats considering running for a House seat next year should use this speech as a handy guide to create dozens of political ads against sitting Republicans who voted for the bill. Pelosi's one speech was like a "campaign ad kit in a box," really.

Now, some Democrats might be content to sit back and wait for the C.B.O. score's numbers to begin making the case for how awful DonTcare would actually be for tens of millions of people. That would be a mistake. Because you don't even need the official numbers to make all kinds of devastating arguments against the plan, which Pelosi does in fine form.

So before we turn over the talking points to a master of the art, we encourage everyone to read the full transcript of her speech. It's well worth the time it takes to do so.



"Often results in physical death"

Pelosi began her speech by making a moral case for her position. After the following opening, she continued with a long list of recent quotes from religious leaders and organizations, all of which condemned the GOP plan. But the first line was the best, because it's so hard to argue with:

Over 50 years ago Dr. {Martin Luther} King said, "of all of the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death."




Gutting key protections

Pelosi then begins to hit her stride, reviewing the entire list of awful things the bill was designed to do. Any one of these would make a dandy ad for a Democratic candidate next year, it bears mentioning.

It means, Trumpcare does, it forces families to pay higher premiums and deductibles, increasing out-of-pocket costs. Costs. Less coverage. Trumpcare will take away health care from more than 24 million hardworking Americans. A crushing age tax. Trumpcare forces Americans age 50 to 64 to pay premiums five times higher than what others pay for health coverage. No matter how healthy they are. Steals from Medicare. Steals from Medicare. Trumpcare shortens the life of Medicare trust fund and ransacks funds that seniors depend on to get long-term care they need. That's why it's consistent with their wither-on-the-vine for Medicare philosophy. And then, if that were not bad enough, and they couldn't pass their bill because it was that bad, they moved further away from the American people.

By gutting key protections, Trumpcare eviscerates essential health benefits such as maternity care, prescription drugs, emergency coverage, prenatal care and guts protections for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. As bad as Trumpcare was the first time around, it was dead, it died. It died right here on the floor. Now it's come back to life. Like a zombie, even more scary than before and it is even worse.

If Republicans had their way, Americans with pre-existing conditions would be pushed off their insurance and segregated into high-risk pools will where they will face soaring costs, worse coverage and restricted care. Trumpcare means huge premium increases. It's {a} frightening future for families who need affordable, dependable care the most. Now on the floor, the Republicans have recklessly, and some would say fraudulently, claimed that Trumpcare covers Americans with pre-existing conditions. It does not. It does not.




Afraid of the facts

This, obviously, is going to become a much bigger deal once the C.B.O. scores the bill that passed. The numbers, whatever they are, are quite likely to be extremely bad. Pelosi begins the shame-game:

Forcing a vote without a C.B.O. score shows that the Republicans are afraid of the facts. They're afraid of learning the full consequences of their plan to push Americans with pre-existing conditions into the cold, or as my colleague from New York said, off the sidewalk.

If Republicans thought they really were protecting people, they wouldn't be afraid of the facts. But they're also afraid of the truth and the truth that would come forth if we knew the facts. And they're afraid that the American people will find out that this is not a health care bill. This is a tax bill disguised as a health bill. This is a bill that is the one of the biggest transfers of wealth in the history of the country, from the middle class to the richest people and corporations in America.




Anyone? Bueller?

Pelosi partially reads a list of affected groups who have already come out against the bill. It's a long one -- so long, in fact, that at the end of it she just entered the rest of the list into the record, for posterity, without reading it in full. Which begs the question: Is there any group of Americans -- outside of the Republican House caucus, of course -- who are for the bill? Anyone?

But the suffering Trumpcare will inflict on people is all too clear. That's why this disastrous bill has been condemned by the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Age United, the Children's Hospital Association, AARP, the March Of Dimes, the list goes on and on.




Robin Hood in reverse

Always a fun metaphor to break out, when discussing Republican dogma.

Under Trumpcare, families, seniors, vulnerable children, Americans with disabilities, people struggling to overcome addiction, and the sick will lose their health care. Rural hospitals will be closed, nearly two million jobs will be destroyed across America. Seven million veterans will lose access to tax credits for health care. And all of this to give a massive tax cut to the richest in America. Trumpcare is a billionaire's tax cut disguised as a health care bill. It's Robin Hood in reverse. One of the largest transfers wealth from working families to the rich in our country.




Ruh-roh!

This was the absolute pinnacle of Pelosi's speech -- you've probably seen a very short clip of it, already. But we have to point out, in Pelosi's ominous threats to Republicans' re-election chances, that her metaphor stream winds up with a tattooed, glow-in-the-dark pirate. In other words, Pelosi is full-on channeling her own inner Scooby Doo. OK, that's a frivolous comment, and this was the best part of her speech, so we immediately apologize in full. Heh. But glowing pirate ghosts or not, Pelosi's warning should strike a healthy amount of fear into Republicans in purple districts.

As special as we think we are when we come to the floor here, most Americans don't know who their member of Congress is. But they will now. When they find out that you voted to take away their health care. They will know when you put an age tax on them or undermine Medicare, Medicaid and the rest. Oh, yeah. They're paying attention. Because it's really personal with them. And their families. So, I think we have to get ready for that.

Our colleagues who have the mantle of being a moderate, you vote for this bill, you have walked the plank from moderate to radical. And you're walking the plank for what? A bill that will not be accepted by the United States Senate. Why are you doing this? Do you believe in what is in this bill? Some of you have said, "Well, they'll fix it in the Senate." But you have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark on this one. You will glow in the dark. So don't walk the plank, especially unnecessarily. Our responsibility to the sick and the hurt is biblical. It's fundamental to who we are.




Call and response

Pelosi brings it all home with a rousing call-and-response for the Democrats in the chamber, to end her speech.

As Pope Francis said, "Health is not a consumer good. But a universal right. So access to health services cannot be a privilege." Today let us declare once again the Affordable Care Act must be the right of the -- affordable health care must be the right of every American, not the privileged few. So does Trumpcare lower health costs? {Democrats in House: "No!"} Does Trumpcare provide better health care? {"No!"} Does Trumpcare protect seniors and families? {"No!"} Is Trumpcare good for our veterans? {"No!"} Is there any caring in Trumpcare at all? {"NO!"}




[center]Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
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