With every day that passes, the news and social media are packed with confirmation hearings, inauguration prep, and the unending rant from those who wish it all would just go away. There are even some who are not just protesting but planning any number of public and covert disruptions and dangers. Then you have those loyal “new day” supporters who can’t wait to see what awesome stuff comes next with our new Congress and President-Elect, so they can stick it to the other side!
Here’s an idea. Let’s try to put aside our own biases (which is only human) and look at what’s happening this week, and a little beyond. According to United Press International, nomination hearings continue with Jeff Sessions (Attorney General), John Kelly (Secretary of Homeland Security), Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State), Elaine Chao (Secretary of Transportation), James Mattis (Secretary of Defense), Ben Carson (Secretary of Housing and Urban Development), Mike Pompeo (Director of Central Intelligence), Betsy DeVos (Department of Education), and Rep. Ryan Zinke (Interior Department).
Others will follow, such as Nikki Haley (U.N. Ambassador), Scott Pruitt (Environmental Protection Agency Administrator), Tom Price (Health and Human Services Secretary), Wilbur Ross (Secretary of Commerce), Rick Perry (Energy Secretary), Steven Mnuchin (Treasury Secretary), Andy Puzder (Labor Secretary), Dan Coats (Director of National Intelligence), Robert Lighthizer (U.S. Trade Representative), Linda McMahon (Small Business Administration), Mick Mulvaney (Office of Management and Budget director) and David Shulkin (Veterans Affairs). I encourage you to follow along on C-Span (https://www.c-span.org/) or any other site covering the hearings. No matter which camp you are in, who do you feel will do a good job?
For Inauguration, according to Friends of the US Chamber of Commerce organization, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will swear in Trump at noon EST today (January 20, 2017). Justice Clarence Thomas will then swear in Mike Pence. Trump will be sworn in on his childhood Bible and Pence on Lincoln’s Bible. Although a number of House Democrats announced they were skipping in protest of the election, Laura and George W. Bush, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Jimmy Carter will be in attendance. Trump will then join the parade from the Capitol to the White House, traveling down Pennsylvania Avenue to his new home to kick-off his first 100 Days.
Trump recently indicated his preference for what to start with—health care being at the top; then tax reform, and an infrastructure package. So, let’s focus on what’s happening with Obamacare so far. With the passing last week of Fiscal Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 3), it “Establishes the congressional budget for the federal government for FY2017 and sets forth budgetary levels for FY2018-FY2026.”
This is the first step and includes budgets from both Houses for federal revenues, new budget authority, budget outlays, deficits, public debt, debt held by the public, and the major functional categories of spending. This Resolution puts everything into motion for committees to begin crafting repeal of Obamacare to be passed as a reconciliation bill in both chambers, requiring only a majority to pass.
The timeline on repeal and replacement is uncertain, but certainly a moving target for what may come next in bills out of committee and voted into law. We are also seeing some disturbing reports out of the Congressional Budget Office related to the HR 3762 bill that failed to pass over veto in 2016. According to CBO’s report, How Repealing Portions of the Affordable Care Act Would Affect Health Insurance Coverage and Premiums (January 17, 2017), if this bill had passed, they projected millions would become uninsured the first year and more to following in both group- and nongroup sectors.
If a similar bill were to be introduced, CBO’s report did note “If the Congress considers legislation similar to H.R. 3762 in the coming weeks, the estimated effects could differ from those described here. In particular, the response of individuals, insurers, and states would depend critically on the particular specifications contained in such legislation.”
On one side, many simply don’t trust the Republicans to come up with a replacement that will work or even have bipartisan support. While others were able to get insurance for the first time with ACA, there are many who say they have been significantly impacted by the ACA’s onerous premiums, insurance subsidies, and complex and confusing mandates and regulations put on both patient and provider. Then just add up the insurance company giants who have backed out.
According to Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear from the New York Times (January 13, 2017), House Clears Path for Repeal of Health Law, Representative Jason Lewis of Minnesota, a first-term Republican, was quoted on his firsthand experience with the Affordable Care Act. “Minnesotans have seen their health insurance choices shrink while their premiums, co-pays and deductibles skyrocket, . . . I should know. For the last, in fact, over five years, I’ve been in the individual market, and my own insurance premiums have nearly tripled, and I’ve gone through three insurers. Minnesotans have seen a 50 to 67 percent increase in the premium cost this year alone.”
Where do you find solid middle ground when that ground is constantly moving under you? One hopeful sign is the Republican’s A Better Way task force report. It is definitely worth the read to find some hope, if you can trust it to translate into legislation and real life. You can also read through what Trump sees as essential parts of a replacement plan.
I know, trust is hard to come by these days with so much division in our nation’s people. Yet, here we are again, together, on this “new day” and will take another peak next week on what’s happening. As we each hopefully work it out each day, please take the opportunity to help our community and nation do more good than bad by your proactive homework and unifying involvement. And PLEASE help our social media become more respectful and constructive of both sides of the conversation. Shared solutions are always better than slinging sludge that sticks around way too long!