Sound­ing off on health care

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

Kati McFar­land of Spring­dale speaks Sat­ur­day dur­ing a health care rally at the state Capi­tol in Lit­tle Rock. Ral­lies were held around the coun­try Sat­ur­day in re­sponse to Fri­day’s health-care ac­tion taken by the Se­nate.

A day af­ter a years­long ef­fort to re­peal the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act col­lapsed on Capi­tol Hill, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump cas­ti­gated Repub­li­can sen­a­tors for their in­abil­ity to pass leg­is­la­tion.

In a se­ries of Twit­ter posts Sat­ur­day, Trump scolded Congress and threat­ened to cut law­mak­ers’ health in­sur­ance.

“They look like fools,” Trump wrote Sat­ur­day morn­ing on Twit­ter. He also re­newed his de­mand that the Se­nate abol­ish the fil­i­buster rule, a par­lia­men­tary de­lay tac­tic that re­quires 60 votes to over­come, de­spite the fact that the rule had noth­ing to do with the health care bill’s fail­ure Fri­day.

“Repub­li­can Se­nate must get rid of 60 vote NOW! It is killing the R Party, al­lows 8 Dems to con­trol coun­try. 200 Bills sit in Se­nate. A JOKE!” he wrote.

Trump’s tweets against the fil­i­buster kicked off early Fri­day, a few hours af­ter three Repub­li­can sen­a­tors joined every Demo­crat in the Se­nate to sink the GOP’s last-ditch ef­fort to over­turn the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Repub­li­cans con­trol 52 seats in the Se­nate. A pro­posal last week to re­peal por­tions of the health care law re­quired a sim­ple 51-vote ma­jor­ity to pass. Trump ac­knowl­edged that “parts of health care could pass at 51” votes, but added that “so many great fu­ture bills & bud­gets need 60 votes.”

He de­manded that Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., elim­i­nate the fil­i­buster — de­spite the fact that McCon­nell dis­missed the idea when Trump raised it months ago.

McCon­nell changed the fil­i­buster rules to al­low all pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees to be con­firmed by a sim­ple ma­jor­ity, and he ex­tended that to al­low Neil Gor­such, Trump’s nom­i­nee for the Supreme Court, to be con­firmed as well.

But his­tor­i­cally, and fac­ing in­creas­ingly nar­row elec­tions that can flip con­trol of the Se­nate every few years, most sen­a­tors have op­posed per­ma­nently jet­ti­son­ing the rule that al­lows the mi­nor­ity party to in­def­i­nitely ob­struct some­thing that has ma­jor­ity sup­port. McCon­nell has made it clear that he doesn’t sup­port such a move, as have other mem­bers of the Repub­li­can cau­cus.

Trump wrote that Repub­li­can sen­a­tors “look like fools and are just wast­ing time,” and will “NEVER win” un­til they kill the rule.

On Sat­ur­day, Trump pre­dicted “many great Repub­li­can bills will never pass,” in­clud­ing health care leg­is­la­tion.

A few hours later, Trump es­ca­lated his at­tack on law­mak­ers by tak­ing aim at their own health care plans. “If a new Health­Care Bill is not ap­proved quickly, BAILOUTS for In­sur­ance Com­pa­nies and BAILOUTS for Mem­bers of Congress will end very soon!” he wrote on Twit­ter.

The pres­i­dent has sought for months to end fed­eral sub­si­dies for in­sur­ance mar­kets. And as re­cently as Fri­day, staunch con­ser­va­tives have de­manded the end of a spe­cial sub­sidy for House and Se­nate law­mak­ers, and their staffs, through a Dis­trict of Columbia in­sur­ance ex­change, in­stead of a sys­tem specif­i­cally for fed­eral em­ploy­ees.

In a state­ment Sat­ur­day, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the mi­nor­ity leader, said health care costs would rise for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans if the fed­eral sub­sidy for in­sur­ance mar­kets is scrapped.

“The pres­i­dent ought to stop play­ing pol­i­tics with peo­ple’s lives and health care, start lead­ing and fi­nally be­gin act­ing pres­i­den­tial,” Schumer said.

Sev­eral left-lean­ing groups or­ga­nized the “Our Lives on the Line” protests in dozens of cities across the coun­try, with the flag­ship protest in the Dis­trict of Columbia.

Ad­dress­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple at the D.C. rally Sat­ur­day evening, House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi called on Amer­i­cans to con­tinue press­ing for the up­dat­ing and im­prove­ment of the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Ex­hort­ing her lis­ten­ers not to be sat­is­fied with last week’s Se­nate ac­tion, Pelosi, D-Calif., urged them to keep the pres­sure on.

What had de­vel­oped through the lob­by­ing against the Repub­li­cans’ plans, she said, is a widely shared be­lief “that health care is a right for all, not a priv­i­lege for just a few.”

“We have to im­prove and up­date the Af­ford­able Care Act,” she said. More­over, she said, “We want to do so in a bi­par­ti­san way.”

That, she said, could be done only “with your con­tin­ued in­volve­ment.”

In Lit­tle Rock, about 40 Arkansans ral­lied on the steps of the state Capi­tol on Sat­ur­day. Though the Af­ford­able Care Act was not re­pealed, they ex­pressed con­cern that all of Arkansas’ con­gres­sional lead­ers in Wash­ing­ton have voted to do re­peal it.

Peo­ple from across the state held signs and minia­ture Amer­i­can flags, cheer­ing and chant­ing as state rep­re­sen­ta­tives and ac­tivists spoke.

State Rep. Vi­vian Flow­ers, D-Pine Bluff, spoke, call­ing for Trump to be held ac­count­able on his prom­ise that no one would lose their health care.

“We dodged a big bul­let this week, and for a lot of peo­ple it may as well have been a lit­eral bul­let,” said state Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Lit­tle Rock, said. In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Avi Selk, Perry Stein, El­lie Sil­ver­man and Clarence Williams of The Wash­ing­ton Post; by Maggie Haberman

of The New York Times; and by

Rachel Her­zog of the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/STA­TON BREIDENTHAL

AP/The Bal­ti­more Sun/MATTHEW COLE

Peo­ple in An­napo­lis, Md., lis­ten to speak­ers Sat­ur­day dur­ing the An­napo­lis Rally for Health­care at Lawyer’s Mall.

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