Transition Briefing: Trump and Senate Move Quickly to Repeal Affordable Care Act

by admin January 3, 2017 at 9:55 pm

The instructions are simple and vague: The Senate Finance and the Health Committees, along with the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees, have until Jan. 27 to “report changes in laws” within their jurisdiction “to reduce the deficit by not less than $1,000,000,000 for the period of fiscal years 2017 through 2026.”

Translation: The Senate and House have barely more than three weeks to complete legislation that reduces the deficit slightly over the next decade and, in the process, guts the Affordable Care Act beyond repair.

Debate will begin on the Senate floor on Wednesday, bypassing the Senate Budget Committee to speed passage.

Mr. Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to amplify the message.

The rate increases, revealed in October, had long been predicted in Arizona, where many insurers had announced plans to drop out of the marketplace, and they affect a small fraction of residents. But they fit the Republican narrative that the law has made health care worse for Americans, despite the fact that it has provided coverage to tens of millions of previously uninsured people.

Left unsaid: What will happen to more than 20 million Americans now insured under the Affordable Care Act, or to the 27 percent of Americans with pre-existing medical conditions who, under the health care act, cannot be denied coverage by insurance companies?

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner buy a home in Washington

Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner have purchased a $5.5 million house in Washington, less than two blocks from the residence the Obama family will soon occupy, according to the magazine Washingtonian. The home, which sold on Dec. 22, features six bedrooms, six and a half bathrooms and an elaborate wooden and glass stairwell.

The home has French doors that overlook a stone patio and a yard in the neighborhood of Kalorama, one of the fanciest in the nation’s capital. Two outdoor stairwells lead to a front door that opens up on three stories and almost 7,000 square feet of space. Salonlike rooms give way to lower rooms that look appropriate for the parents of three young children, all of whom will have to make an adjustment from their more intimate Manhattan apartment.

The relative proximity of the home to the West Wing of the White House — about a mile and a half — indicates the couple will be having a say in the affairs of state.

The Clintons will attend Trump’s swearing in

She called Mr. Trump “unfit” to be the commander-in-chief. He called her a “nasty woman.” But Mrs. Clinton will be attending Mr. Trump’s inauguration, along with her husband.

It is customary for former presidents and first ladies to observe the peaceful transfer of power in person. Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, will also be in Washington on Jan. 20 for the inaugural festivities.

Not since Al Gore shared the stage with Mr. Bush in 2001 has such an awkward pairing occurred at an inauguration. Mr. Gore won the popular vote in 2000 and only conceded the loss after the United States Supreme Court intervened to stop a recount in Florida. Mrs. Clinton’s loss was less contested, but her victory total in the popular vote, by 2,864,974 million votes, dwarfed Mr. Gore’s 543,895 margin in 2000. Mrs. Clinton’s total popular vote was the largest for a losing candidate since 1876.

Trump to Obama: No more releases from Guantánamo

It has been a busy day for the president-elect on Twitter, but he took the time to prepare his supporters for a late flurry of transfers from Guantánamo Bay that Mr. Obama plans in the coming days.

The New York Times reported last month that the Obama administration had deals to transfer about 18 of the remaining 59 detainees before Mr. Obama leaves office on Jan. 20. If all goes as planned, most would go to three gulf nations — Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — and be placed in custodial rehabilitation programs. One would go to Italy.

All of the men set to leave the prison are on a list of those recommended for transfer, if security conditions can be met in the receiving country, by six United States security agencies. Most have been held for about 14 years in wartime detention without trial and are from unstable countries, like Yemen, which complicated efforts to find a place to send them.

While Mr. Obama failed to fulfill his vow to close the Guantánamo prison, he refused to place any new detainees there and has whittled its population from the 242 prisoners he inherited from the administration of President George W. Bush.

Mr. Trump has vowed to keep the prison open and “load it up with some bad dudes.”

Civil rights activists occupy Sessions’s office

The protest season is beginning even before the swearing in.

Officials of the N.A.A.C.P. and its Alabama chapter occupied Mr. Sessions’s office in Mobile, Ala., demanding that the senator withdraw his name from consideration to be the next attorney general.

Trump picks U.S. trade representative

Mr. Trump, whose campaign for the White House was centered on an anti-trade and anti-globalization message, on Tuesday selected Robert E. Lighthizer, an international trade lawyer who has argued in favor of protectionist policies in some cases, as his United States trade representative.

In Mr. Lighthizer, a top trade attorney representing multinational companies at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom who was a trade official for Ronald Reagan, Mr. Trump has selected a seasoned negotiator who is intimately familiar with the benefits of global agreements. But Mr. Lighthizer has also been outspoken in pointing out their potential harm to United States interests. It is not clear what role he will play in the Trump administration now that the president-elect has created a White House National Trade Council and placed Peter Navarro, an economist who is a leading critic of China, at its helm.

Mr. Lighthizer has also been harshly critical of China, and in a 2010 Op-Ed article in The New York Times, he presaged some of Mr. Trump’s talk on trade.

“Given the Tea Party’s desire to restore America’s greatness, it will push Washington to stand up to China and re-establish American pre-eminence, even at the cost of the country’s free-trade record,” Mr. Lighthizer wrote.

At the same time, he has lobbied on behalf of major American corporations to pry open foreign markets.

In response to the announcement, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and an ardent free-trade supporter, appears to have given up on the kinds of expansive multilateral trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that he once championed. What is left of the free-trade caucus now appears content with small deals with individual countries.

“The incoming Trump administration has a unique opportunity to pursue new, bilateral trade pacts of the highest caliber that can be submitted to Congress for an up-or-down vote with no amendments,” Mr. Hatch wrote.

And speaking of trade …

The president-elect, who targeted Boeing on its Air Force One upgrade, Lockheed on its advanced military fighter jet and, of course, Carrier on its Indianapolis furnace plant, seems to have taken a shine to General Motors.

In fact, it was President Obama who saved the Lordstown, Ohio, G.M. plant in 2009, with the auto bailout, visiting the factory that year to take a Chevrolet Cruze for a spin on the plant floor.

And G.M. has now responded:

G.M. imports hatchback versions of the Cruze from a factory in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, which was only a small percentage of the 172,000 Cruzes sold through November, said Patrick Morrissey, a spokesman.

Obama’s mission: Save the Affordable Care Act

With less than three weeks left before he leaves office, Mr. Obama has a more immediate concern in Congress: how to prevent Mr. Trump and Republicans from rolling back his domestic accomplishments, especially the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Obama, who returned on Monday from a two-week vacation in Hawaii, plans to make a rare visit to Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning to huddle privately with House and Senate Democrats and discuss how to thwart the coming Republican assault on his legacy.

Democrats are strategizing about the best way to block the repeal of the health care law, as well as attempts to cut Medicare or Medicaid, and Mr. Obama has made it clear that he will use his remaining days in the White House to secure as many of his priorities as possible.

Mr. Pence will make a return to the Capitol — where he served for many years as a House member from Indiana — on Wednesday. He will be there to “discuss next steps to repeal and replace #Obamacare,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan said on Monday on Twitter.

Bipartisan letter to Trump: Sell your businesses

A handful of Republicans — including several former governors and members of Congress — have joined with liberal ethics activists in pressing Mr. Trump to sell his business assets to prevent White House conflicts that could be “seriously damaging” to the presidency.

The letter sent to Mr. Trump includes the signatures of two former Republican governors, five former Republican members of the House and a collection of prominent ethicists, including Peter Schweizer, the editor at large of Breitbart and the author of “Clinton Cash,” a book that criticized Hillary Clinton’s connections to the Clinton Foundation.

In a number of cases, the Republicans who signed the letter have been critics of Mr. Trump since before the election, such as former Representatives Peter Smith of Vermont and Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma. Some Republican signers, such as Arne Carlson, a former governor of Minnesota, and Christine Todd Whitman, a former governor of New Jersey, supported Mrs. Clinton for president.

But the letter suggests that Mr. Trump is beginning to face calls from a broadening universe of people to take more aggressive steps to eliminate potential conflicts, such as selling off his real estate holdings and businesses before taking office.

“The only way to solve the problems you face remains divesting into a blind trust managed by an independent trustee or the equivalent,” the letter says. “As long as you continue to maintain ownership of the Trump Organization, no other steps that you take will prevent the serious conflicts of interest.”

The letter was organized by two former White House ethics lawyers — Richard W. Painter, who served under George W. Bush, and Norman Eisen, who served in the Obama administration — as well as Fred Wertheimer, the founder of an ethics in government group called Democracy 21.

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