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HOUSE SHOULD REVISE RYAN PLAN TO REPEAL OBAMACARE, KILL 30 PERCENT ‘CONTINUOUS COVERAGE’ PENALTY

By ROBERT ROMANO

“What I tell people at home is I think we can get 85 percent of this, for sure, repealed in reconciliation.”

That was then-U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), prior to his tenure as Speaker of the House of Representatives, on the Mark Levin Show national radio program on July 11, 2012, outlining House Republicans’ plan to repeal almost all of the health care law via the budget reconciliation process.

“All the Medicare policy, all the Medicaid funding, all the Obamacare exchange subsidies, that’s fiscal, that’s spending — taxing and spending.  All of that can go into reconciliation, which has always been our plan. It is our plan,” Ryan promised.

Make a promise, keep a promise, Speaker Ryan.

In 2015, House Republicans set the floor for what such a repeal would look like in H.R. 3762, legislation that included ending Medicaid expansion, premium subsidies, cost-sharing subsidies, the individual and employer mandates, reinsurance, risk corridors and risk-adjustment, and the taxes and spending from the health care law. But not the insurance regulations.

That bill passed both houses of Congress and was vetoed by former President Barack Obama in early 2016. If it was good enough for Obama to veto, one might question why it was not good enough for President Donald Trump to sign in 2017.

Fast forward to today’s proposal to replace Obamacare, and it does not do all of these things.

While the bill does appear to end the individual and employer mandates, it replaces the individual mandate with a “continuous coverage” penalty that insurance companies can charge, something Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had warned about.

Sen. Paul was correct as it turned out. As reported by Kaiser Health News, the “continuous coverage” penalty “increases premiums for people who buy insurance if they have gone 63 consecutive days without a policy during the past 12 months. Their premiums would rise by 30 percent and that surcharge would last for a year.”

So, the Republican plan to lower premiums, is to increase them?

Even if you had only lapsed coverage for, say, 64 days — one day more than the provision’s cutoff — you would owe the increased premiums for an entire year. Like the individual mandate, those who may be least able to afford health coverage, for example those who lose their jobs and are out of the health care market for a while, are the ones who are penalized for not keeping coverage. And unlike the individual mandate, there is no hardship exemption.

Does that make sense?

“The continuous coverage provision alone should be reason enough for Republicans to go back to the drawing board with this bill,” Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning said in a statement.

“Republicans promised to end the tyranny of the individual mandate but instead, House Speaker Paul Ryan has made it worse, by punishing those who lose their coverage because they lost their job or discontinued it because premiums got too high. This massive increase has a perverse effect of making it harder to get health insurance for those who drop for whatever reason, by hiking premiums of those who attempt to reenter the insurance market by 30 percent as a matter of law. This is unbelievably bad,” Manning explained.

“The House needs to stop what they are doing this instant and start over,” Manning exclaimed.

There are other problems. The bill doesn’t eliminate the additional federal funding for Medicaid expansion that was enacted in Obamacare.

Making matters worse, nobody apparently checked with the Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, who has served since Feb. 2012, to see if the insurance regulations — ordering basic plans to cover more than they might otherwise — could be included in the budget reconciliation bill, according to Sen. Mike Lee speaking with the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein.

“What I understood her to be saying is that there’s no reason why an Obamacare repeal bill necessarily could not have provisions repealing the health insurance regulations,” Lee said in the interview.

According to the story, “Lee also said that the parliamentarian told him it wasn’t until very recently, after the unveiling of the House bill, that any Republican even asked her about the possibility of repealing regulations with a simple majority.”

Consider that. The whole reason House Republicans have been told they could not address the insurance regulations is because the Senate budget rules would not allow it.

But did anyone ever check? MacDonough has been there for over five years now.

Perhaps Ryan’s plan to repeal 85 percent of Obamacare via reconciliation in 2012 was actually too low.

The legislation appears to replace exchange plan subsidies with a regime of tax credits — which will cost $70 billion a year once fully implemented according to the Congressional Budget Office — the exchanges themselves remain in place. The plan also subsidizes a national, catastrophic-only insurance plan.

Yet, if the plan had contemplated eliminating insurance regulations and, say, going across state lines to buy insurance, would anyone be talking about new federal subsidies for health insurance?

In other words, it would appear the entire new scheme of health insurance has been designed based on what Ryan thought he could get through on reconciliation. The plan tacitly acknowledges that costs will not be coming down, and so envisions subsidies via tax credits.

This is the problem. Because Ryan and Republican leaders are constraining themselves to what they think can be accomplished under Senate reconciliation budget rules, they are delivering a mutant national health care system. Just pass the bill you want, and if the Senate parliamentarian objects, overrule her, the same way they plan on overriding any filibuster on Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.

Enough with the excuses. If Senate rules prevent good legislation from being proposed, then override those rules.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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MARK MEADOWS STANDS UP FOR FREEDOM AND AGAINST RYANCARE

By RICK MANNING

Remember the good old days when Republicans were against the nationalization of 1/6 of the nation’s economy through Obamacare.  Fortunately, Representative Mark Meadows and many others in the GOP Conference do as they seek to hold Speaker Ryan to the rhetorical standard that so many in House Leadership raised for the past six years.

As Ryancare battle rages in House of Representatives, many are questioning why so many conservatives find the Speaker’s approach noxious.  Fortunately, the Texas Public Policy Forum has listed ten reasons why the Speaker’s health care bill falls short, not only of repealing Obamacare, but of refocusing our nation’s health care system toward patient care and away from worrying about insurance coverage.

But on Washington, D.C.’s political scoresheet, the real story is the willingness of House Freedom Caucus Chairman Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) to stand up and oppose what can only be described as a bad, bad bill. On Tuesday, Meadows was reportedly called out for his opposition to the bill by President Trump in a meeting of House Republicans on Capitol Hill. The President recognized that Rep. Meadows worked hard for his election in North Carolina, and (some say jokingly) warned him that he’d be coming after him on this vote.

Joking or not, the message was clear that in spite of all the hard work Representative Meadows and his wife Debbie did to elect the President in the critical Tarheel State, he was likely to face the President’s political wrath if he continued to lead opposition to the disastrous Ryan plan.  A plan that the Congressional Budget Office reports will result in continuing health insurance rate increases as it fails to deal with the underlying problems with national health care.

It takes a person of unusual character and integrity to stand against a President who you just recently helped elect, but Mark Meadows understands that restoring our health care system to a free market orientation is too important to play politics over.

The people of the 11th District of North Carolina owe their Congressman a great debt of gratitude for standing firm, as Mark Meadows is exhibiting the kind of courage that Americans expect but so rarely receive from their elective representatives.

To provide perspective on what is at stake, the Texas Public Policy Forum listed as the Top Ten Conservative Concerns with the American Health Care Act, also known as Ryancare.

  1. Doesn’t Improve Care. Obamacare expanded the federal bureaucracy at the expense of quality care. Tax dollars were taken from providers and used to pay administrators, consultants, lobbyists, insurers, and regulators. The House bill does nothing to change that dynamic.
  2. Raises Insurance Premiums. The Congressional Budget Office believes that the bill will raise insurance premiums by 15-20 percent on average in the next two years, with even higher spikes in some areas. Americans care most about lowering health costs and making coverage affordable—yet the bill falls short on that count, retaining all but one of Obamacare’s costly mandated benefits and insurance regulations.
  3. Doesn’t Repeal Obamacare. Lost in the question of whether or not the bill’s replacement provisions represent “Obamacare Lite” is the fact that the bill as currently drafted represents “Repeal Lite”—when compared not only to full repeal, but even to the 2015 reconciliation bill that passed both houses of Congress. The bill retains all but one of Obamacare’s benefit mandates, some of its taxes, and keeps Medicaid expansion to the able-bodied in perpetuity.
  4. Expands Obamacare. Rather than repealing all of the law, the House Republican bill instead expands Obamacare’s subsidy regime—extending it to millions of individuals off of insurance Exchanges for 2018 and 2019—and revises the subsidy regime for 2019. Some conservatives may question the need to “fix” Obamacare, when House Republicans’ legislation should revolve around repealing Obamacare.
  5. Creates New Entitlement. Beginning in 2020, the bill creates an entirely new entitlement—advanceable, refundable tax credits—replacing Obamacare’s form of subsidized health insurance with another.
  6. Fiscal Gimmicks? Under the bill, the transition from the Obamacare subsidy regime to the new system of tax credits, and a reformed Medicaid program, will take place beginning in January 2020—a presidential election year. If Congress or the Administration delay or abandon the transition due to political blowback, the cost of the House bill will soar.
  7. Permanent Bailout Fund for Insurers? While failing to repeal Obamacare’s risk corridors and reinsurance bailouts, the bill also creates a new “Patient and State Stability Fund,” designed to provide most of its $100 billion in grants to subsidize health insurers. Some conservatives may question whether this grant program will end in 2026 as scheduled under the bill, or whether health insurers instead will make claims on Washington for federal bailouts to the tune of billions of dollars annually.
  8. Federally Controlled, Not Patient-Centered. Notwithstanding some important structural changes to Medicaid that respect states, the House bill claims to be patient-centered but still denies a 60-year old the ability to opt out of paying for maternity benefits. Supporters of the House bill talk about giving more flexibility to states, but leave all the federal insurance mandates in place.
  9. Perpetuates Medicaid Expansion. The House Republican bill allows states to keep their Medicaid expansion to the able-bodied in perpetuity—a major change compared to the 2015 repeal bill. CBO concluded that many states will in fact keep their expansions, diverting funds from covering the most vulnerable to expand Medicaid to able-bodied adults. Moreover, the House bill maintains Obamacare’s enhanced Medicaid match for nearly three years, encouraging expansion states to sign up more able-bodied adults between now and January 2020 to receive additional federal funding.
  10. Inadequate Verification. By relying on Obamacare’s system of verifying eligibility for the new tax credit entitlement, the bill requires verification of citizenship but not identity—continuing Obamacare’s problems of fraudulent applicants obtaining subsidies. In addition, some conservatives may be concerned that even these inadequate verification provisions could be stripped due to procedural concerns in the Senate.

Even at this late date, Congress can still repeal Obamacare and respect the people, the Constitution and the states by defeating this version of Ryancare on the floor, and moving ahead with legislation that at the least mirrors the 2015 repeal language that passed Congress, and replace Obamacare with a system that returns power to the states, restores health care choices to the people and allows health care markets to determine products being offered to meet the needs of consumers.

Should, as this author hopes, Ryancare fail this week, it does not signal the end of the process, but a new beginning where consensus can be created around solutions that the GOP has long espoused. This is the way legislation is supposed to work. For all the doomsayers, they need to wake up from their swampy haze, and remember their promises when they campaigned against Obamacare. A pathway to a good health care bill is available, but House Leadership needs to re-read their campaign brochures and take it.

Thank goodness for people like Mark Meadows, who is reminding them of what it means to be a free market, limited government Republican.

The author is president of Americans for Limited Government.

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SMARTERSAFER URGES CONGRESS TO REJECT PROPOSED WHITE HOUSE CUTS TO DISASTER ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS

By LILY WILSON

On Thursday, SmarterSafer, a national coalition of taxpayer advocates, environmental groups, insurance interests, housing organizations and mitigation advocates, urged Congress to oppose the Trump Administration’s proposed spending cuts to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which would undermine the nation’s ability to prepare for and recover from destructive natural disasters. SmarterSafer recently released a proposal that outlines how Congress should improve mitigation efforts and comprehensively reform the National Flood Insurance Program before it expires in September.

“Cutting funds that protect Americans from increasingly severe and often fatal storms is a penny wise and pound foolish strategy that will only put lives, property and taxpayer dollars at risk. Studies show that every dollar FEMA invests in hazard mitigation saves $4 in disaster costs, so lawmakers should reject this shortsighted proposal and invest in measures that minimize damage before a storm takes place. As Congress begins the long budget process and works to reauthorize a key federal disaster policy— the National Flood Insurance Program— we look forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to improve mitigation strategies that ready the country for future severe storms.”

SmarterSafer.org is a national coalition that is made up of a diverse chorus of voices united in favor of environmentally responsible, fiscally sound approaches to natural catastrophe policy that promote public safety. The coalition believes that the Federal government has a role in encouraging and helping homeowners to undertake mitigation efforts to safeguard their homes against natural disasters.  At the same time, the coalition opposes measures that put people’s lives at risk at the expense of taxpayers.

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POLITICALLY CORRECT COURT RULING AGAINST TRUMP TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS REVEALS JUDICIAL TYRANNY

By ROBERT ROMANO

Under the ridiculous ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson of the District of Hawaii, temporary travel restrictions on immigration — grants of power to the president enacted by Congress decades ago — from any Muslim-majority countries somehow violate the First Amendment.

But only if the restrictions are issued by President Donald Trump.

Citing “significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the Executive Order,” including Trump campaign statements purported to be discriminatory of Islam, the court found special First Amendment rights to immigrate to the U.S. to Muslims throughout the world who neither live here nor have any protections under the Constitution.

But not for Jews, Christians, Hindus or anyone else, apparently, because Trump had not promised announce to block immigration from Israel, Europe or India on the campaign trail. Presumably, Trump could restrict immigration from any country that is not predominantly Muslim, since there were no statements from the Trump campaign in 2016 about doing so.

And, under the ruling, any other president besides Trump might be able to exercise these same powers against predominantly Muslim countries, delegated to the president under the 1952 immigration statute.

There’s only one problem. That is not what the law says, which is a broad grant of power to the president. Not certain presidents based upon a judicially ascertained motive determined by what might have been said on the campaign trail.

Under 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), enacted in 1952, “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

In other words, the law is blind to motive. It does not matter why Trump wants the travel restrictions, just that he finds certain immigrant entries would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” It is a subjective determination, a political question with which the executive has discretion.

Discretion is the key component there. Congress has authorized the president to close down the entire border if he feels it is necessary. It does not matter why. The court has overstepped its bounds.

Americans for Limited Government President in a statement noted the absurdity of the ruling, saying, “If it would be constitutional if issued by former President Obama, then it must then be constitutional under President Trump. The rule of law means equal application of the law and by the judge’s own words, that is not what we have here.”

The judge even acknowledged that “the Executive Order does not facially discriminate for or against any particular religion, or for or against religion versus non-religion.” But never mind what the order actually said. Or that other presidents could issue the order under Judge Watson’s precedent.

And never mind the fact that the government had narrowly tailored the order to apply to just six countries, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, thought to be of higher risk of exporting terrorism — leaving the vast majority of Muslim-majority countries unaffected by the order.

Not finding any evidence of any actual religious discrimination in Trump’s order, the court decided to invent some out of whole cloth, ruling against the order the court wished Trump had issued so that it could overturn it, relying on statements from the president on the 2016 campaign trail to somehow deduce a discriminatory motive by President Trump.

Which, by the way, even if Trump had issued an order barring new non-citizen Muslim entry into the U.S., as he had proposed on the campaign trail, it still would not have violated the Constitution or the statute, because those constitutional protections do not extend overseas.

As Manning concluded in his statement, “It is now clear that federal courts do not intend to hold the acts of President Trump to the same standards as other presidents past or future, instead imposing a separate body of law simply for his administration. In essence, by denying the powers of the president to Trump, the courts are attempting to render their verdict on the outcome of the 2016 election, an intolerable abuse by the judicial branch that Congress must now rein in.”

That is, the exercise of executive power in the conduct of foreign relations — in this case in the area of immigration — under the Constitution and as authorized by Congress, has absolutely zero recourse in courts of law. And it is time Congress said so, by limiting the jurisdiction of federal courts not to examine travel restrictions or any other executive functions where the rights of foreigners who have never set foot on U.S. soil are being invoked.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government. 

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AL QAEDA OPERATIVE CONVICTED OF MULTIPLE TERRORISM OFFENSES TARGETING AMERICANS OVERSEAS

By JORDAN WILIAMS

On March 16, a jury returned its verdict convicting al Qaeda operative Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, of multiple terrorism offenses including conspiracy to murder American military personnel in Afghanistan and conspiracy to bomb the U.S. embassy in Nigeria. Harun traveled to Afghanistan in the weeks before Sept. 11, 2001 where he joined al Qaeda, trained at al Qaeda training camps and participated in attacks on U.S. and Coalition troops in Afghanistan, as well as also received training in explosives from an al Qaeda weapons expert and traveled from Pakistan to Nigeria intending to attack U.S. government facilities there.

“Harun is an al Qaeda operative who targeted U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities across two continents. The evidence presented at trial established that the defendant and other jihadists attacked a U.S. military patrol in Afghanistan, resulting in the death of two American soldiers and the serious injury of others. Today’s guilty verdict ensures that the defendant will be held accountable for his acts of terrorism,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General McCord. “I want to thank the many agents, analysts, and prosecutors whose hard work and dedication made this result possible.”

Harun has a long history with al Qaeda, and has carried out numerous terrorist attacks along with other members of the organization. It was not until 2012 that Harun was indicted in the U.S to face the charges pending in the Eastern District of New York. The guilty verdict was announced Thursday morning by Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary B. McCord for National Security, Acting U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Rohde for the Eastern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Commissioner James P. O’Neill of the NYPD.

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THE TRUMP RALLY COULD BE FOR REAL

By ROBERT ROMANO

The S&P 500 is up 9.5 percent since Nov. 9, 2016, a big jump for global stocks and asset prices that has already been touted the Trump rally, but is it for real?

So early into President Donald Trump’s first year in office, naturally, it is impossible to say.

The real rubber will meet the road when it comes to three key factors: Jobs, labor participation and economic growth. Those will determine if we are just in another speculative bubble, or if we truly are about to enter a genuine economic boom.

In past boom economies, the U.S. labor force was expanding rapidly, millions of jobs were being created and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was soaring. These were virtuous cycles with more people participating in the economy, businesses expanding, increasing confidence and thus, boosting spending.

In other words, the exact opposite of the economy of the past decade, which from a GDP standpoint was the worst ever, even worse than the Great Depression. Overall, real GDP, that is, GDP adjusted for inflation, has not exceeded 4 percent since 2000, and not been above 3 percent since 2005.

The slowdown has unfortunately correlated with decelerating growth in job creation, incomes and the labor force. About 9 million aged 16 to 64 either left the labor force or did not enter on a net basis as labor participation for working age Americans has dropped this century.

The recession of 2008 and 2009 was not met with a robust recovery, and it has had a real impact in those areas that affect Americans the most: Finding jobs and boosting income.

Those charts are more or less moving in the same direction. In short, we’ve barely gotten back to where we were before the financial crisis, and to the extent the economy has slowed down, so too have financial prospects for the American people.

But the lesson is, if we want more jobs and higher incomes, then we need more economic growth and to get people back in the labor force looking for jobs as a result of new opportunities were available as businesses expanded.

A ray of sunshine, then, comes from the household survey in the monthly jobs numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the month of February, those reporting they had jobs grew by 447,000. Those entering the labor force grew by 340,000 as the labor participation rate grew to 63 percent.

Obviously, a single month’s data is not predictive of the future, so a word of caution to the exuberant.

Secular stagnation economists like Lawrence Summers worry that the slow growth may be here to stay. Mohamed El-Erian famously called the period of slower growth, which he predicted after the financial crisis, the “new normal.”

Certainly, there have been a lot of reasons to suggest that the economic slowdown we’re experiencing in the U.S. — but also Japan, Europe and elsewhere in the developed world — will ultimately continue. But perhaps those appeared as warning lights, that if we continued on our current path, the future would be less prosperous.

President Trump, then, appears as a wild card in this capacity, arguing for bringing jobs back to the U.S., expanding production here and boosting the labor force.

To the extent he succeeds, high rates of working appear to predict higher rates of consumption, and that should help growth reach more robust numbers. The 9 million potential workers slack in the labor force, looms large, and seems to argue that robust growth remains possible, just by creating an environment where new jobs appear.

We’ll all know soon in the coming months and years if his plan is succeeding, based on whether those job opportunities emerge, increasing demand for labor and boosting incomes. Stay tuned.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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WHY ARE REPUBLICANS STILL SUBSIDIZING PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE?

By ROBERT ROMANO

One obvious drawback to the new health care system proposed by Congressional Republicans from a free market perspective is the continued presence of private insurance subsidies, this time via refundable tax credits.

It raises an obvious question: If the Republican legislative plan to repeal Obamacare is a “market-based” approach to health care that will bring down costs, why do private insurance policies need to be subsidized?

Contextually, the proposed bill fails to repeal or address the Obamacare insurance regulationsthe American Medical Association’s monopoly on doctor certification via control of medical schools, the Food and Drug Administration monopoly on approving new drugs, and the government-created state-by-state insurance monopolies, which appear to drive up the cost of premiums by limiting competition. It does not address medical malpractice reform.

These are some of the historic cost-drivers that make it harder if not impossible to bring affordable, alternative insurance policies to patients.

Where is the Uber of insurance companies?

We’re told by GOP Congressional leaders that the reason the bill does not go after any of these cost-drivers is because of Senate rules on reconciliation that limit votes to only tax and spending items with direct budgetary impact.

Meaning, Congressional Republicans are crafting a new national health care system — comprising almost one-fifth of the $18.6 trillion U.S. economy — based on what the Senate parliamentarian will allow to get through on budget reconciliation. That is no way to construct a policy of such significance, but here we are.

There are other problems — such as encouraging further Medicaid expansion through the end of 2019, including the federal matching funds, and $2 billion a year for “safety net funding” for non-expansion states — but they arise as political choices made by Congressional leaders, not constraints from the reconciliation process.

In 2015, Republicans passed budget reconciliation legislation, H.R. 3762, which former President Barack Obama vetoed in 2016, which included ending Medicaid expansion, premium subsidies, cost-sharing subsidies, the individual and employer mandates, reinsurance, risk corridors and risk-adjustment, and the taxes and spending from the health care law.

This set the minimal standard for what might be achieved under the reconciliation process, but notably missing were some of the same cost drivers enumerated above and market reforms that might address them.

So, let us not pretend we are driving down costs — instead, we are padding these shortcomings with billions of dollars of new tax credit subsidies. It is a new entitlement. And if history is any judge, it will never go away.

From 2000 to 2015, the nominal growth of health care premiums — individual and family — have consistently outpaced the nominal growth of household median income, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Individual premiums grew an average 7 percent a year, family premiums grew 7.6 percent a year — but incomes only grew 2.1 percent.

That said, the growth rate of health care premiums was already coming down throughout the 2000s before Obamacare was enacted. In 2011, after the insurance regulations of the health care law went into effect, there was another tremendous spike in premiums.

A cynic might suggest the now GOP-proposed tax credits appear as a tacit admission on lawmakers’ parts that they do not believe costs are coming down. That must be because they do not think market-based reforms are ever going to be implemented — and so they buy into the idea that health care must be subsidized in order to be affordable.

Because if the plan now under consideration truly brought down costs, nobody would think it needs to be subsidized — and nobody would be talking about future phases to get the job done.

If the biggest impediment to real, market-based health care reform is the Harry Reid-appointed Senate parliamentarian — Elizabeth MacDonough — then it’s time to overrule her and change the rules, either by expanding what types of provisions can be included under reconciliation or, ideally, by just eliminating the legislative filibuster.

Since the advent of the cloture rule in 1917 — now 100 years old — Republicans have never had a filibuster-proof majority. And if history holds, they never will. Over that time, the size and scope of the federal government has dramatically expanded — and been locked in — because of Senatorial supermajorities Democrats gained in the 1930s, 1960s, 1970s and in 2009-10, when Obamacare was enacted.

The filibuster has not served to limit government, it has locked in its maximization and made the free market something of a fairy tale. Moreover, with the direct election of senators, the Senate cloture rule is an unnecessary antique, when voters can hold senators accountable via elections every two years. Overall, eliminating the filibuster would make the government more responsive to the will of the people.

It would also open up tax reform, entitlement reform and you name it over the next couple of years.

If the Senate overreaches in a non-filibuster world, the American people would be able to respond at the polls — just as they will sure react if Congressional Republicans fail to keep their campaign promises.

President Donald Trump in all likelihood will never be more powerful than he is right now. You don’t get to phase two if phase one fails. If Senate rules stand in the way of implementing free market reforms, then change Senate rules and fix our broken health care system, including eliminating subsidies. No more excuses.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

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PARTIAL OBAMACARE REPEAL FALLS SHORT IN KEY AREAS

By ROBERT ROMANO

In 2016, Republicans in Congress set the floor for what a repeal of Obamacare would look like in H.R. 3762, legislation that former President Barack Obama vetoed that included ending Medicaid expansion, premium subsidies, cost-sharing subsidies, the individual and employer mandates, reinsurance, risk corridors and risk-adjustment, and the taxes and spending from the health care law.

Unfortunately, at first blush, the legislation proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee does not meet that basic standard, leaving in place key parts of Obamacare while eliminating others.

To its credit, the bill does appear to zero out the tyranny of the individual and employer mandates. But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) contends that it replaces these penalties with another penalty that now must be paid directly to insurance companies if you drop coverage, which he said is “unconstitutional.”

But on things like Medicaid expansion, it only phases it out in 2020, and even then, in states that have expanded Medicaid, current beneficiaries will get to keep their federal matching funds, provided that they “do not have a break in eligibility for more than one month,” according to the section-by-section summary provided by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

It even encourages further Medicaid expansion first by continuing to provide states with the option of doing so through the end of 2019, including the federal matching funds, and for states that don’t, they still get a carve-out — $2 billion a year for “safety net funding.”

The Cadillac tax is merely postponed until 2025.

The legislation appears to replace exchange plan subsidies with a regime of tax credits — the exchanges themselves remain in place. The plan also subsidizes a national, catastrophic-only insurance plan. These subsidies would sunset in 2020.

Leaving aside the issue of subsidies, surely, though there would be a national market for a catastrophic-only insurance plan, so one hopes that such an affordable option would be available even to those who do not qualify for the tax credits.

The cost-sharing subsidies are also repealed starting in 2020.

So, there’s good and bad from a limited government, free market perspective, but when the GOP campaigned in 2016 on repealing Obamacare, they did not say there would be exceptions to what they had just put on Obama’s desk to be vetoed.

Why can’t they just pass the bill they passed last year?

If it was good enough for Obama to veto, it should have been good enough for President Donald Trump to sign.

Instead, the American people are now being treated to what can only be called a partial repeal.

Other parts of the health care law that were unaddressed by the 2016 repeal legislation that Obama vetoed also remain in place, including leaving children on their parents plans until the age of 26, preexisting conditions and regulations for what insurance plans must cover — except for the catastrophic only plans, presumably.

All remain in place under the guise that they cannot be addressed via the reconciliation budget process and thus are untouchable given Senate rules otherwise requiring 60 votes to enact legislation.

That is why Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning thinks Congress can do better, urging that “the foundation of the replacement of Obamacare has to be a complete return of health care to the states where it constitutionally belongs,” pointing to proposals such as the Texas Public Policy Forum have advocated.

Manning said if a change of budget or Senate rules is necessary to get a full repeal, then that is what, minimally, Congress ought to attempt.

“If this the best Congress can do to partially repeal Obamacare via reconciliation, then perhaps Congress should consider revising the rules on reconciliation, or if that is not feasible, then just do away with the filibuster. It’s ridiculous that fixing our nation’s health care system is restricted by old rules that only lock in place a broken status quo,” Manning concluded.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of American for Limited Government.

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AGENCY ACCOUNTABILITY ACT RESTORES POWER OF THE PURSE

By NATALIA CASTRO

The power of the purse including that of raising revenue has been one of Congress’s greatest tools for balancing the power of the executive branch. However, a loophole in the law has allowed the executive branch to bypass Congress to raise funds for its own aims via fees, fines and other revenue. These are then used as slush funds for pet projects at departments and agencies..

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reported in Nov. 2016on funding from 2010 to 2015 reports that the federal government had raised $83 billion in fees, fines and other revenue independent of the appropriations process.

Luckily, U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) has introduced critical legislation to return congressional accountability to executive offices who have taken control of funds through fines and fees and use them to allow unelected bureaucrats to put forth policy.

With H.R. 850 also known as the Agency Accountability Act, the abuse of the Obama Administration will finally end.

This bill, proposed by Alabama Representative Gary Palmer, “requires any agency that receives a fee, fine, penalty, or proceeds from a settlement to deposit the amount in the general fund of the Treasury.” Preventing agencies from having their own slush funds to fund programs through, this restores fiscal control where it belongs, with congress. The bill continues, “The funds may not be used unless the funding is provided in advance in an appropriations bill. Any amounts deposited during the fiscal year in which this bill is enacted may not be obligated during the fiscal year and must be used for deficit reduction.”

Congress was provided with the power of the purse to balance out the executive branch in Article 1 of the Constitution, however, agencies have been able to earn billions of dollars based on utilizing executive fees outside of congressional appropriations.

In the status quo, executive agencies can use fines and fees collected from policy to fund programs as dictated by that executive agency. This provides agencies with a slush fund to utilize outside of money appropriated to the agency by congress.

It was this method that allowed President Obama to institute the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) which congressional republicans consistently tried to defund. By charging illegal immigrants $465 per applicant in fees and fines in exchange for their freedom, DACA has been able to accrue over $400 million to fund itself. Members of the executive branch have used fees and fines non-regulated by congress to impose legislation that bureaucrats in the executive branch know congress would never allow.

The Department of Justice alone has raised $63.71 billion through “use of settlements for violations of financial laws. The DOJ’s discretion to allow the banks as part of their settlement agreement to provide donations to an approved list of non-profits which is considered ‘double credit’ against the penalty amount the bank owes. In these instances, the executive branch is acting as the judge, jury, and regulator; determining what fines and penalties to assess, how much the penalty is worth, and then how to distribute the funds.”

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) told Florida Business Daily on Feb. 7, “During the Holder-Lynch reign, the Department of Justice would direct money obtained in enforcement actions to political activist groups that aligned with the Obama administration’s policies. In some instances, this was done to restore funding in areas that Congress had cut.”

Department of Justice fine and fees money directed toward an “approved list of non-profits” meant funding to leftist advocacy groups during the Obama administration, such as The National Council of La Raza, The National Urban League,  and The National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Similarly, the Department of Labor has gained over $1.3 billion from fines and fees and the Environmental Protection Agency has gained over $600 million.

Executive departments have built second budgets from these tactics to avoid congress, within the DOJ nearly 15 percent of the entire budget came from alternative funding sources such as fines, fees, and penalties.

Just as the Obama Administration funded DACA via fees despite Republican disapproval, the left has turned these slush funds into their own personal bank accounts.

Palmer’s legislation does not take away money which these agencies need for their day to day activities, it simply puts the money in a general fund for the Treasure and returns to Congress the power it should have had all along, the power to determine how and why money is used — if at all.

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning supported the bill in his March 2 press release explaining, “Representative Palmer’s Agency Accountability Act ends the practice of Agency’s compiling slush funds that allow them to operate independently from Congress’ funding oversight. From 2010 to 2015, $83 billion of fines, fees and other revenue were collected by agencies, money that Congress alone should have authority in appropriating.”

Congress was given the power of the purse in Article I of the Constitution as a critical mechanism for preventing government overreach from the executive branch, billions of dollars later and congress seems to have lost some of this power. Palmer’s legislation returns congress with its ability to appropriate funds as it sees fit, and will finally end the executive branch’s unrestrained access to the American people’s money.

Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.

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TrumpSotU2017

DONALD TRUMP BECOMES PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

By RICK MANNING

President Donald Trump grabbed Congress and the nation in a stirring one hour of must-see television, delivering an optimistic vision of America’s future, while recognizing the problems that threaten that very future.

Americans heard something from this president that they have longed to hear from their leaders from either political party when he emphatically declared, “My job is not to represent the world, my job is to represent the United States of America.”

With those simple eighteen words, Donald J. Trump defined his administration’s mission statement — to put American interests first, rather than giving away our national interest as a guilt offering for being the greatest, freest nation that the world has known.

The refreshing notion of embracing our nation’s historic freedoms and the pathway we’ve taken to broaden those freedoms, and recognizing that our best days can be ahead of us if we free our people from the shackles of government reminded how far we have fallen from that hope over the past eight years.

President Trump mentioned but did not dwell on his executive actions designed to unwind many of the pen and phone mistakes of the previous administration instead opting to look to the future and call on both parties to work together to find solutions built upon common ground principles.

While many in his place would have been tempted to make a long-winded case for tax reform and budget cuts, the President made a compelling case for corporate tax cuts based around a populist premise that we need to make it competitive to build things in America again so our workers are getting paychecks in those factories.

As a fiscal conservative, the multiple spending plans that inevitably emerge from these speeches is cause for some angst as our nation faces a $20 trillion debt crisis exacerbated by a decade where the debt grew by $11.5 trillion since September 30, 2006. At the same time, our nation suffered the worst Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in history, including the Great Depression.

Tackling this debt fueled emergency will likely be the greatest challenge of the Trump presidency, but the salve over the concern that the President did not mention this $20 trillion challenge is that the policies he outlined on trade, taxes, deregulation, education, and immigration are many of the solutions to that very problem.  Making America and Americans prosperous again is fundamental in ending the 60-year streak of increasing the national debt and turning the corner toward fiscal sanity.

Donald Trump gave a message of unity. One where he honestly reached out to Americans of all races,  religions and political parties to come together to bind our wounds and rebuild hope in depressed rural areas to cities like Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore — a hope not dependent upon government, but instead built on opportunity, safe neighborhoods and education choice to break the chains of broken schools.

Unity around the hope that a young woman with a rare terminal disease whose father’s love led to the discovery of a cure that has her attending the University of Notre Dame.

Unity around a widow of fallen Navy Seal William Ryan Owens killed in a raid that provided intelligence which will help us win the war against Islamic terrorism around the world.  A young woman whose pain and sacrifice was visible for all to see in a heart wrenching minutes-long standing ovation from Congress and the president himself.

Many Americans have only seen Donald Trump through Saturday Night Live satires, malicious Internet memes and reporting that creates controversy where none should exist, but for one hour, they saw a man dedicated to his country, determined to fight for America and its people.

As Fox News reporter Chris Wallace put it, “I feel tonight that Donald Trump became the President of the United States.”

Now it is time to roll up our sleeves and turn the rhetoric into action. President Donald Trump has pointed the way, now the people need to lead Congress to take the path to making America great again.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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