News Sips 2/24: CPAC Weekend, Obamacare Repeal Status, The Trolletariate and Congress, and FBI Politics

Here are the four things you need to know before your coffee gets cold, the February 24, 2017 edition:

 

CPAC Weekend

Republicans and conservatives are gathering in National Harbor, Maryland, for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. The event is a veritable “who’s who” on the Right. Speakers range from grassroots organizers to moderate Republicans. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, will address the gathering today, Friday, at 10am. It’s important to note that Mr. Trump’s address will be the first time that a Republican President has addressed the gathering in his first year in office since Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Expect a warm-welcome for the President. This is a strong departure from the acrimony, or at least doubt that swirled around candidate Trump last year when he declined to attend the event. However, for fairness’ sake, Mr. Trump has attended the conference in the past and addressed the gathering. His welcome this year, as a Republican who spearheaded unlikely GOP victories across the country, took back the White House and retained Republican-control of Congress, will be strong. Expect the President to treat the gathering like a campaign rally. While many of the “thought leaders” on the Right have been, and remain, concerned about Trump’s populist leanings and lack of conservative bona fides, the fact remains that he is the best chance that they have to push forward a conservative governing agenda.

The conference, which featured White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon yesterday, will run through the weekend and feature keynote addresses from top-name Republican and conservative icons. Almost more importantly, though, are the strategy sessions and opportunities for attendees to get tips to take back to their home areas about how best to advance a message of freedom and economic liberty.

 

Obamacare Repeal Status

It’s unclear where the GOP stands right now on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. There are several public plans that have been put forward from members of Congress related to the best way to roll back the dying law and preserve some reforms. The most prominent of these plans that have already been rolled out is one offered by Congressman Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Senator Rand Paul. This plan, pushed by the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is the first one to be put forward that addresses the full dismantling of the law and increasing options to consumers. It’s unclear where the White House stands on the plan.

The debate over whether the GOP has the political will to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was heightened yesterday when former Speaker of the House John Boehner commented that there was no way Congress would actually do-away with the law. This stands in stark contrast to the Congress led by Boehner that symbolically repealed the law numerous times (when Obama was President, so, nothing actually got repealed).

It’s very important to take a step back and realize that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is entering a “death spiral.” The law front-loaded “goodies” (like coverage of pre-existing conditions and young-adults staying on their parents’ plans) while back-ending costs. It’s not really a conspiracy theory to assert the contention that one reason the plan was undertaken this way was to get people “hooked” on the law and allow for an easy transition into a single-payer system. We can see that already: health insurers are fleeing exchanges and costs are doubling in some parts of the country (Arizona’s 116% increase is one example). If Democrats were in power, there would be a strong likelihood that a single-payer, government-run, healthcare system would be implemented to “save the ACA.” It’s both nefarious and politically smart. When Obamacare was enacted in 2008, there were moderate Democrats who strongly opposed a single-payer system that was being advocated on the Left. So, rather than create a workable, moderate, solution, the law was created with a time-bomb built into it that would lead to an emergency collapse and the need to move to a single-payer system.

Why the digression into the history of the law? Because that’s what Republicans are facing with control of government right now. Unfortunately, they are not looking for the easy-way out (single-payer), so the path forward looks difficult. People have already gotten used to the front-loaded benefits of the ACA, and, obviously, are protesting any attempt to take away “their entitlements.” Republicans need to be forward-thinking and be the adults in the room in order to craft a solution that embraces the free-market and a solvent future. Despite the President’s assurances that a plan from the White House will be coming in mid-March, there is no guidance as to when a plan will, if ever, make it through Congress.

 

The Trolletariate and Congree

Congressmen on recess are still facing organized, paid protests at townhalls and other forums across the country. While the anger is real, the Left, which is much better at “organizing” than the Right, has seized on the dithering of Congressional Republicans and the Left’s own hatred of Donald Trump in order to make noise and yell at elected officials. Some of the protesters are following members of Congress around the Members’ districts (I mean, really, do these people have jobs?), and the House Sergeant-at-Arms warned Members about protesters knowing where Members lived.

Some Republican lawmakers have opted not to allowed bussed-in, paid protesters to have their way at public forums. Of course, this has sent the Left into feigned outrage and apoplexy. The problem is, of course, that it’s really a no-win scenario for the Member of Congress. If you hold an event and people are paid to disrupt it, you make the news as being shouted down by “concerned constituents.” If you don’t hold an event, you’re uncaring. The bigger concern, on a governing level, are the Republicans who get cold feet about legislating for fear of angering what we’ve termed the “Trolletariate.”

Republicans in Congress need to remember that they have spines and must return to Washington committed to conservative governing principles. If the Left is able to split the Party, Members will be easy pickings in 2018. To any Member of Congress reading this: they’re going to attack you regardless of what you do, at least stick up for your principles.

 

The Political FBI

In what’s been an extremely slow news week, the Associated Press and CNN (so, take it for what it’s worth) have been reporting that the White House was lobbying the FBI to go public with information that would clear any Trump Campaign officials from the perception that there was wrongdoing with regard to any Russian meddling leading up to the 2016 election. Despite the flurry of “Russian hacking” allegations, there is no evidence of any tampering with any voting device by any external actors, nor is there any indication from any source that Russian propaganda had anything to do with Hillary Clinton’s decision to watch the musical Hamilton more times than she campaigned in the State of Wisconsin.

The allegation raised by the AP and CNN is not one of illegality but rather a breach of expected protocol. It makes sense: you don’t want the politicians controlling how law enforcement, well, enforces the law. Of course, we understand that this goes on in every Administration, the President sets priorities and guidance that executive agencies follow. However, requesting that certain information be made public in order to help the reputation of political operatives is probably not the best use of that executive meddling. Sure, Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with former President Bill Clinton while she was supposed to be investigating his wife, but, now that there’s a Republican in power, everything’s a scandal.

According to the AP and CNN reports, the FBI declined the White House’s request to release information that would clear any Trump Campaign team members from any suspicion. However, it does underscore the fact that this evidence does exist. Moreover, since the whole Russia thing has been a “nothing-burger” for months, we’ve spent enough pixels on it already.

 

It was a slow news week.

 

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Of course, there are more things going on in the world, but these should be enough to get your day started.

 

Matt McDaniel

Attorney and Political Commentator

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