The GOP Escalates Its Battle With the CBO

The Department of Health and Human Services does a great number of things, but providing authoritative analysis of legislation isn’t usually one of them.

That task is left instead to the Congressional Budget Office, the independent agency lawmakers typically rely on to score each and every bill. Yet when it comes to health care, Republicans seem willing to put their trust in the evaluation that’s best for them, regardless of who prepared it—and dismiss assessments that will only make Obamacare repeal harder.

As the prospects for passing a repeal-and-replace law have grown dimmer over recent weeks, Republicans have increasingly divorced themselves from the CBO, which has repeatedly assigned negative scores to the party’s plans. Instead, the GOP has opted for a much more insulated approach to mathematics. Most recently, lawmakers seized on a “preliminary draft” of HHS’s appraisal of a controversial amendment to the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act.

The amendment in question is one proposed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. It would allow Obamacare insurers to provide additional plans off of the exchanges that would also qualify for tax credits and wouldn’t have to comply with Obamacare regulations. Insurance-industry predictions have found that those provisions—along with the BCRA’s base measures that allow less comprehensive plans, repeal the individual mandate and Medicaid expansion, and provide less generous tax credits—would essentially splinter Obamacare risk pools and create the conditions for a “death spiral.”

Their suspicions have yet to be confirmed by the CBO, because the Cruz amendment was left out of its most recent score of the BCRA. Although the amendment was submitted for a score last week, the agency needs more time to evaluate it, thanks to both the substantial changes it’d make to the way exchanges work, and the sophisticated simulations those changes would entail. But Senate Republicans—facing defections …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Politics

The GOP Escalates Its Battle With the CBO

The Department of Health and Human Services does a great number of things, but providing authoritative analysis of legislation isn’t usually one of them.

That task is left instead to the Congressional Budget Office, the independent agency lawmakers typically rely on to score each and every bill. Yet when it comes to health care, Republicans seem willing to put their trust in the evaluation that’s best for them, regardless of who prepared it—and dismiss assessments that will only make Obamacare repeal harder.

As the prospects for passing a repeal-and-replace law have grown dimmer over recent weeks, Republicans have increasingly divorced themselves from the CBO, which has repeatedly assigned negative scores to the party’s plans. Instead, the GOP has opted for a much more insulated approach to mathematics. Most recently, lawmakers seized on a “preliminary draft” of HHS’s appraisal of a controversial amendment to the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act.

The amendment in question is one proposed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. It would allow Obamacare insurers to provide additional plans off of the exchanges that would also qualify for tax credits and wouldn’t have to comply with Obamacare regulations. Insurance-industry predictions have found that those provisions—along with the BCRA’s base measures that allow less comprehensive plans, repeal the individual mandate and Medicaid expansion, and provide less generous tax credits—would essentially splinter Obamacare risk pools and create the conditions for a “death spiral.”

Their suspicions have yet to be confirmed by the CBO, because the Cruz amendment was left out of its most recent score of the BCRA. Although the amendment was submitted for a score last week, the agency needs more time to evaluate it, thanks to both the substantial changes it’d make to the way exchanges work, and the sophisticated simulations those changes would entail. But Senate Republicans—facing defections …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Politics

Sessions Discussed Campaign Matters With Russian Ambassador

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions discussed matters related to the Trump campaign with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador to the United States, while the 2016 U.S. presidential race was ongoing, current and former U.S. officials told The Washington Post on Friday.

The revelations, based on intelligence intercepts of Kislyak’s communications, contradict Sessions’s sworn testimony before the Senate; first that he had no contacts with Russian officials during the campaign, and later his amended testimony that the contacts he had were not campaign-related.

John Q. Barrett, a law professor at St. Johns University and a former associate counsel in the office of the special prosecutor during the Iran-Contra affair, said the nature of the evidence made a perjury prosecution against Sessions unlikely because Kislyak would probably not agree to be a U.S. government witness, and because of the difficulty of using intelligence intercepts as evidence in court.

“To prove a perjury case requires not only evidence of knowing falsity but evidence of intent,” said Barrett. “It’s hard to imagine a perjury prosecution based on this kind of intelligence report.”

Nevertheless, the report portends other possible legal trouble for Sessions, particularly with regard to his role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey last May.

At the time, Comey was supervising an investigation into whether or not Trump campaign officials colluded with a Russian government effort to help Trump win the election. Trump later publicly acknowledged he had been thinking of the Russia investigation when he fired Comey. That prompted Comey to reveal that he had felt pressured by Trump to end the FBI’s investigation into ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s contacts with Russia, raising the question of whether the president had sought to obstruct justice.

“I think this now makes it pretty clear, if it wasn’t already the case, that Attorney General Sessions …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Politics