The Comey circus marched into town last Thursday, and unlike other modern circuses, this one had plenty of elephants. There were elephants (as well as donkeys) on the senate panel, elephants as the subjects of the inquiry, even the proverbial elephant in the room (is it time for John McCain to retire?). I was riveted to the video stream as Mr. Comey made one significant statement after another.
But I couldn’t help thinking it was all a distraction. Because in another room in Washington, there was another group of senators hidden from public view who are getting close to finishing a bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This bill would not make our healthcare more accessible or affordable. It is a cynical ploy that will take away health insurance from millions of Americans to pay for a tax break for a handful of millionaires and billionaires. As of this writing, I do not know the extent to which the bill will take away insurance from poor and middle-class people. But the latest deal seems to include a seven-year phaseout of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion that would affect 14.4 million people. Most of them would become uninsured.
Now don’t get me wrong. I would love to know if President Trump obstructed justice. I would love to know if any of his cohort have engaged in criminal activities. Or if they aided Russia in its attempt to influence last year’s presidential election. I do want the current investigations to produce some results. But the current Congress is not going to impeach Mr. Trump, and nothing we do right now will affect that outcome.
That’s why the circus is a bit of a distraction from the real horror we need to be addressing. If I ask myself, what can I do now, this month, that will have the most effect, it would be to fight the potential loss of Obamacare.
The Senate will be going on a break around Independence Day. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to get a vote on this bill before then. That’s because if senators have not yet voted on it when they go home for their break, they are going to get an earful from angry constituents. So we need to give them an earful now.
Here in California we are blessed with two senators who will vote against the repeal of Obamacare. So it’s not critical to call their offices on this issue. But there are states whose senators are more sensitive to pressure. Some states with Republican senators have accepted the Medicare expansion under Obamacare. The constituents of these senators have the most to lose. According to The Huffington Post, there are 20 Republican senators from 14 states that have accepted federal funding to expand Medicaid. These senators are particularly vulnerable to pressure from constituents. (I’ve listed them at the end of this post.)
So what can you do? If you live in one of these critical states, call your senators. Voice your strong opposition to any rollback of the Affordable Care Act. If you don’t live in one of those states, contact anybody you know who lives there, and ask them to call their senators. You can search for friends on Facebook by typing in “Friends in Arizona” for example. Contact them personally; don’t post a Facebook comment or tweet your request. When they call, they should ask to speak with the senator’s legislative assistant for health. They should be specific in their objections. Indivisible makes these suggestions for specific requests:
Demand hearings with experts and careful consideration of the impacts on all facets of American society, not just the rich who benefit from tax breaks.
Demand that all members of the Senate, not just an all male working group, are allowed to participate in debate and offer amendments. This includes Democrats.
Demand that your Senators propose a piece of legislation that provides equal or better access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare as the Affordable Care Act does.
The Comey circus has been a bright shiny object that is hard to look away from. But the elephant march can go on without our input for a while. Let’s you and I focus on the quiet danger lurking behind closed doors.
MedicaidEnrollment_3.png. Digital image. Huffington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 June 2017.
Congressman Steve Knight strode across the stage at his Simi Valley town hall meeting on April 18, and introduced the issue he thought would be at the top of everyone’s list —North Korea — the audience shouted “Russia!”. Knight then veered off onto increases in military spending as part of the stop-gap funding package that must be approved by April 28 to avoid another government shutdown. When that failed to ignite the audience, the Congressman reluctantly moved on to questions from the crowd.
Over the next seventy-plus minutes, Congressman Knight demonstrated his limited knowledge on critical issues as he vacillated between carefully rehearsed Republican talking points and feeble evasions, mixed with tone-deaf responses.
Questioned by a woman from Porter Ranch if he would support increasing the annual contribution and benefit base level for those earning above the current cap in order to keep Social Security solvent, Knight suggested that he favored raising contribution amounts and the age limit and having people work longer. “We’re already doing those things” she said. He was similarly unaware of Republican efforts to convert Medicare to a voucher program.
On his vote to reverse Internet privacy rules, Knight offered a half-baked explanation about leveling access so that all, not just some, companies can sell private information. Later the Congressman invoked the Republican desire for a level playing field on the Internet in response to a young woman who tearfully pleaded for a federal policy against bullying and sexual harassment, both of which she has endured for years both in person and online.
When a Santa Clarita resident asked why he voted to defund Planned Parenthood, Congressman Knight reverted back to the claim he made at Antelope Valley town hall meeting that the presence of fourteen clinics in the district negates the need to support funding for the organization.
Asked to promise that he would vote against any healthcare plan that did not include subsidies for health coverage, Knight tried several different evasive maneuvers from “avoiding hypothetical” possibilities, to not knowing what subsidies the man was referencing, to needing to look at the funding before he could support subsidies. Having exhausted his options, Knight threw in the towel saying, “Okay, I won’t vote against funding.”
Following that unconvincing pledge, the Congressman stated that the next healthcare bill would have to cost less while offering subsidies so that people could buy insurance in the open market. He falsely claimed that the ACA had been rushed through without identified funding and he rejected the idea of pressuring non-participating states into adopting an improved version, saying that would “just make things worse.”
Even a constituent who voted for Steve Knight questioned why Knight voted against a call for Trump to release his taxes. Knight’s reason? It was raised as a matter of personal privilege, not introduced as a bill that had gone through committee. He will only vote for bills that go through committee.
A call to discuss Betsy DeVos proposal for a voucher system and the detrimental effects of cutting the school lunch program were met with a word salad of statements about keeping money here to fund local school districts.
Congressman Knight acknowledged that humans are playing a role in climate change and that we can do something about it — as long as it doesn’t “put us at a disadvantage.” He claimed that he would not vote to eliminate the EPA.
Knight stated that he doesn’t like Trump going down to Mar-A-Lago and that he finds acceptance of gifts from foreign governments improper. “As we go forward, there will be an investigation or someone looking into it.” Though he believes that Congress should be involved in decisions regarding foreign military intervention, the Congressman simply identified the need for an update to the Authorized Use of Military Force.
Finally, Steve Knight defended HR 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, a bill he co-sponsored that allows individuals from states with more lax laws to carry weapons in states with more stringent laws. Many major law enforcement agencies opposed the bill, said the woman who challenged Knight’s support for the bill, adding that she didn’t want untrained, ‘unvetted' people carrying guns in California. When efforts to deflect from the concern failed, Knight simply said, “I think we’re just going to have to disagree on that.”
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