Boehner not optimistic deal will be reached to avoid budget cuts

Published: Monday, February 11, 2013 @ 9:30 AM
Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 @ 9:30 AM

Watch our exclusive interview

Watch our one-on-one interview with Speaker John Boehner online. We talked with him about several issues including the possibility of defense cuts that will impact Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and today’s State of the Union address by President Obama. Video is at DaytonDailyNews.com

House Speaker John Boehner is not optimistic Congress and the president will reach a deal to avert massive federal budget reductions as thousands of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base workers face potential furloughs if automatic spending cuts start March 1.

“I’m not the most optimistic guy when it comes to whether this will go into effect,” said Boehner, R-West Chester Twp. “But there’s no reason for this (sequester) to happen.”

Boehner toured Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in downtown Middletown on Monday, one day before President Barack Obama lays out his agenda for the beginning of his second term in a State of the Union address to Congress. You can watch the State of the Union live on WHIO-TV Channel 7 starting at 9 p.m. Also, you can listen live at NewstalkRadio WHIO 95.7 FM and AM 1290 and it will stream online live at www.newstalkradiowhio.com. Our political team will also have live updates on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics.

On Monday, the speaker met behind closed doors with business and economic leaders, toured classrooms and spoke to students on a return visit to his home 8th District, which includes Butler, Clark, Preble, Miami, Darke and part of Mercer counties.

Democrats and Republicans have blamed the each other for the inability to reach common ground to avert sequestration. Automatic spending cuts of more than $1 trillion over a decade to both defense and domestic spending programs would begin without a deal. Lawmakers postponed the reductions for two months Jan. 1 in a deal that raised taxes on the wealthy. Spending cuts could mean everything from a sharp decline in military readiness to fewer air traffic controllers and food inspectors on the job to thousands of fewer students enrolled in Headstart, an education program for pre-schoolers.

The talks in Washington are of high importance to the Miami Valley because up to 13,000 civilian workers at Wright-Patterson may face 22-day furloughs without a budget agreement in hand. Many other local workers including defense contractors will also be impacted.

“While it’s a little grim here in the short term if we’re able to come to some agreement, it’ll allow the Department of Defense to have a much clearer picture of what their funding levels are going to be over the long term,” Boehner said in an exclusive interview.

The key to averting the automatic cuts is for the president and Senate Democrats to offer an alternative after the Republican-controlled House twice passed sequestration replacement bills last year, Boehner said. Democrats have criticized the Republican proposal for favoring defense spending while cutting deeply into social support programs.

The speaker suggested the president provide a plan to cut $1.2 trillion worth of cuts from other mandatory spending programs to avoid sequestration.

“I don’t like the sequester, I don’t think anybody does,” Boehner said. “But we’ve got a serious spending problem and it’s time for us to deal with it honestly. …

“I’ve watched leaders for 22 years kick this can down the road, avoid these big decisions,” he said. “Now is the time to make the decision. The president last week was talking about moving the sequester out a couple of more months. Yeah, then what?”

White House spokesman Keith Maley deferred questions to a blog post Obama administration senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer posted Sunday.

Pfeiffer wrote assertions Obama hasn’t offered a solution is false. In 2011, the president proposed $4 trillion in deficit reduction over a decade with a combination of cutting spending, entitlement programs and asking the wealthy “to pay their fair share” to avoid the automatic cuts. Obama offered a plan to cut spending and raise revenues last month that remains on the table, Pfeiffer wrote.

“The president has already reduced the deficit by over $2.5 trillion, cutting spending by over $1.4 trillion. And he’s willing to do more,” Pfeiffer wrote. “And we just can’t cut our way to prosperity. …

“But we are not willing to accept the ‘my way or the highway’ approach by congressional Republicans that asks the middle class and seniors to bear all the burden while the very wealthiest individuals, big corporations and oil and gas companies continue to enjoy big tax loopholes that are unavailable to middle class Americans and small business,” he wrote.

Boehner, who will sit behind the president as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress tonight, said he expected the president to talk “an awful lot” about the economy.

“My expectations are pretty low,” Boehner said. “After I listened to the inaugural address, I suspect tomorrow is rather going to be a partisan speech.

“I would hope he would lay out a pathway for us to avoid the sequester,” he added. “What are the changes and reforms that he’d put in place so that we don’t have to put the American people through what’s going to be a pretty painful period.”

Boehner attributed the budget impasse to national and political gridlock.

“We’ve got a divided country, we’ve got a divided government,” he said. “You can blame a lot of different people. It’s not about blaming people it’s about, at this point, finding enough common ground to solve this problem.”

Trump speech to Congress this week offers chance to push agenda

Published: Sunday, February 26, 2017 @ 7:43 AM
Updated: Sunday, February 26, 2017 @ 7:44 AM

While President Donald Trump has spent a good chunk of time in recent days battling with the news media, his speech to a Joint Session of Congress on Tuesday will give him the chance to spur some momentum for his legislative agenda, as Republicans struggle to find final agreement on a plan to repeal and replace the Obama health law.

“The theme of the address will be the renewal of the American Spirit,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who told reporters that Mr. Trump will emphasize a series of issues.

“The address will particularly focus on public safety, including defense, increased border security, taking care of our veterans, and then economic opportunity, including education and job training, health care reform, jobs, taxes and regulatory reform,” Spicer added.

The President could well use a line that was part of his Friday speech to a conference of conservatives outside Washington, in which he said it’s time to move on his campaign promises.

“The era of empty talk is over,” the President said to applause. “Now is the time for action.”

That line immediately reminded me of a similar declaration before lawmakers in 1996, when President Bill Clinton said that “the era of big government is over.”

One might also expect some direct talk to Democrats – since they will be sitting in the hall of the House of Representatives.

Mr. Trump did just that on Friday as well, with a little humor.

“I hate having a Cabinet meeting and I see all these empty seats. I said, Democrats, please approve our Cabinet and get smart on health care, too, if you don’t mind,” the President said to applause.

While Mr. Trump seems certain to focus on repealing and replacing the Obama health law, Republicans still have not produced their own plan – that’s expected to happen in coming weeks.

Kasich fights for federal health care funds

Published: Saturday, February 25, 2017 @ 3:25 PM


            Kasich fights for federal health care funds

Gov. John Kasich met Saturday at the White House with senior Trump administration officials to urge them to continue funneling hundreds of millions of federal dollars to the states to finance health care for millions of low-income people who have received coverage under the 2010 health law.

With congressional Republicans hoping to scrap the health law, known as Obamacare, and replacing it with a substitute, Kasich has mounted an effort to retain a key feature which expanded eligibility for Medicaid coverage, the joint federal and state program which provides health coverage to low-income people.

Kasich was one of the few Republican governors to accept the additional federal Medicaid dollars available through Obamacare, allowing 700,000 previously uninsured low-income people in Ohio to receive health coverage.

Following the meeting with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Kasich said in a video posted on his Facebook page that he was “expressing my concerns and some of the ideas I think (that) can allow us to reform the health care system, save some money, but yet make certain that people who need coverage that they’re going to be able to receive the coverage that they need.”

“All in all a lot of work, but it’s worth it if we can have this come out in the right place,” Kasich said in the video posted by his staff. “I cannot predict the future. But we are certainly doing everything we can do.”

Kasich also joined the nation’s Republican governors at a second meeting in Washington to press for support to retain the Medicaid expansion. Kasich is one of a handful of GOP governors trying to propose a compromise to House Republicans to at least provide Medicaid coverage to families at the federal poverty line, which is $24,600 for a family of four.

A Kasich adviser would not elaborate on the meetings other than to say they were “productive.” But there was no sign today the Republican governors are ready to forge a consensus on Medicaid.

The Hill, a publication which circulates on Capitol Hill, quoted Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada as saying staffers from his office as well as Kasich’s will continue to meet today on whether a consensus can be reached among GOP governors.

The 2010 health law extended coverage to more than 20 million Americans previously without insurance in two ways.

Middle income people who worked for companies which did not insure their employees were eligible for federal financial assistance to buy individual health plans through state and federal marketplaces, known as exchanges.

In addition, the law expanded Medicaid to allow families of four earning as much as $33,948 annually — which is 138 percent of the federal poverty level — to be eligible for health coverage. Ohio and 31 other states accepted additional federal dollars to provide for the Medicaid coverage, while 19 states did not.

But a fissure has opened between congressional Republicans and Kasich on Medicaid as well as the 2010 health law.

In a proposed bill outlined by House Republicans, GOP lawmakers want to scale back federal spending for Medicaid and eliminate federal financial assistance used by middle income people to buy private plans.

Instead, House Republicans would replace the subsidies with tax credits to allow people to buy their own plans.

In an opinion piece Friday in Forbes Magazine, Kasich suggested scaling back Medicaid coverage to families at the federal poverty line and provide federal subsidies to families of four earning between $25,000 a year to $34,000 a year so they could buy their own private plans on the federal exchanges.

Under Kasich’s plan, as many as 150,000 people in Ohio would lose their Medicaid coverage. It was unclear whether federal subsidies would allow families earning between $25,000 a year and $34,000 a year to receive the same kind of coverage that had through Medicaid.

Democrats select Tom Perez as DNC chair

Published: Saturday, February 25, 2017 @ 10:41 AM
Updated: Saturday, February 25, 2017 @ 3:24 PM


            Democrats select Tom Perez as DNC chair

UPDATE: After two ballots, the Democratic National Committee has selected former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez as the party's new leader.

Read the original report below.

The uneasy clash between grass-roots activists and establishment figures at the Democratic National Committee meeting in Atlanta isn’t hard to spot. It’s on display at caucus meetings, panel discussions and the maneuvering behind Saturday’s vote to elect a new party leader.

And for a party struggling to find a balance between the liberal wave of outrage at Donald Trump and its leaders trying to corral that energy into electoral action, the attempts to strike a tentative truce will define their fight against the president.

It won’t be easy. Democrats of all stripes have united in a Trump “resistance” movement, but even the most outspoken elected officials struggle to match the ferocity of the Trump opposition that’s filled the streets with protesters and town hall meetings with newly energized activists.

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And the same divisions that cleaved the party during last year’s election — namely, the progressive bloc led by Bernie Sanders supporters pitted against more mainstream party factions that supported Hillary Clinton — continues to dog Democratic leaders who desperately want to put the 2016 election behind them.

“We didn’t win, but the revolution is very much in this room,” said Winnie Wong, who co-founded the People for Bernie group and helped create the #FeeltheBern hashtag. “And you folks need to pick up the mantle. We can’t stop now, we have to do everything that we can in this party to be a part of this political revolution.”

The groundswell of frustration undercuts the other dominant theme of the three-day conference that started Thursday — a constant drumbeat of calls to unify behind a common opponent. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed made a personal plea to Democrats to stay focused on Trump — and not their own internal fissures.

“This is going to end up being unity weekend in the city of Atlanta and unity weekend in the state of Georgia and unity weekend in the Democratic Party,” Reed said. “It’s going to be the end of that presidency of Donald Trump.”

The party has a long way to go. Republicans control the White House, both chambers of Congress and almost three dozen governor’s mansions. In Georgia, the party faces an even more daunting climb: Republicans control every statewide office and hold commanding majorities in the state Legislature.

Democratic leaders are intent on turning the explosive protests into votes, but they also risk the same wave of primary challenges and infighting that the tea party movement triggered in the GOP after Barack Obama’s 2008 election as president.

“There are people who feel like the Democratic Party has stopped listening to young people. Especially us young people,” Nelini Stamp said. “We have ideas and we’ve changed the country in the last six years. We need to work together and we need to push each other better.”

Stamp is a founder of the Resist Trump Tuesdays movement, and her organization is one of a surge of new groups that have sprung up after the November election.

Strikingly, though, one of the first targets of the group’s protest was a Democrat: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Thousands of protesters wound up on the doorstep of his Brooklyn office, urging him to defy Trump at all costs.

Rita Bosworth has also not endeared herself to party leaders. After starting Sister District Project, which matches donors in deep blue districts to help candidates run in more conservative areas, she said a California Democratic official pressed her on whether she was secretly coordinating with Libertarians.

“We are trying to reconnect with the people,” said Christine Pelosi, another California activist. “People do not trust us to fight for them. They do not trust us to put their interests first. That’s what every single listening tour that all of us have gone on shows us.”

That fight is spilling over into the fight to pick the party’s next chairman. Sanders and other leaders in the party’s progressive wing are backing U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison’s bid for DNC chairman, while former U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has support from allies of Clinton’s and Obama’s.

The odds seem to favor Perez — his supporters whisper he is nearing the votes needed to win outright — but Ellison boasts an impressive network. And a dark horse contender could emerge. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., hopes a late charge could make him the party’s next face.

The winner will try to bridge the divide between veteran operatives more accustomed to the halting progress of politics and newfound activists who demand immediate action and results. Xavier Becerra, California’s new attorney general, urged Democratic veterans to act more like the grass-roots demonstrators.

“Get in the way — be a hitter and be authentic and be real every day,” Becerra said. “Continuously prove to every hardworking American that we have your back.”

Some of the upstart operatives are putting the political class on notice. Andrea Litman helped start Run for Something, which encourages left-leaning candidates to run for public office, after Trump’s victory made her “angry at the system” that she said benefited older, affluent white male attorneys.

Thousands of candidates have already signed up through her website to run for higher office. And she’s more than willing to encourage them to run against contenders favored by the establishment wing.

“If we have a young progressive candidate and you have someone you picked,” she said, “we’re going to go after you.”

Governors gather amid uncertainty on future of Obama health law

Published: Saturday, February 25, 2017 @ 8:23 AM
Updated: Saturday, February 25, 2017 @ 8:23 AM

As the nation’s Governors assemble in Washington, D.C. this weekend for their annual winter meeting, not all Republicans are united behind a big drive in the Congress to repeal the Obama health law, as some in the GOP are worried about what would change with Medicaid and the coverage provided to millions of low income Americans.

“I’m very optimistic that the President heard my concerns about the Affordable Care Act,” said Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), who went a day early to D.C. to meet with President Trump at the White House and raise issues about efforts to repeal and replace the Obama health law.

Kasich brought with him a plan backed by a half dozen other Republican Governors, who are worried that the GOP Congress and Mr. Trump may move to shift the costs of Medicaid health programs on to the states, making it difficult to provide coverage for those who can’t afford it.

“If they do something that I think is wrong, I’m going to speak out,” said Kasich, who earned the ire of Mr. Trump and many other Republicans during the GOP primaries in 2016.

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“I’m very glad that I’ve been able to make my point on this whole business of Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act,” Kasich said after his meeting with the President.

“If it upsets Republicans in the Congress, I mean, that’s life,” Kasich told reporters.

Kasich’s home state of Ohio is one of the handful of Republican-led states that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Obama health law; his plan would put the states in charge of that program, but leave the feds paying most of the costs.

But early indications from Capitol Hill are that won’t float with the GOP Congress, as early plans would limit federal funds offered to states for Medicaid coverage.

As for Democrats, they were already slicing and dicing press reports about what the GOP wants to do with the Obama health law.

“Let me count thy ways that the leaked GOP ACA repeal plan will totally, completely, monumentally screw you,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), as it seems unlikely right now that Democrats will vote with the GOP on almost anything related to health care.

That means the GOP will have to keep Republicans on board in the Congress to insure their plans get approved.

And that means they may need people like Kasich on board, to help.

“I don’t care what the Republicans do on this; if they do something that I think is wrong, I’m going to speak out,” Kasich said.