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Obama appoints former Ohio governor to UN post

Published: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 @ 8:13 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 @ 8:13 PM

President Barack Obama nominated former Gov. Ted Strickland to be one of five alternate representatives to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations.

Strickland, who served one term as governor until he lost his bid for re-election in 2010 to Republican John Kasich, would assume a largely ceremonial post. Each nation’s delegation to the UN General Assembly consists of five representatives and five alternates.

The Senate is expected to confirm Strickland’s nomination. Strickland was one of three alternates nominated Tuesday by Obama.

Strickland, 72, had been mentioned for an administration post since leaving the governor’s office. He served three terms as a member of the U.S. House from southeastern Ohio.

Strickland was nominated for the 68th session of the General Assembly which opens next week.

23 million would lose insurance under new health care bill, CBO says

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 5:29 PM

23 million would lose insurance under new health care bill, CBO says

The House Republican plan to replace Obamacare would reduce deficits by $119 billion over the next decade, but increase the number of Americans without health insurance by 23 million over the same period, according to a report released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The report, done with the Joint Committee on Taxation, also found that in states that receive a waiver from market regulations, the price for those who become ill or who have preexisting conditions could skyrocket to the point that they would ultimately be priced out of the market.

RELATED: Democrats reach out to GOP senators to come up with deal

In short: Those that are healthy will still be able to buy health insurance with lower premiums, but those that are not will not. The report also found that while premiums would be about the same or lower for young people with lower income, premiums for older people with lower income would be “much larger than under current law” on average.

And the report cautioned that the narrower scope of benefits covered in many plans might cause “substantial” increases in out-of-pocket health care costs for everything from mental health care to maternity leave care to pediatric dental care.

The score was released 20 days after the House narrowly passed a bill that aimed to make sweeping changes to the 2010 health care law known as Obamacare. Since then, the Trump Administration has moved forward on a budget proposal that assumed the passage of the House bill.

Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, said the bill was “just the start,” and is needed to help stop skyrocketing costs caused by Obamacare.

“House Republicans and the Administration will continue to focus on additional steps we can take to restore the free market, increase choices and lower costs so that Americans can afford the plans they want and need,” he said.

By contrast, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, said the GOP bill “takes away health care from 23 million Americans, reduces the deficit even less than the first version and gets there by throwing people with pre-existing conditions under the bus.

“This legislation is offensively bad, and will destroy the health care system Americans have come to rely on,” he said.

The House bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Reuters Wednesday that he does not yet now how the Senate gets to 50 votes on the bill.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, earlier this month indicated that he doesn’t support the House bill as it stands “because I continue to have concerns that this bill does not do enough to protect Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population, especially those who are receiving treatment for heroin and prescription drug abuse.” Emily Benavides, a Portman spokeswoman, said Portman had not shifted on that position since then. "We will review the new analysis as we work on a different approach here in the Senate," she said.

RELATED: Dayton congressman among those who voted no on health care bill

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, called the House GOP bill “a bad deal.”

“The House bill will drive up costs, kick Ohioans off their insurance, and leave folks who have asthma or cancer unable to even purchase a plan,” he said. “Instead of moving forward with this bill, we need to work together to reduce costs and improve care for those we serve.”

Failing to repeal and replace Obamacare would be a political embarrassment for Republicans who made that promise a centerpiece of last year’s campaign. An earlier attempt to pass a bill to repeal and replace the 2010 law officially known as the Affordable Care Act failed to muster enough votes, and House leadership chose to pull the bill rather than see it fail on the floor.

The bill passed in May came after an earlier effort failed to muster the votes for passage. That GOP plan would’ve boosted the number of uninsured to 24 million by 2026 but would have cut the deficit by $150 billion, according to a CBO report on that plan.

The report released Wednesday found “average premiums for insurance purchased individually — that is, non-group insurance — would be lower, in part because the insurance, on average, would pay for a smaller proportion of health care costs. In addition … some people would use the tax credits authorized by the act to purchase policies that would not cover major medical risks and that are not counted as insurance in this cost estimate.”

The largest savings resulted from cutbacks in Medicaid.

The 2010 Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — extended health-care coverage by offering middle-class people federally subsidized insurance policies in the individual market, and by expanding eligibility for low-income people to be covered by Medicaid, a joint federal and state program which provides health care for the poor.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is tasked with determining the impact of bills. The current head of the office was selected by Republican lawmakers.

CBO: GOP health bill saves $119 billion, 23 million fewer would be insured

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 4:59 PM
Updated: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 4:59 PM

A review of a Republican health care overhaul plan which passed the House earlier this month found it would result in 23 million fewer people having health insurance over the next ten years, as the Congressional Budget Office questioned whether some GOP changes might promote instability in state health insurance markets.

The most important figure from the CBO review was that the plan would reduce the budget deficit by $119 billion over ten years, ending any concerns that the measured would be derailed by strict budget rules used in the Senate.

The CBO review was slightly better than one on an earlier version of the House bill when it comes to the number of people who would not have health insurance – 23 million by 2026, compared to 24 million before changes were made to win enough votes for passage in the House.

But the report raised some concerns with a pivotal change made by Republicans, which allows states to get waivers from certain key provisions of the Obama health law – allowing states to peel back certain “Essential Health Benefits,” and changes in how insurance companies can set premiums based on someone’s health status, something known as “community rating.”

“As a result, the nongroup markets in those states would become unstable for people with higher-than-average expected health care costs,” the CBO report stated.

“That instability would cause some people who would have been insured in the nongroup market under current law to be uninsured,” the report added.

The release of the CBO numbers came as Senate Republicans continued to work behind closed doors on their own health care plan.

“We have to have the goal of lowering premiums for Americans,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). “And it has to be credible coverage.”

As of now, GOP Senators are only working with each other, and not trying to gain the votes of any Democrats.

It’s a very small margin for error for the GOP, which can only afford to lose two of their 52 members – and then would have to rely on the tie breaking vote of Vice President Mike Pence.

At this point, the health care bill approved by the House on May 4 still has not been sent to the Senate, as Republicans try to figure out their next step.

The House and Senate are not in legislative session next week, meaning any action by Republicans will be pushed into June.

The longer it takes to resolve health care legislation, the longer it will take to deal with the 2018 budget and President Trump’s plans on tax reform.

Ex-CIA Director worried by 2016 contacts between Russia and certain U.S. persons

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 12:15 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 12:15 PM

Former CIA Director John Brennan told Congress on Tuesday that he was so concerned about intelligence that showed contacts between Russian officials and people linked to the campaign of President Donald Trump, that he warned key members of Congress and other intelligence agencies about the Russian actions, and sent that information on to the FBI for further investigation.

It became very clear to me last summer, that Russia was engaged in a very aggressive and wide ranging effort to interfere,” Brennan said, revealing that he had brought in experts from around the U.S. Intelligence Community to try to figure out what the Kremlin was doing.

“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US Persons involved in the Trump campaign,” Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee, as part of its review of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

At a hearing, Brennan refused to identify anyone by name, or give any indication as to whether the Russians had been successful in getting the “witting or unwitting” help of any Americans, to further the Kremlin’s 2016 efforts.

Pressed by several GOP lawmakers, Brennan acknowledged that he did not know of any evidence of collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Kremlin – but Brennan said that was for the FBI to investigate, not the CIA.

“I don’t know whether or not such collusion – and that’s your term – such collusion existed, I don’t know,” Brennan said.

Brennan also denied that he had made last minute requests to unmask names of any U.S. Persons – possibly linked to the Trump Campaign – before the former CIA Director left the agency as President Trump was sworn into office on January 20, 2017.

The Russia investigation was also grabbing the attention of Senators at the same time, as Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats refused to say whether he had been pressured by the President – or by White House officials – to try to get the FBI to drop its investigation into the Russia matter.

“I don’t feel it’s appropriate to characterize conversations with the President,” Coats said.

A former Senator, Coats seemed ill at ease as he sidestepped the queries of some of his former colleagues.

Deep in the details of the Trump 2018 budget plan

Published: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 8:06 PM
Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2017 @ 8:07 PM

While some of the plans proposed in President Donald Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 seem unlikely to be approved by the Congress, the document sets out a unique road map of how the Trump Administration views a variety of functions within the federal government, and what items the White House would like to get rid of – big and small.

Here are eight things you might have missed in the fine print of the 2018 Trump budget:

1. An effort to close down excess military bases. The Trump budget includes a provision to start a round of military base closures in 2021, an idea that is sure to draw strong opposition, despite clear evidence that the military has too much overhead and infrastructure. Lawmakers have routinely rejected such efforts in recent years, with some still simmering about the impact of past base closure rounds – especially the last one in 2005. “The Department of Defense (DOD) has approximately 20 percent excess infrastructure capacity across all Military Departments,” the budget argues. While it may make sense to some, the odds are probably stacked against this provision in the Congress.

2. End funding for public broadcasting. For a number of years, Republicans have pushed to reduce the amount of money that the feds put into public broadcasting, and President Trump’s plan would do away with almost all the $484 million being spent this year on such activities, leaving $30 million to wind down operations. The White House argues that PBS and NPR ” could make up the shortfall by increasing revenues from corporate sponsors, foundations, and members.” As with the effort to close down military bases, the odds would seem to be against this – but Congress will have the final say.

3. When is a Medicaid cut not a Medicaid cut? I have always tried to be very careful about using the term “cut” – because too often, there are not budget cuts, but just reductions in the level of increase in a program. Let’s look at Medicaid in the President’s 2018 budget as an example:

If you look at this graphic, you will see how the President’s budget would save $610 billion by reforming Medicaid. The second set of figures is the “baseline” for Medicaid – where spending would go without any changes. That says $408 billion would be spent on Medicaid in 2018, ending up at $688 billion in 2027. The bottom graphic is the Trump proposal, which has Medicaid at $404 billion in 2018 and $524 billion in 2027. “There’s not cuts at all,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). “It’s a matter of slowing the growth rate.” Yes, the Trump plan would spend less money than current built-in automatic growth rate, but the overall amount still goes up over the ten year budget.

4. But those are real cuts at CDC and NIH. One of the areas with some of the strongest bipartisan support is on medical research at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. And so, when the numbers came in on Tuesday, there was a bipartisan negative reaction on cuts to NIH and CDC. NIH funding would be reduced by from $31.8 billion to $25.9 billion. CDC’s budget would go down $1.2 billion, a 17 percent cut. It’s a pretty good bet that lawmakers will not approve those cuts suggested by the President. The former head of the CDC expressed his displeasure:

5. Still few details on funding infrastructure plan. For months, the President and his top aides have talked about a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to build new roads and bridges in the United States. There was a fact sheet released by the White House, setting out some ideas, like rolling back regulations on how infrastructure projects are developed, but no new pot of money to fund $200 billion in seed money. “Providing more federal funding, on its own, is not the solution to our infrastructure challenges,” the White House noted. One of the few ideas offered was to allow states to levy tolls on interstate highways, and allow private companies to run rest areas. The Trump plan reduces spending from the highway trust fund by $95 billion over ten years.

6. Farm country not pleased with Trump budget details. If you had an infrared heat detector just off the Senate floor today, you might have seen the steam coming from the ears of Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Speaking with reporters, Roberts – well known for his dry wit – suggested the White House needs to make its budget writers count to 60 multiple times every day – to remind them that 60 votes would be needed for major farm policy spending changes. The Trump plan would save $38 billion over 10 years by limiting crop insurance subsidies and eligibility, streamlining conservation programs and more. Outside groups quickly made their voices heard on the proposed changes as well. It is hard to imagine these plans becoming law.

7. Legal Services Corporation again on the chopping block. One of the first debates that I distinctly remember from my first summer on Capitol Hill in 1980 was an effort to cut money from the non-profit Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal aid to low income Americans. The LSC budget is $384 million for this year, and under the Trump plan, would be cut down to around $30 million, to allow for operations to be terminated. Again, this is another budget cut that seems unlikely to be approved, as GOP lawmakers, like Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), are already saying they oppose such a plan.

8. Trump wants to sell D.C. drinking water authority. Created by Congress in 1859, the Washington Aqueduct brings drinking water to Washington, D.C., and parts of the Virginia suburbs. While the drinking facilities operate under the auspices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the water customers pay for all the operation and maintenance costs, as well as any improvements. Why does the White House want to sell this? “Ownership of local water supply is best carried out by State or local government or the private sector where there are appropriate market and regulatory incentives,” the budget documents state. It’s not clear how the feds estimated that selling the authority would bring in $119 million for Uncle Sam.

If you want to read more of the details about the Trump 2018 budget, you can find those on the White House website.