Portman to support Obama pick

Published: Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 7:27 PM
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 @ 7:27 PM

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said Monday he would support the nomination of Jack Lew to be Treasury Secretary. If confirmed by the Senate, Lew, currently White House chief of staff, would replace Timothy Geithner, who served as President Barack Obama’s treasury secretary during his first term.

Portman’s decision suggests that Lew will quickly be confirmed by the Senate.

In a statement, Portman said, “We’re past the point where Washington can push off tough decisions. In order to get our economy moving and address the nation’s record debt and trillion-dollar deficits, the next Treasury Secretary must work with Congress to reform the tax code and our vital yet unsustainable entitlement programs. In my conversations with Director Lew, both before and during the Senate Finance Committee hearing, he indicated a willingness to seek such needed reforms. As I would expect to be the case with any nominee being put forward by the Obama Administration to fill this important position, we won’t see eye to eye on some of the specific solutions, but Jack Lew’s willingness to try to find common ground on these fiscal matters and his experience of working on bipartisan results over the past two decades are hopeful signs.”

CBO: 22 million would lose health coverage under Senate bill

Published: Monday, June 26, 2017 @ 7:32 PM

            Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, D–Niles, said Republican Senate health care bill would “throw the elderly, sick and poor under the bus in order to finance massive tax cuts for the wealthiest among us.”

A Senate Republican plan to replace Obamacare would increase the number of Americans without health insurance by 22 million while reducing the deficit by $321 billion over the next decade, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a report released Monday.

The CBO, tasked with determining the economic impact of bills, found that the debt would decrease far more under the Senate bill than the earlier passed House bill, which would trim the deficit by $119 billion over a decade, according to the CBO.

RELATED: Millions would lose health coverage under House bill

Still, the number of uninsured under both the House and Senate bills would appear to provide a roadblock for Republicans who want to fulfill a key promise of the 2016 election cycle: to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law known as the Affordable Care Act.

In May, the House passed a bill that the CBO estimated would increase the number of uninsured by 23 million. The Senate version knocks that down by just 1 million.

Much of the savings from the Senate bill would be spurred by the gradual scale-back of the 2010 law’s expansion of Medicaid. Thirty–one states and the District of Columbia chose to expand Medicaid under Obamacare; that decision led to 700,000 more being insured in Ohio, where Ohio Gov. John Kasich opted to accept the expansion.

The House called for ending the Medicaid expansion by 2020. The Senate bill would more gradually phase out that expansion, ultimately ending it in 2024. The speed of the Medicaid rollback is perhaps the key difference between the House and Senate approaches.

RELATED: Newt Gingrich calls CBO corrupt and dishonest

The CBO also found that under the Senate bill, premiums would initially increase but then begin to decline after 2020.

Republican leaders in the Senate appeared to have an uphill battle even before the CBO report. The bill was met with immediate criticism by a group of four conservatives that included 2016 GOP presidential aspirants Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Last weekend, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, became the fifth Republican to publicly denounce the bill as it stands. In order for the bill to pass, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must convince at least 50 of the Senate’s Republicans to support the bill. Vice President Mike Pence would cast the tie-breaking 51st vote.

McConnell has said he wants to get a bill approved before a planned recess for the Fourth of July.

Speaking on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Monday, Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman said “the way the bill changes Medicaid concerns me.” He has yet to say how he’ll vote on the bill, saying the cuts would make it “very difficult” for the people now getting Medicaid “to continue to have it.”

Democrats, including Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, oppose the bill, saying that ending the Medicaid expansion would be disastrous to the poor, the elderly and the mentally ill.

“The report only underscores what we already know: this bill hurts working families and raises prices on Ohioans,” Brown said. “Instead of jamming through a bill written in secret by insurance company CEOs, we should be working together to lower costs and make health care work better for everyone.”

Said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “Saying the Senate health care bill is less mean than the House bill is like saying you prefer smallpox over the bubonic plague.”

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, D–Niles, meanwhile, said the bill would “throw the elderly, sick and poor under the bus in order to finance massive tax cuts for the wealthiest among us.”

Portman, who is one of the key votes Republicans need to pass the health-care bill, earlier this month backed a plan to slowly phase out Medicaid expansion by 2027. It was unclear whether the faster phase out would cause Portman to oppose the bill.

The Senate GOP bill also dramatically alters Obamacare’s requirement that people without insurance be required to buy a plan or face a fine. Obamacare provided tax credits for families of four earning between $34,000 and $98,400 a year to buy individual plans through federal and state marketplaces known as exchanges.

The bill also allows states to seek federal permission to allow insurance companies to offer individual plans that do not include Obamacare’s 10 essential benefits, such as hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs and laboratory services.

The Senate bill, however, differs from the House on pre-existing conditions. The Senate’s bill would maintain Obamacare protections for those with pre-existing conditions, while the House allowed states to remove such protections and give insurers more pricing flexibility.

Like the House bill, the Senate bill would sweep away most of the tax increases approved in 2010 to finance the expansion of health care. Because most of those taxes are paid for by the wealthy or pharmaceutical companies, Republicans have been criticized for cutting taxes on the rich as they take away health coverage from the poor.

Although health care amounts to about one-sixth of the nation’s gross domestic product, neither the House nor Senate bill directly impacts employer-based health care, which is how most Americans receive health care. But should the Republicans pass a bill, some argue that it will become a model for future employer health care plans, with employer plans offering benefits that mirror what are offered under the bill.

About 155 million Americans are insured by their employers, another 55 million by Medicare, which pays health costs for the elderly; and 74 million by Medicaid, the joint federal and state program that provides health care for low-income people and the disabled.

Outcry against the bill is not just limited to a handful of Republicans and basically every Democrat in the Senate. On Monday, James Madara, CEO of the American Medical Association, sent a letter to McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer opposing the bill.

“Medicine has long operated under the precept of Primum non nocere, or “first, do no harm,” he wrote. “The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels.”

The insurer Anthem, on the other hand, offered some positive words about the bill, saying in a statement that it believed the Senate legislation would ‘‘markedly improve the stability of the individual market.’’

Earlier Monday, Senate Republican leaders altered their bill to penalize people who go without health insurance by requiring them to wait six months before their coverage would begin. Insurers would generally be required to impose the waiting period on people who lacked coverage for more than about two months in the prior year.

Information from The New York Times was included in this story.

Court rules church can apply for state funds

Published: Monday, June 26, 2017 @ 12:26 PM
Updated: Monday, June 26, 2017 @ 12:26 PM

            Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state governments cannot prevent public money from being used by churches for use in a non-religious purpose.

By a vote of 7-2 Monday, the justices concluded that Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri could apply for state dollars to pay for installing a rubber playground surface considered to be safer than ordinary playgrounds.

RELATED: Court rules for church in playground case

Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded that “the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.”

Justices Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan, Anthony Kennedy, Neil Gorsuch, Stephen Breyer, and Clarence Thomas joined Roberts to form the majority. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

Ohio does not have a ban similar to Missouri.

RELATED: Supreme Court partially reinstates travel ban

In her dissent, Sotomayor write that “to hear the court tell it, this is a simple case about recycling tires to resurface a playground. The stakes are higher. This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government—that is, between church and state.”

“The court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church,” she wrote. “Its decision slights both our precedents and our history, and its reasoning weakens this country’s longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both.”

Supreme Court’s travel ban ruling a partial victory for Trump

Published: Monday, June 26, 2017 @ 10:47 AM
Updated: Monday, June 26, 2017 @ 10:47 AM

            In this photo taken on Tuesday, April 4, 2017, the Supreme Court Building is seen in Washington. The Supreme Court is expected to decide in the next few days whether the Trump administration can enforce a ban on visitors to the United States from six mostly Muslim countries. The legal fight has been going on since President Donald Trump rolled out a ban a week after his inauguration. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
            J. Scott Applewhite

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday the Trump administration government can temporarily prohibit foreign nationals from six largely Muslim countries from entering the United States unless they have close relatives living in America

In a partial victory for President Donald Trump, the justices agreed to hear arguments next fall from the Justice Department and opponents of the controversial travel ban on whether the White House acted constitutionally when it tried to curb entry to the U.S. from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

RELATED: The Supreme Court to hear Ohio case on canceled voter registrations

But the court prevented the administration from temporarily banning people from entering the United States if they have close relatives in America. The justices concluded the White House order “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

Although the opinion was not signed, Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch took the unusual step of writing separately to assert they would have permitted the administration to enforce the entire order.

Declaring that the “court’s remedy will prove unworkable,” Thomas wrote the opinion “will burden executive officials with the task of deciding – on peril of contempt – whether individuals from the six affected nations who wish to enter the United States have a sufficient connection to a person or entity in this country.”

Thomas predicted the ruling “will invite a flood of litigation” until the Supreme Court rules “on the merits” of the executive order, a decision not likely to be handed down until late in the fall.

RELATED: Supreme Court case on gerrymandering could impact Ohio

The administration’s two orders provoked a storm of criticism. The first order, issued on Jan. 27, prohibited entry for 90 days from seven countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — even if they had visas or held green cards.

After a federal appeals court in California blocked enforcement of the order, the administration on March 6 issued a revised order which permitted those holding visas or green cards to enter the country.

The new order dropped Iraq from the list of banned countries in part because the United States is an ally of the Iraqi government in its fight against Islamic State militants and many Iraqis work directly for the U.S. military and government.

Federal courts again delayed enforcement of the revised order, while the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, 10-3, that the order was unconstitutional because it discriminated against Muslims. The court pointed to Trump’s campaign statements from last year as proof the ban was aimed at Muslims.

Supreme Court delivers legal victory to President Trump on travel and refugee order

Published: Monday, June 26, 2017 @ 10:53 AM
Updated: Monday, June 26, 2017 @ 10:53 AM

In a big legal victory for President Donald Trump, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday overturned a pair lower court orders from federal appeals courts that had blocked his plans to bar visitors and refugees from six mostly Muslim countries, allowing most of the travel plan to go into effect immediately.

The Court also agreed to set arguments in the fall on the matter, as the Justices wrapped up work for their 2016-2017 term.

The announcement means that for travelers or refugees – if they have a relative in the United States, or some other direct tie to the U.S. – then those people cannot be blocked by the Trump Administration from traveling here at this time.

But for those travelers and/or refugees without a direct reason to come to the United States, the Supreme Court said the President clearly has the right to deny them entry at this time.

“But when it comes to refugees who lack any such connection to the United States, for the reasons we have set out, the balance tips in favor of the Government’s compelling need to provide for the Nation’s security,” the Court declared in a Per Curiam opinion.

Those who would qualify for travel to the United States would include:
+ Students who have been admitted to a university
+ A foreign national who wants to visit a family member
+ Someone who has accepted a job in the U.S.
+ An academic who has been invited to give a lecture.

The Supreme Court decision though made clear that immigration groups may not simply add the names of people to their client lists, and try to get them admitted to the United States as a result.