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Why 2012's Election Day matters

Published: Saturday, November 03, 2012 @ 9:27 PM
Updated: Saturday, November 03, 2012 @ 9:27 PM

The 2008 election saw the highest national turnout since 1968, but voting numbers and voter knowledge both decrease the further people go down the ballot. While 5.71 million Ohioans voted for president in 2008, only 5.37 million voted in their congressional race, and 4.42 million voted in the top state Supreme Court race.

According to an August Pew Research study, that could be due to a lack of understanding of what each political body does. In the study, only 40 percent of respondents knew which political party has a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives (the Republicans).

Here’s a summary of the top offices on the Nov. 6 ballot and how they affect everyday Ohioans.

President

The president nominates the leaders of federal departments, setting the tone for U.S. policy in education, defense, transportation, human services and much more. He serves as the nation’s military commander in chief and diplomatic leader to the world.

The president nominates Supreme Court justices, who can change how laws are interpreted for decades to come. Miami University political science professor Bryan Marshall said the health care reform bill likely would have been overturned if not for the vote of Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by George W. Bush.

There are other ways presidents can affect policy. Miami University lecturer Chris Kelley brought up executive orders, such as the one issued by President Barack Obama this year to partially implement the Dream Act on immigration. Marshall mentioned the use of the presidential veto, which Bush used on a Medicaid spending bill in 2007.

In this year’s presidential race, Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney differ significantly on tax policy, energy policy and budget priorities.

U.S. House of Representatives

The House votes on federal legislation. Marshall said a two-year Congress usually passes about 400 bills, but the current Congress has passed 176, with 20 percent of those bills merely renaming post offices.

Some of the inaction is because Republicans control the House (242-193), while Democrats control the Senate (51-47-2), only the second two-year term since 1987 that the houses have been split.

Marshall pointed to the unpassed Farm Bill as an example of gridlock that could affect fuel and grocery prices. He said party tensions also have caused legislators to fund the government via temporary continuing resolutions, rather compromising on full-year budgets.

When one party controls both houses of Congress, more legislation gets passed, but the bills are often more contentious, such as Republicans’ 2003 tax cuts, or the Democrats’ 2009 stimulus and health-care reform bills.

Republicans currently represent all of Southwest Ohio’s districts. Barring a major surprise nationwide, the House is likely to stay under Republican control.

U.S. Senate

The Senate also votes on federal laws, but has some responsibilities the House does not. The Senate alone has the power to confirm or reject the president’s nominations of federal judges – from the Supreme Court to federal district judges in Ohio. The Senate also confirms or rejects cabinet secretaries like the secretary of state or the cirector of FEMA.

Ohio’s Republican senator, Rob Portman, is not yet up for re-election. Ohio’s Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown, is being challenged by Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel.

If Democrats retain control of the Senate, more gridlock is likely, as each party would control half of Congress. Even if Republicans gain control, gridlock might remain, unless they change a Senate rule that requires a 60-vote supermajority to move a bill forward.

Ohio legislature

The General Assembly passes laws on everything from crime and punishment to taxes and regulation. Examples include when they decided to cut Ohioans’ income tax rates last decade and voted to limit public workers’ collective bargaining rights last year.

University of Dayton political science professor Nancy Martorano Miller said the biggest job of the state legislature is to pass a budget every two years, deciding how $28 billion per year gets divvied up between education, public safety, social welfare, transportation and other issues.

Republicans have firm control of the State House (59-40) and the State Senate (23-10). All House seats are up for election, as are half of the Senate seats.

Issue 2 — Redistricting

Voting rights groups and unions support a constitutional amendment to put congressional and statehouse redistricting in the hands of a politically balanced citizens board, instead of in elected politicians’ hands.

Backers say the new system will create more logical, competitive districts, which would reduce hyper-partisanship. Republicans, who currently control the map drawing process, are opposed and say the backers are liberals cloaked as good-government groups.

Miller says the current system all but assures that whichever party gets to draw the map will control the state legislature the next 10 years, regardless of who runs for office. She also said the amendment presents a complex system that could be difficult to implement.

Learn more about the Ohio Supreme Court races, county races and other issues on your ballot in our interactive voters guide at DaytonDailyNews.com/go/vote

After CBO, what’s next on GOP health care plan in Congress

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 4:15 AM
Updated: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 4:15 AM

Now that the Congressional Budget Office has weighed in on a House-passed GOP health care bill, Republicans must still do a lot of work to not only forge a plan in the Senate, but also figure out how to get it to the President’s desk for his signature.

The CBO report found the revised GOP plan, which was approved earlier this month, would save $119 billion over ten years, and would result in 23 million fewer people having health insurance by 2026, than under Obamacare.

The report also raised questions about coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, and found that low income Americans between ages 50 to 64 would be hit with large price hikes.

Here’s where we stand on GOP efforts to overhaul the Obama health law:

1. Senate Republicans still searching for a deal. The CBO score didn’t change anything for Republicans, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday that he’s still looking for fifty votes to advance a health care plan in the Senate. GOP Senators have been talking regularly behind closed doors, floating a variety of plans, but they don’t seem to be near an agreement. Complicating matters is that Republicans can only lose two votes and keep things on track.

2. For now, it’s only Republicans at the table. While there have been some bipartisan meetings, the official GOP effort is not reaching across the aisle on health care. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has made that clear that he is not interested in bringing Democrats aboard to cut a health care deal, arguing that they won’t even acknowledge the problems that exist in Obamacare right now. Again, with such a small margin for error, not having any Democratic votes make life difficult for the GOP.

3. There still is the option of not passing anything. Senate GOP leaders have indicated to reporters that a vote will occur in coming months, even if that plan gets rejected by the Senate. That could result in something that President Trump had floated months ago, just letting troubles mount in the Obamacare system until it creates enough blowback from the public to force action in the Congress. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) yesterday raised that as a possibility.

4. It’s easier to be against than for something on health care. Democrats have been much more organized in recent weeks in terms of arguing against GOP plans, while Republicans have struggled to forge a unified public message for their health care overhaul effort. It is the exact opposite of where we were for the last seven years, when Republicans were the ones taking pot shots at the Obama health law, and Democrats were acting skittish. And even the poll numbers have flipped as well – this is a Fox News poll:

5. $1,000 a month for maternity coverage? In its report, the Congressional Budget Office said if states decide to allow for lower cost plans that have less coverage, then people should expect extras, like maternity coverage, would not be cheap. “Insurers would expect most purchasers to use the benefits and would therefore price that rider at close to the average cost of maternity coverage, which could be more than $1,000 per month,” the CBO wrote. Let’s just say that example didn’t play too well with female Democrats in the Congress

6. Who are the 23 million more who won’t have coverage?This is an interesting figure from the CBO, because it is immediately challenged by opponents of Obamacare, who argue that people should have the right to *not* buy health insurance, and that most of those going without insurance will fall into that category. But that’s not what the CBO found. The report says 14 million people who are currently covered by Medicaid would go uninsured – presumably because they couldn’t afford insurance. Another six million would stop having coverage with changes in the state and federal exchanges.

7. Will health care derail a GOP seat in Montana? A few hours after the CBO report was issued on the House-passed health plan, the story turned into a WWE event, as a reporter claimed a Montana Republican candidate for Congress body slammed him after being asked about the CBO numbers. We’ll see if the dispute causes any aftershocks at the polls in the Big Sky State tonight.

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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.