51 vs 60 for a wall?

The president wants Senator Majority Leader McConnell to give away his biggest tool if/when he is in the minority for a $5 billion appropriation and little else.

Tierney-Sneed at TPM makes the immediately relevant point:

We can be fairly certain that after 1/4/19, there will be no more wall appropriations going through the House. A working 51 vote Senate will only pass bills for the White House to sign that Nancy Pelosi approves.

One of the major discontinuities in legislative procedure is that enacting administratively complex programs that have major policy imperatives in it currently are not able to go through reconciliation. These bills can be fillibustered and stopped with a 41 vote minority. Medicare for All and/or the Affordable Care Act, the Green New Deal, the new Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts that are all on the Democratic agenda’s first page once they get a trifecta currently require sixty votes in the Senate. The major Republican policy priorities of confirming Federalist Society judges, and upper income tax cuts can be passed with fifty one votes in either regular order or reconciliation. Additionally, fifty one votes is all that is needed to defund major programs as we saw with Skinny Repeal, Graham-Cassidy, AHCA, and BCRA.

Trading a $5 billion appropriation for a wall that will slowly if ever be built in order to get a 51 vote Senate is a very good deal for Democrats and liberals especially if they aren’t being blamed for the nuclear option. It takes away some of the counter-majoritarian and anti-democratic structures that limit liberal and urban power and opens up opportunity space.

Anyone who thinks about the structure of American politics will see this in under three sips of coffee. And that is why I have no expectation that the Senate Majority Leader will burn one of his most effective tools he used as a Minority Leader for effectively piffle.



Not the least that can be done

The Senate has had a busy day.

First, Senators Scott (R-SC) and Rubio (R-FL) temporarily allied with a unified Democratic caucus to assemble a minimum blocking coalition to a nominee for a lifetime appointment on the 9th Circuit Court:

And then a bit later in the afternoon, the entire Senate told the White House to get a clue that it was being trolled by Putin:

So the Senate as a body and individual Senators in a closely divided body found ways to assert their institutional and personal prerogatives.

Baby Steps

Open thread



The ACA, rough drafts and resilience

Earlier this week, HILFY asked a good question:

how the Obamaites were able to create the ACA so cleverly that Trump’s vandals still have not been able to kill it?

I am reluctant to ascribe detailed and granular levels of intentionality to the ACA authors regarding anti-sabotage design.

At the highest levels, the political theory was that people would like the benefits of the ACA and provide a growing set of invested constituencies that would rally to the defense of the ACA if need be. And we have seen that at the highest levels. People now expect per-exisiting conditions to be covered and they expect guaranteed issue. Medicaid expansion has not been completely rolled back even in Kentucky despite a governor that campaigned on rolling it back. At the highest level of interest group politics, there is intentionality.

At lower levels, I don’t know. I really don’t. I think the key decision to make the US federal government the prime risk holder for individual market premium spikes was a key decision that has insulated the subsidized market has acted as a systemic counter-sabotage buffer but I don’t believe that decision was made for that purpose.

One of the key things that we need to remember is that the ACA as signed into law was a cobbled together contraption of various things that no one expected to be the final say on the issue.

I’m working with a great set of co-authors on a non-related piece that should be going out next week. I created the skeleton for the combined writing plan. The initial version had sections titled: “Explain the strangeness” and “Something awesome happens here” with bullet points and key references to explain the strange and the awesome. We then filled it in a bit more before handing it off to the publisher where they then did a nice edit with a bunch of questions. We then polished the piece, accepting all of the suggested edits and tweaked a few things that on a second read needed to be explained and had a nice long discussion on the implications of a comma. And then we sent the piece back to the publisher who will make it go live next week.

The ACA as signed in March 2010 was past the skeleton stage. It was not the final, finished, polished product of a regular process. The House bill passed with the belief that a Senate bill will also pass where the final details and polishing would happen in a conference committee. That did not happen due to the election of Scott Brown (R-MA) as the Senate GOP caucus promised to filibuster the appointment of conference committee members. So we got the rough draft Senate bill that passed 60-40 on Christmas Eve as the ACA.

If Democrats in 2009 were trying to repeal proof the bill, they would have extended subsidies to everyone, they would have insisted on a single national risk pool instead of state based risk pools and they would have enriched subsidies so that someone making $100,000 would be paying $200-$300 a month in out of pocket premiums for a $1,500 deductible plan.

The decision to make the federal government the partial risk holder for premium increases has been a major shock absorber over the past two years but I don’t know how much intentionality can be attributed past that decision?



Walker Stumbles

Wisconsin gets its special elections:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker issued an executive order scheduling special elections to fill two vacant legislative seats Thursday…

It wasn’t shame, or a respect for the rule of law that drove the wholly owned Koch subsidiary to this decision.  Rather these guys finally got a clue:

Senate Republicans abandoned their efforts to pass a bill blocking the contests amid intense criticism that the GOP was trying to avoid adding to string of losses.

That is: it finally was driven home to these would be junta conspirators that being so obviously terrified of the voters was not merely a bad look, it was destructive.

The decision followed a very rapid rejection of Walker’s appeal, which sought a delay in enforcing a lower court’s order to call the elections that would last long enough for the WI legislature to pass their anti-election bill.  That court didn’t just say no:

“Representative government and the election of our representatives are never ‘unnecessary,’ never a ‘waste of taxpayer resources,’ and the calling of the special elections are … his ‘obligation,’” Presiding Judge Paul F. Reilly wrote.

Walker had one more appeal left, to the right-dominated WI Supreme Court, but chose not to pursue it.  IANAL, and IAN a Wisconsin politics maven, but here’s my guess: this was such an obvious matter on the law that Walker didn’t care to have his entrails handed to him a third time, especially given that the partisan lean of the court would highlight how out of bounds he and the state Republicans have been.

Anyway, a relatively small process win with, I think and hope, a bit more impact than that.  It’s easy to make the case that the GOP is only interested in democracy when it’s the North Korean version, no doubts at all about who wins.

That’s been true of the American right for a long time, no matter the party label of the day (3/5s of a person and all that).  But what seems to be changing now, maybe just a bit, perhaps even just enough, is that the idea that Republicans are scared of voters is starting to stick to the Grotesque Old Party.

Here’s hoping!

This thread, it opens.

Image: Constantin Hansen, A Group of Danish Artists in Rome, 1837.  I know it’s utterly unfair to lumber these 19th century hipsters with 21st century pipsqueak GOP shenanigans, but I couldn’t resist the image.



Once more dear friends

The BCRA is getting pulled but the healthcare fight is not over. Senate Majority Leader McConnell wants the Senate to vote on a Find and Replace version of the reconciliation bill that President Obama vetoed in 2016. That bill would repeal every funded element of the ACA on 12/31/19 and cut taxes effective immediately.

As a reminder this is the bill that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored as leading to 32 million more people without insurance by the end of 2026 with 18 million not having insurance in the first year. Premiums on the individual market would increase by 50% over baseline by 2026.

Unless McConnell thinks that he can get his vulnerable in 2018 and 2020 members to fall in line with the barely veiled threat of a massive right wing primary challenge, I am having a hard time seeing the logic of bringing up this bill unless it is to show the House a body and move onto something else.

So you know what to do — call your Senator this morning.