Tomorrow the God-King will reportedly sign an executive order authorizing discrimination, so long as people claim religion as their excuse. (More)

“The language is very, very strong”

POLITICO’s Timothy Alberta and Shane Goldmacher report that the order will be essentially the same as a draft that was leaked in February:

President Donald Trump has invited conservative leaders to the White House on Thursday for what they expect will be the ceremonial signing of a long-awaited—and highly controversial—executive order on religious liberty, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

Two senior administration officials confirmed the plan, though one cautioned that it hasn’t yet been finalized, and noted that lawyers are currently reviewing and fine-tuning the draft language. Thursday is the National Day of Prayer, and the White House was already planning to celebrate the occasion with faith leaders.
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The original draft order, which would have established broad exemptions for people and groups to claim religious objections under virtually any circumstance, was leaked to The Nation on Feb. 1 – the handiwork, many conservatives believed, of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who have sought to project themselves as friendly to the LGBT community. Liberals blasted the draft order as government-licensed discrimination, and the White House distanced itself from the leaked document in a public statement.

Pence and a small team of conservative allies quickly began working behind the scenes to revise the language, and in recent weeks have ratcheted up the pressure on Trump to sign it. The new draft is being tightly held, but one influential conservative who saw the text said it hasn’t been dialed back much – if at all – since the February leak. “The language is very, very strong,” the source said.

If it’s like that early draft, the order would allow any individual, federal government agency, or closely-held business to discriminate – specifically against LGBTs and women who use birth control – so long as they claim religion as their excuse, as The Nation’s Sarah Posner reported:

The four-page draft order, a copy of which is currently circulating among federal staff and advocacy organizations, construes religious organizations so broadly that it covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”
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Language in the draft document specifically protects the tax-exempt status of any organization that “believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.”

The breadth of the draft order, which legal experts described as “sweeping” and “staggering,” may exceed the authority of the executive branch if enacted. It also, by extending some of its protections to one particular set of religious beliefs, would risk violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

I noted “specifically against LGBTs and women who use birth control” because they’re the order’s explicit targets. But nothing in the draft order would preclude using the same excuse to discriminate against women generally (“My religion says women must not work outside the home!”), people of color (“My religion forbids race-mixing!”), or other religions (“My religion says other religions are heretics and blasphemers and we must not associate with them!”). In effect, that logic would eliminate the 1964 Civil Rights Act … a long-standing wingnut dream.

It would also forbid federal agencies from enforcing federal civil rights laws if state officials or employees claim religion as their excuse for discrimination. So, again, kiss the 1964 Civil Rights Act goodbye … and perhaps the 1965 Voting Rights Act and even the Nineteenth Amendment, if state elections officials or poll workers decide their religious beliefs hold that women and people of color should not sully a public polling place.

Of course, federal courts would almost certainly overturn many such actions, and might even hold the order unconstitutional on its face. The draft order’s language specifically privileges religions that oppose LGBTs, birth control, and abortion, and that would fly in the face of the First Amendment Establishment Clause.

But until the courts stepped in, life could get very hard for a lot of people … all under the pretense of “religious freedom” for a noisy, reactionary few.

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“Obviously some members are looking for changes”

Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan is still searching for a health care bill that will be cruel enough to satisfy House conservatives but still placate GOP moderates:

Obviously some members are looking for changes, but we’ve not made any at this point, and don’t know that we will,” AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told HuffPost.

If the current legislation isn’t doing the trick, however, the need for an amendment may become obvious.

According to the last Congressional Budget Office estimate, Republicans have roughly $150 billion in savings over the next 10 years that they could dole out to bolster the high-risk pools and mollify centrists. But that assumes other changes in the bill won’t reduce those savings.

It’s unclear how the Congressional Budget Office will score other GOP modifications, partly because the office would have to predict whether states will opt out of the protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Some members believe that lowering premiums for healthy young people could increase the number of people taking advantage of the government’s tax credits, thereby increasing the overall cost of the bill and eating into the savings.

And while Republicans argue that high-risk pools would work for sick people, that historically hasn’t been the case. The Center for American Progress estimated on Tuesday that the Republican health care plan falls $200 billion short of sufficiently funding high-risk pools.

The problem for House conservatives – and pro-wealth Republicans – is that the $150 billion in savings was supposed to be used to pay for the God-King’s tax cuts. It wouldn’t be enough to fund truly adequate high-risk pools, and Freedom Caucus members may insist that using the savings for that is just Obamacare in a different form. Or they may insist those funds be block-granted so state legislatures can spend the money however they wish … on high-risk pools, or to offset state tax cuts.

Fortunately, voters are seeing through the ruse and many House Republicans are feeling the heat:

“I do think each minute that has passed, each hour and each day, the ‘no’ members are becoming more locked in ‘no,’ and we may be losing members,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who favors going back to the original version of the American Health Care Act that was scrapped by GOP leaders earlier this year.

Yeah, the version that had a whopping 17% support in polls. Great idea.

“The most sincere anger I’ve noticed comes from people who are sincerely scared, people who may have a preexisting condition who feel like they’re about to lose [coverage] and they’re going to die, and they’re going to die because of a vote that we might be taking,” Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-FL), who supports the current plan, told reporters.

“If we cannot explain to people that is not going to happen, then it is going to be very difficult to ever bring a bill to the floor.”

Well, if explaining is the problem, then the solution is easy. Just tell people it won’t happen. And when people with preexisting conditions do start losing insurance and dying, pick a woman of color who smoked and was overweight and make her the poster child for the issue. Hammer away about how she brought this on herself, by smoking and eating too much. Plus she wouldn’t have been without insurance if she hadn’t quit that job. Oh, and you can’t prove she would have lived if Obamacare were still the law. Oh, and did we mention she’s a black women … probably one of those black women who drove her Cadillac to the welfare office to pick up the food stamps she spent on steak and lobster….

On the other hand, if sick people going without care because they can no longer afford health insurance … if that’s the problem … then maybe ditch your whole “Repeal Obamacare!” dogma and talk to Democrats and health care providers about how to make Obamacare work better.

Just sayin’.

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“The U.S. would be risking pariah status”

And the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin reports that the God-King may soon renounce the 2015 Paris Climate Accord:

Foes of the Paris climate agreement have gained the upper hand in the ongoing White House debate over whether the U.S. should pull out of the historic pact, according to participants in the discussions and those briefed on the deliberations, although President Trump has yet to make a final decision.

Senior administration officials have met twice since Thursday to discuss whether the United States should abandon the U.N. accord struck in December 2015, under which the United States pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

And that could have serious diplomatic repercussions:

But Paul Bledsoe, who served as a White House climate adviser under Bill Clinton and is now a lecturer at American University’s Center for Environmental Policy, warned that the administration might face serious pushback from abroad if Trump seeks to withdraw from the agreement.

“The Trump team seems oblivious to the fact that climate protection is now viewed by leading allies and nations around the world as a key measure of moral and diplomatic standing,” Bledsoe said in an email. “The U.S. would be risking pariah status on the international stage by withdrawing from Paris, and even a fig leaf approach of technically staying in the agreement while ignoring most of its provisions would be better than pulling out altogether.”

Bledsoe is both right and wrong. He’s right that pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords would give many countries yet another reason to hate the U.S. He’s wrong in thinking that would response dissuade the God-King, or conservatives, who behave as if they want the U.S. to be a “pariah” … so long as we have enough troops and planes and ships and missiles to get away with it.

They even have a catch-phrase for that: “American exceptionalism.”

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Photo Credit: Jonathan Earnst (Reuters)

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Good day and good nuts