The God-King said employers should decide whether women use birth control and House Republicans made womanhood a preexisting condition. (More)

“Conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate”

Yesterday the God-King signed an executive order that said employers’ religious beliefs matter more than the beliefs of their employees:

Sec. 3. Conscience Protections with Respect to Preventive-Care Mandate. The Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Labor, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall consider issuing amended regulations, consistent with applicable law, to address conscience-based objections to the preventive-care mandate promulgated under section 300gg-13(a)(4) of title 42, United States Code.

Translated from legalese, that means bosses can refuse to cover birth control in company health plans. They also refuse to cover immunizations. All they have to do is claim a “conscience-based” excuse. Moreover, nothing in the language of the order limits that to specific kinds of employers, such as religious organizations. Indeed unlike the February draft leaked to The Nation, this order doesn’t even limit that to closely-held firms. So the CEOs of huge, publicly-traded companies could cut birth control or immunizations from their company health plans … because a CEO’s religious beliefs are sacrosanct … and a female employee’s religious beliefs are irrelevant.

And wingnuts like Bryan Fischer are outraged because the order doesn’t explicitly authorize discrimination against LGBTs:

The draft of this executive order that was leaked to the liberal media in February contained robust protections for Christians engaged in business from being compelled by government to violate their own values and consciences in showdowns with the radical, vitriolic, and virulently aggressive LGBT lobby.
This morning’s empty and symbolic action on the president’s part most likely betrays the hidden hand of the president’s uber-liberal daughter, Ivanka, who likely leaked the February draft to a liberal rag (The Nation) in order to stir up enough intense outrage from the LGBT community to strangle this baby in the cradle. It worked. Ivanka wore out her red pencil eviscerating the original order, leaving us with today’s order which has very nice language but is virtually entirely lacking in substance.

The president’s words today were fine, and encouraging as far as they went. The problem with the president’s speech in the Rose Garden is what he did not say. There was no word of comfort, encouragement, or support for those who have been victimized by the relentless persecution of the homosexual lobby.

Yeah, the “relentless persecution” of refusing to meekly bow to bigotry and discrimination. The nerve….

“A law that fundamentally does the reverse of what its proponents are promising”

Meanwhile, the GOP’s Wealthcare Act is an all-out assault on women’s health:

When you add up all the changes to health care in the House GOP reform bill, they look like a not-so-veiled attack on women’s health.

The Affordable Care Act was a big leap forward for women in the US. The law expanded contraceptive access, finally required private small-group insurers to cover maternity care, and broadened the number of people who could access Medicaid – which pays for half of all births in this country.

At that link, Vox’s Julia Belluz details the carnage. The bill all but guts Medicaid, eliminates federal funding for Planned Parenthood, allows states’ and employers to exempt prenatal and maternity care (which 88% of health plans did before Obamacare), and expressly forbids using the plan’s tax credits to buy health insurance that covers abortion. Oh, and it would also let insurers designate menstrual difficulties, having had a C-section, and perhaps even rape and domestic violence as preexisting conditions. But they insist that doesn’t discriminate against women because … the bill says it doesn’t:

Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting health insurance issuers to discriminate in rates for health insurance coverage by gender.

Because hey, insurers would charge the same higher rates for men who have menstrual difficulties or had C-sections….

“This is just a debacle”

Small wonder that pretty much everyone involved in actually delivering health care hates this bill:

It is a rare unifying moment. Hospitals, doctors, health insurers and some consumer groups, with few exceptions, are speaking with one voice and urging significant changes to the Republican health care legislation that passed the House on Thursday.
“The American Health Care Act needs important improvements to better protect low- and moderate-income families who rely on Medicaid or buy their own coverage,” Marilyn B. Tavenner, the chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s trade group, said in a strongly worded statement.

Others were even more direct about the effects the bill would have, not only on patients but also on the industry. “To me, this is not a reform,” said Michael J. Dowling, the chief executive of Northwell Health, a large health system in New York. “This is just a debacle.”

Hospitals that serve low-income patients “will just be drowning completely when this happens,” Mr. Dowling said, noting that more people would become uninsured at the same time that government payments to cover their costs were reduced.

But hey, the Senate will fix it … right?

From doctors to insurance companies to hospitals and consumer groups, no one likes the Republican health-care bill that narrowly passed the House on Thursday. Even House Republicans who voted for the legislation concede that it’s terrible. “Is this bill good? No, I don’t like it,” Representative Mario Diaz-Balart told the Washington Post, shortly after voting for it. The Florida Republican said that while tens of thousands of his constituents are poised to lose their health insurance, senators assured him they’d take care of it.

He wasn’t the only House Republican who suggested he only voted on the bill because he knew the Senate would make drastic changes. According to Politico, that’s actually an argument the White House used when pushing to get the House bill across the finish line. “Everyone knows this won’t be the final product,” said one senior administration official. “So if you don’t like something, it’s fine.”

Well, maybe, as New York Magazine’s Margaret Hartmann reports at that link:

Several GOP senators suggested on Thursday that they would craft an entirely different Obamacare repeal bill. “We will be working to put together a package that reflects our member’s priorities with the explicit goal of getting 51 votes,” Senator Orrin Hatch said.

On Thursday morning McConnell convened a small number of GOP senators to begin discussing what their legislation might look like. “It was designed by the leader to be a smaller group of people that represent the different perspectives and points of view in our conference,” said Senator John Cornyn, the Senate Majority Whip. “If that group can get to ‘Yes,’ then [we will] take it to the rest of the conference.”

That legislation – which we probably won’t see until the summer – would likely include less harsh cuts to Medicaid, and more generous tax credits for older Americans. Plus, some elements of the House bill will probably have to be removed because they aren’t allowed under the Senate’s rules for reconciliation bills.

Getting that legislation past the most conservative members of the Senate, and then securing approval for the revised bill in the House, sounds nearly impossible. Yet, recent years have shown it’s unwise to bet against McConnell’s political skills, and the Republicans’ drive for a win, no matter the costs.

On the other hand, recent years have also shown it’s unwise to bet against what Josh Marshall calls The Iron Law of Republicans:

First, this should remind us of what I’ve previously called the Iron Law of Republican Politics. That is, the ‘GOP moderates’ will always cave. I learned this law back in 1998-99 during the impeachment drama. Lots of Republicans thought impeachment was insanity. They warned against it. Said it shouldn’t happen. Said it would be a disaster. Every Republican in the House but four ended up voting for it.
What happens next after this bill passes the House, as we assume it will this afternoon? Then it goes to the Senate where it should face much longer odds. The GOP majority is smaller in the Senate and a substantial number of Senators have already said they can’t support this bill or really anything like it. But the Iron Law of Republican Politics should sober anyone who thinks that a bill can’t get through the Senate or that the kind of bill that can get through the Senate will be too far from anything that can pass again in the House.

I don’t see how it can get through the Senate. But remember The Iron Law of Republican Politics.

‘Nuff Said.

I’ll go out on a limb – squirrels do that – and say the Senate bill will be close enough to the House bill that what finally comes out of the conference committee will be … pretty much the House bill. Oh, they’ll tweak some numbers here or there, but the all-out attack on women’s health – and gutting hardworking Americans’ health care to finance a $600 billion tax cut for rich people – won’t change much, if at all.

“It could also endanger the job prospects of the Republican members of Congress”

The only good news in this catastrophe – and I file it under Big Maybe – is that FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver thinks it may help Democrats win back the House in 2018:

Republicans in the House of Representatives voted today to approve a version of the American Health Care Act, their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. The biggest effects of the bill will be on the millions of additional Americans who would go without health insurance if a similar bill is passed by the Senate. But it could also endanger the job prospects of the Republican members of Congress who voted for it and make a Democratic takeover of the House substantially more likely in 2018.

He cites studies of returns from 2010 that found voting for Obamacare cost a typical House Democrat 13-16 points in the midterm election. So a Democrat who would have cruised to victory with a 10-point margin got wiped out. He continues:

If Republican members should suffer a similar penalty for voting for the AHCA – somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 points – it could put dozens of GOP-held seats in play.

But that’s a huge “If.” Silver thinks that, because polls show the Wealthcare Act is more hated than Obamacare ever was, Republicans may get hurt more by this than Democrats did by Obamacare.

Color me skeptical. Historically, Republicans pay little if any political price for their mistakes. In the mid-2000s it took both the ongoing debacle in Iraq and the disaster of Hurricane Katrina to trigger a Blue Wave. The plain fact is, Republicans have an easier time driving the political narrative. That’s especially true for their base, who are far more likely to live in an information bubble and believe whatever the God-King says. That’s why I think Republicans will convince their voters to blame Shawanda Jackson for the Wealthcare Act’s carnage.

Even if it ultimately passes in its cruelest possible form, I doubt this bill will cost House Republicans in 2018. Maybe I’m getting jaded, but I don’t think there’s any good news in yesterday’s debacle … certainly none that will justify the pain and suffering Republicans are about to unleash.


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Good day and good nuts