A handful of GOP Senators are questioning the Wealthcare Act’s basic premise, and Justice Neil Gorsuch based his dissent in an LGBT marriage case on ‘alternative facts.’ (More)

“So that needs to be overcome then, doesn’t it?”

Susan Collins of Maine and Dean Heller of Nevada were expected to be difficult ‘gets’ for Senate Republican leaders trying to wrangle 50 votes for the Wealthcare Act. But discontent is spreading, and not about mere details but the basic premise of the conservative vision of government:

Several Senate Republicans began to question Wednesday whether their health-care bill should repeal a tax on high-income Americans imposed by Obamacare when the legislation would scale back subsidies for the poor.

Susan Collins of Maine and Mike Rounds of South Dakota both criticized the draft bill released by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for repealing a surtax on net investment income imposed under Obamacare.

“I do not see a justification for doing away with the 3.8 percent tax on investment income, because that is not something that increases the cost of health care,” Collins said. “So I distinguish between those tax increases that were part of Obamacare that increase premiums and the cost of health care versus those that do not.”

Worse, the Wealthcare Act would make that tax cut retroactive to 2016, which throws money at rich people but cannot possibly affect current or future insurance premiums. Senator Rounds not only wants to keep that tax; he says the money should go to help more people buy insurance:

Rounds called for using the savings to expand tax credits for Americans who are currently ineligible for assistance because their spouses have employer plans that don’t cover them. The South Dakota Republican said GOP leaders have told him the proposal would receive a CBO score.

“If we could make a change in that, I really think we could help millions of people,” Rounds told reporters after a Republican lunch discussion. “These are folks who get nothing.”

Rounds had been considered a reliable vote for Senate Republican leaders. Then again, so had Sen. Bob Corker, who also voiced his discontent yesterday:

Corker, who faces re-election in 2018, voiced hesitation with tax cuts for the highest earners. Apart from the net investment income tax, the Republican bill repeals a 0.9 percent Medicare surtax on incomes above the same thresholds after 2022.

“I want to make sure that we’re not in a situation where we’re cutting taxes for the wealthy and at the same time, basically, for lower income citizens, passing a larger burden on to them,” Corker said.

Told that what he described is what the CBO projects would happen, he responded, “So that needs to be overcome then, doesn’t it?”

Even Sen. Mike Lee, whose previous objections implied he thought the Wealthcare Act was too generous to hardworking families, seemed to join the chorus:

One prominent conservative, Mike Lee of Utah, has also expressed discomfort about the structure of the Senate bill.

He said in a statement Tuesday that the legislation “included hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the affluent, bailouts for insurance companies, and subsidies for lower-income Americans. But it ignored the middle-class families who have borne the brunt of Obamacare.”

Corker and Lee offer objections that might be managed with a backroom deal, but Collins and Rounds take square aim at the right-wing dogma of Tax Cuts Uber Alles. If they get one more colleague – such as Heller – then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can’t get to 50 votes for a mainstream conservative take on health care.

Worse for McConnell, wingnut media seem to have lost interest in the Wealthcare Act – perhaps because they sense it will fail, or perhaps because they can read polls that show overwhelming voter opposition.

So sure, the God-King is making grand promises

“Healthcare is working along very well,” Trump said after meeting with baseball players from the Chicago Cubs, according to a White House press pool report. “We’re gonna have a big surprise. We have a great healthcare package.”

When asked for further clarification about his remarks, the president repeated his claim about a big surprise.

“We’re going to have a great, great surprise,” he said.

… but he’s out of his depth and GOP senators know it. The “great, great surprise” may be that McConnell has no choice but to go hat-in-hand to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and negotiate a bill that actually fixes Obamacare’s problems, rather than making them worse.

“Rational reasons [for a] biology based birth registration regime”

And Justice Neil Gorsuch seems to have decided that if ‘alternative facts’ are good enough for the God-King, they’re good enough for the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s my reading of his dissent in Pavan v. Smith yesterday. The Court issued a per curiam decision overturning the Arkansas Supreme Court and ordering the state to issue birth certificates listing both LGBT parents. But Gorsuch disagreed, arguing:

The statute in question establishes a set of rules designed to ensure that the biological parents of a child are listed on the child’s birth certificate. Before the state supreme court, the State argued that rational reasons exist for a biology based birth registration regime, reasons that in no way offend Obergefell-like ensuring government officials can identify public health trends and helping individuals determine their biological lineage, citizenship, or susceptibility to genetic disorders.

That might be persuasive, except it’s just plain false. Legally. Factually. False.

From the unsigned per curiam opinion:

The department’s decision rested on a provision of Arkansas law, Ark. Code §20–18–401 (2014), that specifies which individuals will appear as parents on a child’s state issued birth certificate. “For the purposes of birth registration,” that statute says, “the mother is deemed to be the woman who gives birth to the child.” §20–18–401(e). And “[i]f the mother was married at the time of either conception or birth,” the statute instructs that “the name of [her] husband shall be entered on the certificate as the father of the child.” §20–18–401(f)(1). There are some limited exceptions to the latter rule—for example, another man may appear on the birth certificate if the “mother” and “husband” and “putative father” all file affidavits vouching for the putative father’s paternity. Ibid. But as all parties agree, the requirement that a married woman’s husband appear on her child’s birth certificate applies in cases where the couple conceived by means of artificial insemination with the help of an anonymous sperm donor. See Pet. for Cert. 4; Brief in Opposition 3–4; see also Ark. Code §9–10–201(a) (2015) (“Any child born to a married woman by means of artificial insemination shall be deemed the legitimate natural child of the woman and the woman’s husband if the husband consents in writing to the artificial insemination”).

Like most states, Arkansas does not have “a biology based birth registration regime.” It has a marriage based birth registration regime. That applies even if a woman has a child by artificial insemination from an anonymous donor. That biological father – whoever he may be – would not appear on the birth certificate …

… unless the woman is lesbian. That’s why the couple sued. The mother wanted her legal wife to be listed as the other parent on the birth certificate, just as would have happened had she been married to a man. But the Arkansas courts held that if the mother is lesbian, the birth certificate must list the biological father or, if he was an anonymous sperm donor, leave the ‘Father’ field blank.

Fortunately, Chief Justice John Roberts joined Justice Anthony Kennedy and the Court’s four liberal Justices in ordering Arkansas to apply the plain meaning of its statute equally to LGBT couples, as Obergefell requires. This wasn’t even a close case; the six Justices agreed to deny oral argument and issue a summary, per curiam order.

For anyone who doubted that Justice Gorsuch would be a fact-free ideologue … his dissent is your answer.

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Image Credit – Hundred-Dollar Bills: Ervins Strauhmanis (CC-BY 2.0); Thumbs-Down Emoticons: K.P. (ClipArtFest); Composite: Crissie Brown (BPICampus.com).

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Good day and good nuts