Senate Democrats will push for some variation of Medicare-for-All, despite media caviling. (More)

“This is where the country has got to go”

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has yet again introduced a Medicare-for-All bill, but this time up to a third of Senate Democrats have signed on:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will introduce legislation on Wednesday that would expand Medicare into a universal health insurance program with the backing of at least 15 Democratic senators – a record level of support for an idea that had been relegated to the fringes during the last Democratic presidency.

“This is where the country has got to go,” Sanders said in an interview at his Senate office. “Right now, if we want to move away from a dysfunctional, wasteful, bureaucratic system into a rational health-care system that guarantees coverage to everyone in a cost-effective way, the only way to do it is Medicare for All.”

Sanders’s bill, the Medicare for All Act of 2017, has no chance of passage in a Republican-run Congress. But after months of behind-the-scenes meetings and a public pressure campaign, the bill is already backed by most of the senators seen as likely 2020 Democratic candidates – if not by most senators facing tough reelection battles in 2018.

Vox’s count has 11 Senate Democrats co-sponsoring the bill: Kamala Harris (CA), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Brian Schatz (HI), Cory Booker (NJ), Jeff Merkley (OR), Ed Markey (MA), Mazie Hirono (HI), Tammy Baldwin (WI), and Richard Blumenthal (CT). But that’s almost every name being mentioned as likely 2020 presidential candidates.

Or, as the Associated Press put it, “Bernie Sanders’ health care bill puts Democrats on the spot.” Why? Well, because Republicans say so:

Meanwhile, the so-called single-payer bill has Republicans gleefully anticipating wielding it as a campaign weapon, particularly against the 10 Democrats defending Senate seats in states President Donald Trump won last year and where liberal voters are scarce.

“I’m not seeing any evidence single payer is attractive to the swing voters Democrats would need to win control of the House and Senate,” said Jim Hobart, a GOP political consultant. Using it against Democrats will be “a very inviting attack line,” he said.
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Republicans are poised to paint it as a mammoth tax increase that puts government in control of health care, which the GOP has used as a potent attack line in the past. It would wrest employer-provided health care away from the roughly half of Americans who get coverage that way, a disruption for about 150 million people.

“It’s laughable,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA, said of Sanders’ bill, saying it would appeal to voters “who don’t understand the expense of it.” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-KA, said the measure was aimed at “a section of the Democratic base that needs to be appealed to.”

And if Republicans say it’s politically toxic, that must be true. They know what the American people want, as evidenced by their hey-12%-liked-it health care bill. So by all means, Democrats should defer to the greater wisdom of Republicans about health care.

Cough.

Indeed many of the Senate Democrats who aren’t on board for Sanders’ bill are pushing similar alternatives, such as lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 55 or offering Medicare or Medicaid as a public option in addition to the current system.

The press are making a big deal of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi not yet being on board. But here’s what she said:

“I don’t think it’s a litmus test,” Pelosi said in an interview. “What we want is to have as many people as possible, everybody, covered, and I think that’s something that we all embrace.”

Pelosi said that she would like a variety of health-care ideas to be vetted and analyzed by budget scorekeepers but that she thinks none of them will succeed while the ACA is under attack from Republicans.

“Right now I’m protecting the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi said. “None of these things, whether it’s Bernie’s or others, can really prevail unless we protect the Affordable Care Act.”

Given that no Democratic-authored bill has a ghost of a chance unless and until Democrats retake the Senate and House, her position makes sense. And as Vox’s Dylan Scott notes, almost 56% of Americans currently get health insurance through their jobs. And when it comes to health care, Scott writes, “people like what they know.” A thorough CBO analysis might well show that Medicare-for-All – either universal or as a public option – would be cheaper and better for most working Americans, but Democrats would need to sell that to skeptical voters. That would be difficult … but not impossible.

Sure, The Hill is making this a Democrats In Disarray story, but conservatives are already calling this a “Democratic Party” proposal. So there’s no real political cover in playing coy, and that’s why even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) says single-payer deserves a serious look.

“Speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy”

That’s what both the Senate and House demanded from the God-King:

A day after the Senate easily passed legislation condemning last month’s violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, the House passed it on a voice vote Tuesday evening.

The House version was introduced last week by Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA), a conservative freshman who represents Charlottesville, and Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA). It has the backing of Virginia’s entire delegation of seven Republicans and four Democrats.
Now that the House has cleared the Senate measure, it will land on Trump’s desk to sign or veto.

Though resolutions are often passed to offer the sense of the House or Senate on various issues, they rarely head to the president for consideration. But backers of this measure structured it as a “joint resolution,” a move ensuring that passage would require Trump to weigh in on an issue that has dogged his presidency for weeks.

The resolution urges Trump to “speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy.” It also calls on the administration to “use all resources available to the President and the President’s Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”

And the House passed another surprising oh-no-you-don’t:

In a stunning move, the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved an amendment to the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act that will roll back Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s expansion of asset forfeiture.

Amendment number 126 was sponsored by a bipartisan group of nine members, led by Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash. He was joined by Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California; Washington state’s Pramila Jayapal, a rising progressive star; and Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard.

Civil asset forfeiture is a practice by which law enforcement can take assets from a person who is suspected of a crime, even without a charge or conviction. Sessions revived the Justice Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, which allowed state and local police agencies to take assets and then give them to the federal government – which would in turn give a chunk back to the local police. This served as a way for these local agencies to skirt past state laws designed to limit asset forfeiture.
The amendment would roll back Sessions’ elimination of the Obama-era reforms.

Amash, the prime mover of the amendment, spoke forcefully in favor of the Obama-era rules on the House floor and the need to bring them back.

“Unfortunately these restrictions were revoked in June of this year. My amendment would restore them by prohibiting the use of funds to do adoptive forfeitures that were banned under the 2015 rules,” he explained.

Yes, you read that right. Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) “spoke forcefully in favor of the Obama-era rules.” Ahem.

Still think single-payer looks impossible?

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Photo Credit: USElectionAtlas.org

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Good day and good nuts