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Leading Global Warming Deniers Just Told Us What They Want Trump to Do

Mother Jones

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What does a climate change denier wish for when everything seems possible? With Congress and the White House in agreement on the unimportance of science, there’s no need to settle for rolling back President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda one regulation at a time. It’s time to get the Environmental Protection Agency out of climate change altogether.

To get a sense of what the wish list looks like, the annual conference of the Heartland Institute would be a good place to start. The right-wing think tank that has received funding from ExxonMobil and Koch groups—and is best known for pushing out misinformation on climate change—has sponsored this annual gathering for the last 12 years. This year the theme was “Resetting Climate Policy,” reflecting the triumphant and hopeful mood of the conference now that they control the agenda.

The usual ideas floated at the conference have ranged from abolishing the EPA to touting the universal benefits of fossil fuels, but this year one idea in particular dominated the discussions: Climate deniers think they have a chance to reverse the EPA’s endangerment finding that formally says greenhouse gasses poses a threat to Americans and their health. That 2009 determination, prompted by a Supreme Court decision in 2007, is the basis for the EPA’s regulatory work on climate change.

“We’ve been at this for 33 years. We have a lot of people in our network,” Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast tells Mother Jones, “and many of these people are now in this new administration.” Transition staff and new appointees in the Trump administration “occasionally ask us for advice and names of people,” he added.

Rescinding the endangerment finding is the “number one” priority Bast sees for Trump’s EPA. “I think it’s almost a sure thing they are going to revisit it,” Bast says. “Whether they are going to succeed is maybe a 90 percent certainty.”

Bast overstated the strength of his case. The problem with rescinding the endangerment finding is that the EPA would somehow have to make a convincing case that holds up in court that climate change isn’t a threat to humanity. In other words, it would be incumbent upon the EPA to disprove climate change is real.

During, his confirmation hearings, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt acknowledged that the endangerment finding was the “law of the land” and there is “nothing that I know that will cause a review at this point.” But he has recently suggested he may attempt to change course. He went on CNBC and claimed “we don’t know” that the science is settled, and insisted “we need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

Cato Institute’s Director for the Center for the Study of Science, Patrick Michaels, who gave an address to the meeting, agreed that the administration should make reversing the endangerment finding its priority. At one point in his presentation, Michaels asked if David Schnare—who previously spent years suing the EPA until he became a transition appointee at the agency—was in the audience. “David’s big on this,” Michaels said. Schnare was not there, but he helped to emphasize Bast’s point: Trump’s appointees are familiar, friendly faces.

In his keynote address, House Science Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas) expressed his gratitude to Heartland for its “help and support.” Asked if he will be holding a hearing on the endangerment finding, Smith answered, “Probably….It hasn’t been set yet. We can add that to our list.” Smith, who has already held a “Making EPA Great Again” hearing, will plans a hearing for next week questioning the scientific method of climate studies.

For anyone who acknowledges climate change is a reality and a threat, Smith’s final words about President Trump to the roughly 200 attendees who were gathered might be considered ominous: “You won’t be disappointed with the direction he’s going.”

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Leading Global Warming Deniers Just Told Us What They Want Trump to Do

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Trump: Failure of Health Care Bill Is All Democrats’ Fault

Mother Jones

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It’s laughable watching President Trump whine endlessly this afternoon about how his health care bill didn’t get any Democratic votes. Not one! The Democrats just wouldn’t work with him to craft a bill! Boy, that sure makes things tough.

Needless to say, neither Trump nor Paul Ryan ever tried to bring Democrats into this bill. It was purely a Republican plan from the start, and neither of them wanted any Democratic input. That’s just the opposite of Obamacare, where Democrats tried mightily to get Republican buy-in, and still ended up getting no Republican votes in the end. Not one!

Anyway, Trump’s plan now is to wait for Obamacare to implode and then Democrats will have to do a deal. I guess it hasn’t occurred to him that he could do a deal with Democrats right now if he were really serious about fixing health care. But no. Trump says he intends to move on to tax reform, because that’s something he actually cares about.

In the meantime, it’s very unclear what will happen to Obamacare. With so much uncertainty surrounding it, it’s hard to say how insurance companies will respond. They might give up and pull out. Or they might stick it out and wait. It’s pretty close to a profitable business now, so there’s probably no urgency one way or the other for most of them. And anyway, somewhere there’s an equilibrium. Having only one insurer in a particular county might be bad for residents of that county, but it’s great for the insurer: they can raise their prices with no worries. There are no competitors to steal their business, and the federal subsidies mean that customers on the exchanges won’t see much of a change even if prices go up. In places where they have these mini-monopolies, Obamacare should be a nice money spinner.

April will be a key month, as insurers begin to announce their plans for 2018. We’ll see what happens.

POSTSCRIPT: It was also amusing to hear Trump say that he learned a lot during this process about “arcane” procedures in the House and Senate. Like what? Filibusters? Having to persuade people to vote for your bill? The fact that the opposition party isn’t going to give you any votes for a bill that destroys one of their signature achievements? Reconciliation and the Byrd rule? I believe him when he says this was all new to him, which means he never had the slightest clue what was in this bill or how it was going to pass.

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Trump: Failure of Health Care Bill Is All Democrats’ Fault

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Watch Trump Call Obamacare Repeal "So Easy"

Mother Jones

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After a week of emergency meetings and last-minute attempts to unify their party, Republican leaders pulled their Obamacare repeal bill from the House floor Friday when it became clear they didn’t have enough support to pass.

The decision comes as a major defeat for President Donald Trump, who during the campaign bragged that Obamacare repeal would be “so easy.”

“Together we’re going to deliver real change that once again puts Americans first,” Trump said at an October rally in Florida. “That begins with immediately repealing and replacing the disaster known as Obamacare…You’re going to have such great health care, at a tiny fraction of the cost—and it’s going to be so easy.”

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Trump also argued on the campaign trail that electing a Republican-controlled Congress would allow him to quickly dismantle the health care law and pass other pieces of legislation. “With a Republican House and Senate, we will immediately repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare,” Trump said at another event. “A Republican House and Senate can swiftly enact the other items in my contract immediately, including massive tax reduction.”

“We will repeal and replace Obamacare, and we will do it very, very quickly,” Trump said during the final week of the campaign. “It is a catastrophe.”

Trump’s confidence in his ability to win the health care fight continued through the first few weeks of his presidency. On February 9, he bragged that when it came to repealing Obamacare, “Nobody can do that like me.”

By the end of February, Trump had changed his tune somewhat. “Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject,” the president said. “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

One person who certainly did know was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who successfully shepherded Obamacare through the House in 2010. On Thursday, she mocked Trump for trying to rush the repeal bill through the chamber, calling it a “Rookie’s error.”

“Clearly you are not ready,” Pelosi said.

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Watch Trump Call Obamacare Repeal "So Easy"

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Obamacare Repeal Is Dead

Mother Jones

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Well, that’s it. Obamacare repeal has failed. The House will not vote on the Republican health care bill.

So what’s next? The first thing, of course, is for Trump to insist that he bears no blame for this. Possible candidates for being thrown under the bus include Paul Ryan, the Freedom Caucus, Democrats, Obama, and illegal immigration.

But what’s next after that? This is the depressing part. From a partisan perspective, I imagine the best bet is to sabotage Obamacare as much as possible and wait for it to fail. Then Trump can say that he was right all along (isn’t he always?) and now we really have to do something.

But there’s also the perspective of what’s best for the country. If Obamacare repeal can’t pass, the best bet is to work on making Obamacare better. This could be done fairly easily, since it’s mostly tweaks that are needed. There are even deals to be made here. Democrats would probably be willing to give Republicans some things they want (tort reform, expanded HSAs, etc.) in return for modest changes that would make Obamacare more stable (higher penalties, tweaks to the subsidies, funding the risk corridors, etc.).

But that’s a fantasy. There’s little chance of anyone in Congress these days working across the aisle to do what’s best for the country.

UPDATE: And the winner is…Democrats!

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Obamacare Repeal Is Dead

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Kansas Republicans Just Defied Donald Trump and Voted to Expand Medicaid

Mother Jones

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On the same day the House was supposed to pass a bill dismantling Medicaid, Kansas Republicans took a big step toward expanding the program in their state.

In a voice vote Thursday morning, a committee in the Kansas Senate approved legislation that would enable the state to take advantage of an Obamacare provision offering Medicaid health insurance coverage to a wider group of poor people. The federal government would provide the vast majority of the funding.

Many deep-red states like Kansas have rejected Medicaid expansion based largely on their ideological objections to Obamacare. But as I reported earlier this week, a new bloc of moderate Republicans in the state—back by the health care industry and business community—have teamed up with Democrats to push Medicaid expansion. They point out that the state has given up, to date, nearly $2 billion in federal funds that could have helped both improve the health of the state’s low-income communities while also boosting its economy.

The Kansas House overwhelming passed Medicaid expansion earlier this year. The full state Senate is expected to vote on the issue Monday, according to KCUR. But they would likely need to cobble together a veto-proof majority, since Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has vocally opposed to adopting the program. In fact, Brownback released a letter Thursday, signed with seven other Republican governors, asking Congress to pass the repeal of Obamacare, which would eventually end funding for new sign-ups in the Medicaid expansion and would prevent states such as Kansas signing up in the meantime.

It’s unclear if Congress will heed Brownback’s request. The GOP’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare was supposed to get a vote in the full House sometime Thursday, but with both conservatives and moderate Republicans balking, the vote was delayed. The Trump administration set a deadline for a Friday vote, saying the White House would otherwise abandon the effort. Congress is currently debating the measure, but vote counts from various news outlets suggest Republicans currently lack enough votes to pass the bill.

Read more about the fight for Medicaid expansion in Kansas here.

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Kansas Republicans Just Defied Donald Trump and Voted to Expand Medicaid

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