While You Focus on Comey, Senate Republicans are Launching an Audacious Plan to Pass Trumpcare

Amanda Michelle Gomez

Amanda Michelle Gomez Health Care Reporter, Think Progress

While attention shifts to James Comey’s much anticipated testimony today, Senate Republicans are still working to deprive 23 million people of health care coverage.

Senate Speaker Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he is striving to get a vote on the Republican health care bill by July 4, before Congress leaves for August recess. As ludicrous as this deadline seems, the Senate could pull it off — but it will be done without much public scrutiny.

Sen. McConnell implemented Senate “Rule 14” Wednesday to fast-track the GOP House health bill. This rule allows the Senate to skip the committee process (goodbye full senate committee debate) and instead “fast-tracks” the bill by moving it on the senate calendar so it can be brought to a vote.

Republicans need to pass a health care bill immediately. And they need to pass a bill that reconciles the needs of both the House and Senate, by September 30th in order to use reconciliation. Reconciliation is a 1974 act that expedites the senate’s consideration of bills that pertain to the budget. While Washington watches James Comey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senate Republicans leaders and the health care working group will still be meeting for a working luncheon to continue negotiations.

The Senate’s job is harder because unlike the House, the Senate cannot vote on a bill until the Congressional Budget Office scores it. CBO needs to score the bill to see if it meets budgetary standards of reconciliation. The Senate health bill needs to save $2 billion, which the House bill successfully did. But the Senate bill is also bound by the Byrd Rule, which has its own host of additional surgical rules, like that the bill cannot change Social Security spending or dedicated revenue. The CBO will need time to score the bill, so fast-tracking this Senate health bill makes the most sense for Senate Republicans.

During a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Health and Human Services 2018 budget request on Thursday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) vocalized her frustration with the senate leader invoking rule 14. She asked the chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), if there is going to be a public hearing on the Senate’s secret health bill. A befuddled Hatch said he did not know. “But we have no idea what’s being proposed,” McCaskill exclaimed.

McCaskill makes a valid point. Georgetown University congressional expert Josh Huder says what’s truly remarkable is the Senate will replicate what the House did: push this bill forward with little transparency.

It’s not transparent, but it’s a good way to get health care legislation passed. The Senate is using reconciliation to get this done, which prevents a Democrat filibuster. “This bill will not get 60 votes anywhere. If you want to the bill to pass, this is the only way to do it,” said Huder.

The Senate GOP have been sorting out major qualms they have with the House GOP health bill like how Medicaid should be structured and funded, should states be able to avoid Obamacare regulations, and how to craft tax credits to replace existing insurance subsidies.

Axios health reporter Caitlin Davis says Senate Republicans have agreed on some points, like that the Medicaid expansion phase out process should be slower and that some Obamacare protections should be kept.

The House bill almost immediately reduces enhanced federal spending for Medicaid expansion in 2020. According to Davis, the Senate is looking for a “a three-year glidepath beginning in 2020,” which will give states more time to adjust to the reduced funding.

The House bill would also allow states to opt out of some Obamacare regulations by requesting waivers. However, the Senate is looking to preserve one Obamacare protection that prevents insurers from denying care to people with pre-existing conditions. Even so, Senate Republicans are allowing states to opt out of providing essential health benefits to individuals and small group markets. Meaning even though insurers may not be able to deny people with pre-existing conditions, insurance plans may not cover care this community needs.

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Reposted from Think Progress.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work