Public Response Roundup: Healthcare, Sessions, Trump Jr, Transgender Troops

Hello all,

Since we’ve managed to get through half a day without any major headlines, I thought we’d try a different angle today: examining the public response to the major events of this week and last, particularly among Republicans. There are two good reasons to do this. First, impeachment, removal, and election outcomes all begin in the court of public opinion– Presidents and legislators with high approval ratings do not often find their offices in jeopardy; public opinion, therefore, serves as an important predictor of the future political landscape. Second, because when “Breaking News” is an hourly event, it is difficult to examine events with the level of nuance their gravity demands.

Please note, the events listed here are presented in no particular order.

Healthcare Bill Fails in the Senate:

Susan Collins (D-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (D-AK) are among the only popular GOP Senators returning home this weekend. Both received displays of gratitude at their home airports from constituents carrying signs applauding the death of the repeal attempt.

Meanwhile, the remaining Republican senators should be grateful for majority leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) decision to shorten the August recess– originally for the purpose of continuing work on the ACA repeal. They face ire from right-leaning constituents from both ends of the spectrum: some are furious at their representatives’ failed effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act as promised, and many more who are livid that those who claim to represent their interests were attempting to compromise their access to care. In light of the ACA’s jump in approval ratings in the first few months of Trump’s presidency, one can only imagine how pleasant town hall meetings will be for the likes of Mitch McConnell (if he holds any).

Regardless, the majority of Americans recently polled want the GOP to move on from healthcare reform, leaving the ACA intact. It is unclear how many of those view it as a losing battle for republicans versus those who genuinely prefer the current system, but regardless– the people have spoken, and if these legislators wish to keep their jobs in the next election cycle they would do well to listen.

Jeff Sessions:

Intriguingly, in spite of an absolutely contemptuous performance of a testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee a few weeks ago, Jeff Sessions’ stock is rising among the public– or at least those on the right. This is particularly interesting because this particular voting bloc generally does not believe that there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in regards to the 2016 election, and yet their support for Sessions is on the rise following recent attacks by the President,  drawn by Sessions’ choice to recuse himself from the Russian investigation.

Sessions’ former colleagues in the Senate have been particularly vocal, suggesting that they will block any Presidential attempt to replace the attorney general. This is one area where liberals and conservatives should agree then: keeping Sessions in his office is the absolute best case scenario for everyone– except those whose illegal acts could be uncovered by Robert Mueller’s investigation. For Republicans, Sessions represents party loyalty and integrity, even if he has little to no influence with the President since igniting his ire. For Democrats, his recusal is the only thing ensuring Mueller maintains his office– Sessions’ replacement would not be recused from the Russian investigation, and would therefore have the full authority to fire Mueller (a promise that one would imagine would have to be made before Trump would even consider nominating a candidate).

So, with Republicans and Democrats on and off of Capitol Hill making it clear that the firing of Sessions would represent a “red line,” and the Attorney General apparently voicing no intent of tendering his resignation, it seems likely he will be maintaining his office for the time being, and this is a good thing.

Donald Trump Junior: 

In spite of the President’s assertions that “almost anyone would have taken” a meeting offering damning information on an opposing candidate from a hostile foreign power as standard presidential election procedure, the public is not convinced: the majority of people surveyed said that the meeting was “inappropriate,” with only 23 percent calling it “appropriate.”

There really is not much to say here: Donald Trump Jr. published evidence that he had colluded with a foreign power to influence our election, and is not presently awaiting trial for treason. That alone should be astonishing.

Transgender Military Service:

In yet another backfiring popularity grab, President Trump’s announcement that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed to serve in the military in any capacity is also unpopular with most Americans. In a survey performed shortly after the President’s tweets, 58 percent of adults agreed that transgender and gender-non-conforming individuals should have the equal opportunity to serve their country as their cisgender counterparts, with an additional 15 percent having no opinion.

This, too, seems like a no-brainer. The obvious fact that the Constitution guarantees to all people “equal protection under the law” and that any attempt to prevent trans* individuals from serving is a violation of that right aside, the United States military is always attempting to recruit more people into its service. This is tactically ignorant and ethnically abhorrent. Enough said.

So there it is: the Republican establishment as well as the general public are increasingly wary of the President’s agenda. Those who remain loyal to upholding it are behind held accountable by the people they profess to represent. As long as this trend continues, the goals of the left should be fairly easy to attain: primarily, success in the 2018 elections.

— This is the ALF, signing off.



ACA Repeal Passes the House: What Does This Really Mean?

In a 217-213 vote, Republican members of the House of Representatives managed to pass a bill yesterday (May 4th, 2017) that will supposedly begin the process of repealing and “replacing” the Affordable Care Act. While the President and members of Congress are celebrating their symbolic victory, it is important to pay attention to the big picture. The first noteworthy subject is the Senate, which has promised a deliberation process that will last upwards of six weeks and include a proper evaluation by the Congressional Budget Office. There have also been hints from more than one Republican Senator that the bill that the Senate will vote on will look little, if at all, like the bill that exited the House today. Now, given whose hands this is in, that’s not necessarily encouraging in itself– a new bill doesn’t necessarily mean a better bill. That said, the new bill would then have to return to the House for approval, and given what happened the last time the House had a more moderate healthcare bill in front of them, one can imagine that negotiation process will be…difficult, at best. Assuming the Senate passes a bill, it will then most likely go to committee for debate and compromise before coming to a vote in both houses once again. In short, this is far from over.

That should not, however, serve as an excuse to be anything less than acquainted with the nature of the bill as it presently stands. Most notably, the classification and management of individuals with pre-existing conditions has been at the forefront of conversations, and rightfully so. While we do not fully know what is and is not funded by the bill yet–neither do many Republicans who voted for it– we have had several glimpses into its contents. First, an amendment to the bill proposed by Representative Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) will allow states to petition the federal government for the right to charge individuals with pre-existing conditions more. States who take advantage of this will be required to maintain a so-called “risk-sharing” plan, which will be partially subsidized by the eight billion dollar amendment that was added yesterday, May 3rd, to help cover the cost. The AARP, among others, have described this funding as inadequate. The bill also does not define pre-existing conditions that would qualify for the waiver– meaning any condition identified by insurance companies would likely be at risk. Here are some examples:

  • Mental Health: Anorexia Nervosa, Bipolar Disorder, Bulimia Nervosa, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, etc.
  • Behavioral/ Developmental Health: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down Syndrome,   Attention Deficit (Hyperactivity) Disorder, Tourette’s Syndrome, etc.
  • Chronic Physical Health Conditions: Arthritis, Asthma, Blindness, Cancer, Deafness, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Heartburn, Hepatitis, Heart Disease, HIV/ AIDS, Migraines, Obesity, Osteoporosis, Paralysis, Tooth Disease, Ulcers, etc.
  • Women’s Health: Cesarian section, Endrometriosis, Menstruation, Ovarian Cyst,  Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), Postpartum Depression, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), as well as surviving domestic violence or sexual assault, etc.

For a full list of conditions, see below, courtesy of Igor Volsky:

Now, first and foremost, health insurance absolutely is a game of odds: many of these disorders do carry a higher risk of needing health care, and some would argue that that means it is reasonable to ask those people to pay more. This might seem fair in the absence of context, but looking closer reveals the myriad problems with such a mentality. First, many chronic and deadly diseases disproportionally affect minorities in this country, particularly people of color as systemic inequalities in socioeconomic status make access to adequate nutrition, as well as preventative and responsive care more difficult. This reality is further complicated by the decreased likelihood of adequate government intervention in minority-prevalent and low-income areas facing public health crises. Flint, Michigan, a city in which more than half of residents are African-American and the average resident is living below the poverty line, tells this story as well as anywhere: residents remain without clean drinking water three years later. So, minorities are more susceptible to disease and less likely to receive federal aid to manage public health crises. Now add the likelihood of facing discrimination when seeking care, and subsequent inequities in the care provided to people of color, individuals of low socioeconomic status, non-heterosexual individuals, transgender or gender non-conforming individuals, women, individuals with low levels of education, and people with disabilities– a likelihood high enough to compel the CDC to begin issuing annual reports on the subject. Finally, consider that the people most disproportionally affected by these diseases, and the most likely to receive discriminatory and unequal care, are also individuals most heavily impacted by financial inequities– namely, the wage gap, and discriminatory hiring practices, assuming they have the necessary documentation and ability to work in the first place. It is also important to note that, regardless of minority status, many of these diseases would make it difficult for a person to work full time, or at all. So, is it reasonable to demand higher payment from these individuals, or from people who are healthy and making more money than average? Maybe it’s the liberal in me, but it seems two things should be clear: 1) if the United States is going to continue to tout the myth of American Exceptionalism, we need to get on board with other leading nations in recognizing healthcare as a fundamental human right– not a right of the wealthy, or even a right of citizenship; 2) if changes to the Affordable Care Act need to be made, it is because the ACA does not do enough to progress healthcare in the United States towards a single payer system, not because it does too much.

One would imagine it is for this reason that Democrats in the House of Representatives sang “Na Na Na Na, Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey, Goodbye” at House Republicans yesterday following the passage of the bill, with the obvious implication being that those who voted to take healthcare away from their constituents will have a difficult time getting re-elected. So, while Republicans gleefully celebrate the first step in reversing human rights progress, it is our job to ensure our Democratic representatives were correct, and to fight against this bill–or whatever version of it emerges from the Senate–with all of our efforts. It is no understatement to say that there are millions of lives on the line.

Finally, for your daily dose of irony, I give you this:


Yes folks, that is Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)–who just had surgery for a pre-existing condition in his foot–gleefully rolling into Congress to take away your ability to afford to do the same. Chaffetz also recently announced his decision not to run for re-election in 2018. From the looks of things, that seems like a sensible decision to me.

— This is the ALF, signing off.