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Daily Archives: June 29th, 2017


 

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Matt Bai 2 hours 23 minutes ago

There’s nothing quite so thankless as being the nominal leader of a leaderless party, especially if that party is bereft of power and doesn’t have much to offer by way of an agenda, except for maybe keeping the other party from destroying the country.
When the majority party fails, your supporters say it’s only because the president is an evil buffoon and everyone has figured it out. When the majority succeeds, they say it’s your fault, because obviously you failed to make clear to people what an evil buffoon the president really is.
So it goes for Nancy Pelosi, who’s come under withering criticism (again) since Democrats got clobbered in two more special elections for Congress last week. Facing calls for her resignation, the longtime House leader acknowledged that she’s something of an easy target for Republican ad makers who want to portray the party as a bunch of coastal elites.
And yet, she wryly told reporters at the Capitol, “I think I’m worth the trouble.”
To be clear, Pelosi had almost nothing to do with the Democrats’ recent losses, all of which came in conservative districts the party had no business winning, anyway. But that quote said a lot about the way she and her aging contemporaries think about themselves.
Pelosi should leave the stage not because she’s controversial, but because what Democrats desperately need, more than any new branding strategy or slogan, is a turnover in talent. Which is why the rest of the party’s oldster luminaries should follow her to the exit, too.
Here’s a question for all you trivia buffs to ponder. Who do you think was the last nonincumbent Democrat over 55 to win the White House? I’m not talking about Harry Truman or Lyndon Johnson, both of whom inherited the job, but someone running against a sitting president or at the end of an eight-year term.
Here’s a hint: You weren’t alive, and neither were your parents.
The answer is Woodrow Wilson, who ran so long ago that you could still be both a progressive and a white supremacist and not have everyone find that completely bizarre.
Why is that? It’s not because there weren’t any older candidates to vote for, or because America was somehow ageist. From Wilson’s time to today, the country elected no fewer than five new Republican presidents who were at least that old. In fact, before George W. Bush, the last nonincumbent Republican under 55 to win the White House was Herbert Hoover.

No, it’s because Democrats win when they embody modernization. Liberalism triumphs only when it represents a reforming of government, rather than the mere preservation of it. Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama — all of them, in one way or another, offered a stark departure from the orthodoxies of the past.
Americans don’t need Democrats to stand up for nostalgia and restoration. They already have Republicans for that.
Of course, all the Democratic presidents I mentioned had assists from older, long-serving leaders in Congress. Having a 77-year-old House leader doesn’t necessarily doom a party to irrelevance.
Except that never in its history has the Democratic Party been so thoroughly dominated by the loud voices of its oldest generation. If Republican candidates weren’t so gleefully featuring Pelosi in their ads, they’d be going after Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton, none of whom seems remotely interested in yielding the floor.
(Really the only younger Democrat you could fairly call a national spokesperson for the party is its 55-year-old chairman, Tom Perez, whose big idea this week was to form a human chain around the Capitol. Or maybe I’m just remembering an episode of “The Simpsons.” I can’t be sure.)
Anyway, it’s not just that all these iconic Democrats are older; it’s that their vision for the party — with the possible exception of Biden, who’s pro-trade and pro-growth — is relentlessly backward-looking. They’re for government-run health care, expanding Social Security benefits (even for the wealthy) and free college for everyone. They’d pay for all of it with tax increases that magically cover the cost.
Basically, they want everything the ’60s generation always wanted, without any acknowledgment of what public money has failed to achieve, or of how technology might transform the institutions of government.
They persist in using the same tired language from the same consultants — “working families,” “playing by the rules,” “fighting for you” — that has already numbed most Americans to the point of tuning out political rhetoric altogether.
In any publicly held business where the leaders were this old and grounded in the past, the CEO would probably be judged, in part, on how well he or she had planned for succession. But there’s no succession plan among the Democratic Party’s septuagenarian elite. They’re determined to replay the ’60s on an endless loop, for as long as they can. They’re worth the trouble.

Even if Pelosi were to step aside, her most likely successor would be Steny Hoyer, who might have made for an excellent party leader at one time, but who is himself 78. Behind him comes James Clyburn, who is one of my all-time favorite politicians to interview, but who is about to turn 77.
There’s no chance for a younger talent like Ohio’s Tim Ryan, who has already challenged Pelosi and failed, and who is almost certain to run for governor instead of hanging around. There’s likely not much future in leadership for a guy like Adam Schiff, the California congressman whom millions of Americans now know as the party’s chief investigator of President Trump in the House.
There’s no clear path to national office for a younger senator like Kirsten Gillibrand or Michael Bennet, or even a celebrity like Cory Booker, continually eclipsed by their higher-decibel, nostalgia-peddling elders.
Certainly how old you are isn’t as important here as your mindset. There are Democrats approaching retirement age — Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper come to mind — who are nonetheless modernists by outlook and could infuse the party with a sense of newness and evolution.
And certainly you can lay some of the blame for the current stasis on younger Democrats, some of whom are good enough orators to excite the party’s base, but who have thus far failed spectacularly to offer any reformist agenda to match the moment. If you don’t have a competitive governing vision, you don’t have much to complain about.
But the bottom line is that Democrats squander their historical advantage by rallying around elders who would build a better time machine than their Republican rivals. Liberalism doesn’t need its own version of “Make America Great Again”; it needs a vision to make America new again.
A party that revolves around Pelosi and Sanders and Warren — not to mention the lingering Clintons and their entire campaign apparatus — is a party that could actually manage to deliver America, for a second time, into the clutches of Trumpism.
Trust me: No one’s worth that kind of trouble.

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By Bruce J. Einhorn, opinion contributor – 06/20/17 09:20 AM E

© Greg Nash
For 11 years, I served as a prosecutor and supervisory attorney in the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice. I made my bones at the DOJ as a prosecutor, before I was honored with appointment to the federal bench. During my time at the DOJ, through both Democratic and Republican administrations, I received nothing but unequivocal support for my work from my superiors, including the political appointees who ran the department. I am deeply grateful to have served at the DOJ, the nation’s law firm.
Unfortunately, under the present administration, the DOJ has become a demoralized and dysfunctional place, due to what I believe is a lack of honesty and integrity of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the contempt shown to the nonpartisan lawyers of the department by an arrogant, self-centered, and possibly corrupt president.

Within months of his confirmation as attorney general, it was discovered that Sessions had lied (he contends it wasn’t intentional) to Congress and on his federal employment forms regarding the number of contacts he had with Russian officials. Sessions’ dishonesty forced him to recuse himself from any investigations conducted by the DOJ of President Trump, his campaign, and White House staffers regarding their contacts with influential Russians.

However, it seems as though Sessions’ recusal from TrumpGate has increased his open supplication to the president. Sessions’ demonstrated obeisance to the president at the sake of his loyalty to DOJ officials in his charge showed when he left the Oval Office without objection in response to Trump’s instruction, to allow the president to directly ask then-FBI Director James Comey to back off investigating former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Following that, Sessions said nothing when the president fired Comey. Sessions has continued his role as a silent witness to Trump’s attempt to trash the DOJ by assailing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — a longtime public servant with a peerless record as a Justice Department lawyer — and Special Counsel Robert Mueller — a decorated Vietnam war veteran, accomplished prosecutor, former FBI Director, and Washington attorney.
Finally, Sessions was again silent when the president tweeted his criticism of Justice Department lawyers for enacting the second travel ban recently found invalid by two federal courts of appeals, even though it was the president — not the DOJ — who signed and issued that same travel ban. As a defender of the independence, integrity, and nonpartisan professionalism of the DOJ, Sessions has been less than useless.
Sadly, the recent actions of Trump and Sessions are not the first occasions partisan political pressures have undermined the DOJ’s integrity and independence. On Oct. 20, 1973, President Nixon ordered then-Attorney General Elliot Richardson and then-Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox. Both men refused and resigned in protest. In the end, Nixon’s solicitor general, Robert Bork, did the president’s bidding and fired Cox.
Then, on March 10, 2004, George W. Bush’s White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and chief of staff, Andrew Card, barged into the intensive care hospital room of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, to obtain Ashcroft’s signature on an order to extend the president’s domestic surveillance program. Ashcroft rose his head from his hospital bed and refused to sign the order. He was supported by then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey and then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, who had courageously rushed to Ashcroft’s side.
Enough is enough. The attorney general is head of the U.S. Department of Justice. He is not secretary of the “department of law.” He should be the nation’s shield against those in power who use their positions for corrupt purposes, who try to skirt the rule of law and who attempt to exceed the constitutional limitations of their offices. The attorney general should defend the nonpartisanship and professionalism of Justice Department lawyers as they speak truth to power.
It now appears the best way to ensure all this is to amend the Constitution and relevant statutes to provide for a separately elected, rather than presidentially appointed, attorney general. The attorney general would then be responsible directly to the American people, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, would have the power to appoint the heads of the various DOJ components, including the FBI. His independent stewardship of the Justice Department would act as a counterweight to any abuse of power by the president or his political appointees, whether Democrats or Republicans.
Most of our states have independent, elected attorneys general who have done a good job of ensuring an independent approach to law enforcement. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, referred to the states as “laboratories of democracy.” Where the states have experimented so successfully, the federal government should follow suit.
It is high time that we make the attorney general the “people’s lawyer.” Only then will we truly ensure “liberty and justice for all.”
Bruce J. Einhorn is a retired federal judge who served 11 years as a prosecutor and attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. He is now an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University School of Law and a visiting professor at University of Oxford. His views are his own and are not the views of the institutions with which he is affiliated.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR 10 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans are touting lower premiums under their health care legislation, but that reflects insurance that would cover a smaller share of the cost of medical bills.
The fine print is getting lost in the translation.
Consumers might pay less up front every month, but if you break a bone or get hospitalized for a serious illness, you could be on the hook for a bigger share of the bill.
Premiums under the Senate bill would average about 30 percent lower in a few years, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in its analysis this week. Overlooked is that the lower premiums envision a switch to “bronze” plans that now come with a $6,000 individual deductible, much higher than the current standard “silver” plan with a $3,600 deductible.
Another caveat: Not everybody would see lower premiums.
Insurers will be able to charge older adults up to five times more, compared with a three-fold difference under current law, the health care overhaul passed under former President Barack Obama.
Also, the GOP would give lower-income people less financial help from the government, which means many might not be able to afford coverage. Lower-income people get less assistance with premiums in the Senate bill and the GOP would also phase out extra help that many receive with deductibles and copayments.
“I think there’s some fine print,” said Cori Uccello of the American Academy of Actuaries, a group representing professionals who make long-range economic estimates on health and pension programs. “Premiums are going down for a couple of reasons: the plans are getting less generous … and the age distribution of people purchasing coverage would be younger.”
The 2010 Affordable Care Act was intended to solve problems of access and affordability for millions of Americans who don’t have job-based insurance. Instead, it’s been a roller-coaster ride, and not only because of entrenched political opposition from Republicans.
Double-digit premium increases have hit many states. While consumers who get federal subsidies are insulated, several million are taking a direct hit: Those who buy individual policies outside the program, or make too much to get financial help. It’s this group that some GOP lawmakers had in mind when they launched their self-proclaimed health care “rescue mission.”
“It will bring affordability to people across this country who are suffering under the curse of high premiums, and high deductibles and high out-of-pocket costs,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said of the Senate GOP bill.
But Uccello and other experts caution that cost problems might just continue, only in a different form.
One longtime “Obamacare” critic says Republicans risk making some of the same mistakes that Democrats did with their original legislation.
Industry consultant and blogger Robert Laszewski says lawmakers should start over and try to design a system along the lines of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, a collaboration between the government and insurers that has solid bipartisan support, even if its cost to taxpayers is a problem.
“The way to fix insurance markets is to get a much higher sign-up rate and the Republicans are going in the opposite direction,” said Laszewski.
Republicans “are not bringing costs down — they are only bringing the front-end premium down,” added Laszewski. Healthy people looking at a plan with a $6,000 deductible might just decide to roll the dice and remain uninsured.
The Congressional Budget Office says insurance markets will be stable in most areas under current law or the Republican legislation. But trade-offs lurk beneath that 30,000-foot level assessment.
What’s gotten most attention is the CBO’s projection that at least 22 million fewer Americans would have health insurance under either Republican bill, the one that passed the House or the Senate version. A table at the end of this week’s report delves into greater detail, looking at how costs would change for hypothetical individuals at different income levels in 2026.
Math alert: This example involves a few numbers.
Take a hypothetical 40-year-old making a modest $26,500 a year. Under current law, that person would face a sticker price of $6,500 a year for a standard “silver” plan. Premium subsidies would reduce the net premium to $1,700. Because of extra subsidies for deductibles and copayments, the plan would cover 87 percent of expected medical costs.
Under the Senate bill, the 40-year-old would see the sticker price silver plan premium drop to $6,400. But their premium subsidies would be significantly lower, and they’d end up paying $3,000. Caveat: It wouldn’t be the exact same plan, because extra subsidies now provided for deductibles and copayments would be gone. The new plan would only cover 70 percent of expected medical costs.
What’s the option?
The consumer could switch to a “bronze” plan, the new standard under the GOP bill. The sticker price would be $5,000, and after subsidies, the net premium would be $1,600. But the plan would only cover 58 percent of expected medical costs.
Some Republicans recognize they have more work to do.
“We’ve got to be able to help people with these very high expenses,” Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said Wednesday. Maybe the standard plan should be more generous, he suggested. Or maybe older adults should get a break.
___
Associated Press writers Josh Boak and Erica Werner contributed to this report

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