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Republican senators hit by calls from voters worried about Obamacare repeal bill

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Republican senators’ offices, such as that of Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, say they’re getting a flood of calls from voters worried about the GOP Obamacare repeal bill. | Getty

By Diamond Naga Siu

06/27/2017 11:27 AM EDT

Republican senators’ offices say they’re getting a flood of calls from voters worried about the GOP Obamacare repeal bill, potentially further complicating Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attempt to muscle the legislation through this week.

Chris Gallegos, communications director for Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, who has so far not staked out a hard position on the legislation, said calls from constituents since the bill's release last week have mainly been negative.

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“Since last Thursday, the Cochran offices have received approximately 224 constituent calls against and two in favor of discussion draft of the healthcare bill,” Gallegos wrote in an email Monday.

The office of Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who has voiced support for the bill, reported similar call proportions. His communications director, Lindsay Nothern, said the office has also gotten word that there will be an organized protest on Wednesday outside their Boise office to oppose the bill.

“We’ve had several phone calls — there’s still a mix,” Nothern said. “But they probably run stronger against the Republican bill than for it. Most of them want to see changes in the bill.”

He said the majority of calls concerned Medicaid, though Nothern did not specify any numbers when asked.

Jill Gerber, communications manager for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has not yet expressed a clear opinion on the bill, also did not provide statistics, though she said Iowans who have reached out expressed various opinions on the topic.

“Grassley’s office has had an uptick in calls since the Senate discussion draft bill came out last Thursday,” Gerber said. “In general, over the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of contact to the office about health care.”

She said some of the people calling were from out of state.

The strong constituent interest comes as the bill appears to be in a precarious position, with at least four Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — signaling they could oppose a key procedural vote that is expected to occur Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday.

That would put the GOP and President Donald Trump well short of the votes needed to advance the bill, and McConnell has indicated he’s ready to move on to tax reform if this Obamacare repeal push collapses.

Democrats, eager to thwart Republicans, have been highlighting the intense concerns from voters worried about Medicaid cuts, premium spikes and coverage losses.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said in an interview Monday with the nonpartisan group Connecticut American Association of Retired Persons that he and his constituents openly oppose the bill.

“When I looked at my phone calls last week, I had received hundreds of calls — I hadn't received a single phone call in favor of

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Trump: Obamacare repeal bill 'will be great, if we get it done'

The Senate Republican bill to repeal Obamacare “will be great, if we get it done,” President Donald Trump told GOP lawmakers shortly after party leaders delayed a vote on the legislation Tuesday.

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How the GOP Turned Against Medicaid

In May 1965, just weeks before Lyndon Johnson signed Medicaid into law, his administration launched Head Start, an enrichment program for pre-school aged children from poor families.

The program’s administrators were appalled by the poor health of their students. In Jacksonville, more than half of participating children were anemic, and between one-quarter and one-third suffered hearing and sight problems. In Beaufort County, South Carolina, 90 percent of kids presented with hookworms and roundworms. In Boston, almost one-third of Head Start youngsters showed signs of physical or mental health illnesses.

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Rotting teeth, vitamin deficiency, chronic infections—50 years ago in the United States, this was how many three- and four-year-olds from poor families lived.

Then came Medicaid – an afterthought tacked onto the administration’s Medicare bill, and one that LBJ scarcely mentioned when he signed both measures into law. Medicaid’s roots were humble, its ambitions modest. As originally conceived, the program provided health insurance to poor children, poor pregnant women and some qualifying parents. In its first year, its budget was less than one billion—about $7.7 billion in today’s dollars.

Over 50 years, successive congresses and presidential administrations vastly expanded the program’s scope to cover 80 million people, or almost one-quarter of the population. Its budget last year was $378 billion. To be sure, it has never enjoyed the popularity of Medicare, which covers a much more political powerful constituency: seniors. But it has proven highly durable. Despite the GOP’s preference for smaller government and lower taxes, for many decades, Medicaid enjoyed broad backing from Republican leaders.

That was then. Now, congressional Republicans have proposed taking a hacksaw to Medicaid—a move that will, according to the Congressional Budget Office, leave many millions of poor people uninsured. For Democrats, the Senate GOP’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which ends Medicaid’s entitlement status, is a “ monstrosity .” For many Republicans, it is nirvana. “You and I have been dreaming of this since I have been around, since you are I were drinking at a keg,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review , earlier this year. That position isn’t widely popular: Amid much public outcry, the Senate postponed its anticipated vote on BCRA this week. But it testifies to the GOP’s full metamorphosis from the Party of Ronald Reagan to the Party of Ayn Rand.

Still, there’s more to the story. Republicans are right to observe that Medicaid was never supposed to grow as big as it did. Its framers intended the program to help a small few who were unable to capture the full benefits of America’s postwar prosperity. In their hubris, 1960s liberals assumed that a booming economy would continue to grow in perpetuity. They didn’t anticipate industrial decline, growing inequality, an explosion of single-parent households or the contraction of America’s unionized workforce and, with it, employer-based health insurance.

For 50 years, Medicaid proved a highly elastic band aid for many of America’s economic wounds. Its desecration will leave us in an unfamiliar

...

How the GOP Turned Against Medicaid

In May 1965, just weeks before Lyndon Johnson signed Medicaid into law, his administration launched Head Start, an enrichment program for pre-school aged children from poor families.

The program’s administrators were appalled by the poor health of their students. In Jacksonville, more than half of participating children were anemic, and between one-quarter and one-third suffered hearing and sight problems. In Beaufort County, South Carolina, 90 percent of kids presented with hookworms and roundworms. In Boston, almost one-third of Head Start youngsters showed signs of physical or mental health illnesses.

Story Continued Below

Rotting teeth, vitamin deficiency, chronic infections—50 years ago in the United States, this was how many three- and four-year-olds from poor families lived.

Then came Medicaid – an afterthought tacked onto the administration’s Medicare bill, and one that LBJ scarcely mentioned when he signed both measures into law. Medicaid’s roots were humble, its ambitions modest. As originally conceived, the program provided health insurance to poor children, poor pregnant women and some qualifying parents. In its first year, its budget was less than one billion—about $7.7 billion in today’s dollars.

Over 50 years, successive congresses and presidential administrations vastly expanded the program’s scope to cover 80 million people, or almost one-quarter of the population. Its budget last year was $378 billion. To be sure, it has never enjoyed the popularity of Medicare, which covers a much more political powerful constituency: seniors. But it has proven highly durable. Despite the GOP’s preference for smaller government and lower taxes, for many decades, Medicaid enjoyed broad backing from Republican leaders.

That was then. Now, congressional Republicans have proposed taking a hacksaw to Medicaid—a move that will, according to the Congressional Budget Office, leave many millions of poor people uninsured. For Democrats, the Senate GOP’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which ends Medicaid’s entitlement status, is a “ monstrosity .” For many Republicans, it is nirvana. “You and I have been dreaming of this since I have been around, since you are I were drinking at a keg,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review , earlier this year. That position isn’t widely popular: Amid much public outcry, the Senate postponed its anticipated vote on BCRA this week. But it testifies to the GOP’s full metamorphosis from the Party of Ronald Reagan to the Party of Ayn Rand.

Still, there’s more to the story. Republicans are right to observe that Medicaid was never supposed to grow as big as it did. Its framers intended the program to help a small few who were unable to capture the full benefits of America’s postwar prosperity. In their hubris, 1960s liberals assumed that a booming economy would continue to grow in perpetuity. They didn’t anticipate industrial decline, growing inequality, an explosion of single-parent households or the contraction of America’s unionized workforce and, with it, employer-based health insurance.

For 50 years, Medicaid proved a highly elastic band aid for many of America’s economic wounds. Its desecration will leave us in an unfamiliar

...

Tight circle of security officials crafted Trump's Syria warning

President Donald Trump’s blunt, public warning to the Syrian regime issued late Monday night was cobbled together in a series of hurried discussions, squeezed in between meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — and kept among a small, tight circle of top officials.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson both arrived at the White House late Monday afternoon, ahead of the Rose Garden ceremony where Trump and Modi both read prepared statements. Upon their arrival, according to a senior defense official, they were informed of Trump’s plan to issue a public warning to Syrian president Bashar Assad, based on new intelligence that the Syrian administration was making preparations for another chemical weapons attack on its own people.

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National security adviser H.R. McMaster, who also was at the White House for meetings, had already been briefed and weighed in on the plan, administration sources said.

But no stand-alone principals meeting followed to discuss the intelligence, which Trump received Monday morning, according to two senior administration officials.

Rather, over the course of the day, officials said, McMaster, Mattis, Tillerson and a few other top officials had the opportunity to “work the language” of the statement, in between Modi meetings. None of them expressed any hesitation or disagreement about the decision to issue a public warning, according to one of the senior administration officials.

But a Defense Department official acknowledged that the events were “fast moving” and that there were minimal deliberations about the bold move — and that only a limited number of top military officials were aware of the new intelligence and planned response.

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The episode marked another example of ongoing frustration between administration rank-and-file and leadership, which this time could carry serious consequences if the backbiting appears to weaken the U.S. government’s resolve in turning up the pressure on Assad.

“It hurts American credibility,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former State Department official who served under Secretary of State John Kerry. “When the Syrian regime sees a report that [government officials] have no idea, the message to them is that these guys don’t have their act together. And if nobody at State knows, it hurts your ability to follow up and have a diplomatic game-plan.”

But one former Obama administration official shrugged off the issues of communication between the White House and lower-level agency officials.

"There's a broader issue here of effective coordination and communication — sometimes the president contradicts his own people," Tom Donilon, President Barack Obama's former national security adviser, said in an interview. "But I don't think that's the most important issue here. If, in fact, the United States has evidence that they're preparing a chemical attack, laying down a warning that you intend to follow through on is an appropriate thing to do."

The

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