Posts Tagged ‘Ted Cruz’

Steve Bannon Invites Pro-Israel Groups To Join His “Anti-Establishment Insurgency”

November 18, 2017
 NOVEMBER 16, 2017 21:44


Bannon invited the pro-Israel activists to join what he referred to as the “insurgency movement against the Republican establishment and against the permanent political class in Washington, DC.”

Bannon and the anti-Israel establishment

Then White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon boards a vehicle as US President Donald Trump prepares to depart Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, US, April 9, 2017.. (photo credit:REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA)

Bannon invited the pro-Israel activists to join what he referred to as the “insurgency movement against the Republican establishment and against the permanent political class in Washington, DC.”

Bannon argued that it is because of the Republican establishment that then president Barack Obama was able to implement the nuclear deal with Iran.

Bannon is correct. Had a non-establishment senator such as Ted Cruz chaired the Senate Foreign Affairs committee in 2014 and 2015 instead of Senator Bob Corker, in accordance with the US constitution, Obama’s radical nuclear deal would have been treated like a treaty. It would have required the approval of two-thirds of the Senate and it would have gone down in flames.

Instead, Corker stood the Constitution on its head, co-sponsoring the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which required two-thirds of the Senate to reject the deal in order to block its implementation.

As for US financing of Palestinian terrorism, the blame lies mainly at the feet of the permanent political class – particularly the denizens of the State Department.

With the support of Democratic and establishment Republican lawmakers, for more than 20 years the State Department has successfully watered down or canceled legislative initiatives to end US support for the terrorism-supporting, PLO -led Palestinian Authority. State Department officials have similarly led every effort to water down or cancel Congressional initiatives that strengthen the US alliance with Israel.

For instance, it was the State Department that fought tooth and nail to overturn the 2002 law that permitted US citizens born in Jerusalem to list their place of birth as Israel. It was the State Department that insisted the 1996 law requiring the transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem include a presidential waiver.

The power of the State Department and its colleagues in the permanent bureaucracy to maintain US policies that are substantively anti-Israel and pro-PLO is being exerted today in the lead up to the publication of Trump’s “peace plan” for Israel and the Palestinians.

According to a report published in The New York Times last weekend, sourced to White House officials, Trump intends to announce his “peace plan” in January.

Later reports disputed that claim, saying the plan would be announced in March.

Whatever the case, according to the Times’ story, Trump’s “peace plan” will look similar to – and be substantively indistinguishable from – “peace plans” adopted by the last three presidents.

Like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama, according to the Times’ account, Trump’s plan will be based on the assumption that for peace to be concluded between Israel and the PLO , a Palestinian state must be established on land now controlled by Israel.

Trump’s plan will reportedly also discuss the partition of Jerusalem and address the Palestinian claim that the 450,000 Israelis living beyond the 1949 armistice lines in Judea and Samaria must be expelled from their homes and communities for peace to be achieved.

In a manner similar to Bush’s “Roadmap to Peace,” analysts told the Times that Trump’s plan will include two stages. In the first stage, Israel will be required to block construction of homes for Jews in united Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria; to transfer control over land in Area C to the PA ; and to restate its commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

This account was disputed by White House officials.

But, despite the denials, there are indications that the Times’ account is accurate. For instance, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has justified all his recent moves to curtail construction for Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, to provide funding to the PA and to suspend initiatives to expand Jerusalem’s municipal borders as necessary to prevent a fissure in US-Israel relations.

Trump’s team is led by his senior adviser and sonin- law, Jared Kushner, and run by his chief negotiator, Jason Greenblatt. Members of Greenblatt’s team include deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

According to the Times, Greenblatt and his team “are consulting with Donald Blome, the consul general in Jerusalem, and others from the State Department and the National Security Council.”

And this is where the problem begins.

Ahead of Trump’s visit to Israel in May, Channel 2 reported that Blome lobbied heavily for Trump to cancel his plans to visit the Western Wall. While Trump did visit the Wall, Blome – supported by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster – blocked Netanyahu from accompanying Trump on his visit.

In a press briefing, McMaster refused to say that the Western Wall is located in Israel.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to Tel Aviv as the “home of Judaism” on the plane ride to Israel.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said at his Senate confirmation hearing that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital.

In other words, Blome, Tillerson, McMaster and Mattis have all embraced the view that the US should not treat Israel with the same respect it treats other countries – let alone other allies. Instead of deserving respect, Israel, in their view, deserves unique reproach to the point where even acknowledging its capital city and basic geographic facts is considered unacceptable.

This then brings us back to the “peace plan” that Greenblatt and Kushner are putting together in consultation with Blome, the State Department and McMaster’s National Security Council.

If Greenblatt and Kushner compose a “peace plan” that satisfies the State Department and its governmental counterparts, and if Trump adopts it as his official position, they will guarantee that he will fail to advance the cause of peace; will harm Israel; will empower the PLO ; and diminish the US’s standing as a power in the Middle East.

This is the guaranteed outcome of any plan that is supported by the State Department because any plan that the State Department and its allies support will be based upon the core assumption regarding the Arab-Israel conflict that the State Department embraced in 1993.

In 1993, Israel and the PLO concluded a peace deal in Oslo based on the European assumption that Israel is to blame for the Arab-Israel conflict.

According to the European narrative, the Arab conflict with Israel – and indeed, all the pathologies of the Arab world – are rooted in the Palestinian conflict with Israel.

The Palestinian conflict, in turn, owes to the absence of a Palestinian state. And there is no Palestinian state because Israel refuses to surrender sufficient land to the PLO to appease it.

Until 1993, this was not the US’s position.

From 1967 through 1993, the US position was that the Palestinian conflict with Israel was a function of the Arab conflict with Israel. The Arab conflict was rooted in the Arab world’s rejection of Israel’s right to exist in secure and recognized borders – or really, in any borders. So long as this remained the position of the Arab world, there would be no peace between Israel and its neighbors.

Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan are based on this pre-Oslo process assumption.

But when it assumed leadership of the Oslo process, the US also embraced the European narrative it was predicated on: Everything is Israel’s fault.

The US’s continued funding of the PA , despite its support for terrorism, owes to the State Department’s adherence to the European narrative. The US’s refusal to treat Israel with the respect due an ally by, among other things, locating its embassy in its capital, owes to the State Department’s power to dictate US policy.

We saw that power brought to bear in 2003 with the drafting of the Roadmap.

In 2002, Bush said he would not support Palestinian statehood unless new Palestinian leaders who didn’t support terrorism took over the PA from Yasser Arafat.

Rather than take Bush’s position seriously, the State Department emptied it of all meaning.

US officials crowned Arafat’s deputy of 40 years, Mahmoud Abbas, as a reformer and peacemaker, despite the utter absence of any evidence pointing to this conclusion.

Having done so, the State Department declared that reform had been achieved. In support of that reform, they expanded US support for the PA and intensified US pressure on Israel.

Bush’s State Department was able to subvert Bush’s position because neither then secretary of state Colin Powell nor then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice supported it. Both were more than happy to pretend that the US policy toward Israel and the Palestinians had shifted toward Israel, when the opposite was the case.

We see a similar situation unfolding today with Trump.

While Trump has not called for new leadership, he has called for an end to Palestinian financing of terrorism. This demand will clearly not be met now that the PLO has reached a power-sharing agreement with the Hamas terrorist regime in Gaza. Every cent transferred to Gaza is a cent that supports terrorism.

And yet, according to the Times account, and judging by Netanyahu’s behavior, the Trump administration is preparing a “peace plan” that will bring no peace but will harm Israel and empower the PLO .

The thing of it is that it is hard to imagine that Trump is engaged sufficiently in discussions of the issue to be aware of what is likely taking place. Bush certainly was not aware that his positions were being undermined by his advisers.

This brings us to Greenblatt and Kushner.

Whereas Rice and Powell were consummate Washington insiders whose careers were made in the bosom of the foreign-policy establishment, Greenblatt, Kushner and Friedman are all consummate outsiders. They owe the establishment nothing. Dina Powell is the only member of Trump’s team who is an establishment figure.

Trump brought in his team of outsiders to run his Middle East policy because he understood – and repeatedly remarked on the fact – that Washington’s foreign policy establishment has failed for decades to develop successful Middle East policies.

If we are to believe the Times story and heed the signals Netanyahu has sent, Kushner and Greenblatt have surrendered to the establishment and are poised to conclude a peace plan that will be substantively identical to those of the past three administrations.

And, as a consequence, it will fail just as badly as the policies of the past three administrations.

Bannon is right that pro-Israel forces should fight to diminish the power of the Washington foreign- policy establishment – first and foremost the State Department – to empty the term pro-Israel of substance. The question is whether that fight needs to be directed at the White House or whether Trump’s team of outsiders is willing and able to stand up to that establishment and adopt a policy not based on hostility toward Israel and support for Palestinian terrorists and, therefore, not guaranteed to fail.


Unruly GOP Tax Factions Put Senate’s Tax Plan in Jeopardy

November 13, 2017


By Sahil Kapur

  • Groups include fiscal skeptics, tax-cut fans and wildcards
  • Senate leaders will have to corral 50 votes quickly to succeed
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellPhotographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is about to face a legacy-defining test of whether he can keep his unruly caucus in line to deliver President Donald Trump’s coveted goal of “massive tax cuts” in 2017.

He needs 50 of 52 members, and they have a variety of competing demands. Some want to limit new deficits, while others want to deepest tax cut possible; some prioritize family tax breaks while others want to give businesses a boost; some have parochial concerns while others tend to be notoriously difficult to win on major pieces of legislation.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn says he wants a floor vote the week of Nov. 27. That’s two weeks away. Here are the factions McConnell and his team have to navigate:

The Fiscal Skeptics

The tax plan going before the Senate Finance Committee Monday would increase the federal deficit by about $1.5 trillion over the next decade — before accounting for any economic growth that it might spur. That complicates the plan’s prospects among some Republicans.

Tennessee’s Bob Corker, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Oklahoma’s James Lankford have all warned against fiscal recklessness in the bill.

Corker says he doesn’t want a “penny” in new deficits or he’ll vote against the bill. Lankford says it should be revenue-neutral in the first decade and beyond. Both say they’re willing to assume “reasonable” economic growth that would cushion the deficit impact.

After the Senate plan’s rollout Thursday, Flake fired a warning shot: “I remain concerned over how the current tax reform proposals will grow the already staggering national debt,” he said.

Corker and Flake plan to retire next year, freeing them from political pressure to support their party or please GOP donors.

The Senate plan will change, but for now, one analysis says it would increase the deficit. On Friday, a conservative-leaning policy group, the Washington-based Tax Foundation, projected that plan would boost the deficit $516 billion over a decade, even after assuming economic growth.

The Businessmen

Georgia’s David Perdue is the former CEO of both Reebok and Dollar General. South Dakota’s Mike Rounds is a former partner for an insurance and real estate firm. For both, the business side of the tax plan is paramount.

If any new revenue measures went after businesses to boost offsets, that could be a problem for them.

So far, Congress’s proposal to cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent has gotten the most attention among business provisions. The House bill would deliver that cut next year, but the Senate plan would delay it until 2019. That won’t sit well with Perdue, who has said that “delays on tax would damage our economy.”

“We need to have a sense of urgency like never before in order get this done this year,” he has said of tax cuts.

Rounds said last month that he wants an “equitable” 25 percent tax rate for partnerships, limited liability companies and other so-called pass-through businesses — a provision that doesn’t include income limits on which firms get the low rate.

But the Senate plan would go a different route, providing a 17.4 percent deduction for such businesses’ non-wage income. That break would not be available to many types of service businesses — except for those whose taxable income falls below $150,000 for joint filers or $75,000 for all others.

The Cut, Cut, Cut Corps

President Donald Trump is reported to have suggested that the name of the tax legislation should be the “Cut, Cut, Cut” Bill. He might find common cause with Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, Texas’s Ted Cruz and Kentucky’s Rand Paul.

All three senators have emphasized that they want the steepest and longest-lasting tax cut possible. Deficits are of less concern to them; they believe Congress should focus on boosting the economy and deal with deficits by cutting spending.
Toomey downplayed the tax plan’s estimated $1.5 trillion cost, saying Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the legislation would lead to “greater economic growth, a larger economy, and therefore, more revenue to the federal government.”

Paul, a libertarian purist who’s not fond of compromise, has called for a tax bill in which “everyone gets a tax cut” — ideally “at least 15% for every taxpayer.” McConnell and other GOP leaders have already said they can’t meet that standard, acknowledging that under a broad overhaul there will be outliers who see a tax hike.

Cruz last month urged his party to be “unapologetic” for tax cuts, arguing on CNBC that “we should be going much bigger and bolder” than the $1.5 trillion limit.

The Family Guys

Utah’s Mike Lee and Florida’s Marco Rubio insist their main tax priority is to double the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 to $2,000. The Senate plan would raise it to $1,650. Both senators say that’s not enough.

“While we are glad to see an increase to the child tax credit, like the House bill, it is simply not enough for working families,” they said in a joint statement. The two senators also want to apply the credit against payroll taxes as well as income taxes.

Simply raising it to $1,650 costs $582 billion over 10 years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Going higher would only worsen the red ink, unless tax writers find other offsetting revenue.

Would Lee and Rubio scuttle a tax bill if they don’t get their way? That’s unclear, but they have staked out a position, and any retreat would come with some political cost.

“The Senate is not going to pass a bill that isn’t clearly pro-family,” the pair said in their statement.

The Moderates

Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski showed they’re not afraid to deal Trump or Republican leaders a devastating defeat this year when they cast pivotal votes to block an Obamacare repeal bill.

Collins has made a few tax-related demands that have already been met — including no repeal of the estate tax and no increase in the lowest individual income tax rate of 10 percent. But she also said people making over $1 million shouldn’t get a tax cut, and the Senate proposal would cut the top rate modestly to 38.5 percent from 39.6 percent.

Murkowski has said little about the tax effort so far, and she tends to be cryptic about her intentions on major legislation before casting her vote. Republican leaders gave her an enticement in the budget vehicle for the tax debate: a fast-track vote to permit oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Wildcards

Senator John McCain of Arizona showed his vote can’t be taken for granted with a momentous thumbs-down on the Senate floor that killed Obamacare repeal in July. He has a mixed record on taxes, having voted against Republican tax-cut efforts in 2001 and 2003, citing deficit concerns. McCain, 81 and battling brain cancer, has demanded a bipartisan process through regular order on a tax overhaul.

He tweeted Thursday that he’s “pleased” with the tax effort so far. “I’ve long believed we need to fix our burdensome tax system & am reviewing the Senate bill to ensure it benefits the people of #Arizona,” he wrote.

A different kind of maverick is giving Republican leaders heartburn lately, and he’s not even a senator — at least not yet.

Roy Moore, the GOP nominee for a Dec. 12 special election Alabama, is fending off allegations that he had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl almost four decades ago. The former judge has denied those allegations, and others that he pursued dates with three other teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Recent polls show Moore slipping in the race against Democrat Doug Jones. A loss would cut the GOP’s margin for error in half — to just one senator.

One way to avoid that problem: Get both the House and Senate to hammer out compromise legislation before Moore — or his Democratic opponent — is sworn in.

Scalias All the Way Down

October 13, 2017

While the press goes wild over tweets, Trump is remaking the federal judiciary.

Image result for justice is blind with scales, photos

Ask most Republicans to identify Donald Trump’s biggest triumph to date, and the answer comes quick: Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. That’s the cramped view.

The media remains so caught up with the president’s tweets that it has missed Mr. Trump’s project to transform the rest of the federal judiciary. The president is stocking the courts with a class of brilliant young textualists bearing little relation to even their Reagan or Bush predecessors. Mr. Trump’s nastygrams to Bob Corker will be a distant memory next week. Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett’s influence on the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could still be going strong 40 years from now.

Mr. Trump has now nominated nearly 60 judges, filling more vacancies than Barack Obama did in his entire first year. There are another 160 court openings, allowing Mr. Trump to flip or further consolidate conservative majorities on the circuit courts that have the final say on 99% of federal legal disputes.

This project is the work of Mr. Trump, White House Counsel Don McGahn and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Every new president cares about the judiciary, but no administration in memory has approached appointments with more purpose than this team.

Mr. Trump makes the decisions, though he’s taking cues from Mr. McGahn and his team. The Bushies preferred a committee approach: Dozens of advisers hunted for the least controversial nominee with the smallest paper trail. That helped get picks past a Senate filibuster, but it led to bland choices, or to ideological surprises like retired Justice David Souter.

Harry Reid’s 2013 decision to blow up the filibuster for judicial nominees has freed the Trump White House from having to worry about a Democratic veto during confirmation. Mr. McGahn’s team (loaded with former Clarence Thomas clerks) has carte blanche to work with outside groups like the Federalist Society to tap the most conservative judges.

Mr. McGahn has long been obsessed with constitutional law and the risks of an all-powerful administrative state. His crew isn’t subjecting candidates to 1980s-style litmus tests on issues like abortion. Instead the focus is on promoting jurists who understand the unique challenges of our big-government times. Can the prospective nominee read a statute? Does he or she defer to the government’s view of its own authority? The result has been a band of young rock stars and Scalia-style textualists like Ms. Barrett, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett and Minnesota Supreme Court Associate Justice David Stras.

Senate Republicans have so far blown their major agenda items, but they’ve remained unified on judges. They agreed to kill the Senate filibuster for Supreme Court nominees so as to confirm Justice Gorsuch; have confirmed six other judicial nominees; and stand ready to greenlight dozens more. This is a big shift from divisions the party had over the Bush 41 and Bush 43 nominees.

Because Mr. Trump’s picks have largely spent their careers focused on administrative law and constitutional questions, few have gotten bogged down by controversial cultural rulings. They do have paper trails, but mostly on serious and technical issues. This helps reassure Republicans even as it deprives Democrats of the fodder they’d need to stage dramatic opposition.

Conservatives praised Mr. McConnell last year for refusing to consider Judge Merrick Garland, whom Mr. Obama had nominated to the Supreme Court. Less well known is the sheer number of federal judgeships Mr. McConnell sat on as the Obama administration wound down. Mr. Trump took office with 107 lower-court vacancies, more than any of the past five presidents save Bill Clinton. The GOP challenge now is to break Democratic obstruction and get those posts filled.

Former Trump aide Steve Bannon is vowing to primary at least six GOP senators next year, saying he will support only candidates who refuse to back Mr. McConnell for another stint as leader. But Mr. Bannon’s claim that Mr. McConnell represents the “swamp” is lazy scapegoating. Yes, health-care reform failed—thanks to three showboating Republican senators. And yes, the House gets more done. But only the Senate is in the long-term personnel business.

The Trump judicial reset was never guaranteed. Mr. McConnell just happens to have a steely passion for remaking the judiciary. Previous majority leaders Trent Lott (best friends with trial lawyers) and Bill Frist (nice, nice) would never have gotten Justice Gorsuch confirmed. Those guys were the “establishment.”

Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Jodi Ernst, Deb Fischer, Dan Sullivan, Cory Gardner, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton —this is the new generation of Republican senators. They were all elected in recent cycles. They are reformers, far removed from the earmarking, logrolling, crony, backroom days of washed-out Republicans who inspired the tea party.

The country has moved, as has Congress. The proof is in the extraordinary class of judicial nominees now coming through. Mr. Trump will keep baiting the media with shiny objects. In the background, government is being redone.

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Susan Collins adds to Republican woes as she comes out firmly against Obamacare replacement — Probably killing Graham-Cassidy

September 26, 2017

Another Republican repeal effort on the verge of collapse

By Jeremy B White San Francisco

The Independent US

In a major blow to the latest Republican healthcare effort, Sen Susan Collins said on Monday she could not support her colleagues’ measure.

Republicans seeking once again to fulfil their promise of repealing a federal healthcare law could afford few defections, and the loss of Ms Collins – a centrist from Maine – likely deprived them of the needed vote margin to move their bill.

If the loss of Ms Collins does doom the initiative, the collapse will be the latest failure in a string of abortive Republican efforts to translate a perpetual campaign promise – the repeal of Obamacare – into legislation. The party has failed to do so despite controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress. Ms Collins’ “no” vote also helped stymie a high-profile push in July.

Hoping to win enough votes to advance the measure, Republicans had sought to lure holdouts like Ms Collins and Alaska Sen Lisa Murkowski. Leadership was scrambling to cobble together enough votes after other members of the caucus – including Senators John McCain, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul – declined to support the measure.

In a statement explaining her decision, Ms Collins cited “sweeping changes and cuts to the Medicaid program”, which provides health insurance to low-income Americans; provisions that would allow states to set rules potentially leading insurers to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions; and a wall of resistance from health industry representatives.

An effort to ease Maine’s loss of funding would not go far enough, Ms Collins said, because “huge Medicaid cuts down the road more than offset any short-term influx of money”, and she faulted the political calculus behind trying to win her vote.

“If Senators can adjust a funding formula over a weekend to help a single state”, she said, “they could just as easily adjust that formula in the future to hurt that state”.

Critics of the Republican repeal effort have complained of a rushed and opaque process that hasn’t left enough time to analyse proposals. On the same day that Ms Collins said she could not support the latest bill, the Congressional Budget Office released a partial analysis that offered ammunition to detractors.

The legislation would slash federal subsidies to help individuals buy health insurance, allocating funding via new block grants to states, and would trim the budget deficit by at least $133 billion, the nonpartisan analyst said.

But millions fewer people would have health insurance covering “high-cost medical events”, the analysis concludes. The loss in coverage would be driven by “substantially lower” Medicare enrollment, fewer people buying coverage because of a loss in federal subsidies, and a lack of penalties for not having insurance.

The rejection by Ms Collins capped an emotional and tumultuous day at the Capitol, where disabled protesters staged a “die-in” outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office to decry what they said would be a loss of vital healthcare services should the legislation pass. The Capitol Police said they arrested 43 demonstrators.

Qatar in bid to boost ties with Israel, US — “Public affairs and marketing effort”

September 7, 2017

Gulf News

Doha hires a PR company to improve its relations with the Jewish community worldwide

Image Credit: AP
FILE Picture: A traditional dhow floats in the Corniche Bay of Doha, Qatar. While Israel has always feigned disagreement with Qatar, reportedly over its pro-Palestinian coverage of Al Jazeera TV — a closer look exposes a much more complex relationship than what appears on the surface.

Published: 12:54 September 7, 2017Gulf News

Gulf News

Dubai: Qatar has reportedly hired a public relations company to improve relations with the Jewish community worldwide while strengthening relations with the United States.

According to O’Dwyer’s PR News, the news outlet for public relations, public affairs and marketing communications, Qatar hired Stonington Strategies for $50,000 (Dh183,663) a month for the campaign.



Stonington is headed by Nick Muzin, a doctor, lawyer and Republican strategist who is active in Jewish affairs.

“Engagement with Qatar can only be in the best interests of the United States and the Jewish community,” Muzin was quoted as saying by the news outlet.

Under the contract, Muzin will “advise on ways to build a closer relationship with the United States and improve ties with the Jewish community worldwide.”

“He will explore opportunities for political, cultural and economic cooperation with the US and Israel, especially in the areas of trade, real estate, job creation and technology.”

Among Muzin’s responsibilities while he served as deputy chief of staff for Texas Senator Ted Cruz during his GOP primary run, was outreach to the Jewish community.

While Israel has always feigned disagreement with Qatar, reportedly over its pro-Palestinian coverage of Al Jazeera TV — a closer look exposes a much more complex relationship than what appears on the surface.

Recently, a leaked report emerged in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, saying that Tel Aviv was toying with the idea of closing down Al Jazeera’s Occupied Jerusalem bureau — comparing it to Nazi propaganda.

That has not happened, however — the story is increasingly appearing to be aimed at giving Qatar a facelift in the Arab world by appearing to be a foe of Israel.

In fact, Tel Aviv remains supportive of the Qatari regime, albeit discretely.

The two countries have maintained cordial relations, with former President Shimon Peres twice visiting Qatar.

The first was in 1996 when he inaugurated Israel’s trade mission to Qatar, followed by a 2007 trip to appear on Al Jazeera’s popular Doha Debates.

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni visited Doha in 2008, meeting with Shaikh Hamad, and in January 2008 Defence Minister Ehud Barak met with former Qatari Prime Minister Abdullah Bin Khalifa Al Thani in Switzerland.

Qatar unilaterally closed the Israeli Trade Mission in Doha in 2000, during the highest violence of the second intifada, but low-profile trade links remain open between Tel Aviv and Doha, which Qataris hope to tap into now, as other Gulf markets have been sealed off since June.

Doha also signalled that Israeli athletes would be welcome to participate in the Fifa games, and a stadium was named after the Qatari capital in the Israeli city of Sakhnin in the Galilee.

Four years ago, Qatar transported 60 Yemeni Jews to Israel, at the direct request of the Israeli Government, giving them a connection via Doha, while in 2015 they hosted talks between Israel and Hamas.

This relationship can be very useful to break Qatar’s current isolation and save Tamim’s government from collapse.

In turn, Qatar has proved willing to jump to Israel’s assistance at any time by triggering conflict in the Middle East when needed or mediating with non-state players who have the ear of Qatari royals, like Hezbollah and Hamas.


 (Turkey seems more devoted to Iran, Qatar, Russia than to the EU and Nato…)

Healthcare: Senator Lindsey Graham pushing “fundamentally different approach than Obamacare.”

August 30, 2017



29 Aug 2017

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview that while the congressional  leadership’s healthcare bills kept Obamacare’s infrastructure in place, his coalition’s plan to repeal and replace “is truly and fundamentally a different approach than Obamacare.”

Image may contain: 2 people

Lindsey Graham. Credit J. Scott Applewhite for AP

Breitbart News reported on former Senator Rick Santorum’s plan to block grant Obamacare to the states. Santorum continues to work with Sen. Lindsey Graham, House Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows (R-NC), and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on a Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act. These lawmakers’ support for the idea could culminate in a consensus that could allow the bill to pass through the Senate and fulfill Republicans’ promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Meadows told Breitbart News Daily that the plan has “real merit.”

Santorum told Breitbart News that the plan could pass through the House and the Senate. Graham concurs with Santorum, suggesting that bill goes much further than the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the Senate leadership’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Graham told Breitbart News:

Number one, we promised to repeal and replace, not to change the margins here. The House and the Senate bills were definitely improvements to Obamacare; however, it’s a stretch to say that they were a Replace because we did not really, the infrastructure stayed in place. This is truly and fundamentally a different approach than Obamacare. It relies upon the concept of federalism. Instead of Washington, D.C. managing Obamacare, having national exchanges, having payments going to insurance companies to prop up the system that cannot work. We’re going to block grant the health care to the states.

The House-passed AHCA and the Senate’s BCRA kept much of the infrastructure of Obamacare in place. Instead of the Obamacare subsidies for low-income Americans to purchase health insurance, congressional leadership swapped out the subsidies for refundable tax credits for Americans to purchase health insurance. Unlike the Santorum and Graham plan, the AHCA and the BCRA kept Obamacare’s federal exchanges and winded down Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, although, Medicaid expansion was eliminating after several years. Graham’s plan eliminates Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Conservatives chided the original AHCA for not repealing enough of Obamacare, labelling the legislation, “Ryancare” and “Obamacare-Lite.”

Senator Graham explained to Breitbart News the construct behind the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare through block grants. Graham told Breitbart News:

They’ll have to cover pre-existing illnesses; they cannot use the money for roads and bridges or football stadiums. They have to spend the money on health care. It gives the consumer a voice they would never have in Obamacare. You can complain to your congressman or senator, but we do not run the program. Trying to find somebody in charge of your health care is almost impossible. Most of the people that run Obamacare are unelected bureaucrats. It is very hard to get their attention when things do not work well and Obamacare is based upon the idea of an unlimited printing press, you just keep printing money. Under the block grant approach, you can complain to somebody about the quality of your health care. That somebody would be your representative and the governor of the state. Chances are the person you are complaining has the same doctor that your family has. From a consumer’s point of view you have a much stronger voice, from an accountability perspective you have a much stronger voice in how it works because it will not be a 50 state conglomerate. There will be 50 different state solutions.

Here’s the construct. We are going to repeal the individual mandate, and the employer mandate. That generates about $200 billion in savings. The states can reemploy the individual mandate and the employer mandate if they would like but you cannot drag everyone else down with you. You can go to single-payer health care in a state if you wanted to, I think you would be foolish, but you cannot drag 49 other states with you.

So, what we did this will repeal the individual and employer mandate, and medical device tax. We left the other taxes in place and created a block grant. Under Obamacare, 4 states got 40% of the money. That’s New York, California, Maryland, and Massachusetts. They’re 20 percent of the population and so by 2026 our goal is to have parity. It will be roughly the same no matter whether you live in South Carolina or California. We help states that did not expand their Medicaid under Obamacare catch up. High-cost expansion states will have a glide path down to a number that will be parity by 2026.

Senator Graham told Breitbart News that key to getting the new Obamacare repeal plan to pass through Congress remains the governors’ support for the bill. Graham said, “So what we’re trying to do is get governors on board. The intellectual force behind this for governors has been Scott Walker from Wisconsin and Doug Ducey from Arizona. One expansion state and one non-expansion state. Most Republican states did not take Medicaid expansions. By 2026 we want to have parity. We’re trying to lock the formula down this week and send the text to CBO so they can score it.”

Senator Graham explained how the bill will increase flexibility for states to implement their own health care systems. Conservative states will have much greater freedom to implement their health care plans compared to Obamacare.

Graham continued: “There’s going to be three forms of flexibility. 1332 waivers from the HHS, which the governors like. There is going to be waivers through the children’s health program CHIP, which is a fairly flexible program, we’re going to be as flexible as possible with reconciliation and the parliamentarian. The fourth level of flexibility comes through the administration, Labor Department, HHS, they will have a wide ability to make waivers and grant flexibility.”

Increased flexibility with health insurance regulations could allow Republican states to design more innovative and more affordable health care plans.

Sen. Graham revealed that not only has he worked with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma on a plan for his proposal, they have will also work to draft the formula used to figure out how much money every state gets for their local health care system.

“They have helped us design the formula. We have been working close with the administration to try to find a formula that would have been spent on Obamacare and block grant it back to the states and achieving parity by 2026, with as much flexibility as possible. This will be the end of single-payer health care, because the money and the policy making will be out of Washington,” the South Carolina senator said.

Graham told Breitbart News that he believes that the bill will score better than the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the Senate leadership’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Graham told Breitbart News:

I think this bill will score very well. I think it will score well in terms of fiscal deficit impact. I think it will do as good as the House bill if not better. Once you repeal the individual and employer mandate, 14 million people will drop coverage because they no longer have to pay the fine. So 14 million just made a personal choice. I don’t feel like I’m denying anyone coverage because they made a choice.

Here’s what they can’t lose sight. Obamacare is a nightmare, it will never work, these exchanges cannot be propped up. It was always the plan to go to single-payer health care. It’s to make insurance so costly in the private sector that people will drop coverage and then pay the fine and their employees will join the exchanges and then people will have cradle to grave health care. I think that’s Obamacare goals was.

I think that the goal of Obamacare was to take over the patients that to exchange. This is a stake in the heart of Obamacare through a block grant.

Graham said that he believes that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) – the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee chairman – will likely hold hearings in September on his proposed plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Graham also suggested that the plan could get to the 50 votes necessary for a repeal and replace legislation to pass through the Senate and perhaps a couple of votes from the Senate Democrats.

Graham explained, “When it comes to getting to 50, Alaska does very well under this approach. I think we can get Senator McCain, Senator Murkowski if it works out well for their states. So, conceptually John likes it if it’s good for Arizona. If you can get it to 50, I do not think that a Democrat is going to make it the 50th vote, but I do believe that once we get 50 Republicans there’s going to be a handful of Democrats that will vote for more money and more flexibility for their states.”

Graham criticized the House and Senate leadership’s approach to repealing and replacing Obamacare, arguing that the leadership “got too much in the weeds of tweaking Obamacare.” He argued that Republicans should have started from their principles to revert power back to the states, rather than tweaking the government’s power to hand out health care as an entitlement. Graham also said that he will continue to work with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) on empowering states with more regulatory flexibility to implement their health care plans and lower premiums.

Graham also suggested that House Freedom Caucus members Mark Meadows and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and former Senator Rick Santorum have been instrumental in pushing forward this strategy to empower states to create their own health care systems. Rick Santorum was instrumental in passing welfare reform in the 1990s, and Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows led the drive that improved the AHCA enough for the bill to pass through the House.

Graham told Breitbart News:

I’m working with Mark Meadows in the House. The Freedom Caucus guys have been terrific. You know, this should have been our first idea, not our last idea. As Republicans, I think we got too much in the weeds of tweaking Obamacare. We should have went back to our basic philosophy of getting as much money and power out of Washington as possible. If we started with this concept, we would’ve had it done by now. I had a bill that would have allowed people to opt out of Obamacare and so Rick Santorum called me and said, ‘Why don’t we just block grant and instead opting out?’ So myself, Rick Santorum, and Mark Meadows started meeting and if this becomes law it will be because of Rick Santorum, he’s been indispensable. Bill Cassidy has been a great partner. Santorum has been instrumental, he knows his stuff backwards and forwards. We just need to remember this whole experience. When you [are] confronted with what happened in Washington you shouldn’t try to make Frankenstein look better, we should build something new.

Graham concluded, “This is may be the most important thing that I’ll ever do. If we can take money and power out Washington when it comes to health care, then we can achieve a great feat. Health care that is closest to the patient is the best health care.

Trump discussing firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions

July 25, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions as he continues to rage against Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation, according to reports.

The president’s anger again bubbled into public view Monday as he referred to Sessions in a tweet as “beleaguered.”

Privately, Mr. Trump has speculated aloud to allies in recent days about the potential consequences of firing Sessions, three people who have recently spoken to the president told The Associated Press. They demanded anonymity to discuss the private conversations.

The Washington Post, citing people familiar with the talks, says “some confidants” are discussing possible replacements.

Mr. Trump often talks about making staff changes without following through, so those who have spoken with the president cautioned that a change may not be imminent or happen at all. What is clear is that Mr. Trump remains furious that the attorney general recused himself from the investigations.

“So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?” Mr. Trump tweeted Monday. His tweet came just hours before his son-in-law, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, traveled to Capitol Hill to be interviewed about his meetings with Russians.

So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?

Later, at a photo op with interns, the president was asked whether Sessions should resign. The president rolled his eyes.

Mr. Trump’s intensifying criticism has fueled speculation that Sessions may quit even if Mr. Trump opts not to fire him. During an event at the White House, Mr. Trump ignored a shouted question about whether Sessions should step down.

But the attorney general said last week he intended to stay in his post, and CBS News Justice Department reporter Paula Reid says Sessions still has no plans to resign. The attorney general has been working seven days a week, and does not plan to take an August vacation, eschewing the custom of his two predecessors in the job.

If Mr. Trump were to fire Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would be elevated to the top post on an acting basis. That would leave the president with another attorney general of whom he has been sharply critical in both public and private for his handling of the Russia probe, according to four White House and outside advisers who, like others interviewed, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

It could also raise the specter of Mr. Trump asking Rosenstein – or whomever he appoints to fill the position – to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion with Mr. Trump’s campaign. Rosenstein is the official who named Mueller to his special counsel post to begin with.

The name of one longtime Trump ally, Rudy Giuliani, was floated Monday as a possible replacement for Sessions, but a person who recently spoke to the former New York City mayor said Giuliani hadn’t been approached about the position. Giuliani told CNN Monday he didn’t want the post and would have recused himself had he been in Sessions’ position.

Another name that’s come up as a possible replacement is that of Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but his office issued a statement saying, “Jeff Sessions is a friend and a strong conservative.  I was proud to vote to confirm Jeff and to vigorously defend his confirmation, and I’m deeply gratified that we have a principled conservative like Jeff Sessions serving as Attorney General.  The stories being reported in the media tonight are false. My focus is and will remain on fighting every day to defend 28 million Texans in the U.S. Senate.”

The president’s tweet about the former Alabama senator comes less than a week after Mr. Trump, in a New York Times interview, said Sessions should never have taken the job as attorney general if he was going to recuse himself. Sessions made that decision after it was revealed that he had met with a top Russian diplomat last year.

Mr. Trump has seethed about Sessions’ decision for months, viewing it as disloyal – arguably the most grievous offense in the president’s mind – and resenting that the attorney general didn’t give the White House a proper heads-up before making the announcement that he would recuse himself. His fury has been fanned by several close confidants – including his son, Donald Mr. Trump Jr., who is also ensnared in the Russia probe – who are angry that Sessions made his decision.

Mr. Trump and Sessions’ conversations in recent weeks have been infrequent. Sessions had recently asked senior White House staff how he might patch up relations with the president but that effort did not go anywhere, according to a person briefed on the conversations.

Newt Gingrich, a frequent Trump adviser, said the president, with his criticisms of Sessions, was simply venting and being “honest about his feelings. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to do anything.”

Still, he said the president’s comments would have repercussions when it comes to staff morale. “Anybody who is good at team building would suggest to the president that attacking members of your team rattles the whole team,” Gingrich said.

Sessions and Mr. Trump used to be close, sharing both a friendship and an ideology. Sessions risked his reputation when he became the first U.S. senator to endorse the celebrity businessman and his early backing gave Mr. Trump legitimacy, especially among the hard-line anti-immigration forces that bolstered his candidacy. Several of Sessions’ top aides now serve in top administration posts, including Stephen Miller, the architect of several of Mr. Trump’s signature proposals, including the travel ban and tough immigration policy.

Armand DeKeyser, who worked closely with Sessions and became his chief of staff in the Senate, said he didn’t see the attorney general as someone who would easily cave to criticism, even from the president.

“If Jeff thinks he is in an untenable position and cannot be an effective leader, I believe he would leave,” DeKeyser said. “But I don’t think he’s reached that point.”

But Anthony Scaramucci, the president’s new communications director, said it’s time for Mr. Trump and Sessions to hash out a resolution, regardless of what they decide.

“My own personal opinion, I think they’ve got to have a meeting and have a reconciliation one way or another. You know what I mean? Either stay or go, one way or another,” he said.

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Rex Tillerson ‘could quit as Secretary of State’

July 25, 2017

The Independent

By Emily Shugerman New York

The Independent

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering resigning his position amid a rash of staffing changes at the White House, reports have claimed.

Sources familiar with Mr Tillerson’s conversations tell CNN the Secretary of State has grown increasingly frustrated with the Trump administration, and may be pondering an exit strategy.

The sources say Mr Tillerson was especially troubled by President Donald Trump’s recent New York Times interview, in which he lamented hiring Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr Tillerson reportedly saw the comments – in which Mr Trump called Mr Sessions “unfair” for recusing himself from the Justice Department’s Russia probe – as unprofessional.

While the sources caution that Mr Tillerson may have just been venting after a tough week, they also say it seems increasingly unlikely that he will finish out the year as planned.

Mr Trump and his Secretary of State have clashed on several key issues, such as Mr Trump’s insistence on pulling out of the Paris climate accord. Mr Tillerson said in his Senate confirmation hearing that he supported staying in the agreement, while Mr Trump campaigned on getting the US out.

The Secretary of State has also made it a point to assure other Nato countries that the US remains committed to Article Five, the alliance’s promise of mutual protection. Sources told Politico Mr Tillerson was shocked when the President failed to mention the article in his speech at the new Nato headquarters.

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The two men’s differences played out publicly last month, after several Gulf countries chose to cut ties with the nation of Qatar. Mr Tillerson urged cooperation between the countries; Mr Trump, meanwhile, praised the blockade, accusing Qatar of “fund[ing] terrorism at a very high level”.

Mr Tillerson at the time was reportedly frustrated with the influence of Mr Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, on foreign policy – both Qatari and otherwise. One close associate told the American Conservative the diplomat was “exhausted”.

“He can’t get any of his appointments approved and is running around the world cleaning up after a president whose primary foreign policy adviser is a 36-year-old amateur,” the source said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani at a press conference in Doha on 11 July, 2017 (AFP/Getty)

The issue of personnel appointments has been a thorn in Mr Tillerson’s side ever since the President rejected his choice of Elliott Abrams as his second in command. Mr Trump reportedly vetoed the pick because Mr Abrams had been critical of him in the past.

Mr Tillerson’s frustration with the slow pace of nominations reportedly boiled over last month, when the diplomat erupted at Johnny DeStefano, the head of the presidential personnel office, for “torpedoing” his proposed nominees.

The outburst was apparently so intense that it prompted Mr Kushner, a witness to the event, to deem Mr Tillerson’s conduct “unprofessional”.

Drain the Swamp should be changed to Drain the Sewer – it’s actually much worse than anyone ever thought, and it begins with the Fake News!

The news of Mr Tillerson’s latest complaints comes amid a tumultuous week in White House staffing. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stepped down on Friday, after Mr Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci to run his communications team – a move the majority of his advisers cautioned against.

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is also reportedly on rocky footing with the President, and Mr Trump’s comments to the New York Times indicate that he’s having doubts about Mr Sessions as well.

“Drain the Swamp should be changed to Drain the Sewer,” the President tweeted ominously on Monday, “it’s actually much worse than anyone ever thought.”

Senate Healthcare Bill — Unexpected McCain surgery delay gives more time for criticism — “The Votes Aren’t There”

July 17, 2017

Delay in long-promised vote after unexpected McCain surgery


A Republican push to pass a sweeping health-care law experienced another setback as Senate leaders said they would delay a vote set for this week, sparking fresh doubts about whether congressional leaders can muster support for a marquee GOP policy priority.

Updated July 16, 2017 7:05 p.m. ET

President Donald Trump and party leaders in Congress were hoping the Senate would vote this week on a plan to overturn parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act and make other changes to the health system. But Senate leaders announced a delay after Sen. John McCain said he would recover in Arizona from surgery removing a blood clot above his left eye, leaving supporters short of the votes needed to move ahead with the bill.

The delay prolongs the uncertainty over the bill’s prospects. GOP leaders have pursued a fast-paced timeline, as health-policy changes are often controversial. Sen. John Cornyn, a member of Senate GOP leadership, told reporters last month that passing the bill is “not going to get any easier” with time. Another GOP senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said the bill “is not like fine wine; it doesn’t get better with age.”

Meantime, insurance companies, state governors and congressional critics continued to line up against the bill, with their objections running the ideological gamut. Governors, including some Republicans, have said they are concerned about its proposed cuts to the growth of Medicaid spending, while two top insurance industry groups objected to a change to the GOP bill proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas as “unworkable.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who can’t afford more than two defections among the 52 GOP senators, has been balancing demands by more-centrist lawmakers for additional money for Medicaid and consumer subsidies with a push by conservatives to pare back requirements on insurers in order to lower premiums for younger, healthier people.

One centrist and one conservative GOP senator who have bucked their party before, Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have said they can’t support the bill, for different reasons. But others have yet to commit, and one more defection would derail the legislation. Mr. McCain’s absence means GOP leaders are short of the votes this week for a procedural motion to consider the bill.

Ms. Collins, speaking on Sunday on ABC, said that eight to 10 Republicans had “deep concerns” about the bill, even after a new version was unveiled last week to address issues raised by some GOP senators. “I think it would be extremely close,” she said when asked whether Mr. McConnell had the votes for passage.

Senate GOP leaders, spurred on by the White House, had been building toward a deadline of this week that had been intended to isolate and spotlight holdouts, warning them that they would pay a price for bucking their party and undermining its collective legislative goal of the past seven years. They have emphasized insurance-market woes under the ACA in some states as proof of the urgency of the cause.

Mr. McConnell had hoped to finish the health debate this week so the Senate could turn to the annual defense-policy bill, confirmation of more of Mr. Trump’s nominees and raising the debt limit before adjourning in mid-August.

The McCain absence gives Mr. McConnell and the White House a chance to continue working on holdout senators without having to back down from a vote this week. But it also creates a window for the 2010 health law’s supporters to continue a fight they believe is more likely to be successful the longer they wage it.

“A key factor is time: The longer the bill languishes, the less likely it will pass,” said Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments. “And there won’t be much time left after Labor Day, as Congress shifts its focus to budget and tax issues. So, while McCain’s absence complicates the health debate, it already was in deep trouble, even when he was healthy.”

Prime targets for both sides are the remaining senators who had opposed an earlier version of the Senate bill but haven’t taken a public stance on its latest iteration. Sen. Dean Heller (R., Nev.), up for re-election next year, is likely under the most pressure, due in part to concerns about the bill from the GOP governor of his state. Other Republicans from states that expanded Medicaid, including Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, will be in the limelight this week.

The extra time also allows for more scrutiny of a measure from Mr. Cruz that would allow insurers to offer cheaper plans with less comprehensive coverage than required under the ACA, if they also offer plans that meet ACA coverage requirements. The proposal has alarmed insurers and centrist Republicans who say it would cause premiums to surge for sicker people, who would more likely buy more-comprehensive plans without the costs being offset by policies that younger and healthier people buy.

Senate leaders said they are confident they could hold the procedural vote to advance the bill as soon as Mr. McCain was back in the Senate. The White House declined to comment at length on the setback Sunday. “We wish Sen. McCain a speedy recovery,” said spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré.

The Trump administration has previously said a quick timeline on a health vote was best, particularly as Democrats and liberal organizers have stepped up their advocacy of preserving the ACA, which they see as former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

“The left, I think, has been more organized in their messaging on this than collectively Republicans have as far as advocating for the benefits of the bill,” said Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, last week.

The difficulty for many Republicans is that supporting the bill or opposing it both carry political risk. On the one hand, the party has for years vowed a full repeal of the ACA, known as Obamacare. “I think not being able to deliver on that promise would do serious and long-lasting damage to the credibility of Republicans,” Mr. Cruz said in an interview.

Others are weighing the fallout over health policy and how its changes would affect some states, particularly rural ones. “This bill would make sweeping and deep cuts to the Medicaid program….It would also jeopardize the very existence of our rural hospitals and our nursing homes,” Ms. Collins said on ABC. Conservative lawmakers say the financing for Medicaid as now configured is unsustainable.

Rep. Mark Amodei, a Republican representing a competitive district in Nevada, opposed an early draft of the House health bill but voted for the final version in May. He said that ultimately, he would expect GOP voters to be frustrated if Congress doesn’t repeal the ACA, or large swaths of it, but he recognizes the political peril either way.

“If somebody’s looking for safe harbor and no hard votes, this is going to be an awful year for them, because I think it’s going to be hard vote after hard vote after hard vote,” he said.

Jennifer Levitz contributed to this article

Write to Byron Tau at, Louise Radnofsky at and Kristina Peterson at

Nevada’s Governor Vetoes ‘Medicaid for All’ Insurance Plan

June 17, 2017

Bill would have allowed any state resident to buy into Medicaid

Nevada‘s governor, Brian Sandoval, was part of a bipartisan group of governors who signed a letter Friday criticizing the House GOP health bill. The Republican also vetoed a bill later in the day that would have allowed any Nevada resident to buy into Medicaid.

Nevada‘s governor, Brian Sandoval, was part of a bipartisan group of governors who signed a letter Friday criticizing the House GOP health bill. The Republican also vetoed a bill later in the day that would have allowed any Nevada resident to buy into Medicaid. PHOTO:DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

June 17, 2017 8:14 a.m. ET

Nevada’s Republican governor vetoed a bill late Friday that would have created the nation’s first “Medicaid for all” insurance offering, a plan that drew widespread attention as states brace for changes in the federal Affordable Care Act.

The bill would have allowed any state resident to buy into Medicaid, the federal-state program for people with low incomes or disabilities. The idea, which its Democratic sponsor said would have created a guaranteed health coverage option that was affordable, has drawn the interest of other liberal-leaning states as congress works to repeal major portions of the Affordable Care Act, including the law’s Medicaid expansion.

The measure passed Nevada’s Democratic-controlled legislature mostly along party lines. Gov. Brian Sandoval issued the veto on the final day before the bill would have become law without a signature – several hours after signing a letter to lawmakers in Washington rebuking their plan to roll back the Medicaid expansion.

In his veto message, Mr. Sandoval lauded the bill’s “creativity” but wrote that the plan needs further study before it can become law.

“Moving too soon, without factual foundation or adequate understanding of the possible consequences, could introduce more uncertainty to an already fragile healthcare market, and ultimately affect patient health care,” he wrote.

The bill would have made Medicaid available for a monthly premium, offering it alongside private plans on the state’s ACA marketplace, pending federal approval. That would allow consumers to use ACA subsidies—or the tax credits in congressional Republicans’ replacement bill, if it passes—to purchase the insurance.

But the bill faced several hurdles to enactment. First, federal officials would need to grant a waiver allowing the public insurance to be sold on the ACA exchange, making it eligible for the law’s subsidies. The plan also didn’t set premium levels, instead authorizing state officials to conduct a yearlong cost analysis to determine what the price should be.

Analysts say the premiums likely would be slightly below rates on other insurance, since Medicaid traditionally pays doctors at lower rates and negotiates less-expensive prices on prescription drugs.

“When we look at the cost of coverage between Medicaid and private insurance, Medicaid is typically cheaper because it tends to get a better price for the services that it buys,” said Diane Rowland, executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health-care research organization.

Nevada’s consideration of the measure reflects a broader trend among states to experiment with health-care options given the uncertainty of the national landscape and the Trump administration’s stated willingness to give states more flexibility. Some conservatives states are looking to impose more conditions on Medicaid recipients, while liberal states are contemplating ways to expand coverage.

Mike Sprinkle, a Democratic state assemblyman who introduced the measure, explicitly framed “Medicaid for all” as an option for people who could lose insurance under congressional Republicans’ repeal plan.

“I strongly believe government has a responsibility to provide for the health and safety of its citizens, and this bill [would] place in statute the mandate that at least one form of health insurance be available to all Nevadans,” Mr. Sprinkle said.

Write to Michelle Hackman at