FactPower: Facts, figures, and talking points for Resistance activists.
WEEKLY ACTIONS: HEALTHCARE, DACA, the Budget, and Judicial Nominations
(updated September 14, 2017)
Buckle up, everyone! We're being played by the president, and we stand to lose the ACA while turning our fight to other issues like DACA. It's frankly time for a little talk, so this call to action is a bit longer than usual. We want to address:
Why we must learn to multitask or LOSE on every issue.
What is happening on healthcare. There are issues on the table, and we need to provide our constituent input. This is no time to take a nap!
Who to call and what to say.
Other very important action items: Judicial nominees, DACA and the budget
MULTITASK OR LOSE:
Healthcare is boring and frustrating. DACA is exciting. We get that. However, many activists have trouble seeing the big picture. It’s like this: The president has been using the “distraction by destruction” tactic on us, and he’s playing us like a fiddle. Remember the July 26 ban on transgender service members in the military? It was a distraction – a very cruel and destructive one. This came the day after passage of the motion to proceed on the ACA repeal. By trashing the careers of innumerable members of a mercilessly oppressed minority, the president offended the sensibilities of every fair-minded American. Healthcare activists dropped what they were doing, so that they could focus on the new threat. And that gave cover for GOP Senators to repeal the ACA. Fortunately we baaaaarely squeaked by, and the truth being told, we almost lost.
Fast forwarding to September 5, the president has rescinded DACA, thereby mashing another oppressed minority under his thumb – immigrant children who have done nothing wrong. Every fair-minded American is once again rightfully offended. The president has been in office for 8 months. Why did he wait until September 5 to perpetrate this cruel act? It was because the Senate HELP Committee began hearings that very day to find a bipartisan solution to fixing the damage Republicans (particularly the president) have infliced on the ACA. Those few activists still fighting on the healthcare front stopped what they were doing to turn their attention to DACA.
See a pattern?
There's no question this is the president’s strategy, and you can expect him to use it on us over and over again. He knows that most activists attend to only the hottest issue at any given time. So if there is important activity on something really important to him (e.g. health care), he picks out some minority for which progressives have sympathy (e.g. transgender soldiers or immigrant children), and he sets fire to them before a horrified audience. Then all the annoying activists scramble to put out the fire, while the issue that really matters to him goes ignored.
This is why multitasking is so important. When the president blindsides us with another unspeakable horror, we must not stop fighting the battle that is currently raging. Instead, we must take on an additional battle. Yes, it's wearisome, but it's the only way we can ever win.
We must also be smart about what we are doing. Neither the transgender military ban nor DACA are emergencies, and there is broad legislative support to address these issues positively, well before there is any significant fallout to these communities. On the other hand, the impending repeal of the ACA in late July was an emergency, and the situation with Graham-Cassidy could become an emergency too. The boring Budget Resolution is also shaping up that way. Much is at stake, and tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of lives are on the line. We must learn to triage our emergencies wisely.
With this action alert, we will explain what is at stake with health care and how to take action. We will also provide links to calls to actions on other issues -- DACA and the budget. This is important: If you take action on one, take action on all three. If you don't have time for all three, take action on the least popular issue first, because there will always be more than enough people to take care of the more popular issues. Don't fall into the trap of picking only the issue that's most immediately compelling or exciting, because almost everyone else will pick exactly the same issue, and the most boring or frustrating issues will be neglected.
If we cannot learn to fight multiple battles simultaneously, and if we are so easily distracted from one crisis by the creation of another one, then we will lose each and every battle. It’s that simple. Let's stop being played by the president, and let's show him we know how to take care of business. Being an activist is not fun; it is work. The reward is not the battle itself; it is achieving the victory.
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN HEALTHCARE?
We all knew the failure of the Senate's repeal efforts was only a temporary state of affairs. While the Senate has moved on to other business, the HELP Committee now has the tepid blessings of leadership to hold hearings and find bipartisan solutions for fixing the damage that Republicans have inflicted on the ACA. We want this process to continue, and we want the House to begin hearings of their own. A properly repaired ACA will be harder to repeal, and tens of millions of people will get to keep their insurance until the next Democratic president and Congress can pass something better, like Medicare for All. This will save lives, probably at least 100,000 of them by scientific estimates.
One contentious issue in this process is Section 1332 of the ACA ("state innovation waivers"), which provides a means by which states can apply for waivers from certain ACA requirements and create their own health insurance system. Sec. 1332 specifies conditions that must be met before a waiver can be granted: Among these, coverage must be as comprehensive and affordable, and it must be provided to at least as many people. Lawmakers call these conditions "guardrails," and Republicans want totake some of them down to make the waiver process more permissive. That's unacceptable, and it is arguably our biggest threat in the negotiating process. Sen. Alexander (Chair) says Democrats should be willing to concede something in exchange for an agreement by Republicans to make Cost Sharing Reductions payments to insurers. However, by doing that one thing, they would already get something very important in return: Federal spending (all of it waste) would be cut $194 billion by 2026.
Meanwhile, as of Wednesday, September 13, Senators Graham, Cassidy, Heller, and Johnson are pushingtheir own bill, generally referred to as "Graham-Cassidy." Sen. McCain said he supports this bill, but later walked back the statement a couple of steps. Other senators like Rand Paul and Mike Lee say they don't support the bill, and Orrin Hatch seems not to want to hear the bill in the Senate Finance Committee. However, we should regard this as a thin column of smoke from a dumpster. Cassidy and Graham are busily fanning the little fire, and we should toss a bucket of water in the dumpster to put it out, so that it doesn't get out of hand. In the opinion of Topher Spiro, VP for Health Policy with the Center for American Progress, "We should remain vigilant." For activists, that means we need to make the calls to let our lawmakers know we are still watching, and are still ready to act. We won't tolerate another repeal effort. The reconciliation rule that allow the Senate to pass a repeal bill with a simple majority expires September 30. That won't mean we're out of the woods, but the battle would be more difficult for the Republicans after that. It is thought that's when all notions of passing Graham-Cassidy will be abandoned.
Graham-Cassidy is very similar to the BCRA, except that it would provide block grants to states to implement their own strategies for assisting with premiums, out of pocket expenses, and so forth. So issues such as premium tax credits and assistance with out of pocket expenses are a roll of the dice. Anything is possible, and our one healthcare battle will morph into 50 battles, involving 7,383 state lawmakers. We really don't want that.
Other than that, we can hate Graham-Cassidy for most of the same reasons as the BCRA:
Funding would be taken away after 2026
Funding would be taken away from Medicaid expansion states and given to non-expansion states.
Medicaid expansion would end, and traditional Medicaid funding would be slashed. (Further Medicaid funding cuts are being considered under the Budget Resolution, and funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, needs to be re-appropriated prior to September 30.) Note that slashing funding for traditional Medicaid was never part of the promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Republicans have no mandate, and this effort is very unpopular even with Republicans.
It’s bad for women: Maternity coverage could be dropped, Planned Parenthood would lose its funding, and abortions would NOT be covered.
Finally, we saw another healthcare bill surface Wednesday -- Sen. Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for All." Don't get too excited about this bill just yet, as nobody is expecting it to become law in its current form with this administration and Congress. According to a source close to the issue, "This is a historic moment for the Democratic party, even if this thing won't become law. It's going to start a very important conversation, and it will be a bridge connecting the far left and the middle within the caucus. There will be more drafts of this bill written, and intelligent debate had. It will put on notice future Democratic candidates for major office that this is something that the American people want." But for now, every "Medicare for All" cosponsor will tell you we have to save the ACA first. That is our battle right now.
WHO TO CALL, AND WHAT TO SAY ON HEALTHCARE:
Note: When you call, it's best if you don't read a script. If you're comfortable doing so, use your own words, and if possible, make the call personal to you. You will reach a junior staffer whose job is to be friendly and to note the opinions of those who call. He/she will not argue with you or ask you challenging questions, so you don't have to be any sort of expert. He/she might ask your address for the record. If so, that's a very good thing. It means your comments are deemed important enough (probably personal enough) to be passed on to the senator/representative, rather than simply tallied.
Call the Senate HELP Committee number (202-224-5375). Tell them you would like to offer your input on the healthcare hearings, and ask to be connected to the right person for that. When connected, say: Hi, my name is __________________, and I live in (city, state). I am very concerned that the HELP Committee is considering taking some of the "guardrails" off of the state waiver process (Section 1332) and diminishing the ACA's consumer protections. This is not necessary for stabilizing the ACA markets, and I urge the committee not to do it. Sen. Alexander says Republicans want something in return for authorizing CSR payments. Isn't it enough that this simple act would save taxpayers $194 billion in spending? Otherwise, I'm grateful the committee is engaged in this bipartisan effort, and I look forward to seeing the results of your efforts.
Then call your senators and representative (from both parties): Use THIS TOOL to look up your US representative and senators by zip code. It will give you phone numbers and website addresses. ☎️ Or use this phone menu system to connect to your representative and/or senators: 202-224-3121
Tell your senators: Hi, my name is __________________, and I live in (city, state). I'm calling to urge Sen. _____________ to oppose the Graham-Cassidy health care bill (SA 391). [Optionally, tell them what you don't like about it or how it affects you personally.] Instead of Graham-Cassidy, I hope the senator will support a bipartisan fix from the HELP Committee, and I hope you will pass my comments along to him/her.
If one of your senators is on the HELP committee, please also tell them not to let the Section 1332 "guardrails" be weakened or removed. These are the HELP Committee members:
Lamar Alexander (Chair, R, TN)
Mike Enzi (R, WY)
Richard Burr (R, NC)
Johnny Isakson (R, GA)
Rand Paul (R, KY)
Susan Collins (R, ME)
Bill Cassidy (R, LA)
Todd Young (R, IN)
Orrin Hatch (R, UT)
Pat Roberts (R, KS)
Lisa Murkowski (R, AK)
Tim Scott (R, SC)
Patty Murray (Ranking Member, D, WA)
Bernie Sanders (D, VT)
Robert Casey (D, PA)
Al Franken (D, MN)
Michael Bennet (D, CO)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D, RI)
Tammy Baldwin (D, WI)
Christopher Murphy (D, CT)
Elizabeth Warren (D, MA)
Tim Kaine (D, VA)
Maggie Hassan (D, NH)
Tell your representative: Hi, my name is __________________, and I live in (city, state). I ask that Rep. _____________ urge Rep. Kevin Brady, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, to hold bipartisan hearings on stabilizing Obamacare markets. Both the House and the Senate need to be working on this issue. It's the responsible thing to do. I also hope the representative will not support further repeal-and-replace efforts. I hope you will pass my comments along to him/her.
WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS:
This action alert comes from a legislative source in Washington, and it is not getting enough attention:
The president has nominated tens of lower court judges, all men with one woman. Many of them are wildly unqualified, so Senators have begun to use the "blue slip" rule, which allows for any Senator to oppose a judicial nominee from their own state. Franken was the first to use one this year.
When Pat Leahy was chair of Senate Judiciary and Dems had the majority and the White House, he recognized all judicial blue slips, which meant that a shitload of Obama judge appointments didn't get through. By the end of Obama's term, he had one of the biggest judicial nominee backlogs in history -- and now those people won't make it to the bench.
So far the White House is disregarding the blue slip, which is to be expected. This means that they're not withdrawing the nominees who get blue-slipped, as is protocol/tradition.
The question remains as to which Chuck Grassley (and Mitch McConnell) will respect the blue slip rule. So, he needs to be called and told to RESPECT THE BLUE SLIP because some of the president's nominees are not qualified for the federal bench.
We could write our own fact sheets and calls to action about DACA and the budget, but honestly, others know more about these issues than we do. (We are healthcare specialists and know more about healthcare than they do.) All of these issues are important and deserve action. Our future calls to action will include links to other calls to action that we consider important, but for which we can offer no additional expertise: