32 Million People Would Lose Health Coverage Under Latest Senate Plan; Premiums Would Double

Trumpcare is mostly dead, but Senate Republicans seem intent on trying to prove that they can always come up with another healthcare proposal that is worse than the last. Today there is a new score out from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on a Senate Republican proposal to repeal — but not replace — Obamacare. It’s not good.

From the Washington Post:

Congressional budget analysts estimated Wednesday that a Senate plan to repeal part of the Affordable Care Act with no immediate replacement would increase the number of people without health coverage by 17 million next year and 32 million at the end of a decade. The forecast by the Congressional Budget Office of the impact on coverage of the Senate GOP’s latest health-care legislation is nearly identical to estimates the CBO made in January based on a similar bill that passed both the House and Senate in late 2015 – and was vetoed by then-President Barack Obama. [Pols emphasis]

The new report also said the legislation would decrease federal deficits by $473 billion over that 10-year window.

The measure, which appears to have little chance of passing, would get rid of ACA premium subsidies as of 2020 and would eliminate the penalty most Americans face if they go without health insurance. It would end Medicaid expansion as of 2020 as well as repeal several of the ACA’s taxes. And the cost-sharing subsidies that have been paid to insurers to help lower-income consumers afford their deductibles and other health expenses would be repealed in 2020.

Senate Republicans had lunch at the White House earlier today, where President Trump mixed in threats and vague assurances in an effort to convince the Senate to keep moving forward on an Obamacare repeal plan because he really wants to use his Presidential pen to sign something.

As the Post mentioned, and as the Washington Examiner explains in more detail, today’s CBO score puts some numbers behind a repeal-but-don’t-replace plan that is nearly identical to something that Congressional Republicans tried in 2015:

With the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare currently dead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. vowed to revive the 2015 bill that repealed much of Obamacare’s taxes and spending (while leaving regulations intact), and then deal with the thorny negotiations about replacement after. Back in 2015, the partial repeal bill passed the Senate with a 52-vote majority.

Though there has been some turnover in the Senate since that December 2015 vote, many of the centrists who have been the most reluctant to repeal Obamacare — Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., Lisa Murkowski R-Alaska., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio — voted for the repeal bill. If they oppose it this time, they’ll have to beat back charges that they cynically voted for repeal two years ago when they knew former President Barack Obama would veto it, but reversed themselves when it was no longer symbolic, because President Trump will sign it into law. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voted no in 2015.

You can probably guess how Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) voted on this 2015 bill (he was a “YES”). Gardner will likely still pretend that he is undecided about a repeal-only option, but he’s already on the record having taken a position on this previously. That’s gonna sting.

Axios has more on the next potential steps that Republicans could take in their quest to destroy Obamacare and Medicaid and generally upend the healthcare industry in the United States. It seems unlikely that the Senate GOP would really go forward with some of these plans, but then again, there seems to be some determination to try to push forward the worst possible healthcare plan that they can imagine.

Gardner, GOP Senate a Picture of Anger and Frustration

UPDATE: President Trump told GOP Senators today to keep bashing their heads against the wall. From Politico:

President Donald Trump told Republican senators on Wednesday that they shouldn’t leave town for August recess without repealing and replacing Obamacare, a point he stressed at least three times.

“People are hurting. Inaction is not an option,” Trump said during a lunch with Senate Republicans at the White House. “And, frankly, I don’t think we should leave town unless we have a health insurance plan, unless we can give our people great health care. Because we’re close. We’re very close.”

Despite the president’s expression of optimism, Republican senators aren’t close to repealing and replacing Obamacare, as they’ve promised to do for years.

Trump also tossed around some vague threats, particularly toward Nevada Sen. Dean Heller. Given the fact that Senate Republicans have all but ignored Trump on healthcare reform to this point, it’s hard to see how today’s luncheon will make much of a difference.


Sen. Cory Gardner and his fellow angry men on Tuesday

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is lunching at the White House today with his fellow Republican Senators. It is a bitter, angry bunch that will meet with a bitter, angry President Trump. As CNN reports:

The GOP turned into the Grouchy Old Party, as recriminations flew after the failure this week to repeal and replace Obamacare — the greatest motivating cause of Republican voters for more than seven years.

Soon after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell admitted defeat Tuesday in his bid to jam the bill through the Senate, President Donald Trump, different factions on Capitol Hill and outside conservative activists started assigning fault for the legislation’s collapse.

Trump, facing criticism of his own conduct in the failed effort to replace his successor’s signature law, suggested simply that the Republican majority on Capitol Hill was not up to the job…

…Meet the 53 angriest people in town. One President who wants to sign something that repeals Obamacare, and 52 Republican senators who can’t agree on how to advance health care legislation without tearing the GOP apart.

Republicans will have a chance to air their frustrations Wednesday as all GOP senators have been invited to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for lunch, a White House official told CNN. Discussing health care is on the menu, and given the way lawmakers were speaking Tuesday, expect some blame to be doled out as well.

The anger in Washington is acute, not just because overturning Obamacare has become a holy grail for Republicans, but also because six months into the Trump era, while operating a monopoly on power on Capitol Hill, the party has yet to pass a landmark piece of legislation.

Sometimes the greatest frustrations in life come from the realization that there is no-one else to blame for your own failure. That frustration grows larger when you understand that everyone else sees the same thing.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

President Trump and Cory Gardner can make feeble attempts to drag Democrats into their healthcare failure, but it’s common knowledge that Republicans control both chambers of Congress and the White House. This spin attempt is even more absurd given the news that Trump apparently had no idea what was happening when the Senate was throwing in the towel on repealing Obamacare. Senate Republicans failed to make any headway on overhauling healthcare because they crafted terrible legislation that would have caused massive harm to tens of millions of Americans. Gardner knows this, which is why he takes the ridiculous approach of insisting that he was undecided on a bill despite standing next to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and expressing anger over the legislation’s failure.

As the New York Times explains:

The Senate bill, which faced a near-impossible path forward after the House passed its version of the legislation in May, was ultimately defeated by deep divisions within the party, a lack of a viable health care alternative and a president who, one staff member said, was growing bored in selling the bill and often undermined the best-laid plans of his aides with a quip or a tweet…

…Making matters worse for the White House, the bill had virtually no support from health care, insurance, patient advocate and disease groups, and was harshly judged by the Congressional Budget Office. Grass-roots opposition to the bill — aided by Democrats like Senator Chuck Schumer of New York — swayed members of Congress in a way rarely seen on Capitol Hill.

Outside of the echo chamber that surrounds Republican Senators, nobody was clamoring for a healthcare bill that would have destroyed protections for pre-existing conditions and made devastating cuts to a Medicaid program that is used by 1 in 5 Americans. As we wrote last month, Republicans didn’t have a messaging problem; they had a math problem.

This entire process badly exposed Cory Gardner as nothing more than a political bomb-thrower with a complete indifference for his constituents and the American public in general. Gardner is a virtuoso at throwing wrenches at Democrats and railing against the policies of the opposing party; indeed, his entire Congressional career is based on complaining about Democrats and Obamacare specifically. But if you ask Gardner to try to craft some legislative solutions — some real, tangible policy ideas — he vanishes into the bushes behind a long string of meaningless phrases.

Perhaps this is the true reason that Gardner hasn’t held a town-hall meeting in nearly 500 days. Gardner’s staff didn’t want to expose the Senator to images of constituents expressing real-life concerns about the GOP’s flawed healthcare proposals because Gardner couldn’t just stand there and smile in response. Gardner’s gibberish on healthcare isn’t fooling anyone — including the local media — which leaves him in a very unfamiliar position.

All of the anger, all of the frustration — this is the real face of Cory Gardner. This is the face of a man who knows that he can no longer smile his way around the truth.

Q2 Fundraising Lessons: Nobody Cares About State Treasurer

Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn

As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, there doesn’t appear to be much interest from donors in the open seat for State Treasurer:

State Rep. Justin Everett, a Littleton Republican, raised the most in contributions and had the most money in the bank at the end of the 2nd quarter, but Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn, also a Republican, and state Rep. Steve Lebsock, a Thornton Democrat, didn’t lag far behind.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, the Republican incumbent, faces term limits after next year’s election and is expected to announce he’s running for governor in coming months.

Everett posted $20,348 in contributions for the statewide race and reported $18,306 on hand at the end of the quarter. Horn raised $17,655 and had $11,183 remaining. Lebsock received $14,014 in donations and had $7,354 left after campaign expenditures.

These are pretty poor numbers across the board. Republican State Rep. Polly Lawrence entered the race after the Q2 fundraising period had ended, and Republican State Sen. Kevin Lundberg may not be far behind. If Republican Brian Watson does indeed enter the race at some point, he’ll likely have the advantage on the money side.

Local Press Turns on Gardner as “Trumpcare 3.0” Smoulders

One pissed-off Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

Two stories up this afternoon from Denver TV political reporters bracket Sen. Cory Gardner with terrible coverage in the wake of the failure this week of the latest version of “Trumpcare,” legislation to repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act–and not just the more detailed Trumpcare plan, but now a fallback proposal to simple repeal Obamacare with no defined replacement appears to lack the support needed to move forward as well. This latest round of failures by Republicans to enact their campaign promise to repeal the ACA is by far the most politically damaging yet, leaving a party in total control of the legislative and executive branches looking like a pack of incompetent buffoons in the most charitable analysis. At worst, six years of scare tactics, legislative stonewalling, and self-fulfilling prophecy of doom and destruction has been exposed as a lie.

As 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman reports today, Gardner’s newfound vagueness on a bill he purportedly helped create doesn’t fit with his years of votes to repeal Obamacare–votes with no provision whatsoever for the Medicaid patients Gardner more recently claimed he wanted to protect. Votes that Gardner can’t make go away:

He never said how he planned to vote on the Senate’s healthcare bill before it died — even though he was on a small group of senators working on it. [Pols emphasis]

“Senator Gardner was still reviewing the legislation … ,” spokesperson Casey Contres told 9NEWS Tuesday afternoon. “He was actually scheduled to meet with [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] Administrator Seema Verma today to discuss several aspects of the bill and its impact on Colorado.”

Ah, but the context! The context:

The first vote he had on it in Congress came in 2011 when he voted for full repeal in the U.S. House of Representatives, promising that month “to get to work on legislation replacing the President’s healthcare law.”

That was six years ago.

Fast forward past a bunch more house votes against the Affordable Care Act to 2015. Gardner’s first year in the Senate.

On Dec. 3, Gardner voted with Senate Republicans to repeal Obamacare without replacement. When then President Barack Obama vetoed the bill, Gardner issued a statement saying Obama “chose politics over policy.”

But in 2016, the politics changed for Gardner…

The long history of the GOP-controlled Congress voting for wholesale repeal of the Affordable Care Act, with no “glide path” or any other meaningful consideration made for the millions of Americans who would either lose or never obtain coverage, makes it impossible for Republicans who made those votes to credibly cast themselves as defenders of the people they previously didn’t care to defend. The difference of course is that the legislation they are voting on might actually become law now, but that doesn’t change the fact that Republican politicians like Cory Gardner won elections on the promise to undo the Affordable Care Act. And they voted to do just that over and over.

Denver7’s Blair Miller gets it–and notes that Gardner didn’t seem very undecided at today’s press conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:

“There are a lot of people out there today who seem to be spiking the football, trying to celebrate a moment that, for now, seems to leave the Affordable Care Act in place for today,” Gardner said…

Gardner, who voted in the Senate in 2015 to repeal Obamacare and send the bill to President Barack Obama’s desk (Obama vetoed the bill), also spent much of his time in the U.S. House of Representatives pushing for an Obamacare repeal and voting for any repeal measures when they came up. [Pols emphasis]

…Gardner used the football analogy multiple times in his brief on-camera statement to reinforce his displeasure with the bills’ failures because of a handful of his Republican colleagues and all of his Democratic colleagues.

So to summarize, Gardner was either undecided about the legislation, or he’s really mad at Democrats and Republicans who came out against it and are now “spiking the football!” The difference seems to be how you ask the question. Or maybe who’s asking. Either way, both of these stories return to the central fact that Gardner has been on the side of repealing the Affordable Care Act from the beginning, and that means the failure of the GOP as a whole to repeal it, with or without a replacement, is Gardner’s personal failure too. Gardner has nothing to show for any alleged attempts to soften the blow of repeal, having abandoned the Medicaid population he once claimed to support.

All Gardner has is a broken promise, and no one left to buy his excuses.

Q2 Fundraising Lessons: The Wealthy Shall Inherit the Office

Republican gubernatorial candidate Victor Mitchell

The numbers are in for the first big fundraising quarter of the 2018 election cycle, and like any important fundraising period, the results have provided both answers and questions for many campaigns.

As we’ve said many times in this space, fundraising numbers are often a good barometer of the relative strength or weakness of a campaign – particularly at this stage in the cycle. Fundraising reports are less informative the closer we get to Election Day because it is more difficult to account for independent expenditures, PACs, and other outside spending. But when you are a year out from the Primary and 18 months from the General Election, these numbers can be a terrific guide into how a race is starting to take shape.

Fundraising is about money, of course, but it is a mistake to write off fundraising reports as just a singular piece of financial information. Fundraising reports tells us how much money was raised, but also where it came from and how it was spent. Big donations from out-of-state interests tell a different story than hundreds of small-dollar donations within the boundaries of a given district.

Most importantly, fundraising reports tell us a lot about the perception and support for a particular campaign. Think of it like sports betting; people make all sorts of bets on a given sporting event, but by and large, the big money goes with the outcome that is perceived to be the most likely. Everyone wants to back a winner – it’s human instinct. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule – including some that we will point out in a moment – but in general you can learn a lot from early money in politics.

We’ve been sifting through fundraising reports for the biggest races in Colorado, and in a series of posts that follow, we’ll tell you what we’ve learned …     


If You’ve Got the Money, Honey, You’ve Got More Time

Wealthy candidates are not a new phenomenon in Colorado, but we’re seeing the beginning of a potentially-troubling trend in the early fundraising reports from Q2: Candidates with deep pockets aren’t even trying to raise money.

Former one-term Republican lawmaker Victor Mitchell has earned a lot of money from various business ventures over the years, and he’s apparently planning on spending a good chunk of those earnings in his bid for Governor. Mitchell seeded his gubernatorial campaign with a $3 million check in February, but raised just $13,098 in the period ending on June 30. Likewise, Democrat Jared Polis is putting a lot of his own fortune into his bid for Governor and is only accepting contributions of $100 or less. Other candidates, such as Mitt Romney’s Nephew (aka, Republican Doug Robinson), have said that they plan to rely on hefty sums from their personal fortunes in the months to come. This is a tremendous financial advantage for candidates who can afford it, but it’s more than that; if you don’t have to spend 30+ hours on the phone each week trying to raise money, that’s more time that you can be out meeting voters and gathering broader support.

This disadvantage is one of the reasons that Democrat Ed Perlmutter – at the time, the prohibitive favorite — withdrew from the gubernatorial race earlier this month. It also makes things much more difficult for candidates who also have a day job to worry about; Republican George Brauchler had an awful Q2 , and he’s going to have trouble just keeping his campaign afloat while he maintains his position as District Attorney in Arapahoe County.

Candidates for Governor in Colorado can only accept maximum contributions of $1,150 from any one individual – technically, $575 for the Primary and $575 for the General Election – which makes it that much more difficult for non-wealthy candidates to catch up to their cash-flush opponents. Even if every person on your call list agrees to donate the maximum amount, it still takes hours upon hours of phone time to collect.

There used to be more of a stigma associated with wealthy candidates who sought to bankroll campaigns for higher office, which compelled them to spend more time and energy raising money. For whatever reason, that stigma seems to be fading. 

Remember George Brauchler?

George Brauchler’s gubernatorial campaign, metaphorically-speaking.

If you were going to compose a theme song for the already-sputtering gubernatorial campaign of Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, you would probably start with a sad trombone (wah-wah-wahhhh) accompanied with the sound of air escaping from a deflated balloon. For vocal accompaniment, hiring the teacher from Charlie Brown would be ideal.

As Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman, Brauchler announced his Q2 fundraising numbers on Monday without enough practical spin to generate any momentum whatsoever:

Republican gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler raised $190,696 in the just-completed fundraising quarter — nearly all of it from Colorado residents and with donors in all 64 of the counties, his campaign said Monday.

Brauchler received contributions from 673 donors, with just over 95 percent of them from Colorado. After spending $46,731, he ended June with $143,966 cash on hand…

…His primary rivals include Douglas County entrepreneur and former state lawmaker Victor Mitchell, who launched his campaign by writing himself a $3 million check, and former investment banker and Mitt Romney nephew Doug Robinson. On top of the millions he loaned his campaign, Mitchell raised $13,098 in the quarter that ended in June. Robinson reported raising $207,532 and loaned himself $57,022 in the same period.

George Brauchler.

Brauchler was always going to have trouble competing with the self-funded campaigns of Victor Mitchell and Mitt Romney’s Nephew, both of whom seem able and willing to bankroll their own gubernatorial bids. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a proven fundraiser, should join the gubernatorial field later this summer, and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is likely to enter the fray as well. If Brauchler couldn’t even raise $200k when he was the only somewhat-known name in the field, then there is little chance he will be able to ramp up the money machine when he is competing for donations with Stapleton and Coffman.

Brauchler doesn’t need to be the top fundraiser on the Republican side, but he needs a minimal amount of dough just to keep the lights on in a statewide campaign. Brauchler ended June with $143,966 in the bank; that’s enough to keep the doors open for another quarter, but there’s not much money left over for important things like advertising and voter outreach. This is dangerous territory for a statewide candidate.

While money isn’t everything in politics, timing certainly is. Two years ago, Republicans thought Brauchler might be their next big thing as a candidate for U.S. Senate. Brauchler passed on that race and focused his sights on running for governor, but whatever gravitas he may have had in September 2015 seems not to have followed him into 2017.

Trumpcare is Really, Very, Seriously Dead

If you missed the breaking news late last evening, Trumpcare is dead. The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) is kaput. Senate Republicans have failed, again, to even get a healthcare bill to the floor.

Even conservative news outlets like RedState are giving eulogies for Trumpcare. As the New York Times examines:

Two more Republican senators declared on Monday night that they would oppose the Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, killing, for now, a seven-year-old promise to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

The announcement by the senators, Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas, left their leaders at least two votes short of the number needed to begin debate on their bill to dismantle the health law. Two other Republican senators, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Susan Collins of Maine, had already said they would not support a procedural step to begin debate.

With four solid votes against the bill, Republican leaders now have two options.

They can try to rewrite it in a way that can secure 50 Republican votes, a seeming impossibility at this point, given the complaints by the defecting senators. Or they can work with Democrats on a narrower measure to fix the flaws in the Affordable Care Act that both parties acknowledge.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, conceded Monday night that “the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful.” He outlined plans to vote now on a measure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with it taking effect later. That has almost no chance to pass, however, since it could leave millions without insurance and leave insurance markets in turmoil. [Pols emphasis]

Trying to repeal Obamacare without a replacement in place is an even worse idea than Trumpcare — even Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has said as much — but Senate Republicans might try to do it anyway. This isn’t like the poor loser on the playground taking his ball and going home; this is the poor loser taking his ball and then returning with heavy machinery to raze the field to the ground.

As the Washington Post explains:

President Trump predicted Tuesday morning that Republicans may wait for the federal insurance market to collapse and then work to broker a deal to rewrite the nation’s landmark health-care law.

In a series of tweets, Trump blamed the demise of a months-long effort to rewrite the Affordable Care Act on Democrats “and a few Republicans,” but he suggested that the drive to overhaul the law was not completely over…

…Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opened the Senate on Tuesday morning touting his latest plan — to vote on a pure repeal, with a two-year delay, by taking up the House’s health-care bill. But while conservatives and Trump have been pushing for such a repeal as a last resort, it appeared unlikely that the vote would succeed.

Blaming Democrats for the failure of Trumpcare is transparently silly, of course. Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of Congress and have one of their own in the White House; they didn’t need Democrats to pass anything, and they still failed.

It seems unlikely that the Senate will be able to muster any sort of support to pursue a repeal-only plan, though there may be some scuttlebutt about this in the days and weeks to come. It is certainly a huge blow to Republicans to fail — repeatedly — to make any headway on Obamacare after spending seven years complaining about it, but in the end a few cooler heads in the GOP prevailed and prevented what would have been a complete disaster for most Americans. Republicans never seemed to understand a fundamental problem with their entire approach to healthcare: You can’t base an entire policy strategy on taking things away from people.

The immediate aftermath for Republicans will be a soul-searching look at how and why they weren’t able to make any headway on Trumpcare or BCRA. It didn’t help that President Trump was absolutely clueless about healthcare policy in general. As Chris Cillizza of CNN explains in a story worth reading in its entirety, Republicans face some very tough realities today:

Talk to any Republican privately and they will tell you that there are simply no good options to turn this legislative lemon into lemonade. Below are seven hard realities Republicans need to face in the aftermath of this epic collapse…

1) There is no other, better bill, 2) “Repeal then replace” isn’t likely to go anywhere, 3) McConnell wants this to go away, 4) House Republicans who voted for healthcare are WAY out on a limb, 5) Obama leaving office was the worst thing to happen for repeal/replace advocates, 6) Delaying the vote was a total killer, 7) Trump never had any real idea about the policy.

At the end of the day, the only thing Republicans really accomplished with this healthcare fiasco is to prove to the American people that they are heartlessly inept. This one’s gonna sting for awhile.

Cary Kennedy Shuts Down The Critics

Cary Kennedy.

A press release yesterday from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy announces the most important thing she needed to stay relevant in a changing primary landscape–a big fat pile of money:

Cary Kennedy, Democratic candidate for Governor of Colorado, today announced raising $343,000 dollars in the first financial quarter of her campaign for governor. Ninety-two percent of contributors to Cary’s campaign reside within Colorado; the campaign received contributions from 34 of Colorado’s counties. Kennedy is building a grassroots campaign with 1,705 donations, more than half of which were under $100.

“I am honored to have the support of so many Coloradans across our state,” said Kennedy. “Thank you to all of my supporters. Together we will work to make sure every Coloradan benefits from the progress we’ve made.”

Kennedy’s campaign has gained momentum as she engages her supporters across the state and it’s clear her statewide base is continuing to grow. Notably she was endorsed by EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics. If elected, Cary will be the first woman to serve as Colorado’s governor.

Cary Kennedy spent the first months of her campaign traveling across Colorado and connecting with voters. For example, she marched for science in Mesa county, helped build a trail in El Paso, met with voters in Grand County, paraded for Memorial Day in Adams county, toasted with supporters in Larimer and celebrated Cinco de Mayo, Pride and Juneteenth in Denver.

Cary Kennedy endured some ribbing after a campaign launch stunt that local news media spent an undue amount of time and energy deconstructing–so much so that we suspect it motivated her supporters to make a strong showing in a way nobody can ignore, Kennedy’s bottom line. Kennedy handily outraised Democratic opponent Mike Johnston, who was unable to sustain his huge first-quarter haul from out-of-state education reform interests. With the departure of Ed Perlmutter from the race, a window has opened for competitiveness with now-presumed frontrunner Jared Polis that Kennedy is well-equipped to exploit.

And really, hats off to Kennedy and her team. They did exactly what they needed to do to be taken seriously in this race.

Gardner: “If you repeal it now, with nothing in its place, what happens if you don’t find that replacement?”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

With U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky’s announcement that he’s dumped his bill to replace Obamacare and, instead, will push legislation to repeal the health care law without replacing it for up to two years, a comment by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) sounds a ton more significant today than it did July 6 when Gardner uttered it on KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis Show.

CAPLIS: And last question: as you know, Ben Sasse and some others have been talking about, now, “repeal and replace later, separately.” Where do you come down on that?

GARDNER: Look, I think that if you repeal it now, with nothing in its place, what happens if you don’t find that replacement? What happens if you don’t reach that agreement? And I think that we ought to move forward with an idea now, and put a solution forward to the American people. Look, this is something that Republicans and Democrats ought to find common ground with, because if Democrats refuse to find a solution to a failing Obamacare, shame on them!

CAPLIS: Right.

GARDNER: And that’s what we have to realize, is, the status quo isn’t good enough. And the alternative is a single-payer healthcare system. And look what happened in England, right now, with that child. The parents no longer have the ability to help — excuse me, no longer have the ability to determine their child’s state, because it’s in the hands of the government.

Gardner has yet to talk to journalists about the implosion of the senate healthcare legislation, so, for now, this looks like the only comment reporters have to go on from our senator, who’s a Republican leader in the U.S. Senate and who helped draft McConnell’s bill.

Listen to Gardner on KNUS-710-AM July 6:

Tuesday Open Thread

“Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone might be looking.”

–H. L. Mencken

Gardner Once Helped Kill Insurer Stabilization That He Now Supports

(We’d guess that Gardner is in no hurry to cast a vote on Trumpcare — promoted by Colorado Pols)

Republicans sabotaged Obamacare, in part, by stripping the law of funds to incentivize insurance companies to cover enrollees who were expensive to insure.

One of the lead saboteurs was U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). Back in 2013, he joined U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in opposing what Gardner called “bailouts” of insurance companies. These funds were included in a “risk corridor” provision of Obamacare aimed at stabilizing insurance markets in areas where care is more expensive.

“Only in Washington are bailouts seen as a good approach to bad policy,” said Gardner at the time, explaining why he was an original co-sponsor of Rubio’s bill. “Obamacare’s dangerous fiscal trajectory must be stopped, and soon. I am proud to cosponsor legislation that helps guarantee that taxpayers aren’t on the hook as Obamacare continues to unravel.”

The Gardner-Rubio measure, which was attached to a spending bill, stripped from Oabmacare funds for insurance companies whose clients needed more expensive care.

And now, experts say, Republican have included the insurance-company “bailouts” in the senate healthcare bill for the same reason, to stabilize the marketplace.

Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur reported June 29:

There’s “no difference” between the insurer funds in Obamacare and the ones in the Senate Republican bill, said Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law at George Washington University…

Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, said Republicans who are pushing the stabilization fund “may have discovered how much damage they did when they stripped out the risk corridors from the Affordable Care Act.”

“That’s one of the things about this debate that’s so infuriating — the things that they blame on Obamacare are actually, in this case, things that opponents of Obamacare passed,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

The question for Gardner is, are you okay with the “bailouts” in the senate healthcare bill, even though you hated them in Obamcare.

Gardner hasn’t said, and he didn’t return my call. For his part, Rubio has said he’s learning about the issue and “I do have some concern, no doubt.”

Republicans Just Can’t Shake the Shirtless Sheriff

Former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, aka the “Shirtless Sheriff.”

Former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, aka the “Shirtless Sheriff,” continues to plague Republicans even though he formally left office more than two years ago.

As we noted last week, Maketa somehow skated on all seven charges related to official misconduct and witness tampering dating back to his controversial tenure as Sheriff in the  most staunchly-conservative county in Colorado. Maketa’s alleged crimes are numerous and well-documented, which is why many political observers in Colorado were more than a little surprised to see him escape penalty in a trial that wrapped up last week. Jurors deadlocked on four of the charges against Maketa, which creates a significant problem for Arapahoe County District Attorney — and candidate for Governor — George Brauchler.

As Lance Benzel reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:

In failing to resolve the criminal case against ex-El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, a District Court jury forced a dilemma on a candidate for governor.

A veteran political observer says the decision on whether to retry the embattled lawman on four remaining counts could have political costs for Republican gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler, who leads the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case.

If Brauchler’s office decides to drop Maketa’s charges, Brauchler could be accused of letting a fellow Republican skate on sweeping allegations of corruption.

If his office pushes for a new trial, he could alienate parts of the Republican base in El Paso County, where Maketa has his sympathizers.

“It’s a media disaster,” said Bob Loevy, a retired Colorado College political science professor and longtime political analyst in El Paso County. “To have this stretch into the gubernatorial primary and then possibly the general election in 2018, the Republican Party doesn’t need that at all, not in its most significant county.”

El Paso County boasts more Republicans than any county in the state. Although it doesn’t always have the numbers to sway a general election, it does have the potential to decide which Republican makes it past the primary, Loevy said.

Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler.

Regardless of whether or not Maketa faces a new trial, Brauchler has already incurred heavy damage because it fuels the perception that he seems to come up short in high-profile court cases. The Maketa case was handled by Brauchler’s office because the El Paso County DA was conflicted out of handing the charges directly. Brauchler chose Mark Hurlbert — yes the same Hurlbert who infamously tried to prosecute basketball star Kobe Bryant many years ago — to handle the Maketa case, and now he’s going to have to get even more involved than he would have liked:

Brauchler did not personally prosecute the Maketa case, which ended in a partial mistrial last week when a jury acquitted the former three-term sheriff on three counts and failed to reach a verdict on four others.

But he will be personally involved in the decision whether to retry Maketa, lead prosecutor Mark Hurlbert said after the verdicts. [Pols emphasis]

Brauchler has been facing criticism from fellow Republican gubernatorial candidates about his decision to run for Governor while still working full-time as the DA in the 18th Judicial District, and the Maketa trial puts a new spotlight on that controversy.

Is Brauchler doing a disservice to the people of Arapahoe County, and now El Paso County, by trying to tackle two full-time jobs at once? It was an inevitable problem for Brauchler anyway, but there are now some very real — and very public — consequences for his decision. It’s difficult to convince voters that you should lead the state as Governor when your opponents can make a solid case that you’ve been asleep at the wheel in your current position.

Get More Smarter on Monday (July 17)

Today is 7/17/17. Seems like a good date. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.



► President Trump is consistent in one regard: His approval ratings are reliably awful. As the Washington Post reports:

President Trump is not Teflon, and the conventional wisdom that “nothing matters” is wrong.

fresh Washington Post/ABC News poll underscores the softness of Trump’s support as he prepares to mark six months in the White House on Thursday.

It also highlights a growing intensity gap. Support for the president is more tepid, but opposition is increasingly inflamed.

The president’s overall approval rating has slipped to 36 percent from 42 percent in April. For context, George W. Bush and Barack Obama both held 59 percent approval ratings in Post/ABC polls conducted around their six-month anniversaries.

Media coverage often focuses on how rank-and-file Republicans, as well as elected officials, continue to stand behind Trump. While true, a close examination of the results suggests that no more than 1 in 4 Americans believe passionately in him or his presidency at this juncture.

Trump’s Russia problems are also breaking through to a broader populace; just 3 in 10 voters still don’t think the Russian government tried to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. Overall, Trump’s disapproval rating has risen to 58%.


► Campaign finance reports for the second quarter fundraising period should all be available today (barring technical difficulties, which tends to happen with the FEC). We’ll have a separate story later breaking down all of the fundraising winners and losers from Q2.


► Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has delayed a potential vote on the Senate GOP healthcare bill on account of…health reasons. As CNN reports:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Saturday that the Senate will delay consideration of the Republican health care bill while Sen. John McCain recovers from surgery for a blood clot.

McConnell tweeted that the Senate will work on other legislative issues and nominations next week and “will defer consideration of the Better Care Act” while McCain is recovering. McCain’s absence would have imperiled the bill, which needs the support of 50 of 52 GOP senators to advance.

Two Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky — have already said they will not support a motion to proceed to floor debate on the legislation.

McCain is in Arizona recovering from surgery and has been advised by doctors to rest at home for the entire week. As Politico explains, there is no good estimate for when Trumpcare may be back on the agenda:

Privately, Republicans said the delay could be as little as a week as McCain recovers in Arizona, though others worried it could stretch for several weeks and jeopardize the entire repeal effort. Clouding the timetable further, a new Congressional Budget Office estimate for the bill that was expected on Monday has also been delayed, Republicans said. It could come as early as Tuesday.

Whether the bill would advance even if McCain were in Washington is another question altogether, as the Arizona senator is one of more than half a dozen undecided Republicans, any one of whom could tank the bill.

Notably, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is still opposing the GOP healthcare legislation…which is a strong indication that Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) would be the third “no vote” should a vote be held anytime soon.



Get even more smarter after the jump…


Monday Open Thread

“Grant us a brief delay; impulse in everything is but a worthless servant.”

–Caecilius Statius