Both Congress and the White House are, figuratively, exploding today, with unprecedented, intra-party, public food fights and disarray among Republicans that now seems to be breaking out in virtually every direction — inside the US Senate, inside the Trump Administration, not to mention between Congress and a number of Executive Branch agencies.
The US Senate is in disarray as they try to pass a "skinny repeal" to the Affordable Care Act, a last gasp effort to pass something, anything, to call a "win" in the 7-year effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare. But a number of Senators are concerned that the effort which guts the requirement for individuals to buy health insurance, could be adopted as is in the US House, sending premiums skyrocketing and the insurance market into a death spiral.
The White House is in disarray as Administration officials face down bipartisan outrage over Trump's surprise military transgender ban. Turns out, as we've since learned, he was actually trying to save funding for his border wall with Mexico (and other priorities) in exchange for spiking medical funding for trans members of the military, when he shocked lawmakers by announcing a complete ban, which is much more than those Rightwing Congressmembers had actually been lobbying for.
And, of course, there's the disarray that spans between a number of Executive agencies, the White House and Congress, as Senators hope to avert a full-blown Constitutional crisis by attempting to block Trump from firing his own Attorney General and appointing a replacement without Senate confirmation during the upcoming recess. And the Secretary of the Department of Interior threatens members of the Senate on behalf of the President, for not voting as the White House wishes on repealing health care for millions of Americans. Yes, the Secretary is actually threatening to protect the environment if the Senators don't play ball!
All of that without even delving into the wildly bizarre intra-White House disarray between Trump's new Communications Director and his own Chief of Staff! Then we're joined by a former Acting Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) DONALD MARRON, now a Fellow with the Urban Institute, to discuss the recent attacks by Republicans on the office responsible for scoring legislation like health care reform. Such analyses by the CBO help to let both Congress and the American public know how much such schemes will cost in both tax-payer dollars and Americans losing access to health care.
Marron, who also served as Chief Economist on the President's Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush, says the recent attempts by the Congressional Freedom Caucus to gut the CBO and have the office's work replaced by outside private research institutions is "a terrible idea". He explains why, what the CBO actually does for Congress and the American people — such as scoring some 600 pieces of legislation a year and privately advising members as they develop bills — that most are not familiar with, and how the office was formed out of the budget battles during the Nixon years.
"The folks at CBO are accustomed to some background level of being beaten up on — just as umpires and referees are used to it," Marron tells me, but "the level of enmity towards CBO by some circles today is quite extreme." He goes on to detail why outside groups — his own Urban Institute was cited by the Freedom Caucus as one of those which could help replace the CBO — cannot take the place of the Congressional agency. "If you're going to run an intelligent Congressional budget process, Congress really ought to have its own agency, producing its own numbers, that works directly for Congress, is part of Congress, and responds to the needs of Congress in ways that outside groups simply can't," he explains.
He also responds to critiques that CBO analyses have been inaccurate in the past and that the office, currently headed up by a conservative Republican appointed by a Republican Congress, is biased against Republican proposals. "From my point of view, the Congressional Budget Office is a real jewel in our government. It is a wonderful agency, filled with non-partisan professional staff whose job it is to give their best read to members of Congress about what the budget and economic implications will be of proposed policy."
Finally, as today's show closes, the US Senate adopts a new sanctions package against Russia, Iran and North Korea, which now heads to the White House for the President's signature…or veto. And Kris Kobach, the GOP "voter fraud" fraudster heading up Trump's so-called "Election Integrity" Commission has court sanctions upheld against him, and receives another smack-down from another federal judge for having 'demonstrat(ed) a pattern' of 'deceptive conduct' and 'patently misleading representations' in the ACLU's lawsuit against his proof-of-citizenship voter registration restrictions as Kansas Sec. of State.
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