Kentucky Leaders Respond After GOP Pulls ACA Repeal Tuesday, Sep 26 2017 

The latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act has failed.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday announced he is pulling the Republican health care bill.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would have eliminated the mandate that people buy insurance or pay a fine. It also would have done away with subsidies that help people purchase insurance and it would have scrapped the national exchange, Healthcare.gov.

The bill would have dramatically changed the way Medicaid and exchanges are operated – giving a state like Kentucky money to create its own system — similar to the now defunct Kynect. That chunk of money also would have not kept up with actual medical costs over time, possibly costing the state billions.

Kentucky Leaders Weigh-In

This past weekend, the bill was revised to send more Medicaid dollars to Alaska, Arizona, Kentucky and Maine — the homes of senators who had voiced opposition to the measure.

At an event in Louisville Monday, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a vocal opponent of the bill, called the last-minute changes “suspicious” and said the legislation still didn’t do enough to do away with Obamacare spending.

“I don’t know that we’ve fundamentally changed anything other than we’re re-shuffling who gets the money and that’s going to make some people happy and embitter other people,” Paul said Monday. He has criticized the measure’s block-granting Medicaid funds, saying that it would “immortalize” spending on the program.

Over the weekend, Graham-Cassidy co-sponsor Senator Lindsey Graham addressed Paul’s concerns in an interview with ABC News:

Third District Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth issued a statement Tuesday calling on Republicans to work with his party on fixing health care.

“After seven years of sabotage, it’s time for Republicans to finally come to the table and join Democrats in working together to improve health care,” Yarmuth said. “While I’m certainly glad this latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end coverage for tens of millions of Americans has collapsed, it’s even more clear to me how important it is that we continue to build on the progress we’ve made.”

Fourth District Rep. Thomas Massie couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday, but he tweeted his criticism of the latest bill on Saturday:

‘Plenty of fight left’

During a news conference Tuesday, McConnell said the fight to change the health care system is not over.

“We are not going to be able to do it this week, but it still lies ahead of us and we haven’t given up on that,” McConnell said.

Graham on Tuesday defended McConnell against criticism that the Senate leader didn’t win over stray Republicans, like Paul.

“It’s about the process and the short period of time, and the leader could do nothing about that,” Graham said. “So to anyone out there that doesn’t think Mitch McConnell has not done all he could, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“It took 18 months to pass Obamacare. It’ll take a while to repeal it. There’s plenty of fight left in us,” Graham added.

On Sept. 30, special budget rules that would’ve protected the repeal bill from a Democratic filibuster — meaning it only needed a simple majority — are set to expire.

Rand Paul still a ‘no’ on Graham-Cassidy bill; calls amendments shifting Medicaid funds to swing senators ‘suspicious’ Monday, Sep 25 2017 

Sen. Rand Paul told reporters in Louisville on Monday that he remained opposed to the Graham-Cassidy bill expected to be voted on in the U.S. Senate this week, which is billed as another Republican effort to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Paul had already expressed his opposition to the […]

In Other News…McConnell/Trump reunite (sort of), Cardinal football and basketball, Lawrence’s ‘mother!’ gets divisive reception Friday, Sep 8 2017 

Together Again: President Donald Trump tried out a new strategy this week: bypassing his own party to work with Democrats. Reuters says the president has reached across the aisle to reach a deal on the budget, debt ceiling and hurricane relief. The New Yorker says: “Give Donald Trump credit for one thing: he retains the […]

End Of DACA Brings Uncertainty To Thousands Of Kentuckians Tuesday, Sep 5 2017 

Tuesday’s announcement from the Trump administration officially ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — also called DACA — means nearly 6,000 Kentuckians brought to America as undocumented children would be eligible for deportation.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the Obama-era program an “unconstitutional exercise of authority” and announced that the administration would give Congress six months to pass a bill keeping elements of the program “should it so choose.”

Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat representing Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional district, called Trump’s promise to dismantle the program “cruel, inhumane, and harmful to us all.”

“These are people who were brought here as children, played by the rules, and earned diplomas,” Yarmuth said of undocumented immigrants affected by the policy. “If we want to be a country that lives by our ideals, that rewards merit and hard work, it is our obligation to reject the president’s heartless decision.”

The program provides some legal protections to about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants across the country.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 5,848 Kentucky residents had been approved for protections under DACA as of the end of March.

DACA applies to people brought to the U.S. prior to mid-2007 who were no older than 16 when they arrived and no older than 31 as of June 2012.

The program allows young undocumented immigrants to apply for work permits and protection from deportation. Recipients could not have felony convictions or more than three misdemeanor convictions.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul echoed Sessions’ argument that the Obama-era executive order was illegal, but called on Congress to come up with a legislative solution that would keep parts of the program.

“There are ways to make sure people who have been here for many years since childhood are allowed to stay,” Paul said on Twitter.

“We should include efforts to reduce and reform immigration in other areas at the same time. Congress will need to address this problem.”

Attorney General Sessions made the announcement Tuesday morning, saying the program “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”

Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said he was “sympathetic” to people who had been given protections under DACA.

But in a statement Tuesday afternoon, McConnell praised Trump’s decision to pull the plug on the program.

“President Obama wrongly believed he had the authority to re-write our immigration law. Today’s action by President Trump corrects that fundamental mistake,” he said. “This Congress will continue working on securing our border and ensuring a lawful system of immigration that works.”

This story has been updated. 

6 Priorities Congress Has To Deal With In 12 Days Tuesday, Sep 5 2017 

Lawmakers have less than two weeks of legislative days to head off a government shutdown, raise the nation’s borrowing limit and provide financial assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Congress is back after a monthlong break, although it may not have seemed like Washington was on vacation based on the pace of political news in August.

The racist protests in Charlottesville, Va., a historic hurricane in Texas, White House staff firings, the president picking fights with GOP leaders, a revived Afghanistan military strategy and a controversial presidential pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, each in their own way is testing the relationship, trust and expectations surrounding what President Trump and Congress can accomplish this year.

Republicans are hoping for a comeback after a disappointing first half of 2017, when unified GOP control of Washington yielded little in terms of major legislative accomplishments.

The goal is an ambitious overhaul of the entire federal tax code that aims to lower rates for every business and household in America. Republicans have pledged to have it signed into law by the end of the year.

But first, Washington has to avoid another round of self-inflicted, familiar crises, address impending deadlines and resolve unanticipated legislative demands before Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. The Jewish holidays also truncate this month’s legislative schedule, giving lawmakers just 12 days to tick off the following to-do list:

1) Keep the government running: The federal government runs out of money Sept. 30, so Congress has two options:

a) Approve new spending bills for next year, or

b) Approve a stop-gap measure to keep the government running on autopilot until lawmakers can reach a deal. A stop-gap is most likely, but Trump last month suggested he could veto a spending bill if it doesn’t include money to begin construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. His threat seems less likely in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, but until a new spending bill is signed into law, uncertainty will remain.

2) Avoid the first-ever default: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox News the Trump administration is asking Congress to approve the debt-limit increase as part of the emergency funding bill for hurricane relief efforts.

“The president and I believe that it should be tied to the Harvey funding,” Mnuchin said. “Our first priority is to make sure that the state gets money. It is critical. And to do that, we need to make sure we raise the debt limit.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., indicated in a joint statement they’d be willing to assist the administration to that end. “Providing aid in the wake of Harvey and raising the debt limit are both important issues, and Democrats want to work to do both,” they said.

That approach could put the administration on a collision course with conservatives. Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., has already warned the administration to keep the two issues separate. “The Harvey relief would pass on its own, and to use that as a vehicle to get people to vote for a debt ceiling is not appropriate,” Meadows told The Washington Post last week.

Republicans in Congress like to try to use the debt limit as a leverage vote to extract concessions elsewhere — like spending cuts. But since Republicans are certain to need Democratic votes to approve the increase, their leverage is limited.

3) Begin Hurricane Harvey relief efforts: The House is scheduled to vote this week on the first installment of what are expected to be several aid packages to assist Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. Last Friday, the administration formally requested an initial $7.85 billion for Harvey response and recovery efforts. Harvey relief should be relatively easy to approve, but conservatives in the past have griped about disaster spending without offsets elsewhere in the budget. Some conservatives are also warning party leaders not to add Harvey relief to any other must-pass legislation, like the debt limit, which the White House wants to do.

4) Renew the National Flood Insurance Program: Congress has to vote to reauthorize the flood program by Sept. 30. It’s already $25 billion in debt, and losses from Hurricane Harvey threaten to send it even deeper into the red.

The program is administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and provides federally guaranteed flood coverage to nearly 5 million policyholders. Texas’ Harris County, which includes Houston, has nearly 250,000 policyholders. Some lawmakers want to fundamentally overhaul the program, but a broader debate could be harder when Americans are suffering in real time.

5) Renew children’s health care: Congress must reauthorize the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program by Sept. 30 so that states don’t begin running out of money. It covers children up to age 19 whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but are still in need. It’s relatively uncontroversial but more popular among Democrats. It could also be a must-pass vehicle that GOP leaders use to attach less popular legislation — like a debt-limit increase — because Democratic votes will be necessary for passage on this bill as well.

6) Face reality on health care: The Trump administration is keeping the pressure on Republicans in Congress to try to revive the failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The clock is running out: The special budget rules that Republicans employed to get around the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster rules expire on Sept. 30.

That means Congress has to act or move on. Every indication, at least in the Senate, is that it is ready to move on. Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is holding hearings with ranking member Patty Murray, D-Wash., to see whether they can come up with a bipartisan bill to address the immediate needs of the individual health care market.

While those are the must-pass bills on the September agenda, this month will also see work on other legislation and more ambitious goals for this year.

Congress needs to approve the annual defense authorization bill, made more urgent this fall because of the rising North Korea threat and Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy. It is also Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain’s legislation. Action on the bill was delayed so McCain could undergo treatment for brain cancer. He is expected to return to the Senate this month to oversee its expected passage.

Republicans also still need to pass a budget resolution that outlines the broad contours of what they aim to do on the tax code. Republicans are once again planning to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a tax bill, because Democrats can’t filibuster that.

Congressional Republicans spent August trying to promote their tax efforts, although that message was largely ignored amid the natural disaster in Texas and the president’s poor handling of the events in Charlottesville that left a woman dead after a white nationalist rally. If Republicans intend to enact a tax bill by year’s end, lawmakers will need to unveil legislation in the coming weeks to keep it on track.

Congress may also need to add immigration legislation to its 2017 to-do list. The Trump administration is expected to announce what comes next for the Obama-era program that protects children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents from deportation.

Republican leaders, like House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, are asking the administration to hold off in order to give Congress time to come up with a legislative fix. If the administration moves to end the program, Congress may have to act sooner than party leaders would like on an issue that sharply divides the GOP.

Outside the Beltway, there are two happenings in September that could shake the political calculus in Washington: Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., is due in court to face corruption charges. The trial begins Wednesday in Newark, N.J., and is expected to last six to eight weeks.

Menendez has denied any wrongdoing. If he is found guilty, he will face pressure to resign his Senate seat. But with Republican Gov. Chris Christie in office, Menendez is unlikely to walk away from a safe Democratic seat that could end up in GOP hands in an already narrowly divided Senate.

Down South, Republican incumbent Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama is in a competitive Sept. 26 runoff for the GOP nomination against conservative former Judge Roy Moore.

Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have endorsed Strange, who was appointed to the seat after GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions was tapped to serve as attorney general. But Moore has an enthusiastic conservative following and could pull off the upset. If so, Democrats believe there’s a glimmer of a possibility to make it a race in the general election this December.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Facing Challenges, McConnell Says ‘That’s The Way It Is’ Sunday, Aug 27 2017 

By ADAM BEAM, Associated Press
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Facing the digital wrath of a Republican president increasingly unhappy with legislative roadblocks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a GOP gathering in his home state on Saturday that people should not be surprised with the challenges that come with governing.

“A lot of people look at all that and find it frustrating, messy. Well, welcome to the democratic process. That’s the way it is in our country,” McConnell said during the Republican Party of Kentucky’s Lincoln Dinner in Louisville.

President Donald Trump has criticized McConnell for the Senate’s failure to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s health care law despite years of promises, tweeting “that should NEVER have happened!”

The perceived acrimony has fed a narrative of discord in the GOP that threatens the future of Trump’s agenda, including changing the tax code and passing a national infrastructure bill. McConnell sought to quash those sentiments on Saturday, vowing to pass both and have “a permanent impact on the country.”

While McConnell praised the Trump administration for his appointment of conservative judges, he seemed to remind the president where the power lies in getting those appointments on the bench.

“I like to remind people the Senate is in the personnel business,” McConnell said. “There are over 1,200 appointments that a president makes that are subject to confirmation in the Senate. So, we’re deeply involved.”

Trump was seldom mentioned by any of the speakers, but when he was, it was in the context of McConnell’s role in getting him elected. Republican Party of Kentucky chairman Mac Brown said McConnell’s refusal to confirm Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court is “one of the primary reasons we have a Republican president today.”

And Gov. Matt Bevin, who challenged McConnell in the 2014 Republican primary, noted he and the senator “haven’t always been the tightest of buds” but praised McConnell for getting Justice Neil Gorsuch confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I’m grateful to you for that, as an American,” Bevin said.

Congressional leaders are expected to begin work on changing the nation’s tax code when they return to Washington after the August recess, and McConnell indicated he would not seek to partner with Democrats to get it passed. He said Senate Democrats like Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts “want to redistribute income,” calling them “the party of government.”

“We are, for the most part, America’s private sector party. Obviously, America needs both. The question is what is the balance?” McConnell said. “The liberals are going to struggle and fight and protest every step of the way. But we’re the ones in charge now, and we intend to deliver.”

Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats in the Senate.

Louisville Activists Call On McConnell To Hold Trump Accountable Tuesday, Aug 22 2017 

About two-dozen demonstrators held signs and delivered speeches Tuesday outside the Louisville office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, demanding that McConnell hold President Donald Trump accountable for comments he made following this month’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Louisville protest was organized by Melissa Byrne of the group UltraViolet. According to its Facebook page, the group “works on a range of issues, including health care, economic security, violence, and reproductive rights.”

“Mitch McConnell refuses to call for Trump’s impeachment, resignation or censure after his comments equivocating and supporting the white supremacists in Charlottesville,” Byrne said.

At a news conference following the Charlottesville rally, Trump said that “both sides” were to blame for violence that erupted at the rally and that there were some “very fine people” among those marching to protect Confederate statues.

Byrne said McConnell needs to do more to hold Trump accountable for his remarks.

“It’s actually beyond vocal,” she said. “It’s easy to put out a tweet or a statement. He needs to back up his words with action.”

When asked for a response, McConnell’s office on Tuesday pointed to comments the senator has made condemning the “hate and bigotry witnessed in Charlottesville” and his statement that there are “no good neo-Nazis.”

“We can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred,” McConnell said in a statement last week. “There are no good neo-nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head.”

In Louisville, McConnell, Mnuchin Say Debt Ceiling Increase Will Happen Monday, Aug 21 2017 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there is “zero chance” Congress will allow the country to default on its debt by voting to not increase the borrowing limit.

McConnell’s comments came Monday during a joint appearance in Louisville with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin said it is his “strong preference” that Congress pass a “clean” increase to the debt limit, meaning the legislation would have no other proposals attached to it that would make it more difficult to pass. He also said simplifying the nation’s tax code is a priority.

“What we’re trying to do, on the personal side, is simplify taxes,” he said. “Taxes are way, way too complicated. By raising the standard deduction, by limiting deductions, 95 percent of Americans will be able to fill out their taxes on a large postcard.”

McConnell did not comment on Mnuchin’s request for a clean debt ceiling increase, but vowed to “get the job done.”

He also didn’t mention Trump during his remarks. These were McConnell’s first public comments since the president publicly criticized him for failing to pass a repeal of former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

As far as the health care law goes, McConnell said the way forward on making dramatic changes is “murky.”

Last month, the Republican-led Senate failed to muster enough votes for a partial repeal of the ACA.

McConnell said moving forward, Republican leaders will look for some common ground with Democrats to revive the effort.

“The Democrats have been pretty uninterested in any reforms,” McConnell said. “They’re really interested in sending money to insurance companies, but not very interested in reforms.   So when we get back after Labor Day we’ll have to sit down and talk to them and see what the way forward might be.”

Jim DuPlessis Should Follow His Own Advice. Thursday, Aug 17 2017 

Jim DuPlessis had this to say in a Hardin County News Enterprise article he penned: “All too often people will read and believe whatever they see as long as it supports their political belief structure.” We can agree with that … Continue reading →

The post Jim DuPlessis Should Follow His Own Advice. appeared first on Hillbilly Report.

McConnell: White nationalist rally not welcome in Kentucky, as ‘there are no good neo-Nazis’ Wednesday, Aug 16 2017 

Sen. Mitch McConnell issued a statement Wednesday morning denouncing a planned rally of white nationalists and neo-Nazis in Lexington, saying this group’s “messages of hate and bigotry are not welcome in Kentucky and should not be welcome anywhere in America.” Though McConnell’s statement did not directly mention President Donald Trump, it did draw a distinct […]

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