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Chuck Grassley

Some pushback on Jeff Mateer

A small bit of sanity.

Even as President Donald Trump rushes to fill federal judge openings across the nation, a top Senate Republican is urging the White House to put the brakes on an outspoken nominee from Texas.

Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that he told Trump to “reconsider” two controversial judicial nominees:

Jeff Mateer of Texas and Brett Talley of Alabama.

“I’ve advised the White House they ought to reconsider,” Grassley told CNN. “I would advise the White House not to proceed.”

Mateer, a top aide to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, was nominated by Trump to be federal judge in Texas. He has faced bipartisan criticism for a series of speeches in 2015 on homosexuality, including a reference to transgender children as part of “Satan’s plan.”

Talley, a Justice Department lawyer and candidate for a federal judge position in Alabama, has come under fire for urging readers in a 2013 blog post to join the National Rifle Association while attacking gun control legislation after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as “the greatest attack on our constitutional freedoms in our lifetime.”

With no previous judicial experience, Talley became the third judicial nominee since 1989 to receive a unanimous rating of “not qualified” from the American Bar Association, a move that Republicans have decried as partisan.

See here for some background. That appeared on Tuesday, and by Wednesday Sen. Grassley had had enough.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Republican said Wednesday that two of President Trump’s nominees for open seats on the federal bench will not be confirmed, just a day after urging the White House to “reconsider” them.

U.S. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said that based on his discussions with the White House, the nominations of Jeff Mateer and Brett Talley would not move forward through the confirmation process. The decision comes after reports that both nominees made public comments celebrating groups or policies that were discriminatory.

Good. Look, if you’re a Republican, surely you can see that you can do better than these two clowns. There are plenty of severely conservative potential judges out there who are also well-qualified for the job and are capable of acting like normal human beings. It’s really not much to ask, even from Donald Trump. Well, maybe it is too much to ask from Trump. In which case, voting losers like Mateer and Talley down might get the message across. Advise but don’t consent, in other words. Score one for a smidgeon of sanity.

Cruz may go on Obamacare

Go ahead, laugh it up. You know you want to.

Not Ted Cruz

Not Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz, one of the loudest critics of Obamacare, will soon be using it for health insurance coverage.

“We will presumably go on the exchange and sign up for health care and we’re in the process of transitioning over to do that,” Cruz, a Republican candidate for president, told The Des Moines Register Tuesday.

Cruz’s wife, Heidi, is going on an unpaid leave of up absence from her job at Goldman Sachs to join Cruz full time on the campaign trail, Cruz told the Register.

Bloomberg was first to report that Heidi Cruz has taken the leave. CNN noted that Cruz, who has boasted about not needing to receive government health care benefits, would no longer be covered under his wife’s health insurance plan.

[…]

Cruz, as an employee of the government, will use the exchange to choose his employer-provided insurance. Iowa U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley pushed through an amendment on the Affordable Care Act that requires members of Congress to obtain their coverage via the exchanges. Congress pays most of the premium. But Cruz won’t be getting any extra benefit under the Affordable Care Act that a member of Congress wouldn’t have gotten before the ACA became law.

Asked if it chafes at all to have to rely on Obamacare, Cruz told the Register: “Well, it is written in the law that members will be on the exchanges without subsidies just like millions of Americans so that’s – I think the same rules should apply to all of us. Members of Congress should not be exempt.”

But, Cruz added, he’d still like to see Obamacare repealed in its entirety.

Wonkblog notes that Cruz will not be taking any of the contribution money that legislators and their staffers are entitled to, so in that sense he’s sticking to his principle. I say if he really wants to be true to his vision, he should make like Louie Gohmert and forgo health insurance altogether. That’s the kind of freedom from tyranny he wants all those newly-insured people (and lots of not-so-newly-insured people, I expect) to have once he becomes President and repeals the Affordable Care Act, right? Well, then now is not the time for half-Measures. Now is the time to show us what you’re really made of and boldly go uninsured, Ted. Hell, just the opportunity to do a little civil disobedience by refusing to pay the tax penalty should have you licking your lips and twirling your mustache, if you had one to twirl. If Louie can do it, Ted, so can you. Anything less would be a sellout.

Cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face isn’t a matter of principle

It’s just stupid and self-destructive.

Louie Gohmert

Louie Gohmert

Lots of conservative lawmakers hate Obamacare. Rep. Louie Gohmert is putting his money where his mouth is.

The Tyler Republican gave up his health insurance for 2014, asserting that the president’s signature health care law, the Affordable Care Act, has made coverage too expensive.

“Other people are going to see what I did when I looked into health insurance for my wife and me: that the deductible rate, it doubled, about $3,000 to $6,000, and our policy was going to go from about $300 to about $1,500 a month,” he said during a recent radio interview with Trey Graham, a pastor at First Melissa Baptist Church in Collin County. “I actually don’t have insurance right now, so thank you very much, Obamacare.”

Gohmert’s salary as a member of Congress is $174,000 a year. And his calculations ignore the hefty employer subsidy for which he is eligible — almost $950 per month. He says he will pay the tax that takes effect this year for those without insurance — 1 percent of his annual income.

Health care experts say Gohmert is taking a big risk. He’s 60. His wife, Kathy Gohmert, is 59. At that stage of life, medical expenses are common and unpredictable.

“By not obtaining insurance, you are just rolling the dice, gambling that you are not going to get sick or going to get hit by a car,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. “Most financial advisers and most independent experts would say it’s a wise move to obtain insurance and basically a no-brainer if you have an employer who is willing to kick in about 70 percent of the cost of your premium.”

That’s the case for Gohmert.

But for months, he’s said he would rather give up his government-supplied insurance than accept any government subsidy. If he did take the subsidy available to federal lawmakers and their aides, he would probably pay a monthly premium of about $600 — far less than the figure he cited on Graham’s show, which aired Sunday.

In a brief interview at the Capitol, Gohmert said that he’s a victim of Obamacare.

“I lost my health care. I liked it OK, but I didn’t get to keep it,” he said, referring to his previous insurance plan. “I couldn’t afford to go up four or five times what I was paying and double my deductible, and so I’m better off with just setting money aside for health care and paying the penalty.

[…]

Members of Congress and their aides represent an unusual category of insurance customers. Before the Affordable Care Act, they were eligible for the same insurance options offered to civilian employees across the federal government.

Under the new law, they get insurance through the Washington, D.C., insurance exchange, which created an unintended problem. Workers at big companies get employee-subsidized insurance through their jobs. Exchanges were meant for people who lacked insurance and didn’t get such subsidies.

To make sure that members of Congress and their aides weren’t penalized, the Obama administration announced that subsidies would carry over for them to the local exchange.

To be clear, the reason why members of Congress and their staffers are required to buy insurance through the exchange is because of a political stunt pulled by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R, Iowa) during the debate over the Affordable Care Act when it was still a bill. Had it not been for Grassley’s failed effort to embarrass Democrats during the debate, Gohmert would still have the same insurance he’d had since he was first elected. Go blame Chuck Grassley if you don’t like your choices, Louie. Or, you know, blame yourself.

Honestly, I don’t even know what principle Gohmert thinks he’s defending here. The right to be sick? The right to be bankrupted by medical misfortune? The right to be stuck in a crappy job because you have a pre-existing condition and need the insurance it provides? I don’t wish for bad things to happen to people, but if the Gohmerts were to suffer adverse consequences as a result of this foolish decision, it would at least serve as a shining example for why people need to have insurance, and why the Affordable Care Act was so vitally necessary for so many Americans. So thanks for that, Louie. Only you could have done this. Hair Balls has more.

Can we call this a bipartisan agreement?

From last week.

As Democrats in Congress push harder for a government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers in some reform bills, Sen. John Cornyn said it remains a “deal-breaker” with Republicans.

From this week, via Kos.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday ordered Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to drop a proposal to tax health benefits and stop chasing Republican votes on a massive health care reform bill.

Reid, whose leadership is considered crucial if President Barack Obama is to deliver on his promise of enacting health care reform this year, offered the directive to Baucus through an intermediary after consulting with Senate Democratic leaders during Tuesday morning’s regularly scheduled leadership meeting. Baucus was meeting with Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) Tuesday afternoon to relay the information.

According to Democratic sources, Reid told Baucus that taxing health benefits and failing to include a strong government-run insurance option of some sort in his bill would cost 10 to 15 Democratic votes; Reid told Baucus it wasn’t worth securing the support of Grassley and at best a few additional Republicans.

OK then. The Democrats can pass a better bill, and the Republicans can sit on the sidelines instead of “negotiating” a “compromise” that they’d all then vote against anyway. Works for me. Ezra notes the political calculus of it:

The story doesn’t say this, but the likely concessions would also have another effect: They would make the bill less appealing to the public. Taxing employer health benefits, which I support, is a wildly unpopular idea. So too is eliminating the public insurance option, which commands large majorities in polling (much larger majorities, actually, than health-care reform as a whole). A bipartisan bill, in other words, will probably attract three to four Republicans, and in return, sacrifice a half-dozen Democrats, demoralize the liberal base and create a plan that’s harder to sell to the public. It’s hard to imagine the cost-benefit calculus that could bring those sides of the ledger into balance.

He also thinks that this story was put out by a Democratic Senate staffer who opposes the idea of telling Baucus to ignore the Republicans, probably from one of the usual suspects. I have a feeling that it won’t play out the way that person hoped it would. I sure hope so, anyway.