On today's BradCast: Donald Trump declares the U.S. government response to the devastating Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico couldn't have been better, and a bi-partisan effort in the U.S. Senate gains support, but struggles to overcome the President's sabotage of ObamaCare and schizophrenic response to the measure. [Audio link to show follows below.]
First, the President met with Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló at the White House on Thursday, and gave himself a "10 out of 10" rating for his federal government's response to the disaster and ongoing humanitarian crisis following Hurricanes Maria and Irma on the island of 3.5 U.S. citizens. During the sometimes uncomfortable 30-minute press avail, Trump sought approval for the response from an on-the-spot Rosselló.
The official death toll after Maria stands at 48, though independent analyses put the number of dead at more than 400. The power grid is still down across the vast majority of the island, and many are still struggling for fresh running water, though CNN offers some good news today regarding the many desperate citizens who had been drinking from wells at toxic Superfund sites.
Then, following Trump's announcement late last week that he was cutting off subsidy payments mandated by the Affordable Care Act (or 'ObamaCare') to help cover out-of-pocket health care expenses for low-income Americans, a bi-partisan agreement was struck in the U.S. Senate to pay those Cost-Sharing Reductions (CSR) subsidies. Trump originally lauded the deal announced between Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) on Tuesday. But he has since flip-flopped on support of the bill by the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Health Committee in the 48 hours since. Trump's cut-off to those CSR payments has already resulted in health care premiums sky-rocketing around the country, including in states like Pennsylvania, where, its insurance commissioner announced Monday, rates are now set to soar some 30% for many in 2018.
We're joined by TPM's Congressional reporter ALICE OLLSTEIN from the Capitol today for the latest on what the Alexander-Murray measure, now co-sponsored by some 24 U.S. Senators from both parties, would actually do; how members are reacting to Trump's predictably unpredictable roller-coaster responses to it; how each party is attempting to sell the bill to its members; and whether GOP leadership will even allow the legislation to come to the floor for a vote, much less whether it can be passed by the Senate or the even more rabidly-opposed right-wing members of U.S. House.
Trump "has been all over the map on this," Ollstein explained, when I asked about the response on Capitol Hill to his ever-shifting statements. "Every time he opens his mouth, it's a new and confusing statement. No one has any idea, really, where he stands on this. So I think they're just trying to rally as many votes as they can, and worry about the President later."
"Keep in mind, this bill is coming kind of too late to make anything better for 2018," she says. "If they had gotten it done by mid-September, the insurers could have lowered their rates and prevented some of the big increases we're seeing. Now they blew past that deadline because they wanted to take one more whack at repeal, which failed. So now it's all about stabilizing the market, preventing additional chaos, and we won't really see the benefits of this until [the] end of 2018, beginning of 2019. That's right when the midterms are going to be. And so does the Republican leadership want their members to face re-election amid all of this healthcare chaos that they might get blamed for, as many polls indicate?"
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for the latest Green News Report on the newest GOP scheme to allow drilling in the pristine Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to export oil to China; updates on the deadly wildfires in CA and storm disasters in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands; and some very good news indeed regarding electric vehicles...at least in Europe.
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(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)