On today's BradCast, House Republicans finally pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA) --- a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act ('ObamaCare') --- but at what cost? Also: Donald Trump signs a bill that pretends to protect religious liberties. But what does it really do? [Audio link to show follows below.]
It's difficult, if not impossible, to know the real cost of the Republicans' ACHA, since House Speaker Paul Ryan refused to allow the bill to be analyzed first by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office before forcing a vote in the House today. Instead, it was rammed through with a very narrow margin of all-Republican votes just hours after the final text was made available to members. That, as you'll recall, is exactly what Republicans used to pretend Democrats did during the 13-month process to pass ObamaCare in 2009 and 2010.
The costs, however, are likely to be enormous to the American public, if the bill gets through the Senate and is signed by the President, particularly to the poor, the elderly, the more than 25% of Americans with pre-existing conditions, and to those who found themselves filing bankruptcy due to medical expenses prior to the passage of ACA. The political cost to House Republicans, however, who left today for yet another 11-day recess, may be a whole different matter. The CBO predicted 24 million Americans would lose their health care coverage in the next decade under the GOP's failed plan six weeks ago. This version is likely to be much worse.
Also today, Donald Trump signed another one of his Executive Orders. This one pretends to counter the "religious discrimination" of the Johnson Amendment, a piece of otherwise almost 70 year old, non-controversial, bipartisan legislation originally signed by President Eisenhower, barring tax-exempt non-profit groups, like churches, from explicitly endorsing or opposing candidates for office. But what's the real point behind Trump's otherwise empty action today? And why is the religious Right so eager to see Trump "get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment," as he promised at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, just weeks after taking office?
Brendan Fischer, associate counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, joins us to explain this move that could ultimately result in allowing even more "dark money" to make its way into politics and elections. And, this time, while giving secret political funders a tax deduction for it in the bargain!
"We, as taxpayers, are subsidizing these groups, and we are not subsidizing these groups to offer wealthy donors a tax deduction for their secret political spending," Fischer explains. The Johnson Amendment, so-named for its original sponsor, then Sen. Lyndon Johnson, was enacted in response to a "dark money" attack against him during his 1954 reelection campaign by a non-profit, tax-exempt group.
While Presidential Executive Orders don't actually have the power to reverse legislation (whether this President understands that or not), Trump is pretending that his order will prevent the IRS from "targeting" religious institutions, as he and his evangelical allies claim to be the case, despite all evidence to the contrary.
"The Johnson Amendment is not targeting churches at all," says Fischer. "Because donors to these churches and charities get a tax deduction for their donations, 501(c)3's are prohibited from engaging in political activity. The reason that taxpayers are effectively subsidizing these groups is for their charitable, or religious or social welfare oriented activities, not for their political activities and partisan political engagement." But, of course, the religious Right would like to change that, and Trump appears more than willing to try and help.
The greater danger is that a provision to reverse the rarely-enforced Johnson Amendment could be slipped into upcoming legislation. Then, warns Fischer, churches and charities could potentially become what he describes as "super dark money groups" --- as if we don't already have enough problem with dark money in politics!
Finally: Fox "News" offers one more example today of the Right finding all new ways to pretend that they are victims. This time, if you believe Fox's fake news about a recent shooting, climate "skeptics" are becoming victims of those 'violent and dangerous' environmentalists...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)