A shutdown’s worth of political famine behind them, Senate Republicans took to the Senate floor to feast on the Affordable Care Act and its troubles.
Senator after senator, from defund-Obamacare champion Ted Cruz of Texas to the pragmatic aisle-crosser Susan Collins of Maine, shared stories of their constituents losing their health insurance. In all, of the 45 Republicans senators, 34 spoke on Thursday.
President Obama’s much-criticized line promising Americans they could keep their plans if they wanted to was a prominent feature in most of the short speeches. That Republicans are pouncing on the plan’s troubles is far from surprising, but the show Thursday underscored the sharp contrast between the GOP’s current position and the frayed status of the conference during the shutdown and the debt-limit fight.
The usually sleepy Senate chamber crackled with the sounds of confident Republicans, whose speeches highlighted woes but didn’t offer policy tweaks or new legislation.
A grinning Minority Leader Mitch McConnell previewed the onslaught—and the GOP’s thinking—Wednesday after the weekly party luncheon. “Obviously, the panic has set in on the other side. Everything we predicted was going to happen with Obamacare has happened,” he said.
Senate Democrats, for their part, are meeting with White House officials in the Capitol at 1 p.m. Thursday to discuss a possible legislative path forward.
A Senate Democratic leadership aide suggested that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could use the bill expected to pass from Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., as a possible vehicle to offer their own fixes to the law. But much depends on how the meeting with administration officials goes, the aide said.
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In The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin gives Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the longread treatment. The scourge of corrupt New York pols, bad actors on Wall Street, and New York gang members, Bharara learned at the foot of Chuck Schumer, the famously limelight-hogging senator whom he served as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee staff. No surprise then, that after President Obama appointed him, Bharara "brought a media-friendly approach to what has historically been a closed and guarded institution. In professional background, Bharara resembles his predecessors; in style, he’s very different. His personality reflects his dual life in New York’s political and legal firmament. A longtime prosecutor, he sometimes acts like a budding pol; his rhetoric leans more toward the wisecrack than toward the jeremiad. He expresses himself in the orderly paragraphs of a former high-school debater, but with deft comic timing and a gift for shtick."
President Obama has announced another round of commutations of prison sentences. Most of the 58 individuals named are incarcerated for possessions with intent to distribute controlled substances. The prisoners will be released between later this year and 2018.
The Daily Beast has unearthed a piece that Donald Trump wrote for Gear magazine in 2000, which anticipates his 2016 sales pitch quite well. "Perhaps it's time for a dealmaker who can get the leaders of Congress to the table, forge consensus, and strike compromise," he writes. Oddly, he opens by defending his reputation as a womanizer: "The hypocrites argue that a man who loves and appreciates beautiful women (and does so legally and openly) shouldn't become a national leader? Is there something wrong with appreciating beautiful women? Don't we want people in public office who show signs of life?"
An aide to Mitt Romney confirmed to the Washington Post that the 2102 GOP nominee will not attend the Republican convention this year. He joins the two living Republican presidents, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as 2008 nominee John McCain in skipping the event. Even among living Republican nominees, that leaves only Bob Dole who could conceivably show up. Dole did say in January that he'd prefer Trump to Ted Cruz, but his age (92) could keep him from attending.