Barack Obama Archives - Page 7 of 98 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott on GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare: ‘They can’t stop’

Gov. Rick Scott said federal lawmakers need to keep their word, and continue their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“They can’t stop,” said Scott following a stop in Fort Myers on Monday. “They all promised they were going to repeal and replace Obamacare, and they got to do it.”

The Naples Republican’s comments come as Congress returns to an unresolved debate over GOP proposals to roll back much of former President Barack Obama’s health care law. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called off a pre-recess vote on the Senate’s measure, when it appeared it would fail.

Scott has been vocal in his opposition to the current health care law, and has made several trips to Washington, D.C. to talk with federal lawmakers about repealing and replacing the law. He was last in the nation’s capital to talk with lawmakers about health care on June 27, the same day McConnell announced he would be delaying a vote on the bill.

“The way I always look at it is … until you get results, you’re just working hard every day,” said Scott when asked whether he thought his discussions with federal lawmakers were productive. “It’s like the legislative process this session. We worked hard to get the money for Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida, the money for schools. You work every day. Until it’s all done, you always wonder.”

The future of the GOP health care plan remains unclear. The Associated Press reported that at least 10 Republican senators have expressed opposition to the initial bill, drafted by McConnell. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority, and Democrats are united against the bill. That means just three Republican votes against it will doom it.

Last week, McConnell said he would introduce a fresh bill in about a week, but he also acknowledged that if the broader effort fails, he may turn to a smaller bill with quick help for insurers and consumers and negotiate with Democrats.

The governor said what is important to him is that “Florida is treated fairly” under whatever legislation ultimately clears Congress. Scott also said it’s important that, whether someone has a pre-existing condition, they have the right to buy the plan they want.

The state, he said, should also have “flexibility in our Medicaid program to figure out our own benefits, reimbursement rates and things like that.” The federal government also needs to “reduce the amount of regulations” states need to deal with.

David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said criticized Scott’s call for lawmakers to pass a bill, saying Scott is “only ever looking out for himself.” Scott is largely believed to be mulling a 2018 U.S. Senate run.

“First Scott bragged that he helped craft the toxic GOP health care plan that spikes costs by 20 percent, imposes an age tax on older Floridians and strips coverage for pre-existing conditions — all to give himself a big tax break. Now he’s demanding to ram this unpopular plan through Congress, even though the consequences for middle-class Floridians would be expensive and horrific,” said Bergstein in a statement. “It’s just another reminder that Scott is only ever looking out for himself — while Floridians who actually work for a living are paying the price.”

_The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine to hold re-election fundraiser in Sarasota July 23

Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine visits Florida this month for a fundraiser in support his 2018 re-election bid.

Kaine will hold a cocktail reception beginning 5 p.m. Sunday, July 23, at The Francis, a special event venue in downtown Sarasota. Tickets for the cocktail reception start at a suggested contribution of $250, going up to $5,400 for a spot as event chair.

The former Democratic National Committee chair was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016 on a ticket that won Virginia by a larger margin than Barack Obama did in 2012. After Clinton’s loss, Kaine has remained a popular figure in state politics, previously serving as governor and mayor of Richmond. Since 2012, he has represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate.

Kaine serves on the Armed Services; Budget; Foreign Relations and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees.

Since the election, Kaine has been outspoken figure against Donald Trump, particularly on issues of education, climate change, and LGBTQ rights. He has referred to some of Trump’s antagonistic relationships with U.S. allies as “amateur hour stuff,” and decrying the president’s proposed Muslim travel ban as ineffective in easing America’s tensions with Iran and Iraq.

Last month, Kaine accused Trump of being “jealous” of former President Obama’s accomplishments, citing that as the reason he pulled out of the Paris climate accord.

“Why did Trump really walk away from #ParisAgreement? He’s surrounded by science deniers and fossil fuel junkies,” Kaine tweeted. “POTUS jealous of Obama accomplishments. But in the end, American innovative spirit is stronger than his insecurities.”

On Thursday, the Virginia Democrat was one of nearly 30 senators signing a letter to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, urging him to reinstate resources that protect LGBTQ people from housing discrimination. Those resources, which the Trump administration recently cut, help ensure enforcement of HUD nondiscrimination policies.

While Kaine’s popularity in his home state is holding firm — with a comfortable lead in most polling — he could face any one of several possible Republican contenders, including local and national figures such as former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, former Gov. Jim Gilmore and former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Last weekend, state’s divided Republican Party narrowly voted to select Kaine’s Senate challenger through a primary process, which is friendlier to centrist voters, instead of what the Richmond Times-Dispatch called “a rowdier convention driven by conservative activists.”

RSVPs for the Sarasota event are with Renzo Werner at rwerner@cornerstone-strategic.com or (305) 308-8878. The Francis is at 1269 N Palm in Sarasota.

Tampa Bay residents passionately urge Bill Nelson to keep fighting for Obamacare

Ten days ago, South Tampa resident Karen Clay told a national cable audience on MSNBC about how Medicaid is more than just a lifeline for her severely disabled son, Mike Phillips. “It’s been a life.”

Clay and her family have been able to take care of him at home through a federal waiver, which would go away if massive budget cuts to Medicaid goes through as proposed in legislation pending on Capitol Hill.

“It is amazing this at this point in time, that we are fighting to spend less money. That’s what we just cannot understand,” Clay told Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and reporters gathered at his Tampa district office Monday afternoon. “It’s unconscionable that we are having this occur.”

Clay and her son were part of a small group of citizens in attendance whose lives have been enhanced through the Affordable Care Act. The told the senator to continue fighting Republicans attempts to replace and repeal Obamacare, which they are able to do if they can muster the 51 votes in the Senate in support.

At the end of last week, there were approximately 8-9 Republican Senators reportedly balking at the plan, however, as currently drafted.

The Congressional Budget Office predicted last week that the Senate Republican bill to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act would reduce federal spending on Medicaid by a total of $772 billion.

At the age of 40, Elizabeth Isom was hit with a hard-to-diagnose ailment that ultimately forced her to leave her job and lose her health insurance. The St. Petersburg resident was forced to get care at health care clinics, which she said could never invest in researching what was actually wrong with her. Ultimately, the clinic discovered a tumor in her sinus cavity, where it remained for another year.

The tumor then penetrated her skull, resulting in optic neuritis, aneurysms, and lesions throughout her body and mouth.

When insurance became available on January 1, 2014, Isom was finally able to access coverage through the ACA.

“If it wasn’t for the ACA, I don’t know if I would be alive, truthfully, ” she told Nelson.

Sarasota resident Olivia Babis was born disabled without arms and later contracted two autoimmune disorders. Because of her pre-existing health conditions, the only insurance company who would offer her insurance (pre-ACA) would have charged her $1,800 in monthly premiums.

Babis has been able to get affordable insurance through the ACA and doesn’t want it to go away.

“If they repeal it, there’s no insurance company that’s going to insure me,” she told Nelson. “My prescriptions are $1,500 a month without insurance. There’s no way that I can afford that,” she said, as her voice cracked.

“I’m not going to let them eliminate the ACA,” Nelson responded immediately. “I’m going to do all in my power, and I believe we will be successful because I think that stories like yours and Elizabeth’s, I think these stories are finally going to go through to them [congressional Republicans].”

Regina Hebert of Sun City has had severe arthritis, resulting in joint replacements over the years.

Stressed by a corporate job, Hebert quit to launch her own business, thereby losing employer-based health care insurance. Taking the independent route, Hebert went without coverage until the fall of 2013, when she signed up immediately as the government began allowing people to register for the health care exchanges.

Later, Hebert was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, resulting in chemotherapy and radiation treatment she was able to access through participation in the ACA exchanges. “The ACA saved my life. Absolutely saved my life,” she vowed.

“The ACA saved my life,” she vowed. “Absolutely saved my life.”

Nelson admits the ACA has legitimate problems, and he has offered two proposals that could save billions of dollars.

One would create a reinsurance/catastrophe fund for the health care insurance companies, which Nelson says would lower the premiums in Florida by 13 percent.

The other would be to allow Medicaid to be able to buy prescription drugs in bulk, as in Medicare, thus reducing overall drug costs (Nelson offered that proposal as an amendment to another piece of legislation, which was ultimately defeated).

“What we ought to be doing is fixing the existing law, instead of repealing it,” Nelson said, adding that the partisan politics in Washington when it comes to health care is a “sad commentary, but that is what we’re facing.”

While the citizens in Nelson’s office praised the senator fulsomely for acknowledging their stories, they had a decidedly different attitude toward Florida’s other U.S. Senator, Republican Marco Rubio.

“Marco Rubio’s office won’t even talk to us,” Hebert said.

Clay said she was denied an opportunity to speak with Rubio during a visit to Washington last week.

GOP ponders whether Donald Trump helps sell health care

It was a platform most politicians can only hope for: A captivated, 6,000-person crowd and more than an hour of live, prime-time television coverage to hype the Republican vision for a new health care system.

But when President Donald Trump got around to talking about the Republican plan — about 15 minutes into his speech — he was wildly off message. Instead of preaching party lines about getting the government out of Americans’ health decisions and cutting costs, he declared: “Add some money to it!”

The moment captured a major dilemma for Republicans as they look for ways to jumpstart their stalled health care overhaul. A master salesman, Trump has an inimitable ability to command attention, and that could be used to bolster Americans’ support for Republican efforts and ramp up pressure on wavering lawmakers. But some lawmakers and congressional aides privately bemoan his thin grasp of the bill’s principles, and worry that his difficulty staying on message will do more harm than good.

“You know, he’s very personable and people like talking to him and he’s very embracing of that, so there will be certain people he’d like to talk to,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. “But I’d let Mitch handle it,” he continued, referring to the lead role Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has played thus far.

McConnell delayed a vote on the health legislation this week after it became clear he couldn’t muster enough Republican support to offset the unanimous opposition from Democrats. GOP leaders are now hoping to pass a bill in the Senate and reconcile it with an earlier version approved by the House before lawmakers head home for their August recess.

Trump has largely ceded the details to McConnell, deferring to the Kentucky lawmaker’s legislative expertise. He has spent some time talking privately to wavering senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, testing his powers of persuasion. But he’s invested no significant effort in selling the American people on the impact the Republican bill would have on their health care coverage, beyond making sweeping declarations about how wonderful he expects it to be.

“We’re looking at a health care that will be a fantastic tribute to your country,” Trump said during a White House event Wednesday. “A health care that will take care of people finally for the right reasons and also at the right cost.”

His approach is a contrast to former President Barack Obama, who delivered an address to Congress on health care and held town halls around the country about the Democrats’ legislation in 2009. The Obamacare measure barely cleared Congress and became a rallying cry for Republicans, something Obama blamed in part on a failure by his party to communicate its virtues clearly to the public.

At times, even Trump’s largely generic health care commentary has left Republicans fuming. Some lawmakers were particularly irked by Trump’s assertion that the House bill — which he robustly supported and even celebrated with a Rose Garden ceremony — was “mean.”

One Republican congressional aide said that comment left some lawmakers worried that the president — who had no real ties to the GOP before running for the White House — could turn on them if a bill passes but the follow-up becomes politically damaging. The official insisted on anonymity in order to describe private discussions.

Newt Gingrich, the former GOP House speaker and a close Trump ally, said Republicans have struggled to communicate about the complexities of health care policy because “nobody has served as a translator.” He said Trump is well-positioned to take the lead, but acknowledged that the real estate mogul-turned-politician would need some help from policy experts in formulating a sales pitch.

“Trump will be able to repeat it with enormous effectiveness once somebody translates it,” Gingrich said.

The White House disputes that Trump isn’t steeped in the details of the Obamacare repeal efforts. Economic adviser Gary Cohn and other officials on the National Economic Council have convened several meetings with him to explain differences between the House and Senate bills. One senior White House official described the president as “fully engaged” in the process.

During a private meeting Tuesday with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is strongly opposed to the current Senate bill, Trump said his priority was to increase the number of insurance choices available to consumers and lower monthly premiums, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the discussion. The official said the president also specifically highlighted the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s projection that average premiums would be 30 percent lower in 2020 if the Senate bill took effect.

To some Trump allies, more public engagement on a substantive policy debate like the future of the nation’s health care system would also be a welcome reprieve for a president whose approval ratings have tumbled amid the snowballing investigations into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia.

“I think his numbers would go up if he had a couple of addresses,” said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign adviser. “If he communicates directly with the American people, he cuts through the noise.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Linda Geller-Schwartz: Donald Trump should act on Florida’s bipartisan support for judicial nominees

Linda Geller-Schwartz

Donald Trump has been mired in controversy his first few months in office, and by his own admission, the job of being President is harder than he thought. But Trump has an opportunity to get something meaningful done quickly and in a bipartisan fashion for Floridians. He can act on an appeal from our two Senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio to fill vacant seats in our federal courts.

These two senators have jointly asked the president to renominate three of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees to Florida’s federal courts who had been vetted and approved by both Senators, but left waiting for hearings (along with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland) when their nominations expired in January.

Sens. Nelson and Rubio’s rare show of bipartisanship couldn’t come at a better time for Florida’s federal courts. There are currently seven federal judicial vacancies in Florida and five of them are formally classified as “judicial emergencies,” meaning there simply are not enough judges to handle the growing caseload. As judicial vacancies remain unfilled, Floridians who rely on our court system are the ones who suffer.

Last year, the watchdog group Integrity Florida issued a report detailing the myriad ways that lengthy judicial vacancies delay and deny justice for Floridians. Prolonged judicial vacancies inevitably result in case delays, higher caseloads, increased administrative stress and judicial burnout. Such judicial vacancies “threaten the timely administration of justice in both criminal and civil cases” according to the report.

In their letter, the senators asked the president to renominate Patricia Barksdale and William Jung for vacancies in the Middle District of Florida, and Phillip Lammens in the Northern District. With our courts already stretched razor thin, it only makes sense to move these qualified bipartisan nominees through the process rather than starting over from scratch. To underscore this point, Nelson and Rubio make clear in their letter that “timely action is needed as the two vacancies in the Middle District are considered judicial emergencies.”

The letter also refers to the failure of Senate leaders to take “timely action in the last Congress.” In addition to the highly publicized blocking of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans in recent years have refused to act on numerous lower court vacancies, causing the number of judicial vacancies to skyrocket.

As a result, President Trump now faces the daunting task of filling more than 120 federal court vacancies. Where there are qualified, bipartisan candidates available to be renominated, it makes sense for the president to act quickly. Failing to address these vacancies threatens the stability and fairness of our justice system and delays justice for Americans seeking their day in court.

Floridians expect and deserve to have a fair and functioning judicial system, and that requires our courts to be working at full capacity. Sens. Nelson and Rubio should be commended for setting aside partisan politics for the sake of our judicial system and the public interest. For his part, President Trump should take notice and heed their advice.

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Linda Geller-Schwartz is Florida State Policy Advocate for the National Council of Jewish Women.

 

Facing defections, Senate GOP leaders delay health care vote

In a bruising setback, Senate Republican leaders are delaying a vote on their prized health care bill until after the July 4 recess, forced to retreat by a GOP rebellion that left them lacking enough votes to even begin debating the legislation, two sources said Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the message to GOP senators at a private lunch attended by Vice President Mike Pence and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. The decision was described by a Republican aide and another informed person who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the closed-door decision.

All GOP senators were planning to travel to the White House later Tuesday to meet with President Donald Trump, one source said.

McConnell had hoped to push the measure through his chamber by this week’s end, before an Independence Day recess that party leaders fear will be used by foes of the legislation to tear away support.

The bill rolling back much of President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law has been one of the party’s top priorities for years, and the delay is a major embarrassment to Trump and McConnell. At least five GOP senators — conservatives and moderates — had said they would vote against beginning debate.

Reprinted with permission of the Associated Press.

These senators will make or break the GOP’s health care push

President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to repeal and replace “Obamacare” is now in the hands of a key group of GOP senators who are opposing —or not yet supporting — legislation Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing to bring to a vote this week.

These lawmakers range from moderate to conservative Republicans, and include senators who were just re-elected and a couple facing tough re-election fights. Their concerns about the legislation vary along with their ideology, from those who say it’s overly punitive in ejecting people from the insurance rolls, to others who say it doesn’t go far enough in dismantling former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Satisfying one group risks alienating another.

Trump spent part of the weekend placing phone calls to a handful of these lawmakers, focusing on senators who supported his candidacy — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. The next several days will show whether the president’s efforts pay off and if those lawmakers and the others will ultimately fall in line on legislation that would impact health care for millions of Americans, while allowing Trump and GOP leaders to boast of fulfilling a campaign promise seven years in the making.

McConnell has scant margin for error given united Democratic opposition, and can afford to lose only two Republicans from his 52-member caucus.

A look at the key Republican lawmakers:

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THE CONSERVATIVES

Cruz, Paul, Johnson and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah jointly announced their opposition to the legislation as written last Thursday, the same day it was released. They said it did not go far enough to dismantle “Obamacare,” and Johnson also complained of a rushed process.

“They’re trying to jam this thing through,” Johnson complained Monday to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Yet Johnson, like many other congressional Republicans, was elected in 2010 on pledges to repeal Obamacare and has been making that promise ever since. While looking for tweaks that can satisfy the conservatives, Senate GOP leaders are also arguing that any Republican who fails to vote for the leadership bill will be responsible for leaving Obamacare standing.

Few Senate Republicans expect Paul to vote with them in the end, because of opposition he’s long expressed to government tax subsidies going to pay for private insurance, but many expect Cruz could be won over, especially since he’s running for re-election.

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THE ENDANGERED

Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, the only Senate Republican up for re-election next year in a state Hillary Clinton won, surprised Senate GOP leaders by coming out hard against the health legislation at a news conference Friday. Standing next to Nevada’s popular Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, Heller said he could not support a bill that “takes away insurance from tens of millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.”

Nevada is one of the states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The GOP bill would unwind that expansion and cap Medicaid payments for the future. Nevada also has a disproportionate share of older residents under age 65 — when Medicare kicks in — who would likely face higher premiums because the GOP bill gives insurance companies greater latitude to charge more to older customers.

Heller’s fellow moderate Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake, faces similar issues of an aging population in neighboring Arizona. He is viewed as the second-most-endangered GOP incumbent next year after Heller.

Flake has not yet taken stance on the bill but is facing a raft of television ads from AARP and other groups that are opposed.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat seen as a possible Flake challenger next year, said Monday the Senate bill “doesn’t make anyone healthier. It doesn’t make anyone safer.”

But Flake, who was outspoken against Trump during last year’s campaign but has grown quieter since his election, also faces a potential primary challenge from the right.

Both Heller and Flake face the uncomfortable prospect of angering their party’s base if they don’t support the GOP health bill — but alienating general election moderate and independent voters if they do.

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THE MODERATES

Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are fellow moderates who’ve raised concerns about the Senate health bill for a variety of reasons.

On Monday, after the release of a Congressional Budget Office analysis that the bill will leave 22 million more people uninsured over a decade, Collins announced she would oppose an important procedural vote on the legislation this week. Along with potential opposition from Johnson, Paul and Heller on the vote, that could leave leadership struggling to even advance to a final vote on the health care bill.

Collins said that the bill’s Medicaid cuts hurt the most vulnerable and that it doesn’t fix problems for rural Maine.

Murkowski has not taken a position but has also expressed concerns about the impacts on a rural, Medicaid-dependent population, as well as funding cuts to Planned Parenthood.

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THE TWO-ISSUE SENATORS

Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia are generally reliable votes for GOP leadership. In this case, both have two specific, and related, concerns causing them heartburn on the health bill: The prevalence of opioid addiction in their states, and their constituents’ reliance on Medicaid.

In many cases, voters with addiction problems rely on Medicaid for treatment help, and Portman and Capito both represent states that expanded Medicaid under Obama’s law.

Last year about 100,000 low-income West Virginia residents with Medicaid coverage had drug abuse diagnoses, according to state health officials.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Darryl Paulson: Midterm elections boost Democratic chances

Democrats are looking forward to the 2018 midterm election with great hopes of regaining political control of the House and Senate. Democrats would need to pick up 24 House seats and three Senate seats to capture the majority.

Democrats hope to pick up anywhere between one and four seats in Florida with the seat of retiring Republic Ileana Ros-Lehtinen their top priority. Other Republican targets include Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Brian Mast. A three-seat switch would give Democrats majority control of the Florida delegation.

A big plus for Democrats is that the party controlling the White House has lost an average of 30 House seats and four Senate seats in the past 21 midterm elections. If the Democrats can achieve the average midterm gains, they will take control of both houses.

President Barack Obama and the Democrats lost 63 House seats in 2010, with most of the losses attributed to the passage of Obamacare. Obama and the Dems lost 13 more seats in the 2014 midterm. The loss of 76 seats in the two Obama midterms gave Republicans their current 241 to 194 advantage.

President George W. Bush gained 8 seats in the 2002 midterm, becoming only the second president in the past 21 midterms to gain seats. The gain was attributed to public support for the president in the aftermath of 911. In the 2006 midterm, Bush and the Republicans lost 30 seats.

President Bill Clinton lost 54 seats in 1994 due to a reaction to his failed attempt to pass health care. Four years later, Clinton became the only other president in the past 21 midterms to gain seats. Democrats picked up five seats in 1998, a reaction to the Republican overreach in their attempt to impeach the president.

The largest midterm loss in the past 21 midterms occurred in the 1922 midterm of President Warren Harding. The Republicans lost 77 seats.

Midterms clearly are bad news for the party controlling the White House, which means Republicans will confront a major obstacle in 2018. In addition, Trump’s low approval rate, 34 percent, is historically low for an incoming president.

Not only is President Donald Trump unpopular, but so is his major legislative priority, the American Health Care Act. The public has strongly opposed the Republican plan with 55 percent strongly opposing the plan in a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

It is worth remembering that two of the largest midterm losses were related to health care. Clinton and the Democrats lost 54 seats when his health care plan failed, and Obama and the Democrats lost 63 seats when health care was approved. Will a similar fate confront Trump and the Republicans in 2018?

Republicans point to the fact that they are five-for-five in winning special congressional elections since Trump became president. But, special elections have been poor indicators of electoral success in midterm elections.

Democrats should not be over-optimistic even though almost all political factors favor them. Likewise, Republicans should not be optimistic because of their success in special elections.

If Democrats fail to win political control in the 2018 midterm elections, look for Democrats to thoroughly out their leaders, especially in the House, and replace them with younger, more articulate leaders for the party. The current House leaders have an average age in the mid-70’s.

It is past time for new faces and new leadership.

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Darryl Paulson is Professor Emeritus of Government at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.

Rick Scott heads to D.C. to lobby for ‘Florida interests’ in health care bill, avoids specifics

Rick Scott heads to Washington D.C. this week, ostensibly to meet with members of the Florida GOP congressional delegation regarding the health care bill unveiled last Thursday by Senate Republicans.

What Scott thinks of the bill, or what changes he believes are warranted, remains a mystery.

“I want to thank President Trump; he’s absolutely committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare. I think that’s positive,” the governor declared to a small group of reporters Monday afternoon.

The comments came after Scott introduced former state Representative and Public Service Commission (PSC) member Jimmy Patronis as Florida’s new Chief Financial Officer during an event in the new offices of Aero Simulation, located near I-4 and U.S. 301 in East Tampa.

The governor kept it vague when asked to specify his exact concerns about the new bill, which was just published Thursday and may (or may not) come before the full Senate by the end of this week. When looking at the legislation, Scott said he is guided by two main thoughts: One, Florida is treated fairly in the process; two, that everyone has the right to choose the most suitable health care plan.

“We all pay our own taxes; we should be treated fairly in how those dollars come back to our state,” Scott said. “You should have the right to choose the insurance that fits you and your family.”

Critics of the GOP proposals in both the House and the Senate focus on the more than $800 billion in proposed cuts to Medicaid, which go toward fulfilling their stated mandate to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

In Tampa, Congresswoman Kathy Castor said earlier Monday that those cuts would be devastating to Floridians, with so much of those funds being used to keep seniors in nursing homes.

“What’s important to be me is that Florida [is] treated fairly,” Scott reiterated in response to those concerns.

“As you know when I came in, our Medicaid program had been growing way faster than our general revenues,” he said. “We came up with a better way of doing it. We’ve seen a reduction in the cost per capita of our Medicaid population. It’s very important that people have access to good quality health care at a price. Whether you’re paying for it, your employer’s paying for it, or your government’s paying for it. Somebody’s paying for this. We’ve got to find a way to reduce the cost of health care. The problem with health care is that it cost too much.”

When asked again if he had specific issues with the bill, whose contents have been argued about nationally in the past few days, the governor chose to ignore the question.

“We know that President Trump inherited a mess,” he responded. “Obamacare was spiraling out of control. The costs were skyrocketing, they’ve gone up way too fast.”

Every governor in the country is obviously concerned with what will transpire out of Washington on health care.

But for Scott, the interest is intense. Before becoming governor seven years ago, the most important part of his resume was in the 1990s, his years as the head of the massive Columbia/HCA hospital chain.

It was at that time, Scott led the private sector activism against Hillary Clinton‘s attempt to remake health care.

After leaving HCA/Columbia in the late 90s (where it incurred the largest Medicare fraud in U.S. history, totaling $1.7 billion), Scott again resurfaced as the face of the opposition to a Democratic Party-based plan to again reform the health care system, this time under Barack Obama in 2009.

That’s when Scott formed Conservatives for Patients Rights, a vehicle designed to stop Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“I used to run the largest hospital company in the country, that’s very important,” Scott told reporters Monday. “So I’m going to keep fighting for the things that I believe in.”

(Shortly after the governor’s news conference, the Congressional Budget Office announced the Senate’s bill would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026.)

Scott was in Tampa Monday afternoon for the third of three scheduled stops where he was traveling with Patronis, an earlier Scott appointee to the PSC and the Constitution Revision Commission in March.

In becoming CFO, Patronis resigned from both of those positions.

Speaking with reporters, Patronis begged off any discussion that he might be thinking about a CFO candidacy in 2018.

“They’ll be plenty of time to talk about politics later, right now I’m just really focused on getting up to speed on the job duties of the CFO’s office,” he said, adding that he’ll sit down with outgoing CFO Atwater Tuesday to learn more about the position.

“I wanted somebody who really cared about the state, he understands business, he understands the impact that taxes have, that regulations have, he’s served in the Legislature,” Scott said. “What I can tell you about Jimmy Patronis is he’ll always try to do the right thing. I look forward to working with him at the Governor/Cabinet meetings, because I know he’ll always show up and be thoughtful about the decision-making process.”

Among those attending the news conference were Tampa Bay-area Republicans Tom Lee, Wilton Simpson, Chris Latvala and Shawn Harrison. Patronis’ former PSC colleague Julie Brown was also there.

Donald Trump returning to Iowa, where he may find remorseful independent voters

Iowa independents who helped Donald Trump win the presidency see last year’s tough-talking candidate as a thin-skinned chief executive and wish he’d show more grace.

Unaffiliated voters make up the largest percentage of the electorate in the Midwest state that backed Trump in 2016, after lifting Democrat Barack Obama to the White House in party caucuses and two straight elections. Ahead of Trump’s visit to Iowa Wednesday, several independents who voted for Trump expressed frustration with the president.

It’s not just his famous tweetstorms. It’s what they represent: a president distracted by investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and a court battle over his executive order barring refugees from majority-Muslim countries at the expense of tangible health care legislation and new tax policy.

“He’s so sidetracked,” said Chris Hungerford, a 47-year-old home-business owner from Marshalltown. “He gets off track on things he should just let go.”

And when he does spout off, he appears to lack constraint, said Scott Scherer, a 48-year-old chiropractor from Guttenberg, in northeast Iowa.

“Engage your brain before you engage your mouth,” Scherer advised, especially on matters pertaining to investigations. “Shut up. Just shut up, and let the investigation run its course.”

Scherer said he would vote again for Trump, but pauses a long time before declining to answer when asked if he approves of the job the president is doing.

Cody Marsh isn’t sure about voting for Trump a second time. The 32-year-old power-line technician from Tabor, in western Iowa, says, “It’s 50-50.”

“People don’t take him seriously,” he said.

Unaffiliated, or “no party” voters as they are known in Iowa, make up 36 percent of the electorate, compared with 33 percent who register Republican and 31 percent registered Democrat. Self-identified independents in Iowa voted for Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 13-percentage-point margin last year, according to exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks

They helped him capture 51.8 percent of the overall vote against Clinton.

Nationally, exit polls showed independents tilted toward Trump over Clinton by about a 4-percentage-point margin in November, but an AP-NORC poll conducted in June found that about two-thirds of them disapprove of how he’s handling his job as president.

In North Carolina, Republican pollster Paul Shumaker says he has seen internal polling that has warning signs for his state, where Trump prevailed last year. Independent voters are becoming frustrated with Trump, especially for failing so far to deliver on long-promised household economic issues such as health care, said Shumaker, an adviser to Republican Sen. Richard Burr.

Inaction on health care and any notable decline in the economy will hurt Trump’s ability to improve his numbers with independents, with broad implications for the midterm elections next year, Shumaker said. At stake in 2018 will be majority control of the House. A favorable map and more Democrats up for re-election make the GOP more likely to add to its numbers in the Senate.

“How the president and members of Congress move forward and address the kitchen-table issues facing the American voters will determine the outcome of the 2018 elections,” he said.

In Iowa Wednesday, Trump will be rallying his Republican base in Cedar Rapids.

Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence attended Republican Sen. Joni Ernst‘s annual fundraiser, where he talked about job growth and low unemployment since the start of the year, although economists see much of it as a continuation of Obama policies.

Trump has only been in office five months.

It’s a message the Republican establishment is clinging to, especially those looking ahead to 2018.

Gov. Kim Reynolds, installed last month to succeed new U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, said last week of Iowa voters: “I think they are confident that President Trump and this administration are doing the job that they said that they would do, going out there and making America great again.”

But Trump has to worry about people like Richard Sternberg, a 68-year-old retired high school guidance counselor from Roland, in central Iowa, who voted for Trump. But is Sternberg satisfied? “Not completely.”

He is bothered by Trump’s proposed cut to vocational education, an economic lift for some in rural areas.

“We, especially in Iowa, need those two-year technically trained people,” Sternberg said.

More broadly, Trump needs to act more “presidential,” he said.

“Trump speaks before he thinks,” Sternberg said. “He doesn’t seem to realize what the president says in the form of direct communication or Twitter carries great weight and can be misconstrued if not carefully crafted.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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