Barack Obama Archives - Page 7 of 90 - Florida Politics

Donald Trump’s assertions echo site filled with tales of dark plots

President Donald Trump‘s assertion that the media often fails to cover terrorist attacks is false, but he’s hardly alone in making the claim. The statement is just the latest by Trump to echo a website known for trafficking in dubious allegations of plots and cover-ups.

“You’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice. All over Europe it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons and you understand that,” Trump said in a speech to military commanders at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base Monday.

That allegation was quickly disproven by numerous articles and broadcast clips detailing many of the very attacks the White House said had been overlooked or underreported. But versions of the same accusation have long gone unquestioned on Infowars, a website run by former public access cable host Alex Jones.

“Scandal: Mass media covers up terrorism to protect Islam,” a headline on Jones’ site alleged last July. “Fake news: Mainstream media whitewashes Islamic terror in Berlin,” proclaimed another, last December.

There’s no evidence that Trump gets his information from the site. But Trump voiced his admiration for Jones when the Infowars host interviewed him in December 2015.

“Your reputation is amazing,” then-candidate Trump told Jones. “I will not let you down. You will be very impressed, I hope, and I think we’ll be speaking a lot.”

Jones responded: “I hope you can uncripple America…”

Days after the election, Jones said that Trump had called him to “thank your viewers, thank your listeners for standing up for this republic.”

Jones, whose site has alleged that the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting was a hoax and that the September 11, 2001, terror attacks involved the federal government, is “America’s leading conspiracy theorist,” said Mark Fenster, author of “Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in America.”

Such allegations have always had their believers, but those who traded in the tales mostly existed on the fringes, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania professor specializing in political communication.

“You weren’t watching it. I wasn’t watching it. Certainly our political leaders weren’t watching it,” she said. But the internet has given organs devoted to such claims more visibility and acceptability. Jones’ YouTube channel has nearly 2 million subscribers.

With Trump, the country has a leader who repeats such allegations as if they are plausible, said Fenster, a professor of law at the University of Florida. Political campaigns sometimes see candidates make vague references to dark forces, but for a sitting president to regularly engage in an “unfiltered set of allegations” is well beyond the norm, Fenster said.

Trump’s allegations about the media and those made on Infowars are just the latest to echo one another. Their shared assertions include:

— President Barack Obama may not have been born in the United States.

It’s hard to know where these allegations originated, but Infowars has been making the “birther” argument for years, alleging that documents showing Obama was born in Hawaii were fake.

“Shocking new birth certificate proof Obama born in Kenya?” asked an Infowars headline in August 2009. “New Obama birth certificate is a forgery,” said another, in April 2011.

The latter was shortly after Trump appeared on the television show “The View,” in March 2011, during which he falsely said that nobody from Obama’s childhood remembered him, and that he was obligated to prove his birth in Hawaii. “Why doesn’t he show his birth certificate?” Trump said. Last September, Trump said he accepted that Obama was born in the U.S.

— Thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated after 9/11.

Trump was criticized after a November 2015 political rally in which he said that “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” in New Jersey when the World Trade Center came down. Questioned afterward, Trump insisted that he had seen the celebrations on television that day.

There’s no evidence such celebrations took place. But accounts of Muslims cheering terrorist attacks have been a repeated theme on Infowars.

“I live in Jersey and Trump is right: Muslims did celebrate on 9/11 in NJ… We saw it!” headlined an article in November 2015. Soon afterward, the site ran another story, “Exclusive: Radical U.S. Muslims celebrate, shoot fireworks after terrorist attack,” featuring an anonymous man who said that on the night of the Paris attacks he heard people celebrating four or five blocks away from his home outside Detroit.

— Millions of people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton.

Trump won the presidency with an Electoral College victory despite losing to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. He has said he was cheated out of a rightful win in the popular vote.

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” the president said on Twitter on November 27. Numerous state elections officials, many of them Republicans, said there is no evidence of widespread voting fraud. But Trump ordered an investigation.

His allegations have been echoed, if not preceded, on Infowars, which alleged widespread voter fraud well before Election Day.

“Dead people and illegal immigrants are being registered to vote all over America,” the site headlined in early October.

In mid-November, Infowars posted a story headlined: “Report: Three million votes in presidential election cast by illegal aliens.” The story cited a Texas businessman, Greg Phillips, who claimed to have compiled a list of 3 million illegal votes by non-citizens. On January 27, Trump Tweeted that he was looking forward to seeing Phillips’ evidence. “We must do better!” Trump wrote.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Darryl Paulson: We are not the same; the immoral equivalency of President Donald Trump

Voters who supported Donald Trump for president did so because they liked his free-speaking ideas, his attacks on the political establishment and his promise to “make America great again.”

President Trump has repeatedly stated that he would have won the popular vote for president if not for massive vote fraud. Does Trump believe that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin won his office in free and fair elections?  I hope Trump cannot be that deluded.

Republicans raised strong criticisms when President Barack Obama conducted what many Americans viewed as an “apology tour,” criticizing America for all its failures. Americans prefer their presidents defend the nation and its values, and not constantly criticize the nation for its shortcomings.

Obama told a European audience in 2009 that “there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” He also criticized the notion of American exceptionalism that all presidents have defended.

When Jihadists burned a Jordanian pilot alive, then showing the video online as a recruiting tool, President Obama cautioned a national prayer breakfast audience not to “get on our high horse” and “remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Many Americans were sickened and highly critical of Obama’s efforts to apologize for America’s shortcomings. Instead of defending American exceptionalism, the president seemed to delight in pointing out our deficiencies.

If President Obama’s “apology tour” disgusted many Americans and most Republicans, President Trump’s defense of Putin and the Soviets should strike a similar response from the electorate. To cast America and the Soviets as “one and the same” should thoroughly repulse Republicans, in particular. Republican Ronald Reagan must be retching.

President Trump turned in one of the most disgusting performances of any American president when he placed America and the Soviets on the same moral plateau. In a Fox News interview with Bill O’Reilly before the Super Bowl, Trump defended Putin against O’Reilly’s charge that “Putin’s a killer.”

Trump responded that “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?” If Obama had made that statement, Republicans would be calling for his impeachment.

But, weak-kneed Republicans, who have no problem praising Trump, have a far more difficult time criticizing him when he becomes ill with “foot and mouth” disease. In their silence, supporters of Trump are neither doing him, or the nation, favors anyway.

Do you remember when one of our political leaders ordered the assassination of a political opponent?  Neither do I. But, Putin did that to Boris Nemtsov in 2015.

Anti-corruption reporter Sergei Magnitsky was killed in prison in 2009. Respected journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot and killed the same year, and fellow reporter Yuri Schekechikhin was poisoned in 2013. The list of reporter and political opponent deaths is a long one.

The United States does not purposely bomb civilian neighborhoods as did the Soviets in Syria. The United States does not shoot down unarmed civilian aircraft as the Soviets did in the Ukraine. The United States does not invade independent neighboring countries as the Soviets did to the Ukraine.

Does President Trump really believe that murders of political opponents could happen in America?  I hope that Trump sees America in a different light than Putin and the Soviets.

Some Republicans have objected to President Trump’s abhorrent remarks about the moral equivalency between the Soviets and the United States. Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who called Putin a “thug,” and rejected any attempt at moral equivalency.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted:  “When has a Democratic political activist been poisoned by the GOP or vice versa?  We are not the same as #Putin.”

Republicans, in particular, and all Americans must support the president when he is right and must criticize him just as vigorously when he is wrong. To not do so will embolden both Trump and dictator Putin to continue a reckless path.

___

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

GOP pushes 2 top Cabinet picks through to full Senate

Republicans jammed two of President Donald Trump‘s top Cabinet picks through the Senate Finance Committee with no Democrats in the room Wednesday after suspending a rule that would have otherwise barred them from taking the vote. The tactic seemed a warning shot that they might deploy brute political muscle in the upcoming fight over the Supreme Court vacancy.

With a near-toxic vapor of divisiveness between the two parties across Capitol Hill, nasty showdowns broke out elsewhere as well. One Senate panel signed off on Trump’s choice for attorney general only after senators exchanged heated words, and another committee postponed a vote on the would-be chief of the Environmental Protection Agency after Democrats refused to show up.

Busting through a Democratic boycott of the Finance panel, all 14 Republicans took advantage of Democrats’ absence to temporarily disable a committee rule requiring at least one Democrat to be present for votes.

They then used two 14-0 roll calls to approve financier Steve Mnuchin for Treasury secretary and Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to be health secretary, ignoring Democrats’ demands that the two nominees provide more information about their financial backgrounds.

All the nominations will need full Senate approval.

Underscoring Congress’ foul mood, Finance panel Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Democrats should be “ashamed” for staying away from his committee’s meeting.

“I don’t feel a bit sorry for them,” he told reporters, adding later, “I don’t care what they want at this point.”

Trump won one major victory, as the Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state. The mostly party-line 56-43 vote came with Democrats critical of Tillerson’s close ties to Russia as former Exxon Mobil CEO.

But the prospects that GOP donor Betsy DeVos would win approval as education secretary were jarred when two GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, said they opposed her. Both challenged her support for public education, and their defections meant Vice President Mike Pence might need to break a tie in a Senate that Republicans control 52-48.

Congress’ day was dominated by confrontation, even as lawmakers braced for an even more ferocious battle over Trump’s nomination of conservative federal judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.

Democrats were already furious over Republicans’ refusal to even consider last year President Barack Obama‘s pick for the slot, Judge Merrick Garland. Trump fueled the fire by urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to “go nuclear” — shorthand for a unilateral change in the chamber’s rules so Democrats can’t block Gorsuch with a filibuster.

Without a rules change, Republicans will need at least eight Democrats to reach the 60-votes necessary to halt filibusters, or endless procedural delays.

Democrats boycotted Wednesday’s abruptly called Finance Committee meeting, as they’d done for a session a day earlier. They say Price and Mnuchin have lied about their financial backgrounds and must answer more questions.

“It’s deeply troubling to me that Republicans on the Finance Committee chose to break the rules in the face of strong evidence of two nominees’ serious ethical problems,” said the panel’s top Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Democrats say Price had special access to low-priced shares in an Australian biomed firm, even though he testified the offer was available to all investors. They say Mnuchin ran a bank that processed home foreclosures with a process critics say invites fraud.

The two men have denied wrongdoing and have solid Republican backing.

The Senate Judiciary Committee used a party-line 11-9 vote to sign off on Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for attorney general. That came after Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had misrepresented remarks he’d made about Sessions weeks ago.

Cruz wasn’t present as Franken spoke. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, interrupted Franken twice, calling it “untoward and inappropriate” to disparage the absent Cruz.

Franken said Cruz “personally went after me, he personally impugned my integrity.” Angrily pointing at Cornyn, he asked, “You didn’t object then, did you?”

Cornyn said he wasn’t sure he was there when Cruz spoke.

At the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Democrats boycotted a planned vote on Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s state attorney general in line to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The vote was postponed.

Pruitt has questioned the scientific consensus that human activities are contributing to global warming and joined lawsuits against the agency’s emission curbs.

Another panel postponed a vote on Trump’s pick to head the White House Budget Office, tea party Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., as Democrats asked for more time to read the nominee’s FBI file.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Amid Donald Trump’s shake-up, many wondering ‘what’s coming next’

Days into an administration that promised to govern by upheaval, Donald Trump‘s White House has been the target of massive protests, defied reporters who questioned fact-challenged statements and issued a blur of lightning-rod executive actions. The speed and depth of it all have left many Americans apprehensive: Even some who longed for a shake-up are unsettled by a sense of chaos it has unleashed.

“We’re in a very fragile state right now,” said Margaret Johnson of Germantown, Maryland, who runs a small translation business. “We don’t know what’s coming next. The country’s divided. There’s a lot of fear. And I think we’re kind of at that point where things can go any kind of way, and it’s really hard to say which way they’re going to go.”

That uncertainty finds an echo in Pastor Mike Bergman‘s church in Adrian, Missouri, 40 miles south of Kansas City, where many congregants count themselves as conservatives and embrace the new administration’s order cutting off funding to international groups that provide abortions. But as church members consider another order — restricting refugees and pausing entry to the U.S. from several Muslim-majority countries — worries about security are tempered by concern about the needs of refugees and whether Trump’s rhetoric is widening the gulf between Americans, Bergman said.

“There is worry about how deep the divide is going to run. There is worry about some of the political rhetoric … about how all that is going to cause the divide in the community to deepen and more bitterness to spring up between the people of our country. I wouldn’t say we’re really optimistic right now,” he said.

Trump is hardly the first president to take office promising wholesale change in the face of substantial skepticism. But Kevin Boyle, a professor of American history at Northwestern University, said the new administration has put itself at the center of an extraordinary political moment.

Boyle hears echoes of the Ronald Reagan era in Trump’s attempts to alter the role of government; this administration’s willingness to play on division rather than serve as a calming influence is reminiscent of Richard Nixon. The mass protests since inauguration day are reminiscent of some of the upheaval of the 1960s. Still, Boyle said, the tensions swirling around Trump’s administration are unique.

“I cannot in my adult life think of a moment that compares to this,” he said. “The level of tension between these two competing visions of the country needs to be resolved in some way or another.”

Trump’s actions have unsettled Suzanne Kawamleh, 24, a graduate student born in Chicago to parents who emigrated from Syria. On Saturday night, Kawamleh said, she joined protesters outside the terminal at O’Hare International Airport to protest the executive order stopping Syrian refugees from entering the country. The next day, she told a crowd gathered at the county courthouse in Bloomington, Indiana, about how her relatives had fled Syria by boat and ended up in a refugee camp before finding refuge in Germany.

Last year, Kawamleh said, she and her father were taken off a flight for questioning when they returned from Lebanon to do relief work in a refugee camp. But that scrutiny, she said, pales with Trump’s executive order, which forced a family friend from Syria who had flown to the U.S. to visit a sick relative to return to the Middle East on Saturday.

“Immediately after the order, everything changed. There wasn’t a chance to plead your case,” she said. “It seems like everything is very in flux. People don’t know what’s going on.”

Over the last week, teacher Dee Burek has led discussions with the seventh- and eighth-graders in her debate and journalism classes about Trump’s first days as president. Students were dismayed when they read about false statements by White House press secretary Sean Spicer and by an interview with Trump adviser Steve Bannon in which he compared himself to Darth Vader.

When one girl compared Trump to Dolores Umbridge — a character from the Harry Potter series who provokes a student revolt after issuing a series of harsh decrees — classmates nodded in agreement, Burek said.

“As a teacher I’m trying to present both sides, as I always have to, and when I deal with the children and I’m reading articles to them (about the Trump administration), their faces are in shock,” said Burek, who teaches in Allentown, New Jersey. “They just keep coming back to, ‘We’re America. How could this happen?’ And I say I just don’t have the answers.”

Many Americans say that Trump’s moves since taking office are exactly what the country needs. Nonetheless, they are taking note of the pushback.

Juan Villamizar, a 52-year-old flooring business owner in West Hartford, Connecticut, said he supports Trump’s executive order restricting refugees and immigration from seven countries as a way to protect Americans from terrorism. But while he believes the country is headed in the right direction, he is disheartened to see a negative response to Trump’s actions.

“I just think that the people of this country, the citizens of this country, need to take a really deep breath and read the Constitution,” he said.

During the presidential campaign, Brenda Horvath strapped a giant “Hillary for Prison” sign to her Logan, West Virginia, front porch, and another that read “Make America Great Again” beside it. She isn’t opposed to Trump’s plans, but thinks the new president could do a better job at presenting his plans with compassion, in a way that doesn’t alienate and offend so many. She believes Trump is off to a rocky start, but believes he deserves more time to get on track.

“You can listen to the wrong people and do the job wrong. I’m hoping and praying that he’ll start listening to the right people,” she said.

Yatziri Tovar, a 24-year-old college student in New York who emigrated from Mexico as a toddler, saw the response to Trump in a different light. Though troubled by the initial days of the new administration, she was encouraged to see the activism it has spurred and the people of many backgrounds who have spoken in protest. She felt a duty to speak, too, addressing a weekend rally that she helped organize as a member of an immigrant advocacy group, Make the Road New York, which drew an estimated 30,000 people.

“It’s a moment that has a lot of confusion, it has some scary times, but at the same time it has become a time of unity,” said Tovar, a part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which President Barack Obama instituted to allow young people brought into the country illegally as children to stay and obtain work permits.

Others hold the protesters, not Trump, responsible for the discord.

John Fusaro, an immigration officer in Dallas who voted for Trump, said the media and protesters should ease up.

“They’re trying to sow seeds of doubt and keep stirring the pot,” he said. “They’re just not giving him a chance.”

Fusaro said the upheaval represents a “new normal” of constant protests. While he’s dubious of the protesters’ message, the presence of a niece in their ranks reminds him of the wide gulf in Americans’ political views.

“She’s standing against Trump, out there yelling and stuff, and I’m honestly thinking you don’t know the whole picture. I sent her a message: Give it time. It’ll sort itself out.”

So far, he said, she hasn’t responded.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Marco Rubio says Senate Democrats should confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court

Marco Rubio has come out solidly in support of President Trump’s selection of Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Judge Gorsuch is a highly qualified, mainstream jurist, which is why he was unanimously confirmed to the circuit court by the Senate in 2006,” Rubio said in a statement shortly after the announcement was made in the East Room of the White House in prime time on Tuesday.

“By all accounts he has the right temperament and experience for the job, and I’m pleased to see him nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Rubio. “Most importantly, he is committed to the principles of original intent and judicial restraint. This is critical, because too many in the federal judiciary today believe it is appropriate for judges to invent new policies and rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as it is written.”

Original intent, or “originalism,” was the focus of the late Antonin Scalia, the longtime Supreme Court justice who Gorsuch would be replacing on the high court. Original intent theory hold that the interpretation of a written constitution is (or should be) consistent with what was meant by the Founding Fathers.

The question now remains is how much of a fight will Senate Democrats pose to the Gorsuch pick. Many are still hopping mad that GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never put Merrick Garland up for a vote in 2016. Garland was Barack Obama’s choice to replace Scalia when he died nearly a year ago

“Unfortunately, Senate Democrats already announced they would oppose any Supreme Court nominee no matter who it is,” said Rubio, who says “this objection  is neither principled nor reasonable, considering we just had an election where the future of the Supreme Court was a central issue not only at the presidential level but in every Senate contest.

“On the issue of this Supreme Court nomination specifically, the American people gave the president and the Republican-controlled Senate a mandate to choose a successor to Antonin Scalia,” Rubio continued. “Senate Democrats should accept the results of the election and allow the process to move forward with a vote. I look forward to a fair and thorough confirmation process, and I am confident Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed by the Senate once again, this time to serve on the Supreme Court.”

Several Senate Democrats have already announced their opposition to Gorsuch, but not Rubio’s Florida colleague, Bill Nelson. Nelson said he’ll base his decision on a full examination of Gorsuch’s judicial record and his responses to senators questions.

 

 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz tells Fox Business that Donald Trump ‘believes he was elected dictator’

Debbie Wasserman Schultz blasted President Trump Tuesday morning, a day after he fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates for what the White House called “refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

“I think it’s important to note that she did exactly what she said she would do if she was given an order by the President of the United States, which she believed violated the law,” the former Democratic National Committee chair said on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria.”

“Her answer to Jeff Sessions was that she would make sure that the Department of Justice followed the law,” Wasserman Schultz added.

Wasserman Schultz was referring to Yates’ 2015 Senate confirmation hearing as deputy attorney general, when she was grilled about being able to challenge Barack Obama if she disagreed with him. That’s when Sessions was Senator from Alabama. Now he’s poised to become the next U.S. Attorney General for Donald Trump.

“And frankly, because President Trump did absolutely nothing to consult the Department of Justice, his Secretary of Homeland Security, any members of Congress, the leadership of Congress, since they basically slapped this policy together in which they were barring immigrants and refugees for a period of time from countries, by the way, none of which had the 9/11 attackers come from,” the South Florida Democrat continued.

“When will the Democrats give us our Attorney General and rest of Cabinet! They should be ashamed of themselves! No wonder D.C. doesn’t work!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

Wasserman Schultz reprimanded Trump for that tweet, saying: “The President’s tweet this morning was very interesting and telling because it shows that he believes he was elected as a dictator. There is an ‘advise and consent’ role in the United States Senate, and that is what they are doing. He doesn’t just get to have his nominations rubber stamped, and he has nominated some very disturbing individuals.”

 

Americans feat they’ll lose coverage with Obamacare repeal: Poll

Though “Obamacare” still divides Americans, a majority worry that many will lose coverage if the 2010 law is repealed in the nation’s long-running political standoff over health care.

new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 56 percent of U.S. adults are “extremely” or “very” concerned that many will lose health insurance if the health overhaul is repealed. That includes more than 8 in 10 Democrats, nearly half of independents, and more than 1 in 5 Republicans. Another 45 percent of Republicans say they’re “somewhat” concerned.

“No one should go without health care for even a day,” said Wendy Narug of DeMotte, Indiana, a small town south of Gary. A political independent who leans Republican, Narug works caring for people with disabilities. She favors repealing the Affordable Care Act, but not until Congress and President Donald Trump have a replacement ready.

Released Friday, the poll serves as a reality check for Republicans as they try to find a path to repealing and replacing former President Barack Obama‘s signature legislation. It found that even as few Americans want to keep the health law in its current form, many provisions enjoy broad popularity. The exception: the law’s requirement that most Americans carry health insurance or face fines.

“They should come up with something that’s a little easier and more affordable for everyone,” said Narug. “Some people have to pay hundreds of dollars just to go to their doctors.”

The health law offers subsidized private insurance for those who don’t have job-based coverage, along with a state option to expand Medicaid for low-income people. About 20 million people have gained coverage since it passed. Employer coverage has also increased, but experts credit the law for the vast majority of the gains. Some 28 million people remain uninsured.

Trump has said he wants to replace “Obamacare” with a plan that provides insurance for everybody and lowers deductibles. But his pick for health secretary recently cast doubt on the notion that a Trump administration replacement is ready to go. Questions remained after Trump attended the GOP congressional retreat in Philadelphia this week.

Overall, Americans remain divided, with 53 percent wanting to keep the law in some form, and 46 percent favoring its repeal.

Most of those who favor repeal say that should happen only when a replacement is ready. And most of those who want to keep the law say changes are needed. Among those who favor keeping it, only 1 in 4 think it should remain unchanged.

“If the Affordable Care Act was affordable, I would have no problems with it,” said Kevin Wollersheim, a delivery truck driver from the Minneapolis suburb of Hopkins. “Costs were supposed to go down, or at least not go up at such a high rate.”

Wollersheim is uninsured and expects he’ll have to pay about $200 in fines at tax time for failing to comply with the law’s coverage requirement. He said he didn’t even bother to look this year because premiums on Minnesota’s individual insurance market jumped by 50 percent and more.

That coverage requirement – known as the individual mandate – is a top target for Trump and GOP lawmakers.

The poll found that only about 1 in 3 support it, while just over half are opposed. Among Republicans, opposition rises to nearly 3 in 4.

“Don’t fine people; just make it affordable,” said Madlyen Sharp, a retired factory worker from West Plains, Mo., near the Ozarks.

The requirement was modeled on one that former GOP Gov. Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts in 2006, designed to get healthy people into the insurance pool and help control premiums. At the federal level, it narrowly survived a Supreme Court challenge in 2012.

Although the Obama administration argued that the mandate was essential for stable insurance markets, the main insurance industry trade group recently told Congress there are other workable alternatives. Trump’s executive order on health care opened the way for broader “hardship” exemptions.

Other major provisions of the health care law fared far better in the poll. They included elimination of out-of-pocket costs for preventive care (favored by 77 percent), allowing young adults to stay on parental plans until age 26 (73 percent), forbidding insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health problems (69 percent), and the Medicaid expansion (66 percent). The first three are favored even by most of those who would get rid of the law.

Although Trump and other Republicans have made it seem like “repeal and replace” would be an easy matter, many Americans seem to question that.

“Obamacare” is like “a 1,500-foot battleship driving along,” said Michael Wolski of Lakeland, Fla., who administers a homeless shelter. “The infrastructure has already been changed. It’s already in place. (Trump) can’t just rescind it. And what’s he going to replace it with?”

The AP-NORC poll of 1,036 adults was conducted Jan. 12-16, using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Rick Scott: Obamacare expanded the welfare state

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has asserted that he is helping President Donald Trump work on a replacement for “Obamacare,” made his feelings known about the Affordable Care Act again on Friday.

In an editorial on CNN‘s website, Scott made a number of points.

Among them, that the Affordable Care Act was nothing more than an expansion of the welfare state, and an usurpation of state’s rights when it comes to handling Medicaid.

“With Obamacare,” Scott writes, “President Obama enacted a massive expansion of the welfare state. And, not surprisingly, Obamacare has resulted in widespread increases in premiums and costs are expected to continue increasing.”

Scott’s preferred option — and likely the one the Trump administration will land on — block grants to the states for low-income health care.

“States can do a far better job administering the Medicaid program than the federal government can. If Florida is given the flexibility to run our own Medicaid program, we will be more efficient and less wasteful than the federal government,” Scott notes.

“Liberal Democrats,” asserts Gov. Scott, “have a game plan for America: everything for free, provided by the government, paid for with your tax dollars. There is a name for this approach, and it is called socialism. President Obama gave it a try, and in the process he proved what we already knew — it does not work.”

“Government assistance must be the last resort,” Scott adds, “not the first stop. This is no time for Republicans to go wobbly or get weak in the knees about repealing Obamacare. If we refuse to roll back the welfare state, what real purpose do we serve?”

With many people expecting Scott, termed out next year, to challenge Democrat Bill Nelson for his Senate seat, an oped like this serves multiple purposes.

It reminds national conservatives that, when it came to Medicaid expansion, the governor fought Washington and won.

It allows the governor to frame the current debate around what he has accomplished in Florida.

And, most importantly, it provides a framework for what might come out of Washington this year regarding reform of the current health care schematic.

Expect more op-eds like this in the weeks ahead.

Charlie Crist slams the GOP for ‘extreme measures’ on women’s reproductive rights

Following moves by President Trump and the GOP-led Congress this week on abortion, St. Petersburg Democratic Representative Charlie Crist is blasting D.C. Republicans on the issue of women’s reproductive rights.

“This past weekend, I stood with thousands of my neighbors in St. Petersburg, Florida to demand the protection of women’s health and rights – a message that was echoed by a million others nationwide,” Crist said. “And how did Republicans in Washington respond to this call to action?  By pushing forward several extreme measures attacking women’s healthcare and reproductive rights.  This alone is outrageous.  Even worse, these actions will particularly hurt low-income families, young people, and women of color.”

Among the decisions that Crist was criticizing was a vote on H.R. 7, sponsored by New Jersey Republican Chris Smith. The bill permanently bans the use of federal funds for abortion and prohibits anyone who receives subsidies to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from purchasing a plan that covers abortion.

On Monday, President Trump signed an executive order banning foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive certain kinds of American aid from counseling health clients about abortion or advocating for abortion law liberalization. Ronald Reagan originally issued the so-called Mexico City policy in 1984. Bill Clinton reversed it when he took office. George W. Bush put it back into play in 2001, and Barack Obama reversed it in 2009.

However, according to Mark Leon Goldberg with UN DispatchTrump’s executive order goes beyond what previous Republican Presidents have done on this issue:

Rather than applying the Global Gag Rule exclusively to US assistance for family planning in the developing world, which amounts to about $575 million per year, the Trump memo applies it to “global health assistance furnished by all department or agencies.” In other words, NGOs that distribute bed nets for malaria, provide childhood vaccines, support early childhood nutrition and brain development, run HIV programs, fight Ebola or Zika, and much more, must now certify their compliance with the Global Gag Rule or risk losing US funds. According to analysis from PAI, a global health NGO, this impacts over $9 billion of U.S. funds, or about 15 times more than the previous iteration of the Global Gag Rule which only impacted reproductive health assistance.

Crist says “we will not stop fighting” when it comes to fighting for women’s reproductive rights.

“Women’s rights are human rights, and no matter where you live, what insurance you qualify for, or your income – all women should have equal access to quality, comprehensive healthcare,” he said.

Bill Nelson sounds off on what he calls Donald Trump’s “rocky” first week in office

Although U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s press conference on Wednesday in Tampa was ostensibly to discuss President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to spend up to one trillion dollars improving the nation’s infrastructurehe spent considerable time discussing – and criticizing- some of the moves that the newly-inaugurated president has made in his first week in office.

Nelson has voted against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General and Mike Pompeo for CIA Director, and he says he’ll oppose Rex Tillerson when the former ExxonMobil CEO’s name comes up for a confirmation vote for Secretary of State. When asked why at a press conference in Tampa, Nelson said just two words.

“Vladimir Putin.”

When asked to elaborate, Nelson simply said he didn’t feel comfortable with Tillerson’s past relationships with the Russian leader.

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, Florida’s other U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio, was remarkably aggressive in questioning Tillerson, asking him at one point if he thought Putin was a war criminal. But Rubio ultimately voted for Tillerson in committee earlier this week.

Regarding Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s choice as Treasury Secretary, Nelson said he has not made up his mind, even after speaking with him personally.

“There are a number of things that trouble me about him,” he said about the former partner of Goldman Sachs and hedge fund manager. “He’s got some tax issues. But the main thing is it’s kind of an attitude that – ‘I know better than you’ – and for a Treasury Secretary who has the tremendous responsibility to keep our economy on an even keel, that concerns me.”

Mnuchin initially failed to disclose $100 million in assets last week, which he called an “unintentional” oversight.

Meanwhile, Democrats have accused a potential conflict of interest for Tom Price, Trump’s selection at HHS, saying he held more than $100,000 in stock in companies that could have benefited from legislation he promoted.

In 2009, former Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle withdrew  his nomination by Barack Obama to become Health and Human Services secretary, amidst a scandal involving unpaid taxes. When asked if there had been a lowering of standards in vetting cabinet selections, Nelson said they had not been lowered in terms of how he votes.

Meanwhile, Trump repeated his false claim on Wednesday hat at least three million illegal immigrants cast ballots for Hillary Clinton, calling for an investigation into voter fraud, even though his own legal team has previously argued that no such fraud occurred.

Nelson said it “well documented” how little voter fraud there actually is in the U.S., and told the reporter who asked that it was “illustrative of our times that you have to ask that question.”

He grew quite passionate, however, in claiming that there’s been voter suppression in Florida and around the nation, and spent several minutes discussing specific examples in and outside of Florida.

Nelson also was dismissive of Trump’s call on Wednesday to begin plans to construct a border security fence on the Mexican border, saying that a “multiplicity of things” can be done to  protect our borders.

“This, unfortunately has gotten into a political issue,” he said, “and one particular demographic group is being singled out and I think unfairly,” referring to Mexicans.

When asked to describe Trump’s first week in office, Nelson described it simply as “rocky.”

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