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Updated: 54 min 25 sec ago

Trump blames Democrats for his health care debacle

8 hours 26 min ago
But a deeply unpopular bill met its demise because House Republicans didn’t support it.President Trump, flanked by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, and Vice President Mike Pence, meets with members of the media regarding the health care overhaul bill on Friday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Republicans hold a House majority. They don’t need a single Democratic vote to advance a health care reform bill to the Senate. And they control the both the legislature and the executive branch for the first time since 1928.

And yet, on Friday, Trumpcare failed. The bill was deeply unpopular with the American public — a poll released earlier this week found that only 17 percent of people strongly supported it — and a planned vote on it was called off when it became clear that there wasn’t enough Republican support to hold a successful vote.

68 times Trump promised to repeal Obamacare

In the end, Trump was caught between the House Freedom Caucus and more moderate Republicans. In a last-ditch effort to win enough support for the bill, Trump hammered out a deal with the Freedom Caucus on Thursday stripping the bill of Affordable Care Act’s “essential services” mandate. But allowing the sale of health plans that don’t cover basic things like emergency room visits resulted in the bill losing support from Republicans in bluer districts.

And so, on Friday afternoon, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) pulled the bill. The news broke a couple house after Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump did everything he could possibly do (in between trips to Mar-a-Lago and to various golf courses) to follow through on his oft-repeated promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

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Q from @kwelkernbc: Does the buck stop with Trump? Spicer: "At the end of the day, this isn't a dictatorship." https://t.co/9FYaLJBkUg

 — @BraddJaffy

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Trump was even less accountable than Spicer. As news of the bill being pulled circulated, the president placed a call to the Washington Post’s Robert Costa and told him he didn’t blame Ryan for the Trumpcare’s demise.

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I don't blame Paul," Trump tells me

 — @costareports

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Instead, in a subsequent conversation with the New York Times, Trump argued that it was somehow Democrats’ fault while distancing himself from the health care bill he was personally championing just hours earlier.

“Mr. Trump, in a telephone interview moments after the bill was pulled, blamed Democrats and predicted that they would seek a deal within a year after, he asserted, ‘Obamacare explodes’ because of higher premiums,” the Times reported. “The president said he did not fault Mr. Ryan and said that he was pleased to move past his first legislative fight. He maintained that he was merely going along with the House bill.”

The president reiterated his blame-the-Democrats sentiment to the Associated Press.

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BREAKING: President Trump says health care bill fell short in lead-up to House vote because of no support from Democrats.

 — @AP

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And Trump again completely overlooked the fact that the bill failed because of insufficient Republican backing during remarks he subsequently made to the press pool in the Oval Office.

“We had no Democrat support — we had no votes from the Democrats,” he said. “They weren’t going to give us a single vote, so it’s a very difficult thing to do.”

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Pres. Trump after health care bill is pulled: "We were very close...the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode." https://t.co/ppEFrf9IQu

 — @ABC

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Trump is blaming House Democrats, but he plans to take it out on American citizens. He signaled that his plan is to turn his attention to tax cuts while letting “Obamacare explode.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) supports Trump’s plan.

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Next move on health care - #CollapseandReplace.

 — @LindseyGrahamSC

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While it’s unclear exactly what Trump and Graham mean they they say they intend to let Obamacare “explode” or “collapse,” the 24 million people who stood to lose their health insurance if the ACHA became law can breathe easy for now. Trump, who campaigned as a master dealmaker, sounds like he’s already done trying to strike a deal to make one of his signature campaign promises a reality.

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TRUMP told me he is happy having this in the rearview mirror. "It's enough already," he said of the negotiations.

 — @maggieNYT

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Despite what Trump would have you believe, those failed negotiations were all with members of his own party, not Democrats.

Trump blames Democrats for his health care debacle was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

68 times Trump promised to repeal Obamacare

9 hours 17 min ago
The White House says it’s already moving on.President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 21, 2017, to rally support for the Republican health care overhaul. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Donald Trump promised to repeal Obamacare at least 68 times, but after the House’s failure on Friday to even vote on its replacement bill, the American Health Care Act of 2017, the White House’s position is that Republicans are “stuck” with Obamacare.

As a candidate, president-elect, and president, Trump has repeatedly pointed to the repeal of Obamacare as a top priority and a key reason he wanted to be president.

However, as the reality of actually repealing the increasingly-popular law set in, along with the difficulty of actually operating the federal government and working with a congressional majority made up of the different factions of the Republican party, the White House made an odd ultimatum.

Trump made a lot of promises about what he will do as president. We’ve documented 663 of them.

In a closed-door meeting with the House GOP, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney personally delivered Trump’s ultimatum, according to reporting from the Wall Street Journal and CNN: pass the bill on Friday, or Republicans will be “stuck with Obamacare.” Trump would move on to other agenda items, such as tax reform.

Republican backers of the bill made undemocratic, unscheduled, major changes to the legislation in order to curry support from far-right members. House Speaker Paul Ryan has fought back against the wave of blame he has received for the bill’s dim prospects by arguing that he wrote the bill with Trump and Senate committees.

Asked during the White House daily press briefing if Trump was comfortable with Obamacare continuing if the AHCA vote failed, given his campaign promises to repeal, Press Secretary Sean Spicer cut in: “No! He’s not! Of course he’s not.”

“I’m not even sure where to start with that. No, he’s not. Which is why he’s literally put as much effort as he has into repealing this.”

On Thursday, Trump spent a portion of his day meeting with truckers and pretending to drive a semi on the White House lawn, earning ridicule and satire. He has also spent seven weekends in his palatial resorts, sometimes playing golf.

Spicer continued: “But he’s made it clear that this is our moment, this is our opportunity to do it. But it is now up to members to make that decision, whether or not they want to be part of this effort to repeal Obamacare.”

Desperate to pass Trumpcare, Ryan and Trump agree to punish poor people even more

Later, Spicer was asked about a political cost to the bill collapsing, and Spicer replied that there would be a political cost to letting the process drag on.

One of the difficulties Trump and congressional Republicans have encountered in their drive to repeal Obamacare is that there was no clear replacement alternative that was revealed to the public.

Here is a list of 68 times Trump promised to repeal Obamacare:

“So, just to sum up, I would do various things very quickly. I would repeal and replace the big lie, Obamacare.” [New York, NY, 6/15/15]

“We have to repeal Obamacare, and it can be — and — and it can be replaced with something much better for everybody. Let it be for everybody. But much better and much less expensive for people and for the government. And we can do it.” [New York, NY, 6/15/15]

“Repeal and replace with something terrific…Other than that, it’s private. You will get great plans, you will have great competition, everything else. Now, at the lower end, where people have no money, I want to try and help those people. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But I want to try and help those people, so they can also can — now, it’s not going to be like a good plan. It’s not going to be like the finest plan that somebody that’s made some money or has a good living can do.” [CNN, 7/29/15]

“We get rid of Obamacare and we have a great life all together.” [GOP debate, Los Angeles, CA, 9/16/15]

“We’re going to end, terminate, repeal Obamacare and replace it with something really, really great that works. That works.” [New Hampshire, 9/17/15]

“We are going to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something much better, much better much better.” [Waterloo, IA, 10/7/15]

“We’re gonna repeal Obamacare.” [Las Vegas, NV, 10/8/15]

“We are going to repeal and replace Obamacare which is a disaster.” [Norcross, GA, 10/10/15]

“We’re going to terminate Obamacare. We’re going to terminate it, it’s going to be terminated, it’s going to be replaced with something much better and something much less expensive for you and for the country.” [Burlington, IA, 10/21/15]

“Someone said what’s the first thing you’re going to do? Well we’re going to work immediately on repealing Obamacare.” [Sioux City, IA, 10/27/15]

“I would work immediately on Obamacare repeal and replace, and we would do something terrific there.” [FOX, 11/3/15]

“… the repeal of Obamacare and replacing it with something so much better. So we will repeal.” [Aiken, SC, 12/12/15]

“Our health care is a horror show. Obamacare, we’re going to repeal it and replace it.” [North Charleston, SC, 1/14/16]

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Wow, just saw an ad - Cruz is lying on so many levels. There is nobody more against ObamaCare than me, will repeal &amp; replace. He lies!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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“Everybody in here, many of you know me, from day one I’ve been talking about we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare from day one, we’re going to do it. If you remember, so important, from day one I’ve been saying, repeal and replace Obamacare.” [Milford, NH, 2/2/16]

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We will immediately repeal and replace ObamaCare - and nobody can do that like me. We will save $'s and have much better healthcare!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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“I think Obamacare is a very big issue. I see it, we are going to repeal it or replace it with something much better and much less expensive. We have a lot of different things we are going to do.” [FOX, 2/10/16]

“We’re going to absolutely terminate and repeal — we’re going to repeal ‘Obamacare.’ Has to be repealed.” [FOX, 2/11/15]

“But he’ll take something like Obamacare where I’m totally and absolutely, you know, going to repeal and replace Obamacare from its inception and he’ll say that I love Obamacare, which is so ridiculous.” [CNN, 2/15/16]

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I was asked about healthcare by Anderson Cooper &amp; have been consistent- I will repeal all of #ObamaCare, including the mandate, period.

 — @realDonaldTrump

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“Look, I want — we’re going to — we’re going to repeal and — and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a total and complete disaster. It’s going to be gone. We’re going to come up with a great health care plan, whether it’s health care savings accounts, we have a lot of different things.” [West Palm Beach, FL, 2/21/16]

“We’re going to win with Obamacare — we’re getting rid of it, we’re repealing, it replacing it.” [Columbus, OH, 3/1/16]

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I am going to repeal and replace ObamaCare! Read more about my positions on healthcare reform here: https://t.co/WwIVhIud06

 — @realDonaldTrump

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“We are going to get rid of Obamacare and repeal it and replace it.” [Portland, ME, 3/3/16]

“Completely repeal Obamacare. Our elected representatives must eliminate the individual mandate. No person should be required to buy insurance unless he or she wants to.” [Trump campaign website, 3/3/16]

“We are going to get rid of a lot of things. We are getting rid of Obamacare and replacing it. OK?” [Orlando, FL, 3/5/16]

“On health care where we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare…” [GOP debate, Jupiter, FL, 3/8/16]

“We have discussed repealing and replacing Obamacare. It is going to happen.” [Fayetteville, NC, 3/9/16]

“We can’t have good health care. Obamacare is a disaster. Got to be repealed and replaced.” [Fox News, 3/11/16]

“We are going to repeal and replace Obamacare and we are going to win with its replacement.” [Dayton, OH, 3/12/16]

“We’re going to repeal and replace Obama care. It’s going to be repealed and replaced.”[Kansas City, MO, 3/12/16]

“We are gonna lead on health care, we are gonna get rid of Obamacare, repeal and replace.” [West Chester, OH, 3/13/16]

“Obamacare is a disaster. It will be repealed and replaced as sure as you’re sitting there. Repealed and replaced. Thank you. And we will have alternatives that will be so good, that’s so much less expensive. So much better. You will actually be able to keep your doctor and to have your plan.” [Tampa, FL, 3/14/16]

“And I have to tell you, health care, Obamacare is a disaster. We’re gonna repeal and replace it. We’re gonna repeal it and replace it.” [Hickory, NC, 3/14/16]

“We’re repealing and replacing Obamacare that I can tell you.” [Youngstown, OH, 3/14/16]

“We’re gonna terminate Obamacare. We’re gonna repeal it and replace it with great health care for far less money. That’s gonna happen. That is going to happen.” [Fountain Hills, AZ, 3/19/16]

“HANNITY: You said to me you will repeal “Obama care” and replace it with health care savings accounts. TRUMP: Correct.” [Fox News, 3/21/16]

“So we’re gonna get efficiency in government but we’re gonna end Obamacare. We’re gonna replace it with something so much better and so much less expensive.” [Janesville, WI, 3/29/16]

“Obamacare is going to be repealed and replaced.” [Appleton, WI, 3/30/16]

“We are going to repeal and replace Obamacare which is a total catastrophe. You are going to have great health insurance.” [Milwaukee, WI, 4/4/16]

“Obamacare is going to be repealed and replaced with something much less expensive that works much better.” [CNN, 5/14/16]

“We are going to repeal and replace Obamacare, which is a disaster.” [Charleston, WV, 5/5/16]

“HANNITY: You’re making a promise to balance the budget. You’re making a promise to build the wall. You made a promise you’re going to repeal ‘Obamacare’… TRUMP: A hundred percent.” [Fox News, 5/18/16]

“We are going to repeal and replace Obamacare.” [Lawrence Township, NJ, 5/19/16]

“Because we will terminate Obama care and replace it, believe me, with something good. Believe me. [Cheers and applause] Repeal and replace Obama care.” [San Diego, CA, 5/27/16]

“We’re gonna repeal and replace Obamacare with something great.” [Fresno, CA, 5/27/16]

“And by the way, we are going to repeal and replace Obamacare. Just remember that.” [New York, NY, 5/29/16]

“A lot of part timers because of Obamacare, which is a disaster, which we’re going to repeal and replace with something much better, and much less money.” [Fox News, 6/21/16]

“We will repeal and replace job killing Obamacare. It is a total disaster.” [New York, NY, 6/22/16]

“We will repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare. You will be able to choose your own doctor again.” [Acceptance speech in Cleveland, OH 7/21/16]

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We will repeal &amp; replace #Obamacare, which has caused soaring double-digit premium increases. It is a disaster!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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“We will repeal and replace the horrible disaster known as Obamacare.” [Manchester, NH, 8/25/16]

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We will repeal and replace the horrible disaster known as #Obamacare!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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“On my first day in office, I am going to ask congress to send me a bill to immediately repeal and replace, I just said it, Obamacare.” [Asheville, NC, 9/12/16]

“Also on my first day, I will ask congress to send me a bill to immediately repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare.” [Clive, OH, 9/13/16]

“Also on my first day i’m going to ask congress to send me a bill to immediately repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare.” [Canton, OH, 9/14/16]

“The 3.8 percent Obamacare tax on investment income will be repealed, as will the alternative minimum tax.” [Trump campaign website, 9/15/16]

“Repeal and replace Obamacare with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).” [Trump campaign website, 10/6/16]

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We must repeal Obamacare and replace it with a much more competitive, comprehensive, affordable system. #debate #MAGA

 — @realDonaldTrump

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I will sign the first bill to repeal #Obamacare and give Americans many choices and much lower rates!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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“Next, I will work with Congress to introduce the following broader legislative measures and fight for their passage within the first 100 days of my administration. … The Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act. Fully repeal Obamacare and replace it with health savings accounts. We can do that.” [Gettysburg, PA, 10/22/16]

“My first day in office, I am going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability.” [Sanford, FL, 10/25/16]

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Obamacare premiums are about to SKYROCKET --- again. Crooked H will only make it worse. We will repeal &amp; replace! https://t.co/fY1REYV4rK

 — @realDonaldTrump

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“When we win on November 8th and elect a Republican congress, we will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare. Have to do it. I will ask Congress to convene a special session so we can repeal and replace, and it will be such an honor for me, for you, and for everybody in this country because Obamacare has to be replaced and we will do it and we will do it very, very quickly.” [Valley Forge, PA, 11/1/16]

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I am going to repeal and replace ObamaCare. We will have MUCH less expensive and MUCH better healthcare. With Hillary, costs will triple!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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ObamaCare is a total disaster. Hillary Clinton wants to save it by making it even more expensive. Doesn't work, I will REPEAL AND REPLACE!

 — @realDonaldTrump

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Obamacare continues to fail. Humana to pull out in 2018. Will repeal, replace &amp; save healthcare for ALL Americans. https://t.co/glWEQ0lNR4

 — @realDonaldTrump

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ObamaCare is imploding. It is a disaster and 2017 will be the worst year yet, by far! Republicans will come together and save the day.

 — @realDonaldTrump

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68 times Trump promised to repeal Obamacare was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump scraps health care vote at the last minute

9 hours 58 min ago
If he had waited another half hour, it probably would have lost an embarrassing House vote.House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, March 24, 2017, as a showdown is set for a vote on the Republican health care overhaul. CREDIT: AP/J. Scott J. Applewhite

Republican leaders decided to pull the American Health Care Act from consideration on the House floor on Friday, after discovering they would not have enough votes to pass it. The vote was originally supposed to take place on Thursday, before talks between President Donald Trump and far-right Republican lawmakers broke down. This defeat spells trouble for other items on the GOP’s agenda, such as tax reform.

Trump reportedly made the decision just minutes before a full floor vote was scheduled to take place. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) came to the White House earlier that afternoon to tell him the bill had little chance of success.

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President Trump just called me. Still on phone. "We just pulled it," he tells me.

 — @costareports

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After Republican leaders and President Trump met with the House Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right conservatives, and the Tuesday Group, which includes moderate conservatives, on Thursday, Republican leaders concluded they would not be able to reach a deal on the health care bill that day.

Thursday night, Trump told House Republicans that he would abandon efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare and focus on tax reform if they did successfully pass Trumpcare the following day.

Powerful conservative groups opposed the legislation. The Koch brothers’ network of activism and advertising groups said they would work together to create a fund to support conservatives who voted against the bill. Heritage Action — a conservative policy advocacy group, and sister organization of the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation — also fiercely opposed the bill. Its CEO, Michael A. Needham, released a statement that read, “It is an awful bill that will impact millions of Americans’ lives and is opposed by nearly every serious conservative health care analyst. This legislation is a policy, process, and political disaster.”

Republicans and Democrats alike have said the process for passing this legislation through the House has been extremely rushed. Many lawmakers hadn’t seen the text of the legislation they were supposed to be voting on. On Thursday night, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) tweeted, “We must have the opportunity to read and understand the final bill before we vote. It’s irresponsible to do otherwise.”

Before the original Trumpcare bill was released to the public, House Republicans closely guarded it in the Capitol. Lawmakers searched for the legislation on March 2, only to find it had been moved to another location.

Only on March 7 was it finally made public. Republican leaders scheduled it for a vote in the House only weeks later. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) initially said the Senate would vote on the bill next week. In contrast, it took over a year to pass Obamacare, which began as a bipartisan effort.

The bill went through significant changes this week after Republican leaders made concessions to House Freedom Caucus Republicans, which included more cuts to Medicaid, ending Medicaid expansion earlier, and gutting Obamacare’s essential health benefits requirement, which provides services such as maternity care, substance abuse treatment, and emergency services. Still, dissatisfied Freedom Caucus Republicans wanted to get rid of the coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and a provision that allows children to remain on their parents plan until they are 26 years old.

Ninety percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans have favorable views of allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, according to a 2016 Pew Research survey. Seventy-five percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans have favorable views on the provision that protects people with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage.

Only 17 percent of Americans approved of the Republican health care bill, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll.

Trump scraps health care vote at the last minute was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

‘Pizzagate’ shooter pleads guilty, admits ‘unfounded’ web slander motivated him

10 hours 19 min ago
Edgar Welch faces prison time as his fellow travelers keep truckin’.Police arrest 28-year-old Edgar Welch in Washington, D.C., on December 4, 2016. CREDIT: Sathi Soma via AP, File

The North Carolina man whose obsession with groundless allegations that Hillary Clinton is part of an elaborate child sex abuse ring led him to fire a gun inside a Washington, D.C., pizza joint last year agreed to a plea deal on Friday.

The guilty plea could put 28-year-old Edgar Welch in prison for three years or more. Prosecutors will urge a lighter sentence if Welch “clearly demonstrates acceptance of responsibility,” the Huffington Post reports.

It’s unclear what Welch might do to satisfy that conditional leniency. But in the text of Friday’s plea, he agreed the December attack was “motivated, at least in part, by unfounded rumors about a child sex-trafficking ring… that involved nationally-known political figures.”

Welch got into the deranged amateur-sleuthing world known as “Pizzagate” “principally by watching YouTube videos and reviewing related internet content,” according to the deal. He faces 18 to 25 months on a federal charge of moving a firearm across state lines and an additional 18 months on a local assault charge stemming from his actions.

Welch’s formal declaration that the entire Pizzagate fiction is “unfounded” may sting fellow conspiracy theorists like David Seaman, the unofficial ringleader of the smear, who continues to insist that Clinton and various members of her inner circle are part of a pedophilia cabal. At the height of the craze, the story had lured much higher-profile support from right-wing supporters of President Donald Trump’s political campaign, including Michael Cernovich and Michael Flynn, Jr., the son of Trump’s since-fired National Security Adviser.

Online conspiracy theorists believed they had uncovered a secret code inside Clinton adviser John Podesta’s hacked emails. In the weeks after Wikileaks dumped Podesta’s emails onto the internet in a series of releases, a handful of paranoiacs decided that references in the correspondence to “cheese pizza” and other foodstuffs were code for child sex-slaves. The theory’s reach grew for months, thanks in part to a relentless stream of wild-eyed videos and posts from Seaman and others.

Months later, on December 4, 2016, Welch arrived in D.C. from North Carolina. He walked into the pizza shop and, prosecutors say, brandished a rifle at an employee before firing a shot that did not strike anyone.

After Welch’s arrest, Cernovich and other prominent members of Trump’s rabid online retinue dropped the Pizzagate story. Alex Jones, whose web sites had helped promote the smear, scrubbed past articles on the topic from Infowars and told followers to focus instead on Podesta’s “greater crimes.”

But Flynn, Jr. — for whom the Trump transition team sought security credentials — continues to prop up the Pizzagate quest that brought Welch and his gun to Washington.

As people in the nation’s capital worry over an apparent glut of missing-persons cases involving black teenagers, Flynn, Jr. linked the disappearances back to Pizzagate in a string of tweets.

Welch was the first of Seaman’s followers to show up at the pizza shop armed. But crowds of others had previously visited Comet and held angry rallies on the sidewalk outside. Dead-ender fans of the smear plan to march in front of the White House on Saturday.

‘Pizzagate’ shooter pleads guilty, admits ‘unfounded’ web slander motivated him was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

An atheist and a Christian review ‘The Benedict Option,’ a guide to hiding from queer people

10 hours 38 min ago
Rod Dreher’s new book demonstrates how committed conservatives are to opposing LGBT equality.CREDIT: YouTube/Screenshot

Jack Jenkins is ThinkProgress’ Senior Religion Reporter and has a Master’s of Divinity from Harvard University. Zack Ford is ThinkProgress’ LGBT Editor and an out and proud atheist who has spoken at various secular conferences nationwide. This week, they read The Benedict Option, a new book from conservative blogger Rod Dreher about how conservative Christians can form intentional communities to reinforce their sexual ethics. This is a slightly edited version of the conversation that followed.

Zack Ford: Okay Jack, who is Rod Dreher and why did I just read this terrifying book, The Benedict Option?

Jack Jenkins: Dreher is a conservative author and senior editor over at the American Conservative (where, I should mention, some friends of mine have worked). He was raised Methodist, but eventually converted to Catholicism, only to convert again to Eastern Orthodoxy in the wake of the Catholic sex abuse scandal. He’s all about converting, apparently.

This is relevant because back in 2002, Dreher apparently tried to blame the abuse scandal on “unchaste or criminal homosexuals in the Catholic priesthood,” a group he referred to as the “Lavender mafia.” Apparently Dreher’s idea of insightful cultural commentary roughly amounted to “let’s blame gay people!”

If this book is any indication, he hasn’t changed much. As for the second part of your question: I’m gonna go with masochism.

ZF: I would say that’s generally out of character for me, but maybe not. Pretty much all I knew about Dreher before this was that he blocked me on Twitter at some point, but I’ve certainly seen conservatives buzzing about The Benedict Option.

Following my cover-to-cover read, my takeaway is that he wants Christians — by which he means only those who share his conservative sexual ethics (i.e. not you, you moralistic therapeutic deist, you) — to withdraw from society and form cult-like communes for the sole purpose of rejecting queer people and “the toxins of modern secularism” (i.e. me). As a gay atheist, this book made me feel like I’m apparently a very powerful villain just because I can legally marry now. Did I miss anything? Am I overreading it?

JJ: I’d push back on your use of the term “cult,” which has a myriad of contested meanings both culturally and academically. But the overall gist — i.e., the supposedly “novel” push for people like himself to retreat from mainstream society, the rabid opposition to certain forms of secularism, the repeated implication that Mainline Christians like myself aren’t really Christians — seems about right.

It’s also worth noting that Dreher has been nursing this idea for a while now, and the conservative conversation around it has been muttering along since 2015.

ZF: Well there’s a classic atheist joke: “What’s the difference between a religion and a cult?” There are various punchlines, but the most common is: “how many followers it has.” Granting the joke’s premise, Dreher seems to advocate going in the other direction, creating culturally isolated, self-reinforcing communities that reject prevailing social norms in pursuit of a narrow set of beliefs that dictate every minute of their lives. I mean, if that’s not the basic vernacular definition of a cult, I don’t know what is. He’s so convinced that the rise of LGBT equality has turned “Christians” into a persecuted minority that he actually wants to will their minority status into existence.

Nevertheless, I’m still surprised there’s so much buzz around this book. The idea of withdrawing from society — including from politics — seems so anathema to many of the religious conservatives who are excited by Dreher’s ideas. What’s the appeal here?

JJ: You have to remember that modern white evangelicals and conservative Catholics, especially the brand that Dreher is preaching to in this book, have long trumpeted the idea that they are a “persecuted” people. For years now, Religious Right leaders have insisted their flocks are somehow a “counter-cultural” force in America (in an overwhelmingly Christian nation), and their way of life is under attack by Hollywood, liberals, and basically anyone who doesn’t think like them — including their fellow Christians.

But the ferocity of this sentiment has been exacerbated in recent years, coinciding with the accelerated push to provide equal rights to LGBTQ people. After years of fighting against this, things came to a head in 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges, bringing marriage equality to the entire country.

ZF: Technically, Dreher claims that things “came to a head” a few months before Obergefell, when some of the nation’s biggest companies turned on Indiana for trying to pass its anti-LGBT “religious freedom” law. He then described Obergefell as “the Waterloo of religious conservatism.” Despite the fact we LGBT folks still don’t have secure nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations in more than half the states — and states are still passing laws to license discrimination against us — we’ve apparently won the culture war.

“Post-Obergefell,” Dreher opines, “Christians who hold to the biblical teaching about sex and marriage have the same status in culture, and increasingly in law, as racists.” I actually agreed with this statement, though not with the same sentiments that motivated him to write it. Dreher complains that after Indiana, “professing orthodox biblical Christianity on sexual matters was now thought to be evidence of intolerable bigotry.”

As an example of this anti-Christian persecution, Dreher cites the case of philosopher Richard Swinburne, who last year, as Dreher described it, was “publicly assailed… as a bigot for briefly defending the orthodox Christian teaching on homosexuality.” What Swinburne actually said was that homosexuality is a “disability” and an “incurable condition,” urging “older and incurable homosexuals” to abstain from sex, because that would be “a great service” to “young and curable ones.” I’m always amazed by conservatives’ cognitive dissonance; believe it or not, you can hold an idea in your head that is both a convicted religious belief and intolerable bigotry — not to mention factually wrong!

An Atheist And A Christian Review ‘God’s Not Dead 2’

But this is the ultimatum at the root of Dreher’s argument. It’s more important for him to honor his faith than it is for him to not be bigoted, and so he wants to create communities in which he can have his wedding-cake-for-straights-only and eat it too. I think a lot of the conservative Christians praising his book appreciate the idealism of such a community, but I’ve also seen some criticizing him for conceding defeat. And to be honest, I don’t really buy it anyway. I just can’t imagine them giving up their fight, certainly not seeing how emboldened they are by Trump’s election to pass more “religious freedom” and blatantly anti-transgender bills.

JJ: Yeah, I’m not expecting his grand plan to catch fire in any practical sense. The Religious Right is certainly grappling with some infighting at the moment, but they’re not going away anytime soon — and neither is their political agenda. For example: Jerry Falwell Jr., president of the conservative Christian school Liberty University and prominent right-wing Christian leader, has been tapped to lead Trump’s education task force. I highly doubt he’s going to start endorsing conservative Christian intentional communities that avoid politics. I also don’t expect the 80 percent of white evangelicals who voted for Trump to suddenly grab their tents and begin trading in iPhones for butter churns.

ZF: To be fair, he’s not advocating everyone abandon electricity like the Amish. Though he insists suffering makes for better Christians, he doesn’t appear to have given up on refrigeration or grocery stores.

JJ: Right, although he seems really into Benedict’s time in the wilderness.

For years now, Religious Right leaders have insisted their flocks are somehow a ‘counter-cultural’ force in America (in an overwhelmingly Christian nation), and their way of life is under attack by Hollywood, liberals, and basically anyone who doesn’t think like them — including their fellow Christians.

Dreher might think conservative political crusaders are fighting “unwinnable political battles,” but I’m not sure many agree with him. And even if they did, I doubt his Benedictine communities could ever achieve his dreams. He offers different examples for how these communities could work in practice, but all involve some aspect of asceticism — the idea is to be removed from society. That seems suspect: does he really think an evangelical community in rural Ohio is somehow going to extricate itself from the debate over LGBT rights? Are evangelical kids going to be able to just grow up without being exposed to the leveling force that is the internet, disconnected from American culture at large?

ZF: I mean, that’s not even the most extreme outcome! Dreher specifically calls on those who are committed to Benedict Option communities to sacrifice educations and careers to avoid having to function in environments that might require affirming LGBT people. “A young Christian who dreams of being a lawyer or doctor might have to abandon that hope and enter a career in which she makes far less money than a lawyer or doctor would,” he writes. “An aspiring Christian academic might have to be happy with the smaller salary and lower prestige of teaching at a classical Christian high school.” I’m not really surprised by the indoctrination mentality of limiting one’s education to a Biblical framework, but how can anyone argue that having fewer doctors is a good thing for any community?

JJ: Yeah, I think this is all wrapped up in Dreher’s dream of creating a sort of shadow conservative Christian society. As he puts it: “Rather than wasting energy resources fighting unwinnable battles, we should instead work on building communities, institutions, and networks of resistance that can outwit, outlast, and eventually overcome the occupation.”

ZF: As if it’s all Christian turf and secular values are just intruding. I’m sure as a big Star Wars fan you also appreciated all his references to the “Empire” and his desire to live outside of it.

JJ: I wonder if he knows that Star Wars has gay characters now.

But setting aside the profound irony of a white American Christian referring to people fighting for LGBT rights as “occupiers,” modern conservative Christians aren’t the first religious group to try this. When Mormonism founder Joseph Smith was assassinated during his campaign for President of the United States (which is an actual thing that happened), most of his followers eventually packed up and moved to the American west, hoping to found their own society. But there is no modern frontier for conservatives like Dreher to move to (and, if they’re following this historical model, subjugate). What’s more, the Mormon example makes it clear that you can only avoid the siren song of politics for so long (e.g., any number of Mormon politicians).

Dreher, for his part, has likened his plan to the Orthodox Jewish community. But a more analogous historical example comes from the early 20th century. His progenitors were called “Fundamentalists” back then, a group that grew increasingly frustrated after a series of very public political defeats over issues such as prohibition. Their enemies weren’t “secularists” at the time, but so-called “Modernists” — mostly “liberal” Mainline Christians who deeply valued social justice and didn’t see science as incompatible with faith.

In other words: my people.

The Rise Of LGBT Rights Is An Existential Threat To Conservative Religious Groups

ZF: Dreher objects to modernists too. It’s almost as if modernity is always going to be the enemy of millennium-old ideas.

JJ: Well, it’s certainly why he implicitly refers to Mainliners disparagingly as “moralistic therapeutic deists,” and often uses the term “Christians” in a way that excludes, well, millions of Christians.

Anyway, the Modernists kept winning, so Fundamentalists eventually largely retreated from public debates and formed new religious institutions: their own schools, their own publishing companies, and their own church organizations. The National Association of Evangelicals was created at this time to challenge the National Council of Churches, which was seen as too liberal and too in accommodating of society.

This kept them out of the spotlight for a while, but Fundamentalists came roaring back in the 1950s and 1960s during the Red Scare (communists were seen as Godless heathens). This time they were reorganized and under a new moniker: evangelicals.

ZF: And suddenly our motto was “In God We Trust” instead of “E Pluribus Unum.” Dreher doesn’t want to become one with the many; he wants to get as far away from the many as he can.

JJ: Look Zack: I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who were converted to Christianity after looking at the back of the a quarter.

ZF: That’s why I always try to use a credit card.

JJ: I think the “regroup and come back stronger” strategy is close to what Dreher is actually doing here, intentionally or otherwise.

Well, that, and attempting to build a sub-civilization where LGBTQ people apparently just…don’t exist?

ZF: Right, and this is why I opened our discussion calling the book “terrifying.” Your prediction that a Benedict hibernation might lead to a stronger evangelical movement in the future is disconcerting, but I’m far more worried about what happens in the meantime. Even the most perfect Benedict Option community is going to have queer kids, and it’s not hard to imagine Dreher will end up with young queer blood on his hands.

For all the similarities with other civil rights movements, the LGBT community has a particularly distinguishing quality — what you might call a “spontaneity problem.” Though we know there are biological components to both sexual orientation and gender identity, we also know that these identities are not directly hereditary. We queer people just pop up anywhere and everywhere. And if you stop and think about it, this quality is a defining feature of the entire LGBT movement.

JJ: Oh Zack, clearly you’re just not as enlightened as Dreher. For him, the LGBT movement isn’t about “civil rights.” It’s just natural product of Romanticism — selfish, self-centered Romanticism — and the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s.

ZF: You sure about that? He’s not too keen on the Enlightenment, because it “displaced the Christian religion with the cult of Reason, privatized religious life, and inaugurated the age of democracy.” It also opened the doors for the LGBT movement we know today.

We know queer people have always existed throughout history, but it’s not a coincidence that it took the rise of industry, mass transportation, psychology, and the information age for a gay rights movements and trans rights movements to form. We queer people have always been born into isolation, searching in the dark for explanations for why our human experience is so different from everyone around us. It wasn’t until psychologists started researching who we are (no matter how wrong they’ve been along the way); mass production allowed us to distribute newsletters across the country; and mass transportation allowed those of us who found those newsletters to migrate to cities and find community that we actually saw a movement coalesce. The internet has exponentially increased our ability to learn about ourselves, find others like us, and access resources that might not exist in our immediate geographic vicinity.

JJ: Herein lies the subtle subversiveness of Dreher’s book: I don’t think he would argue with any of the facts you just outlined. But he would challenge what they mean.

For Dreher, psychologists like Sigmund Freud “replaced” religion with a worship of the self, or specifically a “deity to replace the Christian religion,” as did scientists who championed humanity’s capacity to influence the world. Dreher returns to this criticism of “self” again and again, lamenting the supposed re-centering of Western civilization away from Christianity and onto a distinctly secular form of individualism. This, he argues, is where everything went wrong.

It’s more important for him to honor his faith than it is for him to not be bigoted, and so he wants to create communities in which he can have his wedding-cake-for-straights-only and eat it too.

But Dreher isn’t remotely consistent on this point, and thus gives away his true intentions: There is very, very little criticism of the conservative “bootstraps” individualism in this book, and he says even less about the economic theory that most benefits from a self-focused mentality — capitalism. Instead, he insists the clearest example of Western society’s selfishness is the acceptance of LGBTQ people, because that, apparently, is the single worst affront to “orthodox Christianity.”

ZF: And though Dreher bridles at this progress, the spontaneity problem continues to explain the high rates of mental health issues that we know the queer community still experiences. The growing universality of LGBT equality has outpaced the growing universality of education about LGBT identities. Thus, queer people born into families and communities with less awareness about what that means can expect a guaranteed set of challenges.

A wealth of research bears this out. We know that when a young person comes out, how their family reacts to that news is the biggest factor in determining their future mental health outcome. We know that bullying and peer rejection can also have significant consequences. Being part of a faith community that rejects your sexual orientation or gender identity is also damaging. And even being queer in a community that’s just generally conservative can cut years off your life.

What Happens When Gay People Are Told That Homosexuality Is A Sin?

Dreher wants to set up communities with the odds stacked against the queer kids that will surely be born into them. He doesn’t want kids to have any access to what the world has actually learned about LGBT identities over the past century. He wants church, school, families, workplaces, and every aspect of life to be oriented against the very existence of LGBT lives. He almost seems to believe that if he can erase LGBT people, he can prevent LGBT people. This isn’t an exaggeration; as we saw from the recent 20/20 exposé on ex-gay camps, many isolated religious communities already embrace that idea literally — trying to beat the homosexuality out of kids.

It’s interesting how Dreher describes LGBT equality as the primary impetus for Benedictine living while avoiding talking too much in depth about LGBT identities, but his ignorance still shines through. He describes “transgendered” [sic] people by saying they “refuse to be bound by biology and have behind them an elite movement teaching new generations that gender is whatever the choosing individual wants it to be.” At another point, he suggests that being trans or bisexual is just a teenage fad that parents can nip in the bud if they “do what’s necessary to protect their children from forms of disordered sexuality accepted by mainstream American youth culture.” And of course, he calls homosexuality a sin, a message we know has its own set of consequences for every queer person who hears it.

JJ: It’s also a claim that literally millions of Christians (including entire denominations) disagree with. But Dreher repeatedly states it as if it were an unimpeachable fact that all Christians believe.

I want to take a moment to note something important: Dreher’s conception of “orthodox” Christianity in this book is popular among right-wing believers, but it’s largely ahistorical. Conservative culture warriors have insisted for a couple of decades now that a core component of Christianity — if not THE core component — is opposition to homosexual relationships and virtually all queer identities. The implicit argument throughout this book is that Christian debate over economics and divorce — things Jesus gives explicit instructions about — are permissible, but any discussion of LGBT identities — things Jesus either didn’t talk about or implicitly endorsed, depending on who you ask — is a red line for orthodox Christians.

That is patently false, and Dreher’s use of “orthodox” is dubious.

Granted, debates over orthodoxy are as old as Christianity itself. Regardless, that’s clearly the theological worldview he wants taught in Benedict Option communities.

ZF: And let’s be clear, Benedict Option communities would, by definition and intention, reinforce these ignorances to create a living Hell for queer kids. I dread how much self-harm might result as those mental health consequences stack up, at least until the kids can escape and find a society that understands and respects them for who they are — if they escape. I doubt Dreher even comprehends how many broken families and teenage funerals he’ll be responsible for.

The implicit argument throughout this book is that Christian debate over economics and divorce — things Jesus gives explicit instructions about — are permissible, but any discussion of LGBT identities — things Jesus either didn’t talk about or implicitly endorsed, depending on who you ask — is a red line light for orthodox Christians.

JJ: I don’t think he’d bear the sole blame for such things (religiously fueled homophobia, as you note, has a long history). But this all kind of assumes that any of this will catch on, or that it will have any sustained impact. The book has certainly sparked a lively conversation among conservatives, but it remains to be seen how many will willingly embark on his experiment.

I mean, can something like this really work?

ZF: Well, I really had to laugh at one of the examples Dreher provided of a community already primed for Benedict-Option living: the rural Catholic enclave of Elk County, Pennsylvania. I know Elk County well, particularly its biggest “city,” St. Mary’s (pop. 13,070), because it’s my mom’s hometown and I’ve visited it frequently throughout my life. She and her 11 siblings went to 12 years of “the great Catholic school system” Dreher describes, and my grandfather worked in one of the carbon factories Dreher lauds — one of two full-time jobs he had to support his 12 kids. For many years, our big family even held its Christmas celebration in the basement of the Benedictine Convent (yes, that Benedict!); I spent many nights in the convent’s guest house. My father, who’s an architect, even did a feasibility study for the convent. Unfortunately (for Dreher), the convent closed in 2014 due to dwindling numbers — there were only 17 nuns left at that point, the youngest of whom was 58 at the time.

JJ: Does that…make you a hipster Benedictine Christian? You tried it (and left it) before it was cool?

ZF: Not quite, but I’m not unfamiliar. I showed my mom, Mary Jo, what Dreher wrote about her hometown and asked her whether she thinks it’s a good place for the kind of communal living he idealized. “No,” she said emphatically.

For one, many of the factories have closed, and those that remain, like the paper mill in nearby Johnsonburg, require college degrees for many of their positions. The ascetic manual labor life Dreher fawns over wouldn’t be quite as accessible as he imagines. It’s also not as cheap a place to live as he describes, with housing prices only being low because of the recent recession. “There are million-dollar homes in St. Mary’s,” my mom noted.

But the biggest problem with Dreher’s vision is that even St. Mary’s, despite its isolation (and let me tell you, it’s very isolated), is not nearly as Catholic or conservative as it used to be. “There are many other religions, and people are respectful of each other’s churches,” my mom explained. “There are young people — but even people my age, baby boomers, who don’t always prescribe to what the church is teaching. So I don’t know that that would draw me or anyone to go there.”

Likewise, she pointed out that Elk County isn’t even as conservative as Dreher dreams. For example, during the 2008 primaries, Bill Clinton actually visited St. Mary’s, and hundreds of people eagerly came out to see him. He was still campaigning for Hillary at the time, but nevertheless, Elk County was one of the only northern counties across Pennsylvania that went on to support Barack Obama in the general election that year. Mom also said that from her own experience, gay people do, in fact, live in Elk County and are generally supported by the active church communities there. (I can attest that I’ve talked to several of them on Grindr during my visits.)

“I don’t think St. Mary’s is a panacea for a religious cult,” my mom told me, without me feeding her that word at any point in our conversation. (Like mother, like son, I guess.)

I don’t know if that dashes Dreher’s hopes or not, but it sure made me think that what he’s offering is more of an idealized pipe dream than an actual realistic plan for monastic life.

JJ: Agreed, which brings back to our original question: what exactly is this book?

From where I sit, the truly fascinating aspect of the The Benedict Option isn’t reher’s monastic fever dream, but the fact that conservatives are even willing to talk about it. For his largely conservative Christian audience, opposition to LGBTQ equality is showing itself to be a uniquely powerful motivator; like Dreher, millions are apparently willing to dismiss fellow Christians who support equality, refuse to solemnize the marriage certificates of same-sex couples, and ultimately back a presidential candidate that makes them uneasy (Trump) so long as they promise to defend their vision of “religious liberty.”

The Surprising Religious Breakdown Of Same-Sex Marriage Support

And some, it seems, are even ready to retreat from the modern world to avoid the impact of LGBTQ equality — or at least talk about.

That’s not nothing, and progressives should take heed.

ZF: In that regard, I’m glad I read this book, because it was a bit too easy to laugh off the premise at first. You want to get out of the way of equality and just do your own thing? Go for it! But the reality is that conservative Christians don’t really want to withdraw from society; they’re just so dedicated to the cause of rejecting LGBT people that they’re humoring such extreme measures as a possible way to follow through on that commitment.

If Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion helped me understand my atheism so I could better articulate it to other people, Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option sealed the deal for me that religious thinking can be a particularly dangerous force. Conservatives are doubling down on preserving their homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic beliefs, and queer kids will be caught in the crossfire of their ignorance. However quickly equality may seem to be progressing, the fight for our lives is far from over.

JJ: These discussions rarely end on a cheery note, do they?

An atheist and a Christian review ‘The Benedict Option,’ a guide to hiding from queer people was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Rep. John Lewis: ‘Health care is a right. It is not a privilege.’

10 hours 38 min ago
Rep. Lewis gave a speech imploring members of Congress to vote against Trumpcare.In this Jan. 11, 2017, file photo, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. CREDIT: AP/Cliff Owen

As the House waited to find out whether President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan would continue to push for a vote on Trumpcare, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a civil rights hero, gave a moving speech on the House floor. Lewis implored the House to vote against the bill for the sake of the “disabled, women, seniors, and working families” whose health insurance would be most affected by the bill.

“Mr. Speaker, I have said it time and time again. Health care is a right. It is not a privilege reserved for a wealthy few,” Lewis said. “It doesn’t profit this body to pass this bill and lose our soul. This bill is a shame. It is a disgrace. Mr. Speaker, today my heart breaks for the disabled, for women, for seniors, and working families.”

He added, “I will fight any bill that turns the clock back to a darker time. I will fight every single attempt to turn a deaf ear, blind eye, and cold shoulder to the sick. To our seniors, and to working families. Mr. Speaker, I will fight every day, every hour, every minute, and every second.”

You can watch Rep. Lewis’ full remarks here.

https://medium.com/media/3c45397f745f30fbfe9836b43fb0227c/href

Before major changes to the bill, the original version of the American Health Care Act already hurt some of the country’s most vulnerable populations. Low-income people would be hurt by the end of Medicaid expansion, and chronically sick people often have gaps in coverage, which means that they would be subject to the 30 percent surcharge for people who go without insurance for too long.

Insurance companies would be allowed to charge elderly Americans up to five times more than young people. Annual premiums would would rise 22 percent for people between the ages 60 to 64 and people in their 50s would see a 13 percent in annual premiums, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute.

But the legislation has become much worse for women, disabled people, seniors, and working families over the past week. The Freedom Caucus pushed for changes to the bill that would make it harder for women to access maternity care, for example. Republican leaders have added further cuts to Medicaid, ended Medicaid expansion earlier, included language allowing states to impose work requirements for some Medicaid recipients, and gutted Obamacare’s essential health benefits requirement, which required coverage for maternity care, emergency services, and substance abuse treatment.

Rep. John Lewis: ‘Health care is a right. It is not a privilege.’ was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

The art of the repeal

10 hours 50 min ago
Donald Trump is having a tantrum. (Credit: AP Photo)

Remember when people voted Donald Trump into the White House on the belief he was a savvy businessman and expert negotiator? In the last 24 hours, his administration has managed to take a bill everybody hates and make it worse, alienating more members of his own party in the process and possibly violating yet another law in a last-ditch effort to save it.

Donald Trump is not a total loser, though: he took credit for creating 20,000 new jobs (that were announced 18 months ago) and was described as having “perfect genes” (by somebody he employs). Who cares if his administration doesn’t know how pregnancy works?

Credit: AP Photo

Meanwhile, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) abruptly canceled open hearings into whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with allies in Russia.

Reading List

There’s a great college basketball tournament going on right now. Also, the men are still playing.

Trump approved the Keystone XL pipeline today. But there are still hurdles.

Who better to run the Department of Health and Human Services’ Civil Rights Office than a leading opponent of LGBTQ rights?

Soundbite

“You can figure out a way to change the state you live in.”
 — OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, offering one solution to women who will lose their maternity coverage under Trump’s health care bill

The art of the repeal was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

New York City forces official who leaked police disciplinary records to resign, sparking outrage

11 hours 4 min ago
The officer who choked Eric Garner remains employed by the NYPD.CREDIT: Greg Allen/Invision/AP

The release of previously secret disciplinary records of the NYPD officer that killed Eric Garner is stirring controversy in New York City, reinvigorating the heated debate among activists and city officials over transparency and police accountability.

On Tuesday, ThinkProgress published the disciplinary records of Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who used a prohibited chokehold against Garner in 2014. The records — which were previously hidden from the public — originated from the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the independent city agency that fields complaints about officer misconduct. They were leaked to ThinkProgress from an anonymous source who was discovered by the agency and forced to resign.

The news also forced the CCRB to formally confirm that the documents are real.

The CCRB’s actions triggered indignation from Cynthia Conti-Cook, a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society’s Special Litigation Unit. The group is currently involved in lawsuits to obtain disciplinary records from both the CCRB and the NYPD.

“When there is more political will to fire a whistleblower than an officer who killed an unarmed man, it sends a message about the Mayor’s capacity to act quickly and therefore simultaneously sends a message about his lack of political will to hold police like Pantaleo…accountable for misconduct,” she said, referring to the fact that Pantaleo remains employed by the NYPD, and received a raise last year.

Civil rights groups and several city officials were also outraged by the content of the documents, which showed that Pantaleo had 7 complaints and 4 substantiated allegations years before his encounter with Garner—far more than the overwhelming majority of his fellow NYPD officers, according to CCRB data. The revelations also raised questions about whether Pantaleo was properly disciplined, as the documents showed that the NYPD repeatedly enacted lesser penalties than those recommended by the CCRB.

Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, said that earlier review of the records could have saved her son’s life.

“Someone should have taken a look at his record a long time ago,” Carr told the New York Daily News. “If they had done that maybe my son would still be alive.”

Several local lawmakers voiced shock with what they said was the city’s failure to properly discipline Pantaleo, with one calling the leaker a “hero.” Jumaane D. Williams, Council Member from Brooklyn’s 45th District, told ThinkProgress that the revelations call into question the decision not to indict the officer, who is now on desk duty.

“On police transparency, we have gone backwards,” he told ThinkProgress in an interview. “Here we have a [former] District Attorney who claimed he can’t indict [Pantaleo]…and now we find out that there were substantiated complaints — that’s a big thing.”

“People ask us why black lives matter — it’s because of cases like Eric Garner,” he added.

EXCLUSIVE DOCUMENTS: The disturbing secret history of the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner

The controversy rekindled a debate over whether the city should push for more transparency on matters of police discipline. Critics note that the CCRB and the NYPD previously released records with information similar to those found in the leaked documents, but abruptly halted the practice in 2014, arguing that state civil rights law “50-a” prohibited the sharing of such information.

“This CCRB employee is just the latest casualty in the City’s battle to keep police misconduct secret.”

As Politico New York pointed out, the situation has placed Mayor Bill de Blasio — who has previously said he wants police disciplinary information to be made public and called for the law to be changed — in a precarious position: a city agency has now forced out an employee who leaked documents that the mayor purportedly wants to be made public.

Mayor de Blasio — who campaigned on a platform of police reform — dodged questions about the leak throughout the week. He repeatedly said he hadn’t seen the documents days after their release, even though the mayor’s spokesman was quoted in ThinkProgress’ original story on the leak. The Mayor’s press office has since declined to comment to ThinkProgress, despite multiple requests.

He finally discussed the documents and the forced resignation on Friday morning, telling reporters he didn’t “personally” push out the employee. Nevertheless, he defended the decision to do so.

“We have to follow the law until we change it,” he reportedly said, saying that the leak of records is “clearly against state law.”

But others argue that the mayor’s position is a new development, and part of a growing culture of secrecy around police discipline. Andrew Case, former spokesperson for the CCRB who left in June 2009, noted that the CCRB has had disciplinary records leaked in the past — as recently as 2007 — but did not attempt to fire employees.

“Our response to it was not to root out leaks,” Case, who now works as a lawyer in New York City, told ThinkProgress. “The real issue to the CCRB then, as it should remain now, is the very low level of discipline that the NYPD enforces on officers. The NYPD has routinely — and for decades — imposed minimal or no discipline on officers the CCRB has found committed misconduct.”

Williams also harped on the the disparity between the swift action taken against the leaker and the years-long quest for action to be taken against Pantaleo.

“What is most chilling to me is the speed with which you can fire this employee, [compared to] the length of time it takes to fire Pantaleo, who murdered someone on camera for the whole world to see,” he said. “The only two people I’ve seen action one is the one man who filmed [the Garner incident] , and the employee who leaked the documents — yet Pantaleo is still on the force.”

NYCLU Associate Legal Director Chris Dunn, who is also part of a lawsuit to make police disciplinary records public, expressed similar frustrations.

“The real issue to the CCRB then, as it should remain now, is the very low level of discipline that the NYPD enforces on officers.”

“This CCRB employee is just the latest casualty in the City’s battle to keep police misconduct secret,” Dunn said. “There simply is no good reason for disciplinary records like this to be withheld from the public, which has a right to know whether police officers who abuse civilians are disciplined. And public employees should not be put in the position of losing their jobs for making this type of information public.”

Joel Berger, a NYC attorney and former executive of the New York City Law Department, insisted such documents should be made public. Although he did not condone the leaker, he said the Mayor should have commented earlier, and insisted that “this material [should] be public, city hall should want it to be public, the NYPD should want it to public.”

“I’m convinced that [the city]…didn’t want people to see that the penalties are trivial.”

He claimed that the city’s resistance to releasing such information was telling.

“I’m convinced that [the city]…didn’t want people to see that the penalties are trivial,” he said, describing their sudden embrace of 50-a as a “coverup.” “This is not the type of thing they want the public to know about. They don’t want the public to know that the NYPD disciplinary system is a farce.”

Berger also called for even more detailed information about disciplinary records to be released.

“It’s not enough to know the list [of complaints],” he said. “We need to know what happened in these cases. We need to see the file in the cases. We need to interview the victims…The list itself is just a starting point.”

By contrast, the NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA)— the police union that represents most officers — blasted the leak in a statement earlier this week, saying their release “may have criminal implications and must be fully investigated.” They also celebrated the forced resignation of the leaker, describing it as a “positive first step” but calling for further investigation that could result in criminal prosecution.

When contacted by ThinkProgress, a PBA representative could not recall if they made similar demands after the 2007 leak. A search of their online list of press releases does not reveal any relevant statement about the story.

Meanwhile, oral arguments for one of the lawsuits regarding the release of disciplinary records were held on Tuesday. The judge in the case expressed puzzlement at the city’s sudden embrace of 50-a, saying the reversal “boggle[d]” her mind.

This post has been updated to clarify the nature of the documents and the response to the 2007 CCRB leak.

New York City forces official who leaked police disciplinary records to resign, sparking outrage was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump just approved the Keystone XL pipeline. Here’s what comes next.

12 hours 4 min ago
Environmentalists, land owners, and tribes gear up to fight the controversial project — again.Rows of pipe ready to become part of the Keystone Pipeline, from 2012. CREDIT: AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File

On Friday, TransCanada — the pipeline developer behind the controversial Keystone XL pipeline — announced that the Trump administration had granted a presidential permit allowing the pipeline’s construction to move forward. Hours later, President Donald Trump made a statement from the Oval Office, essentially announcing that any debate surrounding the project had been put to rest.

“The bottom line: Keystone, finished,” Trump said.

As TransCanada’s president and chief executive officer Russ Girling, who was present for the statement, noted immediately after, that’s not quite right: TransCanada still faces a few significant hurdles before it can officially begin construction on the Keystone XL pipeline.

BREAKING: Trump administration issues permit for Keystone XL pipeline

More than anything, Friday’s action is likely to reignite intense debate over the pipeline, which has long pitted environmentalists, tribes, and some Midwestern land owners against the fossil fuel industry. And despite the fact pipeline opponents now face a fossil fuel-friendly administration, they have pledged to organize both in the streets and in the courtroom to prevent the pipeline from being completed.

“There are millions of Americans committed to making sure that the Keystone XL pipeline never gets built,” Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, said on a press call on Friday. “This project is going to be fought at every turn.”

The presidential permit already faces a challenge in court, with environmental groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council arguing that the State Department violated the National Environmental Policy Act by relying on an environmental study from three years ago, which they argue contains outdated information about the pipeline’s impacts on the environment and the economy. Primarily, the groups are seeking to dispute the fact that the three-year-old environmental study predicted oil prices would never fall below $100 a barrel throughout the lifetime of the Keystone XL pipeline. Oil prices have since fallen well below that, trading for around $50 a barrel currently.

“Approving the Keystone pipeline on the basis of an outdated environmental review is not only bad policy, but it violates the law,” Anthony Swift, director of NRDC’s Canada Project, said on a press call.

Keystone XL developer files pipeline application in Nebraska

If that legal challenge fails, TransCanada will still need approval from regulators in Nebraska before they can proceed with constructing the pipeline along one of their three proposed routes. Trump, appearing to hear this news for the first time on Friday during his remarks from the White House, quipped that he would put in a call to Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) to ensure the pipeline’s swift approval. As Timothy Cama of The Hill pointed out, Todd Ricketts, Pete’s brother, is currently Trump’s nominee for deputy Commerce secretary.

But getting the pipeline approved to run through Nebraska won’t be as simple as a call to a friendly politician — Ricketts, in fact, has nothing to do with the decision, which is up to the Nebraska Public Service Commission, an independent board of five publicly-elected commissioners.

“He is so arrogant to think that a phone call to Gov. Ricketts would somehow grant and greenlight this project in our state,” Jane Kleeb, president of Bold Alliance, said on a press call. “Newsflash to President Trump, Gov. Ricketts actually has no role in the approval of the Keystone pipeline in Nebraska.”

TransCanada submitted an application for approval to the Public Service Commission on February 17. Since then, at least 40 groups have filed as intervenors in the case, hoping to argue against the construction of the pipeline. These include indigenous communities, like the Ponca Tribe in Nebraska, environmental groups, farmers, ranchers, landowners, and concerned citizens.

The commission has 210 days from February 17 to decide whether the project is in the public interest of the state — and has unilateral authority to deny the project. Even if the commission approves the project, Kleeb expects that decision to face numerous challenges in court, telling reporters that it will likely be two to three years before the pipeline question is resolved in Nebraska.

‘We haven’t lost…we have awakened’: Indigenous nations march on the White House

The pipeline will also likely face renewed opposition from environmental and social justice groups throughout the country — already, organizers have scheduled two separate actions in protest of the pipeline for Friday evening. Indigenous communities are also pledging to fight the pipeline, borrowing tactics from the protests at Standing Rock, North Dakota, which temporarily shut down construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. According to Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network, at least two tribes have already announced their intention to hold physical space along the proposed pipeline route for “resistance spirit camps,” like the one at Standing Rock.

Opponents may borrow other tactics from the movement against the Dakota Access pipeline as well. Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, suggested environmental groups may begin campaigns to pressure investors in the Keystone XL pipeline to divest from the project, or to pressure cities and communities to divest themselves from entities financially supporting the pipeline. In February, the city of Seattle voted to divest from Wells Fargo over the company’s financial support of the Dakota Access pipeline, and cities like D.C. and San Francisco have since considered similar divestment bills. It’s possible that those campaigns could gain momentum with another controversial pipeline edging towards completion.

In general, opponents of the pipeline are coalescing around a common refrain: this is not over yet.

“Back in 2010, 2011 and even in 2014, most experts thoughts that Keystone XL was headed for approval,” Kenny Bruno, coordinator of the Moving Beyond Oil Campaign, said. “They were wrong then, and if they think that Keystone XL is a done deal, then they are wrong again.”

Trump just approved the Keystone XL pipeline. Here’s what comes next. was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump is going to kill an Obama-era rule to stop coal companies from cheating taxpayers

12 hours 26 min ago
The Dept. of the Interior filed Thursday to preserve a royalty loophole the Obama administration closed.CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber

The Trump administration filed in court Thursday to preserve a loophole that allows coal companies to evade royalty payments owed to U.S. taxpayers.

By repealing the Office of Natural Resource’s Revenue popular valuation rule, Western states and all federal taxpayers will lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars annually that could go to schools, roads, and other local projects.

“This latest effort to gut government royalty collections is an attack on one of our bedrock minerals and environmental laws, the Mineral Leasing Act, which requires the government to get fair market value when federal fossil fuels like coal are developed,” said Nada Culver, Senior Counsel and Director of the BLM Action Center at The Wilderness Society.

The action compounds questions about the legality of the administration’s announcement last month — without notice and comment — that it would stay the rule, which enforces coal, oil and gas royalty payments on public lands.

“In abandoning the rule, the Trump Administration [was] trying to cloak itself in legal terms like ‘stay,’ — but the action is still not legal,” Culver said.

Others — including members of Congress — agreed. Earlier this month, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) told new Sec. of the Interior Ryan Zinke that “postponing the effective date of the new rule in this manner was plainly contrary to law. You testified at your confirmation hearing that you ‘will follow the law.’ This may be a good place to start. You should lift the stay and let the royalty valuation rule go back into effect.”

Thursday’s court filing, requesting a stay of the rule and stating that the notice to repeal the rule would be published in the Federal Register within 90 days, was an apparent response to those legal concerns.

Trump’s latest gift to the coal industry might be illegal

However, the Federal Register notice won’t change the fact that the original stay was put in place after the rule was already in effect. The administration does not have the authority to stay a rule that has already been implemented without direction from a court, and the illegal stay is still in place.

The ONRR rule was promulgated after a Reuters investigation found that coal companies operating on public lands were taking advantage of a loophole that allowed them to sell coal to their own subsidiaries at intentionally depressed prices, thereby avoiding royalty payments and cheating taxpayers out of hundreds of millions of dollars annually. In response, the Obama administration began a rulemaking process to close the loophole. The rule was finalized on July 1, 2016.

Coal giant to receive award for bankruptcy deal that screwed over its workers

Zinke, who has received significant campaign contributions from the coal, oil and gas industries, has been a vocal supporter of rolling back the coal loophole rule.

Trump is going to kill an Obama-era rule to stop coal companies from cheating taxpayers was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Trump announces 20,000 jobs that were planned a year and a half before his election

13 hours 10 min ago
Charter Communications pledged to add 20,000 new American jobs as early as June 2015.Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Reed Cordish, Assistant to the President for Intragovernmental and Technology Initiatives, at the White House on Friday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

After a meeting at the White House with Charter Communications CEO Thomas Rutledge, President Trump announced that the company told him it will hire 20,000 more people and invest $25 billion in the U.S.

“Today I am thrilled to announce that Charter Communications has just committed to investing $25 billion…here in the United States and has committed further to hiring 20,000 American workers over the next four years,” Trump bragged on Friday. He also noted that Charter committed to close all its offshore call centers.

https://medium.com/media/b37ed885f8ef0b6982db61b1261007b9/href

But Trump was bragging about something that was in the works long before he took office. Charter made this hiring goal public in the spring of 2015.

Charter announced its plans to acquire Time Warner Cable in May of 2015 and then spent a year trying to get it approved by regulators. To sweeten the deal, as early as June 2015 the company pledged to hire 20,000 more Americans if it went through.

The FCC explicitly mentioned this promise when it approved the merger in May of 2016. “The Applicants commit to increase customer care through domestic investment and in-sourced jobs, and claim that New Charter would bring thousands of overseas Time Warner Cable jobs back to the United States,” the agency wrote. “They explain that many, if not most of the overseas jobs would be brought in-house, where the Applicants would provide significant training, benefits, and opportunities for advancement, which would add to the skill level and economic fabric of local communities.”

When asked if this was the same as the announcement made today, a spokesperson told ThinkProgress, “We have spoken about our plans to hire 20k before but it wasn’t a commitment. Today we committed to a time frame of four years for those hires.”

Trump just bragged about jobs he didn’t create

The FCC document appears to dispute this. “Charter commits that New Charter would continue this in-sourcing strategy with respect to field technician positions within the Time Warner Cable and Bright House footprints,” it reads.

Although the FCC concluded that Charter’s promise to create more jobs wasn’t specific enough to be counted as a verifiable benefit of the deal, it did note that job creation is a consideration factor for whether deals are greenlighted.

On Friday, Trump said that other American businesses have created jobs specifically after his election to the White House.

“You’re going to see thousands and thousands and thousands of jobs, and companies, and everything coming back into our country,” he promised. “They’re coming in even far faster than even I had projected.”

Yet nearly all of the deals he’s bragged about have had nothing to do with him or his election. The 45,000 jobs Exxon said it would add were in the works as far back as 2012. The 8,000 from Sprint and SoftBank are part of a deal announced before he won. Intel’s 3,000 jobs were first announced alongside President Obama. Ford’s CEO said the 700 new jobs had nothing to do with Trump, and Fiat-Chrysler said the same thing about its 2,000 new jobs. General Motors insisted its 1,950 jobs were planned long before the election. The increase in production that led to Lockheed Martin’s 1,800 jobs has been in the works for years.

Trump announces 20,000 jobs that were planned a year and a half before his election was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

House Intelligence Committee chairman abruptly cancels open hearing on Russia

13 hours 17 min ago
Key Democrat calls it an effort to “choke off public info.”House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. listens on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017, during the committee’s hearing on allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. CREDIT: AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has abruptly canceled a public hearing scheduled for next Tuesday with former DNI director James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. The hearing is part of the committee’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, including whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives.

The ranking member of the Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), characterized Nunes’ decision as an effort to choke off public information about the inquiry.

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BREAKING: Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with Clapper, Brennan and Yates in attempt to choke off public info.

 — @RepAdamSchiff

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Tuesday’s hearing was a continuation of a hearing on Monday which featured FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers. In that hearing, Comey revealed there was an active investigation, which has been ongoing since July, into whether Trump associates collaborated with Russian operatives in their efforts to interfere with the election.

The decision comes a day after CNN reported that “The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” Schiff himself now calls the evidence of coordination between Trump associates and Russia more than circumstantial.

Schiff described the cancellation as part of a pattern of odd behavior by Nunes seemingly designed to distract from the core issues of the Russia investigation.

https://medium.com/media/6ec6751994ef7ee808b957332ff516e1/href

Earlier this week Nunes said an undisclosed source shared intelligence reports that may have inappropriately “unmasked” the names of Trump associates. Nunes later said he wasn’t sure if Trump associates had anything to do with intelligence reports he was shown. Nevertheless, Nunes dramatically visited the White House to “brief” the president.

It appeared to be an oblique effort to counter Trump’s unfounded assertion that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. Trump said he felt “vindicated” by Nunes’ statements, though even Nunes admits Trump Tower was not wiretapped.

Separately, the former chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign, Paul Manafort, has volunteered to speak with the House Intelligence Committee.

Manafort’s decision comes the day after the Associated Press reported he received a $10 million annual contract from a Russian billionaire with a close ties to the Kremlin in which he promised to “greatly benefit the Putin Government.”

Manafort had previously denied any connections with Putin.

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In July, Paul Manafort told @GStephanopoulos there are no ties between him or campaign and Putin: "That's absurd...there's no basis to it." https://t.co/CxMSwT5CLR

 — @ThisWeekABC

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Nunes said he was contacted by Manafort’s lawyers. He said that he would allow Manafort to speak to the committee in a closed session, if that’s what Manafort requested.

It’s unclear what prompted Manafort to step forward or what information he wants to share with the committee.

Schiff said he welcomed Manafort’s testimony but said it should be “done in open session so the public may be informed of what he has to say.”

House Intelligence Committee chairman abruptly cancels open hearing on Russia was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

March Madness is a billion-dollar spectacle. So why isn’t there more room for the women?

13 hours 45 min ago
The women’s NCAA tournament should be far more than an afterthought.Maryland guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, right, reacts in front of West Virginia guard Tynice Martin after West Virginia called a timeout in the first half of a second-round game in the women’s NCAA college basketball tournament in College Park, Md., Sunday, March 19, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

COLLEGE PARK, MD. — In the second round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday, with the final seconds of the first half ticking off the clock, Maryland freshman point guard Destiny Slocum caught an in-bound pass from her teammate, turned towards the far end of the court and catapulted the basketball over the West Virginia defender sprawling in front of her.

It sailed 70 feet and landed directly into the basket as the buzzer sounded. The crowd of over 6,000 in the Xfinity Center rose to their feet in a deafening roar.

“Watching that thing was crazy,” Slocum said in press afterwards. “I was in shock. I’m still.”

She wasn’t the only one. The shot was instantly GIFed and clipped and became a viral internet sensation, eventually landing her in the top spot of that evening’s SportsCenter Top 10.

It took something undeniably extraordinary, but for at least a few moments, women’s basketball in March stole the show.

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Ok so Destiny Slocum just did the most incredible basketball thing ever and the #Terps lead 38-24 at the half. https://t.co/RlRADYz5Z4

 — @ConnorNewcomb_

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When most people think about March Madness, they only think of the behemoth men’s tournament, which generates over $1 billion in advertising revenue alone, more than even the NBA playoffs. When they do think about the women’s game, often they only go as far as the University of Connecticut, which is partially understandable: the UConn women have won the last four NCAA tournaments (and six of the last eight), and are currently on a history-smashing 109-game win streak that extends back to 2014.

But as impressive as that is — and there really aren’t enough superlatives — there is much more to women’s NCAA basketball. This year alone, two double-digit seeds (№ 12 Quinnipiac and № 10 Oregon) made it to the Sweet 16 (only one on the men’s side), and there were nine games decided by one possession, compared to only seven in the men’s opening weekend. And still, there were those complaining about the lack of competitiveness in the women’s game.

That’s endlessly frustrating for those close to the sport. “For people crying for parity in the women’s game, that’s exactly what we saw across the board in the first two rounds,” freelance sportswriter Gabriella Levine told ThinkProgress.

Look, it makes since why the men’s game is more popular than the women’s right now — it did get quite a head start, after all. he NCAA debuted a men’s basketball tournament in 1939, it didn’t host a comparable women’s tournament until 1982. (From 1971–1982, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women held a championship.) In fact, for most of last century, the women’s game was limited to six-on-six basketball, in which three players from each team remained on each side of the court. Running the full court was simply deemed to be too much work for the women. (This rule changed on the collegiate level in 1971, but didn’t change in many states until much later — Oklahoma didn’t abolish the rule until 1995.)

Maryland guard Destiny Slocum, left, chases after the ball as she collides with West Virginia guard Tynice Martin. CREDIT: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

In 1996, the women’s tournament moved from CBS to ESPN to help its scheduling issues — CBS demanded that the Final Four and championship games be played on back-to-back days — and so that the earlier rounds of the tournament could get more coverage, since CBS would often only nationally broadcast the Final Four. That bet ultimately paid off — ESPN produces all 63 games, and they can be watched online if they are not being showing in your local market.

But being on ESPN has its drawbacks as well, as the games are still sometimes bumped from television for other ESPN sports programs, be it tennis or even the men’s NIT tournament, a showcase of teams not good enough to make it to the Dance.

WNBA player Layisha Clarendon was among those who had problems with the network’s priorities this year.

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@espn why are you showing the men's NIT over the women's NCAA tournament right now!?! I'm trying to stream the Wash/Oklahoma game over here!

 — @Layshiac

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The ESPN contract also makes it hard for fans who are completely tuned into the mega-watt CBS production of the men’s NCAA tournament to even know where to find the women’s games; an article in Teen Vogue this week complained that the NCAA March Madness App doesn’t feature women’s basketball, assuming—reasonably, but incorrectly—that the NCAA owned the app bearing its name and was discriminating against the women. But it’s CBS, not the NCAA, that runs the March Madness app, which is why the women’s tournament isn’t included — CBS doesn’t have the rights to include the women in the app.

Ultimately though, the biggest challenge that women’s basketball faces is that the men’s is still seen as the default, especially in March.

“When it comes to choosing between the men’s and women’s games, the media always chose the men’s,” Levine said.

ESPN might have the rights to the women’s game, but its website still features the men’s tournament much more prominently. At a bar on Saturday night, there were televisions turned to three blow-out men’s college basketball games; a NBA game where the starters were sitting; and an early-tournament World Baseball Classic game, despite the fact that there was a close women’s game coming down to the wire. Even the media center at the University of Maryland early on Sunday was showing the Michigan vs. Louisville men’s game instead of the battle on ESPN2 between the women of Kentucky and Ohio State, one of only two teams to beat the Terps this year.

“When it comes to choosing between the men’s and women’s games, the media always chose the men’s.”

It’s a shame, because people not tuning into the women’s tournament are missing out on a chance to enhance the madness — to see more upsets, more nail biters, and more incredible stories unfold in real time. And really, isn’t that the whole point?

There are initiatives in place to help develop the women’s tournament more — including hosting the first two rounds at the home courts of the top four seeds in each region as a way to boost attendance and cater to passionate local fans. (Hence Maryland’s home-court advantage.) And ESPN does devote significant resources into producing its games and pushing the women’s bracket challenge on its website, and the talent and care involved in the productions are notable.

But Levine says that it’s key that women’s basketball fans not fall in the trap of just being happy that women’s basketball games are being shown somewhere, and to continue to push for more thorough, consistent coverage — particularly in the form of beat reporters who spend week in and week out with the teams. Others are thinking even bigger than that. College basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli is a fierce advocate for moving the women’s Sweet 16 to Las Vegas, particularly as a way to cater to the male 18–34 demographic.

“We need some pop. We need some sizzle,” Antonelli said. “I want to take our game right to the guys.”

It’s a firm balance between pushing the sport to get bigger and better, while also understanding and embracing the historical and practical reasons why the women’s game is currently less popular than the men’s. After all, it has come a long way in the past couple of decades, and nobody is more aware than that than Elon head coach Charlotte Smith, who won the NCAA championship for the North Carolina Tar Heels when she hit a game-winning buzzer beater in 1994.

She said in the past 25 years she’s seen the crowds get bigger and the fans grow more passionate and diverse.

Elon head coach Charlotte Smith directs her players in the women’s NCAA college basketball tournament in College Park, Md., Friday, March 17, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

“There’s a lot more guys following women’s sports .. to hear them say, ‘We’re watching women’s basketball,’ that’s a great thing because basketball is basketball,” Smith said after Elon’s first-round loss to West Virginia in heartbreaking fashion in the program’s very first NCAA tournament appearance.

“I think [the women’s NCAA tournament has] grown in terms of popularity, attendance, and people respecting the game for what we do. A lot of us may not play above the rim, but we play a beautiful game below it.”

Luckily, the passionate fans at College Park over the weekend didn’t need any convincing. The atmosphere was electric from start to finish — Maryland coach Brenda Frese said on a scale of 1 to 100, it was a 100 — and the fans were treated not only to two flawless performances from their Terps, but also an extremely physical and back-and-forth first-round game between № 6 West Virginia and № 11 Elon. The weekend was so exciting that even Bucknell head coach Aaron Roussel called it “the coolest experience” of his life, despite the fact that his team lost by 42 to Maryland in the first round.

Now Maryland heads to Bridgeport, Connecticut to face Oregon in the Sweet 16. If they win that game, it’s likely that UConn awaits in what would be the most heavily anticipated matchup of the tournament. Even though Maryland is criminally underseeded at № 3, most experts give them the best chance to take down the Huskies and end the historical run.

But coach Frese didn’t want to focus on that Sunday afternoon. She wanted to take a moment to reflect on the day, and particularly the shot that pierced through men’s basketball’s stranglehold on March Madness.

“I thought she shot it like a dart,” Frese said, clearly still in awe. “I was taking it in between our bench and our staff and the crowd, I was taking in that energy, that was the moment I had was appreciating everything that kid continues to do.”

It was, she said, “icing on the cake” of a great weekend — not just for the Terrapins, but for women’s basketball as a whole.

March Madness is a billion-dollar spectacle. So why isn’t there more room for the women? was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

In last ditch effort for votes, Trump says goal of Trumpcare is to end Planned Parenthood

13 hours 57 min ago
Trump quite literally plays politics with women’s health.In this Nov. 10, 2016 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., pose for photographers after a meeting in the Speaker’s office on Capitol Hill in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

A photo of the House Freedom Caucus and Mike Pence went viral on Thursday, and for good reason — it showed that in a discussion over the future of women’s health insurance plans, the only people in the room were white men.

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This is outrageous: Not a single woman in the room as @Mike_Pence and @HouseGOP propose removing maternity coverage in #Trumpcare.

 — @RepMcGovern

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In a bid to get the far-right Freedom Caucus on board, President Trump and GOP leadership (again, all men) offered to repeal Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits provision, which mandates that health insurers offer coverage for basic care like hospitalizations, prescriptions, and notably for women, pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care.

According to reports, however, the Freedom Caucus still doesn’t think the bill goes far enough. And on Friday, Trump took to Twitter to levy one more threat at its members, dangling women’s health coverage in front of them as bait:

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The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!

 — @POTUS

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There’s many ways in which Trumpcare would disproportionately affect women. It would price abortion care out of reach for many women, even some on employee-sponsored plans. It would roll back Medicaid and charge seniors more for health insurance, hurting two populations that are predominately female. With the new revisions, it will roll back maternity coverage.

And, as Trump alludes to, it would federally defund Planned Parenthood —which in practice, actually means preventing low-income and rural women and men who depend on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, STD testing, and birth control consultations. In 105 counties, Planned Parenthood is the only birth control clinic. Annually, 2.5 million women and men seek care at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Trump knows this. During the campaign, while he hewed to his pro-life political stance, he also — kind of — stood with Planned Parenthood.

“As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life, I’m totally against abortion having to do with Planned Parenthood,” he said at one Republican primary debate. “But millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood. So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly.”

At a subsequent press conference, he told reporters that he considered women’s health issues “very important,” and again touted the Planned Parenthood for doing “very good work for millions of women.”

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “but I’ve had thousands of letters from women that have been helped. This wasn’t a set-up, this was people writing letters.”

Now, however, Trump is saying that the Freedom Caucus needs to vote for his health care bill to stop Planned Parenthood from continuing at all — rhetoric that goes even beyond the typical conservative line of “defunding” it.

“It’s crystal clear: They will sacrifice the health of every woman in this country to pass this disastrous bill,” Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President at Planned Parenthood said in a statement. “Today, the President is using Planned Parenthood, and the millions of women who depend on us for care, as part of a dangerous political game.”

And, the irony is, that while Trump himself is accusing the Freedom Caucus of being disingenuously pro-life, his own pro-life stance appeared exactly at the same time he started getting serious about his political ambitions.

All the ways Trumpcare would devastate women’s health care

In 1989, Trump co-sponsored a dinner at one of his hotels honoring the former president of the pro-choice group NARAL. In a 1999 NBC interview, he outright said that he supported abortion rights.

“I’m very pro-choice,” Trump says. “I hate the concept of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject. But you still — I just believe in choice.”

In the same interview, Trump also said that he wouldn’t ban “partial-birth abortion.”

Partial-birth abortion is not a medical term, but instead a political framing invented by the anti-abortion National Right to Life Committee for a procedure called Dilation and Extraction. It was banned by President Bush in 2003 and later upheld by the Supreme Court.

https://medium.com/media/2fbdcc0d196e11115ff0c0c796b4861f/href

But in 2011, when Trump was considering running on the Republican ticket, he told attendees at CPAC that he was “pro-life.”

And during his 2016 campaign, Trump got tripped up on the issue multiple times. In one interview, he slipped and told Jake Tapper that he was pro-choice before correcting himself. At one point, he took five different positions in three days — moving from saying that women should be punished for having abortions, to saying it would be up to states, to settling into lock-step with anti-choice activists and saying that he was committed to appointing pro-life judges who would roll back abortion rights.

Now, Trump and Congressional Republicans are trading women’s health coverage — from maternity care to Planned Parenthood access — as a bargaining chip in order to pass a deeply-unpopular health care bill that breaks almost all of Trump’s campaign promises on how he would fix health care.

“You cannot call yourself pro-family and slash maternity care. You cannot claim you want to invest in women’s health and block access to Planned Parenthood and essential women’s health care,” Laguens responded to Trump’s tweet. “Negotiating away access to cancer screenings, birth control and maternity care is not ‘pro-life,’ it’s cruel.”

In last ditch effort for votes, Trump says goal of Trumpcare is to end Planned Parenthood was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Secretary Mnuchin’s praise of Trump’s ‘perfect genes’ is an extremist dogwhistle

14 hours 2 min ago
Right out of the Stormfront playbook.Steve Mnuchin (left) tells Axios’ Mike Allen about Trump’s “perfect genes.” CREDIT: Axios screengrab

During an interview with Axios’ Mike Allen on Friday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin went above and beyond in praising his boss.

“This guy’s got more stamina than anybody I’ve ever met,” Mnuchin said of Trump. “I mean, I thought I was in good shape. I traveled with him all the time… I mean, it’s unbelievable. He’ s constantly doing things.”

Allen asked Mnuchin how that’s possible, given that the 70-year-old Trump is known to enjoy fast food and admits he doesn’t exercise.

“He’s got perfect genes,” Mnuchin said of Trump. “He has incredible energy, and he’s unbelievably healthy.”

Mnuchin doesn’t seem to have been joking. Watch for yourself.

body[data-twttr-rendered="true"] {background-color: transparent;}.twitter-tweet {margin: auto !important;}

Steve Mnuchin: Trump has perfect genes https://t.co/tMSvcxsjNZ

 — @axios

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Mnuchin’s over-the-top comments about Trump “perfect genes” echoes what Trump has repeatedly said about himself. During a CNN interview in 2010, for instance, Trump attributed his success to having “a certain gene.”

“I’m a gene believer,” Trump said. “Hey, when you connect two racehorses, you usually end up with a fast horse, and I really had a good gene pool from the standpoint of that.”

https://medium.com/media/fea00c810c0202ac3d9360a531be36a9/href

A 2016 New Yorker piece detailed some of Trump’s many references to his genetics on the campaign trail:

In South Carolina, earlier this year, he noted, “Dr. John Trump at M.I.T.; good genes, very good genes, O.K., very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart.” (Donald Trump was at Wharton as an undergraduate, after transferring from Fordham.) To the Boston Globe: “My father’s brother was a brilliant man . . . We have very good genetics.” And then on NBC, after telling Lester Holt that his uncle was a professor at M.I.T.: “I mean it’s a good gene pool right there” — he pointed to his head — “I have to do what I have to do.”

This might seem like idle chatter. But as we covered last summer, the link Trump makes between his good genetics and his fitness to lead comes out of the white supremacist playbook. For instance, Stormfront’s mission statement claims that “a great deal (possibly 90% or more) of a person’s intelligence and character is determined by their DNA, which determines the structure of their brain before they are born. This is why Blacks, as a group, do the things they do.”

Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone told ThinkProgress that Trump’s comments fit within that fringe worldview.

“He constantly cites his own genetic background and argued that his brain is biologically better because of his genes,” Carusone said. “That could be Trump just being braggadocious, but it reinforces the idea that genetics are a legitimate qualification for leadership.”

Mnuchin’s remarks about Trump’s “unbelievable” health echo what Trump’s personal doctor said during the campaign.

“If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” Dr. Harold Bornstein, Trump’s physician of 25 years, said in a signed statement that was released to the media in late 2015.

As CNN reported at the time, Bornstein made that statement despite having no record of ever treating another president.

Secretary Mnuchin’s praise of Trump’s ‘perfect genes’ is an extremist dogwhistle was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

Don’t expect to get into the African American history museum anytime soon

14 hours 2 min ago
The crowds just keep on coming — and lingering — at the newest museum on the Mall.The Washington Monument is reflected in a window of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, during a press preview. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Six hours. That’s how much time a typical visitor spends at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened just six months ago.

“Dwell time,” as it is officially known, has been off the charts since the newest Smithsonian opened its doors last fall. Standard dwell time for a museum is two hours or so, NMAAHC associate director Beverly Morgan-Welch told NPR last November. The six hour stays were a bit of a strain, and with tickets “sold out” through the spring—tickets are free, but reservations have to be made in order to prevent overcrowding—visitors didn’t have the option of leaving after the first couple of floors and swinging by again the next day. “It’s the best, most difficult problem I’ve ever faced in a museum,” she said at the time.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attend the groundbreaking for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012. CREDIT: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, founding director Lonnie Bunch said the crowds had yet to abate. “I don’t see the lines getting any shorter. I don’t think we’re going to have those moments when I can bounce a basketball through the museum — at least not for the next three or four or five years.”

The crowds are massive already — over 1.2 million visitors to date, making it one of the four most popular Smithsonians — and, with spring break and summer vacation on the horizon, will only swell in the coming months. As the Post reports, the structure of the museum contributes to some “choke-points”:

For example, the intentionally cramped entrance to the slavery section on the lowest level can’t handle the number of people who can fit into the massive elevator that ferries guests below ground. Museum officials have decided to not fill the elevator to capacity, which causes lines at the elevator two levels above.Bunch says they predicted visitors getting off the elevator would move more briskly through the area or push beyond the crowds. “But here, people are stopping and reading,” he said.

The timed pass system, which overwhelms the museum’s website and apparently isn’t Bunch’s favorite method of ticket distribution (“I was never the biggest fan of timed passes, so as soon as I can figure out other alternatives, it’s gone.”) may be eliminated once the museum celebrates its first birthday.

It’s been a strange, surreal time for the beginning days of the NMAAHC. President Obama dedicated the museum with a speech on its opening day last September, expressing his hope that “this museum can help us talk to each other, and more importantly listen to each other, and most importantly see each other.”

https://medium.com/media/4cd7ed2c87f1ba7f084d88807bf7d6ba/href

President Bush spoke as well, acknowledging that “even today, the journey towards justice is not compete. But this museum will inspire us to go farther and get there faster.”

The dedication took place on the morning of September 24, 2016. That night, during a presidential debate, then-GOP-nominee Donald Trump responded to a question about healing race relations by saying that “[in] our inner cities, African-Americans, Hispanics, are living in hell, because it’s so dangerous,” Trump said. “You walk down the street, you get shot.”

President Donald Trump tours the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The weekend of inauguration, the NMAAHC was home to the Peace Ball, a black tie gala where all the speakers and performers insisted the election of Trump was a call to action, art, and resistance. And in February, one month after his inauguration, President Trump visited the NMAAHC for the first time.

“It’s amazing to see,” he said, and he promised to come back. Hope he can score a ticket! I hear they’re hard to come by.

Don’t expect to get into the African American history museum anytime soon was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

TV coverage of climate fell 66 percent during a record-setting year for global warming

14 hours 27 min ago
Trump’s budget targets federal funding of PBS, the one network with the most climate coverage.

In 2016, the major networks’ coverage of climate change dropped by two thirds compared to 2015.

In fact, climate coverage last year was close to its lowest levels since 2009, according to a new analysis by MediaMatters of the evening and Sunday news programs that air on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. This drop is despite historic wildfires, extreme weather events like Hurricane Matthew, and month after month of record-breaking global temperatures.

And, of course, there was a presidential campaign between two people who have diametrically opposed views on the gravest preventable threat to the United States and the world.

Will Trump go down in history as the man who pulled the plug on a livable climate?

During the campaign, the major networks spent no time examining the climate policy differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — despite their vast disagreement on domestic action, the Paris climate agreement, and whether the entire body of scientific inquiry is a hoax.

ABC, CBS, and NBC made up for this glaring omission by devoting an hour and 40 minutes of coverage to Hillary Clinton’s emails, as Media Matters reported in November.

In all, the outlets only spent 32 total minutes all year comparing the policy differences between Clinton and Trump.

Ironically, while the media mostly ignored the candidates’ policy, those policies don’t ignore the media.

President Trump’s recent budget proposes to entirely eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps fund PBS. Fortunately, PBS receives under 7 percent of its budget from the CPB. Still, that’s a hefty whack at the one major evening news program that is trying to do justice to the story of the century, as Media Matters points out.

This is yet another reminder that elections have consequences for the nation and the world.

But anyone who exonerates the for-profit media from a major role in enabling the United States’ self-destructive lack of action on climate change isn’t paying attention. Or maybe they’re just too busy watching the network news.

TV coverage of climate fell 66 percent during a record-setting year for global warming was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

California just put serious limits on methane leaks

14 hours 50 min ago
Things aren’t good at the federal level, but progress on methane leaks march forward.Methane can be released from both oil and natural gas wells. CREDIT: AP Photo/Richard Vogel

The California Air Resources Board voted unanimously on Thursday to enact regulations that will curb the amount of methane the oil and gas industry can leak and vent during production and storage.

The new rule — years in the making — requires oil and gas companies to monitor infrastructure and repair leaks. It is a massive step forward for California’s air quality programs, advocates say, and it is the strictest in the nation.

The Air Resources Board expects the new rule will reduce methane leaks by 45 percent over the next nine years.

The oil and gas industry contributes about a third of the United States’ overall methane emissions. Not only is methane a powerful greenhouse gas, trapping heat 86 times more effectively than carbon dioxide over a 20-year span, but leaking and flaring natural gas also adds benzene (a carcinogen) and NOx compounds (which create ground-level ozone) into the air we breathe.

Still, the environmental dangers of leaking methane haven’t stopped Congress or Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from taking steps this year to reduce accountability from the oil and gas industry. In February, the House passed a Congressional Review Act to rescind a Bureau of Land Management rule that required oil and gas operators on public lands to limit their methane leaks and flaring.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who opposed the methane rule in his previous role as Oklahoma attorney general, has also rescinded a request for information from oil and gas operations that would have been used for the EPA to develop rules that could have applied to existing infrastructure.

“As the federal government steps back, it is going to be tremendously important for states to take the lead,” said Tim O’Connor, the director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s California oil and gas program. “Nationally, oil and gas is the single largest source of methane out there.”

A study from the California Air Resources Board released in February found naturally occurring (but usually underground) benzene is released at half the state’s natural gas leaks. Flaring — the process of burning off gas, rather than capturing and processing it — adds ground-level ozone, diminishing air quality in the surrounding areas.

Report shows how many asthma attacks are caused by the oil and gas industry

The study “really demonstrates the need and value” of passing California’s new rule, “for reducing economic waste and climate pollution — but also for protecting public health,” O’Connor said. Other studies from around the country have found a link between fracking for oil and gas and negative, localized health impacts.

There is also an economic component to the rule. In California alone, more than $50 million worth of natural gas each year is wasted, O’Connor said. Annually, some 75,000 tons of methane are released by leaky equipment and intentional venting.

If Congress follows through with repealing the BLM rule, it is expected to cost taxpayers, who receive revenue for natural gas development on public land, $800 million over the next 10 years. The value of the lost gas is projected to be roughly $330 million annually — and the rule only applied to new oil and gas development.

Congress’s repeal of Obama methane rule will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions

Meanwhile, California is not the only state taking action against leaky natural gas infrastructure. Colorado, whose regulations were the basis for the BLM rule, put limits on methane emissions in place back in 2014. Earlier this year, Ohio took steps to limit methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, and there is an ongoing rule-making process in Pennsylvania to do the same. The California PUC will also likely take steps later this year to regulate leaks from natural gas transmission lines, which are another significant and dangerous source of methane.

O’Connor pointed out, though, that despite California’s comprehensive set of rules, 90 percent of the state’s natural gas is imported from other states. “Even if we get our gas production [leaks] down to zero, we still have a significant footprint,” he said.

Ironically, studies have found that trapping otherwise lost gas is a net benefit for producers. It would cost less for oil and gas developers to fix the leaks than they lose when the gas disappears into thin air — but it takes investment.

That investment is often in the form of jobs, inspectors, repairmen, and the like, which is one reason that there is broad support for limiting natural gas leaks and venting. According to recent polling, 73 percent of voters want the federal government to require companies to reduce gas leaks. Another 61 percent support laws that minimize wasteful practices like venting and flaring of natural gas.

Meanwhile, the problem might be even worse than estimated. This month, another report found that refineries and power plants are leaking a whole lot more natural gas than the industry is reporting. Natural gas leaks are 21 to 120 times larger than reported at power plants and 11 to 90 times larger at refineries, according to the the study, released earlier this month by Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Natural gas, which is 80 percent methane, has been touted as a bridge to clean energy, because burning natural gas is roughly half as carbon intensive as coal combustion. But, due to methane’s outsized impact on climate change, if the industry leaks more than 3 percent of the natural gas used for electricity, the methane cancels out any climate benefit.

“It’s a better fuel all around as long as you don’t spill it,” Paul Shepson, Purdue’s Jonathan Amy Distinguished Professor of Analytical and Atmospheric Chemistry, said in a statement. “But it doesn’t take much methane leakage to ruin your whole day if you care about climate change.”

Because of discrepancies in industry reporting, it’s hard to estimate exactly how much natural gas is leaking. The rates Shepson and colleagues found were “significantly higher” than estimates done with industry data and reported by the EPA in 2014. In fact, studies have repeatedly found that the oil and natural gas industry — from fracking to transportation and storage to production and combustion — leaks far more than it reports.

“It would be informative to gather more data,” Shepson told ThinkProgress via email.

Of course, even if it weren’t leaking at all, the boom in natural gas production would still be concerning. The natural gas boom has been lauded as a way to transition the country to a clean energy economy. Natural gas, when burned, emits a little over half as much carbon dioxide as coal, the primary source of electricity in the United States.

That benefit, though, disappears when as little as 3 percent of natural gas leaks during the fossil fuel’s lifecycle.

And even the best case, slowing catastrophic climate change — while better than flinging humanity headlong into it — does not actually prevent or avoid rising sea levels, intensified storms, or desertification.

California just put serious limits on methane leaks was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

The undemocratic process to repeal and replace Obamacare

14 hours 55 min ago
Republicans are doing everything they claimed Democrats did to “jam through” Obamacare.Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., arrives to speak to the media after a Republican caucus meeting on Capitol Hill, Thursday, March 23, 2017, in Washington. CREDIT: AP/Alex Brandon

House Republican leaders are trying to pass a major health care bill that many members of Congress haven’t even seen.

First, House Republicans closely guarded the Affordable Health Care for America Act (better known as Trumpcare, their proposed Obamacare replacement) and refused to let the press and many members of Congress see it. The bill, which would ensure millions of people go uninsured, was released on March 7; only two weeks later, Republicans leaders decided to schedule it for a vote in the House.

That vote was subsequently postponed after it became clear that Trumpcare did not have majority support. Republicans started making last-minute, major changes to the bill in closed-door meetings in an effort to gain support from far-right conservatives. On Thursday night, Republican leaders used the Rules Committee to impose “martial law,” which means they have authority to bring up and vote on any bill that same day.

In contrast, it took more than a year to pass Obamacare. Democrats introduced white papers, held hearings and debates, and produced a discussion draft before markup. But Republicans said they would like to pass their bill through Congress before the Easter recess.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) defended the rushed legislation on Thursday, saying that Republicans would have a chance to “really explain it” once they had passed it.

“In my district, right now there’s a lot of misunderstanding as to what it is we’re doing,” he said. “And once we get it done, and then we can have the chance to really explain it.”

His words inadvertently echoed remarks made by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in a speech before the 2010 Legislative Conference for the National Association of Counties. Referring to Obamacare, she said: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

Republican legislators jumped on her for apparently suggesting that she intended to force the legislation through Congress without letting people see its content. But her full quote was: “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”

The Freedom Caucus has played a significant role in driving changes to the legislation, which its members have at times called “Obamacare-lite.” Since the first version was released to the public, Republican leaders have added further cuts to Medicaid, ended Medicaid expansion earlier, included language allowing states to impose work requirements for some Medicaid recipients, and gutted Obamacare’s essential health benefits requirement. That provision mandated coverage for maternity care, emergency services, and substance abuse treatment.

Trump budget boss: If you want insurance to cover maternity care, lobby your state legislature

By going after the essential health benefits requirement, the plan would also make the provision requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions meaningless, because insurance companies can charge extra for certain kinds of coverage, NPR reported. But even the changes to the essential health benefits requirement are not enough for House Freedom Caucus Republicans, who say they also want to repeal rules on coverage for pre-existing conditions and the provision allowing children to remain on their parents’ plan until age 26.

The Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the American Health Care Act only last week. The analysis found that 24 million more Americans would go uninsured by 2026 relative to the number of people expected to be insured under Obamacare. The latest CBO analysis, which did not include any changes made to the bill since Monday, found that just about as many people would go without insurance as under the original plan, but that there would be fewer budget savings.

Republicans have spent the past seven years accusing Democrats of “jamming” Obamacare through Congress. But the House GOP rushed the legislative process to such an extreme that is not even remotely comparable to Democrats’ efforts to pass Obamacare in 2009 and 2010.

The undemocratic process to repeal and replace Obamacare was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

The Trump White House seems confused about how pregnancy works

15 hours 20 min ago
Let me teach you about the birds and the bees.CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The House is expected to vote Friday on a bill that, if a faction of the most conservative House Republicans gets its way, will eliminate the requirement that insurance plans cover certain essential health benefits. These benefits include maternity care, a fact that the Trump White House views as an opportunity to pit men against women.

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Sean Spicer on healthcare: "I think if you're an older man you can generally say that you're not going to need maternity care.

 — @liamstack

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It’s a common joke among the Affordable Care Act’s opponents. Why should a man pay for women’s health care? Hilarious!

At least with respect to maternity care, however, there’s a very simple answer to this question. Because of the unusual nature of pregnancy, either everyone must pay for pregnancy coverage, or no one will have pregnancy coverage.

The reason why is a problem known as “adverse selection.”

Adverse selection is one of the most daunting problems in health care policy. It occurs when people who are at especially high risk opt into insurance while people who are especially low risk opt out. In the health insurance context, it means that sick people are especially likely to buy insurance — since they stand to draw more money out of an insurance pool than they pay into it . Meanwhile, healthy people are more likely to not buy insurance, as they are likely to pay more in premiums then they receive in benefits.

Nevertheless, most healthy people still buy health insurance, because many health expenses are unpredictable. Even the healthiest person on the planet can be hit by a bus or unexpectedly contract a serious illness, so it’s a good idea for everyone to buy health insurance to hedge against this uncertain risk.

But pregnancy is not such an uncertain risk. Cisgender men, as Spicer archly notes, cannot become pregnant. Post-menopausal women cannot become pregnant. Women who do not have sex with men are quite unlikely to become pregnant. And even partnered, heterosexual, cisgender women are very unlikely to become pregnant if they use modern forms of contraception.

Thus, in a world where people can choose not to have a health plan that covers maternity care, most people will opt out of such coverage. Indeed, virtually the only population that will opt into such coverage are fertile, female-bodied individuals who are actively trying to become pregnant.

But that’s not a viable insurance pool. The entire point of insurance is that there must be enough people paying more money into the pool than they are taking out of it in order to cover the costs of everyone in the pool. And that’s not going to happen if virtually everyone in the maternity insurance pool waits until they start trying to become pregnant to obtain pregnancy coverage.

Unless the law includes some mechanism to pull people who aren’t actively seeking to become pregnant into the maternity care insurance pool, the pool will collapse and no one will receive insurance coverage for their pregnancy.

The Trump White House seems confused about how pregnancy works was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Categories: SCCDP Allies

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