Email #111, Subject: basic math

You had two paths for passing the American Health Care Act in the House: 1) amending it to draw votes from the 35-member, conservative Freedom Caucus or 2) amending it to draw votes from the 40-member, moderate Tuesday Group.

40 is larger than 35, but the GOP leadership went with 30.

To get that 35, you tried to strip the ACHA of three of its most popular features: 1) eliminating pre-existing conditions, 2) requiring insurers to provide minimum benefits, and 3) allowing children to remain on their parents’ plans till the age of 26. All three are also popular features of the ACA. But even with them, the ACHA has only a 17% approval rating, while the ACA has 48%.

48 is larger than 17, but not only did the leadership go with 17—they tried to negotiate away the ACHA’s moderate features, guaranteeing that the bill’s approval rating would drop even lower.

If the bill went directly from the House to the White House, this would at least make short-term strategic sense. The GOP promised to repeal the ACA, and so it would. But that creates a far worse, long-term problem, since the new bill—“Trumpcare”—would provide Democrats an even stronger rallying point than “Obamacare” provided Republicans.

But the strategy didn’t make short-term sense either, since the bill already faced opposition from moderate Republicans in the Senate. To pass there, it would need to be amended in ways that would have also attracted moderate members of the House. Attempts to placate the Freedom Caucus only worsened the bill’s already poor Senate prospects.

It’s as if GOP leaders forgot they lost seats in the last election: seven in the House and two in the Senate, reducing their majorities to 55% and 52%. Those are thin margins. Since the GOP has 22 more Representatives, they can pass bills without any Democratic support. But they can’t pass bills that ignore their own moderates. They can, however, ignore their far right, since amendments that would attract moderate Republicans would also attract moderate Democrats. No Republican bill would ever attract all 193 Democrats, certainly not the leftwing extremists, but a centrist one could easily draw 8, off-setting the Freedom Caucus and its unpopular demands. But if you instead placate the rightwing extremists, there’s nowhere to pick up the lost middle votes.

This is not only basic math, it’s common sense. Govern from the center. Democracy works because it requires people to come together. Congress needs to move the country forward, not keep pushing factions further apart.

 

Email #110, Subject: “calls, letters, and emails”

In your February letter to me, you identified “ways Obamacare isn’t working for Virginians,” adding that the “calls, letters, and emails I’ve received about what families, seniors, and businesses have experienced only emphasize this fact.”

Since you consider calls, letters, and emails from your constituents to be important, would you please report what your recent calls, letters, and emails have emphasized? Your Republican colleague Rep. Daniel Donovan estimated that calls to his office ran “about 1,000-to-1 against” the American Health Care Act. Republican Rep. Thomas Massie gave an exact tally: 275 opposed the AHCA, and 4 supported it. The Washington Post collected statistics from House member tweets for a total of over 52,000 against and 1,1000 for — roughly a 49-to-1 ratio.

Your communications director told me that all of your offices not only keep tallies, but also carefully record comments which are then forwarded to you in summary documents. If so, you must have considerable documentation regarding your constituents’ calls, emails, and letters. Since several of your Republican colleagues released their statistics, you would not be breaking party lines by sharing yours too.

When speaking on the House floor in support of the AHCA on Friday, you cited three constituents who had contacted you: “Kay from Roanoke,” “Susan from Bedford,” and “a nurse from Warren county.” All three, you said, were unhappy with the ACA. Oddly, you said nothing about any of the three supporting the AHCA. I suspect Kay, Susan, and the unnamed nurse would be any happier had the ACHA passed.

You also said nothing about any of your constituents who spoke against the ACHA. If your office is anything like Virginia Senator Tim Kaine’s, you have experienced a 900% increase in calls, emails, and letters since the inauguration. Are we to understand that Kay, Susan, and the unnamed nurse are representative? Or did you cherrypick three to bolster your pre-existing opinions? And did you not have a single constituent contact you in support of the AHCA?

I know from attending three of your open door meetings and listening to two of your telephone conference calls that several of your constituents have expressed personal stories to you about how the ACA has been their lifeline. And that’s just in Lexington alone. Why didn’t you cite one of them on the House floor too? Or do you ignore calls, emails, and letters that don’t suit your political agenda?

Messages from your constituents either matter or they don’t. Alluding to them only when they support your political opinions is embarrassingly hypocritical. Either release your phone tallies or stop pretending that any of them mean anything to you at all.

 

Email #109: Subject: “Just Say No”?

“If you act like you’re the minority, you’re going to stay in the minority,” said Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy the night of President Obama’s 2009 inauguration. “We’ve gotta challenge them on every single bill and challenge them on every single campaign.”

The Tea Party had the same attitude. According to the Congressional staffers who wrote The Indivisible Guide: “The Tea Party took root in 2009, focused on fighting against every proposal coming out of the new Democratic Administration and Congress. This focus on defense rather than policy development allowed the movement to avoid fracturing. Tea Party members may not have agreed on the policy reforms, but they could agree that Obama, Democrats, and moderate Republicans had to be stopped.”

Since President Trump’s inauguration, many Democrats in Congress have been following Rep. McCarthy’s advice, and progressive activists across the country have been following the Tea Party’s strategy. It’s as easy and effective as that old War on Drugs slogan from the 80s:

Just say no.

Although this is bad news for you and the GOP, it’s not your worst news. That came yesterday when you failed to pass the American Health Care after the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s passage. President Trump said it best himself:

“I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

That of course is not true. Everyone knew. It’s just that eight years with a Democrat in the White House allowed the GOP to forget. You got used to playing defense. But now that Rep. McCarthy is House Majority Leader and you control the Senate and White House too, you have to do a lot more than just say no.

The crafters of the flawed ACHA did not understand that, but the American Academy of Family Physicians did. They joined over a dozen other health care providers in opposing the bill, diagnosing its core flaw: “The AHCA, in our opinion, chooses to focus on ‘eliminating’ policies and not on addressing the real-life economic challenges people have with health care.”

After meeting with the President on Thursday, Rep. Chris Collins said he still understood it in those terms: “it’s a vote to get rid of Obamacare.” Challenging, stopping, eliminating, getting rid of–that is exactly the mentality of a minority party. Rep. McCarthy and other GOP leaders got it backwards. You can’t play defense anymore.  Instead of crafting new legislation focused on our nation’s actual health care needs, you tried to pass an anti-ACA bill and ended up punting from your own end zone.

And now instead of starting over and trying to get it right, President Trump intends to leave the field. As Press secretary Spicer said, there is no “plan B”. The President is abandoning health care.

That’s not leadership. That’s not governing. But if the GOP prefers being the opposition party, you are well on you way to achieving it in 2018.

Email #108: Subject: “lax immigration enforcement”?

I am disturbed by your use of a fourteen-year-old’s rape to promote false information about the Obama administration. According to your March 22 press release, you wrote to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly about “two suspects who allegedly raped a young girl at Rockville High School in Rockville, Maryland.” You stated that one of the suspect’s “entrance into the United States coincides with the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America that flooded the Southwest border during the Obama Administration seeking to benefit from lax immigration enforcement.”

But there was no such “surge.” The Southwest border was not “flooded.” Immigration enforcement was not “lax.” According to MediaMatters.org: “data show that the Obama administration has met its enforcement mandate to prioritize the deportation of immigrants with criminal convictions, which has resulted in a substantial increase of such deportations.”

As chair of the House Judiciary committee, immigration policy is one of your top responsibilities. I hope that you, like the President, are not using Fox News for your intelligence. Since you have included links to Fox News in your e-newsletters, perhaps you were influenced by several Fox News segments that used a false report issued by the Center for Immigration Studies last March.

According to the American Immigration Council: “A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) makes a range of false claims about deportation data.” The Southern Poverty Law Center concludes: “every one these claims, each of them at the heart of a different recent report from CIS, are either false or virtually without any supporting evidence.” The same is true of your letter to Secretary Kelly.

Although the Obama Administration’s enforcement was not “lax”, you repeat the phrase in your next sentence: “Once again, we have an example of how the Obama Administration’s lax immigration enforcement policies resulted in a life being seriously harmed – in this case, the life of an innocent 14 year-old-girl who was simply attending school.”

You then repeat the phrase “Obama Administration” to almost comic effect: “There is no doubt that such heinous crimes by illegal immigrants who were encountered by the Obama Administration, not removed by the Obama Administration, and instead actually set free in American communities by the Obama Administration, will continue to occur until sufficient enforcement has occurred.”

Your statements of course are not comic. They exploit the rape of a fourteen-year-old to propagate misinformation convenient to your political agenda. Your use of dehumanizing language–human beings are not a surging flood–and your implied linking of all undocumented immigrants to violent criminals betrays your intent. You are not concerned for the victim, but for how her suffering can benefit you.

The crime was heinous. Your use of it sinks below the dignity of your office.

Bob Goodlatte replies about the immigration bans

Dear Mr. Gavaler:

Thank you for contacting me concerning President Trump’s recent executive orders to strengthen national security at our borders.  These executive orders were drafted to close gaping holes in our nation’s visa screening programs, the refugee resettlement program, and other components of our immigration system.  I appreciate hearing from you.

On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order suspending admission of aliens from seven countries deemed by the Obama Administration to be “countries of concern” for terrorist activity.  Those countries were Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  The Order also suspended refugee admissions for a period of 120 days and indefinitely suspended Syrian refugee admissions.

As you may know, a federal district court issued a temporary restraining order blocking the implementation of the January 27th executive order.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the restraining order.  On March 6, President Trump signed a revised executive order meant to replace the January Order.  The March 6th executive order made changes in response to the concerns of the Ninth Circuit.  For instance, the order clarified that lawful permanent resident admissions of aliens from the listed countries would not be prevented from entering the U.S.  Iraq was removed from the list of affected countries after the Iraqi government committed to provide the U.S. adequate vetting information for Iraqi visa applicants.  In addition, the revised executive order does not indefinitely suspend the admission of Syrian refugees.

The revised executive order was to take effect on March 16.  However, the U.S. District Court in Hawaii issued a nationwide temporary restraining order preventing implementation.  Other courts have subsequently ruled on the issue.  To be clear, this executive order is constitutional and consistent with the U.S. law.  Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) gives the President broad authority to suspend entry of aliens.  Specifically, the provision states “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens, or any class of aliens, as immigrants or nonimmigrants or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem appropriate.”  This provision in the INA has been utilized multiple times by previous presidents of both political parties.

Some people have interpreted these actions as a “ban” on Muslim immigration.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, the 90-day suspension of entry for aliens applies only to aliens from the six countries, and applies to all nationals of those countries, not just those who practice the Islamic faith.

Based on heightened terrorist threats against the U.S., it  makes sense to temporarily halt some admissions in order to take an inventory of security measures we, and other countries, have in place to help prevent those seeking to do us harm from entering our country.  Numerous foreign nationals who have been convicted of, or implicated in, terrorism-related crimes have been admitted to the U.S. as refugees, immigrants, and nonimmigrants over the past several years. It simply makes no sense to wait until a terrorist attack is successfully carried out before taking reasonable steps to prevent such an attack.

The primary duty of the federal government is to keep Americans safe. President Trump’s executive order fulfills this responsibility by taking a number of critical steps within his authority to strengthen national security and the integrity of our nation’s immigration system.  ISIS has vowed to use the immigration system to inflict harm, so it’s imperative that we know who is coming and going from our country.

Furthermore, there are some who believe the United States should overlook national security concerns and admit anyone who seeks to enter our country. While the United States has always welcomed immigrants to our shores, and will do so moving forward, our country should also remain vigilant as we maintain the world’s most generous immigration system and refugee resettlement program. The safety and security of the American people is paramount. I am pleased that President Trump is using the tools granted to him by Congress and the power granted by the Constitution to help keep America safe and to ensure we know who is entering the United States.

I believe it is sensible to pause the admission of foreign nationals from countries where adequate screening cannot occur. I look forward to continuing to work with the President to reform our immigration system to ensure the safety and security of our great nation.

I appreciate you taking the time to contact me. I believe it is important to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of Virginia’s 6th District.  I hope you will continue to be in touch as the 115th Congress debates issues of importance to the United States.  Please feel free to contact me whenever I may be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Bob Goodlatte
Member of Congress

Email #107, Subject: “we cannot support The American Health Care Act”

Yesterday on your live Facebook video, you said that you intend to vote for the American Health Care Act today. That sincerely surprises me. The AHCA has a 30% approval rating. That’s even lower than the ACA’s 40%. More Americans will lose their health care under the replacement bill than if the ACA were repealed and not replaced. The GOP has somehow made a plan that is not only less popular and effective than Obamacare, but less effective than nothing at all.

I see on your Facebook page that you recently met “with physicians, administrators, and hospital staff today at Sentara RMH Medical Center in Harrisonburg” and had a “great discussion.” Although you did not include any of the content, based on what national physician, nurse, hospital, and patient associations have said about the AHCA, it’s not hard to guess.

The American Hospital Association says: “we cannot support The American Health Care Act in its current form.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians says: “The AHCA, in our opinion, chooses to focus on “eliminating” policies and not on addressing the real-life economic challenges people have with health care.”

The American Association of Retired People says: “AARP opposes this legislation, as introduced, that would weaken Medicare, leaving the door open to a voucher program that shifts costs and risks to seniors.”

The American Medical Association says: “the AHCA would result in millions of Americans losing coverage and benefits. By replacing income-based premium subsidies with age-based tax credits, the AHCA will also make coverage more expensive – if not out of reach – for poor and sick Americans.”

The American Nurses Association says: “The American Health Care Act threatens health care affordability, access, and delivery for individuals across the nation. In its current form, the bill changes Medicaid to a per capita cap funding model, eliminates the Prevention and Public Health Fund, restricts millions of women from access to critical health services, and repeals income based subsidies that millions of people rely on. These changes in no way will improve care for the American people.”

The Federation of American Hospitals says: “We are very concerned that the draft legislative proposal being considered by the House committees could lead to tremendous instability for those seeking affordable coverage. Furthermore, we are deeply concerned that the proposed Medicaid program restructuring will result in both the loss of coverage for current enrollees as well as cuts to a program that provides health care services for our most vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly and disabled. Additionally, maintaining deep provider reductions while dramatically reducing coverage will reduce our ability to provide essential care to those newly uninsured and those without adequate insurance.”

That’s just the start of the list. As you must know, another dozen patient-focused organizations have written to Congress opposing the supposedly patient-focused AHCA. Any one of these letters would be reason for concern. Their accumulative weight is overwhelming.

The American Health Care Act is already a greater failure than Obamacare. If passed today, it will harm America, ending insurance for millions. Those who vote for it, will harm their reelections, ending their political careers in November 2018.

Email #106, Subject: “exacerbates the problem”?

Given the lack of support for the American Health Care Act, you and Congress will soon need to consider alternative approaches. A plan that provides universal health care coverage should be on the list. I recently read a compelling argument for it:

“With the cost of health care being so high, those uninsured have few options if they cannot independently pay.  Because hospitals are required to treat emergency conditions regardless of ability to pay, the uninsured often turn to emergency rooms for care.  However, this exacerbates the problem because these costs are passed onto all consumers in the form of higher health care prices.”

This may sound like an argument posed by Bernie Sanders or Hilary Clinton, but it was written by a Republican. In fact, it was written by a leading member of the current Congress: the chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

It was written by you.

Since you’ve been in Congress for a quarter century, you have probably made many statements that you have changed your mind about over the years. This one, however, you wrote in December. You sent it to me in a letter about why the Affordable Care Act needs to be replaced by a better bill. I pointed out that the Republican health care bill would insure fewer people than the ACA and so not address the very point that you raised.

When you sent me your next form letter about health care in February, it no longer included the above paragraph. Though your staff writers can erase inconvenient facts from your public statements, they cannot erase them from reality. As you argued so effectively, the ACA’s biggest flaw was its failure to insure all Americans. Until there is universal coverage, health care costs will continue to climb out of control for exactly the reason you identified. And yet the GOP’s American Health Care Act will insure far fewer than the ACA currently does.

So why are you supporting a bill that contradicts your own argument? Why are you supporting a bill that deepens the problems we are all facing?