WATCH: John Oliver warns “time is running out” on the GOP’s plan to replace Obamacare

Republicans were happy to point out the flaws in Obamacare but now Oliver takes joy in calling out replacement plan

John Oliver dedicated Sunday night’s episode of “Last Week Tonight” on the Affordable Care Act and the Republican plan to replace it. Except there is one major problem: the GOP does not have a plan. In the past few weeks, Republican politicians have encountered pushback from constituents at town halls. Videos from these events have proven that the GOP’s plan to repeal the health care law might not be popular policy.

Oliver showed a video from a town hall in New Port Richey, Florida, where a Republican leader tried to muzzle an angry crowd of voters. Bill Akins, the secretary of the Republican Party in Pasco County, Florida, resurrected the nefarious “death panel” lie, which claimed that Obamacare would force sick people to enter hospice care earlier than they desire. This was untrue, of course, so constituents immediately — and loudly — booed Akins for peddling fiction. Instead of debating the merits of Obamacare, Akins called the people in attendance “children” and baselessly dismissed the notion that they had actually read the Affordable Care Act.

The host of “Last Week Tonight” was floored by this interaction caught on video.

“What the fuck are you talking about? The notion of death panels isn’t just a lie, it’s Politifact’s 2009 lie of the year,” Oliver said. “Which is impressive considering in 2009 Americans were also repeatedly told Jason Mraz was the next big thing. We were lied to in a big way there.”

The “death panel” lie is just an example of all the deception surrounding Obamacare. But the pattern of deceit is about to come to an end, Oliver predicted.

“Republicans have happily complained about the flaws in the law, taken no responsibility for fixing them and in fact have often undermined the whole thing. But that time is now over,” Oliver said. “It is there turn to present a plan and the clock is ticking.”

 

 

Taylor Link is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

http://www.salon.com/2017/02/27/watch-john-oliver-warns-time-is-running-out-on-the-gops-plan-to-replace-obamacare/

Something Positive from the first days of Trump

Here are some positive results from the events of the last two weeks. Copy and pasted from a friend.
For everyone who DID something, small or big, your efforts have been successful. Because of you:

  1. Federal hiring freeze is reversed for VA (Veteran Affairs).
    2. Court order partial stay of the immigration ban for those with valid visas.
    3. Green card holders can get back in country.
    4. Uber pledges $3M and immigration lawyers for its drivers after#DeleteUbertrends on Twitter.
    5. Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) enrollment ads are still going to air.
    6. The ACLU raised 24M over the weekend (normally 3-4Mil/year).
    7. HHS, EPA, USDA gag order lifted.
    8. EPA climate data no longer scrubbed from website.
    9. More people of different career/religious/economic/race backgrounds are considering running for political office than ever before.
    10. MOST importantly, since we live in a participatory democracy, the people are engaged.

While more is needed, sometimes you have to celebrate your wins. Stay vigilant, but also take self-care seriously. Activist burnout is a thing. Marathon, don’t sprint. #resist
(Feel free to copy and paste to share)

Time to turn up the heat—Senate staffers are complaining about the avalanche of angry calls

By Jen Hayden Friday Jan 13, 2017

sessions-unfit

Attribution: Getty Images for People for the American Way

Have you been calling your senators and congresscritter to object to racist Jeff Sessions for Attorney General or lodge an objection to one of Donald Trump’s other uniquely and wholly unqualified Cabinet picks? Have you been calling to defend the Affordable Care Act and tell staffers how important it has been to you or a loved one? Great. It’s working. From Washington Post staffer T.J. Ortenzi last night:

FOR FULL STORY:  http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/1/13/1620094/-Time-to-turn-up-the-heat-Senate-staffers-are-complaining-about-the-avalanche-of-angry-calls

Statement by Major Christian Organizations on President-Elect Trump’s Policy Agenda and Political Appointments

National Council of Churches – January 6, 2017

BEFORE THE OATH OF OFFICE IS TAKEN

Statement By Major Christian Organizations on President-Elect Trump’s Policy Agenda and Political Appointments

WASHINGTON, D.C., January 6, 2017—As our nation prepares for the Presidential Inauguration, we do so with the lasting residue of a divisive election season and an even more fractured past. Our faith teaches us to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). That is why we urge President-Elect Donald Trump, who has said he shares our Christian faith, to take seriously his responsibility to bring our nation together and to heed the oath he will take to preserve, protect and defend America. He can start this work before the oath of office is taken with his policy agenda and political appointments. 

Together, we represent millions of Christians in the U.S. who believe in the power and possibility of healing and unity for our nation. We have grave concerns about a proposed policy agenda that, if enacted, would put the most vulnerable among us in jeopardy. Throughout Christian scriptures, we are instructed to care for the poor and the most vulnerable. The Affordable Care Act, including Medicaid expansion, has given more than 30 million people access to affordable health coverage. While working to improve the ACA will benefit all Americans, repealing it without simultaneously offering a replacement is reckless and unnecessarily endangers the health of millions of people. This is certainly no way to make America great. 

Safety net programs, which lift more than 40 million people out of poverty each year, must also be preserved. These programs are proven to help reduce poverty and provide families in need, especially children, and seniors, with food and housing security as well as with access to health care. Programs like Medicaid/Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/food stamps and Child Nutrition and WIC, all provide much-needed help to families when they are struggling to make ends meet. For Congress to block grant, cut or merge these programs will have devastating impacts on low-income families.  In fact, it will increase the number of people living in poverty, just as statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that poverty numbers are declining.

In addition, we are deeply troubled by choices President-Elect Trump has made for his Cabinet, particularly for Chief Strategist, Attorney General, and National Security Advisor. Stephen Bannon, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions and Michael Flynn epitomize extremist, racist and fringe world views that we believe are morally inconsistent with Christian principles of loving neighbor and antithetical to American values of “liberty and justice for all.” 

These objectionable nominees represent a bygone era of hatred that we have denounced and worked tirelessly to eradicate. Their corrupted credentials, which include condoning and supporting racist, anti-Semitic, white supremacist, xenophobic, and anti-Muslim ideologies, are not only unacceptable but they should disqualify them for service as public officials. We urge the President-Elect to protect the integrity of our nation by replacing these nominees with candidates who represent shared American values for the common good.

Before he takes the oath of office, we call on President-Elect Trump to preserve, protect and defend our nation by enacting a policy agenda that will improve the lives of the most vulnerable, not put them at greater risk. We urge President-Elect Trump to preserve, protect and defend our nation against people who have a documented history of racial hatred, bigotry, and xenophobia. We encourage President-Elect Trump to preserve, protect and defend our nation by doing the hard work it will take to unify our country and move us toward a just, sustainable and equitable future that lives up to the ideals and promise of America. 

 

Signed,

Conference of National Black Churches
Ecumenical Poverty Initiative
The National Council of Churches of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference

Is Donald Trump’s Cabinet Anti-Woman?

anti-women

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Donald J. Trump’s campaign was dogged by accusations of misogyny. Now his cabinet is shaping up to be one of the most hostile in recent memory to issues affecting women, advocacy groups for women say. Tax credits for child care and the prospect of paid maternity leave are exceptions to a host of positions that could result in new restrictions on abortion and less access to contraception, limits on health care that disproportionately affect women and minorities and curbs on funding for domestic violence, as well as slowing the momentum toward raising the minimum wage or making progress on equal pay.

Consider their positions on these issues.

Domestic violence

Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s selection for attorney general; Tom Price, chosen for Health and Human Services secretary; and Mike Pompeo, the pick for C.I.A. director, all voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act in 2013, which funds shelters and services for victims of domestic violence, because of amendments extending protections to L.G.B.T. victims. The act is up for reauthorization next year.

Pay discrimination and equal pay

Senator Sessions and Representative Price also voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the statute of limitations to allow women to sue for pay discrimination.

Mr. Sessions, as well as Elaine Chao, Mr. Trump’s choice for transportation secretary, opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have strengthened federal equal pay laws for women.

Minimum wage

Ms. Chao, in her tenure as secretary of labor in the George W. Bush administration, opposed raising the minimum wage. President-elect Trump generally opposed raising the federal minimum wage during the campaign, although he occasionally contradicted himself. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, points out that two-thirds of minimum-wage earners are women, who dominate fields with low-paying service jobs.

Mr. Trump, who supported the right to abortion as recently as 1999, opposed abortion during the campaign. And so do almost all of his cabinet picks, including Betsy DeVos, his nominee for education secretary; Nikki Haley, for ambassador to the United Nations; and Ms. Chao. Governor Haley signed a bill into law in South Carolina banning abortions from 20 weeks, a rollback from the medically established viability standard of 24 to 26 weeks.  Ben Carson, his nominee for Housing and Urban Development, is a longtime abortion foe.

In Congress, Senator Sessions and Representatives Price and Pompeo have consistently voted for abortion restrictions, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and against funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X, because abortion is included in these family planning services.

A Trump administration may well restrict funding for family planning or abortion in programs overseas to which the United States contributes.

Contraception

In Congress, Mr. Sessions, Mr. Price and Mr. Pompeo all voted against requiring employers to provide health care plans that included contraception, citing religious liberty.

In an exchange that went viral in 2012, Mr. Price scoffed at the notion that any woman could not afford contraception as part of his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which requires contraceptive coverage without co-payments as well as a range of other preventive services for women. “Bring me one woman who has been left behind,” he said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “Bring me one. There’s not one.”

As numerous women’s advocacy groups have demonstrated, high co-payments for birth control have been a significant deterrent for many women.

Medicare and Medicaid

Mr. Price proposes offering states lump sums, known as block grants, for Medicaid. These measures could disproportionately hurt women, particularly poor and minority women, since they would end up reducing the amount of federal money going to the states for health care. Medicaid is the main source of health care for low-income women, providing prenatal and maternity care as well as paying for nursing home care, which affects women more because they live longer. Under Obamacare, federal money to expand Medicaid has helped to narrow a longstanding gap in health care between blacks and whites.

Mr. Price has also proposed that the federal government provide a contribution that could be applied to private insurance or Medicare. Some fear those changes would hurt women because they become sicker as they age and would be more likely to exceed a fixed federal contribution.

“They will frame this as flexibility, but it’s about the federal government paying less or making it easier for states to cut back on services,” said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Justices, Seeking Compromise, Return Contraception Case to Lower Courts

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court, in an unsigned unanimous opinion, announced on Monday that it would not rule in a major case on access to contraception, instructing lower courts to explore whether a compromise was possible.

The ruling was the latest indication that the eight-member Supreme Court is exploring every avenue to avoid 4-to-4 deadlocks, even if the resulting action avoids deciding the question it had agreed to address.

The case, Zubik v. Burwell, No. 14-1418, was brought by religious groups that object to providing insurance coverage for contraception to their female workers.

Less than a week after the case was argued in March, the court issued an unusual unsigned order asking the parties to submit supplemental briefs on a possible compromise. In Monday’s ruling, the court said those briefs suggested that a compromise was possible, but that it should be forged in the lower courts.

“Given the gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties, the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage,’” the court said, quoting from a brief filed by the government.

The Supreme Court urged the lower courts to “allow the parties sufficient time to resolve any outstanding issues between them.”

The justices stressed that they were deciding nothing.

“The court expresses no view on the merits of the cases,” the opinion said. “In particular, the court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a concurrence, which was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, underscoring the limited nature of the court’s action and cautioning lower courts not to read anything into it.

“Today’s opinion does only what it says it does: ‘affords an opportunity’ for the parties and courts of appeals to reconsider the parties’ arguments in light of petitioners’ new articulation of their religious objection and the government’s clarification about what the existing regulations accomplish, how they might be amended, and what such an amendment would sacrifice,” she wrote. “As enlightened by the parties’ new submissions, the courts of appeals remain free to reach the same conclusion or a different one on each of the questions presented by these cases.”

The case was the court’s second encounter with the contraception requirement and the fourth time it has considered an aspect of President Obama’s health care law, the Affordable Care Act. It built on one from 2014, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which said a regulation requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception violated a federal law protecting religious liberty. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said there was a better alternative, one the government had offered to nonprofit groups with religious objections.

That alternative, or accommodation, was at issue in the new case. It allowed nonprofit groups like schools and hospitals that were affiliated with religious organizations not to pay for coverage and to avoid fines if they informed their insurers, plan administrators or the government that they sought an exemption.

Many religious groups around the nation challenged the accommodation, saying that objecting and providing the required information would make them complicit in conduct that violates their faith.

The groups added that they should be entitled to the outright exemption offered to houses of worship like churches, temples and mosques. Houses of worship are not subject to the coverage requirement at all and do not have to file any paperwork if they choose not to provide contraception coverage.

At arguments in March, several justices indicated that they thought the accommodation violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it allowed the government to “hijack” the insurance plans of the religious groups that are the petitioners in the case.

Days later, the court called for more briefs in an order that asked the parties to “address whether and how contraceptive coverage may be obtained by petitioners’ employees through petitioners’ insurance companies, but in a way that does not require any involvement of petitioners beyond their own decision to provide health insurance without contraceptive coverage to their employees.”

The order sketched out how this might work, asking the two sides to address whether it would be acceptable for the groups to do no more than to buy insurance plans for their workers that do not include contraception coverage.

On Monday, the court said the unusual tactic had worked and that both sides “now confirm that such an option is feasible.”

The religious groups, the court said, quoting their brief, “have clarified that their religious exercise is not infringed where they ‘need to do nothing more than contract for a plan that does not include coverage for some or all forms of contraception,’ even if their employees receive cost-free contraceptive coverage from the same insurance company.”

“The government,” the court continued, “has confirmed that the challenged procedures for employers with insured plans could be modified to operate in the manner posited in the court’s order while still ensuring that the affected women receive contraceptive coverage seamlessly, together with the rest of their health coverage.’”

Most federal appeals courts have ruled for the government in challenges to the accommodation.

Among the religious groups challenging the accommodation are an order of nuns based in Baltimore called the Little Sisters of the Poor, which operates nursing homes around the country. The nuns object to playing any role in providing any of the forms of contraception approved for women by the Food and Drug Administration.

Other challengers only object to covering intrauterine devices and so-called morning-after pills, saying they are akin to abortion. Many scientists disagree.

The religious groups sued under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which says that government requirements placing a substantial burden on religious practices are subject to an exceptionally demanding form of judicial scrutiny.

The two sides differed about whether the accommodation was such a burden. The religious groups said that adhering to their faith would subject them to crushing fines in the tens of millions of dollars.

“The government wants petitioners to do precisely what their sincere religious beliefs forbid — and it is threatening them with draconian penalties unless they do so,” Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for several religious groups, told the justices in a brief.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., in a brief for the Obama administration, said, “We do not question the sincerity or importance of petitioners’ religious beliefs.” But, he added, “a sincere objection to opting out of a legal requirement based on the knowledge that the government will then arrange for others to fulfill the requirement does not establish a substantial burden.”

 

No More Than a Religious Mask for Bigotry

Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill

11.06.2015
The Supreme Court has agreed to review seven consolidated cases testing whether religious extremists will be able to practice a particularly ugly form of gender bigotry — blocking women’s access to contraception.

In all seven cases, religious schools, hospitals, and other nonprofits are challenging the Obama administration’s accommodation which requires insurance companies to cover contraception in all health plans, including employer-based plans, while allowing extremist religious employers not to pay for it or even administer it. (The insurance companies would pick up the costs and the administrative tasks.) That’s not good enough for these organizations, who insist that they must be given the right to force their religious beliefs about birth control on all of their employees, believers and nonbelievers alike, and keep contraception out of their plans entirely.

There are some beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, that should simply not be respected by any government. A “belief” that targets and endangers a specific demographic group that has historically experienced discrimination is no more than a religious mask for bigotry. Just as we reject the use of religion to justify racial and homophobic bigotry, the same is true for gender bigotry as well.

Blocking women’s access to contraception is gender bigotry, plain and simple. Unintended pregnancy is deadly. It is closely correlated with infant mortality, maternal mortality and increased risk of domestic violence homicide. The U.S. has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the developed world — a higher rate than in many developing countries. Each year in the U.S., more than half of all pregnancies are unintended. The Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate holds the promise of saving women’s and infants’ lives by reducing the incidence of unintended pregnancy. Yet the Supreme Court is being told it must gut that life-saving mandate.

Notwithstanding extremist religious preaching, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women, like 99 percent of sexually active women overall and 97 percent of evangelical Protestant women, have used contraception at some point. Now the religious extremists are turning to the U.S. courts to accomplish what they could not do legitimately from their pulpits. But the last I checked, we were still a secular country, and the Supreme Court does not exist to do their dirty work for them.

NOW is already mobilizing our grassroots activists across the country to raise awareness about this latest threat to women’s health care. Every woman has the right to make her own reproductive health decisions. Not her boss, not some bishop, not some politician. And not some Supreme Court Justice.

Contact

Tamara Stein , planner@now.org , (951) 547-1241