Posts from Zack Ford

Rand Paul blocks funding bill for 9/11 victims over hypocritical budget concerns

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked an attempt by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Wednesday to fast-track a bill that would extend compensation for victims of the September 11th attacks.

Paul expressed concerns that Gillibrand’s attempt to pass the measure using unanimous consent — meaning a bill is approved so long as no senator objects — did not take into consideration the need to offset that funding elsewhere.

In short, he argued, funding shouldn’t be distributed to 9/11 first responders without a discussion about where the money was coming from — concerns that didn’t stop him from voting for President Donald Trump’s massive tax cuts for the rich back in 2017.

“It has long been my feeling that we need to address our massive debt in this country,” Paul said in voicing his objection on Wednesday. “Any new spending that we are approaching — any new program that’s going to have the longevity of 70, 80 years — should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at the very least have this debate.”

More ...

Health Department grants foster care agency religious exemption license to discriminate

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a waiver to a South Carolina foster care agency, granting it a blanket license to discriminate based on its religious beliefs. Miracle Hill Ministries refuses to partner with any foster parents that do not share its protestant Christian beliefs, having previously turned away Jewish and same-sex couples.

When Beth Lesser and her husband moved to South Carolina, they completed training and background checks to become foster parents. Though Miracle Hill assisted with her training, it refused to invite her to work with the agency because she is Jewish. In 2017, she filed a complaint with the state Department of Social Services (DSS), which responded by downgrading Miracle Hill’s license to provide foster care services.

Gov. Henry McMaster (R) then came to Miracle Hill’s defense, assuring the agency he was going to work with federal officials to seek a waiver. Earlier this month, House committee chairs Robert Scott (D-VA) and Richard Neal (D-MA) urged HHS Secretary Alex Azar to deny the request, but this week the agency confirmed that Miracle Hill can refuse service however its religious beliefs dictate.

The waiver is an exception to a rule put in place by the Obama administration barring child placement agencies that receive public funding from discriminating. Despite the waiver, HHS has so far not taken the step of attempting to overturn the rule.

Not only has Miracle Hill previously refused to serve Jewish families, it also refers same-sex couples to other agencies. According to its CEO, Reid Lehman, “God’s design for marriage is the legal joining of one man and one woman in a life-long covenant relationship.” The agency also requires employees to adhere to the same religious beliefs.

In several states, the debate over whether Christian adoption and foster care agencies should have to serve same-sex couples has prompted legislation granting them a “license to discriminate,” even if they receive state funding. Last year, for example, both Kansas and Oklahoma passed such laws within days of each other.

More ...

Paul Ryan admits the GOP will gut Medicare and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

Republicans in Congress are openly admitting they plan to use their tax reform bill to justify slashing funding for essential social programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps.

The bill — which is expected to balloon the national deficit by at least $1 trillion, and which only benefits the country’s wealthiest in the long-term — has not yet been reconciled or signed. But Republicans aren’t wasting any time laying out what they see as the next step.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) laid out the plan in an interview last week on Ross Kaminsky’s radio show. “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said, adding that health care entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid are “the big drivers of our debt.”

He defended this by claiming the bill would generate $1 trillion dollars in revenues, which is a common talking point in support of the legislation. But a recent analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation found that the nearly $1.5 trillion tax plan will only generate around $400 billion dollars in growth, meaning it’ll actually fall $1 trillion short of breaking even. In other words, it’ll grow the deficit, not shrink it.

Now, Republicans in Congress are admitting they’ll use the deficit they’re working to create to justify cutting some of the most important programs in the country.

More ...

Montana will spend $750,000 to avoid making it easier for Democrats to vote

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

Considering that Montana ranks 48th in the country for population density with only 6.5 people per square mile, it’s no surprise that allowing voters to simply cast ballots through the mail would save the state up to $750,000.

Nonetheless, this week, Montana House Speaker Austin Knudsen (R) put the final nail in the coffin of a bill that would have made the state’s upcoming special election all mail-in votes — seemingly to avoid the reality that when barriers to voting are removed, Democrats cast more ballots.

The special election on May 25 will determine who will succeed former Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), whom President Trump tapped to serve as Secretary of the Interior. It was actually a Republican state senator, Steve Fitzpatrick, who introduced a bill that would have made it a mail-only election, calling it a “fiscally responsible thing to do.” The bill, however, turned into a partisan ping-pong match that ended with Knudsen’s kill-shot.

Fitzpatrick’s bill had actually passed the Republican-controlled Senate, but not before Montana Republican Chairman Rep. Jeff Essmann distributed an “emergency report” blatantly admitting his concern that the change would advantage Democrats. “All mail ballots give the Democrats an inherent advantage in close elections,” he wrote, “due to their ability to organize large numbers of unpaid college students and members of public employee unions to gather ballots by going door to door.” In other words, Republicans can only win if it’s harder for more people to vote.

More ...

Trump admits his health care plan would benefit rich investors, screw over people who voted for him

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

President Trump sat down Wednesday for an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, and Carlson asked him to respond to criticisms that the Republican health care plan favors the healthy and hurts most of the voters who supported his election. Trump didn’t hesitate to agree that that is exactly what it does.

Here’s the full exchange, which speaks for itself:

CARLSON: This bill has as one of its centerpieces a tax-cut for investors that would primarily benefit people making over $250,000 a year. They’ve already done pretty well in the past ten years, as you know.
TRUMP: Yeah.
CARLSON: A Bloomberg analysis showed that counties that voted for you — middle-class and working-class counties — would do far less well under this bill —
TRUMP: Yeah. Oh, I know.
CARLSON: — than the counties that voted for Hillary, the more affluent counties.
TRUMP: I know. It’s very preliminary.
CARLSON: It seems like maybe this isn’t consistent with the last election.
TRUMP: No. A lot of things aren’t consistent. But this is going to be negotiated.
More ...

Meet the Republicans who oppose Trumpcare

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

House Republicans have finally unveiled their plan to undo Obamacare, but not all congressional Republicans are on board with the controversial new plan.

For some, the plan is still too liberal. Members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a caucus of 170 House conservatives, prepared an analysis critiquing the plan with “major concerns” that it’s too similar to Obamacare. For example, the RSC memo objects to the fact that the plan extends Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion for three years. This, it argues, “will contribute to the worsening of the federal and state budgets” and will leave “the federal government picking up the majority of the bill.”

These members simply do not want the federal government spending money to help the lowest-income Americans afford health coverage. In fact, they chide supporters of the plan for allowing the Medicaid expansion to “avoid the political consequences and pain of unwinding expansion.” Apparently, making it so that some 11 million Americans can no longer afford or access health insurance isn’t politically popular, but it’s still what some of these Congressional Republicans would prefer on principle.

Likewise, the RSC memo objects to the new plan offering tax credits to help people access health insurance through individual plans. “Writing checks to individuals to purchase insurance is, in principle, Obamacare,” the memo states. Even though it acknowledges that this approach “does allow more choices for individuals” and “is more patient-centered,” it’s still not acceptable because the federal government simply shouldn’t “fund insurance purchases.” Freedom means people being left to fend for themselves.

More ...

Spicer defends Trump’s ‘belief’ that there was widespread voter fraud

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

At Tuesday’s White House press conference, questions advanced from the administration’s lie about inauguration turnout to President Trump’s false claim that 3–5 million people voted illegally, which he reiterated in a meeting with congressional leaders on Monday.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump for maintaining this belief, dismissing questions about its truthfulness.

“The president does believe that. He has stated that before,” Spicer responded. “I think he has stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign. And he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have first have presented to him.”

It was pointed out to Spicer that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R), who had been in the meeting with Trump, said earlier on Tuesday that he knew of “no evidence” to support the claim of massive voter fraud. Additional questions pressed Spicer as to what “studies and evidence” Trump was relying on.

More ...

Republican congressman sneaks away from constituents demanding health care answers

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO) tweeted Friday that he was excited to return home to Colorado this weekend, but things didn’t go very well when he got there.

On Saturday, his open meeting to chat with constituents at the Aurora Central Library was overwhelmed by votersparticularly concerned about the fate of their health care if the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) is repealed — a plan Coffman supports — without a replacement put in place. Rather than meet with most of them or even address them, he left the event via a back door and escaped in a waiting vehicle.

Among those who never got the chance to speak with Coffman was Berthie Ruoff. She told 9news, “I am potentially going to lose my health insurance. I’ve had a preexisting condition. I’ve had breast cancer. What’s going to happen to me? My spouse who had health insurance passed away. What do I do? You know, what am I supposed to do?” One of the hallmarks of the ACA was its provision that insurance carriers could no longer deny coverage to applicants because of pre-existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, and cancer — as many did prior to the law’s passage.

It’s not clear that Coffman would have had a satisfying answer for her. This week, he co-authored an op-ed in The Denver Post with his fellow Republican congressmen from Colorado defending their support for repealing the ACA. Addressing the argument that people could lose their coverage and not find new plans because of pre-existing conditions, the lawmakers promised a Republican plan that “envisions” expanding protections that existed before the ACA, such as privacy protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). But such protections only help those who change but maintain insurance coverage, not those who lose it and have to start a new plan, meaning they would do nothing to help Ruoff or others like her if their coverage should end because of the law’s repeal.

Coffman’s event, his first since June, was supposed to run from 2 to 3:30 and allow for one-on-one conversations with constituents. Because of the turnout, he met with them four at a time, ultimately speaking with only about 70 people and leaving far more waiting. He also left before the event was even supposed to end, sneaking out around 3:24.

According to his chief of staff, Ben Stein, the event was not intended to be a town hall. “Unfortunately, we only reserved the room at the Aurora Central Library for 90 minutes, which is usually plenty of time to see everyone,” he said in a statement. “For those who were unable to see the Congressman today we apologize. These constituents are invited to attend upcoming meeting opportunities and we will block more time so that he can hear from more of his constituents.”

Coffman has issued no personal statement addressing his early departure or the health care concerns so many of his constituents were there to discuss with him. Despite vague assurances from many Republican members of Congress, no ACA replacement plans have yet been shared with the public even though repeal votes are already underway.


More ...

North Carolina just lost out on another 730 jobs because of its anti-LGBT law

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

This week, North Carolina found out it is not getting 730 new jobs and a quarter-billion-dollar impact that it was the top contender for. The reason? Its anti-LGBT law, HB2, which bans trans people from using the bathroom and bars municipalities from protecting LGBT people from discrimination.

CoStar Group Inc., a real estate analytics company, had been shopping around cities to build a new research operations headquarters, and the contenders were Charlotte, Richmond, Atlanta, and Kansas City. The Atlanta Business Chronicle heard from sources that Charlotte was the favorite. But the jobs are going to Richmond.

According to David Dorsch, CoStar Group’s commercial real estate broker, “The primary reason they chose Richmond over Charlotte was HB2.” CoStar Group was itself, a bit mum, simply confirming the jobs were going to Richmond — and no expansions were planned anywhere else. But Dorsch was adamant that the jobs were another casualty of the discriminatory law. “The best thing we can do as citizens in North Carolina is to show up on Nov. 8 and think about which party is costing us jobs and which one is not.”

More ...

North Carolina Just Lost 400 Jobs Because Of Its Anti-LGBT Law

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

North Carolina Just Lost 400 Jobs Because Of Its Anti-LGBT Law

PayPal announced Tuesday morning that it has abandoned its plans for a massive global operations center, which would have brought 400 new jobs to Charlotte, North Carolina. The company was unequivocal that the decision was made because of the state’s passage of HB2, a sweeping law that blocks cities from enacting LGBT nondiscrimination protections and mandates that transgender people use the wrong bathrooms for their gender identities.

CEO Dan Schulman explained in a statement that “the new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.”

Schulman asserted that the decision to not proceed with the Charlotte center “is a clear and unambigous one” that reflects the company’s “deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect.” Because PayPal’s employees would not have equal rights under North Carolina law, employing them there is “simply untenable.”

The move by PayPal is the latest in an ever-growing backlash against the state for rushing through the discriminatory law — lawmakers passed it in a single calendar day as retribution for Charlotte passing LGBT nondiscrimination protections.

More ...

Union Matters

He Gets the Bucks, We Get All the Deadly Bangs

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre has had better weeks. First came the horrific early August slaughters in California, Texas, and Ohio that left dozens dead, murders that elevated public pressure on the NRA’s hardline against even the mildest of moves against gun violence. Then came revelations that LaPierre — whose labors on behalf of the nonprofit NRA have made him a millionaire many times over — last year planned to have his gun lobby group bankroll a 10,000-square-foot luxury manse near Dallas for his personal use. In response, LaPierre had his flacks charge that the NRA’s former ad agency had done the scheming to buy the mansion. The ad agency called that assertion “patently false” and related that LaPierre had sought the agency’s involvement in the scheme, a request the agency rejected. The mansion scandal, notes the Washington Post, comes as the NRA is already “contending with the fallout from allegations of lavish spending by top executives.”

***

More ...

Corruption Coordinates

Corruption Coordinates