Both Supporters and Detractors Ready For “Total War” Over Obamacare

Obamacare defenders vow ‘total war’


But Republicans have lots of options in dismantling the law.

Donald Trump is pictured. | Getty
President-elect Donald Trump has been a fierce critic of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation. | Getty

Shell-shocked Democrats on Capitol Hill are preparing to make a fight for Obamacare their top priority in the opening days of the Trump administration, with leading advocacy groups ready to wage “total war” to defend President Barack Obama’s universal health care program and his domestic policy legacy.

“We’ve got the battle of our lifetime ahead of us,” Ron Pollack, executive director of advocacy group Families USA, said the day after Donald Trump was elected on a pledge to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which now the law that covers 22 million people. “We’re going to have a huge number of organizations from all across the country that will participate in this effort.”

But their options are limited. They have enough votes to block a total repeal of the law on Day One of a Trump administration. But they can’t block Republicans from passing targeted legislation in the coming months, and Trump — like Obama before him — can pick up a pen as early as Jan. 20 and use executive powers to block, change, or put on hold key elements of the massive six-year-old legislation.

The road to repeal is more complex than Trump acknowledged on the campaign trail. The law is baked into the health care system, touching every American’s life and a fifth of the economy.

But with the Republican sweep of both the executive and legislative branches, expectations for big and bold action are high.

“It’s pretty high on our agenda as you know,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday. “I would be shocked if we didn’t move forward and keep our commitment to the American people.”

Democratic aides on Capitol Hill said it was too early to have concrete plans but that defending Obamacare was a top goal. The law brought uninsurance rates to record lows, and many people have gotten financial help to get covered.

“Sen. Schumer and Senate Democrats are interested in ways to improve the Affordable Care Act. But we will fight tooth and nail against any attempt to repeal it,” a senior Senate Democratic aide told POLITICO, referring to incoming Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

But Trump, if he chooses, could make his mark immediately. He could loosen requirements, for instance by exempting more people from the individual mandate to buy insurance. The new administration could also cut off funds for outreach and enrollment assistance for Obamacare plans, just at the peak busy days at the end of the 2017 sign-up season.

The Trump Justice Department could also stop fighting the lawsuit the Republican House brought against the Obama administration, seeking to shut off subsidies that help pay low-income people’s doctors bills. If the House wins, those payments would dry up — sticking the insurance plans with the bills. If the subsidies stop, insurance companies would have the right to drop out of the Obamacare markets almost immediately, which could lead to the collapse of the exchanges.

Or Trump could work with GOP lawmakers to siphon funding that was supposed to help insurers get through the first risky years of Obamacare — funds that Congressional Republicans have already limited.

“You can change regulations almost immediately to give the power back to states to give them choice,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), an orthopedic surgeon, who is likely to be a key Senate leader on Obamacare repeal. He was one of several lawmakers and Trump advisers who called for some kind of transition or phase-out period to help people who would be losing coverage.

Republicans can’t repeal the law straight away because Democrats will still hold enough Senate seats to mount a filibuster. But over the longer term, Republicans can kill enough of the measure to make it essentially moot. And Trump could undermine the ACA in multiple ways upon taking office because the law gave so much discretion to the HHS secretary.

A Republican Congress could also siphon Obamacare funding to insurers. Lawmakers already blocked some payments meant to offset their financial risk the health plans took on in the uncertain new markets. That’s one reason the insurers raised premiums this year, to make up for anticipated payments that never materialized.

All that has rattled health care industry groups, who did not expect Trump’s triumph and who have spent the last six years adjusting to Obamacare.

“I’ve got clients freaking out a little bit. It’s just the unknown,” said one veteran health care lobbyist, noting that pre-Election Day briefings were typically dominated by gaming out a Clinton administration.

Whether through regulation or legislation, there are risks to taking down Obamacare.

Dismantling an exceedingly complex law that has become baked into the health care system is going to be much more complex than Trump acknowledged on the campaign trail. It would add uncertainty and frustration to the insurance companies running Obamacare plans.

“For the last four years every problem of the health care system has been blamed on Obamacare,” said Tim Jost, a legal expert and strong supporter of the law. “From here on out it’s going to be blamed on Trumpcare — and we’ll see how that works out.”

Trump has provided few details about his health care replacement proposals. He has used some of the same phrases and big picture concepts as congressional Republicans, but with so little detail, it’s difficult to say how his ideas meld with those on the Hill.

“Anybody that says they know what’s going to happen now is smoking something excluded from Part D coverage,” said John Gorman, an insurance consultant. (Part D covers legal prescription drugs.)

Republicans may try to thread the needle between voter demands and massive health industry disruption by taking an early vote on Obamacare repeal – symbolic, given the Democratic filibuster — to show voters they will live up to their promise, and then build in time for a transition.

“I think the replacement obviously must come first and it must be something that is very appealing and easy to understand,” Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon and top Trump ally, told POLITICO. “And then, only then, would you dismantle what’s in place.”

Republicans also have a longer-term path to permanently repeal several huge parts of the law through legislation.

Republicans did a test run of their legislative plan to repeal several huge parts of the law last year when the Senate passed repeal legislation through the complex budget reconciliation process, which requires only 51 votes and can’t be filibustered. That bill would have eliminated the ACA’s subsidies that help consumers buy insurance, Medicaid expansion and the medical device and Cadillac taxes. It would also eliminate the fines for the individual and employer mandates, rendering them moot. Obama vetoed the bill.

House Speaker Paul Ryan happily acknowledged that a similar bill would face a different fate next year.

“This Congress, this House majority, this Senate majority has already demonstrated and proven we’re able to pass that legislation and put it on the president’s desk. Problem is, President Obama vetoed it,” Ryan said. “Now we have a President Trump who has promised to fix this.”

Dan Diamond contributed to this report.


Russia detains Ukrainian ‘extremist’ group in Crimea

Russia detains Ukrainian ‘extremist’ group in Crimea

world bulletin
Russia detains Ukrainian 'extremist' group in Crimea

Russia’s FSB security service on Wednesday “detained members of a sabotage-terror group from the main intelligence directorate of the Ukrainian defence ministry,” it said in a statement.

World Bulletin / News Desk

Russia’s security service said Thursday it had detained several people in Crimea, accusing them of being saboteurs sent by Kiev to the Moscow-annexed peninsula to attack infrastructure targets.

The group “planned to carry out acts of sabotage on objects of military and public infrastructure,” and had in their possession “powerful explosive devices, weapons, ammunition” and communication equipment, the FSB said.

Moscow seized and annexed the Black Sea peninsula in 2014 despite an outcry from the international community which was followed by sanctions.

Earlier this year, the FSB announced that it had thwarted “terror attacks” in Crimea, and Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered additional security measures.

Ukraine has dismissed the accusations of plotting attacks as “fantasies” concocted by Moscow to boost its military buildup and create a pretext for threatening Kiev.

Kiev is still fighting a pro-Russian insurgency in the eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, parts of which have declared independence. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in April 2014.

The Wave of Cop-Killing Ambushes Reaches the Heartland, S.W. PA., Canonsburg–1 Dead


One officer shot dead, another wounded in ‘ambush’ in Canonsburg

pittsburgh post gazette

canonsburgSWAT officers are at the scene of a shooting that wounded two officers early this morning.   Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette

One Canonsburg police was shot to death and another wounded in a shooting this morning. A SWAT team is on scene in another part of the borough where they believe the shooter is located.

State police said one officer was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital for medical treatment and a second officer was taken by ambulance to Canonsburg Hospital. One of the officers later died of his wounds. Police did not say which hospital he had been taken to.

Their names have not been released.

State police Trooper Melinda Bonderanka said the officers responded to a call of a domestic issue at 3:14 a.m. in the 100 block of Woodcrest Road and were ”ambushed upon their arrival.”

Homes in the Woodcrest Road area were evacuated and all other residents in the peripheral area were being told to “stay in place” while police search for the suspect.

Trooper Bonderanka would not say where police were specifically targeting their search but police, firefighters and the Washington County sheriff’s office have blocked off a stretch of road near the intersection of Bluff Avenue and West Pike Street.

Much of the view is blocked by fire trucks, but a white tent and an ambulance can be seen further up the street.

Departments on the scene include Peters, North Strabane, Hanover, state police and others.

Canon-McMillan School District has cancelled classes for today and Chartiers-Houston School District is on a two-hour delay because of the shooting.

District Judge David Mark, of Canonsburg, said he knows the slain officer and his family well.

“He is a great guy, top to bottom, one of the best people I know inside and out,”  District Judge Mark said. “I can’t imagine what the family is going through.”

Keith Jacob, of 126 Woodcrest Drive, said he lives two doors down from where the shooting took place and heard gunshots this morning.

“That’s what woke me up. Then I thought I heard someone say ‘My partner’s down’ ” he said.

He said the couple who live at the house where the shooting occurred have had past domestic problems.

“She has had a [protection from abuse order] against him … there have been back and forth disputes going on,” said Mr. Jacob, who also said the woman was two months pregnant.

Richard Crothers, 48, who lives on Pike Street, said he heard sirens about 3:30 a.m. He thought he saw an ambulance followed by two police cars “and then all hell broke loose.”

“This here is just unbelievable,” he said, noting that there are rarely police on the street, except to pull over speeders who use it as a pass through to Cecil when they get off Interstate 79.

Police have been on his street all morning. He watched shortly before 8 a.m. as a SWAT truck and then a bomb squad unit pulled in.

“This is the craziest it’s been,” he said.

He said police didn’t tell him what’s been going on but did tell him to stay inside for a long stretch. He said the snippets he’s heard came from the news.

Karen Kane: or at 724-772-9180. Liz Navratil:

Egyptian Media Cites Distortions of Truth, Intentional Deception In Western “News” Media

[Final list for pardons won’t include Brotherhood members, says committee on Egyptian detainees]

“This ‎election has clearly shown that the American ‎people have voted against the disastrous ‎policies of (current US president) Barack ‎Obama and his former secretary of state Hillary ‎Clinton,”

‎‎“I was deceived by the American media, but ‎now we see that there was a broad-based ‎rejection of Obama and Clinton in America,”

“Please review the hundreds of flawed ‎anti-Trump reports and opinion polls which the American media published for months, to discover the disgusting reality of ‎this malicious media,”

Trump’s victory a setback for Muslim ‎Brotherhood, say Egypt MPs

ahram online

Egypt MPs said the election of Donald Trump ‎as America’s new president means hard times ahead for the Muslim Brotherhood and good ‎news for the country’s president Sisi


File photo of Egypt’s Parliament in session. (Photo: AFP)


In a quick reaction to the results of America’s ‎presidential election, Egypt MPs said the ‎triumph of republican candidate Donald ‎Trump could be a very positive ‎development for Egypt.‎

Most of the MPs who spoke with parliamentary ‎reporters Wednesday also agreed that the ‎election of Trump should be considered good ‎news for Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi—the first Arab ruler to congratulate him on his ‎triumph. Besides, they added, Trump’s victory means a big setback for the Muslim ‎Brotherhood and other Islamist movements ‎who had high hopes that Democratic party ‎candidate Hilary Clinton would win.‎

Margaret Azer, a Coptic MP, said in a ‎statement that the election of Trump will surely ‎mean a positive new beginning for the world and ‎the Middle East.

“Trump’s victory represents a ‎radical departure from the Obama-Clinton clan ‎who supported the Muslim Brotherhood and other ‎political Islam movements,” said Azer, adding ‎that “in fact Hilary Clinton was the candidate ‎of the Muslim Brotherhood — rather than the ‎Democratic party — in the US presidential ‎election.”

“The election of Trump ‎should also help put an end to the terrorist ‎group ISIS and to chaos in Syria,” said Azer.‎

Azer said that she hopes Trump will move ‎quickly to restore old strategic relations ‎between Egypt and the United States. “This ‎strategic relationship is necessary for America to ‎win the fight against terrorism in the Middle ‎East,” said Azer.‎

Parliament’s Human Rights Committee also ‎issued a statement Wednesday, stating that ‎the election of Trump ‎should not come as a surprise. “This ‎election has clearly shown that the American ‎people have voted against the disastrous ‎policies of (current US president) Barack ‎Obama and his former secretary of state Hillary ‎Clinton,” said the committee’s chairman Alaa ‎Abed.‎

Abed accused Obama and Clinton of spending ‎billions of dollars on support for Islamist ‎movements in the Middle East. “They were ‎under false convictions that these movements ‎are moderate and democratic, and in this way ‎they gave them cover to spread their ‎terrorism and poisonous ideology in the ‎Middle East,” said Abed.‎

Abed said the stunning victory of Trump has ‎also exposed the American media’s flawed and ‎biased coverage of the election and how it managed to ‎mislead the American people and the world. “Please review the hundreds of flawed ‎anti-Trump reports and opinion polls which the American media published for months, to discover the disgusting reality of ‎this malicious media,” said Abed.‎

Abed also agrees that the newly elected Trump ‎should move quickly to restore strategic ‎relations between Egypt and the US. “If he is ‎really serious about fighting radical Islam, he ‎should win big allies like Egypt,” said Abed.‎

In one of his foreign policy speeches last ‎summer, Trump said he would call for an ‎international conference on terrorism and that ‎King Abdallah of Jordan and President El-Sisi of ‎Egypt would top the list of invitees.‎

El-Sisi was the only Arab president who met ‎with Trump during his visit to New York to ‎attend UN General Assembly meetings last ‎September. On 19 September and after his ‎meeting with El-Sisi, Trump’s political advisor ‎Walid Fares told reporters that Trump assured ‎El-Sisi that he looks forward to restoring ‎strategic relations with Egypt.

Phares also told ‎Egyptian MPs who were visiting America at ‎the time that Trump considers the Muslim ‎Brotherhood a radical movement.”There is ‎no problem at all with Trump’s administration, in that the Muslim Brotherhood would be designated ‎a terrorist organization,” said Phares.‎

Phares also said that Trump greatly appreciates the Egyptian people’s willingness to stand ‎against the Muslim Brotherhood, saving their ‎country from the chaos which hit countries like ‎Syria and Libya.‎

Abed agrees that Trump’s victory represents a ‎big setback to the Muslim Brotherhood. “They ‎were eager to see Clinton become the new ‎president to use it as a tool for exerting ‎pressure on Egypt, but their hopes were ‎seriously dashed,” said Abed.‎

Mostafa Bakri, an independent MP and high-‎profile journalist, said on his twitter account ‎that the loss of Clinton and the victory of ‎Trump means very bad times for the Muslim ‎Brotherhood and its television mouthpiece ‎‎”Al-Jazeera.”‎

Other MPs, however, said “Egypt should be ‎cautious in its expectations about Donald ‎Trump.”

“I know that some in Egypt are happy ‎and feel optimistic about Trump’s victory, but ‎all should be cautious and wait until we see ‎how this new US president will translate his ‎promises into action on the ground,” said ‎Tarek El-Khouly, deputy chairman of ‎parliament’s foreign relations committee.‎

El-Khouly, who attended the general assembly meetings in New York last ‎September, said he agrees that President Sisi’s ‎meeting with Trump was very ‎positive.

“I agree that there was a kind of love ‎chemistry between the two, and the fact ‎that Trump was keen to meet with El-Sisi ‎should be considered a positive development,” ‎said El-Khouly, adding “but I insist that we ‎should not pin exaggerated hopes on Trump ‎because his policies might antagonize the ‎Muslim world in general rather than put an ‎end to political Islam.”‎

Ali Ezz, deputy chairman of Egypt’s ‎Information Technology and ‎Telecommunication Committee told reporters ‎that Trump’s victory was a big surprise to him. ‎‎“I was deceived by the American media, but ‎now we see that there was a broad-based ‎rejection of Obama and Clinton in America,” ‎said Ezz, adding that “If Trump is serious about ‎fighting terrorism in the Middle East, he ‎should cooperate with strong leaders like El-‎Sisi and president of Russia Vladimir Putin to ‎stem the tide of political Islam.”‎

Solaf Darwish, a female MP, also agrees that ‎the election of Trump means very bad times ahead for the ‎Muslim Brotherhood. Darwish, who was also ‎in New York last September, said “El-Sisi and ‎Trump’s meeting was very positive.”

‎”While Trump told El-Sisi that he wants Egypt to be ‎a big ally of America again, Hilary Clinton ‎showed that she was an extension of the ‎Obama mentality when she tried during the ‎meeting to exert pressure on President El-Sisi ‎by raising issues on human rights and ‎democracy,” said Darwish.‎





Trump—not a friend to Pakistan

[ Why Pakistan is worried about Trump becoming the US President ]

“Get it straight: Pakistan is not our friend. We’ve given them billions and billions of dollars, and what did we get? Betrayal and disrespect—and much worse.” #TimeToGetTough

Pakistan Wants to Work on Counter-Terrorism With Trump


Pakistani foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz says his country would like to work with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on the common interest of combatting terrorism.

In an interview with Pakistan’s Geo News channel Thursday, he says that helping negotiate a political settlement in Afghanistan is another area where the two countries could work together.

The U.S. president-elect has publicly criticized Pakistan in the past for battling some Islamic militant groups while tolerating others.

Aziz acknowledged that perception, but said such policies were “in the past.”

Local and al-Qaida linked Islamic militants who have had long used Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions along the Afghan border as safe havens. The Afghan government frequently accuses Islamabad of sheltering the senior leadership of the Taliban.

Syria daily dismisses Raqqa fight as ‘media’ operation

Syria daily dismisses Raqqa fight as ‘media’ operation

daily star LEB

Agence France Presse

DAMASCUS: The Syrian Al-Watan newspaper, which is close to the government, on Monday dismissed a new assault on ISIS’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa as a “media” operation.

The daily said the fight, led by the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) was intended to “focus American public opinion on the ‘war on terror’ and show the seriousness of the current administration in the fight against the terrorist group Daesh (ISIS).”

Citing what it described as a “Western diplomatic source in Paris,” the newspaper said the SDF lacked the capacity to fight ISIS “even if they were backed by Washington and Paris with all their power.”

The daily said the operation’s “sudden announcement” was intended to “cover up the inability of the U.S. to make quick and qualitative progress in cooperation with the Iraqi army in Mosul,” citing the same source.

It also said the operation was timed to coincide with the U.S. presidential elections, which take place Tuesday, especially “with the scandals surrounding the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.”

The SDF is a key ally of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, where it does not coordinate its strikes with the government in Damascus.

President Bashar Assad’s government accuses the U.S.-led coalition of failing to tackle ISIS in Syria, and alleges that Washington and other supporters of rebel groups fuel “terrorism” in the country.