Conservative Groups Call on Senate to Repeal Obamacare

Senate Republicans should repeal Obamacare or prepare to face consequences, say leaders of conservative groups.

“Now is the time to act after 8 years of promising to repeal Obamacare,” said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins during a conference call with reporters, urging Republicans to move forward with a proposed measure that would repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“If Republicans cannot repeal Obamacare, they need to call hospice care, because their majority is not long in this world.”

The calls for repeal came after the Senate’s health care bill failed to garner enough votes to pass. The bill would have rewritten the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010 under President Barack Obama.

Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin called getting rid of Obamacare the “single unifying factor” amongst grassroots activists who have worked to help Republicans win Congressional majorities and the White House.

Martin condemned expected repeal obstructions from GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia as “an attempt to protect Obamacare.”

“My guess is that Republicans in Congress have pledged to repeal Obamacare over a million times in the past 8 years,” said Brent Bozell, founder of the Media Research Center. “No Republican ever promised to vote not to repeal Obamacare.”

McConnell, Bozell said, should hold the GOP accountable for delivering repeal. Without that delivery, he cautioned, Republicans will lose the majority they currently have, “absolutely guaranteed.”

“Voters will stay home, they’ll have no reason to vote.”

The Media Research Center joined other groups in offering support to Senators who vote to proceed with repeal—and repercussions to those who don’t.

“Voting no is not an option,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh said.

“We’re not frustrated lobbyists,” said McIntosh. “The frustration is that it looks like [Senate Republicans] are about to jump off a cliff and really betray the voters who put them into office.”

The post Conservative Groups Call on Senate to Repeal Obamacare appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Senate Health Care Bill Could Be Greatest Entitlement Reform in a Generation

The Senate health care bill (the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017) would fundamentally reform federal Medicaid payment.

As Washington Post columnist George Will has written, the bill’s Medicaid provisions, as crafted by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., “makes it this century’s most significant domestic policy reform.”

Will is correct. Medicaid financing needs reform. Jointly financed by the federal government and the states, federal taxpayers pay between 50 and 75 percent of state Medicaid costs for the blind, elderly, and disabled, as well as women and children in poverty.

Obamacare created higher payment for a new class of beneficiaries: able-bodied recipients, mostly childless adults who can work. For them, federal taxpayers fund 95 percent today, and will pay 90 percent in 2020 and thereafter.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that spending for these newly eligible recipients will account for 21 percent of total Medicaid spending in 2026.

Medicaid is an open-ended entitlement, meaning that if a state spends more, for whatever reason, bigger federal payments to the state are automatically increased.

Under current law, if a state spends $1 on Medicaid, it can get back $2 or even $3 in matching funds.

State Gaming

Not surprisingly, state officials have routinely tried to game the Medicaid program to secure higher Medicaid payments without spending more of their own money.

Dr. Gail Wilensky, former Medicare and Medicaid administrator, recalls, for example, the state practice of the “voluntary donation” scheme. A common strategy, Wilensky reports, would be for a state to get “’voluntary donations’ from hospitals to the state that the state would put up as its share of the match. After the federal matching money was received, the state would return the ‘donation’ to the hospitals, along with the additional federal money.”

Another scheme: the use of “provider taxes.” Says the Congressional Budget Office:

… most states finance at least a portion of their Medicaid spending through taxes collected from health care providers with the intention of returning the collected taxes to those providers in the form of higher Medicaid payments, thereby boosting federal Medicaid spending without a concomitant increase in state spending.

The Senate Reform

The Senate bill would end this process by replacing this open-ended federal payment to the states with a per capita cap, based on the average annual spending and the number of enrollees in the categories of Medicaid recipients served by the program.

With a per capita payment system based on multiple categories of beneficiaries, rather than a single overall spending cap, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the potential for overall budgetary savings would be greater.

Over the next seven years, Medicaid spending growth would be indexed by medical inflation (CPI-M) for most beneficiaries, with higher average annual spending increases (CPI-M plus 1 percent) for the elderly and disabled than current law.

Eight years from now, the annual spending growth for all beneficiaries would be indexed to general inflation (CPI-U).

A Medicaid per capita payment system promises multiple benefits for both taxpayers and recipients alike.

First, it would discourage state gaming to secure bigger infusions of federal cash.

As the Congressional Budget Office has concluded:

Federal spending caps … would curtail states’ current ability to increase federal Medicaid funds—an ability created by the open-ended nature of federal financing for the program—and could reduce the relatively high proportion of program costs now covered by the federal government.

Indeed, the gamesmanship—through, say, provider tax ploys to secure more federal dollars without an increase in state spending—would largely be undone. As the Congressional Budget Office reports, “Those incentives would be reduced under a capped program.”

Second, a Medicaid per capita payment system will make federal spending more predictable and state Medicaid administration more rational and responsible.

By putting limits on the growth of annual federal payments, the states would be required to be more disciplined and responsible than they are today in the management of the giant program.

If state Medicaid spending exceeded the annual spending caps, state officials may find it necessary or desirable to increase state taxes to cover those additional costs, adopt measures to improve the efficiency of Medicaid care delivery—such as reimbursing Medicaid providers on payment schedules that reward performance, better care, or superior medical outcomes—or rethink their decision to add or maintain their coverage of the able-bodied Obamacare “expansion population.”

Under the Senate bill, of course, those persons would be eligible not only for premium tax credits for private insurance, but also for financial assistance with their out-of-pocket costs.

Third, a Medicaid per capita cap payment system would generate large savings over time.

Relatively small decreases in the average annual growth of large programs can accumulate very large savings over time.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that under the Senate bill, the adoption of the new per capita payment system (as well as a reduction in federal payment for the expansion population) would generate $772 billion over 10 years.

There are relatively few options to slow the growth in Medicaid spending. The most painful and politically difficult include the denial of eligibility, a reduction in the availability of medical services, or simply “meat-axe” cutting federal or state payments.

Instead, the Senate bill adopts a cap that would slow the growth of federal Medicaid payment over time.

The Senate approach—a per capita cap, based on the average spending and the number of enrollees—accounts for the wide differences among the population groups served by the Medicaid program.

The Senate bill also gradually phases down federal funding for able-bodied adults who became Medicaid-eligible under Obamacare, but wisely provides these enrollees with an expanded premium tax credit for the purchase of private insurance, and financial assistance from a state stability fund that can help them with their out-of-pocket costs.

The Senate bill embodies sound, rational, and responsible Medicaid policy. If enacted, it could be the greatest single entitlement reform in a generation.

The post Senate Health Care Bill Could Be Greatest Entitlement Reform in a Generation appeared first on The Daily Signal.

7 Years of Promising Obamacare Repeal Leaves Republicans Just 1 Option

Obamacare is failing.

It has done little to fulfill its original promise of producing more choice and lower costs, and worse, has set off a cascading set of problems that will increasingly hurt the American people.

When President Donald Trump was asked Tuesday if the bill to repeal Obamacare was dead, he responded:

I don’t think it’s dead, no. But I’m certainly disappointed. For seven years, I’ve been hearing ‘repeal and replace’ from Congress, and I’ve been hearing it loud and strong. And then when we finally get a chance to repeal and replace, they don’t take advantage of it. So that’s disappointing.

On Twitter, Trump also suggested that we should just let Obamacare “fail” so we can fix it later with a good health care plan.

Though this statement is somewhat ambiguous, it would be incredibly harmful if we allow the American health care system to continue decaying.

Congress created this mess of a law and has a duty to undo it. Letting Obamacare simply collapse is not a responsible option for the American people. It doesn’t help the millions of people harmed by current policies.

Failure to tackle this issue now would squander an incredible opportunity for reform and leadership.

It is inexcusable for the GOP, which has majorities in Congress, a president in the White House, and widespread officeholders in the states, to fail on delivering on its most prominent and recurring promises from the past seven years.

As the summer drags on, and as the Republican-controlled Congress has yet to place a health care bill on the president’s desk, it’s important to remember what is at stake.

Where It Stands

As of Monday night, health care reform appeared to be in a perilous position as Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Jerry Moran, R-Kan., announced they would vote “no” on the motion to proceed on the Obamacare replacement plan making its way through the Senate.

Given that these defections would likely drop the vote count below what is needed to pass the bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would instead vote on the 2015 House repeal bill that was vetoed by President Barack Obama.

However, this plan could also have complications as two Republican senators, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, said they would not vote for the 2015 repeal plan.

McConnell delayed summer recess until mid-August to get legislation through, so unless it’s canceled entirely—as some legislators suggest—Congress has just weeks to get things right before the long wait until the next session.

This is a huge risk, and could be seen as a serious blow to voters who gave the Republican Party a majority to tackle laws that were difficult to get through under a Democratic president.

A Deteriorating and Costly System

It is worth noting what the cost of failure will be if Obamacare is left in place.

As Heritage Foundation health care expert Ed Haislmaier told The Daily Signal:

Every day that goes by that Congress does not repeal Obamacare hurts Americans and further damages our health system. The Senate needs to focus on repeal to undo Obamacare’s damage and commit itself to the hard work of replacing it with a system that actually works for Americans.

Since the law was passed in 2010, Americans have suffered through mandates, premium hikes, increased taxes, and worsening options.

Insurers have pulled out of Obamacare exchanges en masse, destabilizing markets and reducing competition.

Premiums for the average American have risen enormously, in some states doubling and tripling since Obamacare was passed.

According to a study released by the Department of Health and Human Services, the average annual premium cost in 2013 was $2,784. By 2017, the average cost on HealthCare.gov was $5,712.

Additionally, Obamacare rapidly expanded Medicaid, which was designed as a safety net for low-income children, the elderly, and the disabled. When Obamacare extended its eligibility to millions of able-bodied adults, it put the program on a fiscally unsustainable path.

These are just some of the many issues that need to be tackled—or else the American health care system will continue to deteriorate.

‘Desperate Courage Makes One a Majority’

Progressives can often operate with the assumption that once passed into law, entitlements will simply never go away.

Electoral success comes and goes like the tide, yet the expansion of government seems to stay and grow regardless of temporary political change.

While conservative legislators may have a difficult electoral task, their voters should demand leadership.

Republicans have a rare opportunity, perhaps only a brief window, to undo the damage—both in the present and in the future—of a law that’s already proving to be bad for the American people.

Would the great legislative leaders in American history have balked because the task was arduous?

President Andrew Jackson once remarked that “desperate courage makes one a majority.” Relentlessly fighting to repeal Obamacare may cost some votes, it may upset special interests, and it may be a thankless responsibility. But leadership requires courage.

Though the margin for success is perhaps narrower than expected, the fight to repeal Obamacare is one worth having. It may be painful, but the consequences of failure will be much worse.

The post 7 Years of Promising Obamacare Repeal Leaves Republicans Just 1 Option appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Why the Revised Senate Health Care Bill Is a Major Improvement Over the Status Quo

On Thursday, the Senate Republican leadership unveiled an updated version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. While it is an imperfect legislative product, it is nonetheless a major improvement over the status quo.

Obamacare has wrecked both the individual and small group health insurance markets.

After seven years, millions of Americans enrolled in the individual markets have suffered premium rate shocks—amounting to 25 percent on average this year alone—breathtaking increases in their deductibles, and precipitous declines in choice and competition within the individual market.

This week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that fewer insurers have applied to sell Obamacare plans for 2018. Today, a stunning 70 percent of American counties have only one or two health insurers offering plans.

The Senate health bill released Thursday represents a solid first step in reversing these Obamacare-induced failures.

It would repeal both the individual and the employer mandate penalties, it contains provisions to lower premiums and increase the availability of insurance plans, and it would make it much easier for states to control their own health insurance markets.

These steps represent a series of initial blows against Obamacare’s intrusive and unprecedented federal restrictions on personal and economic freedom.

By making it easier for states to secure waivers from many of Obamacare’s mandates, the bill moves to restore the traditional authority of the states to regulate their own health insurance markets in accordance with the particular wants and needs of their citizens. This will help to spur bottom-up innovation in health insurance benefit design, as well as payment and delivery reforms.

The bill would also provide states with special funding to help stabilize their health insurance markets and to assist low-income or high-risk persons with premium and out-of-pocket costs.

Obamacare included major tax increases. The Senate bill cuts a variety of taxes, including those on health insurance, drugs, and medical devices, which result in higher health care costs.

The Senate bill would also enact major, transformative reforms to Medicaid.

Today, Medicaid is a poorly performing, open-ended entitlement where the federal taxpayers automatically cover state Medicaid costs.

The Senate bill, like the House bill, establishes per capita caps for Medicaid spending, indexed to inflation, and puts the program on a responsible fiscal path. At the same time, the bill would retarget Medicaid funding to our society’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens—the elderly, disabled, and pregnant women and children in poverty.

This latest version of the Senate bill takes additional steps to improve American health care financing and undo Obamacare’s damage. For example, it allows individuals to pay for insurance premiums out of their health savings accounts—another mechanism to expand health insurance coverage.

Beefing up health savings accounts, and giving Americans greater flexibility in using them, is a good incremental step toward equalizing the tax treatment of health insurance, regardless of whether it is purchased by an individual or through an employer.

Congress faces more hard work ahead. No single bill will resolve all of the problems in America’s $3.2 trillion health care economy.

Congress will still need to pursue additional health reforms.

For example, Congress should convert Medicaid funding for able-bodied recipients into a defined contribution (“premium support”) program, enabling them to enroll in the private plans of their choice and secure superior access to care from physicians and other medical professionals.

Congress should also reform the federal tax treatment of health insurance, and provide individual tax relief for middle-class persons who do not or cannot get health insurance through their place of work.

Finally, Congress should face up to the looming Medicare challenge, and the huge demographic and fiscal problems that will besiege future beneficiaries and taxpayers alike.

Health care reform is a process, and the Senate bill is serious progress.

The post Why the Revised Senate Health Care Bill Is a Major Improvement Over the Status Quo appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Why the Revised Senate Health Care Bill Is a Major Improvement Over the Status Quo

On Thursday, the Senate Republican leadership unveiled an updated version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. While it is an imperfect legislative product, it is nonetheless a major improvement over the status quo.

Obamacare has wrecked both the individual and small group health insurance markets.

After seven years, millions of Americans enrolled in the individual markets have suffered premium rate shocks—amounting to 25 percent on average this year alone—breathtaking increases in their deductibles, and precipitous declines in choice and competition within the individual market.

This week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported that fewer insurers have applied to sell Obamacare plans for 2018. Today, a stunning 70 percent of American counties have only one or two health insurers offering plans.

The Senate health bill released Thursday represents a solid first step in reversing these Obamacare-induced failures.

It would repeal both the individual and the employer mandate penalties, it contains provisions to lower premiums and increase the availability of insurance plans, and it would make it much easier for states to control their own health insurance markets.

These steps represent a series of initial blows against Obamacare’s intrusive and unprecedented federal restrictions on personal and economic freedom.

By making it easier for states to secure waivers from many of Obamacare’s mandates, the bill moves to restore the traditional authority of the states to regulate their own health insurance markets in accordance with the particular wants and needs of their citizens. This will help to spur bottom-up innovation in health insurance benefit design, as well as payment and delivery reforms.

The bill would also provide states with special funding to help stabilize their health insurance markets and to assist low-income or high-risk persons with premium and out-of-pocket costs.

Obamacare included major tax increases. The Senate bill cuts a variety of taxes, including those on health insurance, drugs, and medical devices, which result in higher health care costs.

The Senate bill would also enact major, transformative reforms to Medicaid.

Today, Medicaid is a poorly performing, open-ended entitlement where the federal taxpayers automatically cover state Medicaid costs.

The Senate bill, like the House bill, establishes per capita caps for Medicaid spending, indexed to inflation, and puts the program on a responsible fiscal path. At the same time, the bill would retarget Medicaid funding to our society’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens—the elderly, disabled, and pregnant women and children in poverty.

This latest version of the Senate bill takes additional steps to improve American health care financing and undo Obamacare’s damage. For example, it allows individuals to pay for insurance premiums out of their health savings accounts—another mechanism to expand health insurance coverage.

Beefing up health savings accounts, and giving Americans greater flexibility in using them, is a good incremental step toward equalizing the tax treatment of health insurance, regardless of whether it is purchased by an individual or through an employer.

Congress faces more hard work ahead. No single bill will resolve all of the problems in America’s $3.2 trillion health care economy.

Congress will still need to pursue additional health reforms.

For example, Congress should convert Medicaid funding for able-bodied recipients into a defined contribution (“premium support”) program, enabling them to enroll in the private plans of their choice and secure superior access to care from physicians and other medical professionals.

Congress should also reform the federal tax treatment of health insurance, and provide individual tax relief for middle-class persons who do not or cannot get health insurance through their place of work.

Finally, Congress should face up to the looming Medicare challenge, and the huge demographic and fiscal problems that will besiege future beneficiaries and taxpayers alike.

Health care reform is a process, and the Senate bill is serious progress.

The post Why the Revised Senate Health Care Bill Is a Major Improvement Over the Status Quo appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Conservatives Look for Lower Premiums in Senate’s Revised Health Care Bill

The Senate’s Republican leadership released a revised health care bill Thursday afternoon, a move welcomed by House conservatives even as they were reluctant to comment before digesting it.

“We are going to withhold judgment,” Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said earlier in the day during the monthly Conversations With Conservatives event on Capitol Hill, but emphasized that the major goal is to drive down skyrocketing health insurance premiums under Obamacare.

“We’ve got to bring premiums down,” Meadows said, adding:

The bottom line is this: That has been our No. 1 thing from Day One. We’ve got to bring premiums down, and hopefully we will get there.

Meadows also stressed the importance of a proposed amendment by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, aimed at allowing insurance companies to continue offering coverage that meet the minimum mandated requirements under Obamacare.

“If in context [the Cruz amendment] is not in there, and there is not something else that would do what the Cruz amendment would do, it would be problematic,” Meadows said.

The Washington Examiner reported that the updated draft of the Senate health care plan would leave in place taxes on high-income earners, add money for opioid addiction treatment and for insurance markets, and let consumers use government subsidies to help buy less-expensive plans covering fewer medical services.

Lee and Cruz were among senators who opposed the original draft released June 22 and announced an amendment they call the Consumer Freedom Option. It would allow insurance companies to sell any health coverage plan they wish as long as they provide one plan that satisfies the mandates of Obamacare.

The draft includes a provision similar to the Cruz-Lee amendment that would “set up a fund that would make payments to insurers to help cover the cost of high-risk, disproportionately expensive customers,” the Examiner reported.

Conn Carroll, Lee’s communication’s director, told The Daily Signal in an email that the Utah Republican was “undecided” on the new draft.

Joining Meadows at the monthly meeting of conservative Republicans with reporters who cover Congress included Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona, Dave Brat and Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Ron Estes of Kansas, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky.

Gosar, who owned his own dentistry practice for 25 years, said the current health care marketplace doesn’t serve patients.

“We want to make sure that the patient is empowered and that they have a marketplace that is rebuilding,” Gosar said. “Take it from a dentist, this isn’t a marketplace.”

In the upper chamber, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said he is evaluating the bill.

“I look forward to carefully reviewing the changes made to the Better Care Act,” Tillis said in a prepared statement. “From what I’ve already seen, major improvements have been made, including a significantly bigger investment to combat and treat opioid addiction, and more funding to help control the rising costs of premiums for individuals and families.”

President Donald Trump hinted Monday that Congress shouldn’t leave for August recess until lawmakers had worked out a health care bill.

Robert Moffit, a senior fellow in health policy at The Heritage Foundation, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal that more work has to be done.

“Like the House and prior Senate drafts, the latest health bill released today represents a solid first step toward undoing the damage caused by Obamacare to the individual and small-group insurance markets,” Moffit said. “It is disappointing that the bill misses the chance to repeal all of Obamacare, but overall the legislation is better than the status quo of Obamacare.”

Moffit added:

Congress will still need to pursue additional health reforms, such as converting Medicaid into premium support for able-bodied individuals, providing equal tax treatment of health insurance, and addressing the entitlement challenge posed by the looming demographic and fiscal challenges facing Medicare.

The post Conservatives Look for Lower Premiums in Senate’s Revised Health Care Bill appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Conservatives Look for Lower Premiums in Senate’s Revised Health Care Bill

The Senate’s Republican leadership released a revised health care bill Thursday afternoon, a move welcomed by House conservatives even as they were reluctant to comment before digesting it.

“We are going to withhold judgment,” Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said earlier in the day during the monthly Conversations With Conservatives event on Capitol Hill, but emphasized that the major goal is to drive down skyrocketing health insurance premiums under Obamacare.

“We’ve got to bring premiums down,” Meadows said, adding:

The bottom line is this: That has been our No. 1 thing from Day One. We’ve got to bring premiums down, and hopefully we will get there.

Meadows also stressed the importance of a proposed amendment by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, aimed at allowing insurance companies to continue offering coverage that meet the minimum mandated requirements under Obamacare.

“If in context [the Cruz amendment] is not in there, and there is not something else that would do what the Cruz amendment would do, it would be problematic,” Meadows said.

The Washington Examiner reported that the updated draft of the Senate health care plan would leave in place taxes on high-income earners, add money for opioid addiction treatment and for insurance markets, and let consumers use government subsidies to help buy less-expensive plans covering fewer medical services.

Lee and Cruz were among senators who opposed the original draft released June 22 and announced an amendment they call the Consumer Freedom Option. It would allow insurance companies to sell any health coverage plan they wish as long as they provide one plan that satisfies the mandates of Obamacare.

The draft includes a provision similar to the Cruz-Lee amendment that would “set up a fund that would make payments to insurers to help cover the cost of high-risk, disproportionately expensive customers,” the Examiner reported.

Conn Carroll, Lee’s communication’s director, told The Daily Signal in an email that the Utah Republican was “undecided” on the new draft.

Joining Meadows at the monthly meeting of conservative Republicans with reporters who cover Congress included Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona, Dave Brat and Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Ron Estes of Kansas, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky.

Gosar, who owned his own dentistry practice for 25 years, said the current health care marketplace doesn’t serve patients.

“We want to make sure that the patient is empowered and that they have a marketplace that is rebuilding,” Gosar said. “Take it from a dentist, this isn’t a marketplace.”

In the upper chamber, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said he is evaluating the bill.

“I look forward to carefully reviewing the changes made to the Better Care Act,” Tillis said in a prepared statement. “From what I’ve already seen, major improvements have been made, including a significantly bigger investment to combat and treat opioid addiction, and more funding to help control the rising costs of premiums for individuals and families.”

President Donald Trump hinted Monday that Congress shouldn’t leave for August recess until lawmakers had worked out a health care bill.

Robert Moffit, a senior fellow in health policy at The Heritage Foundation, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal that more work has to be done.

“Like the House and prior Senate drafts, the latest health bill released today represents a solid first step toward undoing the damage caused by Obamacare to the individual and small-group insurance markets,” Moffit said. “It is disappointing that the bill misses the chance to repeal all of Obamacare, but overall the legislation is better than the status quo of Obamacare.”

Moffit added:

Congress will still need to pursue additional health reforms, such as converting Medicaid into premium support for able-bodied individuals, providing equal tax treatment of health insurance, and addressing the entitlement challenge posed by the looming demographic and fiscal challenges facing Medicare.

The post Conservatives Look for Lower Premiums in Senate’s Revised Health Care Bill appeared first on The Daily Signal.

House Conservatives Renew Calls to Cancel August Recess

Members of the House’s most conservative caucus again are calling for leadership to cancel the August recess so lawmakers can work longer on priorities such as health care and tax reform.

The latest pressure Wednesday from conservative lawmakers came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the day before that the Senate will delay the beginning of its own recess from July 31 until mid-August.

I applaud Leader McConnell for being willing to stay in, but more importantly than that it is all about getting the people’s business done,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said at an early afternoon press conference, adding:

And so whether it is hearings or actually working on legislative matters that we force the issue, the time is now for us to act. The time for excuses are over, and if we don’t get results, we believe there should be no recess.

Much of what Congress has yet to address also is important to the success of President Donald Trump’s agenda of creating jobs and boosting the economy.

Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., a member of the Freedom Caucus, said that unlike Congress, ordinary Americans would have a price to pay if they didn’t complete their work.

“It just makes sense for our leadership to keep us here to make sure the focus is on getting things done,” Wittman said. “Folks in the real world that have to go to a job every day don’t get to take vacation if their job does not get done.”  

In his announcement pushing back the Senate’s recess, in which he took a shot at Democrats, McConnell said:

In order to provide more time to complete action on important legislative items and process nominees that have been stalled by a lack of cooperation from our friends across the aisle, the Senate will delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has not announced any schedule changes.  

“We are in active conversations as a team to discuss what our schedule is going to be,” Ryan said, according to a Roll Call report. “But right now, we plan on hitting our mark, getting our work done and making sure that we fulfill all of our responsibilities. We’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”

The Daily Signal sought comment from a key Ryan aide, who did not respond by publication deadline.

The House Freedom Caucus took an official position in early June on staying in Washington to work during August. Some members of the caucus signed on to a June 30 letter to Ryan, R-Wis., asking him to cancel the recess.

“We request that you cancel Congress’s current plans to recess for the month of August to ensure there is enough time to address the long list of pressing issues on our docket,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and the others wrote in the letter, which he organized.

In a prepared statement Tuesday, the Freedom Caucus praised McConnell’s decision to shorten the August recess “to accomplish the important work of the American people.”

Since Biggs’ June 30 letter,  the Arizona Republican has continued calls to cancel the recess.

At the press conference, Biggs said Americans repeatedly have asked for action.

“It was last November that the American people elected a change agent as the president of the United States of America,” Biggs said, adding:

All of us were elected to help enact those changes and we’ve done some good brush-clearing, but we’ve got some major, major tough timber yet to cut and bring in. If we want to keep our promises and keep advocating for the changes we promised to make, we need to be here enacting those changes.  

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a former chairman of the Freedom Caucus, said returning home on recess was nonsensical.

“Repealing and replacing Obamacare, in fact doing tax reform to reduce the tax burden on the American people, building a wall and securing our southern border, infrastructure, all of those things we campaigned on,” Jordan said. “This idea that we are going to leave here and go home for five weeks makes absolutely no sense. We think we should stay here.”

Rep. Tom Garrett, R-Va., said the well-being of the American people should be lawmakers’ top priority.

“Let’s move this ball forward, let’s do what’s right for America, not what’s right for political careers,” Garrett said.

The post House Conservatives Renew Calls to Cancel August Recess appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Mitch McConnell Acquiesces to Conservatives’ Calls to Scale Back Senate’s August Recess

The Senate will have less time off in August so the lawmakers can work longer on priorities such as health care and tax reform, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday after repeated calls to do so from conservatives.

McConnell pointedly blamed Democrats for the lack of accomplishments since the new Republican-controlled Congress adjourned in January with President Donald Trump in the White House.

“In order to provide more time to complete action on important legislative items and process nominees that have been stalled by a lack of cooperation from our friends across the aisle, the Senate will delay the start of the August recess until the third week of August,” McConnell said in a prepared statement.

The Senate’s “state work period” back home was scheduled to begin July 31.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has yet to say what he will do about calls from conservatives in that chamber to scrap or shorten the August recess.

Before McConnell’s announcement, conservative senators pushed one more time with a press conference earlier in the day in which they asked leadership to have the Senate stay in session through August.

“We are here today to talk about a letter we sent to leadership last week and basically the message is very clear,” Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., told reporters. “We are willing to cancel all of the August work period because we have got some very important issues that we’ve got to get done and get resolved.”

Those joining Perdue for the press conference included Republican colleagues Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Luther Strange of Alabama, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

Conservative senators, including Perdue and Daines, also sent a letter June 30 to McConnell, R-Ky., asking him to cancel or shorten the August recess.

Daines said Congress should not be treated any differently than students who are struggling academically in school.

“I don’t see any reason why we need to be leaving this town in August; we should be here doing the people’s business,” Daines said at the press conference, adding:

If you were going to school and you were getting failing grades in your spring semester, you better stay in school for the summer and go to summer school and not take a recess.

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservatives, took an official position in early June on staying in Washington to work during August.

Some members of the Freedom Caucus signed on to a June 30 letter to Ryan, R-Wis., asking him to cancel the recess.

“We request that you cancel Congress’s current plans to recess for the month of August to ensure there is enough time to address the long list of pressing issues on our docket,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and the others wrote in the letter, which he organized.

In a prepared statement, the Freedom Caucus praised McConnell’s decision to shorten the August recess “to accomplish the important work of the American people.”

“We call on House leadership to do the same,” the conservative House members said, adding:

There are too many unresolved issues before Congress including tax reform, health care, the debt ceiling, government funding, and more to leave Washington before the people’s work is done. It is imperative that the additional weeks are coupled with decisive action.

The signers of the Senate letter also applauded McConnell’s announcement.

“We are glad leadership took our concerns into consideration. It is time to get results for the American people,” the senators said in a joint statement.

Tommy Binion, director of congressional and executive branch relations at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal that the Senate Republican leader’s announcement is welcome news.

“The Senate would not have done this if they didn’t think they could get Obamacare repeal and replacement accomplished,” Binion said.

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