Category Archives: Texas Politics

The Congressional Death Panel: House GOP Votes To DESTROY Healthcare Protections

Let’s just say that today was a most remarkable day in Washington.

At the White House’s famous Rose Garden, members of the Republican leadership in the United States House of Representatives gathered around President Donald Trump.  It was clear that they were in a most jovial mood.  Today was indeed a first big step toward what could be a signature legislative achievement of the Trump Presidency and Republican members of Congress.

Here’s the story from Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear of the New York Times…

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday narrowly approved a bill to repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act, as Republicans recovered from their earlier failures and moved a step closer to delivering their promise to reshape American health care without mandated insurance coverage.

The vote, 217-213, on President Trump’s 105th day in office, keeps alive the Republican dream to unwind the signature legislative achievement of former President Barack Obama. The House measure faces profound uncertainty in the Senate, where the legislation’s steep spending cuts will almost certainly be moderated. Any legislation that can get through the Senate will again have to clear the House and its conservative majority.

So the House passed the sent it on to the Senate.  It seems worth a celebration… that is until you dig a little deeper.

This is the second push for the American Health Care Act.  But by most indications, it seems an even worse bill than the first try.  The new bill finds a back way to gut the requirement that pre-existing conditions must be covered by allowing states to opt out.  Which means a state like Texas could just decide that its most vulnerable citizens don’t deserve healthcare, and kick them off of the rolls leaving them to die.  And 217 Republicans actually voted for that.

They also voted to reinstate insurance high-risk pools.  You may remember what obtaining health coverage was like before the ACA.  If you’re completely healthy, rich and young, health insurance was no problem!  But if you’re someone that is already sick, or poor or elderly, obtaining health insurance was next to impossible because it was so expensive.  Again House Republicans didn’t see a problem with that system.

And perhaps the biggest shoe to drop… they voted to basically destroy the Medicaid Expansion starting in 2020.  If this bill became law, literally millions of our poorest citizens which have Medicaid coverage today would be phased out of that coverage.  Someone like Representative French Hill of Arkansas, who has over 80,000 people in his district which stand to lose Medicaid from the vote today, and he still voted for it.

But hey!!  If you didn’t read the bill anyway before voting , why would you care?  Yes, 217 Republicans voted for a bill they likely haven’t read, and have no idea how much it costs.  Who cares how many people might lose their insurance?  Who cares how many at risk children might die if they live in a state that “opts out” of covering folks with pre-existing conditions?  I guess they didn’t catch Jimmy Kimmel’s impassioned speech about his infant son this week.

Who cares??  The American People care.  These members of Congress now have some worries going into their next electoral cycle.  To even vote for such a travesty of legislation is shameful.  But this bill does not have to become law, nor do we have to send these 217 folks back to Congress.

Listed here are the 217 members which passed this bill.  If one of them represents you, let them know how you feel about the American Health Care Act.  Let them know that you would rather not be represented by a member of the Congressional Death Panel.   We may have to deal with these folks today, but come 2018, we can send this Death Panel packing.

Congress’ Death Panel

UPDATE 5/24/2017:  As if we needed more proof that the House Republican Caucus is basically a Death Panel, the Congressional Budget Office released it’s Official Score of the American Health Care Act, Take 2, and their result??  23 million people would be left uninsured, mostly due to Medicaid cuts.  Here’s more from CNBC…

The current Republican bill to repeal and replace major parts of Obamacare will lead to 23 million more Americans not having health insurance coverage by 2026 if it becomes law, the Congressional Budget Office projected Wednesday.

That is only 1 million fewer uninsured people than had been projected for an earlier version of the GOP bill.

Most of the coverage losses still would occur next year, when 14 million more people would become uninsured than would otherwise be if Obamacare remained in place, CBO said in its new report.

The controversial bill would “tend to increase” average premium prices of individual health plans by about 20 percent relative to the current law in 2018, according to the analysis, but just 5 percent higher than Obamacare prices would be expected to be in 2019.

However, starting in 2020, premiums in different states would be affected in different ways by the bill, because of an amendment that would allow states to obtain waivers from current Obamacare rules mandating the design of health plans, and barring insurers from charging less-healthy people higher prices, CBO said.

As referenced in the earlier post, those waiver basically allow states to gut the fundamental protections that the Affordable Care Act set originally.  Again, one has to ask why are they even doing this?  Do they want to lose their jobs in 2018??

Federal Court: Texas Redistricting Scheme Intentionally “Cracked And Packed” Minority Vote

You gotta hand it to politicians… if there’s one thing they know how to do, it’s getting reelected. Part of the reason I suppose you could say the same for any politician halfway worth their salt.

Those elections are certainly how Texas perseveres as a reliably “Red State” even as our demographics have shifted so dramatically that many folks are puzzled as to how there are so few competitive races in this Republican dominated state.

But for those that have been paying attention, the answer to that conundrum is clear… illegal redistricting.   As James Barragan with the Dallas Morning News reports, one Federal Court is sending state leaders a clear message…

Texas statehouse districts drawn by the Republican-led legislature in 2011 intentionally diluted the votes of minorities, violating the U.S. Constitution and parts of the Voting Rights Act, a federal court ruled Thursday.

In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel in San Antonio found that the maps gave Republicans an advantage in elections and weakened the voting strength of minority voters. House Districts in Dallas and Tarrant counties were among those in which the judges ruled minority voters had seen their clout weakened.

The ruling is yet another blow to the state in its six-year legal battle over the redrawing of the maps. Last month, the same court found that the state’s congressional maps were drawn with intent to discriminate against minority voters and invalidated three congressional districts. And last week, a federal judge ruled that the state’s voter ID law was written with intent to discriminate.

“The evidence of the mapdrawing process supports the conclusion that mapdrawers were motivated in part by an intent to dilute minority voting strength,” U.S. District Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia wrote in the 171-page ruling. “Discussions among mapdrawers demonstrated a hostility to creating any new minority districts as those were seen to be a loss of Republican seats, despite the massive minority population growth statewide.”

Here is the full court ruling, for those interested.

Redistricting is a very complicated process, but here are the basics.  After each Federal Census (every 10 years), the Texas Legislature is required to divide the state by election districts which most closely match the shifts that have occurred.

It’s definitely no secret that the state of Texas grew from 2000 to 2010, as was reflected in the 2010 Census.  But what many folks may not know is that growth was overwhelmingly led by one group:  the Latino community.  Of the 4.2 million residents Texas gained between 2000 and 2010, nearly 2.8 million of them were Latino.  That is 65 percent.. a clear majority of population within the state.

Texas Latino Growth

We also know that much of this growth occurred in occurred the state’s largest metropolitan areas.  So Texas didn’t just grow in population, it also became more urban and more suburban.

As a result of Texas’ enormous growth, the state was allotted 4 additional seats in the United States House of Representatives, increasing our overall representation in the House to 36 members.

Yet when creating new Congressional Districts, the communities holding the population gains were last in line to be ensured representation. Two ways Texas Republicans used to achieve this dilution?  Cracking and Packing.

With Cracking, you dilute an area’s voting power by slicing up its Congressional Representation.  Urban residents in Austin certainly share some common concerns in Austin, but they are cracked between 5 different members of Congress.

Gerrymandering 101: Cracking

With Packing, you take certain groups and shove them all together in the same district them together in a way which undermines to their voting power.  District 35 is a great example of this, where the minority communities of Austin and San Antonio are cracked, then knit together in something of an awkward dumbbell.

Gerrymandering 101: Packing

Cracking and packing often work in tandem.  As an example, both Austin and San Antonio have sizable Latino populations.  But if they’re in different cities, what would they have to do with each other?  Under Texas’ redistricting scheme one chunk of the Latino population from San Antonio is packed in with minorities in East Austin, while other district residents are connected by a small sliver along Interstate 35.

It through techniques like Cracking and Packing that Texas Republicans were able to do what is called Gerrymandering… they drew districts which are manipulated to enhance the strength of rural and suburban (mostly) white voters, while undermining the rapidly growing (mostly) minority vote.

In the present political era, it’s tough to tell how such rulings would be enforced by Attorney General Sessions.  But whatever accountability may be lacking in the Federal Government, we can take notice and make legislators pay the consequences in 2018 and 2020.

‘Missing’ Ted Cruz Ignores Constituents

Sure, it’s a popular mantra among Democrats since his failed run for President, but for everyday Texans on both sides of the political spectrum “You Cruz You Lose” is suddenly sounding with a much deeper resonance.

As Katherine Blunt of the Houston Chronicle reports, Ted Cruz may be well known in Washington, but in his home state of Texas,  the distinguished Senator is essentially M.I.A…

Ted Cruz is still missing.

The U.S. senator from Texas didn’t appear at a town hall meeting Saturday, much to the dismay of several organizations that have for months tried to corner him during his trips to Houston. Hundreds of constituents appeared in the hope of peppering him with questions before he returns to Washington, D.C., but they were forced instead to address a panel of speakers assembled in his absence.

Cruz isn’t really missing, of course. His spokesman noted that the senator took questions from 200 employees at a NASA subcontractor in Stafford last week.

But he has for months declined requests from left-leaning groups including Indivisible Houston, Pantsuit Republic Houston and others to attend town hall meetings with local voters concerned about education, health care, immigration and other issues that became particularly contentious when President Donald Trump took office. With Congress in recess until Friday, the groups raised $5,000 to host the event in a Texas Southern University auditorium regardless of whether Cruz showed up.

“We are legitimately concerned about things happening in Texas,” said Lauren Summerville, an organizer with Pantsuit Republic. “The people have a lot of questions.”

If you’re struggling to keep track, this now marks the Second Congressional Recess in a row that Senator Cruz has REFUSED to hold an official public Town Hall.  This being the case while several of Cruz’s colleagues are doing their civic duty as elected officials, even if it isn’t always easy.

So what could be the reason that the Texas Senator can’t seem to muster the courage to meet his own constituents face to face?? I suppose Texans could understand if the expense of having to fly back and forth from Washington placed an undue burden on Cruz’s paltry salary of $174,000 per year (multiply that by 6 years in office, and you’ve hit over $1 million that Cruz has been compensated by the very Taxpayers he seems to ignore), but luckily for Senators, flights to and from the Capitol are are covered by… well, us.

Granted, this has been Cruz’s first term in office.  Hosting Constituent questions in a Town Hall can be of great challenge to even the most experienced elected official.  I guess that could be an excuse, if not for all of those Town Halls, Teleconference Sessions, Open Forum Debates that Cruz seemed to master during his 2015-2016 Presidential Campaign.  From the looks of it, Senator Cruz seems to have spent more time listening to the concerns of Iowa and New Hampshire residents than those who sent him to Congress in the first place.  Not a good statistic for a politician rapidly approaching reelection.

And in case you’re wondering… at least one opponent for Ted Cruz’s seat is having no problem facing the public.  Just last week, Congressman Beto O’Rourke held another Town Hall in El Paso, facing tough questions from his constituents concerned his bid to challenge Cruz would detract from important work for the people of his district.  O’Rourke is now 4 for 4 on his promise to host monthly Town Halls, even after the launch of an ambitious Senate campaign.

Sounds like the current Senator could take a couple of cues from his rival.  In any event, he better do something.  Like the warming temperatures, this campaign won’t stay cool much longer.  Let’s hope Texas finds its Senator soon.

 

Does Ossoff Race Reveal Trouble Ahead For Millennial Leaders?

So it isn’t exactly Texas.

But like the rest of the nation, many Texan eyes will be trying to read some political tea leaves after tonight’s Special Election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.  As the first such contest since Donald Trump took power, many Progressives have pinned their hopes on Jon Ossoff, the top Democrat in the race.  As Richard Fausset of the New York Times reports, this race is rife with implications for the nation’s thoughts on Trump and the overwhelmingly Republican, grossly under-performing Congress…

Voters in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District will have 18 candidates to choose from Tuesday when they decide who should fill the seat vacated by former Representative Tom Price, a Republican who was tapped to become President Trump’s health and human services secretary.

But none have earned more press, or raised more money, than Jon Ossoff, 30, a Democrat and documentary filmmaker who bills his campaign as a way to “Make Trump Furious.” Now, in one of the first political tests of the Trump presidency, the question is whether he can turn anti-Trump anger and energy into enough votes to send him to Congress from a wealthy suburban district that has not sent a Democrat to Washington in decades.

The Times also provides an excellent 2017 Elections timeline, so you can keep up with some other key races in the coming months.  For an off-year cycle, there is plenty to watch.

We’ll hear plenty from tonight’s results, but ultimately that’s only one part of a much deeper story.  The most important events from this special election actually happened during the campaign.  As one of a precious few Millennials seeking federal office, Mr. Ossoff has had to endure the ire copious attack ads from Republican groups wishing to tarnish his credentials.  No surprise there.

But as Greg Bluestein of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, the attacks they may have broad implications for virtually all aspiring Millennial leaders…

A Republican super PAC has unleashed a $1.1 million ad barrage against Jon Ossoff, a Democratic newcomer who is attracting national attention and a torrent of fundraising in his campaign to flip a conservative suburban Atlanta district.

[…]

The ad takes aim at Ossoff’s assertion that he worked for five years as a national security staffer who held top security clearances.

Ossoff and his campaign said he was granted those privileges working for Johnson after his 2006 election, while the super PAC depicts him as a college student “dressing up with his drinking buddies” for part of that time.

In a statement, Johnson called the ad “absurd.”

“Jon spent five years working on National Security issues for me, and he worked on such sensitive programs that he received a top secret security clearance from the Department of Defense,” said the DeKalb Democrat. “Washington political operatives are coming into Georgia to spread false personal attacks – it’s what the American people are sick and tired of.”

Instead of attacking Ossoff’s positions or his record directly, the PACs used old social media clips to paint him as an “irresponsible college student”, and make no mention of his career accomplishments since his 2009 graduation.

In essence, Mr. Ossoff is being punished in these ads because he is a Millennial.  Take a look at the “attack ad” in question.

Anyone that is around and under the age of 35 is likely to have similar clips on social media from an earlier point in their life.  A silly picture here, a politically incorrect comment there.  It’s part of the young adult experience to capture the less serious moments of their lives.  But if Ossoff’s race is any indication, these moments of past fun could wreak havoc for our nation’s next generation of leaders.

If by chance you’ve forgotten, folks like Ossoff are an anomaly.  Forget even running for office… Millennials are still struggling to even go and vote, as was well evidenced by the 2016 Presidential election.  But if they don’t show up and vote for their peers, they are leaving electoral decisions to an older generation which may view ads like the one above as an actual problem.

A loss for Ossoff means a validation of this strategy where younger candidates are made to look like fools from Social Media posts, and left far more vulnerable to defeat than their likely older counterparts.  In the years to come, who won or lost this race may be far less important than why behind.

So I’d like to hear your feedback in the comments.  Should Millennial candidates like John Ossoff be punished for having a Social Media history?  Let me know your thoughts.  

 

UPDATE: A big congratlations to Mr. Ossoff, who was the top finisher in last night’a Congressional Primary. Though the Democrat fell just shy of the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a run-off, he was still far and away the winner of the contest, earning a larger percentage of the vote than all of his Republican challengers COMBINED. It’s on to the final contest, where he will face where he will face former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel.

One can only hope that the conversation moves beyond the baseless attacks waged during the Primary Campaign. But in the era of Trump, don’t hold your breath.

 

Texoblogosphere: Week of March 27th

The Texas Progressive Alliance promises to repeal last week’s roundup and replace it with something better and cheaper this week. It’ll be easy.

Off the Kuff identifies the top legislative districts to target in 2018.

SocraticGadfly sees Greens and other left-liberals talking libertarian-style about getting rid of the Federal Reserve and offers them a reality check about it, with suggestions for proper reform, while noting its neededness.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme warns Texas Republicans on track to destroy local rule, another anti-democratic war on citizens and war on voters.

It was another lousy week to be a Republican as Trumpcare went down in flames, the Russian problems flared up again, and the TXGOP started fighting with each other right out in the open. PDiddie at Brains and Eggs managed to cram all the action into one blog post, with some crow left over for the Democrats.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Beyond Bones provides a road trip map from spring breaks of yore.

Lone Star Ma encourages you to set up a meeting with your Congressperson to discuss your opposition to the AHCA.

Better Texas Blog reminds us why school vouchers are such a lousy idea.

Streetsblog highlights five good transportation bills in the Lege.

Jennifer Mercieca identifies the real harm of Trump’s conspiracy theories.

Michael Li shows what a redrawn CD27 might look like.

Teddy Wilson investigates the state’s contract with the anti-abortion Heidi Group.

Juanita has one last laugh over the AHCA debacle.

 

Citizens, Texas Business Leaders Unite to Stop SB6

If you live in Houston, this week’s news might seem a lot like awkward deja vu from 2015.  Thanks to Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Senator Lois Kolkhorst, and other Texas Conservatives emboldened by the 2015 defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and 2016 elections, held hearings on the blatantly discriminatory Senate Bill 6.

The Lieutenant Governor has chosen to move the bill forward in the Senate despite clear opposition from Speaker Joe Straus over in the Texas House.  But despite this fact, the hearings went forward.

Throughout the day, hundreds of citizens from all across the state came to speak at the hearing on SB6, with the overwhelming majority speaking in opposition to the bill despite the committee’s best efforts to make it appear otherwise.  The groundswell of supporters simply didn’t show up.

If you ask Texas Business leaders, many of them have already decided that SB6 is bad for the bottom line.  From Keep Texas Open, here is the list of reasons that the state’s top business leaders would rather #StopSB6…

Discriminatory legislation threatens our economy. By passing SB 6 (the so-called “bathroom bill”) and other discriminatory legislation, Texas could lose billions of dollars in GDP, a critical loss of revenue that would profoundly threaten the state’s ability to fund education, transportation and other essential services. And thousands of jobs could be lost, according to the Texas Association of Business’ economic impact study.

Discriminatory legislation threatens Texas’ travel and tourism industry. Texas receives $68.7 billion in travel spending, which generates $6.2 billion in state and local taxes. Over 1 million jobs are supported by travel, 648,000 direct and 488,000 indirect. This vibrant industry, the second largest in our state, would suffer declines similar to those experienced by other states if Texas loses its reputation as a welcoming destination for all visitors.

Discriminatory legislation also creates costly operational and legal headaches. When proposed legislation creates confusion about whom an employee must serve and whom that employee can turn away, it creates operational chaos—and legal expense—for all Texas businesses. We are in business to serve everyone, and to employ talented people from all walks of life. We need Texas to reflect that commitment to inclusion.

Additionally, discriminatory legislation negatively impacts our ability to recruit top talent, especially among Millennials, who overwhelmingly support non-discrimination protections and seek to live in states that reflect the diversity and inclusion they value. We are in a battle for globally competitive talent, and our ability to successfully recruit and retain our future workforce of Millennial talent is critical to our long-term economic prosperity.

Despite over 250 testimonies imploring the Senate to vote against discrimination, and the FACT that in 40 years of history where the transgender community has been protected to use restrooms of their choice a transgender person has NEVER assaulted someone else in a restroom, the hearing finally came to an end, and the Senate did as expected and moved the bill forward from committee.

But as John C. Moritz via the Corpus Christi Caller Times reports, the big show vote may not have produced the results Patrick and Kolkhorst wanted from their House colleagues.

AUSTIN – As Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick accelerated his mobilization of social conservatives to push the controversial “bathroom bill” to the Senate floor, his counterpart in the Texas House went out of his way Tuesday to show the measure faces high hurdles in the Legislature’s lower chamber.

“Clearly, I’m not a fan of the bill they are discussing,” Speaker Joe Straus told reporters behind the House chamber.

[…]

Straus, a moderate Republican now in his fifth term leading the House, attempted to illustrate his point by noting that the House Public Education Committee was getting ready to tackle the thorny topic of making adjustments to the school finance system while the Appropriations Committee continued work the state budget.

Given that the Texas Legislature only meets on a biennial basis, it’s good to know that at least one leader in Austin values the time and money used to get ACTUAL business done for the Lone Star State.  Let’s hope that commitment stays and Senate Bill 6 can be sent where it belongs…

 

If I had to guess, the first bathroom you ever used was probably a unisex bathroom.  It’s called the one IN YOUR HOUSE.