House Republicans and Their Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad First Week of Congress

With the 115th Congress beginning this week and the President-Elect’s inauguration taking place in two weeks, Republicans have a responsibility to govern and get things done for the American people.

“It’s put-up or shut-up time for Republicans…Republicans who have shied from the responsibility of government will now be called upon to support increases in the debt limit, approve annual budgets, endorse spending bills and back other must-pass measures that they formerly left to the Democrats and some of their more compromising colleagues.” [NY Times, 1/2/17]

But just days into the new Congress, Republicans are off to a rocky start. Instead of working with Democrats on bipartisan priorities, they began the week facing immense public outcry after attempting to gut the independent ethics office and they continue to struggle with deep divisions over their efforts to Make America Sick Again. Here’s a look at how the new Congress is playing out so far:

Reversing Course on Gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics:

Washington Post: A day of chaos at the Capitol as House Republicans back down on ethics changes

“A day of pageantry to open the 115th Congress and usher in a new period of Republican governance was overtaken Tuesday by an embarrassing reversal on ethics oversight, with the GOP gripped by internal division.”
New York Times: House Republicans, Under Fire, Back Down on Gutting Ethics Office

“It was supposed to be a triumphant morning for Republicans on Capitol Hill…By noon, party leaders had a message for their charges: It was not going smoothly.”

“‘It was a stumble,’ said Representative Mark Sanford, Republican of South Carolina…‘Probably not the way you want to start out.’”

Politico: House GOP reverses course on gutting ethics panel

“Following a public outcry… House Republicans reversed course Tuesday on a proposal to gut their own ethics watchdog.”

“‘We shot ourselves in the foot,’ said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who said the ethics snafu was an unnecessary self-inflicted wound. ‘Sometimes people have to learn the hard way.’”

The Hill: House GOP scraps plan to gut ethics watchdog after emergency meeting

“The 115th session hadn’t even formally gaveled in before House GOP leaders held an emergency conference meeting to discuss blowback against the party’s vote to gut the chamber’s independent ethics watchdog… [A] barrage of negative headlines and public outcry made it difficult for Republicans to stand by the measure…”

NPR: After Backlash, Including From Trump, House GOP Drops Weakening Of Ethics Office

“After a storm of criticism… House Republicans have reversed themselves and restored the current rules of the Office of Congressional Ethics.”

“Public outcry, opposition from ethics watchdog groups, a divided GOP, and two tweets from Trump critical of the rules change prompted a swift reversal of the proposal…”

USA Today: House Republicans drop plan to gut ethics office

“After public denunciations from watchdogs and criticism from President-elect Donald Trump, House Republicans on Tuesday reversed course and dropped plans to gut an independent agency that polices potential ethical wrongdoing by lawmakers.”

“The controversy over GOP plans to sharply curtail the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics overshadowed the opening day of Congress…”

“‘House Republicans made the right move in eliminating this amendment that should never have seen the light of day,’ said David Donnelly, president and CEO of Every Voice watchdog group, on Tuesday. ‘Not one voter went to the polls in November hoping Congress would gut ethics oversight.’”

Deep Divisions Over Their Efforts to Repeal the Affordable Care Act and Make America Sick Again

New York Times: Turmoil Overshadows First Day of Republican-Controlled Congress

“Budget language released on Tuesday gives House and Senate committees only until Jan. 27 to produce legislation that would eliminate major parts of the health care law.”
“The document does not specify which provisions of the law may be eliminated and which ones may be preserved. Nor does it specify or even suggest how Republicans would replace the Affordable Care Act, which the Obama administration says has provided coverage to some 20 million people who were previously uninsured.”

Washington Post: Why Obamacare is unlikely to die a swift death

“Congressional Republicans have long boasted that once they claim the reins of power, they will act quickly and decisively to roll back what they view as the most onerous piece of President Obama’s domestic agenda: the Affordable Care Act.

“… [W]hile Republicans are determined to rapidly repeal as much of Obamacare as they can, they have not settled on a replacement plan or on when that plan should take effect.”
“The rush to immediately chip away at Obama’s regulatory and domestic policies through the complex process known as budget reconciliation could create months of messy GOP infighting.”

Politico: GOP airs Obamacare divisions in Pence meeting

“Republicans are fast-tracking the process of repealing Obamacare, aiming to get it done in several weeks. But they’re not even close to agreement about what comes next — or even when the repeal should take effect.”
“Those disagreements spilled over Wednesday at a closed-door meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence that had been intended to unify the Senate GOP…After nearly eight years of fighting Obamacare, Republican leaders and the incoming Trump administration are still trying to sort out the basics…”

The Hill: Ryan: ObamaCare replacement coming this year

“Ryan’s commitment that the replacement will occur this year means Republicans will have to put in the hard work of ironing out the details of a bill and dealing with competing interest groups and winners and losers.”
“Republicans currently do not have a consensus on a detailed replacement plan, which requires hard tradeoffs to put together.”

Hoyer Joins 150 Dems to Create Independent Commission to Investigate Russian Interference

WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) joined today with more than 150 House Democrats as cosponsors of legislation being introduced by House Intelligence Subcommittee on the Central Intelligence Agency Ranking Member Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) to create an independent commission to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

“The magnitude of Russian interference in our recent election demands an independent investigative commission, and today I am joining with more than 150 of my House colleagues in cosponsoring legislation to establish such a body,” Whip Hoyer said. “ That the ranking members of every House committee are cosponsoring this legislation underscores the broad recognition that there needs to be an independent body that is solely focused on investigating Russia’s attempts to undermine our democracy and erode trust in our institutions, without the other workload and competing issues being handled by existing committees. The American people deserve a full and thorough accounting of Russia’s activities, and I hope my Republican colleagues will support this effort.”

The Swalwell-Cummings bill, originally introduced last month in the 114th Congress, would establish a body similar to the 9/11 Commission and has broad support from former senior defense and intelligence officials.

Hoyer Remarks During House Democrats Conference Call to Discuss ACA

WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) joined Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leaders on a conference call to discuss the Affordable Care Act this afternoon. Below is a transcript of his opening remarks and his responses during the question and answer portion of the call:

“Thank you very much, Leader. I appreciate your convening this call and including our leadership on there; the three committees are so relevant to what the Republicans are trying to do.
“Six years ago, January 2011, the Republicans took over the House and have tried to repeal, immediately, the Affordable Care Act ever since.

“Of course, if the ACA were to be repealed, not only as it was pointed out, would tens of millions of Americans lose their coverage – tens of millions of others would see their health care costs skyrocket. I know that Mr. [Richard] Neal, Mr. [Frank] Pallone, and Mr. [Bobby] Scott are going to speak to that.

“According to the Tax Policy Center, repealing the ACA would significantly raise taxes for around seven million Americans, who would lose their tax credits to purchase insurance through the marketplace—a devastating effect for them.

“And according to the Brookings Institution, repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase premiums by 20 percent or more. That’s a startling figure, and Republicans, I’m sure, won’t speak to that.

“Republicans’ so-called ‘repeal-and-delay’ plan is code for ‘repeal-without-an-alterative.’ Again, six years demanding immediate repeal and no alternative to replace it.

“The truth is, they don’t have one, and their plan is simply to turn back the clock. ‘Make American unhealthy again’ perhaps.

“I heard recently through social media from a woman whose family was able to save more than $1,200 a month, and that’s a month, in other words almost $15,000 a year, because of the availability of the health insurance marketplace.

“Another wrote to tell me that the ACA made it possible for her to sign up for coverage for the first time in years since she lost her job. Her name was Ann and her employer-based insurance lapsed when she lost her job, and when she needed to be hospitalized this spring for three days, having coverage, she says ‘saved her life.’

“Democrats will not sit idly by and watch the Affordable Care Act be dismantled and tens of millions lose their insurance and protections. And the challenge and risk it will put Medicaid and Medicare to as well. But importantly, it will increase the premiums of almost every American for the insurance they have now through their employers.

“We’re going to fight as hard as ever to protect the ACA and make sure hardworking Americans, and their families, are not forced to choose between paying for health care and paying for heat in their home, paying for food, and other absolutely essential items.

“Thank you, Leader, again, and I look forward to hearing from Mr. Neal, who is the new Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee.”
***

“We believe that was a very essential piece of legislation that was passed to the benefit of all Americans, including those who have employer-based insurance. The fact is that we should have been working for the past years to make sure that it works as best as it possibly can because health care coverage is not an option for all Americans. So yes, it’s a priority for us from that perspective. There are many other priorities, which the Leader just mentioned and which we will pay attention to as well.”

“Let me make three quick points. We are defending a policy that over 2.8 million Americans supported the candidate who wanted this than supported the candidate who won. The candidate didn’t win. It doesn’t mean that Trump is not going to be president, but it does mean that more Americans voted for this policy than voted against it. Number two, there was an interesting story that was written, I think it was about a Kentucky community that voted, like 80 percent for Trump. And they interviewed a number of people, and one woman in particular said, ‘Oh I don’t expect anybody to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I’m on that Act and it’s absolutely essential for me and my family.’ So I think that in our defense, a lot of people are going to be looking at this and saying, ‘Gee I didn’t really think they meant that,’ any more than they want to see Social Security privatized or voucherized. They may have voted for Trump, but if they try to do either one of those things, they are going to say to themselves, ‘That’s not what I meant.’ That’s exactly what happened in 1995, as [Newt] Gingrich and company shut down the government. The American people said, ‘that’s not what I meant.’ And after that, we picked up seats, as you recall. So we are defending a policy that we believe the majority of the American public believes is an important benefit for them and their families, to make America stronger and their families stronger.”

“Let me add that this a very cynical political approach, ‘repeal-and-delay.’ It’s essentially an admission that what they’ve been trying to do for the last six years will be very detrimental and will not only have extraordinarily adverse health effects on the American people, but also a very adverse political effect when the American people see the result of repeal. So what they are cynically saying is even after the [20]18 election, or after the 2020 election we will have it go into effect, so they do not have to bear the political responsibility of the consequences of their act. And I think it is a very politically cynical strategy on their part, and an absolute admission that they no alternative.”