Meanwhile, What Congress Is Up To

Paul Waldman:

Despite all the attention we in Washington pay to the Russia scandal and the Trump administration’s immigration policies and the president’s latest antics (for perfectly good reasons), polls have repeatedly shown that when you ask voters what they care about most in considering their vote for Congress this fall, the most-commonly-mentioned issue is health care.

And Republicans have set a health-care time bomb that is going to explode in their faces just in time for the November elections.

Oral arguments are now scheduled in federal court for Sept. 10 in a lawsuit brought by a group of conservative states, led by Texas, that seeks to strike down the Affordable Care Act. You’d think that after the debacle they suffered last year when Republicans in Congress tried to repeal the ACA, they would have learned their lesson. But they’re storming ahead, and Republicans running for Congress are going to pay the price.

In the age-old question about whether wingnut politicians are really stupid and/or crazy enough believe the lies they peddle, or whether they know it’s all a scam, I think this move counts as evidence of the stupid and/or crazy theory.

The lawsuit makes a claim that could charitably be called audacious. Since Congress eliminated the ACA’s penalty for not carrying health insurance coverage, it says, the individual mandate has become invalid. (Right now the mandate is still in place, but the penalty for violating it is $0.) And if the mandate is invalid, they argue, then the entire law must be struck down, including the ability of people to stay on their parents’ insurance, the protection for people with pre-existing conditions, the expansion of Medicaid that is now providing coverage to millions, the ban on yearly and lifetime limits on coverage — everything. (If you want details, there’s an explanation here.)

Several high-profile GOP candidates for Senate are supporting this lawsuit, even though these are state lawsuits and U.S. senators could be excused for staying out of it. Burgess Everett writes in Politico,

“Sure, anything that’s going to actually get rid of it, yes,” said Indiana GOP Senate nominee Mike Braun of the GOP lawsuit to gut the law in an interview in Mishawaka. “And then be ready to come back and talk about what you’re ready to do about pre-existing conditions and no limits on coverage. That’s where you don’t hear much conservative talk.”

The problem? Congress has shown no ability to pass new health care legislation under Republican rule or work across party lines, raising severe doubts that the GOP would be able to fulfill its promises to kill the law and yet maintain its popular provisions.

Missouri is one of those states in the lawsuit, and the Attorney General of Missouri, Josh Hawley, is Claire McCaskill’s GOP opponent for her Senate seat. She’s been bringing up the lawsuit in her television ads, but I’m not sure the ads explain it very well. However, if this gets in the news a lot in September, that could make a difference. Right now, polls say the race is a toss-up.

Back to Politico:

In interviews, several GOP senators said the party is unprepared to act if the GOP lawsuit, which is supported by the Trump administration, is successful. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said, “It may be good to have an exit strategy and I’m not sure there’s one in place.”

Of course there’s not one in place. They had years to come up with an Obamacare replacement, and they failed.

Paul Waldman:

You don’t have to be a political-consulting genius to write the ads. “This is Darcy Cutebutton. She’s 9 years old. She survived cancer, and she’s still fighting. But now Donald Trump and our congressman, Hal Heartless, want to take away her health coverage. Tell Congressman Heartless that if he wants to do that to Darcy, come election day we’re going to stop him.”

Yeah, that’s what they’re going to do. They should blow this up into a big deal even if the lawsuit fails.

In other news, do read about the weird blowup between some vets and the so-called president over Agent Orange.  This happened more than a year ago, but accounts of it are just now coming out. This is from Daily Beast:

The meeting included President Trump and the envoys of nearly a dozen major vets groups—including the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the right-leaning Concerned Veterans for America—as well as  senior staffers such as Stephen Miller, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, and Manigault-Newman surrounding the large table.

The president began going around the room asking the different representatives what they were working on and how his administration could help, having made veterans’ issues a cornerstone of his 2016 campaign rhetoric.

Soon, he got to Rick Weidman, co-founder of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), who was one of Vietnam vets in the room that day, having served a tour of duty in 1969 as a medic. …

… During the course of the meeting, Weidman brought up the issue of Agent Orange, an extremely notorious component of the U.S. herbicidal warfare on Vietnam. Weidman was imploring the president and his team to permit access to benefits for a broader number of vets who have said they were poisoned by Agent Orange.

Trump responded by saying, “That’s taken care of,” according to people in the room.

His reply puzzled the group.

Attendees began explaining to the president that the VA had not made enough progress on the issue at all, to which Trump responded by abruptly derailing the meeting and asking the attendees if Agent Orange was “that stuff from that movie.”

They eventually figured out he was talking about the “napalm in the morning” scene from Apocalypse Now. The veterans tried to explain to Trump that they were talking about Agent Orange, not napalm.

Trump refused to accept that he was mistaken and proceeded to say things like, “no, I think it’s that stuff from that movie.” …

… He then went around the room polling attendees about if it was, in fact, napalm or Agent Orange in the famous scene from “that movie,” as the gathering—organized to focus on important, sometimes life-or-death issues for veterans—descended into a pointless debate over Apocalypse Now that the president simply would not concede, despite all the available evidence.

Finally, Trump made eye contact again with Weidman and asked him if it was napalm or Agent Orange. The VVA co-founder assured Trump, as did several before him, that it was in fact napalm, and said that he didn’t like the Coppola film and believed it to be a disservice to Vietnam War veterans.

According to two people in attendance, Trump then flippantly replied to the Vietnam vet, “Well, I think you just didn’t like the movie,” before finally moving on.

My brother, who died in 2014 after multiple cancer diagnoses, believed his cancers were the result of exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Since cancer is very rare in my family (it’s usually cardiovascular disease that gets us first), I suspect he was right.