Television news this week was largely obsessed with Donald Trump’s vicious tweets about MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski and the subsequent fallout, aligning both the Trump administration and its most severe critics in annoyance at the consequent scant attention to policy matters. But this was also a week of major substantive developments, both on the Republican Obamacare repeal effort and on progressive efforts to chart their own path forward for the nation’s health care system.
Meanwhile, the oft-delayed Trump travel ban came into effect, the European Union struck a blow against American technology giants, and Trump kicked off fundraising for his reelection effort — at his own hotel.
Here’s what you need to know.
CBO released its analysis of the Senate GOP health bill
With legislative text finally available, the Congressional Budget Office released its official analysis of the Senate’s health care bill, plus a supplemental analysis of its longer-term changes to Medicaid.
- The highlights: CBO finds that 22 million more people would go uninsured under the Senate’s plan and Medicaid funding would be reduced by 35 percent. Deductibles would rise, and on an apples-to-apples basis so would premiums.
- Back for edits: The score was not exactly surprising to people who’d followed analysis of the House legislation and understood the implications of the text Mitch McConnell released last week. But it seems to have taken Senate Republicans by surprise, since many reacted poorly to the release and plans for a vote were scrapped so leadership can work on revisions.
- What’s next? The big question is whether the Senate GOP will revisit the bill’s core concept — an enormous tax cut financed by large Medicaid cuts — or whether objecting senators will be placated by more superficial changes.
Trump’s travel ban finally went into effect
After a long string of legal setbacks, the Trump administration finally got permission from the Supreme Court to put a (considerably scaled back) version of its “travel ban” in place, pending an eventual Supreme Court ruling on the merits.
- Who is banned: Like the original order, the ban that went into effect Thursday night restricts people traveling on passports issued by Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen from obtaining visas to enter the United States — but Iraq is no longer on the list.
- This ban has exceptions: Unlike the original ban, travelers with a “bona fide relationship” to persons or institutions in the United States will be exempted from the ban. That includes close family members, medical emergencies, and people with business or government reason to travel. Despite the administration’s stated intention to clarify in advance exactly how this would work, they were still tweaking the definitions as of Thursday night.
- Refugees in limbo: As the travel ban has shifted from draconian political hot-button to a scaled-back and below-the-radar initiative, the implications of the current policy for refugees remain unclear. Advocates think refugees, who by definition have been placed with a resettlement agency, should count as possessing a bona fide relationship. The administration appears to disagree and the issue will probably have to be subject to further litigation.
The EU slapped Google with a $2.7 billion fine
The European Union’s Competition Commissioner, Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager, announced an eye-popping $2.7 billion fine against Google for violating European anti-trust law by favoring Google Shopping results over third-party sites in its search display.
- Why it matters: The money itself is not that significant relative to Google’s scale, but the underlying precedent is. The EU rejected the argument that competition for Google is “just a click away” and ruled that it has monopoly power in web search. This implies that all Google efforts to integrate search with other offerings could come under scrutiny.
- Things are different in America: The Obama administration, which had many close ties to Google, long objected to the European legal process and characterized this antitrust scrutiny as a form of covert protectionism. Early indications are that the Trump administration will be, if anything, even more skeptical of the case for regulating big tech platform companies.
- Change on the way? Obama’s tightness with Google was a source of intra-party tension for some time, and with the left wing of the party on the rise and big tech cozying up to the new administration, more and more Democrats are looking more favorably on the European approach.
Elizabeth Warren endorsed single-payer health care
In the course of an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren remarked that whatever happens with the Obamacare repeal fight, “Now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single payer.”
- What it means: Single-payer is jargon for a health insurance system like Medicare (or the Canadian health care system, conveniently also called Medicare) where the government forms a single risk pool that includes everyone. Except instead of being limited to senior citizens, it would apply to Americans of all ages.
- On the same page as Bernie Sanders: Warren is often seen as a natural successor to Bernie Sanders as a leader of the Democratic Party’s left wing. But Medicare-for-all is central to his ideological vision, and Warren — whose home state contains many health devise manufacturers who could be disadvantaged by a single-payer scheme — has not previously embraced it.
- What’s next? A single-payer bill in the House, John Conyers’s H-646, has now been endorsed by a majority of House Democrats. Sanders has been hinting for a while that he will be releasing a Senate single-payer plan soon, one that presumably would differ from the Sanders bill in some respects.
Donald Trump held his first Trump fundraiser at the Trump hotel
In his first fundraiser of the 2020 campaign season, Donald Trump raised about $10 million for Donald Trump’s reelection campaign at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.
- Trump is profiting from the presidency: While some politicians would go the extra mile to avoid even the appearance of personally profiting from the presidency, this was the clearest sign yet that Trump revels in it — donors know they are putting money directly in Trump’s pocket via the hotel fees, Trump knows it too, and the donors know that he knows it.
- Trump’s reelection will be well-funded: The Trump 2016 campaign was unusually poorly funded for a Republican Party presidential campaign, due to a mix of Trump’s eccentricities, his populist rhetoric, and the perception that he would lose. As president, he has governed as a conventional pro-business Republican and is being rewarded by donors for it.
- Trump’s stake in the midterms is high: The fundraiser lays bare the fact that beyond any policy implications, the 2018 midterms have large personal implications for Trump. Congressional Republicans have largely embraced Trump’s for-profit presidency, but a Democratic majority would likely find fodder for endless investigations in this kind of mixing of business and politics.