Tuesday Reads: GA 6th, GOP “Health Care” Bill, and Russia News

Jon Ossoff with supporters in Georgia’s 6th District

Good Morning!!

Today is election day in Georgia’s 6th District, and the race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel is tied. The Washington Post reports: Georgia special election: Hard-fought House race in suburban Atlanta comes to an end as a referendum on Trump.

Polls in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District opened at 7 a.m. on a humid morning, with commuters casting ballots with iced coffees in their hands on their way to child-care centers, office parks and downtown Atlanta.

Back in Washington, party leaders — and Trump — were paying close attention to what has become the most expensive House race in history, hoping to make the case by day’s end that they were better positioned to jump-start Trump’s stalled agenda on Capitol Hill — or thwart it.

“KAREN HANDEL FOR Congress,” Trump tweeted as day broke Tuesday, touting the Republican candidate and former Georgia secretary of state. “She will fight for lower taxes, great health care strong security — a hard worker who will never give up! VOTE TODAY!”

Democrats spoke excitedly about Democrat Jon Ossoff, 30, a polished former congressional staffer who has raised more than $23 million and built a devoted grassroots following, all while courting Republicans by bemoaning “wasteful” spending. They see his competitive candidacy in ruby-red suburbia as a possible harbinger ahead of next year’s midterm elections, when Democrats need to win 24 GOP-held seats to reclaim the House majority.

Republican candidate Karen Handel and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff exchange words moments before Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election debate, June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

Specifically, the race is being seen in Washington as a referendum on the awful GOP “health care” bill.

Republicans are laboring to agree on legislation to revise the Affordable Care Act. A GOP win on Tuesday could bring new momentum to their push to pass a bill in the Senate, while a defeat could embolden those who are concerned about the bill to more forcefully oppose it.

Handel and Ossoff are vying to fill the seat vacated by Tom Price, who held it from 2005 until he joined Trump’s Cabinet this year as health and human services secretary.

At The Cut, Rebecca Traister writes about how women are leading the fight for Democrats in Georgia’s 6th: Can the New Activist Passion of Suburban White Women Change American Politics?

At Hearth, a restaurant in Sandy Springs, Georgia, about 30 people — most of them women, most of them white — are sitting at a long table on Saturday night, drinking white wine and beer, scarfing pizzas and salads and talking at a frenzied pitch. One woman is describing, with a tired smile on her face, the contours of her life these days: “If I’m not knocking doors, I’m making calls; if I’m not making calls, I’m writing postcards; if I’m not writing postcards, I’m replacing my lawn sign.” Everyone laughs. “They can’t believe we live here,” says another woman, in reference to the local media and local Republican Party. “They think we must be shipped in from California, because we can’t be their neighbors.”

These women do live here, in Georgia’s affluent, suburban, predominantly white sixth district, where a special election to replace Republican congressman Tom Price, whom Donald Trump tapped to run the Department of Health and Human Services, has drawn the attention of the nation. They are dedicating their time — in many cases, nearly all their time — to campaigning for Jon Ossoff, the 30-year-old Democrat who came within spitting distance of winning a majority in April, and is now facing Republican Karen Handel in the runoff, which will take place on Tuesday. That Ossoff has come as close as he has is a startling signal of liberal vigor in Trump’s America: The sixth district is a longtime conservative stronghold that has sent Republicans to Congress since 1979; Price won his November reelection by 23 points. But in the days before the runoff, Ossoff is polling neck and neck with Handel; many on the ground don’t even venture a prediction of what’s going to happen, calling the outcome a “coin flip.”

Especially surprising is that the closeness of the race can largely be attributed to the obsessive energies of the sixth district’s women, an army of mostly white, suburban working mothers who had until now lived politically somnambulant lives. In the wake of Donald Trump’s November defeat of Hillary Clinton, many of these Georgia women have remade their lives, transforming themselves and their communities through unceasing political engagement. To visit Georgia’s sixth in the days before the runoff is to land on a planet populated by politically impassioned women, talking as if they have just walked off the set of Thelma & Louise, using a language of awakening, liberation, and political fury that should indeed discomfit their conservative neighbors, and — if it is a harbinger of what’s to come — should shake conservative America more broadly.

“No matter the outcome on Tuesday, the real story of this campaign is the story of women organizing, standing up, fighting,” Jon Ossoff tells me from his campaign’s Chamblee office two days before the runoff.
“There’s something of a renaissance of civic engagement and political activism afoot, and it’s being led by women.”

A few bits and pieces of the GOP “health care” bill are leaking out, and they are horrifying.

Michael Hiltzik at the LA Times: In secret Obamacare repeal bill, Senate Republicans plan even harsher cuts to Medicaid than House GOP.

In the all-out quest for ways to strip health coverage from millions of people in order to deliver a huge tax cut to the richest Americans, Senate Republicans have been regarded as more moderate than their House colleagues. But a proposal leaked from the Senate GOP’s closed-door drafting sessions on an Obamacare repeal bill may put that notion to rest: The Senate is contemplating a change in Medicaid that would cut it even more than the $830-billion proposed by the House.

That news comes from The Hill, which reported Monday that the Senate is contemplating imposing a lower inflation growth rate on Medicaid, which would be capped in both proposals. The Senate’s idea is to allow Medicaid to grow at the rate of the overall consumer price index (specifically, the CPI for all urban consumers, the most commonly used variant).

That’s a much lower growth rate than the index in the American Health Care Act, which House Republicans passed in May as a measure to repeal the the Affordable Care Act. The House caps growth in the Medicaid budget at the CPI for medical care, which grows much faster.

The difference would produce a massively larger cut in Medicaid than the House bill. That’s remarkable, because the House bill would drive 14 million people out of Medicaid by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Senate version, which hasn’t been presented in its entirely to the CBO because it’s still being worked on in secret, is certain to cost many more Americans their coverage.

Please go read the rest at the above link. Read more about what is believed to be in the bill at the Washington Post: The Health 202: Here’s what we know about the Senate health-care bill. But the simple truth is that the purpose of this bill is to transfer money from needy people to a few super-rich families.

Huffington Post: The Not-So-Secret Truth About the Senate GOP’s Secret Health Care Bill.

Senate Republicans are hurling themselves toward passing an incredibly unpopular set of health care reforms that even they don’t understand, haven’t seen and likely won’t see until just before it hits the floor.

This rightly has raised the hackles not only of Senate Democrats and the media, but anyone who values transparency in government or is anxious about the consequences of reordering the American health care system and taking away health coverage from millions of people.

But as important as the legislation’s details will turn out out to be, there’s a simple, fundamental, incontrovertible fact about whatever the Senate health care reform bill winds up looking like: The purpose of this bill is to dramatically scale back the safety net so wealthy people and health care companies can get a massive tax cut….

That’s true of the House-passed version of the American Health Care Act, which the Congressional Budget Office projects would lead to 23 million fewer people being insured over the next decade, severely weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions and put health coverage out of reach for older, sicker and poorer people who won’t be able to afford insurance or, in some cases, to even access it at any price.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his handpicked cohort of backroom negotiators are advancing a measure that will look pretty much like the House legislation and do pretty much the same thing. McConnell wants a vote before July 4, and he’ll probably get it if something doesn’t alter the trajectory. There’s little Democrats can do beyond try to slow Senate business to a crawl to draw out the process and keep health care in the public eye for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to cozy up to Putin as the Russia investigation continues. This story at Newsweek is just unbelievable: Rex Tillerson to Work with Russia on Cybersecurity (Even After Hacking).

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly has a three-point plan to both improve relations and work with Russia, one of which includes facing global threats posed by the Syrian civil war, the proliferation of North Korea’s missile and defense program and a third that could seem strange to some: Cybersecurity and cyber-espionage.

A BuzzFeed report published Monday detailed the former ExxonMobil CEO turned U.S. statesman’s plan, which included each side vowing to avoid “aggressive actions” that wouldn’t be productive for anyone as well as a third point called “strategic stability” meant to bundle together problems the two superpowers face.

But the second tenet, aimed at cybersecurity and cyberespionage, seems particularly odd given not only the investigations surrounding President Donald Trump and his former campaign but also the conclusion reached by the U.S. intelligence community that Russia intentionally meddled in last year’s election in order to ascend Trump’s candidacy.

Please go check out this story and the one at BuzzFeed too.

News on the Russia investigation:

Bijan Kian (center) worked on Trump transition

Talking Points Memo: Report: Feds Now Interested In Flynn’s Former Business Partner.

Federal investigators are now interested in the role Bijan Kian, co-founder of ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn’s consulting firm, played in their lobbying work, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The report was based on information from an anonymous individual recently interviewed by the FBI, who said that agents from the criminal division asked as many questions about Kian and his involvement with a lobbying contract carried out by the firm that primarily benefitted the Turkish government as they did about Flynn.

Kian was responsible for securing and carrying out that work for Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, as Reuters and the Associated Press have reported. It netted Flynn Intel Group $530,000. Two other sources with knowledge of the probe told Reuters that investigators were looking at whether the payments Flynn and his firm received from foreign clients were lawful and whether they made the proper disclosures with the federal government to perform this work.

Both men retroactively registered as foreign agents for their Turkey lobbying, which involved producing negative public relations materials about an exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for a failed coup attempt last summer.

Flynn likely talking to FBI

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a former federal prosecutor, believes that Flynn is likely cooperating with the FBI. From Real Clear Politics:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island suggests that fired national security Mike Flynn has made a deal with the FBI and will testify against President Trump….

“All the signals are suggesting [Flynn] is already cooperating with the FBI, and may have been for some time. First of all, they had him dead to rights on a felony false statement, on the statement they took from him at the White House on the Kislyak conversations. Second, Comey reported that one of the things the FBI does with cooperators is get them to go back and clean up areas of non-compliance. Flynn, who will never be hired by a foreign government again, went back and cleaned up his foreign agent filings. Third, all of the reporting of the Eastern District of VA on subpoenas is one hop away from Flynn. He is the hole in a donut of subpoenas,” he sad.

He continued: “One of the most talkative people in Trumpland [Flynn] has gone absolutely silent. That is exactly what a prosecutor would strongly encourage a cooperating witness to do… in order to avoid lengthy imprisonment.”

“It could be a huge deal. Who knows what Trump has said to him?” Whitehouse speculated. “Both during the campaign and the early days of the presidency.”

I’m running out of space, but I’ll add more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?

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35 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: GA 6th, GOP “Health Care” Bill, and Russia News”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Reuters: Mueller team lawyer brings witness-flipping expertise to Trump probes.

    A veteran federal prosecutor recruited onto special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is known for a skill that may come in handy in the investigation of potential ties between Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team: persuading witnesses to turn on friends, colleagues and superiors.

    Andrew Weissmann, who headed the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal fraud section before joining Mueller’s team last month, is best known for two assignments – the investigation of now-defunct energy company Enron and organized crime cases in Brooklyn, New York – that depended heavily on gaining witness cooperation.

    Securing the cooperation of people close to Trump, many of whom have been retaining their own lawyers, could be important for Mueller, who was named by the Justice Department as special counsel on May 17 and is investigating, among other issues, whether Trump himself has sought to obstruct justice. Trump has denied allegations of both collusion and obstruction.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Bloomberg: The Republican Health Care Trap.

    Are congressional Republicans about to walk into a trap of their own making? With a vote coming (perhaps) next week, the strategy they’ve followed all year is about to drop them unceremoniously on a path to being stuck with an unpopular law few of them appear to even want in the first place.

    The big story in health care has appeared to be straightforward: Virtually every Republican member of Congress on both sides of the Hill ran on “repealing and replacing Obamacare,” but virtually all them them filled in at least some policy blanks themselves, lacking a party-endorsed plan to guide them. Once in control of the White House and Congress, there was no way to reconcile their various commitments on the campaign trail and other differences into a single “replace” bill.

    Consequently, the actions they’ve taken since then, at least as I see it, have been designed by various groups and individuals as efforts to duck the blame for not following through on their many health-care promises. The result is they wound up passing something in the House that almost no one liked — including those who voted for it.

  3. dakinikat says:

    Look who is playing chicken with us now? Plus, NK killed one of our citizens.

    • NW Luna says:

      Trump is quickly losing the military & veteran support he had. They don’t like other countries, especially Russia, taunting and pushing us around.

      • Fannie says:

        As he should Luna. But to listen to the media and Trump, he can do anything and still keep his supporters, and then some! I’d like see him out golfing in Phoenix.

  4. NW Luna says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      I don’t think we humans are as elevated on the chart as we think sometimes. 😉

      My beloved black lab once gave a treat I had just given him to the little blonde girl doggie my father brought over. I was shocked because he was basically a land shark, but boy did he fall for that little girl dog. He literally placed his milkbone at her feet.

    • Sweet Sue says:

      Great photo, Luna.

  5. NW Luna says:

    Georgia’s voting process has no verifiable paper trail.
    Thread:

    • Enheduanna says:

      Georgia has one of the most unreliable and dishonest voting systems in the country. The shenanigans down here with minority voter registrations going missing and machines “flipping” votes is outrageous. The machines are very old and our elections officials are all old racist white GOPers who think the end justifies the means.

      Frankly I’ll be shocked if Ossoff wins. If it’s as close as they say, they WILL nudge the numbers for Handel.

    • Fannie says:

      That’s what I was afraid of.

  6. dakinikat says:

    preparing for this …

  7. NW Luna says:

    Huh, who wouldathunk it, eh?

    Pro-Putin bots are dominating Russian political talk on Twitter

    Bots airing pro-Kremlin views have flooded the Russian-language portion of the social media platform Twitter, in what researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute say is an effort to scuttle political discussion and opposition coordination in Russia.

    In a new study of “political bots” on the social media platform, the sheer scale of automation is staggering: Of a sample 1.3 million accounts tweeting regularly about politics in Russia reviewed by researchers between 2014 and 2015, around 45 percent, or 585,000 of them, were bots.

    So if you were to mention or enter a flame war with a random account from that sample, there would be a nearly 1-in-2 chance you’re not communicating with a real person.

    The study, released on Monday by the Computational Propaganda Research Project housed at the the Oxford Internet Institute, investigates the manipulation of public opinion through automated processes on social media in nine countries: China, Russia, Poland, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Ukraine, Taiwan and the United States. The research was backed by U.S. and European Union government grants.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/pro-putin-politics-bots-are-flooding-russian-twitter-oxford-based-studysays/2017/06/20/19c35d6e-5474-11e7-840b-512026319da7_story.html?utm_term=.d5a3597d947b

  8. dakinikat says:

    He’s dangerously ignorant! WTF? At least the world knows he’s a buffoon.

  9. dakinikat says:

  10. dakinikat says:

    Sean Spicer Out as Press Secretary
    Spicer will lead the communications office while searching for his replacement at the briefing podium.

    https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2017-06-19/sean-spicer-to-lead-communications-office-searches-for-new-press-secretary

  11. Minkoff Minx says:

  12. NW Luna says:

    Good point here:

  13. RonStill4Hills says:

    I keep saying, it is the way it is because enough people like it this way. Self dealing nest feathering Karen Handel goes to Washington. The bad guys are not winning by accident.

    Dems sunk a ton of money into John Ossoff here in Georgia to no avail. Georgians want to preserve the good old boy status quo and it doesn’t matter if Trump bankrupts them all, they will back the GOP to the gates of hell!!!

    • bostonboomer says:

      GOP outspent on Handel by 2-1, and Ossoff came close.

    • Enheduanna says:

      I would add that GA-06 is a very gerrymandered district. They cut off black votes in Dekalb County and basically neutered them by tacking that area onto heavily Republican North Fulton and East Cobb counties. Unfortunately those Dekalb votes did not push Ossoff over the line. I think he will be back next year to challenge Handel again.

      I lived in North Fulton County for nearly 20 years and these are affluent white people who have incorporated their communities to privatize city services and keep their tax dollars from going to the urban black areas of metro Atlanta. They resent that their tax money pays for anything for anyone else but themselves. Then they go to church on Sunday and feel so good about themselves when they help out a needy member with home repairs on her (singular) house.

      • RonStill4Hills says:

        I have lived in the Atlanta area since 1987 and everything you say is true, but what I said still holds. The majority down here like the shithole status quo. Whether it is Gingrich or Handel this is what they want.