It was supposed to be so easy this election year for Republican congressional candidates. All they would have to do was shout “repeal Obamacare!” and make a crack about government doctors and broken websites, and they could coast into office on a wave of public fury. The failure of the Affordable Care Act was simply assumed. But it has not quite worked out that way. The government website was fixed, and 8.1 million people managed to sign up for insurance through the exchanges. An additional 4.8 million people received coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Three million people under the age of 26 were covered by their parents’ plans. Though the law itself has never been widely popular, most people say they like its component parts, and a large majority now says it wants the law improved rather than repealed.
FOX NEWS: Emperor Obama unveils new plan to destroy America with clean air and water, and increased energy efficiency http://t.co/VuzD9lxV4t
That sentiment conflicts with the Republican playbook, which party leaders are suddenly trying to rewrite. The result has been an incoherent mishmash of positions, as candidates try to straddle a widening gap between blind hatred of health reform and the public’s growing recognition that much of it is working. Sometimes the dissonance reaches nearly comic levels. The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, recently won his party’s primary for his Kentucky Senate seat in part by saying he wanted to repeal the health law “root and branch.” Last week, though, he was asked what repeal would mean for the 413,000 people who had signed up for insurance under Kynect, Kentucky’s state-run exchange. “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question,” he said. The good news is that some Democratic candidates, sensing the same change in the weather, are beginning to campaign on the law’s benefits. Improving access to health care was the right thing for the country, and supporting it may turn out to be good politics, too.
Dan Murphy (CS Monitor): Five Taliban Released For Sgt. Bergdahl? This Is How Wars End.
A prisoner swap with sworn enemies is never pleasant. But sometimes, it’s necessary. The prisoner swap that saw Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban for five years, released in exchange for five Taliban leaders who had been held for over a decade at Guantanamo, has touched off a predictable array of complaints. Congress wasn’t consulted, President Obama had negotiated with terrorists, that US soldiers will be at greater risk in future because of the precedent.
Among the most strident of the critics has been Senator Ted Cruz, who said in response to the deal: “What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a US soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists we’ve gone after?… The reason why the US has had the policy for decades of not negotiating with terrorists is because once you start doing it, every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers.” But dealing with people you find odious – your enemies – is how most wars end. And with the US set for full withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of 2016, the prospect of a crushing defeat for the Taliban is pretty much nil. Getting POWs back, whatever the circumstances of their capture, a crucial goal.
Matt Furber: Planned Celebration For Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Just Got A Whole Lot Bigger
“It’s really, really amazing and incredible, fantastic news,” said Molly Goodyear, who was getting lunches at Atkinson’s Market for children playing soccer with Sawtooth United under-13 girls’ team on Saturday when she got a text with the news. “You can’t go anywhere in Hailey without thinking about it,” she said. “There was a sticker for Bowe at the deli counter. I remember thinking about how long it has been. Even in 2011, it seemed so long. It’s going to be a long, hard reintegration for him, I think. But this is such a great community for him to return to. People will do so much for him.”
“I encourage you to keep praying for Bowe and their family,” Mark Clementz, pastor of the Wood River Assembly of God, told congregants on Sunday morning. “Not too many of us have been kind of held captive for five years, we probably don’t know what that’s like, do we? I believe it’s going to take him some time and effort to assimilate back into, ‘O.K., what do I do now?’ So let’s keep praying for their family and keep lifting them up in prayer.”
Speculation about how and why Sergeant Bergdahl became a captive is largely absent for now. “Until Bowe is home and able to tell his own story, nobody knows what happened that day,” Debbie ONeill said. “However he got from A to B isn’t what’s important. He’s an American that needs to come home. I could not be happier that Jani is going to be able to hold her son in her arms again.”
Washington Post: EPA To Propose Cutting Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Coal Plants 30% By 2030
The Environmental Protection Agency will propose a regulation Monday that would cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by up to 30 percent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, according to individuals who have been briefed on the plan. Under the draft rule, the EPA would analyze four options that states and utilities would have to meet the new standard, with different approaches to energy efficiency, shifting from coal to natural gas, investing in renewable energy and making power plant upgrades, according to those who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it has not been formally announced. Other compliance methods could include offering discounts to encourage consumers to shift electricity use to off-peak hours.
The rule represents one of the most significant steps the federal government has ever taken to curb the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are linked to climate change, and the draft is sure to spark a major political and legal battle. Conscious of that, President Obama called a group of Senate and House Democrats on Sunday afternoon to thank them for their support in advance of the proposed rule. The proposal, which would cut 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030, ranks as one of Obama’s most far-reaching climate policies. His previous measures to limit carbon emissions in cars and light trucks produced between fleet years 2012 and 2025 will cut 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of those vehicles.
NYT: Administration Defends Swap With Taliban To Free U.S. Soldier
Susan E. Rice, the president’s national security adviser, spoke a day after years of fitful negotiations had finally yielded the release in Afghanistan of the prisoner, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The deal, brokered with Qatari help, also freed five high-level Taliban members from the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The release of the Taliban officials was sharply assailed by Republicans, including Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the intelligence committee, as a dangerous transgression of longstanding policy against negotiating with terror groups. The release of the Taliban officials was sharply assailed by Republicans, including Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the intelligence committee, as a dangerous transgression of longstanding policy against negotiating with terror groups.
.@AmbassadorRice responding to criticism of POTUS not telling Congress 30 days ahead of prisoner swap: We did not have 30 days to wait.
But Ms. Rice said: “Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield. We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our republic to do our utmost to bring back our men and women who are taken in battle, and we did that in this instance.” She was speaking on the ABC program “This Week.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said while visiting troops in Afghanistan on Sunday said that he would not have agreed to the detainees’ release unless suitable security arrangements were in place. Asked whether the sergeant, who by some reports was captured after leaving his base without authorization, might be subject to military discipline, Mr. Hagel replied, “This is a guy who probably went through hell for the last five years, and let’s focus on getting him well,” according to NBC News.
The Obama administration struck a major blow for transgender rights by quietly ending a decades-long blanket ban that prevented Medicare from covering sex reassignment surgery. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Departmental Appeals Board, an internal review structure within the byzantine federal agency, issued a ruling that ended a ban on Medicare even considering covering sex reassignment surgery and related care because a fear of “serious complications” resulting from the “experimental” surgery. That language was issued in 1981, and most medical professional organizations now consider sex reassignment surgery a safe and accepted procedure. The DAB ruling noted the change in how sex reassignment surgery is understood 33 years after the Medicare ban was issued.
“Even assuming the [National Coverage Determination]’s exclusion of coverage at the time the NCO was adopted was reasonable, that coverage exclusion is no longer reasonable,” reads the ruling. “This record includes expert medical testimony and studies published in the years after publication of the NCO.” “Denying Medicare coverage of all transsexual surgery as a treatment for transsexualism is not valid under the “reasonableness standard” the Board applies,” the HHS board ruling continues. Experts say the change to Medicare could have far-reaching implications for American medicine, helping to drive more private insurers to offer coverage for sex reassignment surgery and related care.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the military operation to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees was not relayed to Congress because officials believed the soldier’s life was in danger. In his first extensive public comments about Saturday’s operation, Hagel said intelligence the U.S. had gathered suggested that Bergdahl’s “safety and health were both in jeopardy, and in particular his health was deteriorating.” Taliban members handed Bergdahl over to special operations forces in eastern Afghanistan, and later in the day the detainees were flown from the Guantanamo detention center to Qatar. The Pentagon did not give Congress the required 30-day notice for the release of detainees.
When McCain was exchanged for other North Vietnamese POWS in 1973 by Nixon, many called McCain a traitor too. http://t.co/kOuT5ZFu3c
Hagel said it was the administration’s judgment the military had to move quickly to get Bergdahl out, “essentially to save his life.” He said it was the unanimous consensus of the National Security Council, and the president has the authority to order such a release under Article 2 of the Constitution. Only a handful of people knew about the operation and Hagel said “we couldn’t afford any leaks anywhere, for obvious reasons.” “No shots were fired. There was no violence,” said Hagel. “It went as well as we not only expected and planned, but I think as well as it could have …The timing was right. The pieces came together.”
Ian Millhiser: Pentagon Will Allow Some Undocumented Immigrants To Join The Armed Forces
The Pentagon approved a policy that will allow a small group of undocumented immigrants to join the military, potentially creating a path to citizenship for them. The new policy will affect immigrants currently enabled to remain in the country by the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a program that benefits certain law-abiding young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of sixteen. The new military policy, however, only extends to immigrants with certain specialized skills.
As a general rule, federal law provides that “no person shall be naturalized unless he has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence,” a rule that excludes DACA beneficiaries. A program known as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), however, permits non-citizen members of the armed forces to “naturalize without first obtaining a Green Card.” On Saturday, the White House asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to hold off on the policy until August in order to give Congress more time to work on permanent immigration legislation.
Starting this fall, all students in Indianapolis public schools will get a free breakfast, lunch, and snack every school day under a federal program set up four years ago. “Hunger and having a healthy lunch and breakfast should not be a barrier to teaching and learning,” Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent Lewis Ferebee told the Indianapolis Star earlier this week. “We want to make sure our students are healthy and well fed so they can learn.” The federal program, which was set up by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, funds free meals for students in “Community Eligible” districts where 40 percent of kids at one or more schools already qualify for free lunches. In Indianapolis, 77 percent of students qualified for free meals and just 18 percent, 5,500 students out of over 30,000, were required to pay.
Indianapolis wasn’t the first to decide to join the program. Schools in Dallas, Boston, and Chicago already participate, and New York City may join. The free meal program cuts down child hunger in low-income areas. By eliminating the application process for free or reduced lunches, the free lunch program also lifts the hurdle of paperwork for low-income families, especially for parents whose native language is not English. And despite some concerns about the cost of making school lunches free for all students, making meals free can actually cut down on other costs. The bureaucracy associated with determining whether a child qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches can be complex and therefore expensive.
President Obama …. has tasked former basketball star and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson with co-leading a private effort focused on supporting boys and young men of color. Johnson will join Joe Echevarria, chief executive of Deloitte, in captaining the effort, known as “My Brother’s Keeper.” A 90-day evaluation of the effort has generated a series of recommendations, including improving mentor programs, eliminating harsh disciplinary actions in preschool,
and making sure more boys of color can read at grade level by third grade. It also calls for increasing high school graduation rates, summer employment and apprenticeship programs for men to gain entry-level jobs. Finally, the group is working toward reducing racial and ethnic bias in the racial and criminal justice systems. Obama has already received commitments of $200 million to help fund the project from a range of philanthropies.
he still has the ability to raise millions of dollars for Democratic candidates in this fall’s midterm elections. He has held 23 fundraisers for his party’s four major campaign committees so far this year, and is expected to increase the number to 30 by the end of June. Obama also has authorized his former campaign team from 2012 to share lists and contact information about Obama supporters with Democratic congressional and gubernatorial committees.
This could be worth additional millions on the fundraising circuit and boost efforts to get out the vote. Public disclosure of the amounts raised aren’t due until later in the year, but the sums certainly run into the tens of millions of dollars. Last Thursday, Obama headlined two fundraisers in Chicago. At the home of Michael and Tanya Polsky, guests paid $1,000 to $35,000 to meet Obama and hear him speak, according to The Washington Post.
President Obama closes his eyes before he tapes his weekly Radio Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama talks with (from left) Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough in the Outer Oval Office June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and former First Lady Nancy Reagan walk side-by-side through Center Hall in the White House, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama listens to a question from a reporter as he walks out of the White House toward Marine One in Washington on June 2, 2009. President Obama was traveling to Saudi Arabia.
President Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. for the flight to King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama meets with the Democratic House Caucus in the East Room of the White House, June 2, 2011. Flanking the President are Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, left, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, Minority Whip (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama speaks as she unveils a new food icon during an event June 2, 2011 at the Agriculture Department in Washington, DC
President Obama greets a group of Wounded Warriors in the Cross Hall of the White House, June 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Joe Paulsen, White House Advance Office site lead, holds the curtain for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as they are introduced during the Pritzker Architecture Prize award ceremony at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., June 2, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Pritzker Architecture Prize Event in Washington, DC, June 2, 2011