Frictional Characters Threaten GOP Repeal
There’s no such thing as a perfect piece of legislation. And for Republicans like Sen. Rand Paul (KY), that’s been a hard reality to swallow. Like a lot of us, he wants nothing more than to scrap Obamacare completely and start over with a competitive, pro-life, free market system. But unfortunately, that’s no longer an option at this moment for the GOP after a summer of misfires and wasted opportunities. The clock is ticking. And the only thing Republicans have less of than time is voters’ patience. And both demand leaders act now.
In the plan from Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Republicans have a choice. They can vote “yes” and gut a significant portion of Obamacare and Planned Parenthood funding, or they can vote “no” and keep 100 percent of it. Apparently, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) prefers the latter, tweeting that he’s prepared to kill the GOP’s repeal a second time because it isn’t the product of “regular order.” (Neither, conservatives are quick to point out, was Obamacare.) “I think most of us are trying to figure out what the logic is,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) said. “We all know that some folks would rather have a bill that’s perfect. But I guess if we can’t have a bill that’s perfect, I’d rather have a bill that’s much better than what [the law] is today.”
And for a lot of Americans, this debate is about a lot more than dollars and cents. It’s about actual human lives, whose fate will literally be decided by what the Senate does in seven days. If the Graham-Cassidy bill fails, so does the GOP’s best shot at defunding Planned Parenthood. At a rally outside Sen. Paul’s Kentucky office, Students for Life did its best to drive that urgency home. “The disastrous status quo that is Obamacare is harming families, using our taxpayer dollars to fund abortion and line the pockets of Planned Parenthood’s billion-dollar abortion industry,” said President Kristan Hawkins. Vice President Mike Pence agrees. “The president and I consider Senator Paul a friend,” he made clear. “He’s a good man, but he’s wrong about this.” And unless he changes his mind, thousands of future Americans will pay the price.
Meanwhile, in pockets across the country, the Left’s opposition “is again reaching jet-aircraft decibels of outrage,” The Wall Street Journal jokes. Armed with the usual misinformation, liberals are taking to the airwaves and social media to bash the effort, which they claim would leave 18 million uninsured. (Of course, they neglect to mention that at least half of those would be willfully uninsured after the bill scraps Obama’s individual mandate.)
Liberals are also making a big deal about voting on a bill without a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score. But what good was a CBO score for Obamacare? If you want a good laugh, read its prediction for the 2009 law — which, among other things, claimed Obamacare would reduce the U.S. deficit. Besides, “CBO forecasts are often wrong,” The Wall Street Journal editors point out. “In this case, they’d also be meaningless. The point of Graham-Cassidy is to allow states to experiment and tailor approaches to local populations. Some might try to expand Medicaid’s reach or even go single-payer. Others might tinker with reinsurance. The budget office can’t possibly know what 50 states would do or how that would affect coverage.”
While the two sides snipe back and forth, the issue is also starting to bleed into the Alabama Senate primary. Sen. Luther Strange and Judge Roy Moore are locked in a heated runoff for Jeff Sessions’s old seat, and health care is front and center. In some press reports, the media is trying to paint Moore as an opponent of the Graham-Cassidy bill. But that’s absolutely not true. I spoke with him, and although he would prefer a full repeal of Obamacare, he sees the importance of in ending the forced partnership between taxpayers and Planned Parenthood. As far as he’s concerned, the GOP plan is a good first step.
For now, though, the focus will be on the senators who already have a vote. Make sure they cast the right one! Contact your senators and urge them to start freeing America from the grip of Obama’s failed law.
Originally published here
Religious Liberty Is Abbott Forming
FEMA is supposed to clean up disasters — not create more. Unfortunately for three Texas churches, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is doing more harm than good. When Hurricane Harvey blew through the state, leaving a trail of wreckage and devastation behind, congregations like Hi-Way Tabernacle’s leapt into action — even though their own buildings had sustained a lot of damage. But despite doing as much (or more) than a lot of the government-funded teams on the ground, faith-based groups are getting the short end of the relief fund stick.
When a trio of churches applied for FEMA aid, they were turned down for a single reason: their religion. So, with the help of the Becket Fund, the congregations sued for the same benefits as everyone else. President Trump piled on, tweeting, “Churches in Texas should be entitled to reimbursement from FEMA Relief Funds for helping victims of Hurricane Harvey (just like others).”
Weeks later, FEMA’s policy hasn’t caught up with the president’s direction. In response, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) and Attorney General Ken Paxton (R-TX) fired off a letter to the White House hoping to give the administration the push it needs to rewrite its rules.
“Churches have opened their doors to feed, shelter, comfort, and rebuild their communities — even hosting FEMA operations in the process — but this policy has made those very same churches ineligible for assistance because their primary use is, by nature, religious,” they wrote. “The policy of denying relief funds for churches discriminates on the grounds of religion and is nothing more than the relic of an administration that preferred rewriting laws to faithfully executing them.
"Excluding churches and houses of worship from FEMA disaster relief not only makes for bad policy, as you acknowledge, but also risks the federal government violating the constitutional rights of those who are playing an instrumental role in getting Texans back on their feet after Hurricane Harvey. In light of this, we urge you, Mr. President, to move with alacrity and define ‘private nonprofit facility’ in FEMA’s Policy Guide to include churches and other faith-based organizations.”
Like Becket attorneys, the Texas leaders point out that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Trinity Lutheran created a level playing field for churches when it comes to government programs. FEMA is no exception. And while the Trump administration didn’t create FEMA’s discriminatory policy, it’s just another example of the religious hostility that’s built up over the last decade. The only way these attacks on faith cease is for those policies to be reversed. Not just stopped, but overturned. President Trump issued his religious liberty executive order on May 4 directing the Department of Justice to issue guidance to all federal agencies on “protecting and promoting” religious freedom. FEMA’s religious intolerance in Texas underscores the immediate need for the DOJ’s guidance.
Originally published here
A Boston Massacre of the First Amendment
There’s a new four-letter word in Boston: FLAG. For months, Massachusetts’ capital city has welcomed any group to schedule an event at the city council and fly their flag. “Any kind of group, that is… but Christian,” LifeSiteNews reports. Despite flying everything from a transgender banner to a nod at the Chinese Progressive Association, the city specifically singled out — and denied — a faith-based organization called Camp Constitution.
In explaining its decision, city leaders insisted, “Boston maintains a policy and practice of respectfully refraining from flying non-secular flags on the City Hall flagpoles. This policy and practice is consistent with well-established First Amendment jurisprudence prohibiting a local government from "respecting an establishment of religion.” They concluded with an offer for Camp organizers to fly a secular flag instead.
Attorneys at Liberty Counsel didn’t waste any time responding. In a lengthy defense of the group’s First Amendment rights, Richard Mast argued that it was unconscionable that the city would discriminate in such a way. “The city has never denied a request based on the viewpoint expressed by the selected flag, until now.” Threatening a lawsuit if the matter isn’t corrected, he insisted, “Government must treat private religious messages on equal terms and conditions with private non-religion messages. Government must treat all persons and groups seeking to use the forum equally, regardless of their viewpoint.” Surely a city that played such a key role in the Revolution would understand that. If not, Liberty Counsel is prepared to remind them — in court.
Originally published here
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.