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Is a 'Texas way' still possible for state's uninsured?

11/18/14 10:05AM

A few years ago, Republican state policymakers in Texas created something called the Institute of Health Care Quality and Efficiency. Officials were already committed to rejecting every possible aspect of the Affordable Care Act, and undermining its implementation wherever possible, but Institute members were nevertheless tasked with looking for ways Texas could improve the state's struggling health care infrastructure.
When Gov. Rick Perry (R) endorsed the creation of the panel in 2011, and chose its members, this probably isn't what he had in mind.
A board of medical professionals appointed by Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that the state should provide health coverage to low-income Texans under the Affordable Care Act -- a move the Republican-led Legislature has opposed. 
The 15-member Texas Institute of Health Care Quality and Efficiency recommended that the state's health commissioner be authorized to negotiate a Texas-specific agreement with the federal government to expand health coverage to the poor, "using available federal funds."
Steve Berkowitz, the board's chairman, told the Texas Tribune, "We're trying to take the politics out of it."
And while that's certainly a noble goal, if state policymakers were willing to take politics out of the decision-making process, they wouldn't have rejected Medicaid expansion in the first place.
Joel Allison, a board member who is chief executive of the Baylor Scott & White Health System, added, "We should be maximizing available federal funds through the Medicaid program to improve health care for all Texans."
Given that Texas has one of the worst uninsured rates in the country -- the Perry-appointed board called the current totals "unacceptable" -- maximizing available federal funds would make a lot of sense.
But Texas Republicans also don't like President Obama. The result isn't pretty.
A man throws an earth balloon into the air as people fill 58th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue before a global warming march in New York Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. (Photo by Mel Evans/AP)

GOP balks at Bush-era Climate Fund

11/18/14 09:22AM

President Obama has had some success of late in addressing the climate crisis, but he's hardly finished: Chris Mooney reported yesterday that the White House hopes to invest up to $3 billion in the Green Climate Fund, an international effort to bolster clean-energy programs in developing nations.
Indeed, the U.S. contribution to the global effort would complement similar billion-dollar investments from allies including France, Germany, and Japan.
So, what's the bad news? Take a wild guess.
There's just one problem. Even though the idea for international climate funding measures like this one dates back to the George W. Bush administration -- where they were crucially championed by then Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson -- there are concerns that Congressional Republicans may try to thwart some of the new U.S. funds through the appropriations process. In fact, long before the GOP's triumph in the midterm elections, House Republicans in early 2011 introduced a continuing budget resolution that would have "gut most climate aid" -- a sign of the conflict that may be to come.
Indeed, the presumptive new chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Oklahoma's James Inhofe, used a 2012 video to decry a "United Nations green slush fund that would redistribute over $ 100 billion from developed countries to developing countries" -- which certainly sounds like a reference to today's Green Climate Fund. The $100 billion figure refers to a pledge in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord that developed nations would spend that amount by 2020 helping countries adapt to climate change, and that mentioned the development of a Green Climate Fund.
Remember, the Bush/Cheney administration -- hardly pioneers in the fight against the climate crisis -- saw these kinds of investments as important and worthwhile. As Mooney's report noted, former President George W. Bush used his final State of the Union address to outline a $2 billion investment in "a new international clean energy technology fund to help confront climate change worldwide."
But now that Obama wants to follow through on the Bush/Cheney commitment, Republicans seem eager to move in the opposite direction.
Part of this, of course, is the reflexive GOP opposition to anything Obama is for. But there's also been an aggressive shift in the GOP's posture on environmental policy itself, to the point that contemporary Republicans now see Bush's policies as far too liberal.
A man walks in the rain to vote at the Rochester Community House in Rochester, Mich. on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014.

Michigan's electoral-vote scheme, back from the grave

11/18/14 08:38AM

Early last year, Republican officials in a variety of states were pretty frustrated by the scope of President Obama's re-election victory. They decided the electoral college might need a little touch-up, tilting the playing field in the GOP's direction -- if Republicans were losing, it was time to change the rules of the game.
And so, a scheme was hatched: instead of allocating electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, the way nearly all states  have done throughout American history, several key states would rig the election by awarding votes based on gerrymandered congressional district lines. GOP operatives in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania Virginia, and Wisconsin immediately took up the cause.
The push didn't last long, and within a few months, as revulsion to the scheme grew, each of the states had effectively given up on the idea.
And though Michigan, run by a Republican governor and Republican state legislature, backed off on the scheme, support for the idea lingered in the Wolverine State for quite a while. In fact, it's back.
Michigan would divide its electoral college votes in presidential elections rather than award them all to a single candidate under legislation being introduced Thursday in the state House.
Sponsoring Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, says the bill would make Michigan more important in presidential elections, but Democrats argue it would only benefit Republicans, who haven't won a presidential election in Michigan since 1988.
Michigan isn't entirely alone. Zach Roth reported last week that the scheme may rear its head in 2015 now that Republican control of state governments has grown, and National Review published a piece calling the election-rigging plan "pretty tempting," largely because it would make it "nearly impossible" for the country to elect a Democratic president.
But in Michigan, proponents aren't just thinking about possible action in the new year; all of this is playing out right now. In fact, there was a legislative committee hearing on a proposal literally yesterday.
Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton (Danny Johnston/AP)

Walker latest to talk up Hillary Clinton's age

11/18/14 08:00AM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who's made no secret of his national ambitions, sat down over the weekend with the Fox affiliate in Milwaukee, which asked him about his possible presidential campaign. The Republican governor's response seemed noteworthy.
"To me, I'm not going to run just because of the pundits or anything else like that. The closer you get to something like that the more you realize -- and I say this only half-jokingly -- that you have to be crazy to want to be president. And anyone who has seen pictures of this president or any of the former presidents can see the before and after. No matter how fit, no matter how young they are, they age pretty rapidly when you look at their hair any everything else involved with it.
"Whether it's two years, six years or 20 years from now -- because I think of Hillary Clinton. I could run 20 years from now and still be about the same age as the former Secretary of State is right now."
In context, the question the reporter asked was, "Do you have a sense that this is your moment?" There were no previous references to Clinton or ages; it was just what Walker had on his mind at the time, and he felt inclined to share the thought, no matter how gratuitous it was.
The Wisconsin governor's comments come just a week after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was "none too subtly raising the issue of her age," too.
To be sure, we're still very much in the oblique phase of the debate, though Walker was more direct than Paul, so I'm not suggesting the left crank the Outrage-O-Meter to 11. Clinton has no doubt heard much more offensive criticism from Republican rivals before.
That said, this is an awkward game Republicans are playing.

60th Keystone vote? and other headlines

11/18/14 07:31AM

Keystone pipeline backers think they will have 60 or 61 Senate votes today. (Bloomberg News)

GOP backs duck-hunting tax hike. (Politico)

NJ Gov. Chris Christie is about to hand over the reins of the RGA. (WSJ)

Only a handful of Kansas' 105 counties are issuing same-sex marriage licenses. (Washington Post)

Ohio bill would shield the names of companies who provide execution drugs. (AP)

Fracking to be permitted in the largest national forest on the East Coast. (AP)

Israel on edge after four are killed in attack on a synagogue. (NY Times)

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History exposes bogus GOP immigration outcry

History exposes GOP immigration outcry as bogus

11/17/14 10:49PM

Rachel Maddow reviews instances of Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush taking executive action on immigration, contrary to anti-Obama Republicans who insist that President Obama's proposed action in the absence of a bill from Congress is unprecedented. watch

GOP employs selective memory on immigration

GOP employs selective memory on immigration

11/17/14 09:16PM

John Stanton, Buzzfeed DC bureau chief, talks with Rachel Maddow about the extent to which Republican animosity toward President Obama biases them against policies, like immigration reform, that they might otherwise support. watch