Tuesday, May 30, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Today's Contrarian Imperative

When Donald Trump upset Hillary Clinton in the 2016
presidential election, the most common complaint against
him that I heard (including from Republicans) was that he
would be a disaster in foreign policy. These complainers
would then add that they were much less worried about his
domestic policy because the Congress, led by House Speaker
Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,
would hold him in check.

As it has turned out so far, the opposite has happened.
It seems, in fact, that today there is a contrarian imperative
in U.S. politics.

In foreign policy, President Trump has performed quite well,
certainly far better than expected. His recent and first foreign
trip was a substantial success if you hold the view that the
passive and feckless Obama foreign policy had weakened the
nation and its allies. Mr. Trump has put the U.S. back to the
front and center of global affairs, and especially in trouble
spots in the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

On the other hand, the new administration’s domestic policy
has so far been much less of a success --- but primarily
because Republicans in the U.S. house and senate are divided
and hesitant on promised reforms. Speaker Ryan was only
belatedly able to deliver a positive vote on Obamacare repeal
and replacement, and continues to have difficulty in assembling
his caucus for necessary votes on tax policy and spending
legislation. Majority Leader McConnell skillfully navigated
the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. supreme court,
and is methodically doing the same for secondary cabinet
positions. But now he faces a challenge to pass an Obamacare
repeal and replacement in the senate, and his slim majority so
far does not seem poised to agree on other major legislation.

Tweeting outbursts, and other distractions by President Trump,
have not helped. It is true that certain establishment media
attacks, and predictable Democratic Party opposition, have
not made matters easier for the Republicans, but that is not
a legitimate excuse. Those factors are a given today in U.S,
politics --- in fact, media and partisan criticism are always
a proper factor (although this does not justify egregious
news media bias.)

The bottom line is that Republicans were elected to control
the executive and legislative branches in Washington, DC on
promises to reform, transform and stabilize the federal
government and its bureaucracy. If they fail to deliver on
these promises, as I have repeatedly stated on this site, the
voters will employ their constitutional right and vote them out
of control in 2018 and 2020.

The majority of Republican legislators seem inclined to
fulfill conservative promises, but small factions within their
house and senate caucuses seem determined to thwart the
majorities. This then is the challenge to congressional
leadership --- and to the White House.

The Republicans in Congress are not the only ones divided.
The Democrats' Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren-Maxine
Waters wing wants to take the liberal party to places the
Clinton-Joe Biden wing does not seem to want to go. Mrs.
Clinton’s defeat has given the former much momentum, but
being now in the minority and out of power, most liberals
have common cause in opposing and defeating Donald Trump.
A large number of U.S. voters still agree with the liberals, and
remain skeptical about Mr. Trump and his conservative allies.

Foreign policy is always played out in a problematic and
unpredictable environment. As recently as January 20, there
was a reasonable question about how well the new president
would perform on the global stage. After George W. Bush, the
nation’s voters wanted respite from constant U.S. interventions.
After Barack Obama, the nation’s voters wanted the U.S. to
play a more central, albeit non-interventionist, role in the world
to protect our vital interests. Donald Trump has now signaled he
can lead this --- despite so many previous doubts about him.

(Nonetheless, global uncertainty is ahead.)

What Mr. Trump and his congressional colleagues have not yet
demonstrated is their ability to deal with the many domestic
problems the nation faces.

Voters care most about domestic issues. The state of business
and the economy, employment, healthcare insurance, education
issues, national security and tax policy --- these are what will
move voters most next year and in 2020.

The political clock is ticking.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Corollary On Political Motion

Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states that “for every action
there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
His three laws of motion,
published in 1687, formed the basis of classic mechanics, and are
still useful today --- although they have been superseded by
principles of special relativity. Physics studies were not my
favorite subject in school, but I long ago learned that it pays to
honor the forces of nature.

What does this have to do with American politics?

Apparently more than we perhaps realize.

In recent years, a number of traditional political practices,
protocols and courtesies have been abandoned, especially in
Washington, DC, by both major parties and by many institutions.

These include abandoning the filibuster rule in the U.S. senate,
changing long-respected procedures in both houses of the
Congress; overtly trying to persuade presidential electors to
change their vote; not honoring a president’s established right to
nominate supreme court justices, lower, federal court judges and
cabinet officers; eschewing excessive leaks from government
officials; limiting the use of confidential media sources; confusing
the national “front-page”news with the free speech prerogative of
the “editorial page;” and the general debasement of the language
of debate and discussion.

I want to make it quite clear that I think that individuals of both
major political parties have done these acts. Nor am I, by any
means, the first to call attention to these phenomena.

At this particular moment, the “transgressors” mostly appearto
be Democrats because Republicans are in power. But when roles
were reversed, and the liberals were in power, conservatives
were often doing much of the same.

One case in point:  In 1965,  President Lyndon Johnson nominated
Abe Fortas to the supreme court after he had persuaded Associate
Justice Arthur Goldberg to resign from the court to be  U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Fortas, a long-time friend
and counsel to Mr. Johnson, was then confirmed by the senate.
Three years later, after Chief Justice Earl Warren’s retirement
and just before the end of his presidential term, President
Johnson nominated Fortas to be chief justice. Conservative
senators then blocked the nomination, and the following year,
new President Richard Nixon chose a conservative Republican to
be chief justice. Fortas was forced to later resign from the court
following  a personal controversy which had no part in his failure
to be confirmed as chief justice. When President Nixon then
attempted to replace Fortas, his first two nominees were
blocked by the Democrats. In 1987, chairman of the senate
judiciary committee Senator Joe Biden, then also a candidate for
president in 1988, led a successful effort to block Robert Bork’s
nomination to the supreme court by President Reagan on purely
ideological grounds (Judge Bork was then one of the nation’s
most distinguished conservative legal minds). In 2015, President
Obama nominated highly-qualified (but liberal) Judge Merrick
Garland to the supreme court to replace the late Anthony Scalia.
The Republican-controlled senate then refused to hold hearings on
the nomination which then died on the election of a new president.
When President Donald Trump chose Judge Neil Gorsuch, a
respected conservative, to fill the vacancy, senate Democrats
threatened to deploy the filibuster rule to block Mr. Gorusch’s
confirmation. This obstacle was overcome when the senate
abolished the use of the filibuster to block a supreme court choice
by the president, and Mr. Gorsuch was finally confirmed by a
majority vote.

A few years before, when the Democrat’s controlled the senate,
and Republicans were holding up President Obama’s lower
court judicial confirmations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
decided to abolish the filibuster rule for all but supreme court
nominations, and he further shut down virtually all opposition
debate on legislation --- both major departures from U.S. senate
tradition. Using an arcane senate rule to eliminate the filibuster
when his liberal party was in control, however, enabled the
conservatives to eliminate it a few years later to their advantage.

This illustrates my political corollary to Newton’s Third Law of
Motion --- which is:

“For every major new partisan political action, there will likely 
be an unequal and opposite reaction.”

In 1998, Republicans impeached President Bill Clinton, but failed
to convict him in the senate. Although Mr. Clinton had lied under
oath about a mostly private matter, the senate (and public opinion)
did not feel the matter was sufficient for removal from office.
Today, many Democrats and their followers in the media openly
discuss impeaching President Trump without even any evidence
of wrongdoing, but only unsubstantiated charges. Nevertheless,
impeachment is seriously treated in the anti-Trump national
media as if it were possible under what is now known.

The new chairman of the Democratic Party employs frequent
obscenities against his party’s opponents, and a Republican
nominee for Congress physically attacked a journalist questioning
him. On campuses across the nation, well-known speakers are
prevented from appearing by radical students and faculty under
the rubric of “political correctness.”

I suggest that these careless departures from comity, courtesy
and cooperation (perpetrated by some on the left and the right,
and in the media) will not go unanswered. But the reactions, as
intimated by my corollary above, do not necessarily lead us back
to where public discourse and behavior might best serve the
public interest.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Political Houdini?

Harry Houdini (born Erik Weisz in Budapest, Hungary) was
the world’s most famous escape artist. Whether it was
handcuffs, strait jackets, locked chains,water tortures, being
buried alive or numerous other sensational predicaments,
Houdini always escaped -- to the amazement and delight of
his skeptical audiences around the world.

Houdini was also an illusionist, magician, actor, historian,
plane pilot, film producer, a debunker of spiritualism, and
one of history’s great self-promoters. Houdini passed away 
in 1926, but his reputation for amazing escapes remains
strong after almost 100 years.

Donald Trump is probably the most unlikely person ever
elected president of the United States, and remains an
extraordinarily controversial political figure. Since his
announcement that he would run for president in 2015, he
has continually been underestimated as an electoral figure.
Each time his opponents, critics and the establishment media
have pronounced his political demise, he has come back
stronger than before.

The latest example occurred just before his departure for his
first foreign trip as president. Democrats and the media put
themselves into a frenzy over still unsubstantiated charges of
Trump campaign collusion with Russia, and  many were openly
discussing impeachment. Mr. Trump’s poll numbers went
down. Government “leaks” seemed ubiquitous.

Then, as he has done so many times previously in the past year,
his successful performance in the Middle East and Europe (so
far) has quelled (for the time being) the anti-Trump clamor.
His poll numbers have risen notably, and media attacks have
been muted. A Harvard University study (hardly a source of
pro-Trump applause) just confirmed the overwhelming bias
against the president in the establishment media.

President Trump now will return to the domestic political
battlefield. Democrats are pouring cash and other resources
into upcoming special congressional elections for seats now
held by Republicans. DC pundits are speculating that more GOP
U.S. house incumbents seats are now vulnerable in 2018.
Congressional investigations continue. Major, but controversial
legislative goals remain unrealized.

There is, of course, no  guarantee that Mr. Trump will always be
successful in escaping the “handcuffs and chains” that the
derisive public relations war against him is attempting to
impose on him.

Harry Houdini always escaped (although he had some very close
calls), and amazed the world for decades.

Will Donald Trump continue to defy the incessant and
clamorous predictions of his political defeat?

Only the voters, perhaps, can answer this question, but it’s
quite a show.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Challenger In Minnesota Has Unique Geneology

Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN) is once again being targeted
by Democrats for his suburban Minneapolis 3rd district seat.

In 2016, the liberal party (called the Democratic-Farmer-Labor
Party or DFL) put up a well-known moderate in its effort to
unseat the popular five-term legislator in this upscale swing
district which voted strongly for Hillary Clinton in the
presidential election. Nevertheless, Mr. Paulsen won by 14 points
while Mrs. Clinton carried the district by 10 points.

For the next election in 2018, DFL businessman Dean Phillips has
announced he will oppose the congressman. Mr. Phillips is the heir
to a third-generation Minnesota liquor fortune, and he himself has
created and sold a gelato business. Although he has no electoral
experience as a candidate, he does have the unique distinction of
having perhaps the nation’s two most famous newspaper advice
columnists, Abigail Van Buren (“Dear Abby”) and “Ann Landers”
as his forebears.  Abigail and Landers were actually twin sisters,
Pauline and Esther Friedman, who became rivals in the newspaper
advice business. Pauline was Phillips’ grandmother, and Esther was
his great-aunt.

The “Dear Abby” column is now being written by her daughter
Jeanne Phillips, Dean’s aunt.

But DNA alone will not get Mr. Phillips past Congressman Paulsen,
a member of the powerful house ways and mean committee, and
the dean of the Minnesota delegation in Congress. Nor, does it
seem that President Trump’s fortunes next year will very likely
affect this contest. Mr. Paulsen did not endorse Mr. Trump in
2016, and has maintained a reputation for being an independent

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017










Tuesday, May 16, 2017


There is a venerable child’s saying that goes:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words will never hurt me.”

Today, five months into the new administration of President
Donald Trump, his opponents, especially those in the media,
have laid an ongoing siege to the chief executive who shattered
their predictions and preferences last November by defeating
Hillary Clinton in the biggest upset since Harry Truman won
over Thomas Dewey in 1948.

This siege, unlike those of medieval times, is not being enforced
by “stick and stones” --- or even arrows and mortars --- as were
those fabled, and often successful, military sieges of the past.

Instead, the strategy of those who wish to take down the new
chief executive is mere words, many of them simply not true.

As a serious poet, short story writer, essayist, as well as
political journalist, I have an inherent interest in the power and
utility of language. When I say “mere words,” I am not
deprecating language, literature or journalism. I am, however,
indicting the use of words which have no substance in them or
behind them.

Many Americans did not vote for Donald Trump. Many simply
do not like him or his politics. That’s o.k. It’s a free country, and
the way our system works.

We also have many institutions to balance off the actions of a
president, including two houses of Congress, lower federal
courts and the supreme court, the media, and the ballot box.

It so happens that Mr. Trump won the presidential election at
the ballot box (not a plurality of the popular vote, but in the
constitutionally-mandated electoral college). His political party
also won control of both houses of Congress. Many in the lower
federal judiciary were appointed by Democrats; the supreme
court is divided almost in half. Most of the so-called
establishment print and broadcast media is liberal, but there
is also now a significant conservative media, especially among
radio talks shows, a few major newspapers and magazines,
and among opinion journalists.

Public polling shows Mr. Trump consistently under 50%
favorable, but usually in the mid-40s. (Although former
President Obama had higher poll numbers initially, he was
under 50% for most of his two terms.)

There is a duty of an opposition party to oppose. It is not only
understandable, but necessary, for Democrats to oppose any
policies of Mr Trump and his administration with which they
disagree. That’s the way our system works best. It is the
responsibility of the federal judiciary to block any executive
branch actions which are unconstitutional --- with the U.S.
supreme court as the final arbiter. It is the responsibility of all
in the media to treat the actions of both political parties with
honest and healthy skepticism, especially those opinion
journalists who express a point of view of any kind.

But, as I have been pointing out for months now, the public
expects its “news” organizations to present a fair and honest
account of the news. As I have said again and again: “The
front page is not the editorial page.”

Let me very specific.

An ongoing narrative in the establishment (read: anti-Trump)
media is that there is a political, and even legal, “scandal”
regarding President Trump and his relationship with the
government of Russia. This narrative is continued on the news
pages and new programs in a series of news “facts” --- many of
them from unnamed sources. The latest example of this is the
story originating in The Washington Post that the president
personally gave classified secrets to Russia. Although this
allegation has been strongly refuted by top officials in the
government, including those “in the room with the president”
when the alleged act took place, it is being reported as news
“fact” by the establishment media. One of these top officials
is General H.R. McMasters, a national security advisor to the
president, who has an impeccable reputation for honesty. The
Post will not name its sources. Its news pages (and editorial
pages) are constantly filled with anti-Trump stories.

Is it possible that the allegations are true? Of course it is
possible, and the allegations may fairly be made by opinion
journalists and named sources in an editorial context. But
so far it is not “news” --- and considering the source, the
allegations are “fake news,” something which has been
proliferating since (and before) last January 20th.

Incidentally, as president of the United States, Mr. Trump
has the legal right to release any classified information he
wishes to whomever he wishes. Even if the allegations were
true, the media does not reveal that any wrongdoing has taken
place. Some reports now state that Mr. Trump might have
shared information about an ISIS terrorism plot originating
from a non-U.S. source. If so, that would be the president's
judgment call.

We are seeing tactics, as some have pointed out, used by
Senator Joe McCarthy decades ago, and now used by
Democrats, liberals, and some Republicans --- the very
persons who used to complain about McCarthyism.)

Beyond that, the whole Trump-Russian narrative has no
“facts” at all. Yes, campaign officials met with Russian
officials (as did Clinton campaign officials and Democratic
congressional leaders), but what are the facts of what
happened in those meetings? (In one case, that of General
Flynn, he failed to tell the president and the vice president
of his meetings --- and he was promptly fired.)

There are many policies of the new administration which
are genuinely controversial. The new president has made
some mistakes, as every president in both parties does.
There is plenty for the opposition to bring up, and for the
media, to examine skeptically. That does not, however,
justify a weak opposition’s reliance on “fake news,” innuendo
and spitefulness in their public responsibilities.

Fort White House and Fort Mar Al Lago are under prolonged
sieges, but they are so far only sieges of words. They will no
doubt continue until next year’s mid-term elections. Who will
pay the greater price for this verbal warfare?

The answer will come when the voter cavalry arrives in 2018,
and whom they rescue.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 12, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: "Saudade" --- Should We Adopt It?

Here’s a foreign word most Americans would likely not ever
come across: saudade (sou-DAH-dthay).

It’s a word in the Portuguese language, and is often used not
only in its home country, but also in a land where Portuguese
is spoken the most --- Brazil.

In fact, it might surprise most Americans who speak English
as their native tongue to learn that about 270 million persons,
210 million in Brazil alone. speak this ancient romance language
derived, as most European languages were, from Latin. (The
Roman province where Portugal is located was called Lusitania.)
Portugal, with a population of about 11 million, isn’t even the
second largest nation speaking Portuguese. Two former
colonies, Angola and Mozambique, each with about 26 million
persons, have it as their official language. Portuguese is the
sixth most spoken language in the world.

So much for mere numbers.

Every language has at least a few words which are mostly
untranslatable. Saudade is one of those words in Portuguese.
Of course, there are a number of English words which hint at
its meaning, particularly “melancholy,” “nostalgia,” and
“longing for the past.” But those words don’t quite capture a
certain mood in the Portuguese/Brazilian character for the same
reason why popular American music, and the popular music of
any other ancient national peoples, have so many differences.

It is perhaps especially hard to translate saudade into English
which is so rich in vocabulary and diction, but not in emotion.

Nevertheless, in recent decades there has arisen considerable
popular American interest in the bossa nova and the samba,
those distinctive forms in Lusitanian-Brazilian music and

It should come as no surprise, that there is often much saudade
in the music of the bossa nova and the samba.

In fact, the rise of modern jazz and blues in American music
might be thought to bring new elements of emotion to our
popular music.

But why am I making so much about this one word?

Occasionally, a word usually limited to one country or one
culture, and not found anywhere else, captures a more universal
meaning and use because global circumstances have a use for it.

As an American whose family emigrated from northern Europe,
and a writer immersed in his own language, the emotional
nuances of more southern or even Mediterranean cultures are an
acquired taste. I do speak Spanish as a second language, but not
Portuguese --- and although derived from the same source, and
simultaneously, on the same ancient Iberian peninsula, Spanish
and Portuguese carry many different senses of feeling and

As I’ve grown older, and particularly as I have passed through
probably the most dynamic period of global technological change,
I have found myself often thinking back not only about experiences,
and “things” and “places” which existed in the past, but no longer.
I find then there occurs feelings which are not merely “nostalgia,”
but something more. These are not just memories, as are often
called back to mind, but they produce also an intense emotion, a
powerful sadness ---as one might feel when something is
irretrievably lost.

If the reader is about fifty years old or younger, this might well
not be a something they share or recognize. Even younger folks
who are used to ever-changing devices, dynamic images, and
new and faster forms of transportation, the non-rhetorical and
emotive sense of saudade might seem like gibberish, or (OMG)
too poetic, or worse, an alien notion.

I think, however, that my older readers --- even those from
Nordic, Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic origins --- perhaps might have
on occasion a sense of saudade, and the extra-rational feelings it

In another age, saudade might have easily been limited, as it
indeed was, to those who spoke a particular language and shared
some particular national experiences. Even in recent times,
memories of childhood and its objects, old films, old songs,
youthful adventures, persons known long ago and places visited
when young, have provoked conventional nostalgic feelings,
including their accompanying emotions, but I suggest that the
incredible velocities of change in almost every aspect of our lives
is now also producing a special emotion of loss as we recede from
the past so abruptly and so quickly.

In English there is no good word for this. Perhaps our
Portuguese-speaking neighbors have the right word for it.


Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Alternative Outcomes For 2018

We are now both close enough to, and far enough from, to
suggest three alternative outcomes to the 2018 national
mid-term elections.

The first is primarily a “paper” what-meets-the-eye outcome
that favors mostly the Republicans, but offers also some good
news for Democrats, especially at the state level.

In this scenario, the size of the GOP U.S. house majority is
likely to be diminished, but not by too much; the size of the
small GOP U.S. senate majority is likely to be moderately
expanded. On the other hand, in this “paper” model, the
Democrats would be likely to gain notably in governorships
and state legislatures now mostly led by Republicans. This
model assumes little impact from any Trump administration
success or lack of it, and neither a booming nor a sharply
declining economy.

The second possible outcome would be likely if the record of
President Trump and the Congress that his party now controls
is judged to be failing or unable to keep its campaign promises.
This could lead to sizable liberal gains in the U.S. house and
minimum GOP gains, if any, in the U.S. senate. Even should Mr.
Trump and his colleagues have some successes, if the U.S.
economy goes into another recession, the electoral prospects
for the conservatives would be likely more typical of mid-term
elections in which the party-in-power suffers net losses.

A third possible outcome is one not being much discussed
in the media, especially in the media hostile to Mr. Trump and
his party. In this scenario, the new administration breaks the
usual historical pattern of the first two years of a first term,
and succeeds in both transforming domestic public policy
while reestablishing U.S. military and political prestige in
foreign policy. At the outset of Mr. Trump’s term, this scenario
seemed “impossible” to Democrats, and even unlikely to many
Republicans, but as the new president “learns the ropes” of
Washington, and increasingly asserts himself on the world
stage, this outcome actually must be considered as a possibility.
But even should this transpire, the conservative party would also
need a continued upward motion in the economy, something
over which they more limited control. A program of tax cuts and
tax reform, however, would have notable impact, and this is
something the administration can do --- if it can successfully
negotiate the differences now existing in its own party.

These three general outcomes remain speculative at about 18
months from election day, 2018. On the other hand, this key
electoral moment is quickly approaching. In the contemporary
political environment, announcement of candidacies (previously
made at the end of the year before election day), now in most
cases must be made before the summer of the year before the
election --- well before many economic and issue trends are
apparent, and in this case, before it is clear whether or not the
new president and his administration is a success, a failure, or
something in between.

With so many international “hot spots” and crises, so many
domestic political forces pulling each major political party
apart, and now the clear sense of a global socio-economic
transformation taking place, there can be little doubt that what
lies ahead in U.S. politics will be robust excitement, surprises
and unexpected change.

Stay tuned in. Don’t change the dial.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


The presidential election in France provided no surprise when centrist candidate
Emmanuel Macron won a landslide victory over nationalist Marine Le Pen.

The biggest news from this election is that the trend of the demise of established
political parties in Western democratic nations continues. Neither of the two
traditional French parties had a candidate in the run-off election. M. Macron has
formed a new centrist party in France, and Mme. LePen has now promised to
form a new party, leaving behind the controversial party her father founded years
ago.The French parliamentary elections which will come soon will test the
existence of the four now-major parties, and possibly a fifth one if Mme Le Pen
succeeds in creating her new party in time.

Political party mitosis has now occurred, or is occurring, in most of the major
North American and European countries, including U.S., Canada, Spain,
United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and elsewhere.

President-elect Macron, 39, will take office next Sunday, and represents a belated
Gallic version of the model of left-to-center political figures that came to power
in the 1990s in the U.S. and U.K., Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. While both Mr.
Clinton and Mr. Blair were quite successful with their pro-entrepreneurial,
"third-way" liberal politics, their successors have moved decidedly to the left ---
and to political defeat.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: The House Does Its Job

The U.S. house of representatives, under its speaker, Paul Ryan,
finally passed the repeal of Obamacare, and replaced it with a
new plan for healthcare insurance. The vote was 217-213, two
votes more than necessary to pass the legislation.

An earlier version failed to gain enough support among the
members of the Republican majority, and was not even
brought to a vote. The reaction to this failure was considerable,
including censure from GOP President Trump who had
promised the repeal in the 2016 campaign.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare as it was known, 
was pushed through Congress in 2010 when the Democrats
held the majority in both the U.S. house and senate. The plan
incurred early and consistent criticism, and was a major
reason for Democratic election defeats in the mid-term votes
of 2010 and 2014.  After it went into full effect, it fiscal viability
quickly came into question, as costs rose and major insurance
companies abandoned the plan.

The revised GOP plan is considered by its advocates as a notable
improvement over the earlier conservative version, although
20 Republicans voted ‘no” on the final measure. All Democrats
voted “no.”

The legislation now goes to the U.S. senate where Republicans
have only a 52-48 majority. Some moderate GOP senators are
known to be unhappy with the legislation, and conventional
wisdom is that it will not pass there.

Even if the plan does pass the U.S. senate, any changes that
body makes must then go to conference (and, possibly,
reconciliation) and passage before it is sent to the president’s
desk for signing.

But immense pressure will now be on Republican senators to
okay the new legislation in advance of the 2018 mid-term
elections when conservatives have a rare opportunity to make
significant gains. Next year, only two GOP incumbent senate
seats are considered vulnerable, while 8-10 Democratic
incumbent seats are thought to be at risk. Should the GOP
senate majority fail to pass an Obamacare repeal bill, that
electoral opportunity could well be lost as national Democrats
would likely campaign against a “do-nothing” Congress
controlled by their opposition. GOP senate failure might also
harm efforts by the Trump administration to gain enough
votes for its next priority, tax reform.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who skillfully
guided the supreme court nomination of Neil Gorsuch to
confirmation, now has perhaps an even greater challenge
with the healthcare legislation just sent to the U.S. senate.

Speaker Paul Ryan, whose star had dimmed significantly after
the first effort to repeal Obamacare failed, has regained much
momentum, and President Donald Trump has achieved a
major short-term victory. Mr. Trump has also had a hard
lesson in the Washington, DC legislative process, and it will
be instructive to observe what he has learned in the months
ahead as he tries to play a key part in transforming his
Republican majority into a cohesive and cooperating
legislative body.

A true victory in healthcare insurance reform only takes place
when final legislation lands on the president’s desk and he
signs it.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.