Keystone XL Pipeline a Go… Maybe…

Welp… this is bad news mixed with some spotty hope…

From Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration approved TransCanada Corp’s (TRP.TO) Keystone XL pipeline on Friday, cheering the oil industry and angering environmentalists even as further hurdles for the controversial project loom.

The approval reverses a decision by former President Barack Obama to reject the project, but the company still needs to win financing, acquire local permits, and fend off likely legal challenges for the pipeline to be built.

“TransCanada will finally be allowed to complete this long-overdue project with efficiency and with speed,” Trump said in the Oval Office before turning to ask TransCanada Chief Executive Officer Russell Girling when construction would start.

“We’ve got some work to do in Nebraska to get our permits there,” Girling replied.

“Nebraska?” Trump said. “I’ll call Nebraska.”

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Trumpcare Pulled

From Daily Kos

Multiple sources are reporting that the House has pulled the vote on Trumpcare, breaking their own promise of the past seven years to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Seven years they had to come up with some kind of bill to replace it. Seven years they had every conservative policy wonk (the real ones, not Paul Ryan) providing advice and offering ideas. In seven years they did squat.

Well, not entirely squat. They had over 60 votes to repeal Obamacare in part or in whole. Every one of those votes was estimated to cost $1.45 million dollars—each vote—of taxpayer money. That’s not counting all the staff time, the committee time, the opportunity cost of everything that was postponed or just not done because of their single-minded obsession on this one thing. Billions of dollars spent—just on votes—not on all the campaign ads for this.

Seven years. They had seven years. And all they had to show for it was a crappy cut-and-paste job from the original law. A bad bill that destroyed Medicaid (Paul Ryan’s frat-boy “dream”), destabilized Medicare, and threw 24 million people off of healthcare.

All for the tax cuts for the wealthy.

And in the process, they self-inflicted incalculable wounds. Ryan had to pull this vote, after strong-arming and threatening his members, even though it would be damaging to them back home. It damaged Ryan AND Trump in the process and makes it even harder for Republicans to pass anything in the future.

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How the GOP Health Care Proposal Hurts Mental Health

Let’s get a little more specific, shall we? From the Pacific Standard

One of Congress’ rare bipartisan victories under the Obama administration was the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill hastily passed last December that, among other provisions, intended to allocate $6.8 million to mental-health services and expand access to services on both a federal and state level. Despite the bill’s financial pittance, as well as mounting complaints that other provisions within the bill adversely affect Medicare while aiding pharmaceutical companies’ bottom lines, the 21st Century Cures Act was hailed as a symbolic, yet necessary, victory for a divided Congress. The message was clear: mental health matters.

But now, as the Trump administration’s contentious health-care bill comes to a vote on the House floor later today, Congress finds itself more divided than ever — even within the Republican Party itself. With less care at higher costs, constituents of all political leanings are worried about what a change could mean for their coverage: a group that includes the millions of people who rely on Obamacare for their mental-health treatment. Roughly 42.5 million Americans deal with mental illness each year; about one out of five adults. What would this change mean for them?

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Late GOP Proposal for Health Care is Sicker Than Imagined

From the New York Times

Why should a 60-year-old man have to buy a plan that includes maternity benefits he’ll never use? (This is an example that comes up a lot.) In contrast, the Affordable Care Act includes a list of benefits that have to be in every plan, a reality that makes insurance comprehensive, but often costly.

I mean…

At first glance, this may sound like a wonderful policy. Why should that 60-year-old man have to pay for maternity benefits he will never use? If 60-year-old men don’t need to pay for benefits they won’t use, the price of insurance will come down, and more people will be able to afford that coverage, the thinking goes. And people who want fancy coverage with extra benefits can just pay a little more for the plan that’s right for them.

Most Republicans in Congress prefer the type of health insurance market in which everyone could “choose the plan that’s right for them.”

Why should a 60-year-old man have to buy a plan that includes maternity benefits he’ll never use? (This is an example that comes up a lot.) In contrast, the Affordable Care Act includes a list of benefits that have to be in every plan, a reality that makes insurance comprehensive, but often costly.

Now, a group of conservative House members is trying to cut a deal to get those benefit requirements eliminated as part of the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act moving through Congress. (The vote in the House is expected later today.)

At first glance, this may sound like a wonderful policy. Why should that 60-year-old man have to pay for maternity benefits he will never use? If 60-year-old men don’t need to pay for benefits they won’t use, the price of insurance will come down, and more people will be able to afford that coverage, the thinking goes. And people who want fancy coverage with extra benefits can just pay a little more for the plan that’s right for them.

But there are two main problems with stripping away minimum benefit rules. One is that the meaning of “health insurance” can start to become a little murky. The second is that, in a world in which no one has to offer maternity coverage, no insurance company wants to be the only one that offers it.

Below the fold is a list of all the things Rethugs are trying to cut…

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Gorsuch Confirmation Should be Delayed for Russia Investigation

Here’s something I agree with, from Politico

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a delay of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation Tuesday given the ongoing FBI investigation into potential collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

“You can bet, if the shoe were on the other foot and a Democratic president was under investigation by the FBI, the Republicans would be howling at the moon about filling a Supreme Court seat in such circumstances,” Schumer said on the floor.

His call was later echoed by Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who tweeted that FBI Director James Comey “testified @realDonaldTrump’s campaign is under investigation for collusion with Russia. Lifetime court appointments can wait.”

The emerging Democratic demand is highly unlikely to gain traction with Senate GOP leaders, who are planning a vote on Gorsuch early next month. But the move illustrates Schumer’s interest in using the stain of an FBI probe to undercut the rest of Trump’s agenda and echoes entreaties by liberal groups that have pressured Democrats to filibuster Gorsuch.

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A Double Whammy from James Comey

I’m still mad at James Comey for his actions during the election.

I know that blame for Agent Orange’s win is spread very thin, as, at least for me, Bernie Bros, white people, conservatives, hacking, the Electoral College, the Democratic Party, and many, many more things and people can be blamed for Clinton’s ultimate loss (despite her massive popular vote win). But I do think Comey shares at least a little of the blame.

However… he also seems to be trying to make up, at least a tiny bit, for his actions. He has not been cooperative with Agent Orange at all, and these are yet more proof of that…

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Agent Orange Published List of Agencies That Refuse to Cooperate With Deportations

From the Washington Post:

Homeland Security officials on Monday unveiled the administration’s first list of law enforcement agencies that refused to detain jailed immigrants beyond their release dates so that the federal government could take them into custody and try to deport them.

Federal officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in a conference call with reporters, said local agencies, including some in Maryland and Virginia, failed to honor 206 detention requests from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3.

On the plus side, at least most of will know who the “good guys” are in this…

But this bullying tactic cannot go unpunished.

Like I Said… Agent Orange Actively Wants to Make Climate Change Worse

So here’s what Conspiracy-Theorist-in-Chief wants to do to the EPA (from the Washington Post):

The Trump administration plans to take a sledgehammer to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Thursday’s proposal by the White House would slash the EPA’s budget by 31 percent — nearly one third — from its current level of $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion. It would cut 3,200 positions, or more than 20 percent of the agency’s current workforce of about 15,000.

“You can’t drain the swamp and leave all the people in it. So, I guess the first place that comes to mind will be the Environmental Protection Agency,” Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters. “The president wants a smaller EPA. He thinks they overreach, and the budget reflects that.”

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Islamophobic Travel Ban Part 2… Blocked… Part 2

From CNN

Two federal judges have temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s travel ban, both citing Trump’s statements about Muslims during the presidential campaign as part of their rulings.

A ruling by a federal judge in Hawaii Wednesday resulted in a temporary restraining order nationwide, hours before it was set to go into effect. In a decision published Thursday morning, another federal judge in Maryland specifically blocked the 90-day ban on immigration for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries.

In a 43-page ruling, US District Court Judge Derrick Watson, who presides in Honolulu, concluded in no uncertain terms that the new executive order failed to pass legal muster at this stage and the state had established “a strong likelihood of success” on their claims of religious discrimination.

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