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Dylan Scott

Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Dylan

When Republicans regain control of the Senate, they're likely going to expand the rules change that Democrats approved Thursday to apply to U.S. Supreme Court nominees, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said on the Senate floor.

The changes passed by Democrats affects votes on judicial and executive nominees -- requiring only 51 votes to end a filibuster -- but excludes nominees to the Supreme Court.

"The silver lining is that there will come a day when roles are reversed. When that happens, our side will likely nominate and confirm lower court and Supreme Court nominees with 51 votes," Grassley said, "regardless of whether the Democrats actually buy into this fanciful notion that they can demolish the filibuster on lower court nominees and still preserve it for Supreme Court."

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), one of three Democratic senators to vote against changing the Senate's filibuster rules, said that the change "could permanently damage the Senate."

"Today’s use of the ‘nuclear option’ could permanently damage the Senate and have negative ramifications for the American people," he said in a statement. "During my time in the Senate, I’ve played key roles in the Gang of 14 and other bipartisan coalitions to help us reach common-sense solutions that both sides of the aisle can support. This institution was designed to protect -- not stamp out -- the voices of the minority."

The other two Democrats who side with Republicans on the filibuster change were Carl Levin (D-MI) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).

It's a ruse, Senate Republicans said before and then after their Democratic colleagues voted Thursday to alter the filibuster rules for judicial and executive nominees. By their telling, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) needed to find something to change the subject after Obamacare's troubled rollout, which had dominated headlines in recent weeks. He found it in changing the Senate rules.

This wasn't about ending GOP obstruction of the president's nominees, they said. This was about distracting from the president's failed health care law.

“I’d be looking to change the subject just as Senate Democrats have been doing with their threats of going nuclear and changing the Senate rules on nominations," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on the floor before the vote. “Millions of Americans are hurting because of a law Washington Democrats forced upon them, and what do they do about it? They cook up some fake fight over judges that aren’t even needed."

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that Democrats would "pay a heavy, heavy price" for changing the Senate rules for judicial and executive nominees.

"They're governed by the newer members... who have never been in a minority, who are primarily driving this issue," McCain told reporters after the vote. "They succeeded and they will pay a very, very heavy price for it."

McCain said moments later, though, that he did not believe it would be a major election issue. "I don't think Americans understand it very well," he said.

Asked about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's push to eliminate the upper chamber's filibuster for judicial nominees, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters at his weekly press conference that he thought Reid was "trying to change the subject" from the troubled rollout of Obamacare.

"Sounds to me like Harry Reid is trying to change the subject," he said. "If I were taking all the incoming fire he's taking under Obamacare, I'd try to change the subject, too."

Recounting a Wednesday meeting with President Obama, state insurance commissioners said that the president did not pressure them to go along with his plan for people whose health policies had been canceled.

The meeting, held in the Oval Office, lasted 50 minutes. Bill Nelson, the former U.S. senator who heads the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, told reporters that he initiated the meeting after Obama announced his plan last week.

The plan is predicated on commissioners letting their state's insurance companies to extend non-Obamacare-compliant plans. But it's up to them. And, though a letter sent last week by the administration had "encouraged" state officials to comply, the commissioners said that Obama hadn't tried to convince them to participate during the Wednesday meeting.

"I don't think the president was trying to convince us or persuade us to do what he's suggesting," Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Tom Leonardi, told reporters. "I think it was the exact opposite, that he really understands the value of state regulators, that he really wants to work with the NAIC."

"That's really what it was about. It wasn't the president trying to persuade us or stiff-arm us," he said.

"We came away agreeing that there was a lot of difference of opinions as to whether or not we can or should do what he urged us to do last week," Louisiana Insurance Commissioner and NAIC President Jim Donelon said later.

According to the Washington Post's Wonkblog, which is tracking state commissioners' responses to the fix: six states have agreed to it, six states have said they won't, and seven states have publicly said they're still deciding. The others haven't made public statements.

The three years since the Affordable Care Act passed -- 2011, 2012 and 2013 -- have seen the slowest growth in health care spending since 1965, when the statistic began being consistently tracked, according to a new White House report.

That's great news, but the source of that trend is important. For the last couple years, most experts have credited the Great Recession for much of the decline. It makes sense: When times are tough, people are going to do what they can to minimize spending on everything, including health care.

But the second goal of Obamacare, beyond expanding health coverage to the uninsured, was getting health care costs under control. Health care spending had grown by an average annual rate of 3.9 percent between 2000 and 2007, before dipping to 1.8 percent between 2007 and 2010. According to the new report, the average annual rate of growth from 2011 to 2013 dropped still further, to 1.3 percent.

At some point, the White House needs to prove that the law is achieving that objective. According to the report released Wednesday, they think they have the evidence to say it's starting to. Jason Furman, chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors, explained why in a briefing with a small group of reporters.

The case is built on three parts.

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HealthCare.gov is going to get fixed. The White House has promised it. Republicans have admitted it. But that's not the end of the story for Obamacare, not by a long shot.

The Affordable Care Act is the biggest social services program to be implemented since the Great Society. It's a grand experiment in whether, with a mix of incentives and regulations, the government can expand health coverage and reduce health care costs without eliminating the free market. It's something that's never been attempted before on this scale in American government.

That experiment is, as the Obama administration has become fond of saying, much more than a website. And its success won't be guaranteed just because the website is working -- just as it wasn't doomed because the site wasn't.

So what's next on the list? What are the other markers that will tell us if the law is working as it was intended -- or if it isn't?

With some input from health policy experts, here's what to be watching for once HealthCare.gov gets fixed. Remember: It could take months, and in some cases years, until conclusions can be reached on these issues.

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Obamacare enrollment seems to be recovering from its slow start and picking up in the last few weeks, according to news reports.

The New York Times reported Monday that more than 50,000 Americans had selected a health plan through HealthCare.gov, the federal website serving 36 states, as of mid-November. That's up from about 27,000 who had picked a plan over the entire month of October.

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