Matt Shuham

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously associate editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at and on Twitter @mattshuham.

Articles by Matt

The chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee incorrectly claimed Thursday that the only people who have to worry about rising costs under Republicans’ health bill are the “very tiny segment of the country” that “waits until they’re sick to buy insurance.”

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) made that claim in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday; his characterization of the bill is shaky at best.

Walden correctly said that the removal of Obamacare’s pricing protections would only apply to states that opt out of the protections, called “community rating.” He correctly said that those states would have to attempt to cover people with pre-existing conditions in order to opt out. And he correctly said that technically only individuals who do not “have continuous health insurance coverage” would lose that protection against medical underwriting, or charging higher premiums based on health status.

However, far more people would be affected than those who wait until they are sick to buy insurance.

The Meadows-MacArthur amendment to Republicans’ bill specifies that anyone without insurance for longer than 63 days during the previous 12 months would lose those protections — that includes unemployed people who used to be covered by their employer, or individuals in the marketplace who could no longer afford coverage for that time.

Even individuals who maintain continuous coverage could face higher premium costs. The loss of community rating encourages separate markets for healthy and sick people, with the former taking advantage of the loss of community rating in order to receive lower-cost care, and the latter bearing the financial burden.

Watch Walden’s claim below:

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Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) introduced an amendment to the American Health Care Act Wednesday that would provide $8 billion over five years to help cover the insurance costs of individuals with pre-existing conditions.

A previous amendment to the AHCA, from Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), drew criticism from some Republicans — Upton among them — worried that it removed Obamacare’s price protections for those individuals in certain states.

Read Upton’s amendment below:

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Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) on Wednesday blamed America’s size, diversity and “inner cities” for its lack of universal health care.

The justification came in an exchange with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi over universal health care. Velshi presented Walsh with data that the U.S. health care system ranks last among 11 wealthy nations, all the rest of which had universal health care.

“You can’t compare the rest of the world to us,” Walsh replied. “They do not have the big diverse populations that we have. They do not have the inner-city populations that we have.”

Later, when Velshi brought up the point again — that the United States ranks poorly in life expectancy, access to care and a variety of other measures — Walsh again brought up diversity. 

“I love you, my friend, but you cannot — Sweden does not have our inner-city population,” he said. “Norway, these countries do not have — you’re talking about countries the size of India with homogenous populations, Ali. You can’t compare them to what we have!”

Velshi brought up Canada, more diverse than the United States and with better health outcomes. Many nations with universal health care are more ethnically diverse than the United States.

Watch the exchange below via MSNBC:

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer dismissed an analysis that found premiums for some people with pre-existing conditions would skyrocket under Republicans’ amended health care bill, saying it was “impossible” to know the cost to cover affected individuals.

The AARP’s Public Policy Institute wrote Thursday that “We project that if states return to pre-ACA high-risk pools in 2019, as proposed, high-risk pool premiums for people with pre-existing conditions could be as high as $25,700 annually.”

An amendment to the American Health Care Act would allow states to eliminate Obamacare’s price protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions, if the states establish high-risk pools for those individuals in their place. Critics say those pools make insurance unsustainably expensive for sick people. On Wednesday, Spicer announced the White House’s support for another amendment from Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), which would invest $8 billion in the pools over five years.

Asked if that would be enough money to sufficiently supplement the pools, Spicer said it was impossible to know.

“There are so many variables that are unknown that to make an analysis of that level of precision seems almost impossible,” Spicer said, noting that it was impossible to know which states would seek the exemption, nor how many individuals with pre-existing conditions would go without care for more than 63 days, at which point insurance companies could charge higher prices.

He added later: “For someone to know how many people that is, what number of states are going to receive a waiver, ask for it and receive a waiver, is literally impossible at this point. So to do an analysis of any level of factual basis would be literally not possible.”

The AARP explains on its website that it simply divided total premium revenue from high-risk pools in 2010 by the number of individuals enrolled in those pools, and then adjusted for inflation and other factors to 2019, when the AHCA would take effect. It did not address which states would opt to eliminate the Obamacare rule, instead measuring costs in high-risk pools themselves. The analysis was published before the proposed $8 billion supplement was announced.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office still hasn’t released an analysis on the Republicans’ amended proposal, though its analysis of the initial proposal found that 24 million more people would be uninsured by 2026 versus the status quo were it to be implemented.

One reporter asked Spicer if Republicans wouldn’t wait for a new analysis.

“The vote is going to happen, as I’ve said like eight times now, when the speaker and the majority leader and the majority whip want to,” he replied. “Our job is to work as hard as we can to work with members of Congress who want to see the health care system improved. That’s what we’re doing, that’s what we’ve done. And so it will be up to the House leadership to decide when to vote. 

Earlier on Wednesday, the White House budget director projected a vote on health care could occur as early as Saturday.

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Two photos posted online by a supporter of the Trump administration offered a unique, if perhaps purposefully staged, window into the White House chief strategist’s priorities and worldview.

In a visit to the White House for Israeli Independence Day Tuesday, the politically conservative rabbi Shmuley Boteach took two pictures in front of what appears to be an administration-wide checklist in Steve Bannon’s office. Boteach later posted them on Twitter.

Boteach wrote for Breitbart News while Bannon ran the publication, and has defended the Trump administration in posts on the site since.

The existence of the list has been reported before, but this appears to be the first time images of it have been published.

Interestingly, Bannon has checkmarks beside agenda items that are anything but accomplished.

“Cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities,” a pledge laid out in an expansive immigration-related executive order on Jan. 25, for example, was temporarily blocked by the North California U.S. District Court.

The government was unsuccessful in arguing that the executive order created no new legal authority and instead simply exercised the President’s “bully pulpit.” Judge William Orrick III pointed to the attorney general’s own public statements to poke holes in that interpretation.

Other checked-off whiteboard items were similarly issued as executive orders and then blocked by courts, citing the administration’s public statements: “suspend immigration from terror-prone regions,” “suspend the Syrian refugee program” and others. Indeed, Bannon’s checks may simply indicate that the administration has taken action on the agenda items, not that it has achieved them.

Some of the agenda items have seen some progress, especially those focused on deputizing local law enforcement to assist with the deportation of undocumented immigrants. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to TPM’s questions about the bullet point related to the agency.

The Secure Communities program, under which local law enforcement processed fingerprints for ICE, was used by both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations until Obama replaced it with a more limited version in 2014.

Trump re-instituted the original version with his Jan. 25 executive order.

The same order instructed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to work with local law enforcement to streamline voluntary cooperation between them and federal immigration authorities under section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Any check mark from Bannon on that point isn’t visible in Boteach’s photos.

“ICE approved eight new 287(g) applications in February and approved 18 more in April,” the agency said in an email to TPM. “Applications are continuously accepted on a rolling basis and are reviewed by a board comprised of representatives from various agency program offices.”

He did check off “triple the number of ICE agents,” announced in the same executive order. In reality, actually hiring 10,000 highly competent immigration agents on short notice has proven challenging, as CNN reported in early March.

The agency told TPM that it is “working on implementing a plan to hire the additional 10,000 employees mandated in the executive order,” but did not specify how many new agents had been hired.

“Issue detainers for all illegal immigrants who are arrested for any crime, and they will be placed into immediate removal proceedings,” also checked, was embarked upon in the same order. It specified not only that convicted criminals — of any offense — are prioritized for deportation, but also individuals “charged with any criminal offense,” those who “have committed acts that constitute a chargeable offense” and even individuals who in the judgement of an immigration officer “otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”

“Build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it,” listed midway down Bannon’s board, is still just a glint in the President’s eye.

To the left of the top White House adviser, the administration’s “Pledges on Tax Reform” begin with a “10% repatriation tax” — a discount, to lure corporate profit back from overseas — followed by “lower the corporate tax rate to 15%,” “eliminate the estate tax,” “eliminate the carried interest loophole,” and other eliminations and pledges just out of sight, blocked by Bannon’s head.

The White House released a one-page summary of a plan incorporating these points in time for Trump’s 100th day in office. On Bannon’s board, as in the Republican Congress, they remain unchecked.

This post has been updated.

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The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee challenged the FBI director’s claim Wednesday that announcing a development in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email within days of the 2016 election was necessary.

The real choice FBI Director James Comey faced, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) wrote on Twitter, wasn’t whether to “conceal or speak” about the development, but rather whether or not to stick to the Justice Department’s policy against actions that could affect candidates close to an election.

During an oversight hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Comey explained his decision to announce the development — which yielded no new relevant information, but which Clinton has cited in part as the reason she lost the 2016 election.

“I stared at ‘speak’ and ‘conceal,’ and ‘speak’ would be really bad,” Comey said, referring to his decision to tell congressional leaders about the ultimately insignificant development in what had been a closed investigation. “There’s an election days away—Lordy, that would be really bad. Concealing in my view would be catastrophic, not just to the FBI but well beyond. And honestly as between really bad and catastrophic, I said to my team we’ve got to walk into the world of really bad.”

“Anybody who disagrees with me with me has to come back to Oct. 28 with me and stare at this and tell me what you would do,” Comey added. Would you speak or would you conceal?” he asked separately. “I could be wrong, but we honestly made the decision in those two choices and even in hindsight, and this has been one of the most painful decisions, I would make the same decision. I would not conceal that to Congress.”

Schiff later released an emailed statement on Comey’s reasoning:

Director Comey testified that his choice was to ‘conceal or speak’ about the Clinton investigation in the latter two weeks of the campaign. This highly-loaded description meant to justify the decision he made in the waning days of the presidential campaign is a poor characterization of the choice he faced. After all, and by this measure, the FBI Director chose to conceal the Trump investigation and reveal the Clinton investigation.

Nor does the distinction he has sought to make between the ‘open’ Trump investigation and the ‘closed’ Clinton investigation hold up to scrutiny. During the last weeks of the campaign, the Director reopened the Clinton investigation and it was then in precisely the same posture as the Trump investigation. The real choice the Director faced was between abiding by DOJ policy against discussing investigatory matters around an election or ignoring that policy, between consistency in his handling of the two investigations or inconsistency. Regrettably, for the Bureau, Department and the public interest, the Director chose to violate sound policy, taking the path of unjustifiable inconsistency.”

This post has been updated.

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Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, doesn’t want low-income housing and other resources for people struggling economically or with drugs to be too comfortable.

That sentiment came in an interview with the New York Times published Wednesday, during a tour of low-income housing and facilities for the chronically homeless, drug addicts and the elderly.

According to the paper, Carson said that “compassion” did not mean “a comfortable setting that would make somebody want to say: ‘I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.’”

He noted separately that mentally ill, elderly and disabled people couldn’t be expected “to do a great deal to take care of themselves,” but that “[t]here is another group of people who are able-bodied individuals, and I think we do those people a great disservice when we simply maintain them.”

Huge swaths of the HUD budget were on the chopping block in the White House’s proposed “skinny” budget, but the agency escaped many deep cuts in the spending agreement Congress reached over the weekend.

In March, for example, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Meals on Wheels, funded through Community Development Block Grants, wasn’t “showing any results.” In the spending agreement, CDBG funding stayed consistent with 2016 levels.

Carson downplayed the White House’s threats to cut funding to the Times.

“I know they have been called out for elimination. My impression is that what he is really saying is that there are problems with those programs,” he said, referring to Trump’s proposal of a 13 percent cut in HUD’s budget. “And I think it may have been someone on his staff who kind of said, ‘Well, maybe we just need to get rid of the whole program.’ No, we don’t need to get rid of the whole program because there are some extremely good things there.”

Still, a multi-city listening tour with recipients of HUD funding doesn’t seem to have changed Carson’s spartan view of the purpose of low-income housing and other sources of federal dollars.

“We are talking about incentivizing those who help themselves,” he told the executive director of a housing center for recovering drug addicts, who asked for more federal help housing addicts. The Times reported he later asked how comfortable the center’s residents were allowed to get.

Read the full Times report here.

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White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney was bullish on the chances of Republicans’ health care bill Wednesday, saying he expected a House vote on the bill as early as Saturday.

In an interview with “Fox and Friends,” Mulvaney said a reported amendment from Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), which would increase funding individuals with pre-existing conditions, could swing moderate Republican votes.

“What I heard this morning driving into work was that Mr. Upton will be offering an amendment, I think today, that will tweak the funding in such a fashion that may bring the moderates over,” he said. “So you may be seeing a breakthrough this morning on the health care bill on the Hill and you may see a vote, I don’t know, as early as Saturday.

Upton announced Tuesday that he could not support the Obamacare repeal effort if the replacement bill stripped Obamacare’s pricing protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions. President Donald Trump will meet with Upton and Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), another prominent “no” vote, on Wednesday, Long told CNN.

Asked if House Republicans had the votes to pass the bill, Mulvaney said: “That’s a really good question.”

“I think it’s really, really close,” he continued. “I think, if hard pressed, if I were the Speaker of the House — and I’m not, and by the way I’m thankful I’m not, it’s a miserable job — I would probably go to the floor today because it is just that close.”

“You would go to the floor for a vote?” Brian Kilmeade interjected.

“Oh yeah, yeah,” Mulvaney said.

He echoed that sentiment in an interview Wednesday morning with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo.

“We’re going to do what we do, which is try and fix the country,” he said.

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The husband of the GOP candidate running for Congress in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District tweeted a meme urging voters to “Free The Black Slaves From The Democratic Plantation.”

A spokesperson for Karen Handel’s campaign told CNN that Steve Handel’s reposting of the message with his own commentary was a “mistake,” and that Steve Handel had “retweeted something he didn’t pay a lot of attention to, thinking it was just an absentee vote message. It clearly was not appropriate and has been deleted.”

CNN posted screen captures of both Steve Handel’s retweet, and the original post:

Handel is currently in a run-off election with Democrat Jon Ossoff to determine who will fill Secretary Health and Human Services Tom Price’s vacant seat in Congress.

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