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PHIL GRAMM: How to Complete the Escape From ObamaCare. “Congress eliminated the individual mandate. There’s a way around the other onerous regulations.”

Democratic leaders in Congress were quick to recognize that Idaho’s plan to grant health-care freedom to its citizens posed a mortal threat to ObamaCare. Sens. Patty Murray and Ron Wyden were joined by Reps. Frank Pallone and Richard Neal in sending an intimidating letter to the director of Idaho’s Department of Insurance, threatening massive fines and demanding emails and phone records. Since Idaho has shown no sign of backing down, this battle is certain to escalate. Democrats clearly understand that if Idaho is able to market its “Freedom” insurance, as many as 30 Republican-led states will quickly follow its lead. Health-care freedom in Idaho could lead to the de facto end of ObamaCare throughout America.

The Trump administration and Congress are also working to expand health-care freedom nationwide. When the current administration reversed President Obama’s policy of making cost-sharing payments to keep insurance companies in the exchanges, insurers responded by raising the price of their federally subsidized benchmark insurance options. This premium increase on the benchmark policies triggered an automatic increase in the subsidies, all funded by federal taxpayers. State insurance regulators conveniently looked the other way in 2017, but ObamaCare specifically granted the federal government rate-review powers to prevent insurance companies from gaming the system. The benchmark ruse is unlikely to pass HHS scrutiny in 2018.

Before the repeal of the tax penalty, Democrats couldn’t bear the political cost of being seen as dismantling ObamaCare, but they will be forced to act as the program contracts. As healthier families flee the exchanges and premiums spiral, Democrats will be desperate to boost the subsidies. Politically, it will be very difficult for Democrats to deny people who have voluntarily left the exchanges the freedom to buy their own health insurance independent of ObamaCare regulations. Their stubborn reluctance to permit more-flexible plans will provide cover for Republicans to oppose increasing subsidies to the exchanges.

Since actually repealing ObamaCare proved too much for hundreds of Republicans who ran for years on just such a promise, this might be the next best thing.

MICHAEL BARONE: Democrats can take the House, if they just pick Conor Lamb over Hillary Clinton.

The pattern of Lamb’s narrow victory was similar to results in other special congressional and state legislative elections over the past year. Democratic turnout was robust, particularly in relatively upscale Pittsburgh suburbs. Republican turnout lagged, and some non-college whites who voted for Trump and Romney voted Democratic this time.

Evidently, downscale whites, whose trend toward Republicans started in the 1990s and was augmented with the Trump candidacy, are less firmly attached to one party than Trump-haters are to the other. This is in line with the skeptical response to any new policy change by either party, as evidenced by the negative responses to Obamacare when Barack Obama was in office and the negative response to Republicans’ “repeal and replace” once Trump became president.

Some observers argued that Saccone, like other Republican nominees in special elections, was a weak candidate. A better observation is that Lamb was a strong one. Nominated by party leaders, not in a primary, he has a family political pedigree (his uncle is Pittsburgh city controller) in a long-settled metro area where such ties are important.

And he took moderate positions on multiple issues. A former Marine, he ran an ad showing him shooting an AR-15 and said, “new gun laws aren’t the answer to preventing more mass shootings like the one at a Florida high school.” Early on, he pledged not to vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker (an issue which won’t come up until at least January 2019). While many Democrats are baying for impeachment, Lamb said, “We need the office of the presidency to succeed if we’re going to make any progress on these issues.”

Alternate take:

RANDY BARNETT: The New Challenge to Obamacare.

Readers may be familiar with a new constitutional challenge by 20 state attorneys general to the Affordable Care Act, which Ilya blogged about here. Their argument, in a nutshell, is that with the amount of the penalty for failing to have health insurance now set to zero, the individual insurance “requirement”–AKA the “individual mandate”–can no longer be justified as a tax. This is so because one of the essential characteristics of a tax is that it raises at least some revenue for the government. For this reason, the “saving construction” employed by Chief Justice Roberts no longer applies, as it is no longer even a “reasonably possible” reading of the insurance requirement, which now raises no revenue.

On this claim, the AG’s are on very strong ground. To the extent they are correct, the NFIB v. Sebelius was a bigger victory than we realized when it was decided, as it left the insurance mandate susceptible to being killed off in this way via reconciliation.

Because this constitutional claim makes sense, the attention will turn to the issue of standing and, perhaps, mainly to severability. If the insurance requirement is invalidated, does that bring down the rest of the Affordable Care Act?

Read the whole thing.

And it’s sad to have to say this, but Obama being gone — along with his implicit threat to go to war against SCOTUS over ObamaCare — might be a critical factor in Chief Justice John Roberts’ thinking.

JAMES MORROW: Share Bikes Were Always Doomed To Fail.

Well, I told you so.

ED MORRISSEY: 20 States Sue To End ObamaCare — And They Might Have A Point.

The original 5-4 decision on NFIB v Sebelius et al was intellectually shaky at the time, especially with its reliance on a lower-order argument on the power of taxation. Removing the tax penalties from the mandate eliminates the factual crutch used by Justice Roberts. In the syllabus to his majority opinion, Roberts expressly found that “the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause,” on which he expands shortly afterward.

Without the tax penalty, the entire structure becomes problematic — at least if we go by Roberts’ opinion that carved out the constitutional niche in the first place.

So yes, the removal of the tax does make the mandate ripe for a court to strike down. The mandate, though, is also meaningless without the penalty. The question is whether striking down the mandate would cause the court to strike down the entire ACA — and that seems unlikely.

This wouldn’t even be an issue to discuss had the GOP fulfilled its longstanding promise to repeal ObamaCare.

HECKUVA JOB TODAY, CNN:

CNN’s Tapper Sits Back as Student Equates Rubio to School Shooter.

Good talk: Someone in CNN’s town hall audience yells, ‘You’re a murderer!’ at Dana Loesch.

CNN confronts female Trump supporter to tell her she was part of Russia’s election meddling.

All of which is why Ben Shapiro explains why CNN’s ‘show trial’ won’t play out as gun control advocates think.

QED:

UPDATE: At Hot Air, Allahpundit explores “The very fair and balanced ‘students stand up to evil gun owners’ CNN town hall:”

Think I’m being snarky with the headline? The actual network-approved title of tonight’s event is “Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action.” This is an advocacy event, not a “news program,” and they’re making no bones about it. I did some cursory googling this morning to see if CNN has ever hosted something so overtly biased towards one side’s position on a hot-button issue and came up empty.

It’s the flip-side to 2009, when CNN employed a children’s choir to shill for Obamacare and heckled Tea Party members.

THERE’S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO REPEAL AND REPLACE OBAMACARE: Republicans in Congress failed to repeal and replace Obamacare but President Donald Trump is still searching around the dark corners of the federal bureaucracy to root out as much of President Barack Obama’s “signature achievement” as possible.

One significant area is in allowing people to buy short-term health insurance coverage policies when that’s what they need, rather than being forced by Washington bureaucrats to pay unbelievably high premiums for benefits they don’t need. Obama closed off this option in the waning days of his administration. Now Trump is re-opening it. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is again predicting apocalypse.

CHANGE: Dems fume as Trump pushes low-cost, ObamaCare alternative health plans.

The proposed regulations would allow insurers to sell individual consumers “short-term” policies that can last up to 12 months, have fewer benefits, and come with lower premiums.

The plans also would come with a disclaimer that they don’t meet the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protection requirements, such as guaranteed coverage. Insurers could also charge consumers more if an individual’s medical history discloses health problems.

But at a time of rising premiums, Trump administration officials touted the option as a boost for those who need coverage but don’t qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies and would otherwise face paying the full premium cost.

“We need to be opening up more affordable alternatives,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters. “It’s one step in the direction of providing Americans with alternatives that are both more affordable and more suited to individual and family circumstances.”

Good.

CHANGE? Democrats Hoping for a Shocker in Trump Country. “Conor Lamb is running as a pro-gun, pro-union, pro-drilling Democrat in a region where voters have defected from the party en masse. Republicans hope that tying him to Nancy Pelosi is all that’s needed to hold onto this seat—and perhaps the House majority.”

Josh Kraushaar:

This slice of western Pennsylvania is filled with politically homeless voters, once-reliable Democrats who have grown alienated by their party’s drift leftward. Many of these up-for-grabs constituents don’t fit any neat political typologies: They’re gun-owning seniors who want to make sure their entitlement programs are protected. They champion the fracking boom that has revitalized the region’s economy, but also care about clean air and water. They’re compassionate towards immigrants, but want them to learn English and assimilate into American society. A majority voted for Walter Mondale in 1984, but became Donald Trump supporters in 2016.

These are the type of voters that Democrats need to win back if they hope to hold governing majorities into the future. And these Pennsylvanians will soon be rendering a critical verdict that will be heard around the country in a closely watched congressional election on March 13: Can the party win back some of these blue-collar voters that have been drifting unmistakably towards Republicans?

Running “moderates” all across the nation helped the Democrats win the House in 2006 — moderates who went on, by and large, to vote in favor of ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, etc.

IN THE MAIL: Unraveled: Obamacare, Religious Liberty, and Executive Power.

Plus, fresh Gold Box and Lightning Deals. New deals every hour. Your patronage is always appreciated!

SCOTT RASMUSSEN: One Major Difference Between 2010 and 2018:

As we head into the 2018 midterms, there is a reasonable chance that President Trump could become the fourth straight president to lose control of Congress. To win a majority in the House, Democrats need to gain 24 seats. In four of the last ten midterm elections, the party out of power has picked up more than 24 seats and the political environment currently seems strong for the Democrats. It’s easy to identify where the Democrats could make their gains. At ScottRasmussen.com, we currently rate 45 House races as potentially competitive. Thirty-eight of them are currently held by Republicans.

For all the similarities, however, there is one huge difference between 2010 and 2018. It’s the difference between Obamacare and the Republican tax cut.

After it passed, Obamacare never gained ground in the court of public opinion. There were no short-term benefits for voters but many unpleasant surprises. Millions were unable to keep their doctor, buying insurance didn’t mean you could find a doctor who would take it, and the prices went up rather than down. Over time, the reality of Obamacare proved to be such a drag on Democrats that Republicans now hold more political power than at any point since the 1920s.

In contrast, the tax cut has already seen a big jump in public approval because the results have pleasantly surprised voters.

Yes, there’s a big difference between tying yourself to a deeply unpopular legislative package and tying yourself to a popular one.

CHANGE: Remember the so-called “death panels”? They’re gone, repealing another key and unpopular component of Obamacare. “It was always a stretch to claim that Republicans had ‘basically repealed Obamacare’ just by repealing the individual mandate. But getting rid of the individual mandate and the Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board? Now we’re getting somewhere. The IPAB board was created under Obamacare and given the duty to slow the growth of Medicare spending, but no board members were ever nominated. But as written under the law, IPAB would have enjoyed a lot of power over what Medicare was willing to pay for and how much, with little opportunity for Congress to overrule their decisions. This deal gets rid of IPAB for good.”

Good.

And the above is just one item in Jim Geraghty’s look at the good and the bad in the spending caps deal.

WASN’T THAT THE WHOLE POINT OF OBAMACARE’S CRONYISM? Warren on Medicare for All: ‘Taxpayers Have Helped Make Insurance Companies Wildly Profitable.’

THE L.A. TIMES: Mankind Peoplekind Humanity will need to make some drastic changes if it wants to keep the ‘good life’ going.

 In theory, wealthy nations could cut way back on their resource use while maintaining their achievements on the social front. Some straightforward first steps include “switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, producing products with longer lifetimes, reducing unnecessary waste, shifting from animal to crop products, and investing in new technologies,” the researchers wrote.

And in a future world “with very different social arrangements or technologies,” there could be a different equation for converting natural resources into human well-being that allows everyone to enjoy all aspects of the good life, O’Neill said.

“Is this realistic?” he said. “I hope so, because the alternative could be environmental catastrophe.”

Funny how these articles never end with “and that’s why we’re shuttering our publication and its office buildings and air conditioned server farm for the future of humanity,” and/or “that’s why recommend our company town’s chief industry, the entertainment business, to close.”

Meanwhile, back in reality, also in the Los Angeles this week:

L.A.’s Keystone Kops rollout of a new trash recycling program, which has featured a dramatic service reduction at a huge price increase for thousands of customers.

It’s so bad, even the people who supported the plan are ducking for cover, pointing fingers or throwing everyone else under the bus.

Not everyone who spoke at Tuesday’s Los Angeles City Council committee hearing lashed out at council members Nury Martinez, Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian, Gil Cedillo and Mitch O’Farrell.

Some praised RecycLA or offered hope that the kinks will be worked out to accomplish the city’s admirable goal of diverting trash from landfills and reducing the number of crisscrossing trucks spewing pollution.

But cleaning up the mess may not be easy, given how badly the city screwed up the deal. City officials signed a 10-year contract with seven companies, some of which dispute allegations of overcharging and say they’re just doing what the contract allows them to do.

As The Times has reported, customers are getting dinged for added fees if the hauler has to move a trash bin a certain distance or use a remote device to open a gate. I’m still getting bombarded with calls and emails from landlords who say their bills have multiplied three, four, five and six times.

So it’s the Obamacare of trash pickup. Take a bow, L.A., this is where virtue signaling on top of virtue signaling invariably ends up.

 

IT’S ISN’T ALWAYS NICE TO MAKE TWITCHY: Activist Chelsea Handler just slammed the Democrats’ Obamacare vote HARD.

FASTER, PLEASE: House sets vote to ease Obamacare rules on menu labels.

I DOUBT THAT’S THE WAY TO BET: Maybe Democrats Learned Their Lesson About Shutdowns.

At noon on Monday, after two days of government shutdown, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer got to his feet and explained that the “Trump shutdown” was coming to an end. There was a slightly wistful quality to the words as he said them; one got the feeling that Democrats had expected “Trump shutdown” to play with the public slightly better than it did.

It’s not hard to see where they got that idea. Republicans decisively lost the showdown in 2011, when they resisted raising the government’s debt ceiling, and the government shutdown in 2013, when they tried to defund Obamacare. Both times, the public blamed them for obstructionism. Of course, the lesson that one could have taken from this is that, as Commentary’s Noah Rothman put it, “Shutdowns don’t work. Ever.” But Democrats could be forgiven for having taken a quite different lesson: that given the media’s friendliness to Democratic priorities, any shutdown would be blamed on Republicans.

Every government shutdown, after all, involves two sides, either of which could theoretically stop it by agreeing to the other’s demands. But as it turned out a few years back, virtually 100 percent of the blame fell on “Republican obstructionism.”

Given that Republicans now control all three branches of the government — given that they spent the last eight years gathering a reputation for intransigence — given that the media was apt to be much more sympathetic to an immigration bill than it was to the cause of repealing Obamacare — given that Republicans had taken the brunt of the blame not just for the shutdown in 2013, but for earlier ones in 1995 and 1996 … no, it wasn’t entirely crazy to think that Democrats might be able to achieve a double political coup: securing action on the DACA recipients and making Republicans pay the political price for Democratic hardball negotiating tactics.

But that wasn’t how it worked out. Despite their attempt to frame this as the “Trump shutdown,” Democrats didn’t win the first news cycle. Nor did things get better on Sunday.

Weird. I wonder what changed?

LIVE BY THE PEN AND PHONE, DIE BY THE PEN AND PHONE: Obama Mocked Trump’s Political Ambitions. Trump Spent His First Year Dismantling Obama’s Legacy.

Trump has overseen the dismantling of several of Obamacare’s most controversial aspects. The tax cuts package Trump signed last month included a provision repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate. Trump also rolled back the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, which forced religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide birth control for all employees, regardless of conscientious objections.

Trump’s Department of Education rolled back several measures that conservatives had decried as federal overreach. The Trump administration repealed the Obama-era mandate that required all public schools to implement transgender bathroom policies and speech codes. The Trump administration also revoked a legally dubious Title IX guidance that regulated sexual assault proceedings on college campuses.

In July, Trump announced the United States would be pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords, which Trump blasted as a threat to American sovereignty. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rolled back the Obama administration’s Waters of the US rule, which drastically increased federal regulations of streams, and repealed the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which increased environmental regulations on coal-fired plants. Trump approved both the Keystone XL and Dakota pipelines that Obama had rejected.

Last month, Trump’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolled back the Obama-era Net Neutrality policy that increased federal regulation of the Internet.

The difference a year can make is remarkable. Or, “Get the hell out of my way!” as the wise man once said.

LIZ SHELD’S MORNING BRIEF: SHUT DOWN City, ‘Missing’ FBI Records and Much, Much More.. “Are the same morons who built the Obamacare website responsible for IT at the FBI?”

It’s a fair question.

A DONALD TRUMP OPED IN THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: A Year of Real Change.

We are putting America first, making real change in Washington, and creating opportunities for all of our people. From coast to coast, there is a renewed spirit. Our country is roaring back more quickly than anyone could have predicted. The American Dream is real again.

Estimates predict the U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of more than 3 percent in the fourth quarter of last year – just like it did in the two quarters before that. The economy has created more than 2 million new jobs, and the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest rate in 17 years: 4.1 percent. We have achieved the lowest African-American unemployment rate on record, and the unemployment rate for Hispanic Americans has also hit historic lows. Chrysler has announced plans to bring jobs and production back to the U.S. from Mexico. And the stock market continues to set record high after record high.

Just before Christmas, we enacted massive tax cuts and tax reform for the American people. For the first time in 30 years, we reformed the tax code to make it simpler and fairer. We have lowered rates for both individuals and businesses, expanded 529 education savings accounts to be used for K-12 education, and doubled the child tax credit. These changes will not only allow Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money, but they will help make American workers and businesses competitive again. This sweeping reform also repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate – an unpopular, cruel, and burdensome tax that hit low- and middle-income Americans the hardest.

Over the year, as Americans have seen increases in their paychecks and retirement accounts, American companies in every sector have grown their business and created more jobs.

This is a real test of the “It’s the economy, stupid,” school of politics.

IT’S ALMOST AS THOUGH PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO BUY THINGS THEY DON’T WANT TO BUY: After Four Years of Obamacare Implementation, Uninsured Rate Hits 12.2%. “Uninsured rate highest for Americans ages 26 to 34 at 20.1 percent.”

TOM COBURN: Earmarks Are Inherently Corrupt. Congress Has No Business Resurrecting Pork Barrel Politics.

Ultimately earmarking is not about solving problems, but about the ability of congressmen to take credit for obtaining benefits for their constituents. There is no shortage of federal grant programs that dole out billions of dollars every year to fund almost any conceivable project that demonstrates merit, and even many that do not. But these are awarded based upon merit and competition and therefore do not allow politicians to take as much credit for bringing the bacon back home.

Disclosing the name of each member of Congress requesting an earmark, along with the recipients, while necessary, is not enough to fix the process either. Few, if any, members of Congress read the recently passed tax reform bill or most of the other bills that are approved. How much time would it take to review thousands of pork projects stuffed into a bill before casting a vote, and how many members would actually take the time to do so?

I am disappointed that many within the Republican Party, which is supposed to stand for limited government and fiscal responsibility, are leading the charge to resurrect earmarks. After failing to repeal and replace Obamacare and making no effort whatsoever to balance the budget last year, Washington Republicans are now moving forward with restoring earmarks for special interests and granting amnesty for illegal immigrants. These are the very same issues the Republicans were focused on the last time the party lost its majorities in Congress in 2006.

I wish Coburn hadn’t retired from public office.

CHANGE: Trump Clears Path for States to Require Employment for Medicaid.

The Trump Administration moved Thursday to allow states to impose work requirements on their Medicaid programs for the first time, the latest alteration of the nation’s health-care system through administrative action after Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare failed last year.

The change will allow states to craft programs that would require Medicaid recipients to prove they are working, training for a job, or volunteering in their communities, according to guidance issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

States aren’t forced to participate, and it looks like the work requirements are far from strict.

CONSERVATIVES’ MEMO TO CONGRESS – YOU STILL GOTTA KILL OBAMACARE: It shouldn’t have to be said but a large group of influential conservative activist groups know Republicans leading Congress need to be reminded over and over – they promised for seven years to repeal Obamacare, so what are they waiting for now, eight years later?

LifeZette’s Brendan Kirby points out that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has his mind on other matters: “McConnell has sent conflicting signals in recent weeks. He told National Public Radio before Christmas that the Senate would ‘probably move on to other issues.’ Later, he told reporters at his end-of-the-year news conference that he would commit to a vote on a plan offered by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) if they can get enough support. ‘I wish them well,’ he said.”

In other words, get lost. That could be the message voters send McConnell and other Republicans of like mind, come November.

 

ON THE OTHER HAND…: ‘Economists Say’ A Lot Of Things. But They’re Mostly Wrong.

David Harsanyi:

For eight years we were persistently hearing about how “economists say” everything Democrats were doing was great (even when hundreds disagreed). Unsurprisingly, “economists” were wrong about a lot. The rosy predictions set by President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers regarding the “stimulus” weren’t even close to what happened, nor were any other of their forecasts, for that matter.

In 2009, when Democrats ran everything, the administration predicted 4.6 percent growth by 2012. It turned out to be half that. The Congressional Budget Office’s predictions about Obamacare were even less accurate. Once these prophecies were no longer politically valuable — suddenly more art than science– we were offered counterfactuals: Without Obama’s bailouts, everything would have been much worse.

Perhaps the weakest recovery in American history could have been worse; perhaps not. There are thousands of unknowns that can’t be quantified or computed, including human nature. But after decades of using data to help us think about goods and services, jobs and consumption, and our choices, “economists say” is now used to coat liberal policy positions with a veneer of scientific certitude. And since Democrats began successfully aligning economics with social engineering, we’ve stopped seriously talking about the tradeoffs regulations bring.

Getting people to “stop seriously talking” was probably the only way to get many of those scientifically progressive policies in place.

(Classical allusion in the headline.)

SCOTT RASMUSSEN: The Ground Is Shifting Under Obamacare.

The repeal of the Obamacare mandate fundamentally changes the political dynamics in the real world far from Washington, DC.

Last year, an estimated 15 million Americans would have dropped out of Obamacare if they could. Now they can. Another 6.5 million paid a fine rather than sign up for coverage. This means that more than 20 million people directly benefit from the repeal of the mandate.

Most of these people would prefer to buy insurance that meets their needs, but the Obamacare mandate did more than say that people had to buy insurance. It said they had to buy a very comprehensive and expensive set of benefits. Especially for young people, it was often far more insurance than they needed and far more costly than they could afford.

The reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to health insurance. Different people have different needs and preferences.

This reality will create a demand for a variety of insurance options to meet a variety of needs. Some people will prefer more comprehensive coverage and higher premiums. Others will opt for less coverage and lower premiums. All will be covered against catastrophic events but day-to-day coverage will vary.

Imagine being able to buy the insurance which best fits your needs. Or to put it another way, tonight we’re going to purchase like it’s 2009.

MARC THIESSEN: Trump should make vulnerable Democrats who opposed his tax cuts pay the price in 2018.

President Trump raised eyebrows when he invited Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp to fly with him aboard Air Force One for a tax-reform rally in her home state of North Dakota earlier this year. For a vulnerable Democrat running for reelection in a deep-red state that Trump won by 36 points, appearing with the president was a political gift. Trump called Heitkamp up on stage, shook her hand and heaped praise on her, describing her as a “good woman” — the perfect visuals for campaign ads portraying her as a moderate willing to defy the “Resistance” and work with the president.

The move puzzled Republicans, who wondered why Trump was giving a boost to one of their principal targets in the 2018 midterm elections. But then came the moment that Heitkamp must now regret. As he made his case for the tax bill, Trump turned to her and said, “Are you listening, Heidi?” And then he added this blunt message: “Do your job to deliver for America or find a new job.”

Heitkamp did not deliver, nor did the four other Senate Democrats running for reelection in states Trump won by double digits: Joe Manchin III of West Virginia (a state Trump won by 42 points), Jon Tester of Montana (by 20), Claire McCaskill of Missouri (by 19) and Joe Donnelly of Indiana (by 19). Now it’s time for Trump to make good on that threat.

With Trump’s national approval rating averaging at just 38.5 percent — among the worst of any president in the first year after his election — some might suggest that he is in no position to impose political costs on his opponents. But his approval rating is between 50 and 60 percent in the five states where these vulnerable Democrats are running (except in Indiana, where it is 41 percent), making him a formidable adversary.

Trump should spend the coming weeks and months holding nonstop rallies in every one of these states to promote his tax reforms and how they will benefit ordinary Americans. He should tour companies that are using their savings from the corporate tax cuts to hire more workers, and businesses who are investing in new plants and equipment because the tax bill now allows them to write off those investments. He should visit small businesses who will benefit from the lower pass-through tax rate, so they can explain what it will mean to their workers. And he should hold town halls with middle-income families who will benefit from the individual rate cuts in the bill, so they can share what an extra thousand dollars in their pockets every year will mean to their families.

Dems who voted against this bill didn’t just vote against tax cuts. They voted against publicizing sex harassment in Congress, and against repealing the ObamaCare mandate.

WELL, YES: Democrats Are Fooling Themselves About Tax Reform’s Unpopularity. “Like Obamacare, people don’t know what’s in the Republican tax bill. Unlike Obamacare, they’re probably going to be pleasantly surprised.”

It’s one thing to be told you can keep your plan and then have it taken away for a worse one which costs significantly more. It’s quite another to be told you won’t be getting a tax cut, and then to find more money in your paycheck.

The Democrats have overplayed their hand on this one, but whether the GOP can capitalize on their mistake is a separate issue.

FINANCIAL TIMES: Trump year one: better scorecard than predicted. Yeah, the tax bill, the ObamaCare mandate repeal, beating ISIS: It’s a start. Interesting to see the Financial Times making the attitude-pivot that Scott Adams predicted for December, right on schedule.

Related: Byron York: Amid firestorms, Trump has year of solid policy accomplishments. Can he keep going?

And even NeverTrumper Jay Cost grudgingly admits:. “As an opponent of Donald Trump during the Republican primary, and as somebody who voted for a third-party candidate in the general election, I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by the policy output of this administration. Trump’s executive appointments have been mostly solid. His administration has taken seriously the task of staffing the judiciary with good conservative judges. Ditto rolling back Obama-era regulations. Obamacare repeal-and-replace failed, but that is as much the fault of congressional Republicans — who never fashioned a viable alternative — as of the Trump administration. Sweeping tax reform is set to be enacted. ISIS has been obliterated. The economy is doing well.”

But don’t worry, Cost adds: “And yet it is impossible to say that this year has been a successful one for the new administration.” Well, let’s see how things look in a year.

CHANCES OF PASSAGE ARE LOOKING DECENT: GOP Senators unanimous in support for tax bill. If they can pass this, they will have delivered on numerous campaign promises, including the ObamaCare mandate repeal that looked like it was never going to happen.

BREVITY IS THE SOUL OF WIT: Reporter uses 1,992 words to explain why young people aren’t buying Obamacare. I only need 12 words.

Obamacare has made healthcare too expensive and too inflexible for young people.

That’s really all you need to know, but if you want to know how that’s the case, here are 395 more words:

The key problem takes root in Obamacare’s creation of an artificial price-premium on younger, healthier Americans. Obamacare imposed a 3:1 price ratio, which meant older Americans could only be charged three times the insurance premium of younger Americans. The problem with this regulation is that it has forced younger Americans to pay absurd premiums to unjustly subsidize their elders. And be under no illusions, this state of affairs is morally unjust.

It’s not just that older Americans have higher earnings and the potential to have saved more for their health needs, it’s that older Americans are about to get a great health deal anyway. Consider, for example, that the average Medicare recipient now receives three times more in lifetime out-payments from the government than what they paid into the program. Why shouldn’t near-Medicare age Americans be forced to pay a more proportionate cost for their healthcare?

While Republican healthcare reform efforts would have raised the age-cost ratio to 5:1, they were blocked by the moral fictions of former President Barack Obama and much of the media.

Making matters worse, younger Americans are never going to get those same Medicare benefits our parents are receiving. Oh no, we’ll be paying off the extraordinary national debt.

Young people should be the most government-debt-averse and old people the least, but it’s backwards.

WASHINGTON GOP BLEW THE ALABAMA RACE BUT NOT LIKE YOU THINK: LifeZette’s Brendan Kirby quotes a former Alabama Republican State Chairman Marty Connors pointed to the GOP’s failure to produce on its promises as a determining factor:

“If you go to any watering hole in suburban Alabama or rural Alabama, everybody is very, very angry at Washington and they are blaming Republicans, which is the rise of Roy Moore in this race. Had tax reform had been passed two or three months ago, this would not have been an issue. If Obamacare had been repealed, this would not have been an issue.”

Hmmm, maybe that Barnett feller at Georgetown has a point!

WEIRD, BECAUSE THE WHOLE RATIONALE FOR OBAMACARE WAS THAT COVERAGE IS WHAT MATTERS: Prescription Drugs May Cost More With Insurance Than Without It.

MEGAN MCARDLE: Don’t Tune Out ‘What About?’ Maybe you actually are being hypocritical. Cop to it. Learn from it. Get back on topic.

Last week, as you may have noticed, Republicans passed a tax bill. As you may also have noticed, Democrats were aghast. Passing a bill like that on straight party lines! Using a parliamentary maneuver to push through something that could never have survived a filibuster! How could Republicans be so brazen, so immoral, so fiscally irresponsible?

Those of us who remembered saying many of the same things during the passage of Obamacare had to beg them to stop. I mean, we could have been seriously hurt, laughing that hard.

But when I pointed this out, the good citizens of Twitter informed me over and over that this was mere “whataboutism.”

Claiming “Whataboutism” is just a way to deflect.

IF THE OBAMACARE MANDATE REPEAL WILL KILL PEOPLE, HOW COME DEATH RATES WENT UP UNDER OBAMACARE?

The increased mortality associated with the Affordable Care Act’s poorly conceived penalty for readmissions is unsurprising to those of us who care for patients. Despite their intent to target avoidable readmissions, the penalties don’t involve a detailed assessment of which readmissions were truly avoidable. In addition to the reasons listed by the Journal, another cause of mortality is prolonged hospital stay as doctors keep patients “just one more day” to be sure they are less likely to “bounce back” to the hospital.

Unfortunately, staying in the hospital longer than needed puts the patient at risk for catching drug-resistant germs, and as doctors seek to justify watching the patient one more day, they subject the patient to additional procedures that are of marginal usefulness but which carry incremental risk of harm. Too often government policy is enacted when bureaucrats ask “what could go wrong?” as a rhetorical question rather than as a serious question.

Ouch.

STEPHEN GUTOWSKI: NRA Blasts Misleading Claims Made About Gun Background Check Bill Ahead of House Vote.

Despite what appears in the bill’s text, Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, described it as establishing “a gun control super-database” and “expanding the Brady-NICS gun owner registry.”

“Weak Republicans always push gun control laws under the guise of ‘enforcing the laws we have,’ but only end up pushing the Democrat agenda, giving gun owners more reasons to worry,” he said.

Meanwhile an alert from Erich Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America (GOA), claimed Fix NICS “would require that the rolls of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and ObamaCare be trolled for recipients with PTSD, ADHD, or Alzheimer’s—that is, people who have had guardians appointed,” the group’s legislative council said it was not arguing the bill would create new categories of prohibited people. Instead, he said, the bill’s attempt to gather all of the records required under current law, which dates back nearly a decade, is the problem.

“No, we are not arguing that ‘Fix NICS’ adds new categories,” Michael Hammond, general counsel for GOA, told the Free Beacon. “But we are arguing that 18 U.S.C. 922(g), as interpreted by the 2007 NICS Improvement Amendments Act and its regulations at 27 CFR 478.11, is so potentially broad, that, if every eligible name were submitted to NICS, as the bill proposes, the result would be the submission of a large number of names of otherwise law-abiding Americans.”

More to come, I’m sure.

GOP SENATOR MIKE ROUNDS: Passing Tax Reform Without Reading Full Bill Different Than Obamacare Passage.

AND IT IS WONDERFUL IN OUR SIGHT:  Senate Tax Bill Repeals Obamacare Mandate.

FASTER, PLEASE: Senate GOP repeals ObamaCare mandate.

We really need to remove its tentacles from across the land.

As Stephen Miller tweets, “Millenials, Kurt is right. Please follow his advice.” Indeed. But where would you advise them to move to, Kurt?

CHARLOTTE HAYS: Democratic Rep Suggests that Members of Congress Are Above Ordinary Sexual Conduct Rules.

Congress over the years has made itself a privileged class. A quip from Rep. James Clyburn, Democrat from South Carolina, says it all. When asked why, unlike Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Bill O’Reilly, and Charlie Rose, Rep. John Conyers, the scourge of the elevator, is keeping his job, Clyburn instantly replied, “Who elected them?”

Got that?

Members of Congress are a protected class, insulated from the consequences of their deeds. There is even secret fund, paid for by us taxpayers, to defray the cost of settlements when our public servants (ha ha) step out of line and harass someone. Our elected officials vote in ObamaCare but are made exempt from having to rely upon ObamaCare themselves.

Many Americans aren’t aware of the extent to which Congress has set itself up as a quasi-nobility (without being noble). Voters probably think their elected representatives are struggling with increasing ObamaCare premiums just as they are. Joke’s on us, my fellow taxpayers.

I’m not laughing.

JOSH BLACKMAN: Republicans Should Not Pack The Courts: It’s an impulse born of understandable frustrations with our judicial system, but it must be resisted. “Citing an increasingly large caseload, Professor Calabresi posits that the solution to an overworked judiciary is the appointment of new judges. On the district-court level — the trial level in the federal judiciary — there are currently 673 approved judgeships. On the circuit-court level — the intermediary level below the Supreme Court — there are currently 167 approved judgeships. Based on Calabresi’s calculations, optimally, there should be 185 new district judges and 262 new circuit judges, though, to his credit, he dials back these numbers significantly. In 1978, Congress enacted the Omnibus Judgeship Act of 1978. This Carter-era bill increased the number of district judges from 394 to 510, and the number of circuit judges from 97 to 132. Using this history as a baseline, Calabresi proposes the creation of 200 district judgeships and 61 circuit judgeships. If your eyes haven’t glazed over by this point, allow me to summarize the change in more understandable terms. In their eight-year terms, Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama were able to confirm 66, 62, and 55 judges to the courts of appeals, respectively. Under Calabresi’s proposal, in only four years, Trump could potentially confirm more than 100 appellate judges.”

The problem is that after Harry Reid rammed ObamaCare through on reconciliation and nuked the filibuster, the institutional traditions and trust that used to limit this sort of thing are gone. What would it take to bring them back? And no, I’m seriously asking that. What would it take?

WELL, IT SHOULD WORRY THEM. THE GOP CONGRESS’S RECORD TO DATE IS PATHETIC. Dem lead in generic ballot polls worries GOP. They should have had bills delivering on campaign promises lined up like airplanes on a runway. Instead they haven’t even delivered an ObamaCare repeal. The tax bill will be a nice start, but the election was over a year ago.

JUST BE HONEST, MILLENNIALS, AND SAY YOU DON’T WANT KIDS.

Unexpectedly.

CONRAD BLACK: Donald Trump Is The Most Successful U.S. President Since Ronald Reagan: “It is too early to predict whether he will be a successful president or not. But no one relying on the Canadian media would be aware that he has more than doubled the economic growth rate, reduced illegal immigration by about 80 per cent, withdrawn from the insane Paris Climate accord, helped add trillions to U.S. stock market values, created nearly two million new jobs, led the rout of ISIL, and gained full Chinese adherence to the unacceptability of North Korean nuclear military capability. He will probably pass the greatest tax cuts and reforms since Reagan, if not Lyndon Johnson, by Christmas, and may throw out the most unpopular feature of Obamacare, the coercive mandate, with it.”

Well, you wouldn’t learn much more from following U.S. media. But for the moment I think Trump is happy to have this stuff going on under the media radar. When he wants it to be news, I suspect he’ll figure out a way to make it news.

PROMISES, PROMISES: White House Sends Mixed Signals on Support for Repeal of Obamacare Individual Mandate.

WEIRD. OBAMA PROMISED US THAT WE’D ALL SAVE $2500. Middle-Class Families Confront Soaring Health Insurance Costs.

TRUMP VERSUS THE DEEP REGULATORY STATE: Unfortunately the Wall Street Journal op-ed by Christopher DeMuth is behind the pay wall. But it’s a fine essay and worth quoting at length.

Federal regulation has been growing mightily since the early 1970s, powered by statutes that delegate Congress’s lawmaking authority to mission-driven executive agencies. Beginning in 2008, the executive state achieved autonomy. The Bush administration during the financial crisis, and the Obama administration in normal times, decreed major policies on their own, without congressional authorization and sometimes even in defiance of statutory law.

President Trump might have been expected to continue the trend. As a candidate, he had railed against imperious Washington and promised to clear regulatory impediments to energy development and job creation. Yet he also was an avid protectionist, sounded sometimes like an antitrust populist, and had little to say about regulatory programs like those of the Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration. He was contemptuous of Congress and admiring of President Obama’s unilateral methods. Clearly, this was to be a results-oriented, personality-centered presidency.

The record so far has been radically different. With some exceptions (such as business as usual on ethanol), and putting aside a few heavy-handed tweets (such as raising the idea of revoking broadcast licenses from purveyors of “fake news”), President Trump has proved to be a full-spectrum deregulator. His administration has been punctilious about the institutional prerogatives of Congress and the courts. Today there is a serious prospect of restoring the constitutional status quo ante and reversing what seemed to be an inexorable regulatory expansion…

The essay goes on to say Trump has appointed qualified, reform-oriented agency leaders (a first indicator that he’s serious). He has turned away from “unilateral lawmaking” (a second indicator). Unilateral lawmaking is a diplomatic term for Obama’s questionable or blatantly unconstitutional executive orders (like spending “billions without a congressional appropriation to subsidize insurance plans on the ObamaCare exchanges”).

Finally:

A third indicator is the introduction of regulatory budgeting, which sounds tedious but is potentially revolutionary. The idea goes back to the late 1970s, when the new health, safety and environmental agencies were first issuing rules that required private businesses and individuals to spend tens of millions of dollars or more. It seemed anomalous that this should be free of the disciplines of taxing, appropriating and budgeting that applied to direct expenditures. Jimmy Carter’s commerce secretary, Juanita Kreps, proposed a regulatory budget as a good-government measure; Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D., Texas) introduced legislation; and several academics (myself included) worked out the theory and practicalities in congressional reports and journal articles.

The idea never went anywhere.

Well, it never went anywhere until now.

MICHAEL BARONE: Will political setbacks unite the Republican Party? “Now, things look different. With Republicans holding the White House and majorities in both houses of Congress, the purism that resulted in defeat of the House’s first attempt at Obamacare revision, followed by the defeat of a second in the Senate, leaves Republicans double digits behind Democrats on the generic which-party-would-you-back-for-Congress question. Democrats’ big victories in the Virginia and New Jersey governor races also struck a chord. These states, dominated by high-education suburbs in major metro areas, tilt more Democratic than the nation. But Republicans have been losing legislative special elections even in red-state Trump districts.”

GOOD: Senate GOP tax bill will include repeal of ObamaCare mandate. “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that the Senate tax bill will include language to repeal ObamaCare’s individual mandate, which could make it tougher for moderate Republicans to support. Conservatives led by GOP Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) pushed hard to include the provision, which would eliminate the federal penalty on people who do not buy health insurance. President Trump has also pushed for the provision to be part of the tax bill. McConnell told reporters that adding the individual mandate repeal will make it easier to muster 50 votes to pass the bill.”

Better late than never.

WELL, GOOD: GOP nears initial victory on tax reform.

House Republicans are on the precipice of a big victory on tax reform, but the legislation still faces enormous hurdles before it can reach President Trump’s desk and be signed into law.

Legislation is expected to receive a vote on the House floor this week after clearing the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in a party-line vote with no GOP defections.

At this point it would be a surprise if Republicans weren’t able to pass the bill through the House.

The number of Republicans publicly opposed or leaning against the bill is in the single digits, and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) appears poised to meet his ambitious timeline of having the tax bill introduced in early November and passed by Thanksgiving.

“I do believe that the momentum continues to move us forward,” Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, told The Hill.

He said Republicans can’t afford to hold off the bill after the failure to approve ObamaCare repeal. Last week’s losses in off-year elections across the country just added urgency for Republicans.

Yes, they need to start delivering.

HEALTH: FDA Releases New Guidance on Calorie Rule. “Does regulation apply to beer? ‘It depends’.”

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday released draft guidance to help chain restaurants and groceries comply with an Obamacare regulation that requires calorie labeling on menus.

FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the guidance is “practical, efficient and sustainable,” in an attempt to alleviate concerns from pizza chains and grocers that the government was moving forward with an onerous Obama administration rule that carries criminal penalties for “misbranding” food.

Questions about the rule remain, since the guidance only contains “nonbinding recommendations.” In addition, chain restaurants could be confused by language in the guidance related to what draft beers must be labeled. The FDA says, “It depends.”

Complying with “It depends” could be problematical, to say the least.

And:

Pizza chains represented by the American Pizza Community—including Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Little Caesars—raised the issue that pizza can contain up to a billion topping combinations, making the rule unworkable unless they can comply online. Domino’s has said the vast majority of their orders are already placed online, where customers can use a calorie tracker for any pizza they order.

The new FDA guidance does not allow pizza chains to comply online but attempts to provide more flexibility with allowing companies to use calorie ranges.

The regulatory state marches on.

RENT SEEKERS GOTTA SEEK RENTS: Insurers make billions off Medicaid in California during Obamacare expansion.

Medicaid is rarely associated with getting rich. The patients are poor, the budgets tight and payments to doctors often paltry.

But some insurance companies are reaping spectacular profits off the taxpayer-funded program in California, even when the state finds that patient care is subpar.

Health Net, a unit of Centene Corp., the largest Medicaid insurer nationwide, raked in $1.1 billion in profit from 2014 to 2016, according to state data obtained by Kaiser Health News. Anthem, another industry giant, turned a profit of $549 million from California’s Medicaid program in the same period.

Overall, Medicaid insurers in the Golden State made $5.4 billion in profits from 2014 to 2016, in part because the state paid higher rates during the inaugural years of the nation’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Last year, they made more money than all Medicaid insurers combined in 34 other states with managed care plans.

There’s something rotten in California.

WEIRD HOW BILL KRISTOL STILL SEEMS SO CHAFED: Despite the chaos, Trump has managed to push the most conservative agenda in a generation. “This hitherto ideologically unmoored man has set in motion an administration arguably more conservative than Ronald Reagan’s. While the Congress controlled by his adopted party remains gridlocked, Trump is rolling back regulations and a number of the Obama administration’s most controversial achievements, including the internal structure of Obamacare and the Clean Power Plan. His foreign policy resets look increasingly sure-footed. His judicial nominees are uniformly conservative. It is inconceivable that any of the other leading Republican candidates from the 2016 cycle would have governed as boldly as Trump has.”

KATE PACKER BEESON: Democrats are so focused on tearing down the GOP they can’t see their own shortcomings.

The Democrats seemed shocked the race between Clinton and Trump remained relatively close because they seemed to stop talking to the white working-class voters who, for decades, had defined their base.

So when they lost the election, there was a reckoning. The leadership of the Democratic Party was drummed up and new, forward-looking leaders took the reins and offered an alternative to what they saw as the disaster of Donald Trump. Wait, no. That isn’t what happened. Instead, they re-elected Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the house. They elected Chuck Schumer as Senate majority leader and completely sold out to the New York and California wings of the Democratic Party.

Instead of talking about middle-class tax cuts, they talked about transgender bathroom access. Instead of talking about fixing Obamacare, which was crushing many in the middle class with high premiums and complicated doctor selections, they walked right into the trap of the alt-right and began tearing down Civil War statues.

In the first big test of party strength: the Virginia governor’s race, they have thrown up all over themselves. Virginia should be easy for them. Clinton won it in 2016. Trump’s numbers are completely under water. The Republican candidate has awkwardly embraced Trump and some of his controversial positions while trying not to hug him too close. But somehow they ended up with one of the least inspiring Democratic candidates Virginia has seen in a long time. And they backed an ad that seemed to depict Virginians who drive pickup trucks as a bunch of rednecks looking to plow down children of color.

As Bill Whittle likes to say, if Republicans had to run unopposed, they’d lose every time.

MICHAEL BARONE: Keep Calm And Carry On:

Keep calm and carry on. Those words, though not appearing as widely on posters in wartime Britain as often supposed, are good advice for Americans now appalled by the presidency of Donald Trump.

It is widely proclaimed that he is a president unlike any other, a threat to the institutions of republican government and democratic processes, an ignoramus whose impulsiveness may lead to nuclear war.

It’s true that every president since 1945 has had access to the nuclear trigger. And Trump’s insult-laden style and constant tweeting strikes many people (including me) as repugnant and, if sometimes momentarily effective in framing issues, often self-defeating in both the short and long run.

All that said, Trump’s actions, in contrast to many of his words, strike me as comparable to other presidents. One can argue that an office designed for someone as sternly self-disciplined as George Washington is overly powerful and prominent, but no one seriously contemplates restructuring the Constitution.

On a multitude of issues, the Trump administration has operated like others replacing a president of the opposite party. His judicial nominations, starting with Justice Neil Gorsuch, have been just what one expects from a Republican president.

His appointees have reversed predecessors’ regulations: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on college and university sexual assault kangaroo courts, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on regulations aimed at shutting down coal mining.

The Trump team is operating in a target-rich environment, due to Barack Obama’s legally dubious “pen and phone” executive orders like the DACA “Dreamers” amnesty and spending unappropriated funds on Obamacare’s cost-saving reduction payments. The Congressional Review Act, a 1996 Newt Gingrich innovation that lay dormant for 20 years, has enabled narrow Republican congressional majorities to overturn more regulations than Democrats ever anticipated.

The nonstop freakoutrage about Trump was intended to “denormalize” him, but it’s had the effect of denormalizing his opposition, which would be a lot more effective if it behaved normally.

YOU DON’T SAY: Steny Hoyer Says Jamming Obamacare through Congress ‘didn’t work.’

The law cost the Democrats the House and eventually the Senate and cost millions the insurance and doctors they liked and forced people to buy coverage they can’t afford to use and is a regulatory mess and turned the insurance industry into unsatisfiable welfare queens and can’t be successfully implemented as written and outed Barack Obama as an unscrupulous liar… but other than that it’s worked just fine.

ANOTHER BRICK FROM THE WALL: House Votes To Abolish Obamacare Board That Conservatives Called A ‘Death Panel.’

THIS  IS CNN:

This is reality:

How did Gillespie almost steal Virginia’s senate seat from Warner? The key was outreach in communities outside the Republican Party’s normal comfort zone, Gillespie says, emphasizing his own experience as a first-generation American. “I am the son of an immigrant myself, and would make that point in these communities,” Gillespie recalls. “My father came here as a boy from Ireland. My grandfather was a janitor, and I got to grow up to be counselor to the president of the United States of America.” He used that experience as an entrée to these communities, emphasizing his desire to duplicate it for their families. “I want the same opportunities for future generations,” he told them during his campaign.

Gillespie also focused on themes and issues that resonated across community lines, emphasizing “upward mobility and job creation, economic growth, lifting people out of poverty, and higher wages,” as well as “education, a reform-and-replace plan for ObamaCare, energy production, and more affordable energy.” More important than the message itself was where and how Gillespie communicated it.

“I went into the black churches in Prince William, and to places a lot of Republicans have not gone,” he says. County Republican Party vice chair D. J. Jordan, a leading African American conservative in Prince William, corroborates this. “Grace Church Dumfries is a church that Ed Gillespie visited in October 2014,” Jordan recalls, “and he was very well received. They welcomed him from the pulpit and he was able to talk to those who were out in the lobby afterwards.”

Related: ‘Reeks of subtle racism’: Black Democrat omitted from campaign fliers in Virginia.

UPDATE: Gross: A Former Hillary Spokesman Published the Worst Tweet of the Week.

ROBERT EHRLICH: Chaotic White House aside, Trump is achieving Reaganesque policy wins.

The narrative includes criticisms that have grown familiar during Trump’s first year in office. Here, the president is viewed as a shoot-from-the-hip neophyte too undisciplined to govern and quite dangerous in a world populated by despots who wield nuclear weapons.

Sen. Bob Corker’s recent broadsides qualify here. The retiring Republican Senator from Tennessee sees an overmatched executive lacking in “competence” and “stability,” albeit surrounded by a competent senior group daily engaged in the task of keeping the leader of the free world from careening off the rails. (Whatever did happen to keeping family disputes within the family?)

Make no mistake, this is how today’s Washington views the president and his administration. Note that this particular indictment is distinguished from the “all hands on deck” Trump haters who continue to be transfixed by a Trump/Russian collusion conspiracy story that lacks credible supporting evidence after two years of exhaustive investigation and desperate mainstream media attention.

In striking contrast are a series of Trump administration policy initiatives that not only define Trump as the anti-Obama, but also as more Reaganesque than a “Never Trumper” could ever have imagined. How else to describe a president willing to buck the status quo, and a powerful establishment press, in pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accords and now refusing to recertify a notoriously deficient nuclear deal with the mullahs in Tehran.

As expected, these decisions have propelled the left (and numerous feckless allies) into yet additional anti-Trump tirades. But this president seems more intent on serving America’s long-term interests than attempting to curry favor with a hostile media or spiking his approval numbers in foreign countries. (That even President Obama never dared submit either agreement to Congress in the form of a treaty provides insight into how viable he viewed the respective agreements, but I digress…)

Trump’s aggressive contrariness is not confined to foreign policy initiatives. Witness his insistence on a return to the rule of law with respect to both DACA (undocumented children brought to the U.S. at a young age) and Obamacare. Here, the layman executive manifests a better understanding of executive restraint than his Constitutional law professor successor. How refreshing, and old school, to find an administration intending to operate within established Constitutional constraints. How stunning to see a president disinclined to unilateral executive action even when the stakes are extraordinarily high.

How revealing that most of the political class is appalled.

HMM: IRS to block, suspend tax returns that lack Obamacare disclosures.

“Taxpayers remain obligated to follow the law and pay what they may owe at the point of filing,” the IRS said in a description of the new policy.

The ACA requires most people to have some form of health insurance coverage or pay a tax penalty — a requirement known as Obamacare’s individual mandate.

That penalty is the higher of 2.5 percent of adjusted gross household income or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under age 18.

The agency, in an online notification to tax professionals, said that in the upcoming tax filing season “the IRS will not accept electronically filed tax returns where the taxpayer does not address the health coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.”

“Returns filed on paper that do not address the health coverage requirements may be suspended pending the receipt of additional information and any refunds may be delayed,” the IRS said.

I had thought the White House had more or less gutted the individual mandate.

AVIK ROY: Sorry Everybody, But Trump Hasn’t Instigated The Obamacare Apocalypse.

GOOD:  Trump Signals He Won’t Support Obamacare Insurance Company Subsidies Deal.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, “DESPITE?” UnitedHealth Revenue Grows Despite ACA Exit.

The latest quarterly results from the nation’s largest health insurer come as the market is facing policy changes related to the ACA. President Donald Trump last week signed an executive order seeking to provide lower-cost plans in the individual insurance market, and he has said his administration will end payments to insurers that offset subsidies to low-income consumers.

Guiding the company through the shifting landscape is David Wichmann, the former UnitedHealth president who took the reins as chief executive Sept. 1. Former CEO Stephen Hemsley now serves as executive chairman.

During a call with analysts, Mr. Wichmann said UnitedHealth has “a great deal of experience in the areas covered” in the president’s executive order, which are short-term health policies, association plans and health-reimbursement arrangements. UnitedHealth said it has around 300,000 people currently enrolled in association plans and the “performance is strong.” The insurer also said it was seeing an “incredible increase in the growth” of short-term plans before the Obama administration capped their duration at three months, and the company would be “excited” to see the Trump administration expand the length again, as the executive order suggested.

Counting on illegal subsidies to sell people plans they don’t want was never a good business model, and UnitedHealth and others were right to exit the ObamaCare faux-marketplaces.

ROGER KIMBALL: Yes, Trump Is Winning.

Trump is methodically pushing ahead with the agenda he campaigned on. That includes:

Nominating judges and justices who can be counted on to interpret and enforce the law but do not endeavor to use the law to promote their social agenda;
Addressing the problem of illegal immigration and securing the borders of the United States;
Developing America’s vast energy resources;
Rolling back the regulatory state, especially the administrative overreach of agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency;
Pursuing policies that put America, and American workers, first, not to the detriment of our relationships with our international partners but through a recognition that strength and sovereign independence make nations more reliable actors;
Restoring the combat readiness and morale of the United States military;
Simplifying the U.S. tax code, making it more competitive for U.S. businesses and more equitable for individuals;
Getting a handle on the unconstitutional and shockingly inefficient monstrosity ironically called the Affordable Care Act;
Putting a stop to the obscene violation of due process that Title IX fanatics brought to college campuses across the country.

And many other initiatives large and small.

In all of these areas, Trump is proceeding not as a wrecking ball but as a deliberate, if often voluble and sometimes exasperating, agent of change.

On the campaign trail, Trump promised that, if elected, the American people would start “winning” again. “You’ll have so much winning,” he said, “you’ll get bored with winning.”

Now, almost nine months into his first term, how is he doing? Real unemployment is on the wane. The stock market is at an historic high. So is consumer confidence. Illegal immigration is down nearly 70 percent. America is now a net exporter of energy. Just a few days ago, Trump declined to re-certify the malevolent nuclear deal that Obama made with Iran, winning from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu this commendation: “I congratulate President Trump for his courageous decision today. He boldly confronted Iran’s terrorist regime. . . . If the Iran deal is left unchanged, one thing is absolutely certain—in a few years’ time, the world’s foremost terrorist regime will have an arsenal of nuclear weapons and that’s a tremendous danger for our collective future.”

Just a couple of days ago, Trump, having been disappointed by a supine Republican Congress, issued an executive order that will make it easier for people to band together to obtain health insurance tailored to their needs (instead of being forced into federally defined, one-size-fits-all plans) while also ending the unconstitutional federal subsidies (unconstitutional because the money wasn’t appropriated by Congress) to big insurance companies, amounting to some $7 billion per year (the price of getting those companies on board with Obamacare in the first place).

In any normal world, these would be called significant accomplishments. But in the NeverTrump bubble, none of these victories can evade the protective refracting mirrors that intercept and distort the message.

Read the whole thing.

AVIK ROY: Sorry Everybody, But Trump Hasn’t Instigated The Obamacare Apocalypse.

QUESTION ASKED AND ANSWERED:

Why Are Millennials Wary of Freedom?

—Headline, the New York Times, this weekend.

The New York Times wants us to believe communists have better sex.

—Headline atop column by John Lott at Fox News.com, August 14.

Young people — even “Progressive” young people — used to be made of sterner stuff.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU RAM THROUGH UNPOPULAR LEGISLATION ON A PARTY-LINE VOTE: Obamacare Was Built With the Flaws Trump Now Exploits: Executive orders allowed the past administration to keep the program alive. They allow this administration to destroy it.

Do I just hate the poor so much that I can’t stand to see them getting help paying for health care? Well, no. I have no particular objection to the payments as policy. Except for one small thing, which is that they seem to be sort of illegal.

But at this point, such arguments are moot. It might be more fruitful for Obamacare’s supporters to ask what role they themselves played in bringing us to this pass.

A few years ago, as we all stood gaping at the disastrously bungled launch of the Obamacare exchanges, I was invited by Intelligence Squared to participate in a debate: “Resolved: Obamacare Is Beyond Rescue.” Longtime readers know that my motto is “Predictions are hard, especially about the future.” I was thus reluctant to declare, without equivocation, that Obamacare was already dead, dead, dead. But I’m a huge fan of Intelligence Squared, so I accepted, and then I resorted to a time-honored debate-weasel: 2 I reframed the question.

Thus I chose not to argue that Obamacare was going to collapse and be repealed in its entirety, but rather, that Obamacare would not, and could not, be the program that had been promised or intended. It had already failed to deliver on key promises for coverage, affordability and of course, the infamous promise that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” It was also dangerously unstable, requiring steady executive intervention just to keep the program from collapsing. I argued that these executive interventions, enthusiastically supported by the law’s proponents, were setting a precedent that would eventually be used against it. Worried that health care was too hostage to the vicissitudes of the markets, Democrats had instead made it the prisoner of politics.

“Essentially they’ve made it so that Republicans can undo two-thirds of this law with a stroke of the presidential pen,” I said at the close of my opening statement. “Obamacare is now beyond rescue. The administration has destroyed their own law in order to save it.” Four years later, we are watching those dominos fall.

Indeed. But there’s a bright side: By Cutting Off Obamacare’s Insurer Subsidies, Trump Might Help More People Get Health Coverage: The president has finally brought the law into constitutional compliance.

CHARLES SCHUMER WANTS TO HOLD THE PEOPLE OF PUERTO RICO HOSTAGE TO THE FINANCIAL WELLBEING OF HUGE INSURANCE COMPANIES: Dems float putting ObamaCare money in funding deal. See, that’s the kind of headline he’d get if he were a Republican.

GOP LAWMAKER: McConnell Snubs ‘Judeo-Christianity Land,’ Moses by Not Repealing Obamacare.

MICHELLE MALKIN: Obama Lied. My FOURTH Health Plan Died.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I received yet another cancellation notice for our private, individual health insurance coverage. It’s our fourth Obamacare-induced obituary in four years. Our first death notice, from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, arrived in the fall of 2013. The insurer informed us that because of “changes from health care reform (also called the Affordable Care Act or ACA),” our plan no longer met the federal government’s requirements.

Never mind our needs and desires as consumers who were quite satisfied with a high-deductible PPO that included a wide network of doctors for ourselves and our two children.

Read the whole thing.

DOING A POLANSKI? Harvey Weinstein Flying to Europe Tonight For Sex Addiction Rehab.

Related: ‘My heart breaks for all the women’: Weinstein’s wife says she is leaving her husband.

UPDATE: Sean Spicier sees the bigger picture:

Heh, indeed.™

PARTY OF THE WORKING MAN: Majority of Households Paying Obamacare Penalty Are Low and Middle-Income.

This isn’t an unexpected result, given that there are far fewer wealthy people and that they’re far less likely to have to make the difficult financial choice between, say, buying insurance or making the rent.

But it certainly wasn’t discussed much during the faux debate over ObamaCare, or during the law’s slapdash implementation under Barack Obama.

NANCY PELOSI: “We didn’t win the elections, but we’ve won every fight.”

She thinks the Democrats have an “excellent” chance of re-taking the House of Representatives.

When asked what would be different if Democrats were in power, she responds by saying that unlike Republicans, Democrats are bipartisan. Anyone who remembers the passage of Obamacare, might disagree with that.

She then goes on to say how wonderful Democrats were to work with George W. Bush, while insulting him at the same time.

Counting on the other side to surrender preemptively isn’t usually a smart strategy, but it seems to be working well enough this year for Capitol Hill Democrats.

NEW FRONTIERS IN LEFTIST AUTOPHAGY: Delete! Leftists’ attempts to ‘normalize’ George W. Bush aren’t going over well with ‘real Dems.’

Which seems so odd — since real Dem Donna Brazile wrote at CNN.com in 2013 that “Bush came through on Katrina,” and while it’s a standing tradition on the left to rehabilitate the previous Hitler to bash the current Hitler in office, perhaps they’re not yet ready to destroy the false narrative that eventually gave us Obama — and Obamacare.

(Classical reference in headline.)

MICKEY KAUS: 5 Reasons Why Moore’s Win Matters. Including this:

Two weeks before the Alabama election, some polls apparently showed a very tight race. About this time, Trump held his infamous dinner with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi at which he seemed to cut a Dem-friendly deal to give amnesty to the “Dreamers” — in exchange for a grab-bag of feel-good border security measures that did not include his promised Wall. Candidate Moore denounced the deal. Strange wouldn’t commit. Moore soon opened up a lead that doesn’t seem to have been cut even by Trump’s appearance in Huntsville on Strange’s behalf. I’m not saying there weren’t other big factors in the race, like anger at the GOP’s failure to repeal Obamacare. I’m saying the seemingly impending Trump-endorsed Dreamer cave-in was another big factor. The difference between the two factors is that the mainstream press, which instinctively avoids crediting restrictionist concerns, will tell you about the former but not the latter.

And the Alabama revolt will make a difference in the eventual legislative outcome. Remember when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s defeat by an anti-amnesty outsider in 2014 sealed the doom of the massive, heavily hyped “Gang of 8” amnesty? The bill had already passed the Senate, but when Cantor went down House Republicans who valued their job security didn’t want to go anywhere near it.

Luther Strange is Cantor II. Which House Republicans want to try out for the role of Cantor III by backing the Pelosi/Trump amnesty? Not many, I suspect. The pundits may tell them the Alabama race was all about vague anti-Establishment anger, or the failure to repeal Obamacare, or about “local dynamics.” Elected Republican legislators, with their careers on the line, know better.

We’ll see how bright they turn out to be.

GIVE US THE HOUSE, THEY SAID… GIVE US THE SENATE, GIVE US THE WHITE HOUSE, TOO: The Republican Fight to Repeal Obamacare Is ‘Dead as a Doornail.’

“We don’t have the votes,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who along with Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina drafted the latest attempt at scrapping the seven-year-old law. “Am I disappointed? Absolutely.”

Senate leaders said the issue wasn’t the content of the Graham-Cassidy bill, which would have dismantled Medicaid expansion and other Obamacare provisions and hand the funds from those programs over to states via block grants. Graham and Cassidy were insistent that they will eventually get the votes needed to pass the legislation. Leaders said the process through which they were trying to pick the bill through, however, had given a handful of senators pause, including Arizona Sen. John McCain.

“There are 50 votes for the substance,” said Graham. “There are not 50 votes for the process.”

There were no warnings about “process” during the election campaigns of 2010, 2012, 2014, or 2016 — which makes “process” sound and awful lot like “dodge.”

IT’S ABOUT TRUMPISM, NOT TRUMP: Roy Moore wins in Alabama. “What this humiliating loss tells President Trump is that Trumpism is not even about him. The indisputable lesson here for the president is that even he, the man who started the movement, is not bigger than the promises, ideas, agenda, and platform he ran on.” He’s a vehicle, he’s not the engine.

Plus: “In a different world, in a world where, for the last eight months, while in complete charge of the federal government, the Republican Party actually delivered on its promises; in a fantasyland where the GOP did not expose itself as a gang of feckless cowards unwilling to keep even the Obamacare repeal promise that defined the party’s existence for seven years, maybe Trump could have gotten away with supporting a Luther Strange. But that is not the world we live in.”

Instead we get Roy Moore. Which is a lesson for Trump, if he takes it, but also a lesson to the rest of us.

HARDBALL: GOP rep calls for McCain ‘recall’ amid cancer diagnosis, ObamaCare repeal fight.

There’s no such thing as a recall election for federal offices, as Gohmert must surely know. That aside, it sure looks as though McCain has allowed his personal animus towards President Trump to supersede his longstanding campaign promises to repeal ObamaCare.

MY TAKE:

Well, build a wall, maybe. Or repeal ObamaCare.

Related, from IowaHawk:

BLUE FALCON: McCain blows up health care reform again, says he can’t support Graham-Cassidy “in good conscience.”

And as a result: John McCain wins over BIG fans in Cher, Rosie O, Cecile Richards, Jimmy Kimmel & MANY others.

Headline via Kurt Schlichter, who links to a 2016 campaign video promising that McCain “is leading the fight to repeal Obamacare.”

UPDATE: Matt Welch of Reason tweets,”MoveOn.org to hold rally praising [McCain], because 2017.”

PETER ROBINSON: Trump Through a Pinhole.

Congress may have thwarted the administration’s effort to replace Obamacare, but wherever the administration has been able to take action on its own it has done just that, demonstrating not incompetence but considerable effectiveness.

Consider ISIS. When Trump gave him a free hand in dealing with the terrorist organization, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that the United States and its allies would no longer permit ISIS to recapture territory after staging merely tactical retreats. Instead we would encircle ISIS forces—and destroy them. Since then, the territory that ISIS controls has fallen by roughly one half. Or look at illegal immigration. After three decades in which administrations of both parties have failed to enforce immigration laws that were already on the books, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has begun to do so. Illegal immigration has dropped by some 70 percent.

The list goes on. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has begun rolling back regulations, notably on clean water, that the EPA had used to usurp the legislative function of Congress. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney has announced that for every new regulation any federal agency promulgates it must eliminate two. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has overturned the sexual harassment rules that the Obama administration had forced on universities. The White House has followed the nomination of Neal Gorsuch to the Supreme Court with the nominations of more than 30 others to the federal bench—and each of those nominees is, like Gorsuch, a thoroughly vetted originalist.

Still only eight months old, the Trump administration has demonstrated the ability to absorb new information and adjust to circumstances—that is, to learn in real time. It has displayed seriousness. It has gotten things done.

This — and the media’s Pavlovian response to them — is why Trump tweets.

Anyway, do read the whole thing.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL, UNACCOUNTABLE, UNAMERICAN: I have a new paper out today, The Case against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Unconstitutionally Structured and Harmful to Consumers. If you need arguments why Senator Warren’s favorite agency needs to be killed by the courts or Congress as matter of political hygiene (as a great man once said about Obamacare) I hope you’ll find them there.

PERHAPS SARAH HOYT WILL LET ME BORROW HER SHOCKED FACE: This NPR Reporter Doesn’t Understand Federalism.

Every now and then, there is a reporter who tries to play analyst without realizing what in God’s name they are talking about. It may surprise you to find out than an example of that would be an NPR reporter, and it may further surprise you to find out this reporter was attacking a GOP plan.

Brace yourselves, lads.

That’s right, folks. Obamacare, which seeks to force everyone in the nation, regardless of what state they are in, to buy health insurance, is a shining example of federalism.

That’s… That’s not how this works, Domenico.

When Obama propagandist Ben Rhodes said that “the average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and… literally know nothing,” his only crime was committing a gaffe of the Kinsley variety.

DUMB: What Was Tom Price Thinking?

This Politico piece blows him up so thoroughly, I’m not sure there’s anything left to say. He chartered private jets for HHS-related travel five times in the last week alone, likely at an average cost of at least $12,000 per flight, when he could have easily flown commercial for some or all of them. The most ridiculous charter: A flight from D.C. to Philly, which only takes two to three hours to drive and may well have been faster than traveling to and from airports in both cities to use a plane. When Politico asked Obama’s HHS people if they’d ever felt obliged to use a charter, the only time they could recall doing so was when the secretary had to get to a remote part of Alaska. And that department was tasked with rolling out the ObamaCare exchanges across the country, remember. It’s not like their travel needs were any less pressing than Price’s.

As I write this on Wednesday morning, he and HHS haven’t even tried to justify the flights beyond a pro forma statement that “When commercial aircraft cannot reasonably accommodate travel requirements, charter aircraft can be used for official travel.” The point of the story, though, is that commercial aircraft could have accommodated him. In at least one case, a *rental car* could have accommodated him. The only obvious conceivable excuse is that it wasn’t taxpayers who ended up footing the bill for the flights, it was someone else. But the groups Price visited last week during his trips say they didn’t pay for his travel.

I had hoped we’d gotten rid of such imperial travel accommodations along with the previous Administration.

CAUTION: SPEED BUMPS AHEAD. Latest Push for a Health-Law Repeal Picks Up Speed in the Senate.

Mr. McConnell said on Tuesday the Senate leadership was “in the process of discussing” whether to hold a vote on the latest bill, which would unwind much of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

“If we were going to go forward, we would have to act before Sept. 30,” Mr. McConnell told reporters. “We are in the process of discussing all of this. Everybody knows that the opportunity expires at the end of the month.” He was referring to the short shelf life of the procedural tool that allows Republicans to pass bills through the Senate with a simple majority.

GOP Senators met Tuesday to discuss the repeal bill from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R., La.) and two hearings are planned next week. The White House also threw its muscle behind the legislation, with Vice President Mike Pence saying Tuesday that the administration is “all in” on the effort.

The bill still faces the same challenge that sank a July repeal effort: Moderate Republicans worry the proposal goes too far in rolling back the current health law.

Senator Rand Paul says he won’t vote for the bill because it doesn’t go far enough, which puts the new replacement effort in the exact same bind as the previous replacement effort.

NEW YORK TIMES: Republicans Demand Another Vote to Repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Demand?” Republicans control The Hill, allegedly, and ObamaCare repeal is one of the jobs what they were elected to get done.

THE HILL: New GOP ObamaCare Repeal Bill Gains Momentum.

BAILOUT NATION: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets.

LEMMINGS: Democrats Follow Bernie Sanders Off a Cliff.

Matthew Continetti:

The “Medicare for All Act of 2017” would repeal Obamacare, along with most other private and public insurance, and replace it with a government-run, one-size-fits-all, centrally directed system of reimbursement for medical expenses. Sanders, who honeymooned in the Soviet Union, holds the same opinion of health insurance as he does antiperspirants: “You don’t necessarily need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different sneakers when children are hungry in this country.”

Senators Harris, Booker, Gillibrand, and Warren, who in addition to cosponsoring the bill may soon be fighting each other, as well as Sanders, for the Democratic nomination, are generals re-enacting the last war. They saw how well Sanders did against Clinton, they have marched in the anti-Trump “resistance” movement, and they want to inoculate themselves from accusations of ideological heresy.

Which is why they embrace the thin-skinned and irritable senator whose wife is under federal investigation. What the copycats forget is the future in politics is never a straight-line projection of the present, much less of the bizarre circumstances surrounding the 2016 Democratic primary. “Medicare for All” might strike Warren &co. today as legislation worthy of support for reasons both moral and self-interested. In time, however, palling around with Bernie Bros may become a liability.

For one thing, the policy is remarkably vague. “Mr. Sanders did not say how he would pay for his bill,” writes Robert Pear of the New York Times. “Aides said he would issue a list of financing options.” The “options” are not included in the bill—but they are enough to raise the hair on the back of one’s neck.

The experiences of Vermont, whose single-payer system collapsed several years ago, and of California and New Jersey, whose true-blue legislatures can’t carry single payer across the finish line, and of Colorado, which voted overwhelmingly against a similar plan last year, suggest the tax increases necessary to sustain expanded coverage frighten even Democrats.

Nancy Pelosi won’t be seen anywhere near Sanders’ bill, and whatever else you might say about her, her political instincts are still sharp.

MEGAN MCARDLE: The Latest (Dim, Distant) Hope for Health-Care Reform.

The latest bedside miracle is the Graham-Cassidy-Heller proposal, which would cut spending, cap spending, and shift spending away from states that expanded Medicaid to those that haven’t. At the same time, it would give states considerable discretion to design local solutions for health-care provision, something that, as I’ve noted before, is likely to be the key to getting us out of the morass in which we’re currently mired with Obamacare.

Is this the turn? Has the fever broken? Or is this just a stalling tactic, before more agonizing months and years, before the patient is finally pronounced truly and utterly dead?

Well, the political math certainly looks difficult. Republicans hold a majority in both houses, but their Senate majority is narrow enough to give them precious little wiggle room when it comes to passing a bill. Considering that Rand Paul has already been pretty negative about the bill, that wiggle will have to be more like a tremor: If Rand won’t back the proposal, they’ll need either Susan Collins or Lisa Murkowski, who have so far proven unwilling to vote for previous iterations of GOP reform ideas.

Moreover, they’re going to have to shimmy pretty quick. This bill is not, needless to say, going to garner Democratic votes. Democrats don’t want to do anything to Obamacare except pour more money into it.

When all you have is somebody else’s checkbook, everything looks like a spending problem.

REGULATION ROLLBACK: Trump Administration Working in Other Ways to Dismantle Obamacare.

THE RATCHET EFFECT: Sanders’ single-payer push splits Democrats.

Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin on Tuesday became the single-payer bill’s first supporter from the class of Senate Democrats up for reelection next year in states Trump carried. But other politically imperiled incumbent Democrats have said no to Sanders.

Sen. Claire McCaskill said in a brief interview that lawmakers have more work to do to keep health care costs in check “before we would think about expanding that [Medicare] system for everyone.”

Single-payer on a national level would have “a lot of problems,” McCaskill added, although she came out in support of allowing individuals as young as 55 to buy into Medicare. That idea is also backed by Baldwin and two other red-state Democrats up for reelection next year who are declining to endorse Sanders’ bill: Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Stabenow, also a member of Democratic leadership, said Tuesday that she would keep working on her Medicare-at-55 plan “because I think there is some bipartisan interest in that.” She said the party’s first order of business should be shoring up the Obamacare markets, followed by other goals.

That’s this year. By 2020, support for single payer will likely be the Democrats’ new litmus test.

DO YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT (340 EXTRA CALORIES FOR MEDIUM)?: Obamacare restaurant calorie labeling rules will drive up food costs. Domino’s, for example, will have to account for 34 million different pizza combinations. But of course they won’t stop people eating.

THAT MEANS IT’S WORKING: Insurers make their pitch on how to rescue health-care system.

Funny that WaPo headlines with “health-care system” rather than “ObamaCare exchanges.”

KURT SCHLICHTER: The True Conservatives Hype A Trumpocalypse In A Desperate Bid For Attention.

The latest Never Trump meme is that Donald Trump has defected to the Democrats, a notion that might charitably be labeled “wishful thinking” if it actually involved any thinking. But the “wishful” part is in full effect as this tattered remnant of worshippers at the altar of Establishment Conservatism seeks to revive their failed cult and reassume their position as the priesthood of all things on the right.

You remember Establishment Conservatism, right? It is to conservatism as Unitarians are to Christianity – “Well, I sort of believe in something, but mostly I just want whatever I do validated.” Establishment Conservatism is the sect that promised for seven years to repeal Obamacare then…didn’t. But that was Trump’s fault, of course, because reasons and because you’re a fake conservative for asking and also shut up.

So, this week’s True Con embarrassment arose because the Republicans were somehow going to score yet another smashing victory in a debt ceiling fight, as they always do, but darn that Trump! He got in the way of their cunning scheme. Or something.

“As they always do.” Gold.

AS SURELY AS NIGHT FOLLOWS DAY: Obamacare Repeal Is Dead. Here Come the Bailouts.

Those of us who argued back in 2009-10 that ObamaCare was welfare for Big Insurance will get the last, bitter laugh.

UNEXPECTEDLY: The Inconvenient Truth About Obamacare’s Premium Spiral.

The biggest reason for Obamacare’s rate hikes? Two of its most popular provisions, guaranteed issue and community rating. These are the technical terms for Obamacare’s ban on insurance companies denying coverage or charging people who are sick more.

The McKinsey report found that in Georgia, these mandates added between 44 and 52 percent to premiums. In Ohio, they were responsible for 41 to 50 percent of the hikes — and in Pennsylvania, as much as 62 percent. In Tennessee, guaranteed issue and community rating accounted for between 73 and 76 percent of premium increases.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. A study by Milliman, a consultancy, in 2013 predicted that Obamacare’s guaranteed issue and community rating rules would sharply increase premiums.

If you’re going to charge younger, healthier people more like older, sicker people, and force insurers to sell “insurance” to people who are already sick, then premiums are going to go WAY up — which many of us warned back in 2009, 2010.