Good Morning Birdies! I’ll start with a bit of Bernie news, then all of us can pitch in with other progressive news or excerpts to interesting things we’ve seen around the Net.
Last night, MIC news reported that Bernie has come out against a new energy bill that supports fracking and continues to uplift the Oil & Gas Industry. From the article:
With the Senate focused on health care reform, a little-noticed bill that could increase America’s production of fossil fuels may see a vote on the Senate floor as soon as next week. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) does not plan to let that legislation pass quietly.
In an emailed statement provided to Mic on Thursday night, Sanders said he opposes the current form of the Energy and Natural Resources Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in late June by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.).
“Our job is to move away from fossil fuels toward sustainable energy and energy efficiency,” the senator said in the statement. “This bill does the opposite.”
Murkowski and Cantwell say the bill would modernize America’s energy infrastructure by finding “common ground” on energy issues. The bill would also continue funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a fund that taxes oil and natural gas earnings to preserve U.S. land and water resources.
But Sanders sees it differently: “[This bill] would make us more reliant on fracking for natural gas for decades to come by expediting the review process for natural gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas,” Sanders said in his statement. “It would also provide millions of taxpayer dollars to research new offshore natural gas extraction techniques.”
Bernie has plans to offer amendments to the bill, which is being fast-tracked by McConnell. Those changes would have to be voted on by the Senate, slowing any quick passage of the legislation.
The bill is opposed by hundreds of progressive and environmental groups. From the same article:
An organizer with an environmental group opposed to the bill said Food and Water Watch, Our Revolution, CREDO and other organizations have driven 200,000 emails and 3,000 calls to the Senate opposing the bill. “We are working hard to get the grassroots activated on this issue,” the organizer said.
Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, said what to do next with the bill now lies with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-Ny.), the Democratic leader.
“Does he want to give a gift to President Trump or keep his caucus unified on green energy?” Snape said, noting progressives are waiting to hear what day the bill will come up on the Senate floor. He called Bernie’s opposition “good news” and “a start.”
Snape added that now, the question is: “Can Sanders coalesce with enough Democrats and get a better consideration of the bill?”
So Bernie is being a bit strategic here. It also explains the timing of Al Gore on his show yesterday, but the interview was a quid pro pro for Gore too, who is promoting his new movie, An Inconvenient Sequel, scheduled to come out in select cities a week from today.
In case you missed the interview with the former VP, here’s the YT:
TGIF! More news and your comments below. See you there!
Update: The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that the ACHA Bill does not meet the requirements of the Byrd Rule. From TOP:
The parliamentarian has made a determination that certain provisions of the Republican “Better Care Reconciliation Act” released on June 26, 2017, violate the Byrd Rule. This means that,should the Senate proceed to the bill, these provisions may be struck from the legislation absent 60 votes. Notably, the parliamentarian has advised that abortion restrictions on the premium tax credit and the small business tax credit, and the language defunding Planned Parenthood, violate the Byrd Rule. Further, the “Buffalo Bailout” which was used to secure votes in the House has also been found to violate the Byrd Rule – threatening other state-specific buy-offs.
Provisions Subject to a 60-vote Byrd Rule Point of Order
• Defunding Planned Parenthood: This section prohibits Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds for one year. (Sec. 124)
• Abortion Restrictions for Tax Credits: Two separate provisions contain Hyde Amendment language to prevent premium tax credits and small business tax credits from being used to purchase health insurance that covers abortion. (Sec. 102(d)(1) and Sec. 103(b))
• Sunset of Essential Health Benefits Requirement for Medicaid: This provision states that,beginning in 2020, states no longer have to cover essential health benefits in their Medicaid alternative benefit plans. (Sec. 126(b))
• Funding for Cost-Sharing Subsidies: This section replicates current law by providing funding for the subsidies through 2019. (Sec. 208)
• Stabilizing the Individual Insurance Markets (“Six Month Lock Out”): This section imposes a six-month waiting period for individuals attempting to enroll in coverage in the individual market who cannot demonstrate that they have maintained continuous coverage.(Sec. 206)
• Medical Loss Ratio: This section allows states to determine how much insurers are allowed to spend on administration, marketing, and profits versus health care. (Sec. 205)
• Availability of Rollover Funds: This provision allows states that spend less than their targeted block grant amount to rollover funds to the following year and to use funds for non health purposes, specifically repealing the provision of the Social Security Act that prohibits states from using Medicaid funds to build roads, bridges, and stadiums. (Sec. 134 –1903B(c)(2)(D)) (Note: this provision has been removed from the most recent draft).
• Decrease in Target Expenditures for Required Expenditures by Certain Political Subdivisions (“Buffalo Bailout”): This provision limits the ability of New York State to require counties other than New York City to contribute funding to the state’s Medicaid program. (Sec. 133 – 1903(c)(4))
• Grandfathering Certain Medicaid Waivers; Prioritization of HCBS Waivers: This section says that the Secretary will encourage states to adopt Medicaid Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers but does not set forth any actual details for this plan. (Sec. 136)
• Reporting of CMS-64 Data (T-MSIS): This provision requires the Secretary of HHS to submit a report on Congress recommending whether expenditure data from the Transformed Medicaid Statistical Information System (T-MSIS) is preferable to data from state CMS-64 reports for making certain Medicaid decisions. (Sec. 133 – 1903(h(5))
Provisions Not Subject to a 60-vote Byrd Rule Point of Order
• Medicaid Work Requirements: This provision allows states the option to impose work requirements on Medicaid enrollees who are nondisabled, nonelderly, and nonpregnant. Pregnant women are exempt from any work requirements for 60 days after giving birth. (Sec.131)
• Providing Safety Net Funding for Non-Expansion States – This section provides $10 billion for non-expansion states. (Sec. 129)
• State Stability and Innovation Fund: This section includes abortion restrictions on funding for the State Stability and Innovation Fund by tacking the Fund onto the CHIP program.(Sec. 106)• Equity Adjustment: This provision provides for adjusting the per capita cap targets of low and high-spending states to promote equity. (Sec. 133 – 1903(c)(5))
• Repeal of Cost-Sharing Subsidy Program: This section permanently repeals cost-sharing subsidies beginning in 2020. (Sec. 209)
• Reporting of CMS-64 Data: This provision requires states to include information on per capita cap enrollment and expenditures, psychiatric hospital expenditures, and children with complex medical conditions in their Medicaid expenditure reports. (Sec. 133 — 1903(h)(1))
Still Under Review
• Waivers for State Innovation (Essential Health Benefits): This section amends Sec. 1332 of the ACA to allow states to waive age rating, essential health benefits, and pre-existing condition requirements so long as their proposal does not increase the federal deficit. (Sec.207)
• Small Business Health Plans: This section would allow small businesses to establish“association health plans” that could be sold across state lines. For regulatory purposes, these plans would be treated as part of the large group market and thus would be exempt from many ACA requirements such as covering essential health benefits. (Sec. 139)
• Change in Permissible Age Variation in Health Insurance Premium Rates (“Age Tax”):This section allows insurers to charge older Americans at least five times more than what they charge younger individuals. (Sec. 204)
• Flexible Block Grant Option for States: This section allows states the option to receive a lump sum Medicaid “block grant” instead of the per capita cap payments. (Sec. 134)
The Senate could theoretically overrule the Parliamentarian, but that would be a declaration-of-war kind of thing, and give the GOP yet-another black eye in the ethics and honesty department. So I doubt Mitch would go there on a bill that’s probably doomed anyway.
Update: Here is what Sanders spox says about why Planned Parenthood defund is struck this time but wasn't in 2015 pic.twitter.com/iBYDgCenMp
— Peter Sullivan (@PeterSullivan4) July 21, 2017
In case one is wondering what the Byrd Rule is…
The Byrd Rule
The Byrd Rule defines any reconciliation changes to Social Security as “extraneous”—and therefore ineligible for reconciliation.
The Byrd Rule is a United States Senate rule that amends the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to allow Senators during the Reconciliation Process to block legislation if it possibly would increase significantly the federal deficit beyond a ten-year term or is otherwise an “extraneous matter” as set forth in the Budget Act. It is named after West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd.
Reconciliation generally involves legislation that changes the budget deficit (or conceivably, the surplus). The “Byrd Rule” (2 U.S.C. § 644, named after Democratic Senator Robert Byrd) was adopted in 1985 and amended in 1990 to outline for which provisions reconciliation can and cannot be used. The Byrd Rule defines a provision to be “extraneous”—and therefore ineligible for reconciliation—in six cases:
If it does not produce a change in outlays or revenues;
If it produces an outlay increase or revenue decrease when the instructed committee is not in compliance with its instructions;
If it is outside the jurisdiction of the committee that submitted the title or provision for inclusion in the reconciliation measure;
If it produces a change in outlays or revenues which is merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision;
If it would increase the deficit for a fiscal year beyond those covered by the reconciliation measure; or
If it recommends changes in Social Security.
Any senator may raise a procedural objection to a provision believed to be extraneous, which will then be ruled on by the Presiding Officer, customarily on the advice of the Senate Parliamentarian. A vote of 60 senators is required to overturn the ruling. The Presiding Officer need not necessarily follow the advice of the Parliamentarian, and the Parliamentarian can be replaced by the Senate Majority Leader. The Vice President as President of the Senate can overrule the parliamentarian, but this has not been done since 1975.
So, now we know what Bernie’s staff has been up to regarding the bill–they made the arguments to the parliamentarian. Bernie and his staff’s experience of working within the structure of the rules of the Senate is paying off dividends. This is a Senator who gets stuff DONE!