Washington D.C. was not a happy place in mid-March. Even the famous cherry blossom trees that surround the Tidal Basin were weeping, their too early blossoms covered in ice from a frigid cold snap. Only half would survive for the yearly Festival.
Travel Ban II: On Wednesday evening, March 15, Hawaii and Maryland federal judges halted Donald Trump’s second attempt at a ban on travel from majority Muslim countries. This time there were six instead of seven, with Iraq omitted. Syria, Iran, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan. Their populations ranged from 90.7 to 99.8 percent Muslim. In Hawaii, Federal Judge Derrick Watson held a hearing before he ruled on the lawsuit brought by Hawaii’s Attorney General Doug Chin challenging the constitutionality of the travel ban. Chin introduced comments Trump had made in his campaign, calling for “a total and complete shut down of Muslims entering the United States.” He argued that Trump’s comments indicated” intent” behind Travel Ban I and II. Chin’s said the Establishment Clause of the Constitutuion forbade religion as the basis for the Travel Ban against the six countries. The administration argument was that the travel ban was for “ national safety”. Judge Watson asked them, “Are you saying we close our eyes to the statements before this?” Watson issued an order blocking the Travel Ban nationwide, effective immediately. He wrote in his decision, “The record before this court is unique. It includes significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the executive order. “
At the same time in Maryland, Federal Judge Theodore Chuang issued an even stronger ruling: a preliminary injunction that would block the ban through a trial on the merits of the case. He included in his ruling current statements by Trump aide, Stephen Miller that indicated “religious animus” as an influence on the Travel Ban. Judge Chuang also gave heavy weight to statements by Trump and his surrogantes during the campaign. He said that “Mr. Trump’s promises were too categorical to be ignored.” He added “Simply because a decision maker made the statements during a campaign does not wipe them from judicial memory.” When Donald Trump learned that the Federal Judge in Hawaii had ruled against Travel Ban II, he was in Nashville, holding a rally before nearly ten thousand cheering fans. He reacted angrily saying, “This ruling makes us look weak. We’re going to fight this terrible ruling. We’re going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court.”. Then he added, “I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way.” In contrast, attorneys general across the country hailed the rulings. Bob Ferguson of Washington said he would ask Judge James Robart to extend his TRO freezing the first travel ban. Joining Ferguson were: Eric Schneiderman of New York, Maura Healy of Massachusetts and Ellen Rosenblum of Oregon. Ferguson and his colleague, Attorney Lori Swanson of Minnestota, were expected to file updated complaints against the new travel ban within the week.
Trump Budget: On March 16, the 2018 proposal was released, raising spending in only three of the 17 categories: Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. Trump would cut spending at the State Department by 29 percent ; Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. Health and Human Services by 16 percent. Farm states which supported Trump would face a 21 percent cut in the Department of Agriculture. Smaller agencies would be eliminated entirely including: Legal Services which funds legal aid groups, The National Endowment for the Arts, The National Endowment for the Humanities and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Good bye to Big Bird and friends on Sesame Street! Meals on Wheels in effect since the 1950’s would no longer aid the elderly and infirm. Foreign aid which only amounts to 3 percent of total spending would be cut with fewer dollars to the United Nations and humanitarian programs for African and Asian peoples.
The budget summary released deals only with discretionary spending, about one third of the money Congess has to appropriate annually. It is different from budgets going back to Ronald Reagan that cover the important mandatory programs: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as well as estimates of tax revenues, interest payments or deficits. Thus, there was no explanation or analysis of WHY the drastic cuts are proposed in major government departments . The White House Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney whose confirmation hearing was drawn out , describes the Trump Budget as “putting numbers on campaign promises.” The New York Times lead editorial on March 17 called it “Mr. Trump’s Tear-Down Budget.”
Since the major programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were not mentioned in the document, members of Congress were left in the dark as to Trump’s intentions. Of course, the House bill to repeal ObamaCare does include “Medicaid Reform”, an oxymoron for eliminating Medicaid for millions of American men, women and children in 31 states.
Health Care Bill in the House of Representatives: The American Health Care Bill is called “Trump Care” by some critics or “ Ryan Care” by others. Trump had promised during the campaign that the new bill would “provide insurance for everybody”. However, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) revealed on Monday, March13 that the Republican replacement would cut health care for low-income Americans. 14 million people on Medicaid would lose health insurance next year, 2018. The number losing insurance in 2020 would rise to 21 million and 24 million in 2026. By that date, the total number of uninsured Americans would be 52 million.
The bill had been hidden in a basement, unavailable to members of Congress who were eager to see it. As soon as the CBO report became known, it was clear that the Medicaid money would be translated into tax cuts for the rich. There would be a $600 billion tax cut over ten years for wealthy Americans who would no longer be subject to the taxes that pay for the health care subsidies in ObamaCare. When Paul Ryan talked about the plan, he emphasized the money — the deficit reduction of $337 billion by 2026. When Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Minority Leader of the House, spoke of it, she stressed the millions of people who would lose health care coverage in their lives.
The Republicans have voted to repeal ObamaCare over fifty times in the last seven years. After the CBO report hit the news, the replacement bill became very controversial. Republicans were split in the House with the Conservative Freedom Caucus and others completely opposed. When the Congressional Reps went home for their recess, they found that their constituents now wanted to keep the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama Care. At noisy town meetings, Reps were met by thousands of angry voters who waved signs and shouted at them. “ ACA… ACA…ACA”…. Individuals told first hand stories of lives being saved by the Affordable Care Act. The polls also showed that the majority of the American people now wanted to save it and improve it. Repeal was no longer an option for them.
Donald Trump insisted that everything was running smoothly on the Health Care front. He was deeply involved in trying to tamp down the ongoing scandal of his tweets accusing President Obama of wiretapping him at Trump Tower. He had added to the story by insisting that the British had taken part in the spying and wire-tapping during the campaign. They were furious and called the charge “ridiculous”. Trump waved it all away saying critics should contact Fox News where it was first reported. Monday, March 20 would be the day that F.B.I. Director Comey would appear before Intelligence Committees once more to deal with the “story” that refused to die. Most observers believe Trump will never retract nor apologize for his hasty tweets that set off the firestorm early that Saturday morning.
Joyce S. Anderson