With all the debate over Haslam’s Obamacare expansion proposal and the special session, one question keeps rising to the top:
There are numerous “why?” questions, such as: Why this proposal? Why are we four days out and we still haven’t seen anything in writing? Why can’t we get a straight answer from the governor as to the number of people who will be added to the rolls? Why are we voting on a “verbal” promise from an Obama administration not exactly known for its honesty, etc., etc.
But the biggest “Why” that has gone almost completely unnoticed is “Why now?” Why the mad rush to jam this through now?
In just one month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on King vs. Burwell. A decision on the case is expected in June. The case has the very real potential to bring Obamacare crashing down and legal pundits give it at least a 50-50 or better chance of the court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs.
So if Haslam convinces enough Republicans to join all the Democrats in passing his spurious scheme just before a possible negative decision for Obamacare, it will mean all those who voted for it will look like complete fools for expending enormous sums of political capital and passing something in February that will look like an boneheaded and expensive mistake come June.
If a legislator votes for Obamacare expansion (and yes, it IS Obamacare – Herbert Slattery said so), his or her constituents will view them as something akin to the guy who shoved the old lady out of the way to purchase the last ticket on the Titanic – a complete moron.
But why now?
Haslam has been “negotiating” this abomination for the last 18 months, so why would he not wait a few more weeks to see if it is necessary and/or feasible (not to mention more substantive and documented)? The answer is that a handful of the biggest hospitals –who stand to collect the overwhelming lion’s share of the taxpayer-paid windfall – would find themselves in a much weaker position to con the legislators into going along with Haslam.
But why now?
Let’s be even more specific: The biggest stockholder of the biggest hospitals is the Frist family (HCA). The Frists could lose money if the legislature doesn’t play ball, meaning less money for them to dump into their pet projects like Common Core, etc. And let us not forget, it was Bill Frist who came out publicly in support of Obamacare after every single Republican in Congress voted against it.
Kinda all comes together when you follow the money, doesn’t it?
As the late Paul Harvey used to say: “and now you know the rest of the story…”
Don’t be a sucker.
Hidden deep in his opinion proffered in response to a series of questions posed by Sen. Randy McNally, Attorney General Herbert Slattery unintentionally contradicted his old boss and friend, Gov. Bill Haslam.
Right there on page 5, paragraph 3, Slattery confirmed what Gov. Haslam has been criss-crossing the state denying: Medicaid expansion as that proposed in Insure TN is, in fact — Obamacare. The authority to create Insure TN is authorized and paid for by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and is administered under the rules as laid down by the ACA (Obamacare).
This from the Associated Press:
The opinion clearly notes the plan expands coverage through the Affordable Care Act; Haslam continues to meet with lawmakers every day this week in attempts to convince them his plan is not “Obamacare.”
Did you hear that, Governor? Insure Tennessee IS Obamacare.
REPEAT: Insure Tennessee IS Obamacare.
You can deny it all you want Bill, but what you are telling legislators and the people of Tennessee is just not true.
The governor claimed opponents to Obamacare expansion were throwing out “red herrings.” Governor, you are going to need a bigger boat to haul all those red herrings you yourself have thrown out and that are now being returned to your doorstep. And they are beginning to really smell.
Just ask Herbert.
OMG! There IS a tape recording?
When last we left you at the crossroads of Insure TN, Rocky Top Politics said wouldn’t it something if someone taped Transportation Commissioner John “Ehrlichman” Schroer* threatening legislators with withholding transportation tax dollars to those who didn’t fall in line and support Gov. Haslam’s Obamacare expansion plan.
Reliable sources have generously tipped off the Rocky Toppers with the game-changing claim that at least one tape of John-Boy delivering said alleged threats DOES exist and is in the hands of at least one interested party.
Now before Schroer or the Guv get their panties all in a wad, we would like to point out that this is an unconfirmed rumor. But this info comes from darn good sources that have been 100% reliable in the past, so we have no reason to doubt them now. We are not now privy to the content of the tape (but give us time).
The other big question is what will the affected legislator(s) do with the tap? Will they use it to bring down Insure TN — or will they hold it as a trump card for later, more private negotiations? Knowing the strong self-preservation instincts of most elected officials, we are betting on the latter.
But who knows? If the tape leaks out in the next week, it might just be enough to kiss Insure TN, not to mention Schroer, good-bye. Yep, this could be an actual “smoking gun.” John-Boy better hope he has a carry permit for that sort of thing. Curry Todd can tell him where to get one.
*Look it up, you Millennial slackers. Just Google “WATERGATE” and “EHRLICHMAN.”
“The problem with Kevin is, well, … Kevin.” (overheard at Little Old Fort this morning.)
Pity poor Kevin Brooks.
When AFP went after him for appearing to reverse his previous opposition to Obamacare by supporting Obamacare expansion under Haslam’s Insure TN proposal, Rep. Brooks hollered to high heaven and offered the following defense:
“I really haven’t had enough time” to decide whether he’s backing fellow Republican Haslam’s proposal, Brooks said.
Brooks said what he has stated are “four very simple things. The current plan is Tennessee unique. It is Tennessee specific. It has no Tennessee tax dollars and the Tennessee Hospital Association has agreed to pay for any additional costs. And I guess that’s what they’re saying I’m trying to get people to vote for it.”
Well, Kev – you are going to need a chiropractor to get yourself out of the knots you twisted yourself into with those “four very simple things.” Let’s take a look at your defense line-by-line and see if we can unravel the truth:
- “I really haven’t had enough time to decide.”
That would indicate you are undecided, would it not? Yet multiple sources have said you have been actively whipping votes for the administration in favor of the Haslam proposal. That sure doesn’t sound like you are undecided. Claiming to be “undecided” while simultaneously trying to round up votes for Insure TN is dishonest and purposefully misleading.
[Editor’s note: For the uninitiated, as much fun as it sounds to “whip legislators,” what that really means is to solicit, pressure and count votes on behalf of leadership and or the governor.]
- “The current plan is Tennessee unique. It is Tennessee specific.”
Kevin, you of all people should know that is not really true. All Haslam has done is grafted a couple of tweaks onto the same old Obamacare/Medicaid expansion that 20 liberal Democratic governors have done in their states and called it the “Tennessee” plan. (Think of it as product advertising you see that says something is “New and Improved!” when in fact they are just selling the same old crap. That’s what you and Haslam are doing here.)
- “It has no Tennessee tax dollars.”
Ah, this is that misleading half-truth the Administration keeps peddling, encouraging people to spout it in the hope no one will figure out their duplicitous little wordplay. The truth is, this proposal will cost Tennesseans tax dollars – their federal tax dollars. Where do you think that so called “free” federal money comes from – the Obama tooth fairy? It comes out of our pockets. The fact that you don’t run it through the state’s budget first is irrelevant. It is still our tax money, Kevin. And you know it.
- “The Tennessee Hospital Association has agreed to pay for any additional costs.”
This is the claim that sends critics into spasms of laughter every time someone like you or the compliant news media spit it out. Does anyone really believe the THA will pay for their additional costs without passing along the expenses to their patients (aka, taxpayers) in the form of higher hospital bills? That is assuming, of course, that it is even legal for the THA to do that under existing law.
So there you have the Haslam con-game in a nutshell: misleading statements, spurious claims and tortured, deceitful semantics – all meant to fool legislators, the media and the public into believing this is something other than Obamacare expansion at the expense of Tennessee taxpayers. And Rep. Kevin Brooks is serving as their mouthpiece, while claiming he is undecided.
Nice try, Kev. And get use to the radio ads. You’ll see a lot more of them in your primary next year.
Specifically, the rumor is Transportation Commissioner John Schroer has been calling individual legislators and making only slightly-veiled threats that unless they vote with the governor to pass Obamacare/Medicaid expansion, certain road projects in that legislator’s district might – ahem — meet an untimely demise.
If true, this would mean the administration is practicing the very same “thug politics” as the governor’s new BFF Barack Obama. RTP has reported on the administration’s “strong arming” before.
All this raises the question: are such tactics illegal? Does threatening a legislator before a vote violate state law? Hell, for that matter, does this violate federal law? Since this issue involves federal money, maybe some enterprising assistant US Attorney might want to make a name for themselves and launch a federal investigation (No, wait. This is Eric Holder’s Justice Dept., so that probably won’t happen.). Naw, it’s probably not illegal — but it sure exposes this administration for their sleazy unethical tactics. So much for Haslam’s “nice guy” image.
Nevertheless, the commissioner as well as anyone else in the governor’s hire better hope that none of those legislators he called have recorded any phone conversations. Why if that were to happen, it would be a big problem, wouldn’t it?
Just ask Nixon.
“An Idiot’s Guide to Insure TN”
For Speaker Beth Harwell, Insure TN has become a very difficult issue — one that could seriously affect her expected race for governor in 2018 as well as her effectiveness as Speaker.
Since Gov. Haslam rolled out his Insure TN “plan” to expand Obamacare, it has become painfully obvious that his much ballyhooed “deal” is nothing of the sort and his roll-out has been slipshod and inept. So say Forbes and The Washington Times, among many others. And his plans have put Harwell in a tight spot. Here is the down-low from RTP.
“Gee, thanks Gerald. Now please shut the hell up.”
Here are the facts:
1. Insure TN is an expansion of Obamacare, pure and simple. It is not significantly different from the proposed expansions in other states that have been rejected by 19 Republican governors.
Don’t believe us? Here is House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick:
“It’s a [federal] government program and we’re expanding it. And as Republicans, we don’t like to expand government programs period.”
“Sometimes you just man up and carry the legislation, even if you have some disagreements with it.”
Way to “man up” and abandon your convictions, Gerald. You need to get a better definition for what it means to “man up.”
2. There is no deal. All Haslam has after 18 months of “negotiation” is a” verbal commitment” from Barack Obama (who, of course would never, never, ever lie to someone, especially a Republican governor), and says it is backed by the full faith and credit of a federal government that is $17 trillion in debt and spiraling towards bankruptcy. What could possibly go wrong?
Don’t believe us? Here is Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris on the lack of details coming from the governor regarding his “plan.”
“We understand the concept … but what form that takes remains to be seen,” Norris said. “Until that quickens into something concrete, I can’t say. I don’t think there’s much appetite for it, but I’m not quite sure what it is going to be yet.”
Norris’ indecision — he says he needs more details and was recently … critical over the governor’s office’s lack of communication with him.
And here is Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada:
“It’s just that a lot of us are getting cold feet real quick,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin.
“I have grave reservations.”
So much for unified support from leadership.
3. This is almost exactly the same stupid policy that bloated TennCare 15 years ago. That mistake busted the state budget and resulted in an all-out attempt to create a state income tax to cover theresulting debt. Just like then, we were promised the feds would pay 90% of the costs, but our 10% share nearly killed our state finances. It resulted in Gov. Bredesen removing 175,000 from the TennCare rolls and now Bill Haslam wants to put them right back on. Good luck removing them from the public teat if anything goes wrong (and it will, just like before).
Don’t believe us? Read about the questions posed by Sen. Randy McNally (chairman, Senate Finance Committee):
Let’s do a poll!
In the face of all this, Harwell has not exactly exhibited much leadership on the issue and has remained “undecided.” Laughably, she “wants to poll her district” before she makes a decision. That would be the Belle Meade district — one of the wealthiest in the nation and home to gazillionaires, many of whom make oodles of money off of healthcare, hospitals and their HCA stock dividends.
But the question is why? Again, the helpful folks at RTP have some answers for you:
1. Harwell wants to be governor. And the road to governor’s mansion is paved by the contributions and money she can expect from the Haslam family — IF she plays ball with Haslam on Insure TN. If she wanders too far off the Pilot Plantation, she can expect political punishment and campaign penury.
Buto on the other hand, if she buckles under to the Guv, she can run on the theme of:
“Vote Harwell. She expanded Obamacare!”
2. She could lose control of her caucus. The governor infamously said he was “going to need every Democrat vote” to pass Insure TN. But that also means the governor is afraid there will be mass defections by members of his own party. And Harwell could still lose, even if the governor and his fellow Democrats succeed in foisting Insure TN on the state’s taxpayers. “How so?” you ask. The math is so simple that even Common Core indoctrinated students should be able to run the numbers:
- 73 — the number of Republicans in the House.
- 26 — the number of Democrats in the House.
- 50 — the number of votes needed to pass Insure TN.
- 24 — the number of Republicans needed to join the expected 26 Democrats to pass the resolution.
- 37 — the minimum number that constitutes a majority of the House GOP caucus.
So let’s add up the intermural political costs to Miss Beth. Even if enough Republicans vote for Insure TN, if the number of GOP caucus members voting against hits 37, that will signal that Beth has lost control of her caucus. Passing an odious entitlement bill that is opposed by a majority of your caucus would be a disaster for Harwell and the leadership. Trying to pull a stunt like that in a parlimentary government would get you a “no confidence” vote faster than you can blackball a minority from joining the Belle Meade Country Club. There was a reason why for the last couple of years John Boehner didn’t try to pass legislation without the support of the majority of the House GOP caucus. If he had tried to do that, his caucus would have made him former Speaker Boehner.
Want to be Governor? Want to stay Speaker? Beth Harwell would be wise to kill this abomination before it ever gets to the floor for a vote — a vote that could bring all of her lofty ambitions crashing down to earth.
We will post “The Idiot’s Guide to Insure TN” just as soon as the idiot who does our website sobers up long enough to get us back up and running properly.
Coming in tomorrow’s edition of Rocky Top Politics: a too long, insightful and erudite analysis of some of the basic legislative politics of “Insure TN” and what the looming battle could mean to legislators’ political futures — especially Speaker Harwell’s.
It will be delivered in the juvenile, snarky tone you have grown to expect from RTP. We encourage our readers to send us their comments, which we will promptly throw in the trash — unopened, unread, unanswered and unloved.
Tom Ingram – Undertaker to failed presidential candidates.
With all the spurious speculation about Haslam’s future beyond the governor’s chair (including Senate, Vice President, or even –gasp! — President), the news media seems to have missed a rather glaring common thread: Tom Ingram.
First to crash was White House hopeful Lamar Alexander in 1996, who never made it out of a primary with anything better than third place, and again in 2000, when he didn’t last longer than six months and never made it past the Iowa Straw Poll. The mastermind behind these two attempts – Tom Ingram. Then came Jon Huntsman in 2012, a light-weight left-of-conservative billionaire governor (sound familiar?) who never made it past the New Hampshire primary. Both of these presidential flame-outs relied on Tom Ingram as their primary consultant for guiding them down the wrong road to the White House.
More recently, the hyping of Bill Haslam’s upward mobility capability has been dutifully reported by lazy (or complicit) MSM reporters who have rarely seen an Ingram story plant that they didn’t swallow in one bite. If history as any guide, the one thing we will not have to worry about is a President Haslam — not if Ingram is running the campaign.
But as good as Tom is at peddling spurious memes designed to boost his clients egos (and to justify their paying him large sums of money), we doubt that even Ingram was good enough to engineer this photo op:
Notice the Presidential seal on the podium. Maybe Bill was taking it for a test drive. Looks like a dress rehearsal for the swearing in for the Inauguration of 2017.