Congressman Tom Price—“Hands Off Our Obamacare, Medicare, and Planned Parenthood!” December 1, 2016
Donald Trump is unfit to be President. He did not receive the popular vote, but under our system, he won an Electoral College majority, and that’s the whole political “ball of wax.” Donald, meanwhile, rants on about 3 million illegals keeping him from winning the popular vote. He tweets about unconstitutionally revoking citizenship for people who burn the American flag (Savage, NY Times, 11/29/16). His recent interview with the NY Times is one stream of consciousness word salad that makes Sarah Palin look like a fabulous orator. However, we must keep our eyes on the real issues—his Cabinet appointments and all the major damage they do.
There are three key “qualities” Demagogue Donald’s Cabinet and staff appointees have in common.
1. They are among the “least experienced in recent U.S. history (Huffington Post, Kos, Hunter, 11/28/16).” Look at Steve “white supremacist” Bannon, Trump’s key White House counsel. All he did was head the “alt-right” scandal-mongering Breitbart News before joining Trump’s campaign. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, now being considered as another White House adviser and Middle East “negotiator,” ran his family’s real estate business. Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson gets Donald’s nod to head Housing and Urban Development. Carson has no expertise in this area and no prior interest in this field.
2. Donald’s appointees are larded up with out-of-touch millionaires/billionaires. Trump’s whole Cabinet and administration could be worth as much as $35 billion, a staggering amount of wealth, unprecedented in U.S. history. In this group is Education Secretary designate Betsy DeVos with a family net worth of $5.1 billion. Trump’s Treasury Secretary pick, hedge fund manager Steven Mnuchin, made billions by investing in the IndyMac Bank, which foreclosed on thousands of homeowners after the 2008 financial crisis (Walsh, Huffington Post, 11/29/16). Trump’s Commerce Secretary nominee, billionaire Wilbur Ross, made a career of taking bankrupt corporations and selling them to other companies. He also owned a West Va. coal mine, Sago, involved in an accident that took 12 lives and had 96 safety violations (CNN Egan & Murray, 11/29/16).
3. Even worse, Trump’s Cabinet picks are opponents of the very duties represented by the departments they are being asked to head. Ala. GOP Sen. Jefferson Sessions has been selected by Donald to run the Justice Department, which handles enforcing civil rights and voting rights issues. Sessions’ whole career consists of strongly opposing civil rights and voting rights. Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos has spent over 30 years trying to gut public education with poorly run charter schools. She is also one big fan of vouchers, allowing parents of children to spend tax payer money on private and parochial schools. And meet GOP Congressman Tom Price. Trump picked Price, a dedicated foe of Obamacare, Medicare, and Planned Parenthood to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has jurisdiction over all these matters (LA Times, Levey, 11/28/16, CNN Lubhy, 11/29/2016).
Congressman Tom Price (62), just re-elected to a seventh term, represents Georgia’s 6th Congressional District (CD). The reconfigured Peach State 6th lies in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. The Ga. 6th contains chunks of DeKalb, Cobb, and Fulton Counties. It contains the cities of Roswell, Alpharetta, and part of Sandy Springs (CQ Barone & 14 Political Almanacs). Hispanic and Asian communities have experienced large growth. However, this CD remains predominantly white and safe “Red” GOP. It has a Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI) of R+14 (CQ & Barone 14).
Price grew up in Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan and its medical school. His father and grandfather were doctors, his wife an anesthesiologist. After completing his orthopedic surgery residency at Atlanta’s Emory Medical School, Price moved to Roswell. Frustrated with government, Price became involved in civic affairs. He worked closely with the Ga. Medical Association and campaigned in the 1990’s against Pres. Bill Clinton’s health care plan which then First Lady Hillary had helped craft. Price became active in GOP politics as a fundraiser and organizer. In 1996, he won election to the Ga. State Senate. He served there from 1997-2005, becoming its majority leader in 2003. In 2004, Price ran and won the GOP primary for the open 6th CD seat, when GOP Congressman Johnny Isakson successfully ran for the Senate. In this lopsided “Red” district, Price ran unopposed in the general election. He has been handily re-elected. In 2016, he clobbered his Democratic opponent by a 24% margin (CQ & Barone 14, CQ Roll Call 115th Congress Early Guide).
The Washington Post dubbed Congressman Price, “a Republican guerilla warrior.” Price has been compared to former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich and represents much of Gingrich’s suburban Atlanta district. Like Gingrich, he has made a name for himself with his repeated challenges to Democrats and is a confrontational GOP ideologue (CQ & Barone 14). He is a favorite TV talk show guest. Price was among one of the anti-government Tea Party Caucus’ original members. In 2011, he tied for most-conservative House member in the National Journal’s 2011 vote rankings (Barone & CQ 14). In the 111th Congress (2009-2010), Price chaired the Republican Study Committee (RSC). The 170-member RSC constitutes the most conservative bloc and dominant force within the House GOP caucus (CQ 14, National Journal). Price has attacked what he has termed a “vile liberal agenda that is threatening everything we hold dear as Americans (Kos, Clawson, 11/29/16).”
Price is “the HHS (Health and Human Services) Secretary you’d pick if you were dead serious about dismantling the law, Obamacare (Kliff, vox.com, 11/28/16).” And Donald, obviously, is. A constant in Price’s career has been his extreme hostility to government interference with the practice of medicine. Price was one of Washington’s most vocal and persistent critics of the Affordable Care Act, (ACA). The ACA or Obamacare, signed into law in 2010, has helped more than 20 million people get health insurance and made coverage available to people with pre-existing conditions. However, heaven forbid, it has raised taxes on the very wealthy. For years, GOPers have promised to both “repeal and replace” Obamacare, but mainly as campaign slogans. In Price, however, Trump will be enlisting one of the few Republicans who have actually seriously thought of how to “replace” Obamacare by writing up a detailed piece of legislation (Huffington Post, Cohn, 11/29/16).
Price’s cooked up legislation, “Empowering Patients First Act (another phony GOP euphemism),” would gut Obamacare’s regulation of insurance plans, reduce the total financial assistance going to people buying private coverage, and entirely rescind that law’s expansion of Medicaid for the poorest Americans. Under Price’s legislation, insurers could resume some of the practices Obamacare now prohibits, like selling bare-bones plans, and in some cases, denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions . Price’s proposal would offer people tax credits, but there’d be no guarantee the credits would pay for comprehensive coverage. According to one analysis, there would be less government spending and regulation and lower taxes on the rich. Younger and healthier people would get access to cheaper insurance, but the insurance would consist of minimal coverage or gaps in benefits. Translation: young people who get cancer or become involved in serious auto accidents would be up the proverbial creek. Price’s scheme would mean fewer people covered, and almost certainly, less financial protection for people with the worst medical conditions. According to Edwin Park, VP for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy priorities, “It would likely leave many of the 20 million people losing coverage they now receive under the Affordable Care Act without health insurance and going without needed care (Cohn, Huffington Post. 11/29/16).”
Price was a key architect in getting the GOP House and GOP Senate to pass the repeal of Obamacare via the budget reconciliation process. Reconciliation allows certain bills involving fiscal matters to pass without being subject to a Senate filibuster. Both GOP congressional chambers passed this repeal Obamacare bill via reconciliation early in 2016, but Obama vetoed it. A President Trump, however, would sign this repeal. Many GOPers are again pushing Price’s tactic to repeal Obamacare via reconciliation (Huffington Post, 11/29/16).
And repealing Obamacare is just the start. Price wants to use reconciliation to change, read, gut Medicare as well, something GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan has always wanted to do. During the campaign, Donald indicated he would not cut either Medicare or Medicaid. Now, language on his transition website speaks of “modernizing” Medicare and giving states more “flexibility” over Medicaid, D.C. political euphemisms for privatizing Medicare and transforming Medicaid into block grants. With block grants, states get a fixed sum of money to run this program as they “please,” not an encouraging prospect in many “Red” states (See Cohn, Huffington Post, 11/29/16). Many voters have, once again, been deceived by “Don the Con.” Price, like Ryan, wants to end Medicare and Medicaid as we know it.
Price has a 100% rating from the anti-abortion National Right to Life Group, but a zero one from Planned Parenthood. In Congress, Price supported legislation barring federal funds for Planned Parenthood since some of its clinics had been involved in performing “barbaric” abortion practices (NY Times, Pear, 11/28/16). Should Price have his way at HHS, women would not be getting mammograms and Pap Smears from Planned Parenthood centers, even after these procedures have been removed from bare-bones GOP plans (seevotesmarts.org., the hill.com). Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards stated that as Health Secretary, Price “could take women back decades (Pear, NY Times, 11/28/16).”
Senate Democratic Minority Leader, NY’s. Chuck Schumer, aptly stated, “Congressman Price has proven to be far out of the mainstream of what Americans want when it comes to Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and Planned Parenthood. Nominating Congressman Price to be the HHS Secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house (Huffington Post, Cohn, 11/29/16).”
Senate Democrats must fight to reject Price’s HHS nomination. We must all protest massively against his appointment, as well as any attempts by Trump and his GOPers to repeal Obamacare, Medicare, and gut Planned Parenthood. Trump, remember, has no mandate. Our battle cry? “Hands off our Obamacare, Medicare, and Planned Parenthood!”