Rod Blum, David Young lie to cover for reversal on health care bill

All three Iowa Republicans helped the American Health Care Act clear the U.S. House on May 4 with only one vote to spare. Representative Steve King (IA-04) has long called for repealing the 2010 health care reform law “root and branch” and came around to supporting the GOP replacement proposal in March. So nothing about his vote was surprising, aside from his awkward description of how former Representative Michele Bachmann’s “finger joined mine today to push my vote button to dismantle” Obamacare.

Unlike King, Representatives Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03) made a big show of opposing the AHCA in March. Blum pledged to insist on lower costs for consumers and helping “people who need the help.” Young repeatedly promised to protect people with pre-existing conditions while making sure the bill wouldn’t bring back caps on health benefits.

Feigning concern about the legislative process, Blum said in March, “I believe Congress should slow down and discuss in an open and transparent manner” how to address the “unsustainably high cost of healthcare in America.” Similarly, Young warned, “The ACA [Affordable Care Act] was rushed through Congress and to President Obama’s desk which resulted in a failed law that does not work for everyone [….] It is a fundamental principle that repeal, reforms and fixes to healthcare are done in the right way, for the right reasons, and in the right amount of time it takes to ensure we avoid the mistakes of the past. We need to be thoughtful and deliberate and get this right […].”

Over the past week, Blum studiously avoided comment as GOP leaders sought ways to give members cover for caving. Young’s staff told hundreds of callers he was still against the bill, even as late as Wednesday morning. The same day, he signed on as co-sponsor of an amendment that “comes nowhere close to meeting Republican commitments to people with pre-existing conditions.”

Self-styled deficit hawk Blum and “affordable for every patient” Young proceeded to vote for the bill without waiting for a Congressional Budget Office score to tell them “how many people it covers or how much it would cost.” It wasn’t the first time Young reversed his position on a matter of principle to please his party leaders.

In their comments on the House vote, Young and Blum tried to take credit for imaginary improvements in the AHCA. Their claims can’t withstand scrutiny.

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Young a no, Blum nowhere as House leaders shelve new health care vote

U.S. House Republican leaders called off plans to vote today on a new proposal to replace the 2010 health care reform law. Representative David Young (IA-03) was among at least 21 Republicans who had indicated they don’t support the MacArthur amendment to the American Health Care Act.

At this writing, Young has not released a statement, and his communications staff have not responded to my inquiries. His social media feeds are full of the usual photos of constituents or groups who stopped by his Washington office this week. But on Thursday, other staffers told various constituent callers (including me) that Young’s “position has not changed” since he came out against the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act in March. The Hill included him on their “whip count” of no votes, based on Young’s comments to Independent Journal Review reporter Haley Byrd: “Moderate GOP member David Young says he’s still a no on AHCA and tells me he *somehow* hasn’t read the MacArthur amendment yet. (Hmm. Okay.)”

Representative Rod Blum (IA-01) hasn’t commented publicly on the latest proposal, which was drafted to appease members of the House Freedom Caucus to which he belongs. I haven’t heard back from his communications staff, and numerous constituents who called his offices were told he has no position, either because nothing is on the House floor yet or because the bill is only in “draft” form. Notably, Blum didn’t wait for a floor vote to announce his opposition to the American Health Care Act last month. At that time, he said any health care reform bill needs “to drive down actual costs” and “help people who need the help.”

Groups including the AARP, the March of Dimes, American Hospital Association, and American Medical Association oppose the MacArthur amendment, under which states could decide not to force insurers to cover “essential health benefits.” The policy would also lead to much higher insurance premiums for older people and those with pre-existing conditions. The new Republican proposal envisions a return to state-based high-risk pools, which “failed consumers in the past.” Iowa was among 35 states that established high-risk pools before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Foundation explained the shortcomings well here.

I will update this post as needed if Blum or Young comment further on GOP health care reform alternatives. The third Iowa Republican in the U.S. House, Representative Steve King (IA-04), came around to supporting the American Health Care Act in March.

UPDATE: Iowans living in the first district continue to report being told that Blum’s staff told them he doesn’t have a position on the bill. Blum has taken a stand on countless other policies that never came up for a vote on the House floor. Just this week, he expressed support for President Trump’s “tax plan,” which is nothing like fleshed-out legislation.

I’ve added below a news release from State Representative Abby Finkenauer, who is likely to make her campaign against Blum official soon.

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Pete D'Alessandro, Theresa Greenfield a step closer to running in IA-03

Pete D’Alessandro confirmed yesterday that he has created an exploratory committee for a possible campaign Iowa’s third Congressional district. In a statement first provided to The Guardian and enclosed in full below, D’Alessandro said progressives throughout the district have encouraged him to run. “The many offers of support have been humbling. It is clear that a great many people believe it is not possible to change the clutter in Washington DC if we choose our candidates from the same failed pool that we have in the recent past.” He will spend the next few months “traveling to all 16 counties in our district listening to everyday people, talking with activists, and engaging with community leaders to gather their views on the condition and the direction of the district and our country.”

A veteran of many Iowa Democratic campaigns and a consultant for candidates elsewhere, D’Alessandro most recently worked here as political director for Bernie Sanders before the 2016 caucuses. Sanders energized a large number of activists to get involved in Democratic Party politics for the first time, and if that small army becomes engaged in the IA-03 primary, they could be an important volunteer and donor base for D’Alessandro.

In recent weeks, many Des Moines area activists have been talking about Theresa Greenfield as a possible challenger to two-term Representative David Young. Greenfield is president of the family-owned real estate development company Colby Interests in Windsor Heights. She confirmed today,

I am exploring a run for Congress in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District and am having fun doing it! For now, my focus is to introduce myself to community leaders, visit all 16 counties, and invite folks to share what their priorities are and what our communities need. I am exploring a run for Congress because people like us — need people like us to lead, not life long politicians. It’s the only way we’re going to bring about real change.

State Senator Matt McCoy told me last month he was considering running for Congress and will make a final decision this fall. Since McCoy is up for re-election next year in Senate district 21, covering parts of Des Moines and West Des Moines, he would have to abandon his seat in the legislature in order to seek the Democratic nomination in IA-03.

Anna Ryon has been the only declared Democratic candidate in IA-03 since Mike Sherzan recently withdrew from this race. Ryon is an attorney with the Office of Consumer Advocate; her campaign is online here.

The sixteen counties in IA-03 contain 167,092 active registered Democrats, 177,376 Republicans, and 167,828 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Young won re-election in 2016 by 53.4 percent to 39.7 percent, outperforming the top of the GOP ticket by about five points. Although Donald Trump carried IA-03 by 48.5 percent to 45.0 percent, the swing to the Republican presidential nominee here was significantly smaller than in Iowa’s first and second Congressional districts.

IA-03 is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s long list of 2018 targets but not among the 20 top-priority Republican-held districts.

UPDATE: D’Alessandro has launched a website for his exploratory committee.

The Republican Party of Iowa’s first hit on D’Alessandro came in a bizarre press release on April 27, which I’ve added below.

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IA-03: Mike Sherzan is out, Pete D'Alessandro to decide soon

Mike Sherzan will withdraw his candidacy in Iowa’s third Congressional district. In a written statement enclosed in full below, the runner-up in the 2016 Democratic primary to represent IA-03 said today,

I am exiting this race because I have recently come to the conclusion that conducting the type of campaign I am comfortable with would require substantial financial self-funding, and that’s not how this process should work. The campaign finance system we currently have is wrong and must be changed. For this and other personal reasons I have decided to withdraw from the campaign. Going forward I will support the progressive causes I campaigned on and have great passion for. These causes include campaign finance reform, public education and student debt reduction, and funding Planned Parenthood. I will also continue to support candidates who value the policies and positions of the Democratic Party. It was a true honor to run for this office and I will always be grateful for all of my amazing supporters.”

“I’ve spoken with all kinds of Iowans about what’s happening in our country and there’s a real desire for change from what is happening under David Young and Donald Trump. The energy among Democrats is as high as I’ve ever seen, and I’m confident a strong candidate is going to defeat Young next November. I look forward to hearing from those who step forward and working to help them win.

Sherzan’s departure leaves Anna Ryon as Young’s only declared challenger. You can read more about her here or on her campaign website.

Longtime Democratic consultant Pete D’Alessandro, who was political director for Bernie Sanders in Iowa, is also considering this race. I reached out to ask how Sherzan’s decision might affect his plans. D’Alessandro commented by phone this afternoon, “Mike’s statement was pretty solid and showed a guy with a lot of character, with how he described what his thought process was, and also about how he viewed where we need to move.” Sherzan wasn’t “throwing any negative stuff at anybody else.” Rather,

I thought that he showed that he grasped progressive values and just didn’t think he was the right vehicle at this time. I really thought it was very well thought out […] You really grasp from that statement that he is a person that understands that what we’re going through is bigger than any one person, and that he sees the fact that we have to move in a certain direction as much more important than any particular campaign, including his own. So I think he deserves a lot of credit for that.

And the fact that he wants to stay involved–anyone with that kind of view of what we need to do is going to be able to stay involved.

As for his own plans, D’Alessandro said he won’t make any announcement until after Easter weekend, but expects to have something “concrete” to say about the race “sooner rather than later,” probably sometime next week.

UPDATE: I asked John Norris, who may run for governor, whether he might consider becoming a candidate for Congress instead. He is very familiar with both offices, having served as chief of staff for Representative Leonard Boswell after the 1996 election before doing the same job for Governor Tom Vilsack. Norris responded by e-mail today, “My focus is on Iowa and helping turn this state around. I believe I can have the most impact here, especially as the Trump Administration shifts so much of the responsibility to the states.”

SECOND UPDATE: Added below Ryon’s statement on Sherzan leaving the race.

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Seven years of false promises finally caught up with Republicans

Among the U.S. political developments I never would have predicted: the Republican-controlled Congress was unable to repeal the Affordable Care Act under a president ready to sign the bill into law. After canceling a planned floor vote today on the American Health Care Act, House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged, “Obamacare is the law of the land. … We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”

In the depths of my despair after the November election, I felt sure that the Affordable Care Act would be history by now, and Congress would be well on the way to privatizing Medicare.

Among the many reasons Republicans failed to draft a coherent health care alternative and could not coalesce around the half-baked American Health Care Act, the most important is this:

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An open letter to Congressman David Young

Tom Witosky follows up on recent correspondence with his U.S. House representative. -promoted by desmoinesdem

March 13, 2017
Dear Congressman Young,

I am writing this open letter to you because the time is fast approaching when your words will be put to the test with your vote on the proposed American Health Care Act.

Make no mistake, the Republican majorities’ decision to amend key portions of the Affordable Care Act will change coverage for millions of us who have obtained insurance through federal or state exchanges.

In your Feb. 21 letter to me, you outlined your concerns about the current law and what you believed needed to be corrected with new legislation. Those concerns included:

“We need a healthcare law that works for all Iowans, the facts are that the current healthcare law works for some but it does not work for others.”

Analysis of this proposal by a variety of experts and expert groups – conservative and liberal — indicates strongly that the House proposal does nothing to provide a law “that works for all Iowans.”

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