Mid-week open thread, with latest Obama cabinet news

Do you want the good news first, or the bad news? President Barack Obama has reportedly settled on a strong candidate to replace Lisa Jackson as Environmental Protection Agency administrator. On the flip side, Steven Chu’s successor at the Department of Energy is likely to be a nuclear physicist with connections to major polluting industries. Details are after the jump. Still no word on the next secretary of transportation.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is the latest Republican governor to decide to expand Medicaid under the 2010 health care reform law. He was one of those leading the charge to have the law declared unconstitutional. Some comments from today’s press conference are after the jump as well. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, Ohio Governor John Kasich and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder are all Republicans who opposed the Obama administration policy but have agreed to expand Medicaid in their states. I hope that when Iowa Governor Terry Branstad meets with U.S. Health and Human Services officials later this week, he will find some face-saving way to agree to expand Medicaid here. So far he sounds determined to resist the policy, despite the consensus of every major Iowa medical group as well as a wide array of religious and social justice organizations.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

Jeff Mason and Roberta Rampton reported for Reuters that “air quality expert Gina McCarthy” will be Obama’s pick for the EPA.

McCarthy would likely become the face of Obama’s latest push to fight climate change. Currently the assistant administrator for the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, she would replace Lisa Jackson, who stepped down as EPA chief this month.


A Boston native, McCarthy came to Washington after serving as the top environmental regulator in Massachusetts and Connecticut under Democratic and Republican governors.

Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, a Democrat, appointed her chairwoman of a council to oversee a review of a proposed hazardous waste incinerator in the Boston area in 1990.

She later served as an environmental policy adviser to then-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and launched the state’s first Climate Protection Action Plan. Romney was Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2012 presidential election.

In 2004, McCarthy was appointed to head Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection under then-Governor Jodi Rell, also a Republican, and helped lead the state into a carbon cap-and-trade system for Northeastern states, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The same report names Ernest Moniz as the president’s choice to lead the Department of Energy.

Moniz, a former undersecretary of energy during the Clinton administration, is director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative, a research group that gets funding from industry heavyweights including BP, Chevron, and Saudi Aramco for academic work on projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. […]

At MIT, Moniz led intensive studies about the future of coal, nuclear energy and natural gas, and he helped attract funding and research momentum to energy projects on campus. […]

Some green groups are skeptical about Moniz because of his support for natural gas and have started petitions against his potential nomination.

They are wary of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a method used by gas drillers to blast sand, water and chemicals into layers of shale to unleash natural gas trapped deep beneath the ground.

From Sam Baker’s report for The Hill:

Scott isn’t the first high-profile GOP governor to accept the Medicaid expansion, but he’s arguably the biggest get for the Obama administration. Florida led the 26-state lawsuit that said the entire healthcare law – specifically including its Medicaid expansion – was unconstitutional.

Roughly 1 million Floridians will have access to healthcare coverage if the state legislature approves Scott’s plan. He said he would only support the expansion for three years, and would back out if the federal government backs away from its funding commitments.

“While the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care,” Scott said at a news conference.

Scott said last year that he would not participate in the expansion, and he has also refused any role for the state government setting up an insurance exchange – the other half of the healthcare law’s coverage expansion.

“This would be devastating … this is an expansion that just doesn’t make any sense,” Scott said in a 2012 interview with Fox News.

  • If Branstad accepts Medicaid expansion,

    he will put a partisan spin on the decision, blaming the Obama administration for turning down his IowaCare system and requiring a program that he claims is more costly. In an email his office sent dated Jan. 29, he wrote:

    The Governor strongly supports the Iowa Care program and believes it may be possible to offer necessary medical services to those not otherwise eligible for Medicaid in a more cost effective manner through continuation of this program.

    He also claimed that Medicaid expansion…

    costs more money without any assurance that the quality of care will improve.

    It seems obvious that people will get better care if they have coverage than if they do not, and IowaCare is a poor solution. Many things are not covered, and people must travel to Des Moines or Iowa City for care.  

    • the Iowa Care program

      is everything Republicans would normally rail against. Making people drive hours from their home instead of letting them choose a doctor close by, etc.

      IowaCare also doesn’t cover as many people, and many studies have shown that people with Medicaid coverage have better outcomes than people with no health insurance coverage.

  • Medicaid

    When did we start calling Medicaid health insurance coverage?  I know that technically it is, but it is because folks can’t afford coverage that they are eligible for Medicaid.  I hope I am making sense.  

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