Price Confirmation Criticism All About Theater

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The political theater occurring in Washington is producing Oscar level material. In fact, it would be appropriate for Hollywood to add a best Kabuki theater category. This way, the Democrats in Congress could finally be recognized for their achievements in chutzpah. We know how much the left likes to celebrate themselves with the annual presentation of trophies.

Any good production needs a good screenplay. In the world of politics, this sometimes requires narrative creation. The basis for the upcoming production is the fight over repeal of Obamacare. The central character is Georgia 6th District Congressman and HHS Nominee Tom Price.

Price is an accomplished physician, having built one of the Southeast’s largest orthopedic medical practices. He’s also quite the policy wonk. As head of the House budget committee he has authored the Republican’s most recent plan to repeal and replace President Obama’s signature bill, and has the audacity to favor market and state based reforms over centrally planned solutions.

Democrats are heavily invested in the Affordable Care Act, with the investment being their majorities in the House, Senate, and now the White House. Previous awards for outstanding performance devoid of truth has been given to ACA defenses for “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” and “the average family will save $2,500 per year”.

Price has generally been the kind of guy in Washington that would rather present a 40-page PowerPoint on deficit reduction than give a 30 second soundbite for the evening news. As such, he’s generally regarded as a mild mannered, gentlemanly, policy wonk. He’s the kind of person that’s hard to demonize. Thus the outstanding effort for this year’s Democratic leadership.

With an assist from both CNN and the Wall Street Journal, stock transactions that have long since been properly disclosed and perfectly legal and ethical have been put into the spotlight devoid of context and with added spin. Price uses a broker to manage a directed account – meaning that the broker, not Price, picks the investments of publicly traded stocks.

His broker managed to buy 26 shares of a medical company worth $2,700 during a quarterly rebalancing of the portfolio, one of many trades. Price formally introduced legislation a week later that he had been working on publicly for the previous 18 months. The medical company would have found conditions more favorable if the legislation passed. The narrative is that Price is willing to sell out his reputation and character built over decades for profits off of 26 shares of stock.

It’s interesting that Democratic leadership has finally acknowledged the problems with members of Congress having inside information. A critical review of their charges isn’t complete without a review of the “Stock Act”, a measure passed by a Republican led house, which includes a “Pelosi provision”.

Pelosi as speaker profited from an Initial Public Offering from Visa as legislation worked its way through Congress benefitting credit card issuers. The Stock Act’s Pelosi provision specifically prohibits this practice.

Additional awards for chutzpah are given to members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee who own and trade health care stocks. 6 members of the committee have healthcare stocks on their disclosures, 4 of whom are Democrats. Then there’s Senator Al Franken, who harangued Price before his committee for owning tobacco stocks while he himself currently profits from ownership of tobacco stocks.

Price’s formal confirmation hearing will be this week before the Senate Finance Committee. They will ultimately be the committee to vote on his nomination. Because Senate Minority Leader Schumer has demanded a lock down of Democrats against Price for ideological reasons, Price is almost guaranteed to be confirmed, as Republicans will respond by doing the same.

So why the character assassination, over perfectly legal investments that members of Congress make and disclose every day? Because in political Kabuki theater, it’s not about the show you’re actually watching.

Democrats know they’re going to lose this round. They’re playing for the next one. The one where Price assumes control of an agency with a $1.1 Trillion-dollar budget. The one where he has the power to grant waivers to states to demonstrate they can do more with less.

Quite simply, they’re not afraid of Price because they’re worried he will fail. They’re opposing him because they fear he will succeed. Then their great investment giving up all control in Washington, at least temporarily, will have been in vain. They can’t risk giving Republicans the opportunity to demonstrate there’s a better way.

Democrats are going to do whatever they can to trash Tom Price, in order to usurp his future authority by painting him as corrupt. It’s all theater, a show about raw power, and Tom Price is the one who bears the full burden of the cost of the ticket.

28
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
5 Comment threads
23 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
6 Comment authors
Dave BearseSaltycrackerFreeDuckAndrew C. PopeBenevolus Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
The Eiger
The Eiger

Thank you Charlie. This is the best paragraph.

“Quite simply, they’re not afraid of Price because they’re worried he will fail. They’re opposing him because they fear he will succeed. Then their great investment giving up all control in Washington, at least temporarily, will have been in vain. They can’t risk giving Republicans the opportunity to demonstrate there’s a better way.”

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Or… They’re legitimately worried about millions of Americans losing healthcare coverage as the result of ending Medicaid expansion on top of concerns about insurers regaining the ability to discriminate on the basis of pre-existing conditions, cutting benefits for mental health services, cutting Medicaid funding, etc. You’re right it’s theater, but it’s only theater because the Democrats have no other option (their own fault, since they ditched the filibuster) than to make Price as unpopular as possible. I think it’s easy to forget, however, that Republicans are just as capable of originating witch hunts against Democratic appointees or officials as part… Read more »

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Fun story:
Tom Cotton blocked Cassandra Butts nomination to be Ambassador to the Bahamas as a means of inflicting “special pain on the President.” Butts died from acute lymphoma 835 days after being nominated, she never got a vote on the Senate floor.

That’s not even political theatre, that’s just one Senator being a douchecanoe.

FreeDuck
FreeDuck

I would love for Republicans to demonstrate there’s a better way. Up until now, if they know what the better way is they are not telling. Fact is the ACA was a Republican plan — universal healthcare using free market solutions instead of single payer. Partisanship kept them from fixing it when they had the chance (how long have they had a majority?) and partisanship, blind partisanship, is all over this piece. Price may be one of the less ick-worthy appointees of this new administration, but you act like Democrats are the only ones enjoying the theater of The Confirmation… Read more »

The Eiger
The Eiger

“Fact is the ACA was a Republican plan” That is false. There were parts that were taken from republican ideas. Keeping kids on their parents’ health plan and using tax credits are examples. Cutting $800 billion from Medicare was not a republican idea. Expanding Medicaid to cover people who could afford private insurance was not a republican plan. Telling people what they have to have was not a republican idea. So you just keep on lying to yourself and everyone you say that to. “I would love for Republicans to demonstrate there’s a better way.” Cool your jets. They will… Read more »

FreeDuck
FreeDuck

Cool my jets? They are voting to repeal something before they have identified the replacement. I don’t think it’s my jets that need cooling. Yes there are some differences between what the Republicans (and the Heritage foundation) proposed, but the similarities are at the core of the plan: individual mandate, subsidies, market places. That is the fundamental structure of the system and it’s what Republicans proposed, regardless of the smaller differences. Democrats wanted single payer but compromised when Republicans opposed it. What did Republicans compromise on? As I said, they have been in power a while. If they wanted to… Read more »

The Eiger
The Eiger

“They are voting to repeal something before they have identified the replacement.” Show me where they have repealed the ACA. They have passed a budget resolution as the vehicle for repeal. That is not the same as a repeal. When a replacement is ready they will use that budget resolution as the bill. Like setting the chess board up to play chess. Make sense? So yeah, cool your jets. “What did Republicans compromise on?” Nothing, becasue they weren’t in the room when it was being written so were unable to compromise on anything. Do you remember that the bipartisan vote… Read more »

FreeDuck
FreeDuck

“Show me where they have repealed the ACA.” Similar to how you differentiate between killing the budget for a program and actually repealing it, I also differentiate between voting to repeal and repealing. There’s this thing called the legislative process — PBS did a little diddy about it. Again, they have had, what, 6 years since the ACA passed to come up with a plan. So again, I’m not going to “cool my jets” when I’m not the one hurrying to defund something before I know what to replace it with. “Do you remember that the bipartisan vote was against… Read more »

The Eiger
The Eiger

I’m well aware of how the legislative process works. If I could draw a picture for you I would. Again, I ask you were in the 115th congress has a bill been passed to repeal the ACA. “Do you remember that the bipartisan vote was against the ACA.” I don’t know what this means. Well, of course you don’t. You continue to talk about blind partisanship and republicans needing to compromise on the ACA. Not a single Republican voted for the ACA. There were democrats who voted against it. Meaning the bipartisan vote was against the ACA. “Gratuitous implications that… Read more »

FreeDuck
FreeDuck

“Again, I ask you were in the 115th congress has a bill been passed to repeal the ACA.” And again I remind you that I never said a bill was passed. “Not a single Republican voted for the ACA. There were democrats who voted against it. Meaning the bipartisan vote was against the ACA.” Perhaps you could defer to the alternate interpretation of my lack of understanding — that your meaning was not made clear by your choice of language — rather than some innate partisan feeble-mindedness. I think if you had said “the vote against the ACA was bipartisan”… Read more »

The Eiger
The Eiger

“And again I remind you that I never said a bill was passed.” Okay whatever you say. I’ll just leave your original statement that led me to believe you think the republicans are going to pass a repeal without a replacement being ready. “They are voting to repeal something before they have identified the replacement.” “Not a single Republican voted for the ACA. There were democrats who voted against it. Meaning the bipartisan vote was against the ACA.” Yeah, sorry. I cannot help you with reading comprehension. You either have it or you don’t. Reading tends to help though. “I… Read more »

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

If the “plan” is the one included in Paul Ryan’s #betterway or Price’s previously proposed Empowering Patients First Act, then I can go ahead and complain that 1) they are crappy plans and 2) they do not meet Trump’s promise that there will be “coverage for everybody.”

The Eiger
The Eiger

“If the “plan” is the one included in Paul Ryan’s #betterway or Price’s previously proposed Empowering Patients First Act, then I can go ahead and complain that 1) they are crappy plans and 2) they do not meet Trump’s promise that there will be “coverage for everybody.”

Then I’ll say exactly what Pelosi said when the ACA was being forced down our throats in the Senate on Christmas Eve. Sorry not sorry.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

From the Heritage Foundation: (http://www.heritage.org/research/lecture/assuring-affordable-health-care-for-all-americans) 2) Mandate all households to obtain adequate insurance. Many states now require passengers in automobiles to wear seat belts for their own protection. Many others require anybody driving a car to have liability insurance. But neither the federal government nor any state requires all households to protect themselves from the potentially catastrophic costs of a serious accident or illness. Under the Heritage plan, there would be such a requirement. This mandate is based on two important principles. First, that health care protection is a responsibility of individuals, not businesses. Thus to the extent that anybody… Read more »

The Eiger
The Eiger

I did not say that the individual mandate was not a republican idea, but I do like how you had to go back to 1993 to find a republican plan that mandated health insurance. What I said was, “Telling people what they have to have was not a republican idea.” I’m not going to argue the ins and outs of a plan from 1993. I was in elementary school. Republicans have always wanted people to have coverage. The problem with the ACA mandate is that it narrowly limits what can be offered as a qualified plan. Republicans have wanted to… Read more »

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Obamacare borrowed heavily from HEART, so I think it’s completely relevant to bring it up when discussing the proposition of “the ACA was a Republican plan.” I was in elementary school when it was proposed as well, but understanding HEART (and the entire healthcare battle in the early 1990s) is essential to understanding how we got to where we are with the ACA and the roads forward to healthcare reform. Eric Cantor stated, before discussion of a healthcare bill even started in the House, that House Republicans would not be cooperating under any circumstances. On the Senate side, not only… Read more »

The Eiger
The Eiger

It’s funny how quick history is rewritten. I’m sure that Grassley and Baucus were in a room together at some point. That’s what you call a dog and pony show.

When IPAB was placed into the bill were republicans in the room? No
When the medical device tax was put in? Nope.

Two old farts reminiscing about writing something in 1993 is not the bill writing process.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Clearly we’re at an impasse here, but if you’ve got a list of Republican Senators that were beating down the door to work on a bipartisan healthcare bill, I’d love to see it. Again, however, I’ll point you back to McConnell’s quote that it was “absolutely critical” for Republicans to uniformly oppose ACA lest the law be seen as bipartisan. How else do you explain how a guy who helped author the individual mandate writing op-eds and getting on TV to talk about how the individual mandate is unconstitutional? Democrats had 60 seats in the Senate and a majority in… Read more »

The Eiger
The Eiger

“How else do you explain how a guy who helped author the individual mandate writing op-eds and getting on TV to talk about how the individual mandate is unconstitutional?” I guess he came to his senses. You will have to ask him. You seem to think that because I’m a republican I will defend anything that a republican has ever said. That’s not the case. Just becasue an old fart republican thought the individual mandate was good in 1993 doesn’t mean (1) it’s a good idea and (2) I will defend him. I won’t. Yes, there were some good things… Read more »

Benevolus
Benevolus

It’s so funny. 60 different votes to repeal Obamacare when they know it won’t pass. Now that it would pass- suddenly they are not ready. Theater indeed.

The Eiger
The Eiger

The Senate introduced a replacement bill today. Trump was sworn in on Friday. The Senators were sworn in less than a month ago. Sounds like they are moving pretty fast.

Benevolus
Benevolus

I can’t find this bill you refer to. Can you link or something?

The Eiger
The Eiger

I’m away from my google machine. I’ll see if I can find it shortly, but it was the first of what will be many bills that will be debated for the replacement.

Benevolus
Benevolus

This must be it: http://mainepublic.org/post/maine-gop-sen-collins-unveils-proposal-replace-obamacare#stream/0 “The Patient Freedom Act offers states three choices. Option No. 1: keep the Affordable Care Act, along with its subsidies, Medicaid expansion and individual and employer mandates. Skipping ahead to option No. 3, states could forego any federal involvement with health insurance. In between is option No. 2, which Collins suspects will be the most popular. “Which we call the default option,” she says. The default option would give states federal money to enroll people who can’t access health insurance into a standard plan. These would be high-deductible plans with basic pharmaceutical coverage, plus some… Read more »

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Would need to see specifics but this already sounds underwhelming.

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

While the democrats kept everyone’s eye on that $2,700, Obamas last moves Friday slipped Palestine $227,000,000.

Benevolus
Benevolus

Which of course Congress passed, thereby directing the Executive branch to do so. Unless you think the President has the authority to defy Congress.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

It’s very unlikely further investigation is going to turn up anything on Price, but that didn’t stop the GOP continuing Benghazi investigation.