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Senate majority leader, the Republic Senator from Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, is planning to introduce a bill, to the US Senate next week. The bill, nicknamed ‘Graham-Cassidy, will represent the Republican’s latest attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare.
The bill is named after the bill’s sponsors: the Republican Senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, and the Republican Senator from Louisiana, Bill Cassidy. Republicans are under pressure to get the bill passed before the opportunity to pass it with a simple majority expires with the Reconciliation Bill on September 30th.
The objective of the Graham-Cassidy Bill is to abolish individual and employer insurance mandates and to increase the power of state governors to veto certain regulation in their state. Along with individual and employer mandate, it will eliminate:
- Medicaid expansion
- Cost-sharing subsidies
- Tax credits
And will make changes to:
- Traditional Medicaid
- Essential health benefits
- Price restrictions on older Americans
- Health savings account.
Under the Graham-Cassidy, Bill states will receive their Medicaid funding through block grants. This change will put an end to the Obamacare’s Medicaid program where states could have ninety-percent of their funding for new beneficiaries subsidized by Washington. This encouraged the states to expand their Medicaid programs to include individuals and families earning up to 138% of the Federal poverty level.
Under this new system, southern states that did not expand their Medicaid programs stand to receive more federal funding. Furthermore, the bill will also give greater power to the states by allowing them to spend their funding as they see fit.
President Trump and members of his administration are about to embark on a focused and deliberate campaign to win support for the President’s planned reforms to the American taxation system.
Both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are focused on winning the support of select members of the Democrat Party after the disastrous attempt to repeal Obamacare in July.
The White House will host a dinner on Tuesday night to be attended by Democratic Senator from North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp, Democrat Senator from Indiana, Joe Donnelly, Democratic Senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin, Republican Senator from Utah, Orrin Hatch, Republican Senator from South Dakota, John Thune, and Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey.
In addition, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Indiana three times over the coming weeks in an attempt to convince Donnelly, who is for reelection in 2018, in an attempt to convince him to support tax reform.
South Korean officials have confirmed that a blast at a North Korean nuclear testing site was caused by the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.
According to the South Korean newswire service, Yonhap, officials observed a 5.7 magnitude seismic event near the Punngye-ri nuclear testing site at about 12.30pm, local time. Tremors could even be felt in north east China.
North Korean state television announced the test to be ‘a perfect success’ and even published photographs of Kim Jong Un directing the test. North Korea’s state newspaper, Rodogon Sinmun, reported on Sunday:
“All components of the H-bomb were homemade and all the processes ranging from the production of weapons-grade nuclear materials to precision processing of components and their assembling were put on the Juche basis, thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants.”
The United Nations has issued a statement, passed by all fifteen members, condemned North Korea and has accused them of “deliberately undermining regional peace and stability and [having] caused grave security concerns around the world.”
Donald Turk, President of the European Council, released a statement condemning North Korea:
“The EU stands ready to sharpen its policy of sanctions and invites North Korea to restart dialogue on its programmes without condition. We call on the UN Security Council to adopt further U.N. sanctions and show stronger resolve to achieve a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”
British Prime Minister, Teresa May, stated:
“The international community has universally condemned this test and must come together to continue to increase the pressure on North Korea’s leaders to stop their destabilizing actions.”
French President, Emmanuel Macron, stated:
“The international community needs to deal with this latest provocation with the greatest firmness, so that North Korea will restart dialogue without conditions and proceed with the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.”
President Donald Trump tweeted:
“North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”
President Trump continued:
“North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”
US Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis, has met with President Trump and Vice President, Mike Pence, to discuss the situation. Outside the White House, Mattis made a brief statement:
“We have many military options, and the President wanted to be briefed on each of them.”
“We made clear that we have the ability to defend ourselves and our allies, South Korea and Japan, from any attack, and our commitments among our allies are ironclad. Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response – a response both effective and overwhelming.”
“Kim Jong-un should take heed the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice. All members unanimously agreed on the threat North Korea poses, and they remain unanimous in their commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, because we are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea.”
Republican Senator from Missouri, Roy Blunt, told NBC’s Meet the Press that nearby countries should do everything in their power to force North Korea to ease tensions. According to Blunt, the rogue communist state has been a topic of discussion in Senate Intelligence Committee meetings. Blunt said:
“In the intel committee that I serve on, I think it doesn’t disclose anything to say in that in the last year this has probably been the number one topic month after month – what was happening there, what are we going to do about it – and I hope the neighbourhood understands how critical this is.”
Blunt went on to refer to Kim Jong Un as “spoiled and reckless”:
“You’ve got a leader who is both spoiled and reckless. Spoiled and reckless is not a unique thing to find in the world today, but it is unique with somebody who has control of what may now be hydrogen weapons.”
The US is strongly considering issuing further trade sanctions to cut off North Korea. These sanctions may include Chinese banks and businesses doing trade with North Korea. US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said in an interview on Fox News on Sunday:
“We are going to strongly consider everything at this point and, again, I will draft a package for [President Trump’s’ strong consideration that would go as far as cutting off all trade and other business.”
Americans are recoiling from the tragic events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday. The tragic succession of events, which saw violence between the Unite the Right protesters and counter-protesters and culminated in a vicious car attack, left nineteen people injured and thirty-two-year-old Heather Heyer dead.
On Monday, President Trump bowed to pressure to name and shame those whose ideology inspired yesterday’s hate crime. Trump stated:
“Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.”
Political reactions have been swift and damning. Michael McCaul, Republican Congressman from Texas and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, tweeted:
“We must condemn the hate fueling the violence in #Charlottesville. It does not define us as Americans. Those affected are in my prayers.”
Republican Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, meanwhile, has called for the Department of Justice to investigate the events of Charlottesville as an act of domestic terrorism. Cruz stated:
“It’s tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed. Heidi’s and my prayers are with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the ongoing violence in Charlottesville. The First Amendment protects the rights of all Americans to speak their minds peaceably, but violence, brutality, and murder have no place in a civilized society. The Nazis, the KKK, and white supremacists are repulsive and evil, and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against the lies, bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred that they propagate. Having watched the horrifying video of the car deliberately crashing into a crowd of protesters, I urge the Department of Justice to immediately investigate and prosecute this grotesque act of domestic terrorism.”
At a press conference on Monday, Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas claims police had planned to move the Unite the Right protesters to the rear of Emancipation park. The protesters had originally agreed to cooperate with police. However, police were forced to alter their plans when protesters began entering the park at different locations.
The perpetrator of the attack, James Alex Fields, Jr., a self-confessed admirer of Adolf Hitler, has been charged with second-degree murder, malicious wounding, and failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in death. He has been denied bail.
President Donald Trump has joined Republican Senator for Arkansas, Tom Cotton, and Republican Senator for Georgia, David Perdue, in reworking the “Reform American Immigration for a Strong Economy” act (RAISE). This act will help Trump to fulfil his campaign promise to reform the immigration problem.
Trump told reporters that the Raise Act will “reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayers billions of dollars.” Trump went on to say:
“This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first, and that puts America first.”
A press release from the White House states that the current US immigration rate does not prioritise highly skilled immigrants over immigrants with low skills or no skills. At the moment, only six-percent of the one-million immigrants the US accepts annually emigrate because of their skills. Instead, the US has experienced decades of emigres with little to no skills. (To make matters worse, fifty-percent of immigrant households receive welfare compared to thirty-percent of native households). According to the release, the mass influx of cheap, unskilled labour has depressed wages and harmed vulnerable Americans.
The RAISE act seeks to replace the current permanent employment-visa framework, especially the diversity visa lottery system, with a new system which rewards applicants based on their merits. This system, which echoes similar immigration system in Australia and Canada, selects immigrants based on their level of education, their ability to speak English, their past achievements, and their entrepreneurial initiative.
Tensions are rising between the United States and North Korea. Last week, the Pentagon confirmed that the rogue communist state had successfully tested its second intercontinental ballistic missile.
Democrat Senator for California, Diane Feinstein, has called North Korea a “clear and present danger” to the United States. Similarly, Republican Senator for Ohio, Rob Portman, has questioned White House officials on why the rogue state has not been designated a state sponsor of terrorism – especially following the murder of Otto Warmbier by North Korean authorities. The chair of the Senate subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity, the Republican Senator for Colorado, Cory Gardner, has stated:
“It is clear, whether it’s the murderous actions the regime has taken against its own people, others, the imprisonments that they continue to be responsible for, whether it’s the missile launches that continue, whether it’s interaction with Iran, this decision needs to be a redesignation of that state sponsor of terror.”
North Korea’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism was removed in 2008 as a result of the Perry Initiative. The removal of the designation came with the proviso that North Korea disable its plutonium production and meet other standards. It has consistently failed to do so.
Republicans in the Senate have finally decided to vote for debates on a series of proposals to repeal and replace Obamacare. The motion was passed with a vote of 51/50 with Vice-President Mike Pence breaking the deadlock.
The motion’s success came despite phenomenal opposition. Republic Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski crossed the floor to the vote with the Democrats whilst outside left-wing agitators were arrested for disrupting Senate proceedings.
In a positive sign, however, John McCain returned to Washington despite his cancer diagnosis.
Speaking from the White House, President Trump commented:
“I applaud the Senate for taking a giant step to end the Obamacare nightmare. As this vote shows, inaction is not an option, and now the legislative process can move forward as intended to produce a bill that lowers costs and increases options for all Americans. The Senate must now pass a bill and get it to my desk so we can finally end the Obamacare disaster once and for all.”
In the end, the motion does not repeal and replace Obamacare. However, it is an important first step.