MEDICARE BATTLE BREWING … ARE WOMEN HEADED FOR THE DRAFT? … THE ACELA PRIMARIES … HILL IN, BERN OUT … ELITES RESIGNED … THE DOMINOES ARE FALLING … GOP IN FULL REVOLT, DEMS, NOT SO MUCH … IF YOU READ ONE THING THIS WEEK … SENATE 2016 … and other news of the week.
Joyce Rubenstein and the Capstone Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Will Stone, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala and Kayla Baca)
MEDICARE BATTLE BREWING The Hill: “An Obama administration proposal aimed at fighting high drug prices is facing a backlash on Capitol Hill. Republicans say the pilot program that would change how Medicare pays for certain drugs should be scrapped, while congressional Democrats are expressing serious concerns and seeking changes, but generally do not want to terminate it completely. At issue is a five-year pilot program that would change the way Medicare Part B pays for drugs. Currently, Medicare pays doctors the average price of a drug plus 6%. The administration warns that system gives doctors an incentive to prescribe higher cost drugs so that they get paid more. The pilot program would reduce the 6% add-on to 2.5% plus a flat fee of about $16. Some powerful interest groups are strongly against the proposal and are pressuring Congress to act. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has denounced the plan, as have some medical provider groups, like the association representing cancer doctors. AARP is a prominent supporter of the proposed program, noting that last year Medicare Part B spent $22 billion on drugs, double the amount in 2007, which it calls “simply unsustainable.”
ARE WOMEN HEADED FOR THE DRAFT? WashPost: The HASC took a big and unexpected step toward making women register for the draft Wednesday night, as a handful of Republicans joined Democrats to back a measure that its own sponsor hoped would fail. Right now the draft is sexist,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who filed an amendment to the House’s annual defense authorization bill to require women between the ages of 18 and 26 to register for the Selective Service, the government agency that keeps records of who is eligible to be conscripted. UP IS DOWN Hunter, who is against the Obama administration’s recent policy change allowing women to serve in all combat roles, said he only proposed the measure to start a discussion about the draft. He voted against his own amendment, arguing that anyone who favored it would be siding with the administration. BACKFIRED But Hunter’s gamble that committee members would shy away from forcing women into the draft backfired when a slim majority — including five Republicans — opted to endorse the measure by a vote of 32 to 30. BUT, BUT, BUT including women in the draft still has a long way to go. It would have to survive a full House vote and then make it through the Senate. It would change a policy that has been in place since 1981, when the Supreme Court ruled that because women could not hold combat jobs, they did not have to register for the draft. NDAA The House is expected to vote on the annual defense authorization bill — of which the women in the draft is now part — in mid-May.”
THE ACELA PRIMARIES (because the five states that held primaries on that day coincide with the route of Amtrak’s fastest carrier, the Acela) …
TRUMP IS WINNING AND WINNING BIG. …average of 59% of the Republican vote in the five states.
THE ‘STOP TRUMP” MOVEMENT CAN’T.
SORRY SANDERS, CLINTON ISN’T A REGIONAL CANDIDATE.
CRUZ IS A FISH OUT OF WATER ON THE EAST COAST.
SANDERS CAN’T CLOSE IN CITIES
MAKE THAT ONE FOR 46 If Mr. Kasich cannot win a reliably moderate, blue-blooded New England state like Connecticut, where exactly can he win?
And from Politico:
– “Sanders is not going to be the Democratic nominee.
– How Sanders and Clinton come together is going to be the most important Democratic story line of 2016.
– Cruz’ s crushing losses means his WI win was a blip, not a race reset … and speaks to his lack of broad appeal.
– Trump is still in deep, deep trouble. Not since Ozymandias has a colossus stood on such crumbly legs. For all his big primary wins Tuesday night, the easy money (right now, anyway) is that he’d lose every single one of them in a general election — Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut and even Pennsylvania — by massive, perhaps unprecedented margins.”
HILLARY IN LATimes: “Hillary Clinton built an all but insurmountable delegate lead over Bernie Sanders on Tuesday night with victories in four out of five Eastern states. BERN OUT Meanwhile, everyone on the campaign for Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) is updating his or her resumes. Yesterday, he said he’ll be laying off hundreds of campaign workers, which could be a sign of Bern out. WashPost: “Veteran Democratic operatives and officeholders said the Clinton-Sanders divide is typical of past contests — Obama vs. Hillary Clinton in 2008; John Kerry vs. Howard Dean in 2004; Al Gore vs. Bill Bradley in 2000; Bill Clinton vs. Jerry Brown in 1992 — and does not represent a unique or fundamental challenge to bringing the party together for a general election.”
GOP ELITES ARE NOW RESIGNED WashPost: “Many believe the billionaire cannot be stopped and are exhausted by the prospect of a contested July convention.”
THE DOMINOES ARE FALLING After winning each of the five Acela Primary states by 29 or more points:
“As far as I am concerned, it’s over. … I consider myself the presumptive nominee – absolutely.” He’s right about both. To the pundits who’ll try to infuse next week’s Indiana primary – Ted Cruz’s last stand — with melodrama and cosmic significance: Good luck. … I think the voters are trying to tell us something.”
TRUMP’S VPs: The Fix: Marco Rubio (Little Marco); John Kashich (1 for 41); Joni Ernst (Iowa Senator); Rick Scott (FL Gov); Chris Christie
IF YOU READ ONLY ONE THING … David Brooks Click:”If Not Trump, What?” “[T]he leaders of the Republican Party are … going down meekly and hoping for a quiet convention. They seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter.
DOES ANYONE CARE? The Fix: “Wednesday, Ted Cruz announced that Carly Fiorina would serve as his vice president, should this turn out to be one of the small percentage of possible universes in which Cruz somehow ends up as the Republican nominee and then also ends up as the actual president. Some people suggested that this was just a cynical ploy to gin up some votes, particularly in California (and Indiana).
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Lucifer in the flesh.”
– Former House Speaker John Boehner describing Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz
GOP DEFENSE HAWKS PUSH FOR ELECTION-YEAR SPENDING SPREE: Following the HASC’s 16-hour markup Wednesday of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the panel was taking heat from multiple fronts for its plan to siphon money from military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay for more weapons purchases.” (Politico)
“The GOP hawks, led by HASC Chair Mac Thornberry of Texas, are using the annual NDAA to press for $18 billion beyond what the Obama administration had requested for the military, aiming to increase the size of the armed forces and buy more fighter jets, warships and other equipment. It’s a blueprint for ‘rebuilding the military’ in a year when those words have become a buzz phrase for Republican presidential contenders and congressional candidates alike.
“But it also chops funds that the Pentagon had proposed to spend in hotspots like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and to beef up defenses in Europe. The House Republicans hope that the next president will be forced to make up that money by asking Congress for extra funding to shore up a war-spending account known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund.”
– Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on the HASC approach: “You’re taking money out of the warfighter’s pocket oversees and putting it into basically the base budget. … You’re shorting the warfighter. The way to do this is not take it out of [war spending] – just go ahead and add $18 billion to the topline.”
GOP IN FULL REVOLT, DEMS NOT SO MUCH WashPost: “In an election defined by anti-establishment energy and anger, the two parties are now diverging as Republicans fully embrace an outsider as their presidential nominee and Democrats line up behind a quintessential insider. Republicans seem certain to nominate a bomb-throwing insurgent in celebrity real estate mogul Donald Trump or, should he fall short, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, while Democrats are consolidating around a guardian of the status quo, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who all but locked up the nomination with decisive victories in Tuesday’s primaries. The successes of Trump and Clinton underscore important nuances in the sentiments coursing through the two parties. While voters in both share a frustration with the state of the nation’s economy and politics, Republicans blame their own leaders as much as anybody else and are, therefore, more eager for a radical fix, whereas Democrats still believe their elected leaders can bring change from within. This dynamic played out Tuesday beyond the presidential level as well. In a pair of hotly contested Democratic Senate primaries, establishment favorites — Chris Van Hollen in Maryland and Kathleen McGinty in Pennsylvania — defeated more liberal, insurgent challengers.
SENATE 2016 – COLORADO OPPORTUNITY? The Fix: “For a year in which they’re playing plenty of defense by trying to protect numerous vulnerable incumbents, Senate Republicans have some chances out West: An open seat in Nevada and a chance to take down Senate Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbent, Michael Bennet, in Colorado. But when it comes to [Colorado], they might be in the process of blowing it. The past few months have brought on a slew of recruiting and campaign troubles for Republicans. They struggled to find an experienced and reputable candidate to take on Bennet. Now they’re trudging through a crowded nominating process with no obvious standout hopeful. And this week, the establishment’s preferred candidate — to the extent there is one — failed to qualify to be on the GOP primary ballot. So did two other candidates. …Senate Democrats are practically giddy watching the GOP nominating process play out. They say with each passing day and the drama that the GOP primary brings, Bennet’s potential victory margin gets bigger. …the nonpartisan Cook Political Report keeps this race in its “lean Democrat” column “until (and if)” a viable candidate emerges. It’s still too early to tell whether Republicans’ missteps have permanently altered the race. But for now, it seems like the Colorado Senate race is a lot less competitive than we thought it would be.”
DEMS UNUSALLY ACTIVE ROLE IN PRIMARIES The Fix: “On Wednesday morning, Senate Democrats were patting themselves on the back for a job well done. They put two intraparty feuds behind them, and in a crucial swing state that could play a role in which party controls the Senate, they ensured that their preferred candidate will go on to the general election.None of this happened by accident. … Democrats have been strategically — and often very publicly– trying to shape the outcome of contested primaries this cycle. They’ve endorsed candidates in nearly every contested primary, and in one case, they spent more than $1 million to push their chosen candidate to victory.
Senate Democrats say the fact that they’re playing so fiercely in primaries actually suggests they’re in a position of strength this cycle. Republicans are defending 24 of the 34 seats up for reelection this November, and eight of the 10 most competitive seats are held by Republicans. Democrats say the favorable map affords them the luxury of paying extra close attention to their primaries. And the Senate map is looking better and better for Democrats.”
CREEPY OLD MEN Skimm: “[This week], former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison. For years, Hastert was making large withdrawals from his bank account that he hoped would go undetected. Didn’t work. The feds noticed, and it soon came out that Hastert had agreed to pay $3.5 million to an unidentified person who apparently knew about some kind of “prior misconduct.” A ka when he allegedly sexually abused at least four teenage boys while he was a high school teacher and coach. Because the alleged abuse happened decades ago, Hastert can no longer be charged. But he pleaded guilty to making illegal cash withdrawals. Yesterday, after the judge called him a “serial child molester,” Hastert said he wanted to apologize to the boys he “mistreated.” Ugh.