• Tag Archives M. Michael Rounds
  • Statesmanship in Display: Senator Jeff Flake Calls Senators to Conscience over Dangerous Trump

    Speaking of snowflakes, Jeff Flake is no flake. The junior Senator from Arizona gave this important speech on the floor of the United States Senate warning his colleagues and his country of the “alarming and dangerous state of affairs” created by the “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior” of Donald J. Trump:

    Here is the full text, as prepared and posted as a press release by Senator Flake (and let me tell you: if South Dakota’s members of Congress ever issued press releases of this substance, I’d print them in full as well). I bold some key sentences, but every word is worth reading.

    Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles. Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely. We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.

    Now is such a time.

    It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our – all of our – complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.

    In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order – that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue – with the tone set at the top.

    We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country – the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.

    None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that this is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

    Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as “telling it like it is,” when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

    And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength – because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.

    It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? — what are we going to say?

    Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.

    Here, today, I stand to say that we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal” – Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 – held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract each other when necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote.

    But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course not, and we would be wrong if we did.

    When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do – because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseam – when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

    Now, I am aware that more politically savvy people than I caution against such talk. I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.

    If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters – the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

    A Republican president named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:

    “The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued. “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

    Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in that regard. I am holier-than-none. But too often, we rush not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing—until the accommodation itself becomes our principle.

    In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice almost any principle. I’m afraid that is where we now find ourselves.

    When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us.

    Leadership lives by the American creed: E Pluribus Unum. From many, one. American leadership looks to the world, and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero-sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have also been at our most principled. And when we do well, the rest of the world also does well.

    These articles of civic faith have been central to the American identity for as long as we have all been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously, and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them, or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership. And to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

    Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance, keeping the countries that had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place. We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward. We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

    Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.

    The implications of this abandonment are profound. And the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?

    The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.

    I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.

    I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

    To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.

    It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party – the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things. It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

    There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal – but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

    We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

    This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because to have a healthy government we must have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that day comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.

    I plan to spend the remaining fourteen months of my senate term doing just that.

    Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women — none of us here is indispensable. Nor were even the great figures from history who toiled at these very desks in this very chamber to shape this country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career doesn’t mean much if we are complicit in undermining those values.

    I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today, and will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healing enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time, and are no less so in ours:

    “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

    Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

    [emphasis mine; Senator Jeff Flake, prepared remarks, United States Senate, 2017.10.24].

    This searing indictment of Donald J. Trump as an unacceptably coarse in incorrigibly ineffective leader who undermines our core American political values does not come from a raving liberal suffering from Obama withdrawal or Trump derangement syndrome. It does not come from some DailyKos/HuffPo ranter preaching to the shrill leftist echo chamber. It does not come from some Marxist or Muslim or Antifa Fabian or any other mad or sad strawman whose effigies the Trumpist apologists raise and roast.

    This indictment of Donald Trump comes from Senator Jeff Flake, a long-term-thinking, Mormon-believing, Barry Goldwater conservative. No hysteria here—just the honest assessment of an honest conservative of his party’s dishonest and dangerous President.

    Honesty—try it, Senator Thune, Senator Rounds, Congresswoman Noem. Can we get a second for Senator Flake?

    Related Reading: Make that a third: Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, also self-liberated from reëlection pressures, said today that Trump “debases our country” with his “constant non-truth telling,” is “purposely breaking down… relationships we have around the world that have been useful to our nation,” and is “obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.”

    Related Brownnosing: Meanwhile, Senator Marion Michael Rounds enjoyed having lunch with the President. Oh boy oh boy oh boy, isn’t Mr. Trump great.

    Compare Rounds’s cheer video and Flake’s speech, and tell me who’s the snowflake.

    Trivia: Jeff Flake was born in Snowflake, Arizona. Let the metaphors flow….

  • Rounds Co-Sponsors Alexander-Murray to Keep ACA Alive

    Holy cow! In what we might generously read as Mike Rounds finally standing up to Donald Trump, South Dakota’s junior Senator is co-sponsoring the Alexander-Murray bill! This bipartisan legislation would restore the cost-sharing reductions that Trump recklessly cancelled last week, stabilize the Affordable Care Act individual-coverage marketplaces.

    Rounds is one of twelve Republican Senators joining twelve Democrats as sponsors:

    1. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee
    2. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota
    3. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina
    4. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona
    5. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine
    6. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa
    7. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska
    8. Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina
    9. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee
    10. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana
    11. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa
    12. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia
    13. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington
    14. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine
    15. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire
    16. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota
    17. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware
    18. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri
    19. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota
    20. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana
    21. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota
    22. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia
    23. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin
    24. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire

    Mike Rounds sponsoring a bill alongside Al Franken—Dakota War College is going to have a hard time posting that press release.

    Speaking of which, why not? Here’s Senator Rounds’s attempt to keep it from sounding like he’s keeping Obamacare alive:

    Sen. Mike Rounds
    Sen. Mike Rounds

    WASHINGTON— Following months of discussions between U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Angus King (I-Maine), Rounds made the following statement on the bipartisan Alexander/Murray legislation, which will give states additional flexibility to tailor their health insurance market to fit their individual needs. It also temporarily authorizes Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments, which will protect consumers from even higher premiums and help stabilize the market in the near-term.

    “Obamacare is a rapidly sinking ship,” said Rounds. “Our agreement will give us time to stabilize the market and provide meaningful flexibility and relief to states while we continue our efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare with a competitive, market-based health care system that is actually affordable. In the meantime, we protect low-income families from even higher premiums by temporarily continuing the CSR payments for two years. Meanwhile, we are making meaningful, permanent reforms to the 1332 waiver process, which will provide much-needed relief to states and allow them to tailor their health insurance markets to fit their individual needs. Empowering the states with new opportunities to innovate and strengthen their health insurance market is a significant step in the right direction.”

    CSR payments are essentially a government subsidy for low-income individuals. Last week, President Trump announced the administration would stop making the monthly CSR payments, citing a May 2016 federal court ruling which found the payments were unconstitutional because Congress had not appropriated money for this purpose.

    This legislation would provide permanent, significant reforms to Obamacare’s ‘1332 waivers.’ Due to House and Senate rules, the 1332 waiver changes outlined in the Alexander/Murray legislation are not eligible to be included in “budget reconciliation” legislation, which is the vehicle being used to repeal and replace Obamacare by congressional Republicans. Those efforts will continue. Alexander/Murray also modifies the affordability guardrails in a way that maintains patient protections but allows states to innovate and develop cheaper ways to cover more Americans.

    It would also legally authorize the administration to temporarily continue CSR payments for two years, similar to the provisions of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, in which 49 GOP members of the U.S. Senate supported earlier this year.
    Reforms to the 1332 Waiver Process Would:

    • Amend the law to provide meaningful flexibility for health plan designs;
    • Streamline the waiver approval process by letting governors apply for waivers without requiring state legislatures to pass an authorization law;
    • Allow for automatic approval of waivers if a state’s application is substantially similar to one already approved by federal authorities;
    • Cut the approval time at Health and Human Services (HHS) in half;
    • Provide additional fast-tracking opportunities for waivers in emergency circumstances; and
    • Allow for waivers to last longer than under current law (six years v. five years today) [Senator Marion Michael Rounds, press release, 2017.10.19].

    That 1332 waiver reform could be stretched to read as another poke at Trump, since Trump has delayed 1332 waivers for Iowa and Oklahoma.

    Let Senator Rounds keep spinning Alexander-Murray as a bridge to ACA repeal-and-replace. Greg Belfrage isn’t fooled, and neither should the rest of us be. The plain fact is that, after failing thrice to repeal Obamacare while his party controls Congress and the White House (and come on: would a “sinking ship” be that hard to torpedo?), Rounds is now backing a bill to do the opposite of what Trump promised to do: keep the Affordable Care Act afloat.

    And keeping the Affordable Care Act alive really is the best policy. Good call, Senator Rounds!

  • Rounds Admits Repealing Estate Tax Not Necessary

    Pat Powers has been screaming about the estate tax (mistakenly propagandized as the “death tax”) for his GOP sponsors for quite some time. He is thus stung into confusion by the one South Dakota member of Congress who is not currently advertising on his blog, Senator Marion Michael Rounds, who admitted last week what we Democrats, some smart Republicans, and fact-based economists have been saying all along—repealing the estate tax is an unnecessary sop to a handful of rich people:

    Sen. Rounds: my rich pals can already dodge the estate tax!
    Sen. Rounds: my rich pals can already dodge the estate tax!

    “I don’t think we have to totally repeal it because I think the folks on the upper end of it are all avoiding it right now legally anyway,” Mr. Rounds said Wednesday. “For me, we can’t fail on [a tax overhaul] and whatever we can do to pick up the last few votes we may need, I’m ready to negotiate.”

    Under current law, the tax, with a top rate of 40%, applies to estates valued at more than $5.49 million per person or $10.98 million per married couple. Those levels are indexed to inflation under a deal Congress reached in 2010. The tax applies to about 5,500 estates a year.

    According to IRS data, more than 40% of the estate tax in 2015 was paid by estates with gross values over $50 million [Richard Rubin, “Senate GOP Hits Resistance on Estate-Tax Repeal—from Republicans,” Dow Jones Newswires via Fox Business, 2017.10.05].

    Apparently, we Obama Democrats have already helped make the estate tax rare:

    …This year, 0.2% of people dying will have a taxable estate. Increases in the exemption under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama made the tax less common. In 2008, 0.7% of the deceased had taxable estates; in 2000, 2.2% did.

    “We’ve taken care of the problem for the vast majority of family-owned businesses or ranchers in this country,” Ms. Collins said. “So that is not a priority for me as we seek to craft this tax bill” [Rubin, 2017.10.05].

    Jared Bernstein, VP Joe Biden’s chief economist, says repealing the estate tax blows another hole in the budget and gets us nothing but wider wealth inequality:

    Given that reality, why kill the estate tax? It hits only the richest top 0.2 percent of estates and squanders $240 billion over 10 years for no known growth effects (the estate tax was temporarily eliminated in the 2001 tax cut, and analysts found zip in terms of growth impacts) [Jared Bernstein, “Psst… Hey, Republicans… Wanna See Some Payfors?Washington Post, 2017.10.05].

    But Senator Rounds is still looking for a way to give some millionaires more gravy:

    One way to address that concern, Mr. Rounds said, would be to double or triple the current exemption, setting it at $20 million or $30 million per couple.

    “I would consider that a victory,” said Mr. Rounds, who helped remove tax reductions for high-income households from the Senate’s health care bill earlier this year over concerns about pairing tax cuts with Medicaid cuts [Rubin, 2017.10.05].

    Rounds’s refutation of Republican estate-tax hysteria leaves Powers sputtering:

    I believe Senator Rounds is trying to say that as part of tax reform, everything must be on the table and balanced against the greater good. But obviously, there’s some who disagree.

    What are your thoughts? [Pat Powers, “Senator Mike Rounds comes out as saying ‘estate tax repeal isn’t necessary’,” Dakota War College, 2017.10.07].

    My thoughts are that when Powers ends by asking your thoughts, he can’t critically evaluate disagreement among his party leaders, won’t risk taking a position that contradicts any Republican pooba, and will die before admitting that a Republican propaganda point he’s aped for years is bushwah that even his own Senator can no longer support.

  • Alexander, Murray Try to Patch ACA; Thune, Rounds Twiddle Thumbs on CHIP

    While South Dakota’s Congressional delegation thinks and prays, let’s hope some members of Congress keep working to get things done on health care. Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray are pushing through the debris of the latest ACA-repeal failure to resume their effort to stabilize the Affordable Care Act marketplaces:

    “What we’re trying to do is not just see whether Sen. Murray and I can agree, but whether the two of us can find a significant number of Democrats and Republicans who can agree on a limited, bipartisan proposal that could actually pass,” said Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

    Murray, the committee’s top Democrat, also is optimistic about the discussions.

    “After all the partisanship we’ve seen from Republicans on health care, I’m glad we’ve been able to restart our conversations about ways to actually make health care work better for families — beginning with steps to help lower premiums — and I’m hopeful we can reach a final agreement soon,” she said.

    While negotiations are still ongoing, Alexander and Murray are looking to give states more flexibility in the type of policies that they can approve and to extend for two years the federal cost-sharing payments that enable insurance companies to reduce premiums for lower- and middle-class Americans. President Trump has threatened to stop the payments, which are worth about $7 billion this year.

    Extending the federal cost-sharing received almost universal support from state insurance regulators, governors, health care executives and others who testified earlier this month at four hearings before the committee [Michael Collins, “Bipartisan Obamacare Fix Expected This Week,” Tribune New Service via Governing, 2017.10.02].

    And while you wouldn’t know it from checking Senator John Thune’s happy Twitter account, he and his layabout colleagues still haven’t restored funding for nine million children’s access to health care via the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Insurance salesman Senator Mike Rounds gave us two tweets about National Coffee Day but nothing about letting CHIP die.

    Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017.09.06.
    Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017.09.06.

    I guess they figure that since states have varying amounts of surplus funds that may last places like California and Pennsylvania for a month or two, there’s no need to act. They’d rather govern by crisis… and have another cup of coffee.

  • Rounds Hosts Telephone Call Wednesday Evening

    If you’d like to try telling Senator M. Michael Rounds to make the news for doing the right thing for once and join Rand Paul, John McCain, and Susan Collins in opposing yet another bad Republican health care bill, or if you’d just like to hear the plants the Senator’s staff recruits to ask their prefab questions to make Mike feel less bad for being such a do-nothing Senator, call in to the Senator’s party line chat (the old phrase gains new meaning here) on Wednesday evening:

    This Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at 7:50 p.m. CT/6:50 p.m. MT, I will be hosting a live, toll-free telephone townhall, and I would like to invite you to join the call. If you would like to participate, all you need to do is call in or click on the link below on Wednesday at 7:50 p.m. CT/6:50 p.m. MT. The link will allow you to listen to the call live and submit your own questions for me to answer.

    Hearing firsthand from South Dakotans is an important tool that helps me make the best decisions when I’m working in Washington, D.C.

    I look forward to Wednesday’s event, and I hope you can participate. If not, you can always contact me at any of my offices or on my website at www.rounds.senate.gov.

    Call into the telephone townhall at: 877-229-8493 Pin: 115923

    Listen to the telephone townhall live HERE [Senator Mike Rounds, e-mail to constituents, 2017.09.27].

    Just be sure you stand up when the Senator plays the anthem at the beginning of the call.

  • Thune, Rounds Support Cutting Federal Funds to SD, Raising Premiums 750%

    Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds will vote for Cassidy-Graham, the worst Republican Affordable Care Act repealer yet, even though they have no report from the Congressional Budget Office telling them what impacts the bill will have. But they do have this report from Avalere Health, which says Cassidy-Graham will cut federal funding to states by $489 billion from 2020 to 2027 and $4.15 trillion by 2036. South Dakota will gain $1 billion by 2027 but give that back and experience a net loss of $4 billion in federal health funding by 2037.

    Avalere Cassidy-Graham by state
    Elizabeth Carpenter and Chris Sloan, “
    Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson Bill Would Reduce Federal Funding to States by $215 Billion,” Avalere Health, 2017.09.20.

    Senators Thune and Rounds also have this report from AARP saying that Cassidy-Graham could cause crushing premium increases for older Americans:

    The Graham-Cassidy (GC) bill, as proposed on September 13, 2017, threatens to make health care unaffordable and inaccessible for millions of older Americans. The bill eliminates two sources of financial assistance—premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions—critical to ensuring that low- to moderate-income older adults are able to afford the coverage they need. For a 60-year-old earning $25,000 a year, premiums and out-of-pocket costs could increase by as much as $16,174 a year if they wanted to keep their current coverage. The bill may also allow states to charge older adults age 50–64 significantly higher premiums than under current law on the basis of their age by waiving federal protections that limit the practice known as age rating [Lina Walker et al., “Graham-Cassidy Legislation Threatens Affordable Coverage for Older Americans,” AARP, September 2017].

    The Affordable Care Act’s tax credits and premium subsidies help 60-year-olds making $25K pay just $1,608 for health insurance. Yanking those credits and subsidies in South Dakota could drive that premium up to $13,768, a 750% increase.

    But who cares about making South Dakotans pay more than half their income for worse health insurance? Thune and Rounds have a score to settle with that darned Barack Obama!

  • SDSU Democrats to Protest Noem’s DACA Wishy-Washiness September 21

    Oh, those trouble-making SDSU Democrats!

    Congresswoman Kristi Noem is coming to the Brookings Swiftel Center on Thursday (a weekday? doesn’t she have work in Washington?), September 21, to speak at Sioux Valley Energy’s third “Take Action” forum. Instead of being quiet and sensible and going inside for Sioux Valley’s free meal (your coop dollars at work), the South Dakota State College Democrats will be standing around outside shouting peacefully about Donald Trump’s revocation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and Congresswoman Noem’s refusal to support protecting 800,000 young de facto Americans from deportation:

    “Once our border is secure, we can better identify the needs of our immigration system, ensuring safety, income and opportunity for Americans remains the first priority,” Noem said in a statement [Dana Ferguson, “South Dakota Officials Won’t Commit to Replacing DACA,” USA Today, 2017.09.05].

    Like Rep. Noem, Senator M. Michael Rounds has avoided the merits of protecting young immigrants who were brought to America by their parents without proper documentation by unnecessarily tying their fate with stricter border control:

    “I think there is some common ground that we all want to work toward and at the same time have compassion for these younger people who in many cases never knew another country,” Rounds said. “But we can’t do that without getting something done on border security” [“Sen. Rounds Won’t Commit to Supporting DACA Replacement,” AP via U.S. News and World Report, 2017.09.08].

    Yes, we can, Mike. Securing the border is a completely separate issue. As implemented by President Obama in 2012, DACA extends no protection to anyone who is crossing the border now. Current border security measures have nothing to do with the 800,0o0 DACA recipients already studying or working or both here in America. You and Kristi need to quit forging false complications and just solve the problem: tell these young Americans they can stay, then go back to pretending you’re going to shake down Mexico to build a bigger ineffectual wall.

  • Rounds: Sure, We’d Win War with North Korea, But Only with “Real Human Toll”

    Following North Korea’s claim to have tested a hydrogen bomb over the weekend, Senator M. Michael Rounds gives WNAX a sober assessment of why we don’t want to go to war with North Korea, even though we’d win:

    There is no question but that… if it came down to a shooting war, North Korea will lose, and it will be the end of that regime, but at the same time, there would be a real human toll on the Korean peninsula, and that’s what we as a country are trying to avoid [Senator M. Michael Rounds, interview, WNAX, 2017.09.04].

    A Clinton-era estimate of the cost of war on the Korean peninsula was one million dead and nearly $1 trillion in economic damage, and that’s without nuclear attacks. 25 million people in Seoul are within range of North Korea’s conventional artillery, although equipment malfunctions and tactical considerations reduce the possibility that North Korea could launch an all-out conventional attack that would annihilate the southern capital.

    Senator Rounds appears to agree with Steve Bannon: there’s no military solution in North Korea, at least none that won’t cost us and our allies dearly.

    Of course, North Korea may be able to inflict enormous damage on the United States without firing a shot, just by goading our Toddler-in-Chief into making wild economic threats against our most important trading partners, including South Korea.

  • Indivisible RC Questions Connections Among SDGOP and Watchmen on the Wall

    Lori Miller of Indivisible Rapid City rustles up connections among the Family Research Council and its Watchmen on the Wall wing, a variety of conservative South Dakota culture war fighters, the efforts to foment anti-Islam hysteria, and South Dakota’s Congressional delegation. Scott Craig, Craig Moore, Ed Randazzo, Amy Willson, Family Heritage Alliance, the Pennington County Republican Party—as I’ve documented, they’re all connected to the effort to scare South Dakotans into some icky form of white Christian Sharia. The Watchmen of South Dakota, for instance, urge followers to attend their bogeyman shows by equating humanism, Islam, and atheism with persecution and depravity.

    Miller notices this Facebook photo from the Watchmen of South Dakota dated May 24:

    Watchmen of South Dakota, FB photo, 2017.05.24.
    Watchmen of South Dakota, FB photo, 2017.05.24.

    Interposed among Senator M. Michael Rounds, Senator John Thune, and Representative Kristi Noem are Watchman and Family Heritage Alliance boss Ed Randazzo (he’s the short one) and, if I’m seeing through the blur correctly, fellow Watchman, FHA leader and Fall River County GOP chair Phil Shively.

    Indivisible Rapid City asked our members of Congress why they are hanging out with this radical bunch of culture warriors:

    Neither Senator Thune or Representative Noem have responded publicly or in written statements on why they were photographed with this group. Senator Thune’s office has not responded to inquiries about this at all. Staff at Rep. Noem’s office did say, in a phone call with this author that, “There is a lot of daylight between how you view the group (WOTW) and how she views the group.”

    …Senator Rounds was asked about this picture at his “coffee and conversation” in Deadwood, SD on August 17, 2017. An Indivisible Rapid City member asked him if he supports the group Watchmen on the Wall. His initial response was, “I never heard of the group.” He even went so far as to ask, “Has anyone ever heard of them?” After being pressed further he said, “I can tell you that if Senator Thune, Kristi Noem and I were all together and if you for one second that we’re gonna stand with a hate group, I can’t even try to convince you otherwise. I have no idea where it comes from. Do you have any idea where they made this picture up at?” One of the Indivisible Rapid City leaders told him that the photo was taken on May 24, 2017 in Washington D. C. A man in the audience, Dale, started to explain that the group was associated with Family Heritage Alliance and then changed it to Family Research Council. He stated that the group, WOTW, was specifically not the same group as the one associated with Tony Perkins and Family Research Council. To this Senator Rounds stated, “I have no problem with having my picture taken with members of the Family Research Council.” The full video can be viewed here [Lori Miller, “Hate in America: What a Tangled Web Our Leaders Weave,” Indivisible Rapid City blog, 2017.08.23].

    Miller is worried that support for such theocratic fearmongers from South Dakota political leaders opens the door for more ugly outbursts like the white-supremacist attack in Charlottesville:

    For the most part, these tangled webs are not challenged because of the perceived high level of support garnered from community leaders. The organizations intentionally target community leaders in churches, political parties, law enforcement, congress and even the presidency, to give credence to their agendas. It is easy to persuade Americans into believing that it is acceptable to hate “the other” when the information comes from these positions of authority. Once it is acceptable in every level of our community leadership from churches to the presidency it is not surprising that a tragedy like Charlottesville took place [Miller, 2017.08.23].

    Healthy democracy runs on courage and facts, not the fear and falsehoods spread by groups like the Watchmen and supported by too many South Dakota Republican leaders.

  • Rounds Alone in Defending EB-5; Thune, Noem Remain Wishy-Washy

    Bob Mercer got various leading South Dakota pols to stake out their positions on the EB-5 visa investment program, which ended in South Dakota with one suicide, one guilty plea, and the feds deeming us too corrupt to participate further. Predictably, the man responsible for launching South Dakota’s scandal-plagued EB-5 ride, Marion Michael Rounds, is the only person willing to say Yeehaw EB-5:

    “I believe the federal EB-5 program has been – and can continue to be – an important tool for economic development, particularly in areas underserved by traditional financing options and I would be open to an inflation increase as long as reforms to improve federal oversight of the program are included,” Rounds said in a statement last week [Bob Mercer, “Several Members of South Dakota’s Delegation Question Continuation of EB-5 Immigrant Visas,” Watertown Public Opinion, 2017.08.11].

    Our other two Congress critters say EB-5 kinda works but needs fixing:

    U.S. Sen. John Thune said this in a statement last week: “While there are a few examples where investments through the EB-5 program benefited local communities, it’s clear that the program is flawed and, if renewed, is in need of significant reform.”

    U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem had this to say in a statement last week: “While the program has been helpful in some parts of the country, I believe it is too often unaccountable and not transparent enough to be renewed as a stand-alone program without reforms” [Mercer, 2017.08.11].

    We’ve heard that before: despite two years of making the same vague promise, Thune and Noem have not thunk up any specific reforms. Noem and Rounds voted in December 2015 to extend EB-5 without any reforms; Thune joined them in another as-is EB-5 extension in September 2016. Thune has expressed strong doubt the immigration bill the White House has endorsed, the RAISE Act, which would, among other things, eliminate EB-5. Rounds has offered fuzz on that bill.

    U.S. House candidates Dusty Johnson and Shantel Krebs more forthrightly criticize the core principle of the program, allowing rich foreigners to buy their way into America:

    Johnson in a statement said: “I have real concerns with EB-5 as a program, and couldn’t support its continuation ‘as is.’ EB-5 has strayed from its original purpose. As I understand it, the intent of the program was to attract people who wanted to bring their business to America, for example, a dairy farmer from the Netherlands who sells his operation, moves to South Dakota, and invests the proceeds in a dairy operation here.

    “At some point, EB-5 evolved into a program that bundled the money of dozens of foreign investors. Unlike the Dutch farmer, these investors weren’t investing to build a business or earn a return. Instead, they were investing to secure a green card, and saw the $500,000 as the price of admission. As a result, quite a number of them invested in projects that were too risky to attract other financing, which led to high-profile bankruptcies of some EB-5 projects.

    “I’m not at all convinced that today’s EB-5 program is good for our country. I’m interested in reforms that would return EB-5 to its roots, perhaps by limiting the number of EB-5 investments in a particular project, or by requiring that an EB-5 investor be actively involved in the management or operation of the enterprise.”

    He added: “Increasing the minimum investment amount makes a great deal of sense. My preference would be to make that change along with other, more substantial, reforms to the program.”

    Krebs in a statement said: “While I certainly support investment in our state and economic development, I have serious concerns about the possibility for abuse of the program as it stands and the potential that foreign investors would be able to buy entry into America. Entry into America is a privilege that must be earned.”

    She added: “I fundamentally don’t agree with the program” [links added; Mercer, 2017.08.11].

    Kudos to Johnson and Krebs for not adopting the namby-pambiness of the woman they want to replace in Washington on this issue.