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Wednesday, March 22, 2017
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017 11:06 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Pence faces vote of his career

Vice President Mike Pence spent 12 years in the U.S. House and never got one of his bills passed. But on Thursday, he faces the biggest vote of his political career on the American Health Care Act, with the credibility of the Trump administration hanging in this deal-make-or-break balance. Both NBC and CBS are reporting that at least 27 House Republicans are voting no even after President Trump told them, “I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don't get this done.” The New York Times is reporting it could be up to three dozen, including U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, who told Elizabeth Beilman of the News & Tribune, “Any viable plan needs to ensure that coverage is actually affordable and embraces a free market system where providers compete for our business.” The rest of the Indiana GOP delegation appears to be in the fold and united with Pence and whip counter Luke Messer.

Pence and his legislative liaison Marc Short, HHS Secretary Tom Price and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, former House members (sans Short), will be scavenging for at least eight converts today and Thursday. The NYT reports: “In a series of meetings and phone calls at the White House and on Capitol Hill, Mr. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Republican congressional leaders haggled with holdouts over details as they struggled to assemble a majority to support a bill that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.”  And Axios observes of Trump’s 2018 election threat: “True enough, but these members also could lose their seats and the House majority if they do vote to pass the bill currently being considered. So they're left with a terrible choice: Vote against Obamacare repeal after campaigning on repeal for seven years, or vote to cover 24 million fewer people and potentially raise premiums for senior citizens.”

2. Messer’s impressive finance list

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Luke Messer’s political wing announced that veep bro Greg Pence would be heading up his 2018 “statewide” campaign for the U.S. Senate. Later in the day, Messer released a who’s who of GOP finance, including Bob Grand, an early career supporter of U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, and former state chairs Jim Kittle, Murray Clark and Al Hubbard.
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  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    MUNCIE – President Trump sits in the White House today because, in part, Democrats ceded rural Indiana and rural America. The Hoosier State is barely functioning in a two-party system. I asked Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody for a list of county chairs elected on March 3. According to a party spread sheet, Daviess, Gibson, Martin and Henry counties listed no chair. Mine down a bit further and you see Donald Trump won Daviess County with 79.6 percent of the vote, 71.6 percent in Gibson, 69.2 percent in Henry and 76.9 percent in Martin. This is all relevant because during the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump vowed repeatedly and vociferously to repeal and replace Obamacare. In January, Trump promised “terrific” coverage “for everybody.” The new Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price vowed that “nobody will be worse off financially” with the plan proposed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and is being pushed by Vice President Mike Pence.

  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS - Historic preservation never interested me. Public television’s Antique Roadshow is a farce about the monetization of memory. Junk shops, occupying valuable downtown space throughout Indiana, only trumpet our economic and social decay. Nostalgia, to me, is a disease of the mind. I delight in seeing the past transformed into a promising future. Reuse of a beautiful building, restoration of landmarks pointing to tomorrow is inspiring. Today, communities are falling all over themselves to attract imaginary young adults. It’s like seeking a new factory instead of working to retain and develop existing businesses. Indiana’s many small towns and older urban neighborhoods deteriorate when businesses and families leave. Disinvestment, the neglect of maintenance and rotting of physical assets, creates open wounds and ugly scabs. Instead of wondering how to attract unknown businesses or workers, we might try improving the assets we have.
  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND - Jason Critchlow was re-elected without opposition as St. Joseph County Democratic chair. So, why would he want four more years in a job without a salary, where expectations are seemly unrealistically high and where losing candidates often blame the chairman, while winners say they did it all by themselves with their own political skill and personal charm?  Critchlow is coming back for more, even after St. Joseph County, that supposed bastion of Democratic strength, gave the party’s presidential nominee a margin of a mere 288 votes out of nearly 112,000 cast in 2016. He says it’s because of a passionate belief that politics is important. The election of Donald Trump proved that, he says, and gives him more incentive now, not less. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” Critchlow says of determination he sees in party ranks and with new volunteers, packed in “elbow to elbow” in meetings at the small Democratic headquarters in downtown South Bend.
        
  • By TONY SAMUEL
    INDIANAPOLIS – We really are living in two different countries, if you watch the cable television shows every night. The good thing is most people have better things to do.  When I got home Wednesday night, Fox News showed the headline, “FBI on Hunt for CIA Mole after Secrets Are Leaked.”  At the same time, CNN’s headline read, “Pence Dodges Questions on Trump’s Wiretapping Claims.”  The contrast in stories tells the story right there.  A few minutes later, Fox ran a report of an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times with over 20 arrests since 1990, who was intoxicated and smashed the car in which he was fleeing another accident. He also crashed into the car driven by Sandra Duran, a California woman who was a mother, daughter and sister, killing her instantly.  This five-minute story could never paint the true tragedy so many family and friends must now live with forever.  Flip the channel and you would have found CNN covering the “A Day Without a Woman” event, like there is now a national holiday to bash the president. I couldn’t even bring myself to switch over to MSNBC.
  • By CHRISTINA HALE
    INDIANAPOLIS – People from the beginning of recorded time have noted that human intercourse, sex, can feel really good. It usually doesn’t cost anything, and people have been doing it for years, in fact, this is how we have populated the planet. It is going to continue to happen, even when circumstances are less than ideal. Yet our attitudes toward it can be very impractical and public policy can actually bring harm. In Indiana, sexual education can only be taught in public school through the lens of abstinence. Abstinence only for disease prevention. Abstinence only for pregnancy prevention.  While well-intentioned, this strategy leaves out a great deal of necessary information, like how to protect yourself from or get help after violent encounters in an age-appropriate way. These good intentions, intentions presumed to cut back on promiscuity, lead to all kinds of problems.  
        
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  • Atomic: Trump cloud; Messer & Pences; RyanCare whip counts

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. FBI and Trump presidency under a cloud: Three times in the television age of American politics we’ve witnessed an FBI investigation of a presidency: President Nixon and Watergate, President Reagan and Iran/Contra and President Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal. Two of the three ended on a hard track toward impeachment. So Monday’s testimony by FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers was explosive on several fronts. He confirmed that the FBI began probing a link between the Donald Trump campaign and the Kremlin last July, just as Gov. Mike Pence was coming on board, thanks to the Indianapolis airport intervention of then campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was far more than the bit player “Baghdad Bob” Spicer portrayed.

  • FBI Director Comey confirms Trump/Kremlin probe
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. A sensational week builds in Washington: FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency head Adm. Michael Rogers are testifying before the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian interference this morning. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings get underway, and the U.S. House is expected to vote on the epic American Health Care Act on Thursday. How’s that for a high-stakes week? The RyanCare bill is the first big congressional test not only for President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and legislative liaison Marc Short, but also for Speaker Paul Ryan, who has a lot at stake. The White House is squeezing hard line conservatives.
  • IU searches; JD Vance moves home; Medicaid slashed
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. A Hoosier basketball dilemma: As an IU alum (BA History, 1978), here are my two cents after the firing of basketball coach Tom Crean. I understand why AD Fred Glass made the move, but I still don’t like it for a reason I stated the other day: Paying coaches not to coach. I also believe in redemption after a season like this one. Crean resurrected this program to a respectable level after the Kelvin Sampson debacle and a full decade would have been proper. I thought Crean deserved another year to coax game out of stars like Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby. I wouldn’t be surprised to see both go pro, and perhaps that figured into Glass’s decision. Perhaps they were gone anyway, Crean was facing a tough rebuilding without that talent and a contract extension. That’s the scenario for a program tailspin. Where to go now? I am intrigued by bringing back UCLA’s Steve Alford. My second choice would be Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, though the Koch Brothers will make him a potentially expensive acquisition. My third choice would be Creighton’s Greg McDermott.
  • Trump budget winners/losers; Director Coats; saving Pvt. RyanCare
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. President Trump’s slashing budget: President Trump unveiled his first budget today and there are the inevitable winners and losers. If you’re at the Pentagon (10% increase), Homeland Security (6.8%), Veterans Affairs (5.9%) or the National Nuclear Administration (up 11.4%), you’re in a good mood today. From an Indiana perspective with our opioid epidemic, there’s a $500 million increase for prevention and treatment via Health and Human Services and Justice. Losers? The EPA faces a 31.4% cut, or $2.6 billion, slashing 3,200 jobs. HHS faces a $12.6 billion cut, or 16.2%.  Folks at Foggy Bottom have long faces, along with the U.S. Agency for International Development, down 28%, or $10 billion. The National Institute of Health faces a 19% reduction. The Department of Agriculture faces a 21% cut at $4.7 billion. Labor faces a 20% cut and Transportation 13%. So long, Amtrak. Oh, and this one: IRS down $1 billion. Axios reports that since 2010, the IRS has lost 17,000 employees, noting, “Chances of getting audited have rarely been so low.” President Trump is under audit, but not so much for the rest of us.

  • A Trump tax division; Graham AHCA punt; Crean slips to bottom
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Muncie

    1. A Trumpian tax diversion: Five talking points before your hump day power lunch. A tried and alternative fact modus operandi of the Trump administration and campaign is if the heat is turning up, divert. So you have to wonder if “John Miller” leaked two scant “client copy” pages President Trump’s 2005 federal tax returns in order to take the eyes off the growing RyanCare debacle that is cleaving that loose confederation we call the Republican Party. The White House blamed the “dishonest media,” but then said in a statement, presumably approved by “John Miller”, “You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago.
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  • Rep. Walorski backs the RyanCare bill
    "With the American Health Care Act, we are delivering on our promise to the American people to repeal Obamacare and repair our nation's health care system. These improvements will better help individuals and families access affordable health care and give states greater flexibility to implement innovative reforms like those in Indiana. President Trump met with House Republicans this morning and made clear he is with us 100 percent to deliver on our promise to the American people. I look forward to voting for this legislation and working with my colleagues in the Senate to get it to the president's desk." - U.S. Jackie Walorski, R-Jimtown, saying she will vote for the American Health Care Act.

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  • Trump and truth
    The Obamacare repeal is teetering in the House. Why? Remember the old story of the boy who cried wolf? President Trump’s penchant for lies is beginning to take such a toll that NBC reporter Kasie Hunt said this morning that some members wonder if he’ll even be around in a year. So when Trump threatened retribution against recalcitrant House members on Tuesday, its impact was dubious. The Wall Street Journal editorialized today: “If President Trump announces that North Korea launched a missile that landed within 100 miles of Hawaii, would most Americans believe him? Would the rest of the world? We’re not sure, which speaks to the damage that Mr. Trump is doing to his Presidency with his seemingly endless stream of exaggerations, evidence-free accusations, implausible denials and other falsehoods. The latest example is Mr. Trump’s refusal to back off his Saturday morning tweet of three weeks ago.” The other emerging dynamic is that the Pence/Marc Short legislative team hasn’t done the legwork on the RyanCare bill. It could all come down to Vice President Pence, HHS Secretary Tom Price and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to round up about eight votes and keep Republicans like Rep. Hollingsworth in the fold. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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