Happy Wednesday! Are you ready for 285 days of a Biden-Trump general election race? Whether you — and we — are or not, that sure looks like what we’re headed for now that Donald Trump defeated Nikki Haley in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.
Haley is angering her former boss by vowing to stay in the contest and fight on to the February 24 voting in her home state of South Carolina, but she faces GOP pressure to drop out quickly, and the Biden camp is already focused on a Trump rematch. “The results out of New Hampshire confirm that Donald Trump has all but locked up the GOP nomination and the election-denying anti-freedom MAGA movement has completed its takeover of the Republican Party," Biden-Harris campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez told reporters.
Another sign we’re already moving past the primaries: Biden today picked up the endorsement of the United Auto Workers, which could be a boon in Michigan and Wisconsin.
Here's what else we’re watching.
Furious Conservatives Say Border Bill ‘Ain’t Gonna Pass’
Senate Republicans are continuing to clash over ongoing talks for a deal to tighten border security and deliver aid to Ukraine, with some railing against the potential legislation and fuming that they haven’t seen more details about the closed-door discussions or the text being drafted.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas slammed the bill being hammered out by negotiators as a “stinking pile of crap” and said that the plan is designed to fail. “The chances of this bill passing the House are 0.000%. It ain’t gonna pass,” he told reporters at a news conference held by several hard-right Republicans. “This bill represents Senate Republican leadership waging war on House Republican leadership. It’s not designed to secure the border, it won’t secure the border, and that’s why leadership wants it kept in secret.”
Other Republicans also complained about being kept in the dark and wondered openly what the party strategy is.
“I don’t know anything about what they’re doing,” Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy told reporters. “I mean, one of the gentlemen under the interstate living in a refrigerator box knows more about it than I do.”
Asked by CNN about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handling of the border and Ukraine talks, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley called it “disastrous,” a “total shambles” and “embarrassing.”
McConnell has faced other direct attacks by his own members, but he has continued to voice support for a deal, arguing that it represents the best chance to make progress on the border and provide vital aid to Ukraine. “This is about cold, hard American interest,” he argued Wednesday. “We cannot pretend that American is inoculated against the consequences of a war in Europe.”
The bottom line: Republicans are divided and the situation is an utter mess, which could redound to President Joe Biden’s political benefit even as it leaves major policy issues unresolved. Even with all those potential implications, we’re going to quote Fox News here: “Unremitting cycle on Capitol Hill is tedious.”
America’s Mid-East Military Buildup Could Cost $2.2 Billion for a Full Year: Report
America’s military buildup in the Middle East following the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel will cost an estimated $1.6 billion, according to Pentagon estimates reported by Politico, which adds that that’s “a bill the department is unable to pay due to lawmakers’ inability to pass a budget, according to two U.S. officials.”
The total reportedly includes the cost of moving and keeping warships, jets and equipment in the region, but does not include the missiles the U.S. has been firing at Houthi rebels in Yemen or action to protect ships in the Red Sea from those rebels.
The Pentagon estimates that the cost of the military ramp-up could climb to $2.2 billion for a full year, Politico’s Lara Seligman, Joe Gould and Connor O’Brien write. “Lawmakers are aware of the unplanned cost and are weighing how to pay for it,” they say. “Options include adding it to the annual spending bill, adding it to the $111 billion emergency supplemental for Ukraine and Israel, or funding it through a stand-alone supplemental for war costs.”
Obamacare Signups Top 21 Million
As the open enrollment period for 2024 comes to an end, signups for health insurance through the federal marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act have hit a record 21.3 million, according to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The total includes about 16 million people who renewed their coverage from the year before and 5 million new signups, with just three states — Texas, Florida and Georgia – accounting for about half of the new participants. The healthcare foundation KFF says the 30% year-over-year growth rate was driven by both the unwinding of Medicaid enrollment in the aftermath of the pandemic and the enhanced subsidies provided by the Inflation Reduction Act.
“Part of it is a really simple recipe – let people know you got the best deal in town,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra told CNN. After subsidies, about 80% of signups can find plans that cost $10 or less per month, Becerra said.
The record signup numbers come as the leading presidential candidates start to make their pitches on healthcare to American voters. Former president Donald Trump recently vowed to eliminate Obamacare, as the ACA is often referred to, saying it “sucks” and vowing to replace it with a “much better” program.
It’s not clear, however, that Trump’s fellow Republicans are anywhere near as enthusiastic about attempting such an effort, having tried and failed to repeal Obamacare more than once during the first Trump administration. Republicans have also never been able to provide a comprehensive alternative to the increasingly popular program.
For his part, President Joe Biden celebrated the record signups and defended the program he helped become law during his time as vice president in the Obama administration. “[T]he American people have made it clear: they don’t want the Affordable Care Act weakened and repealed – they want it strengthened and protected,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday. He called on lawmakers to extend the enhanced subsidies, which are scheduled to expire after 2025.
Fiscal News Roundup
- Senate Conservatives Turn Up Opposition to ‘Stinking Pile of Crap’ Border Deal – The Hill
- Biden Endorsed by United Auto Workers, Shoring Up Union Vote in Auto-Making Swing States – Washington Post
- Rubin Says US in a ‘Terrible Place’ on Deficit, Urges Tax Hikes – Bloomberg
- Trump Added $8.4 Trillion to the National Debt: Analysis – The Hill
- ‘A Bill That Will Be Due:’ Pentagon’s Middle East Buildup Costs $1.6 Billion – Politico
- Manchin Blasts Biden Guidance on EV Charger Tax Credit: ‘Spits in the Face of Rural America’ – The Hill
- Americans’ Economic Outlook Brightens as Inflation Slows and Wages Outpace Prices – Associated Press
- Obamacare Sign-Ups Hit Record 21.3 Million as Biden Pushes His Efforts to Lower Health Care Costs – CNN
- Lobbying Spending by Top Interest Groups Dipped Amid 2023 Gridlock – Roll Call
Views and Analysis
- The Budget Process Isn’t Broken: The Problem Is Politics – Bobby Kogan, The Hill
- The Public May Soon See the Economic Light – Alan S. Blinder, Wall Street Journal
- Wall Street’s Bargain With Trump – Edward Luce, Financial Times
- What the Republican Establishment Still Doesn’t Understand About Donald Trump – Alex Shephard, New Republic
- Trump Says Those Good Jobless Numbers Aren’t ‘Real’ (They Are) – Glenn Kessler, Washington Post
- US Jobless Claims Are an Unreliable Indicator of Tight Labor Market – Jarrell Dillard, Bloomberg
- Ouch. That ‘Free’ Annual Checkup Might Cost You. Here’s Why. – Elisabeth Rosenthal, Washington Post
- Covid Is Back, and the U.S. Is Unprepared for the Next Bug. Here’s What to Do. – Washington Post Editorial Board