November 20 Deadline Passes: When Will HHS Release Provider Conscience Regs?

Emily Douglas

November 20 came and went, with no mention of the expanded provider conscience regulation from the Department of Health and Human Services. Does this mean the rule change is dead? Doubtful.

Were you holding your breath until November 20, too? Well, the big day came and went – and no word from the Department of Health and Human Service on their new, expanded "provider conscience" regulations. Advocates widely speculated that the new rule – which has been denounced by women’s health groups, physicians’ groups, members of Congress, President-Elect Obama, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and by over 200,000 individual commenters filing opposition to the regulations – would be released November 20, 60 days before inauguration, the deadline for major rule changes. But since HHS has classifed this rule as "non-major," it can be released up to 30 days before inauguration. 

Michael Livermore, of the Institute for Policy Integrity, writes at The New Republic:

Any rules that Bush officials deem "non-major"
are only subject to a 30-day aging process. Non-major rules are usually
defined as regulations with an annual effect on the economy of less
than $100 million. Many of the environmental rules under consideration
do not easily fit into this category—it’s hard to imagine any
deregulation that makes it easier to blow up the tops of mountains as
not reaching that threshold. But Bush officials may be willing to
shoehorn their regs into the definition anyway.

How could President-Elect Obama fight the new rule if is it released in the next 30 days? 

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…there are a couple of ways Congress and the
Obama administration could overturn these last-minute regulations, but
none of them will be easy. Opponents could challenge the "non-major"
classification, forcing courts to determine the scope of the judicial
power to review agency actions under the Congressional Review Act.
Alternatively, Obama could try to re-categorize the rule as "major" and
then disqualify it under the original 60-day deadline. But litigants
who would benefit from Bush’s handouts could come forward and challenge
Obama’s actions under the Administrative Procedure Act, which limits
the power of the president and agencies to change regulations without
going through a lengthy formal process. Meanwhile, Congress could step
in, either attempting to use its powers under the Congressional Review
Act to disqualify Bush’s rule, or by passing new laws that would
prospectively reverse the rules. But all of these options would take up
valuable time, at precisely the moment that the government has many
other major issues to tangle with, not least fixing the economy. 

Hope also comes from the Senate: Sens. Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray also recently introduced legislation to block finalization or implementation of the new rule.

Commentary Politics

Is Clinton a Progressive? Not If She Chooses Tim Kaine

Jodi Jacobson

The selection of Tim Kaine as vice president would be the first signal that Hillary Clinton intends to seek progressive votes but ignore progressive values and goals, likely at her peril, and ours.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, former secretary of state and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton has frequently claimed to be a progressive, though she often adds the unnecessary and bewildering caveat that she’s a “progressive who likes to get things done.” I’ve never been sure what that is supposed to mean, except as a possible prelude to or excuse for giving up progressive values to seal some unknown deal in the future; as a way of excusing herself from fighting for major changes after she is elected; or as a way of saying progressives are only important to her campaign until after they leave the voting booth.

One of the first signals of whether Clinton actually believes in a progressive agenda will be her choice of running mate. Reports are that Sen. Tim Kaine, former Virginia governor, is the top choice. The selection of Kaine would be the first signal that Clinton intends to seek progressive votes but ignore progressive values and goals, likely at her peril, and ours.

We’ve seen this happen before. In 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama claimed to be a progressive. By virtue of having a vision for and promise of real change in government and society, and by espousing transparency and responsibility, he won by a landslide. In fact, Obama even called on his supporters, including the millions activated by the campaign’s Organizing for Action (OFA), to keep him accountable throughout his term. Immediately after the election, however, “progressives” were out and the right wing of the Democratic party was “in.”

Obama’s cabinet members in both foreign policy and the economy, for example, were drawn from the center and center-right of the party, leaving many progressives, as Mother Jones’ David Corn wrote in the Washington Post in 2009, “disappointed, irritated or fit to be tied.” Obama chose Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff, a man with a reputation from the days of Bill Clinton’s White House for a reluctance to move bold policies—lest they upset Wall Street or conservative Democrats—and a deep disdain for progressives. With Emanuel as gatekeeper of policies and Valerie Jarrett consumed with the “Obama Brand” (whatever that is), the White House suddenly saw “progressives” as the problem.

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It became clear that instead of “the change we were hoping for,” Obama had started on an impossible quest to “cooperate” and “compromise” on bad policies with the very party that set out to destroy him before he was even sworn in. Obama and Emanuel preempted efforts to push for a public option for health-care reform, despite very high public support at the time. Likewise, the White House failed to push for other progressive policies that would have been a slam dunk, such as the Employee Free Choice Act, a major goal of the labor movement that would have made it easier to enroll workers in unions. With a 60-vote Democratic Senate majority, this progressive legislation could easily have passed. Instead, the White House worked to support conservative Democrat then-Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s efforts to kill it, and even sent Vice President Joe Biden to Arkansas to campaign for her in her run for re-election. She lost anyway.

They also allowed conservatives to shelve plans for an aggressive stimulus package in favor of a much weaker one, for the sole sake of “bipartisanship,” a move that many economists have since criticized for not doing enough.  As I wrote years ago, these decisions were not only deeply disappointing on a fundamental level to those of us who’d put heart and soul into the Obama campaign, but also, I personally believe, one of the main reasons Obama later lost the midterms and had a hard time governing.  He was not elected to implement GOP lite, and there was no “there, there” for the change that was promised. Many people deeply devoted to making this country better for working people became fed up.

Standing up for progressive principles is not so hard, if you actually believe in them. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- MA) is a progressive who actually puts her principles into action, like the creation against all odds in 2011 of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, perhaps the single most important progressive achievement of the past 20 years. Among other things, the CFPB  shields consumers from the excesses of mortgage lenders, student loan servicers, and credit card companies that have caused so much economic chaos in the past decade. So unless you are more interested in protecting the status quo than addressing the root causes of the many problems we now face, a progressive politician would want a strong progressive running mate.

By choosing Tim Kaine as her vice president, Clinton will signal that she values progressives in name and vote only.

As Zach Carter wrote in the Huffington Post, Kaine is “setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.” Kaine is in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement largely negotiated in secret and by corporate lobbyists. Both Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose voters Clinton needs to win over, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren oppose the TPP because, in Warren’s words, it “would tilt the playing field even more in favor of … big multinational corporations and against working families.”

The progressive agenda includes strong emphasis on effective systems of governance and oversight of banks and financial institutions—the actors responsible, as a result of deregulation, for the major financial crises of the past 16 years, costing the United States trillions of dollars and gutting the financial security of many middle-class and low-income people.

As Warren has stated:

Washington turned a blind eye as risks were packaged and re-packaged, magnified, and then sold to unsuspecting pension funds, municipal governments, and many others who believed the markets were honest. Not long after the cops were blindfolded and the big banks were turned loose, the worst crash since the 1930s hit the American economy—a crash that the Dallas Fed estimates has cost a collective $14 trillion. The moral of this story is simple: Without basic government regulation, financial markets don’t work. That’s worth repeating: Without some basic rules and accountability, financial markets don’t work. People get ripped off, risk-taking explodes, and the markets blow up. That’s just an empirical fact—clearly observable in 1929 and again in 2008. The point is worth repeating because, for too long, the opponents of financial reform have cast this debate as an argument between the pro-regulation camp and the pro-market camp, generally putting Democrats in the first camp and Republicans in the second. But that so-called choice gets it wrong. Rules are not the enemy of markets. Rules are a necessary ingredient for healthy markets, for markets that create competition and innovation. And rolling back the rules or firing the cops can be profoundly anti-market.

If Hillary Clinton were actually a progressive, this would be key to her agenda. If so, Tim Kaine would be a curious choice as VP, and a middle finger of sorts to those who support financial regulations. In the past several weeks, Kaine has been publicly advocating for greater deregulation of banks. As Carter reported yesterday, “Kaine signed two letters on Monday urging federal regulators to go easy on banks―one to help big banks dodge risk management rules, and another to help small banks avoid consumer protection standards.”

Kaine is also trying to portray himself as “anti-choice lite.” For example, he recently signed onto the Women’s Health Protection Act. But as we’ve reported, as governor of Virginia, Kaine supported restrictions on abortion, such as Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law, which, he claimed in 2008, gave “women information about a whole series of things, the health consequences, et cetera, and information about adoption.” In truth, the information such laws mandate giving out is often “irrelevant or misleading,” according to the the Guttmacher Institute. In other words, like many others who let ideology rather than public health guide their policy decisions, Kaine put in place policies that are not supported by the evidence and that make it more difficult for women to gain access to abortion, steps he has not denounced. This is unacceptable. The very last thing we need is another person in the White House who further stigmatizes abortion, though it must be said Clinton herself seems chronically unable to speak about abortion without euphemism.

While there are many other reasons a Kaine pick would signal a less-than-secure and values-driven Clinton presidency, the fact also stands that he is a white male insider at a time when the rising electorate is decidedly not white and quite clearly looking for strong leadership and meaningful change. Kaine is not the change we seek.

The conventional wisdom these days is that platforms are merely for show and vice presidential picks don’t much matter. I call foul; that’s an absolutely cynical lens through which to view policies. What you say and with whom you affiliate yourself do indeed matter. And if Clinton chooses Kaine, we know from the outset that progressives have a fight on their hands, not only to avoid the election of an unapologetic fascist, but to ensure that the only person claiming the progressive mantle actually means what she says.

News Politics

With Primary Wins, Clinton Is First Woman to Become Presumptive Nominee of Major Party

Ally Boguhn

Celebrating her victory at a rally in Brooklyn Tuesday night, the former secretary of state pointed to the historic nature of her campaign. "Thanks to you, we've reached a milestone: the first time in our nation's history that a woman will be a major party's nominee," declared Clinton.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared herself the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for the 2016 presidential election after a string of Tuesday night primary victories and a survey of superdelegates conducted by the Associated Press (AP).

Celebrating her victory at a rally in Brooklyn Tuesday night, Clinton pointed to the historic nature of her campaign. “Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone: the first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee,” declared Clinton. “Tonight’s victory is not about one person. It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible.”

Going on to praise rival Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for “the extraordinary campaign he has run,” Clinton pointed to the shared goals of the two campaigns. “Let there be no mistake, Senator Sanders, his campaign, and the vigorous debate that we’ve had about how to raise incomes, reduce inequality, increase upward mobility, have been very good for the Democratic party and for America.” 

Clinton went on to pivot to the general election, criticizing presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump as “temperamentally unfit to be president and commander in chief.” Clinton then spoke of the road ahead: “The end of the primaries is only the beginning of the work we are called to do,” she said. “But if we stand together, we will rise together, because we are stronger together.”

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Tuesday’s presidential primaries boosted Clinton’s delegate lead over Sanders, with wins in California, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. Sanders won both Montana and the North Dakota caucuses. NBC News reported that night that, projecting a win in California, Clinton had secured more than half of all pledged delegates in the Democratic primary:

Based on initial vote reports from California, NBC News has allocated 140 delegates to both Clinton and rival Bernie Sanders. That gives Clinton 2,043 delegates, more than half of the pledged delegates up for grabs throughout the primary season.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue, whose organization endorsed Clinton in January, reiterated the organization’s support for the former secretary of state in a Tuesday night statement. “Secretary Clinton’s victory tonight is a victory for all women because she is the model of a true champion for reproductive freedom,” said Hogue. “NARAL will be out in force to make sure Hillary Clinton is our next president—not Donald Trump.”

Clinton has been a vocal supporter of reproductive rights while on the campaign trail, though the Democratic candidate has also signaled her support for restrictions on some later abortions.

The former secretary of state reportedly spoke of the historical significance of a potential win Tuesday night during a campaign stop in California, prior to reports that she had become the party’s presumptive nominee.

“My supporters are passionate. They are committed. They have voted for me in great numbers across the country for many reasons,” said Clinton Monday according to the Washington Post. “But among the reasons is their belief that having a woman president would make a great statement—a historic statement—about what kind of country we are, what we stand for. It’s really emotional.”

Tuesday also marked the eight-year anniversary of Clinton’s speech conceding the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, which similarly mentioned the progress her campaign had made for women. “Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you it’s got about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before,” said Clinton that night, urging her supporters to back her rival in the race for president.

AP first projected Clinton as the presumptive nominee Monday after conducting a “count of pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses and a survey of party insiders known as superdelegates,” ultimately concluding that the Democratic candidate had the required 2,383 delegates needed to secure the nomination.

Sanders and his supporters swiftly condemned the media for calling the race before Tuesday’s primaries results were in. “It is unfortunate that the media, in a rush to judgment, are ignoring the Democratic National Committee’s clear statement that it is wrong to count the votes of superdelegates before they actually vote at the convention this summer,” said Sanders spokesperson Michael Briggs in a Monday statement.

“Secretary Clinton does not have and will not have the requisite number of pledged delegates to secure the nomination,” continued Briggs. “Our job from now until the convention is to convince those superdelegates that Bernie is by far the strongest candidate against Donald Trump.”

As the New York Times’ The Upshot blog explained, this is not the first time a count including superdelegates was used to declare a presumptive nominee. “The news networks projected that Mr. Obama was the presumptive nominee in the 2008 Democratic primary based on the same rules for tabulating superdelegates,” noted writer Nate Cohn Tuesday.

Politico reported last week Sanders would need “to persuade nearly 200 Hillary Clinton superdelegates to bolt from her camp” in order to win the nomination—a difficult feat given that thus far no superdelegates have made that switch and only about 30 changed candidates in 2008.

Even as Tuesday night’s results came in, Sanders pledged to continue his fight for the Democratic nomination. “Next Tuesday we continue the fight in the last primary in Washington, D.C. … And then we take our fight for social, economic, racial, and environmental justice to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” said Sanders during a rally in California.