Wednesday Morning Political Mix: Troll, Trial, Tribulation

Oct 23, 2013
Originally published on October 23, 2013 9:53 am

Good morning.

Let's get right to the tribulation.

Fallout from the government shutdown and budget crisis continues to rain down on Republicans.

Fallout from the monumentally flawed online rollout of Obamacare continues to rain down on President Obama and his team.

Obamacare

At CBS News, Stephanie Condon is among those asking questions about whether significant problems with the administration's health care signup website could doom the president's signature legislation.

She reports that "even Consumer Reports — which insists it endorses the new marketplaces — has told consumers it may be worth waiting another month before trying to use the website."

Another troubling development for the health care overhaul: Jerry Markon in the Washington Post tells us that one key element designed to lower insurance costs — non-profit insurance co-ops — is struggling.

From Markon's report: "While the debut of the Affordable Care Act this month has been marred by widespread computer problems, the difficulties the co-ops face have been less obvious to consumers. One co-op, however, has closed, another is struggling, and at least nine more have been projected to have financial problems, according to internal government reviews and a federal audit.

Their failure would leave taxpayers potentially on the hook for nearly $1 billion in defaulted loans and rob the marketplace of the kind of competition they were supposed to create. And if they become insolvent, policyholders in at least half the states where the co-ops operate could be stuck with medical bills."

Here at NPR, our Julie Rovner reports that more than 6 million low-income uninsured adults could be left without coverage because they live in states that have opted not to expand Medicaid coverage. The health care law called for Medicaid expansion at the state level; it was subsequently made optional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

And NPR White House correspondent Mara Liasson asked administration spokesman Jay Carney when and how reporters can get information on the sign-up debacle — maybe, she suggests, updates like the kind the White House provides in natural disasters?

GOP Backlash Continues

If freshman Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, thought he was going to get a hero's welcome back home this week like his Senate buddy Ted Cruz just got from the Tea Party faithful in Texas, he was sorely mistaken, Neil King reports in the Wall Street Journal.

Lee's role, with Cruz, in forcing the partial government shutdown over Obamacare funding, and pushing the nation to the brink of default, is playing very poorly, indeed, in deep red Utah. His approval rating has fallen to 40 percent, and even before the shutdown, King reports, some Utah party and business leaders had invested $1 million in an effort to change the state's caucus system, which elevated Lee.

King, who likens tension between the activist wing and the establishment/business wing of the GOP in Utah to the party's larger national struggles, writes:

"Critics in the Republican Party, including former governors and sitting legislative leaders, openly blame Mr. Lee for helping chart a course they say weakened the party's standing nationally and dented a state economy reliant on tourists drawn to its national parks.

"Among the tea party, Mike Lee is a rock star," said Holly Richardson, a former Republican state lawmaker and political commentator. "Among everyone else, not so much. There's real unhappiness about what he has done to Utah and to the image of the Republican Party."

This, King writes, is happening in a state that gave Mitt Romney his largest margin of victory in last year's presidential election.

Trial

A U.S. District Court trial opens in beleaguered Detroit today to answer the question of whether the city should be allowed to file for bankruptcy.

Legal Analyst Charlie Langton at Detroit's CBS affiliate WWJ says the court will focus on two key questions.

"One: Is Detroit broke? I think they're gonna win that one; that's a no-brainer.

"Number two: Did (the city's emergency manager) Kevyn Orr bargain in good faith with those creditors before going bankrupt? Did Kevyn Orr do everything he could have done and should have done before filing for bankruptcy?"

NPR's Quinn Klinefelter tells us that the trial will boil down to city vs. creditor.

From Klinefelter's report: "Dan Gilbert owns Quicken Loans, the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and in recent months has bought more than $1 billion worth of buildings in Detroit's downtown. He's betting that Chapter 9 protection will allow Detroit to get out from under its crushing debt load and pour money back into city services, which would help make his investments pay off."

But some of Detroit's longest-standing creditors are fighting a bankruptcy declaration, arguing that it would create big problems for them."

Those creditors include the city's public unions.

Twitter Troll

What a dum-dum. News broke late Tuesday that a top White House national security aide used an alias to bash people — including those in the administration — on Twitter. The story, which broke in the Daily Beast, identified Jofi Joseph as the now-fired culprit.

Our Two-Way blogger, Mark Memmott, wraps it up here. Joseph was an equal opportunity basher, as his archived tweets show. Here's a taste:

"NatSecWonk @NatSecWonk

Me thinks @peggynoonannyc and @chrismatthews should get together and swap stories, share some drinks and discuss why they are irrelevant"

And, finally, outside of Washington:

*Those royals are really stepping out of the box today at Prince George of Cambridge's christening. The Guardian reports breathlessly (can we stipulate that every story about the royals has an air of breathlessness?) that the little one's godparents WON'T BE SENIOR MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL FAMILY!!

NPR Resident Anglophile, Ms. Erica Ryan, updated us earlier on the issue of nappies and royals, with some nice photos.

*Don't Do it! A Boston sportswriter calls for the end of "Sweet Caroline" at Fenway, on the day the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals play Game 1 of the World Series.

*And, as serendipity would have it, both Emily Dickinson and new Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro made the news today. Enjoy.

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