Conservative politician howled in protest when Barrack Obama initially passed his healthcare reform in 2010. The policy was (per Obama's own admission) an imperfect piece of legislation tackling a devilish problem. The Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. 'Obamacare') aimed to untangle the knots of inequity that result in Americans paying more for healthcare than any developed nation and yet receiving staggeringly poor outcomes. While it stopped short of being a single payer solution, Obamacare was nonetheless viewed by Republicans as a deeply socialist policy. So the effort to repeal and replace
Obamacare has been seven years in the making.
It has also been an abject failure. Despite controlling both houses of the government, the GOP has succeeded only in showing that it was not equal to the task
. In May the Senate failed to rubber-stamp a bill that narrowly passed Congress. The upper house then went back to the drawing board, only to produce a bill almost identical to its predecessor. The new bill retained too many contentious elements: tax cuts for the wealthy coupled with deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. It would also cause tens of millions to lose their health insurance. The calculus may have been appealing to the GOP but it certainly rattled the nation: $420b worth of savings
over a decade at the cost of 32 million citizens losing their coverage.
So it was unsurprising that despite Trump's threats and remonstrations
, a handful of Senators withdrew support, fearing they would lose their own seats at the 2018 midterms. McConnell and some of the other do-or-die GOP senators are still pushing for another vote on the bill next Tuesday but they've done little so far to win back their wayward colleagues. The bill is not expected to pass.
Voter fraud -
During the 2016 election campaign Trump said he was concerned about the spectre of widespread voter fraud. Experts questioned the claim, pointing to data that voter fraud has not been even a minor issue, let alone a significant one, in any modern US election. Even so, and despite having won the election, the possibility of voter fraud has become something of an obsession for the US president. The Federal Electoral Commission states unambiguously that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.87m but suffered a defeat in the Electoral College. Regardless, Trump has pushed ahead with his theory and has appointed US Vice President Mike Pence as the head of the voter fraud commission.
This new commission gathered for its first public meeting this week amongst widespread criticism of its aim and reason for existence. One commissioner, Kris Kobach, appeared on national television and gave the bewildering assessment that "we may never know
" how many people voted for Trump and Clinton. None are more perplexed than the officials at the FEC. At the meeting a method for detecting interstate double-voting was proposed. But this method has been ridiculed for having a 99% margin of error
. In fact, Pence's team seem to be running into roadblocks by the dozen: 44 states and the District of Columbia have already refused to hand over voter registration data.
Syria policy -
Also this week, in an apparent move to improve relations with Russia, the Trump administration directed the Central Intelligence Agency to halt its support
of anti-Assad rebels in Syria. While US policy in Syria has certainly been piecemeal and reactive, the supply of weapons and training to moderate rebels in the south had an obvious imperative. Officials expressed dismay
over the decision which hands a tactical and PR victory to Russia's client, Bashar al-Assad.