Democrats’ plan to neuter Medicare for All irks liberals

Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand

Potential 2020 contenders such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand are moving cautiously, embracing Medicare for All legislation authored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who made the issue a defining feature of his 2016 presidential bid, while also signing onto less ambitious expansion bills. | AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Medicare for All may be progressives’ rallying cry. But it’s Medicare for More that’s likely to wind up becoming reality.

Several likely 2020 Democratic presidential candidates are pushing plans for something short of universal health care, a move already creating friction within the party’s empowered left wing, which has panned any attempt to water down the progressive dream of a single-payer system.

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One idea gaining support is allowing some demographic groups to buy into Medicare earlier than age 65, while still incrementally building on Obamacare coverage gains.

“It’s easy to say ‘Medicare for All’ and make a good speech, but see no action,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a potential 2020 candidate whose own bill would give retiring police and firefighters access to Medicare before 65. “I want to see action.”

It’s a pathway Brown and many in the party establishment have gravitated toward in recent months — one that balances the desire to make a Trump-era lurch leftward with memories of the political blowback Democrats endured for a decade after their last revamp of the nation’s health system.

So the Democrats, with their eyes on 2020, have introduced at least eight plans for expanding health coverage beyond Obamacare’s gains. They range from modest Medicare reforms to more ambitious restructurings that would extend government-run care to millions of new patients — an array of options that fall short of campaign trail promises for full Medicare for All.

That spectrum includes Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)’s bill allowing patients to buy into Medicare starting at age 55 and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Michael Bennet (D-Co.)’s plan to create a Medicare-style public option to compete with private insurers on up to bigger revamps, like Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)’s expansion Medicare eligibility to nearly all Americans. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) would let everyone purchase Medicaid. Those options have been characterized by supporters as more practical alternatives to the completely government-run system popularized by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

The wrangling has been largely obscured by the new House Democratic majority’s decision to spend its first months in power focused on efforts to strengthen Obamacare — a position endorsed by the closely aligned outside group Protect Our Care. But members acknowledge it’s only a matter of time until the focus shifts to 2020 and questions about how fast and how far to move beyond the Affordable Care Act.

“If we could make the leap straight to Medicare for All, I would love for us to do that,” Merkley said. “But it’s important to lay out a route about how we get to that vision. If you tell people the only choice they have is Medicare, that could produce a lot of folks being concerned about, ‘Wait a minute, I like my health care and you’re telling me I have to leave it.’”

The more incremental approach is nonetheless frustrating for some progressives buoyed by the November elections and House leaders’ commitment to hold the first-ever hearings on Medicare for All.

They believe their party should seize on grassroots enthusiasm for single-payer health care that’s injected the once-fringe concept into the Democratic mainstream, not run away from it.

“It’s not out of reach. It’s not impossible,” Jayapal said. “It just needs the political will here in Congress.”

But Democratic leaders prefer a drawn-out, lower-key debate over the myriad health plans. House Democrats are wary of moving away from the Obamacare-centric message that aided members across the board in 2018, and fearful of making life harder for members facing tough re-election fights in 2020.

A health care messaging guide developed for congressional Democrats by Protect Our Care urges the party to keep its focus on priorities that are proven winners: hammering Republicans over Obamacare “sabotage,” and lowering health care costs and boosting consumer protections within the current law. The group is advising Democrats to leave the bigger fights over universal health care for further “down the road.”

Corporate lobbies across the health sector, meanwhile, are already lining up to fight any move toward Medicare for All. And Republicans are eager to move the conversation beyond Obamacare and their efforts to gut pre-existing condition protections, believing a battle over a brand new health system will allow the GOP to regain its political footing in swing districts.

“The speaker gets this,” said one centrist House Democrat. “She’s not going to have people walk the plank for the sake of it because we’ve gotta satisfy some of our vocal friends on the far left.”

Add to that concerns about boxing in any eventual 2020 candidate, and House Democratic leaders have already privately ruled out allowing a House floor vote on any coverage expansion plan this Congress, a senior Democratic aide told POLITICO.

Potential 2020 contenders such as Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are also moving cautiously, embracing Medicare for All legislation authored by Sanders, who made the issue a defining feature of his 2016 presidential bid, while also signing onto less ambitious expansion bills. Others, like former Vice President Joe Biden, have yet to weigh in on what they would support.

But they’ll be tested by the party’s liberal wing in the coming months with Jayapal‘s Medicare for All bill, set to closely align House progressives with Sanders’ proposal and kick off a fresh push for single-payer inside and outside the Capitol.

The National Nurses Union is planning a nationwide grassroots campaign in February drumming up support for universal health care. And in the House, Jayapal’s bill will eventually receive hearings from committees led respectively by single-payer supporters Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).

Yarmuth, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, has also asked the Congressional Budget Office to evaluate the fiscal impact of a national single payer model – another first for the Medicare-for-All movement.

The Ways and Means Committee is planning a hearing this spring to examine the various Medicare expansion bills Democrats have proposed, said Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), a committee member who has his own Medicare buy-in proposal. Jayapal, meanwhile, is pressing for a Medicare for All hearing in front of the Energy and Commerce Committee — though Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) has yet to commit.

Energy and Commerce health subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) on Wednesday appeared to promise her own hearing on the various Medicare bills. But she later walked that back, telling POLITICO it would only happen if the subcommittee completes its lengthy agenda and has “spare time” left over.

Progressives concede that a Medicare-for-All vote this year is a long shot — it would likely need support from both of those major committees and leadership — but expressed hope some kind of expansion bill might get consideration as a way to set the bar for 2020.

“We want a floor vote soon because we want it to be part of the presidential conversation, so certainly before the Iowa caucuses,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.).

Several Medicare for All backers in the House, including Khanna, have signed on to alternate bills that would more incrementally expand Medicare for certain slices of the population, or would simply create a public option that would compete for enrollees alongside private insurance plans.

Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) are pushing a plan similar to Merkley’s in the Senate, which would give all Americans the opportunity to buy a Medicare plan — but not force them into one. And Higgins late last year got Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pledge a “good-faith effort” to get a floor vote for his bill, which would allow patients to purchase Medicare starting at age 50 — a plan he called a bridge to an eventual Medicare for All system.

“You get in the majority, there’s no sense in having political pull unless you use it,” he said.

But the rest of the Democratic conference will take some convincing.

With no shot of enacting any coverage expansion bill while Republicans control the Senate, they say there’s little value in pushing anything right away. Rather, the party establishment is urging progressives to bide their time and use the next two years to perfect a plan the entire party can get behind come 2020.

“We have to work hard so we’re not starting from scratch in January 2021, but instead building on a foundation of lots of hearings, lots of experts, lots of debate,” Merkley said. “We have the worst, the most complicated, and the most stressful and the most expensive health care delivery system in the world. We need to do better.”

Heather Caygle contributed to this report.

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NBA: Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry’s worst five seconds of basketball – BBC Sport

Golden State superstar Steph Curry shows he is human after all with five seconds of basketball to forget in the Warriors’ 130-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.

WATCH MORE: Bembry makes ‘sweet’ reverse dunk in NBA’s top 10 plays

Available to UK users only.

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Chris Brown Detained In Paris After Rape Accusation

PARIS (AP) — U.S. singer Chris Brown and two other people are in custody in Paris after a woman filed a rape complaint, French officials said Tuesday.

The Grammy Award-winning singer was detained Monday on potential charges of aggravated rape and drug infractions and remained in custody Tuesday, a judicial official said. Investigators have another two days to decide whether to let him go or file preliminary charges.

Brown’s publicists at Sony Music would not immediately comment on the complaint or say what Brown, 29, was doing in Paris.

Brown has been in repeated legal trouble since pleading guilty to the felony assault in 2009 of his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. He completed his probation in that case in 2015, but has continued to have run-ins with police.

The woman who filed the complaint said she met Brown and his friends overnight Jan. 15-16 at the club Le Crystal in the 8th arrondissement near the Champs-Elysees, and then they all went to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel near the Concorde Plaza in central Paris, according to the official.

One of Brown’s bodyguards is among the others detained in the Paris investigation, according to the official. Neither official was authorized to be publicly named discussing the investigation.

The detention was originally reported by French gossip magazine Closer.

Brown is best-known for hits in the 2000s such as “Run It” and “Kiss Kiss.” He retains a large fanbase, including nearly 50 million followers on Instagram. He posted an Instagram photo Monday from Paris appearing to show him at a night club.

He released a new single earlier this month and has a new album coming this year. Six of his albums have gone platinum.

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Tech billionaire, Democrats clash over campaign tactics and data

Reid Hoffman

Defenders of LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman say Democrats can’t afford to lose ground by clinging to a status quo that left the party out of power in Washington and statehouses across the country. | Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED25

2020 Elections

The dynamic between Democrats and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman reflects the party’s uneasiness with Silicon Valley, which is set to build as the party navigates the 2020 race to defeat Trump.

Billionaire Reid Hoffman quietly became a major force in Democratic politics over the last two years, but his groups’ clashes within the party and involvement in controversial campaign tactics are causing some Democrats to question whether partnering with him on a $35 million-plus overhaul of the party’s data infrastructure would be a mistake.

Democratic operatives and groups that have worked with Hoffman say his spending in 2017 and 2018 put him in the league of top party givers such as Tom Steyer and Donald Sussman. But some Democrats told POLITICO they believe the LinkedIn co-founder and his allies — intent on taking risks with his money and breaking with the status quo — failed to properly vet their partners and made avoidable mistakes as they rapidly expanded their political work.

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During the 2017 gubernatorial and state legislature races in Virginia, party leaders and a Hoffman-funded group fought bitterly over strategy and access to voter data. By the summer before that year’s November election, they had stopped communicating altogether.

More recently, Hoffman apologized for funding another group in Alabama that used Facebook to spread disinformation aimed at hurting a Republican Senate candidate in 2017 — tactics that in some cases mirrored those used in the last presidential election by Russian operatives.

The dynamic between Democrats and the tech entrepreneur reflects the party’s uneasiness with Silicon Valley, which has grown since Russia used social media to meddle in the 2016 elections and is only set to build as the party navigates the 2020 race to defeat President Donald Trump.

“While there’s something to be said about fighting fire with fire, there’s also concern that some of the tactics he’s funded will propel us on a race to the bottom,” one Democratic operative said. “What does it mean for our democracy as tech titans with ambiguous values expand their dominance of the Democratic Party?”

Hoffman’s defenders told POLITICO his investments through his political fund, Investing in US, were critical to Democratic startups that flourished after Trump’s election. And they say Democrats can’t afford to lose ground — or ignore millions of dollars in funding from Silicon Valley types — by clinging to a status quo that left the party out of power in Washington and statehouses across the country.

“I think some of the pushback, with not just Investing in US but any donor program that’s out there thinking differently, is if they’re choosing people who are not within the long-term spaces of power,” said DeJuana Thompson, founder of Woke Vote, an organizing group that started after the 2016 elections and got funding from Investing in US.

“Reid and his funding have been a common thread in many of the most exciting organizations that have emerged in the last two years,” said Vicky Hausman, co-founder of Forward Majority, a group that focuses on state legislatures and has received funding from Investing in US. “People are outraged with the election of Trump and the state of our democracy more broadly, but few people have put their money where their mouth is like Reid Hoffman has.”

Nonetheless, the controversy surrounding Hoffman is now threatening the data-infrastructure project, which was already caught up in turf battles between the Democratic National Committee and state parties.

Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, told POLITICO that “state parties will not turn our data over to a corporate guru with reckless electioneering practices.”

Hoffman and Investing in US co-founder Dmitri Mehlhorn declined to comment for this story.

The total amount of Hoffman’s spending in the years since Trump was elected is not publicly available because he has put the bulk of his money into private and nonprofit groups that do not have to reveal their donors.

But within months of the 2016 elections, Hoffman — who had some history of political giving but was not at the time a megadonor — began spreading money to dozens of organizations, according to people familiar with his spending. Many of them were new groups like Woke Vote and Forward Majority; Hoffman has also invested in super PACs such as Senate Majority PAC, the American Civil Liberties Union, and an array of other voter turnout, litigation and data-focused endeavors.

In addition to investing his own money, Hoffman also raises funds from other like-minded donors that are spent through Investing in US.

The 2017 elections in Virginia, which were widely watched across the country as the first major contests after Trump’s election, provided a testing ground for Hoffman’s team as they expanded their political work.

Hoffman spent in Virginia via organizations he was funding, such as Win the Future, and he teamed up with a coalition of donors operating a PAC called Win Virginia to put money into local races. That group raised $1.3 million and was one of the largest spenders on the House of Delegates races, and Hoffman’s $300,000 contribution made him by far its largest donor, public disclosure records show.

In May and June 2017, Win Virginia met repeatedly with state party operatives to urge them to put more resources into long-shot conservative districts and invest in a massive push online. Hoffman didn’t personally attend meetings, but Mehlhorn took a hands-on role in Virginia, according to people who worked in the state at the time.

But operatives working for the state party — which had already hired consultants and mapped out an electoral strategy — felt their resources would be used more wisely on flipping more moderate parts of the state that Hillary Clinton had won in 2016.

“They were trying things, and we could tell them it’s not going to work. They didn’t want to listen,” one Democrat said of Win Virginia.

Win Virginia wound up following its own strategy, cutting ads, holding trainings and providing technology to candidates that Virginia Democrats had written off.

“Win Virginia was the most helpful organization for my campaign, period,” said Kelly DeLucia, who lost a race for the state House of Delegates in a heavily Republican district. “I give them a lot of credit. I know that they made some waves.”

Democrats in the state were also vexed by Win Virginia’s expenses: The group rented office space from one of its founders, Shashikant Gupta, and paid ex-gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello an unusually high $24,670-a-month salary, according to public disclosure records.

The relationship reached a breaking point in the summer of 2017, after Win Virginia asked for access to the state party’s voter data, which Democrats denied, citing legal and security concerns. After that, Win Virginia and the state Democrats didn’t communicate for the remainder of the election, despite being two of the largest players in an overwhelmingly successful effort to elect Democrats in the state.

Around the same time that the Hoffman-backed group was battling the Virginia Democrats, other organizations with his funding were launching experiments with new online tactics in Alabama, where Democrat Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore for an open Senate seat.

A Hoffman-funded group, called Project Birmingham, ran political Facebook ads targeting the special Senate election, some of which spread disinformation about the race. One project used a Facebook page that appeared to be run by conservative Alabamians to try to push a write-in candidate and hurt Moore, while another made it appear that Moore was benefiting from Russian bots following him on social media. Hoffman has said he did not know his money was being spent on such advertising and called it “highly disturbing.”

Facebook is investigating an additional Hoffman-funded group, called News for Democracy, that ran ads during the 2018 election, some of which sounded like news companies but did not clearly disclose their funding source.

Now, some Democrats are dubious about his role in the data infrastructure overhaul. POLITICO first reported that he was the primary investor in that $35 million-plus effort.

The DNC had been working on its own data plan, and the party is now trying to combine efforts with Hoffman’s money and team, which includes several former members of the Obama administration.

The state parties, which currently own the rights to the party’s valuable voter file, were already skeptical of the DNC’s data overhaul efforts, which call for them to license out the file to a new for-profit “data trust” that would pool data from progressive groups like Planned Parenthood and labor unions. The structure is similar to the model the Republican Party has adopted in recent years.

Hoffman’s involvement has made state parties more resistant to licensing out their data, people involved in the dispute said.

“Silicon Valley does not have all the answers when it comes to data,” said the Nebraska Democratic Party’s Kleeb. “In fact, given the recent dust-ups with Facebook, I’m more comfortable with our mom-and-pop data practices, which rely on shoe leather, campaign staff and volunteers who care deeply about winning elections.”

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Rafael Nadal beats Frances Tiafoe in Australian Open quarter-finals

Rafael Nadal fired down 11 aces in his victory over Frances Tiafoe
Australian Open 2019
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 14-27 January
Coverage: Daily live commentaries on the BBC Sport website, listen to Tennis Breakfast daily from 07:00 GMT on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and watch highlights on BBC TV and online.

Second seed Rafael Nadal eased past unseeded American Frances Tiafoe to reach the Australian Open semi-finals and continue his bid to win all four Grand Slams for a second time.

The 32-year-old Spaniard cracked 29 winners in a 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory.

Nadal broke 21-year-old Tiafoe in each of his first service games of the set.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion will play Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last four after the 20-year-old Greek beat Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.

“It is emotional to be back in the semi-finals,” said Nadal, who retired injured in his quarter-final against Marin Cilic last year.

“I had some troubles in this event so, after a while of not playing, to be back in the semi-final means a lot to me. I feel very lucky to be where I am after all the troubles I’ve been through.”

Nadal dominates next generation

Nadal, who did have to stave off two break points at 2-1 in the second set, has not dropped a set as he aims to become the first man to win each of the four Grand Slams twice in the Open era.

Despite reaching at least the quarter-finals in 11 of his past 12 appearances, including four finals, he has only converted one of these runs into victory – his sole triumph at Melbourne Park in 2009.

And, despite not playing competitively since September’s US Open because of multiple injuries, he has cruised through his opening five matches.

Tiafoe, who celebrated his 21st birthday by reaching his maiden Grand Slam quarter-final on Sunday, could not cope with Nadal’s quality and intensity.

He had spent almost 12 hours on court coming into the match – more than three hours longer than Nadal – including his four-set wins over Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson and former world number three Grigor Dimitrov.

Nadal broke again for a 5-2 lead in the third, going on to serve out victory in one hour and 47 minutes.

The Spaniard used his trademark forehand to great effect, particularly down the line, hitting 13 winners on that side.

“The serve and winner with the first forehand is something very important for me, very important today, but also very important if I want to keep playing for a few years,” he said.

“It has given me a lot of free points and that is so important at this stage of my career.”

Tsitsipas, 20, followed his last-16 victory over defending champion Roger Federer with another four-set win over Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut earlier on Tuesday.

Nadal has beaten the Greek in straight sets in both of their previous meetings – in ATP finals on clay in Barcelona and the Toronto hard-court last year.

“It is going to be a great year to be sharing generations, that’s what makes this sport special – let’s see what happens,” Nadal said.

“During the last year he has been improving every month. He has already won a tournament and now in the semi-finals and able to win against best players in the world.

“He is unbelievable today but he has the chance to be one of the best for a long time.”

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Emiliano Sala: Born in Argentina, reputation forged in France

Cardiff City signed the 28-year-old from French club Nantes

Just three days after he signed for Premier League club Cardiff City, Emiliano Sala was on a light aircraft which disappeared on Monday night, French authorities have confirmed. He was one of two people on board the Piper Malibu, which went missing off Alderney in the Channel Islands.

Emiliano Sala was born in Santa Fe, Argentina – but it is in France that he has forged his reputation.

Among the top five goalscorers in Ligue 1 this season, Sala has netted 12 times at better than a goal every two games.

That prompted Cardiff to pay Nantes a club record £15m for a man who has spent his entire professional career in the French leagues.

Sala was born on 31 October 1990 in the small rural community of Cululu in the Santa Fe province, about 340 miles north west of Buenos Aires.

After progressing through the youth set-up at Argentine side Club Proyecto Crecer, he moved to France to sign for Bordeaux.

But, after making his debut as a 21-year-old, he struggled for game time and a series of loan moves followed.

He spent the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons at US Orleans and Niort respectively, scoring 37 goals in 74 matches.

Emiliano Sala was presented as a Cardiff City signing on Saturday

When he took that goalscoring form into a loan spell with Caen in 2015, Nantes had seen enough – and bought the 6ft 3in striker for a reported one million euros.

Three and a half years – and 42 goals later – came Premier League interest.

West Ham, Everton, Leicester, Crystal Palace, Fulham and Southampton were all linked with Sala, but it was Cardiff who got their man – eclipsing the £11m they paid for Gary Medel to sign him.

When his signing was announced, Sala said: “It gives me great pleasure and I can’t wait to start training, meet my new team-mates and get down to work.”

In a later tweet, he wrote: “I know the challenge is big, but together we will make it.”

Two days later he posted his most recent tweet – a picture of him and his former Nantes team-mates. It was captioned “ciao”.

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NRA Savaged For ‘Disgraceful And Exploitative’ MLK Tweet

“Today, the men and women of the NRA honor the profound life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” the pro-gun advocacy group tweeted Monday. “Dr. King applied for a concealed carry permit in a “may issue” state and was denied. We will never stop fighting for every law-abiding citizen’s right to self-defense.” 

The slain civil rights leader was himself a victim of gun violence ― which many people on Twitter were quick to point out as they criticized the NRA for the “tone deaf” tribute. 

Even King’s youngest daughter, Bernice, encouraged the gun group to study her father “and his nonviolent philosophy.”

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