Conservativewebsites have been giddy in recent days because the fiscal deal President Barack Obama just signed repeals a piece of Obamacare—a long-term care program for the disabled that even the administration admits was not cost effective. But another section of the Affordable Care Act bit the dust at the same time, and consumers who will soon be required to purchase health insurance (i.e. everyone) should be none too happy about it.
The ACA established a federal loan program to subsidize nonprofit CO-OPs (consumer oriented and operated health insurance plans) so that these plans could participate in the new online health insurance exchanges with traditional plans. The goal: increasing competition and reducing costs for consumers. Half of the $3.8 billion allocated for the program has already been doled out to 24 nonprofits in 24 states, but the remaining $1.9 billion was slashed in the recent tax-cut deal.
In the past year, Republicans have gone wild when it comes to rape. They blocked the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act because it would have given tribal courts broader jurisdiction over rape on Native American lands. They told women they can't get pregnant from rape and that babies that result from rape are God's will. Though the GOP did pay a political price for some of this (see: Rep. Todd Akin), as the 112th Congress was hurriedly finishing up its business in the past few days, House Republicans yet again played politics with rape and sabotaged a bipartisan bill that would have made it easier to track down rapists.
The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act, also known as the SAFER Act of 2012, was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in the Senate in May, and by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) in the House in December. It would have reallocated $117 million to help make a dent in the nationwide backlog of untested "rape kits," which contain forensic evidence collected after sexual assaults that can help identify perpetrators. There are some 400,000 untested kits sitting in labs around the country. As long as this DNA evidence goes unanalyzed, it's easier for rapists to avoid arrest and prosecution.
Lately, it has been looking more and more likely that America is about to lurch over the fiscal cliff, or fiscal staircase, or fiscal curb, or whatever, due to GOP obstructionism. On Friday, there was a tad more hope on the Hill as congressional leaders met with President Obama to try and come up with some sort of last-minute deal to at least partially avert the $400 billion in across-the-board tax increases and $200 billion in spending cuts set to go into effect January 1. To provide a kick in the pants to their fellow members of Congress, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) rallied with dozens of working class folks outside the Capitol Friday to push for a stop-gap measure that would spare the middle class and working poor from tax hikes and expiring unemployment benefits.
Since Adam Lanza massacred 20 children and 7 adults in Newtown a week ago, gun control is on the national mind more than any time since probably 1994. Several pro-gun lawmakers and public figures have had a change of heart in recent days. And on Wednesday, Obama came out in support of renewing a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and requiring background checks on all gun sales. That is bad news for gun rights groups all over the country. But it sure helps them raise money.