CBO punctures Goodlatte’s health care fantasy

It’s not clear whether this interview with Congressman Goodlatte on WHSV3 in Harrisonburg was conducted before or after the Congressional Budget Office released its finding that 24 million Americans stand to lose health insurance under the Republicans’ proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act, but here are some of the things he said:

“This plan [i.e., the Republican alternative] is headed where it needs to head.”

“We will replace the mandates with greater access to health care.”

“Those people [i.e., people currently covered by the ACA] will have a long transition period to switch over to something else.”

The Washington Post reports:

The analysis, released late Monday afternoon by the Congressional Budget Office, predicts that 24 million fewer people would have coverage a decade from now than if the Affordable Care Act remains intact, nearly doubling the share of Americans who are uninsured from 10 percent to 19 percent. The office projects the number of uninsured people would jump 14 million after the first year.

The CBO is led by a Republican appointed by GOP leaders in 2015.

The “well-suited” Steve King speaks his racist mind again

In January, as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte appointed Congressman Steve King of Iowa to be chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

As Goodlatte knew at the time, King has a history of saying stupid and racist things. But he chose to ignore that.

“His expertise on many of the issues facing our nation and the committee make him well-suited to serve as chairman of the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee,” Goodlatte said in a written statement. “I look forward to working with him as we seek to safeguard Americans’ liberties and promote an efficient and just legal system.”

Now The Washington Post reports:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has gained notoriety for his often contentious — and, occasionally, almost overtly racist — comments about immigration and the demographics of the United States. On Sunday, in a tweet about the nationalist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, King again appears to have crossed the line.

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny,” King wrote. “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

The formulation of “our” civilization being at risk from “somebody else’s babies” is a deliberate suggestion that American civilization is threatened by unnamed “others” — almost certainly a reference to non-Westerners. The idea that national identity and racial identity overlap entirely is the crux of white nationalism; King’s formulation above toes close to that line, if it doesn’t cross.

So congratulations, Congressman Goodlatte, for recognizing how “well-suited” Steve King is to head an important subcommittee that is supposed to help ensure equal justice for all Americans. Come out and take a bow.

Congressman? Congressman?

Update: There’s more. What now, Bob?



Goodlatte-sponsored bill makes it harder for consumers to sue for damages

While most media attention was focused elsewhere, Republicans in the House of Representatives pushed through a bill authored by Congressman Goodlatte that makes it harder for ordinary consumers to join class-action lawsuits.

David Lazarus, consumer affairs reporter for The Los Angeles Times, spoke with Goodlatte (something relatively few of the congressman’s Sixth District constituents have been able to do):

“Frivolous lawsuits have no place in our legal system, and the true victims of frivolous lawsuits are often small businesses and individuals who cannot afford to fight these claims,” he said.

Apparently this is an extremely urgent issue because Goodlatte introduced his bill only a month ago. It was approved by his committee’s Republican majority less than a week later without any public hearings or debate.

“The legislation … addresses the abuses within our civil justice system, helps ensure that baseless lawsuits are quickly dispensed with and improves protections for deserving victims so the doors to justice remain open for parties with legitimate claims,” Goodlatte said.

What it really does is impose strict new rules on class actions that make them a lot harder to get off the ground. Not surprisingly, the bill is strongly supported by the business-boosting U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent millions lobbying on its behalf.

The legislation’s key provision would allow a class to be certified — that is, to receive court approval for plaintiffs to band together — only if all members “suffered the same type and scope of injury as the named class representative.”

That’s a spectacularly unfair stipulation for a bill claiming to be all about fairness.

Take air bags. Let’s say the originator of a class-action lawsuit was severely injured by an exploding air bag. If Goodlatte’s bill were law, the only people who could join the suit would be people who received similarly extensive harm.

Someone who sustained lesser or different injuries probably wouldn’t qualify for the case.


The shame of it is that Goodlatte’s bill also contains some thoughtful provisions, such as limiting lawyers’ payouts to “a reasonable percentage” of whatever plaintiffs are awarded. Often, attorneys walk off with a big chunk of the cash and leave individual class members with relatively little.

But these worthwhile ideas are far outweighed by the ridiculous “same scope of injury” provision.

Lazarus concludes:

Our legal system is far from perfect and, yes, there are abuses of class actions and damages claims. But significantly tilting the playing field in favor of businesses doesn’t improve things.

Consider recent fraud and defective-product scandals involving Wells Fargo, Volkswagen and air bag maker Takata. Consumers and employees responded with class-action lawsuits.

Anyone think those cases are frivolous?

Goodlatte and Judiciary Republicans send silly letter to Comey

After House Judiciary Committee Republicans last week killed Democratic resolution calling on the Department of Justice to provide Congress with documentation on President Trump’s conflicts of business interests and ties to Russia, Politico reported:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) called the resolution “unnecessary, premature” and driven by politics. Instead, he said Republican members of the committee are drafting a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions requesting his voluntary cooperation in any investigation related to Russia and Trump’s business conflicts — with Democrats encouraged to sign on.

On Wednesday the letter emerged. However it was not sent to Sessions– who has recused himself from investigations relating to Trump’s presidential campaign– but to FBI director James Comey. And although the letter was signed by Goodlatte and every other Republican member of the committee except one, not a single Democrat signed on.

The letter requests a briefing from Comey on two matters: “Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. election” and “the very serious allegations that the President and/or his associates were or are under surveillance.” The letter notably does not ask for information on Trump’s business conflicts, which may well include ties to Russia.

There is abundant evidence of Russia’s interference in the election. There is absolutely no evidence to support Trump’s bizarre tweet claiming that President Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower. In fact Comey asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s assertion.

The effort by Goodlatte and the Republicans to equate an issue of critical concern with a product of Trump’s paranoia indicates their utter lack of seriousness. No wonder the Democrats refused to sign on.

Goodlatte and the “mob scenes”

On Wednesday, defending his practice of holding “telephone town halls” instead of in-person town halls in the Sixth District, Congressman Goodlatte said:

[W]e have found that these telephone town hall meetings provide for an opportunity for a very civil discourse as opposed to what you’ve seen around the country where people turn town meetings into mob scenes and have cardboard cutouts of elected officials and all kinds of other things that kind of demean the process and take away from the people who show up and really want to have a serious discussion about the issues facing the country.

Goodlatte’s professed concern about unruly behavior at his town halls demeaning the process is undercut by a video of a town hall he hosted in 2009, during which the chair of the Roanoke County Democratic Committee spoke in support of including a public option in the Affordable Care Act. Listen to the hostile reaction of much of the audience, drowning out the speaker. Listen to Goodlatte not chastise audience members for their rude behavior. 

In fact he continued holding in-person town hall meetings until 2013, when he mysteriously stopped.

The obvious conclusion is that Goodlatte only cares about “mob scenes” when there’s a chance the “mob” may be angry at him.

(Hat tip: Chris Gavaler)

Another “telephone town hall”

On Wednesday evening Congressman Goodlatte sprang another one of his surprise “telephone town halls” on his unprepared Sixth District constituents.

Fortunately Bill Hamilton was able to record most of it.

A questioner in Lexington asked about Goodlatte’s practice of holding his “telephone town halls” with no advance notice.

Question: I was just wondering if you were going to be planning town halls on a regular basis or a set time for these phone town halls? It’s just that I happened to answer the phone tonight, that I did not know you were planning on ahead of time.

Goodlatte: Well, the answer is, we do them on a regular basis. We have lots of different ways for people to communicate with us, including every month at a set time we have an open door meeting in Lexington where people can go and meet with a member of my staff and pass along their concerns about issues. And I respond to all of those. We also have Facebook. We also have my website. We also have an e-newsletter that we send out every week. And there are at least, you know, ten different ways that people can contact me and either seek help with a government agency or ask questions about an issue that is before the Congress. But we have found that these telephone town hall meetings provide for an opportunity for a very civil discourse as opposed to what you’ve seen around the country where people turn town meetings into mob scenes and have cardboard cutouts of elected officials and all kinds of other things that kind of demean the process and take away from the people who show up and really want to have a serious discussion about the issues facing the country. So we will continue to have the telephone town hall meetings and we will continue to look for other ways. We meet with people individually all the time, every week. We visit schools and hospitals and businesses to talk about issues that are of concern to folks in those places. And we’ll continue to be accessible. We also receive over a thousand emails a week, in other words unique individual contacts, from people who have just simply reached out directly to my office, or they call one of my offices at the numbers that I gave out earlier, and I’ll give them out again later as well. So we want to be as accessible as we possibly can. We want to promote a dialogue where we have a constructive conversation about the issues. So thank you very much.

You’ll notice Goodlatte never responded directly to the question about scheduling regular town halls or having set times for “telephone town halls.” Instead he talked at length about how “accessible” he is and about all the other ways he meets people and receives their views.

The problem is that lots of constituents have contacted him in recent weeks asking for meetings (individual, small group, town hall) and he doesn’t respond. As for questions about issues: if he does answer, it’s usually in the form of a generic letter that doesn’t deal with the constituent’s specific concern. 

Goodlatte seemed to rule out in-person town halls for fear of “mob scenes” and “cardboard cutouts.”

If Goodlatte was referring to the cardboard cutout of himself featured at a recent meeting in Vinton, it was only there because he himself wasn’t.

And does Goodlatte really have such a low opinion of his constituents that he thinks any town hall meeting would turn into a “mob scene”? He might want to consult with his House Republican colleagues Justin Amash of Michigan and Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

Amash has faced some impassioned constituents at town hall meetings in his district. But he believes the meetings are valuable and plans to continue holding them. He responded to a tweet from President Trump about “liberal activists” organizing “angry crowds.”

“I think it is critical that members of Congress hold in-person town halls like this,” Amash said. “There aren’t enough of people on either side of the aisle who do it.”

Sanford and Republican Senator Tim Scott actually cosponsored a town hall meeting with the grassroots progressive group Indivisible Charleston, at which they faced challenging but mostly polite questions about the Affordable Care Act and other issues.

As Sanford remarked afterwards:

I’ve long believed that in many cases, a dissenting viewpoint is more important than one that agrees with you. You learn a lot more in contrasting an idea than having somebody simply say I’m with you. So I think the back and forth is important to the Socratic process of ultimately getting to the bottom line and hopefully truth at that bottom line.


I thought it was a meaningful interchange. There’s certainly some energy at the front end. But, you know, you go – I think we went about three and a half hours all told. And by time, you know, you move past hour one and some of the, you know, again, pent-up energy that was built into that, I think we really had a meaningful exchange where people, at a heartfelt level, told me why certain things were important to them, why they mattered as they did. And I think that that’s what you’d want in any town hall exchange.

Goodlatte might want to give it a try.

Goodlatte mum on Sessions-Russia revelations

Just one day after Congressman Goodlatte and other Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee killed a resolution requiring the Department of Justice to turn over documents on President Trump’s ties to Russia, news emerged that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a top adviser to Trump’s campaign, met twice with the Russian ambassador to the US.

Testifying under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he was asked in January by Al Franken what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government during the 2016 campaign. “I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

There’s more: Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) sent Sessions an additional written question: “Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” The AG’s one-word answer could not have been more categorical: “No.”

Sessions’s responses to these questions are at best misleading and incomplete. At worst, they would seem to demand criminal prosecution for lying under oath.

Last year, in his role as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte wanted Hillary Clinton prosecuted for perjury for alleged misstatements to Congress about her email setup. So far I have found no reaction from Goodlatte on the Sessions revelations.

Update: Goodlatte belatedly issued a statement saying Sessions “did the right thing” by recusing himself from matters arising from last year’s presidential campaign.