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Other View: Do GOP senators have an escape hatch on the awful health-care bill?

Jennifer Rubin

To the surprise of very few who have watched her carefully over the course of her career and have listened intently to her recent statements, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Monday announced (via Twitter): “I want to work w/ my GOP & Dem colleagues to fix the flaws in ACA. CBO analysis shows Senate bill won’t do it. I will vote no on [the motion to proceed].”

A motion to proceed is essentially the vote to debate and then vote on the merits. Collins is saying that she is not going to vote to begin the debate on a bill so fundamentally flawed. “CBO says 22 million people lose insurance; Medicaid cuts hurt most vulnerable Americans; access to healthcare in rural areas threatened,” she continued. “Senate bill doesn’t fix ACA problems for rural Maine. Our hospitals are already struggling. 1 in 5 Mainers are on Medicaid.”

The Congressional Budget Office scoring sealed the deal, perhaps, but Collins didn’t need the CBO to predict that a bill taking $800 billion or so out of Medicaid was going to wallop her state.

She became the third official no vote—the others are Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Dean Heller, R-Nev. Heller, like Collins, can see what the Senate bill would do to his state (which, unlike Maine, did expand Medicaid and therefore has a lot more to lose). Paul sincerely believes that the federal government shouldn’t be regulating or subsidizing health care for able-bodied, non-elderly Americans. Then, later Monday night, Sen. Ron Johnso, R-Wis., told CNN’s Dana Bash that he would vote against a motion to proceed. Others who say they need more data—Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Bill Cassidy, R-La., to name two—may be more explicit about voting no on a motion to proceed.

Normally, when senators say that they “don’t have enough information,” the political world interprets that as equivalent to “I am undecided.” But remember—the key vote that could stop the bill even before a vote on the merits would be the “motion to proceed.” Saying that they do not have enough information to vote to proceed puts other senators right where Collins is: “No” on a motion to proceed.

To be certain, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is forcing this result by his insistence on voting on the bill later this week. His hurry-up-and-vote gambit was designed to stop opposition from gathering and to maximize pressure on his members to fall into line.

But—and here is where one suspects McConnell never does anything to hurt his members—the artificial deadline also gives members who cannot vote for the bill on the merits an easy way out. They simply say, “That McConnell wouldn’t give us enough time.Darn!” Some voters will see this as nothing more than a no vote on the Senate bill (for better or worse); others will give their senator a break for refusing to be rushed into a ill-considered debate. And if McConnell after the July 4 recess decides to move on to other things, senators may never get around to a health-care vote.

Even President Trump sounded as though he might be looking for a way out. On Monday, he tweeted, “Republican Senators are working very hard to get there, with no help from the Democrats. Not easy! Perhaps just let OCare crash & burn!” That suggests he would give Republicans an alternative to passing the bill (let Obamacare “crash and burn”) and be amenable to blaming Democrats, who of course have no ability to stop Republicans if the latter even had 50 votes (plus the tiebreaker from the vice president).

Perhaps McConnell does force a vote. Maybe all the tough-talking senators in the end crumble. But if so, they have left a trail of embarrassing and self-incriminating statements a mile long, which future opponents will use against them. Candidly, they sure are acting as though they want to get out of this and go home. If they do, critics of Trumpcare will owe Collins a huge debt of gratitude.

Other View: NATO can fight terrorism one sinking boat at a time

The following editorial appears on Bloomberg View:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has now formally enlisted in the fight against Islamic State. It can begin by helping to stem the flow of refugees trying to reach Europe from North Africa.

This would be more than a humanitarian exercise; it would be a counterterrorism operation. Wherever refugees gather in hopelessness, violent extremists have a fertile recruiting ground. And the number of refugees is staggering.

Nearly 200,000 people fleeing violence and poverty tried to cross of the Mediterranean last year, and at least 5,000 died in the attempt. The U.N. estimates that there are more than half a million refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people in Libya alone. Neither the fractured Libyan government nor the European Union can cope with the numbers, leaving hundreds of thousands of people in makeshift refugee camps — some of which are controlled by human traffickers and resemble concentration camps, according to a German government report.

Those who make it across the Mediterranean don’t fare much better. Most end up in overcrowded camps in Italy where social services are lacking and applications for asylum languish. Those intercepted in Libyan waters are sent back. Sometimes the traffickers dump their human cargo in the sea to avoid capture.

So what can NATO do? With more than 700 ships at its disposal, a lot.

For starters, it can build on Italian-led Operation Sophia, which has saved thousands of lives but is woefully inadequate to the task. NATO’s sophisticated surveillance capabilities, such as long-range patrol airplanes and satellite imagery, can monitor ports in Africa and the Middle East and aid in search-and-rescue efforts. NATO can also help the EU’s efforts to professionalize the Libyan coast guard.

The alliance can foster far more naval cooperation and intelligence sharing among its members, and with intergovernmental entities like Interpol. This should also involve another underutilized asset: private shipping companies, which are obligated to respond to other vessels in distress. NATO could also encourage member states build more camps on Mediterranean islands and could aid with construction, perimeter security, health care and the like.

NATO patrols in the Mediterranean could also provide a more direct benefit in the fight against terrorists: stemming the flow of arms from the Middle East to Islamist terrorists in North Africa. Islamic State already has a foothold in Libya and is trying to expand into Tunisia.

Two years ago the civil war in Syria caused the exodus of millions. Now as fighting intensifies, NATO can’t afford to make the same mistake.

Brugger: Why unions are still relevant

Idaho is a “right to work” state. It is not a “no union may organize” state. Lamb Weston seems to think it is.

Right to work state legislation became popular because unions were so successful. Believe it or not, a living wage, safety rules, weekends, the eight-hour work week, paid vacations, pensions, overtime pay and due process before being fired became the norm for industrial jobs after WWII and beyond. Many workers took them for granted. So, did most employers.

Workers began to look at the union dues taken out of their paychecks skeptically. Employers disliked the burden of dealing with union stewards and regular negotiations over work rules and pay. Then there were the corruption scandals of the fifties. Unions began to have a poor reputation. Right-to-work laws were born.

When I worked for the Air Force as a civil servant, I dealt with a government union, so I took a masters level class in public administration about public sector unions. My final paper justified their usefulness, and my professor said that I had changed his mind on the subject. I will not copy that paper in this column. I want to point out that I have been on management’s side of the bargaining table.

A large employer needs a union as much as the employees do. The reason is that supervisors do not always represent the employer well. Management accepts a status quo that leads to employee dissatisfaction which harms productivity. When workers have no formal outlet for grievance, they become passive aggressive, which is the definition of low morale.

As reported in the Times-News, the employees at Lamb Weston have numerous safety concerns. They have work rule concerns. They may find that union representation gives them control over the quality of their work environment. It is their right to consider if the Teamsters Union, which already represents UPS drivers in Idaho, can be of service to them.

Lamb Weston should have saved the money it is spending on a consulting firm whose job it is to discourage a pro union vote. Instead, they should spend the money on teaching management and supervisors how to negotiate in good faith with a union.

Union negotiators are a sophisticated group these days. They can read a balance sheet and have no interest in putting a company out of business. They know OSHA rules, they understand health standards, they can separate an employee who has a legitimate grievance from one who does not.

Forget the class warfare rhetoric of the 19th and 20th century. Almost two decades into the 21st century, it is time to cast unions in a more realistic light. They can be useful to the employer as much as the employee.

Letter: City should follow-up on weed control

City should follow-up on weed control

I am writing to voice my concern for the lack of pride people have for their homes and yards. There seems to be a consensus among renters that they rent the home, not the yard, or the property owners kill the vegetation so they don’t have to pay for the water used. Even after the weeds are sprayed there are other seeds that grow. Is there no pride in living in a nicely kept home and yard? Maybe they lack pride in themselves as they do in their abodes.

The city doesn’t follow-up on weed control unless it is reported. They seem to think a note on the bottom of the billing is enough to motivate action. What does the weed control person do all day? Do they sit and wait for the phone to ring? Too bad they aren’t paid by the number of complaints they follow-up on or the number of offenders they discover by driving around town.

Am I the only one who is concerned about the weeds, the seeds produced by them and the numerous unkempt yards in this town?

Carol Roseberry

Twin Falls