Scott Walker goes after fellow Republicans in health care pitchMeredith Shiner Political correspondent Yahoo Politics August 18, 2015 Wisconsin Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker presents his health care plan Tuesday during a factory visit in Minnesota. (Photo: Jim Mone/AP)Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker on Tuesday announced the first major policy initiative of his campaign: repealing and replacing the nation’s health care law. But his remarks were as much a salvo against the new GOP-led Congress as they were an actual plan to change America’s health care system.In a primary field packed with 17 Republicans, many of whom have spent the entirety of the 2016 campaign trying to out-conservative the others, Walker has consistently touted his aggressive and successful record of reshaping Wisconsin’s politics and budget since first becoming its governor in 2011.And it’s clear Walker believes that contrasting his record with the inaction of Congress is his best shot at breaking through with Republican primary voters, who have four current senators and one former senator to choose from.The cornerstone of the health care plan Walker announced in Minnesota is to send legislation to Congress on “day one” of a Walker administration to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has extended insurance coverage to 7 million previously uninsured Americans. To encourage Congress to pass it, the Wisconsin Republican also threatened to issue an executive order to force all legislators and staff onto the law’s exchanges, even though that’s already enshrined in current law and most members are already insured through Obamacare.“We were told by Republican leaders during the campaigns last year that we just needed a Republican Senate to be elected to repeal Obamacare,” Walker reminded voters. “Well, here we sit. Both chambers of the United States Congress have been controlled since January by Republicans, and yet there’s not a bill on the president’s desk to repeal Obamacare.“On my very first day as president of the United States, I will send legislation to the Congress to once and for all repeal Obamacare entirely,” Walker continued.Of course, passage of such a bill would probably require a filibuster-proof Republican majority (60 votes) in the Senate, which seems unlikely to be attained in 2016. To date, the GOP-led House has voted more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare, and the new Republican Senate unsuccessfully voted as recently as July to do the same.The reality of the vote counts in Congress — and the continued presidency of Barack Obama — has prevented GOP leaders in Washington from doing more, while governors like Walker can boast about refusing to set up exchanges in their own states or accept the expansion of Medicaid.According to the Kaiser Family Health Foundation, the refusal of Walker and 18 other governors to expand the federal health care program to their poorest citizens has created a coverage gap of nearly 4 million Americans.“We got results while still staying true to our common-sense conservative principles,” Walker said of rejecting Medicaid expansion outright, while praising fellow GOP presidential contenders Rick Perry of Texas and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who also rejected expansion in their states.“I’m willing to stand up against anyone — including members of my own party — to get the job done. We’re not intimidated,” Walker declared.
The appeal came during a meeting in the West Bank with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a rare face-to-face encounter after a more than yearlong diplomatic standstill.Officials on both sides said that Abbas initiated the meeting with Isaac Herzog, leader of the opposition Zionist Union, in response to the violence of recent weeks.Addressing reporters at Abbas’ West Bank headquarters in Ramallah, Herzog said the two men held an „in-depth” discussion that lasted more than an hour.He said they agreed „first and foremost” that a new „intifada,” or uprising, must be prevented.”We have agreed that in order to prevent a third intifada we must combat terror on the one hand aggressively, and on the other hand move toward a diplomatic process,” he said. „We must ignite the process yet again and give it another effort.”A relative of Palestinian Mohammed Amsha, 25, cries during his funeral in the village of Kafr Rai ne …After the meeting, Herzog wrote on his Facebook page that he believed a deal could be reached within two years if there was sufficient political will.For now, the odds of bringing Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu together for a meeting — much less restarting peace talks — appear virtually nonexistent.Israel and the Palestinians have held on-again, off-again peace talks over the past two decades, and the latest round of U.S.-brokered negotiations broke down more than a year ago with little progress.The U.S. is not expected to resume peace efforts until after a congressional vote on the international community’s Iranian nuclear deal. Netanyahu bitterly opposes the deal, and with U.S.-Israel ties suffering, the prospects for any new U.S. diplomatic initiative seem poor.Even if the U.S. manages to restart talks, the gaps between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are so vast that a deal is unlikely. The Palestinians seek the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza — territories captured by Israel in 1967 — for a future state. Netanyahu opposes a return to Israel’s pre-1967 lines and rejects any withdrawal from east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital. The area is home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites.Palestinians carry the body of Mohammed Amsha, 25, during his funeral in the village of Kafr Rai nea …Amid this diplomatic vacuum, violence has been rising since a firebombing attack by suspected Jewish extremists in the West Bank killed an 18-month-old toddler and his father last month. Since then, there have been several Palestinian stabbing attacks on Israelis and a firebombing of an Israeli car. Three suspected attackers have been killed, including a Palestinian man who stabbed an Israeli policeman in the West Bank on Monday. Hundreds of people attended the 25-year-old Palestinian man’s funeral Tuesday.Adding to the tension is the fate of a Palestinian detainee on hunger strike for more than 60 days. Mohammed Allan woke up on Tuesday after he slipped into unconsciousness on Friday. Allan vowed to keep fasting until Israel releases him. Israel says he is being held for his activities in the Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian group which has carried out numerous attacks against civilians. Israel worries that violence could erupt if Allan dies.While the Israeli military does not expect the situation to deteriorate into the heavy fighting that characterized the two previous Palestinian uprisings, there are concerns on both sides that things could worsen.Abbas did not join Herzog during his address to reporters. But in a statement, the Palestinian leader, an outspoken critic of violence, affirmed his commitment to reaching a peace deal with Israel.It was Abbas’ first meeting with Herzog since Israeli elections last March. Tuesday’s meeting appeared to be an effort by Abbas to reassure the Israeli public that he is trying to preserve calm.Abbas’ forces have arrested or questioned dozens of members of the rival Hamas militant group in recent weeks, according to Hamas.Aides to Abbas say the Palestinian leader has grown frustrated over the dire state of peace efforts and is considering resigning. But the 80-year-old Abbas has made similar threats in the past.His aides say Abbas is especially concerned about reports that Israel has been holding secret contacts with Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Abbas fears that such contacts could lead to an accommodation between the bitter enemies that could hinder future peace efforts by solidifying Hamas’ hold on Gaza.By meeting the Israeli opposition leader Tuesday, Abbas appeared to be trying to send a message that Netanyahu — not the Palestinians — is preventing peace efforts from resuming.
Turkey’s Erdogan gambles on using crisis to consolidate power By Nick Tattersall and Orhan CoskunAugust 17, 2015 10:19 AMTurkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks at a joint media briefing with Indonesia’s President …By Nick Tattersall and Orhan Coskun Related Stories
ANKARA (Reuters) – As efforts to form a new government flounder and Turkish jets bombard Kurdish militants, President Tayyip Erdogan is hoping to turn Turkey’s deepest uncertainty in more than a decade to his advantage.Declaring the end of single-party rule a betrayal by „terrorists” and „so-called intellectuals”, he has cast Turkey as confronted by a new domestic enemy which, by implication, only a leader as strong as he can defeat.Erdogan saw his plans to forge a presidential system akin to France or the United States derailed on June 7, when the ruling AK Party lost its majority at a parliamentary election for the first time in more than a decade.His hopes of changing the constitution and realizing that ambition now hinge on the AKP regaining control of parliament, a scenario made possible after efforts to agree a coalition government collapsed last week, making a snap election look almost inevitable.That, even some of those within the ruling party privately acknowledge, was the outcome Erdogan always wanted.”He is truly successful at reaching his goals in politics,” said one senior government official.”He is getting what he wants after a masterfully managed two months. It was clear since the beginning that in no way did he consider any other option than single AK Party rule.”It is a high-risk strategy. Two recent polls have suggested the AKP could recover its majority and govern alone if the vote were held again, but there are no guarantees.Dragging reluctant Turkish voters to the polls so soon after a divisive election could further undermine support for the AKP, according to Sinan Ulgen, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe and head of the Istanbul-based EDAM think-tank.”It will be seen as the party that has forced early elections on a recalcitrant Turkish electorate at a time when there are severe challenges, both from the security perspective and also economically,” Ulgen said, adding that dissent within the AKP could start to bubble over.”The drawback to this gambit for Erdogan is that if the AK Party ends up losing votes, we may start to see more open dissatisfaction about his influence,” he said.„LOSING HIS GRIP” Eager not to be seen as deal breakers, senior AKP officials have publicly rejected the idea that Erdogan, who retains considerable power over the party apparatus, is opposed to a coalition. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu last Thursday described such a perception as „completely false”.But party insiders acknowledge there is already discontent with his meddling. Many blame his lobbying for an executive presidency for the fall in AKP support in June, despite a constitutional obligation for him to remain out of party politics as head of state.”Erdogan is losing his grip on the party each day. And this is not good news for him,” said a second senior party official, although he added it was far too soon to count him out.”He wants the presidential system one way or the other and he is not giving up.”The combative president has missed few opportunities to portray strong, single-party rule as the only option for Turkey, particularly in times of crisis such as now, with violence flaring in the mainly Kurdish southeast and a mounting threat from Islamic State militants in northern Syria.”Turkey is facing a new enemy due to the June 7 election result, which did not allow a single party majority, and as the chaos in Syria deepens,” he said in a speech on Friday.CAMPAIGNING Falling back on a rhetorical technique that has served him well, Erdogan cast himself and the Turkish state as victims of an ill-defined plot contrived by a range of enemies whose links are, at best, tenuous.The „parallel state” – his term for followers of influential U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen – „separatist terrorists” – a reference to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group – writers, academics and journalists were all to blame.”Everyone who supports and remains silent in the face of this network … is complicit in its efforts to obstruct this nation. This is not a day to be impartial. Those who remain impartial will be eliminated,” he said.After more than a decade as prime minister, Erdogan won Turkey’s first popular presidential election in August 2014 and has since stretched the powers of a largely ceremonial post to their limits. He has insisted that even without constitutional change, his election by the people rather than by parliament as in the past automatically granted him extra authority.”There is now a president in the country not with symbolic power, but with literal power,” he said.”Whether it is accepted or not, Turkey’s system of government has changed. What needs to be done now is to clarify and confirm the legal framework of this de facto situation with a new constitution.”Critics say such speeches already mark the beginnings of a campaign to win back support for the AKP and the idea of an executive presidency ahead of the expected snap election.”He sees no downside in forcing early elections, but possibly a huge upside. From Erdogan’s perspective I think it boils down to that,” said EDAM’s Ulgen.(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Akin Aytekin in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Giles Elgood)