Progressives Every Day: Another red state win for Obamacare?

Times sure have changed

Welcome to the Monday edition of Progressives Everywhere!

The biggest headlines today came from the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s four liberal justices to overturn an anti-abortion bill in Louisiana. His written decision suggests he may not be so hostile to other attacks on a woman’s right to choose, but it’s at least a temporary victory and reason to celebrate.

Now, for the news you pay me to report!

Texas Republicans — gasp! — aren’t doing enough on coronavirus:

If Texas Gov. Greg Abbott isn’t going to issue another shelter-in-place order even as COVID-19 cases skyrocket in his state, local officials want the right to do it themselves.

On Monday, the Texas Tribune reported that county officials in Harris (where Houston is located), Dallas, Bexar (San Antonio), and Travis (Austin) have reached out to Abbott, pleading with him to lift restrictions on their ability to issue mandates and make decisions that would limit the virus’s ability to spread. Right now, county officials say that they no longer have the jurisdiction to go beyond limitations placed by the state.

“We need more tools. If I had my ultimate ask to him I would say restore to local governments, to mayors and County judges, all the tools that we had in March and April. Give us back our tools," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "Because the situation is more critical now than then and we had more tools at our disposal then than now. And I will tell you it is frustrating, because when people are reporting locally and nationally, they are talking about the city of Houston, as well as other cities.”

Last Friday, with COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in the state, Abbott swallowed hard and rolled back a few of the reopening authorizations he’d previously granted to business owners in the state, ordering bars to close and restaurants to operate at 50% capacity. Abbott also acquiesced and agreed to not enforce an executive order he’d issued that barred local governments from requiring people wear masks in public, though he still refused to impose a statewide mandate himself.

Meanwhile, psychopath Attorney General Ken Paxton, is still under indictment for securities fraud. He got some good news on Friday, as a judge sent his case back to Paxton’s home county, where he’s more likely to get a friendly jury for a trial in which he faces 99 years in prison if found guilty.

Oklahoma’s Big Choice:

Oklahomans go to the polls on Tuesday to vote in their primary elections, and arguably more importantly, to decide whether or not to finally expand the state’s Medicaid program via Obamacare. There hasn’t been any publicly released polling about which way voters are leaning on the ballot amendment, but if nothing else, Oklahomans may just approve it just so that they don’t have to hear about any longer.

If Medicaid expansion does pass, it would mark the endpoint of a long and winding saga that can be seen as a microcosm of Americans’ relationship with Obamacare, especially in red states. The landmark healthcare law and its supposed government takeover of healthcare (I wish!) provided a useful GOP bogeyman for three elections. In 2010, Oklahomans voted to formally reject Obamacare by approving State Question 756, though federal courts said the state couldn’t opt out.

Once the Supreme Court ruled that the states had to opt into the Medicaid expansion, just about every red state legislature decided to be spiteful and deny citizens health insurance, including Oklahoma. The Republican Gov. Mary Fallin said that the state couldn’t afford the expanded healthcare program, despite the fact that the federal government was paying for 90% of it.

By fall 2019, Oklahoma had a 15% uninsured rate, the second-highest in the nation. It was clear something had to change, but Republicans just couldn’t get out of their own way; in January, Gov. Kevin Stitt proposed a limited expansion that would use Trump’s block grant system and contain work requirements, then vetoed the bill that would have funded the program just last month. Meanwhile, even more Oklahomans are uninsured due to the coronavirus economic cratering.

The ballot initiative was originally slated for November, but they stuck it on a low-turnout primary day instead. Unfortunately, Stitt continues to fearmonger on the issue, threatening to cut education and infrastructure spending to pay for the state’s share of the healthcare costs.

Oklahoma would be the fifth red state to adopt Medicaid expansion through ballot initiative, joining Utah, Idaho, Missouri, and Nebraska.

With so much bad news, take a break and enjoy this heartwarming video:

The latest in Georgia:

The remarkably stupid battle over absentee voting in Georgia continues to be remarkably stupid, but at least we got a little bit of good news on Friday.

Ahead of the early June primary, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger sent out absentee ballot applications to all seven million of the state’s registered voters. Despite issues with processing some requests, over half of the state’s record 1.1 million votes were cast via mail. Due to broken voting machines and inexperienced poll workers, the in-person portion of that election was a disaster, so naturally, Raffensperger announced that he would not be sending out absentee ballot requests forms to voters this time around. Why do something that’s proven to increase turnout? That wouldn’t be the Georgia Republican way!

Here’s the good news: Republicans in the legislature were trying to pass a bill that would straight-up ban both Raffensperger and — and this is the important part — local officials from sending out absentee ballot applications. Thankfully, there was enough pushback to force the GOP to drop the issue, but keep an eye on it — I have a feeling this is not the last time they’ll try to pull this.

You’re bringing us down:

In New York, the numbers are staggering: Over the last four months, 220,000 people have been officially diagnosed with COVID-19 and 22,000 New Yorkers have died of the virus. Our neighbors, friends, and families have died in an unprecedented catastrophe, while the rest of us have sat inside, isolated and desperate for this all to end.

Over the past few weeks, we have begun to emerge from our apartments to spend some time outside, seeking to find some kind of new normal as we learn to coexist with tragedy yet again. But because a bunch of literal mouth-breathers in red states refused to take any lessons from our suffering, it’s looking more and more likely that we’re going to have to pause our reopening and spend more time away from our friends and family.

Even worse, a whole of New Yorkers may not have anywhere to shelter-in-place by August — the moratorium on evictions just ended, housing courts are reopening, and activists are expecting up to 60,000 eviction cases to be filed by landlords looking to get paid over the next few weeks, with far more on the way in August.

One more thing:

Just in case you needed another reason to be angry today, I give you this: