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Roundtable: Replacing Obamacare, New Immigration Ban, Pulpit Politics

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Millions of Californians – and millions more in other states – would lose their health insurance under the House GOP bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

Several provisions in the new bill, dubbed the American Health Care Act, will cost Californians their insurance, most particularly the repeal of the Medicaid expansion, set for 2019.

California receives more than $15 billion annually from the federal government to fund that expansion for 3.7 million residents. It is questionable whether the state could afford to kick in its own funding.

The provision in the new bill to remove the mandate that everyone must buy insurance or face a penalty means the young will probably opt out. Insurers will be stuck with the older and sicker.

The subsidies the government provides to buy insurance through the markets would be based on age under the new bill, not income level.

Democrats believe subsidies will be reduced or eliminated for those who need them most.

The bill also repeals all the taxes associated with Obamacare, including a surcharge on the wealthy ($346 billion over 10 years).

The American Health Care Act is running into blistering headwinds. The turbulence is bi-partisan, coming from Democrats on the left, who want more coverage, and Freedom Caucus Republicans on the right, who want far less.

Related: KPBS News: California Consumer Groups Blast Obamacare Repeal Plan

SDUT: Millions of Californians likely would lose coverage under GOP Obamacare replacement, experts say


Last weekend, President Trump signed another executive order banning many foreign travelers from the U.S.

His earlier attempt didn't go well. Chaos prevailed as travelers were detained and deported, and demonstrations sprang up at many airports, including Lindbergh Field. Federal courts halted the whole process.

The new order is a scaled-down version of the first one, issued five weeks ago, designed to avoid the instant turbulence, multiple lawsuits and public outrage that accompanied the February ban.

This order bars new visas for would-be visitors and immigrants from six (instead of seven) Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Syria – and temporarily shuts down America’s refugee program.

Current visa holders are not impacted, and there is no priority granted to Christian refugees, as in the earlier order.

The order takes effect March 16.

Members of the local Iraqi community are vocal about their unhappiness with the new order. Iraq may be off the list, but the order halts the refugee program, and most local Iraqis are refugees.

Several states, including Hawaii, Washington and Minnesota, are challenging the order in court.

Meanwhile, in order to meet Donald Trump’s executive order to add 5,000 agents to the Border Patrol, Customs and Border protection may exempt job applicants who are veterans and law enforcement officers from the hiring requirement to take a lie detector test.

Currently, about two-thirds of applicants fail Customs and Border Protection's lie detector test. Trump has ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which requires no polygraph test, to hire 10,000 people.

Related: KPBS News: Trump's Revised Order Affects Six Muslim-Majority Countries, Suspends Refugee Program

SDUT: Refugee advocates remain skeptical of Trump's 'travel ban 2.0'

Associated Press: Border Patrol May Loosen Lie Detector Hiring Requirement


The doctrine of separation of church and state has been around longer than most American traditions.

Canonized by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 by way of a 1644 pamphlet by non-conformist Puritan Roger Williams, it is currently expressed in this country through the 1954 Johnson (LBJ) Amendment to the tax code.

The law prohibits tax-exempt churches and non-profits “from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office," says the IRS.

A pastor endorsing a candidate from the pulpit could say goodbye to his church's tax-exempt status.

Jefferson and Johnson notwithstanding, Donald Trump has declared that he “will get rid of and totally destroy” the law, thereby allowing “our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.”

The tool of destruction is the Free Speech Fairness Act introduced this year by Republican sponsors to do away with bans on political speech

Two local religious leaders exemplify the debate over this law. San Diego's Roman Catholic Bishop Robert McElroy is very critical of Donald Trump’s policies, particularly of his immigration ban. But he supports the Johnson Amendment and will not call for Trump's defeat if he runs again.

James Garlow, pastor of La Mesa’s Skyline Church, believes the Johnson Amendment stomps on the clergy’s freedom of speech and wants to be rid of the “pulpit police.”

Related: SDUT: Does politics belong in the pulpit?


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Roundtable is a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join host Mark Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.

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