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Marco Rubio’s Mexico misstep

It’s fine for Sen. Marco Rubio to oppose the Obama administration’s diplomatic detente with Cuba. But Rubio’s doing so in odd fashion, particularly for someone who wants to be president.

Rubio is holding a hostage: President Barack Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Mexico.

Obama has nominated Roberta Jacobson, a diplomat with deep experience in Latin American affairs, for the post. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee signed off on her in November on a 12-7 vote, sending it to the Senate floor for confirmation. Several Republicans, including the committee chairman, supported the nomination.

Rubio, though, has blocked a floor vote.

Rubio’s main beef with Jacobson is that, as an assistant secretary of state, she helped negotiate Obama’s opening to Cuba. “We need an ambassador in Mexico City that has the trust of Congress for this important post,” Rubio said in November. “I do not believe that Ms. Jacobson is that person and will oppose her confirmation.”

You find out if she has the trust of Congress by putting the nomination to a confirmation vote. The use of Senate power to prevent that vote just affirms the sense that Rubio’s first priority is perpetuating gridlock. This is a petulant and consequential act by Rubio. Mexico is the third-largest trading partner of the U.S. and a vital partner in steps to curtail drug smuggling and illegal immigration. Obama nominated Jacobson six months ago. It is against U.S. interests to let the vacancy linger.

Rubio may think he has to do some grandstanding to get noticed in the race for the Republican nomination for president. The grandstander-in-chief, Donald Trump, has set a high bar.

But you’d think Rubio would recognize the inevitable outcome of a successful campaign for the presidency is that you become … president. Then it’s your turn to nominate your candidates for critical positions in government and ask the Senate to give them favorable consideration. Sen. Rubio has forgotten what President Rubio would rudely discover: people have long memories.

Chicago Tribune, Jan. 5

States have 3 new reasons to expand Medicaid

Some 3 million Americans who lack health insurance could gain coverage, if only their states would accept the Medicaid funding that the Affordable Care Act provides. Two years into Obamacare, the arguments in favor of extending this coverage have only grown stronger.

Opponents have warned, for example, that giving health benefits to able-bodied adults will discourage them from working. But a comparison of states that have expanded Medicaid and those that haven’t — part of a collection of new Obamacare studies published Tuesday — found that expansion had no significant effect on employment levels among the newly eligible.

What Medicaid expansion has changed, however, is the number of uninsured who are treated in hospitals. In states that went along with the program, the share of uninsured patients in hospitals fell from 12 percent to 6 percent; other states saw no change. Fewer uninsured patients means hospitals have more money to spend on things like research, improved care and worker salaries.

Some conservative states have tried an alternative to the expansion: Rather than add qualified people to Medicaid rolls, they have used the federal money to enroll them in private insurance plans. And this strategy seems to improve access to medical care just as well, another study shows.

A handful of states — including Louisiana, South Dakota and Virginia — now appear closer to reversing their earlier opposition to expanding Medicaid. The new data show there are still economic, and humanitarian, reasons to go ahead.

Bloomberg View, Jan. 7

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