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Donald Trump Hits Out At Republicans Telling Them: ‘You Don’t Have My Back!’

James Tennent
                   © Getty  

US President Donald Trump has criticised his Republican colleagues by saying that they were not doing enough to “protect” him.

“It’s very said that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President,” Trump tweeted after another post calling investigations into Russian interference in the last election “phoney”.

“As the phoney Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

In the last few days, Trump has been active on social media, as he dismisses the crises still unfolding in only his sixth month of presidency. On Saturday (22 July), he once again attacked Hillary Clinton, eight months after his election victory.

Donald Trump walking towards Air Force One© JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images Donald Trump walking towards Air Force One  

Also, there was another Twitter dig at his own party came on Saturday when the president wrote: “The Republican Senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote for Repeal and Replace. Next, Tax Reform and Infrastructure. WIN!”

Trump’s overhauling agenda has been slowed by the realities of Washington politics. After a tight push to get the bill through the House of Representatives, efforts to pass a bill replacing Obama’s signature health care policy fell apart.

Republicans on the right of the party argued that the bill did too little to scrap the Affordable Care Act while more moderate senators in the party wanted a less drastic change. The Congressional Budget Office has produced a series of scores for the evolving Republican health care bill that continually shows millions of Americans losing health coverage under the plans.

Trump promises to reform the tax system and create a huge infrastructure bill have been stymied by the continuing failures to progress with health care. (IBT)

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Trump ‘Disgraced’ As Obamacare Stays |The Republican News

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President Donald Trump

GOP Sens. Jerry Moran (Kan.) and Mike Lee (Utah) announced, on Monday night, that they would not support taking up a bill repealing and replacing ObamaCare, effectively blocking the legislation.

Their decision means Republicans in the Senate are well short of having the support to pass their legislation, and raises serious questions about whether President Trump would reach his goal of ending ObamaCare.

In light of Monday’s challenges, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell(R-Ky.) said the Senate will try to separate ObamaCare repeal and replacement, closing the door on the chamber’s current healthcare legislation.

“In the coming days, the Senate will vote to take up the House bill with the first amendment in order being what a majority of the Senate has already supported in 2015 and that was vetoed by then-President Obama: a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay to provide for a stable transition period,” McConnell said in a statement.

The move means Senate Republicans will try to repeal and replace ObamaCare separately, reverting to a plan Senate GOP leadership initially proposed earlier this year, but had to abandon due to lack of support.

In announcing their opposition to the Senate draft, Moran and Lee both said the bill failed to do enough to lower premiums.

“This closed-door process has yielded the [bill], which fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare’s rising costs. For the same reasons I could not support the previous version of this bill, I cannot support this one,” Moran said in a statement.

He added that the Senate “must now start fresh with an open legislative process,” an indication that relatively minor changes to the current bill would not be enough to win his support. It may also indicate he wants hearings on a bill, which was absent from the process on the current measure.

Highlighting the challenges faced by McConnell, Lee argued the measure is not conservative enough, tugging in the opposite direction from moderates.

“In addition to not repealing all of the Obamacare taxes, it doesn’t go far enough in lowering premiums for middle-class families; nor does it create enough free space from the most costly Obamacare regulations,” the Utah Republican said in a statement.

Lee added on Twitter that he and Moran would not support proceeding to “this version” of the Senate GOP legislation, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, leaving the door open to additional changes.

Lee warned that a controversial amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) included in the bill does not go far enough. That amendment allows insurers to sell plans that don’t fulfil ObamaCare’s coverage mandates if they also sell plans that do.

Lee’s announcement came after he distanced himself late last week from the Cruz-negotiated provision, which was a spin-off of an amendment he initially worked out with the Texas senator. But the Utah Republican quickly said that he had not “seen it or agreed to it.”

Lee objects that the amendment still does not repeal ObamaCare’s requirement that healthy and sick people be grouped in a “single risk pool,” which he says would undermine the effectiveness of the amendment.

Moderates, many health experts and major health insurance companies are warning that premiums would spike for the people remaining in the ObamaCare plans. Any move by McConnell to address Lee’s concerns and move the bill further to the right would risk losing the support of key moderate senators, many of whom are already wary of the legislation.

The Monday evening announcement put four GOP senators officially on record against the bill and left McConnell without enough support to bring up it to the floor, forcing him to seek a plan b.

With a slim 52-seat majority, he could only afford to lose two GOP senators and Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Rand Paul (Ky.) were already expected to vote no.

In a tweet, President Trump said “Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate,” adding that, “Dems will join in!” (TheHill)

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House Majority Leader To Colleagues In 2016: ‘I Think Putin Pays’ Trump

 

By Adam Entous
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., followed by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La. arrive in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017, after the House pushed through a health care bill.© AP Photo/Evan Vucci House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., followed by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La. arrive in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017…

 

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016 exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the U.S. Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.

Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”

Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks…This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

The remarks remained secret for nearly a year.

[Read the transcript of the conversation among GOP leaders obtained by The Post]

The conversation provides a glimpse at the internal views of GOP leaders who now find themselves under mounting pressure over the conduct of President Trump. The exchange shows that the Republican leadership in the House privately discussed Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election and Trump’s relationship to Putin, but wanted to keep their concerns secret. It is difficult to tell from the recording the extent to which the remarks were meant to be taken literally.

The House leadership has so far stood by the White House as it has lurched from one crisis to another, much of the turmoil fueled by contacts between Trump or his associates with Russia.

House Republican leaders have so far resisted calls for the appointment of an independent commission or a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference, though pressure has been mounting on them to do so after Trump’s firing of FBI director James B. Comey and the disclosure that the president shared intelligence with Russian diplomats.

Late Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced he had appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former prosecutor who served as the FBI director from 2001 to 2013, as special counsel to oversee the Russia probe.

Evan McMullin, who in his role as policy director to the House Republican Conference participated in the June 15 conversation, said: “It’s true that Majority Leader McCarthy said that he thought candidate Trump was on the Kremlin’s payroll. Speaker Ryan was concerned about that leaking.”

McMullin ran for president last year as an independent and has been a vocal critic of Trump.

When initially asked to comment on the exchange, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, said: “That never happened,” and Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, said: “The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false.”

After being told that The Post would cite a recording of the exchange, Buck, speaking for the GOP House leadership, said: “This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor. No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians. What’s more, the speaker and leadership team have repeatedly spoken out against Russia’s interference in our election, and the House continues to investigate that activity.”

“This was a failed attempt at humor,” Sparks said.

Ken Grubbs, a spokesman for Rohrabacher, said the congressman has been a consistent advocate of “working closer with the Russians to combat radical Islamism. The congressman doesn’t need to be paid to come to such a necessary conclusion.”

When McCarthy voiced his assessment of whom Putin supports, suspicions were only beginning to swirl around Trump’s alleged Russia ties.

At the time, U.S. intelligence agencies knew that the Russians had hacked the DNC and other institutions, but Moscow had yet to start publicly releasing damaging emails through WikiLeaks to undermine Trump’s Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton. An FBI counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence the presidential election would open the following month, in late July, Comey has said in testimony to Congress.

Trump has sought to play down contacts between his campaign and the Russians, dismissing as a “witch hunt” the FBI and congressional investigations into Russian efforts to aid Trump and any possible coordination between the Kremlin and his associates. Trump denies any coordination with Moscow took place.

Presidential candidate Trump’s embrace of Putin and calls for closer cooperation with Moscow put him at odds with the House Republican caucus, whose members have long advocated a harder line on Russia, with the exception of Rohrabacher and a few others.

Among GOP leaders in the House, McCarthy stood out as a Putin critic who in 2015 called for the imposition of “more severe” sanctions for its actions in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

In May 2016, McCarthy signed up to serve as a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention, breaking ranks with Ryan who said he still wasn’t ready to endorse the candidate. McCarthy’s relationship with Trump became so close that the president would sometimes refer to him as “my Kevin.”

Trump was by then the lone Republican remaining in the contest for the nomination. Though Ryan continued to hold out, Trump picked up endorsements from the remaining GOP leaders in the House, including Rep. Steve Scalise, the Majority Whip from Louisiana, and Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) — both of whom took part in the June 15 conversation.

Ryan announced on June 2 that he would vote for Trump to help “unite the party so we can win in the fall” but continued to clash with the candidate, including over Putin. While Trump sought to cast Putin as a better leader than then-President Obama, Ryan dubbed him an “aggressor” who didn’t share U.S. interests.

On the same day as Ryan’s endorsement, Clinton stepped up her attacks on Trump over his public statements praising Putin. “If Donald gets his way, they’ll be celebrating in the Kremlin,” she said.

Ukrainian officials were unnerved by Trump’s statements in support of Putin. Republicans, they had believed, were supposed to be tougher on Russia.

When Trump named Paul Manafort as his campaign manager in April 2016, alarm bells in Kiev started ringing even louder. Manafort was already well known in Ukraine because of his influential role as a political consultant to Viktor Yanukovych, the country’s former Kremlin-friendly ruler until a popular uprising forced him to flee to Russia. Manafort had also consulted for a powerful Russian businessman with close ties to the Kremlin.

“Ukraine was, in a sense, a testing ground for Manafort,” said Ukrainian political scientist Taras Berezovets, who became a grudging admirer of Manafort’s skills in the so-called “dark arts” of political stagecraft while Berezovets was working for one of Yanukovych’s political rivals.

At the urging of Manafort, Yanukovych campaigned with populist slogans labeling NATO a “menace” and casting “elites” in the Ukrainian capital as out of touch, Berezovets said. Trump struck similar themes during the 2016 campaign.

The FBI is now investigating whether Manafort, who stepped down as Trump’s campaign manager in August, received off-the-books payments from Yanukovych’s party, U.S. officials said. As part of that investigation, FBI agents recently took possession of a newly-discovered document which allegedly details payments totaling $750,000. Ukrainian lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko, who first disclosed the new document, declined to comment on his contacts with the FBI.

A spokesperson for Manafort has said that Trump’s former campaign manager has not been contacted by the FBI. Manafort has also disputed the authenticity of the newly-discovered document.

Groysman, on an official visit to Washington, met separately with Ryan and McCarthy on June 15 at the Capitol.

He told them how the Russians meddled in European politics and called for “unity” in addressing the threat, according to U.S. and Ukrainian officials. Ryan issued a statement after the meeting saying, “the United States stands with Ukraine as it works to rebuild its economy and confront Russian aggression.”

Later, Ryan spoke privately with McCarthy, Rodgers, Scalise and Rep. Patrick McHenry, the deputy whip, among others.

Ryan mentioned his meeting with Groysman, prompting Rodgers to ask: “How are things going in Ukraine?” according to the recording.

The situation was difficult, Ryan said. Groysman, he said, had told him that Russian-backed forces were firing 30-40 shells into Ukrainian territory every day. And the prime minister described Russian tactics that include “financing our populists, financing people in our governments to undo our governments.”

Ryan said Russia’s goal was to “turn Ukraine against itself.” Groysman underlined Russia’s intentions, saying “They’re just going to roll right through us and go to the Baltics and everyone else,” according to Ryan’s summary of the prime minister’s remarks in the recording.

“Yes,” Rodgers said in agreement, noting that the Russians were funding non-government organizations across Europe as part of a wider “propaganda war.”

“Maniacal,” Ryan said. “And guess, guess who’s the only one taking a strong stand up against it? We are.”

Rodgers disagreed. “We’re not…we’re not…but, we’re not,” she said.

That’s when McCarthy brought the conversation about Russian meddling around to the DNC hack, Trump and Rohrabacher.

“I’ll guarantee you that’s what it is…The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp [opposition] research that they had on Trump,” McCarthy said with a laugh.

Ryan asked who the Russians “delivered” the opposition research to.

“There’s… there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy said, drawing some laughter. “Swear to God,” McCarthy added.

“This is an off the record,” Ryan said.

Some lawmakers laughed at that.

“No leaks, alright?,” Ryan said, adding: “This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

“That’s how you know that we’re tight,” Scalise said.

“What’s said in the family stays in the family,” Ryan added.   (The Washington Post)

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House Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill To Keep Government Running

 

By ANDREW TAYLOR
In this May 2, 2017, photo, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., accompanied by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. A government-wide spending bill that President Donald Trump seemed to criticize Tuesday morning but now calls “a clear win for the American people” is headed for a House vote on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)© The Associated Press In this May 2, 2017, photo, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., accompanied by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. A government-wide spending bill that President Donald…  

WASHINGTON — The House easily passed a $1.1 trillion governmentwide spending bill on Wednesday, awarding wins to both Democrats and Republicans while putting off until later this year fights over President Donald Trump’s promised border wall with Mexico and massive military buildup.

The 309-118 vote sends the bill to the Senate in time for them to act to avert a government shutdown at midnight Friday. The White House has said Trump would sign the measure, which is the first major legislation to pass in Trump’s short, turbulent presidency.

House Speaker Paul Ryan praised the measure as bipartisan, and said the biggest gain for conservatives came as Democrats dropped longstanding demands to match Pentagon increases with equal hikes for nondefense programs.

“No longer will the needs of our military be held hostage by the demands for more domestic spending,” Ryan said. “In my mind, that is what’s most important here.”

Democrats also backed the measure, which protects popular domestic programs such as education, medical research and grants to state and local governments from cuts sought by Trump — while dropping from earlier version a host of GOP agenda items.

“It’s imperative to note what this bill does not contain,” said Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, lead negotiator for Democrats. “Not one cent for President Trump’s border wall and no poison pill riders that would have prevented so-called sanctuary cities from receiving federal grants, defunded Planned Parenthood, undermined the Affordable Care Act.”

The bill is the product of weeks of Capitol Hill negotiations in which top Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi successfully blocked Trump’s most provocative proposals — especially the Mexico wall and cuts to popular domestic programs like community development grants.

The White House won $15 billion in emergency funding to jumpstart Trump’s promise to rebuild the military and an extra $1.5 billion for border security — each short of Trump demands — leading the president on Tuesday to boast, “this is what winning looks like.”

The opinions of top party leaders were not shared by everyone in the rank and file, some of whom feel that GOP negotiators too easily gave up on conservative priorities, such as cutting funds for Planned Parenthood and punishing “sanctuary” cities that fail to cooperate with immigration authorities.

“I don’t think it was negotiated very well, and I’ll just leave it at that,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.

The long-overdue bill buys just five months of funding while Trump and his allies battle with congressional Democrats over spending cuts and funding for the wall, which Trump repeatedly promised during the campaign would be financed by Mexico. Mexican officials have rejected that notion.

Republicans were surprised by tweets from Trump on Tuesday that suggested he was initially unhappy with the measure and might provoke a government shutdown this fall in hopes of getting his way on the wall and other demands.

The measure is the product of a bipartisan culture among Congress’ appropriators, with money for foreign aid, grants to state and local governments and protection for the Environmental Protection Agency from cuts sought by tea party Republicans. The measure provides $2 billion in disaster aid money, $407 million to combat Western wildfires, additional grants for transit projects and a $2 billion increase for medical research at the National Institutes of Health.

The White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., won a $1.3 billion provision to preserve health benefits for more than 22,000 retired coal miners. Pelosi was the driving force behind an effort to give the cash-strapped government of Puerto Rico $295 million to ease its Medicaid burden.  AP

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Republican Healthcare Bill Hung Up On Pre-existing Conditions

 

Peter Sullivan and Jessie Hellmann
GOP bill hung up on pre-existing conditions© Provided by The Hill GOP bill hung up on pre-existing conditions  

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) on Tuesday became the latest House Republican to come out against the ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill, underlining how the legislation is losing support from lawmakers who fear it could hurt people with pre-existing health conditions.

Some lawmakers expressed doubts that the healthcare bill would come up for a vote this week despite a push from House leaders to get it to the floor before a one-week recess.

“I guess all things are possible, but at least right now I don’t see that happening,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), who said there are too many “no” votes piling up.

The opposition from Upton, a former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was significant. He is widely respected on the issue, having written healthcare legislation in the past, and described the changes to the bill as a bridge too far.

“I’ve supported the practice of not allowing pre-existing illnesses to be discriminated against from the very get-go,” Upton said. “This amendment torpedoes that, and I told leadership I cannot support this bill with this provision in it.”

The revised bill would allow states to waive certain ObamaCare protections that now prevent insurers from charging people more based on their health.

The provision – inserted to win over the House Freedom Caucus – has become perhaps the biggest obstacle to passing the healthcare bill, causing members like Upton to turn against it.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other GOP leaders tried to tackle the issue during a conference meeting Tuesday, telling members there are “layers” of protection for the sick in the bill. Those protections include the creation of new high-risk pools for people shut out of coverage, and a provision stipulating that people with continuous insurance coverage can’t be denied for pre-existing conditions.

Those assurances weren’t enough for Upton. While there has been some chatter of adding more money for high-risk pools to try to win support for the bill, Upton rejected that idea, telling The Hill, “More money does not do the trick.”

Similarly, Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.) on Monday surprised Republicans by announcing he could not vote for the healthcare bill. Like Upton, he said the measure fails to protect people with pre-existing conditions.

Republicans are also dealing with a viral video from late night host Jimmy Kimmel, who on his talk show recounted a story about how his infant son Billy was born with a heart condition.

Kimmel tearfully told his audience that all children should be assured of getting the care his son received, and argued that the protections in ObamaCare for people with pre-existing health conditions should be retained.

“Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you would never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition,” Kimmel said. “You were born with a pre-existing condition, and if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not even live long enough to get denied because of a pre-existing condition.”

Former President Barack Obama tweeted out the Kimmel video, stating “that’s exactly why we fought so hard for the [Affordable Care Act], and why we need to protect it for kids like Billy.”

Republicans are under pressure from the White House to get the healthcare bill passed before they leave town for a one-week recess, and GOP leaders aren’t giving up.

Majority Whip Steve Scalise told The Hill that his team has been picking up yes votes daily and remains hopeful a vote could be held soon. The Louisiana Republican had already heard last week that Upton and Long were not going to vote for the legislation and said he wasn’t surprised by the developments.

“We pulled Fred out and Billy out last week from the yes column,” Scalise said. “We’re still talking to both of them. We have not given up on either. But we had already moved them.”

Lawmakers are expecting to discuss healthcare further at their end-of-the-week policy conference on Thursday.

“I think at this point it either passes by Thursday or we’ll have to find a Plan B or C,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.

Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), a senior member of the whip team, added, “The longer it festers, I think, the more difficult it is to pass.”

Weakening pre-existing condition protections in the new bill has emerged as the main concern among the Republican holdouts.

A study from the liberal Center for American Progress on Tuesday found that the high-risk pools in the GOP bill are underfunded by $200 billion over 10 years and would not provide enough funding to make coverage affordable for sick people.

Illustrating the divide in the Republican conference, Upton said he met with some Freedom Caucus members on Monday about his concerns, but “they’re not willing to budge, at least at this point.”

He said “a good number of us” don’t want to go along with the Freedom Caucus change to weaken ObamaCare protections.

“We’re not going to budge, either,” Upton said.

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), the author of the new amendment, said there are “some talks” about adding more money for high-risk pools to try to win over moderates, but he doubted that would sway many on its own.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a member of the moderate Tuesday Group, said time is running out for getting a repeal bill passed.

“The progression of time is not our friend in getting this over the finish line,” Collins said Tuesday.

“There’s more and more protests coming out and distorted statements coming out around the country from different groups that puts pressure on members to turn from a lean yes to a no,” he added.

Several advocacy groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association, have slammed the revised bill, saying it would raise costs for sick people.

“There’s not many groups out there standing on top of the hill with a megaphone saying that we got to get this passed,” Collins said.

Some moderates also have concerns about the underlying legislation, which would effectively end ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid and which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found would result in 24 million more people becoming uninsured.

Some moderates worry the changes would contradict previous statements they’ve made about protecting people with pre-existing conditions.

“If a bill that’s ultimately going to get to the floor contradicts statements that I’ve made, that becomes problematic for me and other members,” said Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), who has said he’ll vote no on the bill.          (The Hill)

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Finger Pointing On Capitol Hill As GOP Assesses Healthcare Bill Loss

 

By ERICA WERNER
FILE - In this March 16, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump sits with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congressional Republicans on Monday, March 27, 2017, pointed fingers and assigned blame after their epic failure on health care and a weekend digesting the outcome.© (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) FILE – In this March 16, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump sits with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congressional Republicans on Monday, March 27, 2017, pointed fingers and…

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans on Monday pointed fingers and assigned blame after their epic failure on health care and a weekend digesting the outcome.

The divisions, coming on top of House Republicans’ inability to deliver on a priority they all share — repealing and replacing “Obamacare” — raised serious questions about whether they will be able to achieve their other legislative goals for the year or even pass must-do spending legislation in time to avert a government shutdown at midnight April 28.

The hard-right House Freedom Caucus, which withheld a bloc of votes from the White House-backed health care legislation, came in for most of the criticism from fellow lawmakers.

“Clearly moving forward, we’re going to have to look at where a governing majority comes from. That’s going to require some answers from the Freedom Caucus,” said GOP Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania.

Like a number of other more moderate-leaning Republicans, Costello said he would have voted “no” on the bill in the end, partly because it kept moving to the right as House leaders and the White House made concessions to the Freedom Caucus without ever succeeding in locking in their support. President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan decided to pull the bill from the House floor on Friday after it became clear it was bound to fail.

“They’re going to have to know when it’s time to get to the ‘yes,'” Costello said.

Freedom Caucus members bridled at the criticism, insisting they had done Trump and fellow Republicans a favor by blocking a piece of legislation that polled poorly and embraced the basic structures of Obamacare without significantly reducing premiums.

The Freedom Caucus spokeswoman, Alyssa Farah, said over Twitter that blaming the group ignored the opposition coming from moderate-leaning Republicans. And Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a Freedom Caucus leader, accused GOP leaders of a rushed and secretive process in promoting their legislation, which would have eliminated the Obamacare mandate for people to carry insurance or face fines, and shrunk a Medicaid expansion, but relied on tax credits similar to those in President Barack Obama’s law to help consumers purchase insurance.

“They rolled it out after it was hidden away. When they rolled it out, they said it’s a binary choice, take it or leave it,” Jordan said on MSNBC. “Normally when you have hearings on a piece of legislation that impacts this much of our overall economy, you would bring in some witnesses and hear from some witnesses about what’s going to happen if this legislation actually becomes law. We had none of that.”

The divisions extended to whether Republicans should immediately try again to make good on seven years of promises to repeal and replace the health care law or cut their losses for now and move on to overhauling the tax code, a priority Trump seems more excited about. Senate Republicans, who had hoped to act next on the health legislation despite divisions of their own, voiced displeasure with the failure by their House counterparts.

“It’s disappointing. We’ve got to fulfill our promises,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C. “Hopefully the temperatures have gone down just a little bit and we can get to an outcome. We don’t have the option of inaction. We own it and we’ve got to fix it.”

For Republicans who want to show voters they can govern after gaining control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, the outcome on health care suggests the opposite. The one bright spot for the GOP is Trump’s nomination of conservative appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, which will be considered on the Senate floor the week of April 3.

The disunity comes as Congress is fast approaching a deadline to pass government-wide spending legislation or face a shutdown. Given that lawmakers have a two-week recess in the middle of April, there is little time to negotiate an agreement. In the past such spending deadlines have been occasions for brinkmanship, including in 2013 when conservatives forced a 16-day partial government shutdown in a failed attempt to defund Obamacare.

The tentative game plan this time around to wrap up more than $1 trillion in unfinished spending bills is to draft a bipartisan omnibus measure that would fund the government through Sept. 30. Its outlines remain fuzzy and subject to change according to the whims of GOP leaders, but the working thesis is to craft legislation that could pass by a bipartisan vote without a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

Conservatives, however, may be disappointed that they wouldn’t score many wins in such legislation, even though Republicans control the entire government. They may insist on more money to build Trump’s border wall or even press to “defund” Planned Parenthood. And Democrats could abandon the effort if Republicans press too hard for the border wall or lard in too much extra money for the Pentagon, raising the specter of a shutdown showdown not far away.              (AP)

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Republican Opposition To Their Party’s Obamacare Replacement Bill Grows

 

Leigh Ann Caldwell and Frank Thorp V
Image: U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, and U.S. Representative Greg Walden hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington© (L-R)U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, and U.S. Representativ… Image: U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, and U.S. Representative Greg Walden hold a news…

 

 

Republican leaders launched a full-court press Tuesday to rally support for the party’s newly revealed health care plan as criticism mounted from rank-and-file members and prospects for the legislation appeared uncertain at best.

Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Capitol Hill to sell the GOP leadership’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and met with those lobbing the heaviest criticism at the bill. President Trump met with Republican leaders at the White House to discuss the bill’s passage.

Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price spoke at length during the daily briefing at the White House. And the chairmen of the relevant House committees, Reps. Kevin Brady and Greg Walden, who wrote the bill, held two news conferences (including one with House Speaker Paul Ryan) as they blanketed television news shows to sell the plan.

The push came after many Republicans balked at the details of the bill when it was released late Monday. Some called the proposal “Obamcare Lite” while others questioned whether it would provide adequate coverage, demonstrating the challenges facing GOP leadership faces in trying to pass the legislation.

While the topic is complicated, the math for passing the bill is simple. Republican leaders need to find 218 votes in the House and 50 in the Senate (with Pence available as a tie-breaker). With little to no support expected from Democrats, GOP leaders can’t afford many defections.

Tuesday’s leadership push also comes as conservative groups with deep pockets and millions of activist members have signaled their opposition to the replacement bill, putting more pressure on jittery Republicans.

The complaints coming from Republicans cut across the party’s ideological fissures. Small-government conservatives have criticized it as another version of Obamacare. They say that the age-based tax credits to help people purchase health insurance are no different from the income-based subsidies currently offered through the Affordable Care Act.

“This is not the Obamacare repeal bill we’ve been waiting for. It is a missed opportunity and a step in the wrong direction,” said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said, adding that it was a “missed opportunity” to go big and bold.

What also concerns these conservatives, many of whom are members of the tea-party minded Freedom Caucus, is that it’s not a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, noting that it keeps in place the Medicaid expansion until 2020 and doesn’t actually get rid of the Obamacare exchanges. And they see little evidence that it will actually lower health care costs.

“Our plea: Repeal and replace with a patient-centered, doctor-centered plan,” said Rep, Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and member of the Freedom Caucus, which has a membership of about 40 Republicans. Some of these conservative members have authored their own replacement bill, and they want it introduced alongside the House leadership bill.

On the opposite end of the Republican spectrum, several members of the Senate have expressed concerns about the the changes to the Medicaid expansion, which after 2020 will change from an income based requirement to a limit based on population. They say that it is too drastic of a roll-back of the Medicaid expansion.

Four Republicans in the Senate, including Rob Portman of Ohio, who comes from a state that expanded Medicaid, and Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, another state with a large Medicaid population, have voiced their concerns about that part of the plan.

Also challenging passage of the AHCA is the one-year defunding of Planned Parenthood. Two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have expressed reservations about that feature. “I don’t think the Planned Parenthood defund should be in the ACA bill that we’re dealing with,” said Murkowski.

But Republican leaders are indicating that major changes to the bill are unlikely, even though President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that the health care bill is out “for review and negotiation.” But it’s unlikely that any negotiation for changes will occur.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. and a member of Republican leadership, said that the Republican opposition is “leverage.”

“Everybody right now is trying to leverage their position … but when push comes to shove, it’s going to either be a vote for a status quo or a vote to repeal this and to a better way,” Thune said. “We have a difference of opinion right now but I think before this is all said and done consensus will emerge.”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means Committee will debate the bill Wednesday, likely the only window for any altering the bill, and that would likely amount to small tinkering, not structural changes.

Chairman Brady, head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, defended the bill as taking conservative principles but he also put down a marker for critical Republicans.

“As Republicans we have a choice: We can act now or we can keep fiddling around and squander the opportunity to repeal Obamacare and begin a new chapter,” Brady said.

But some Republicans are holding out hope that President Trump will be on their side.

“Everyone wonders. We’re all waiting to hear that,” said Rep. Dave Brat, R-Virginia, when asked if Trump is on the same page as Speaker Ryan and and the authors of the bill. “I haven’t heard him come down in thunder in approval on this.”

The president called it a “wonderful” bill in a Tuesday morning Tweet, but also noted it was out for “review and negotiation.

Republicans are also taking a beating for releasing a bill without an official score on how much the bill will cost. They say the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office will release a budget outlook before it comes before the House floor.

“I would want to know the score, you know, what is the coverage and what is the cost, absolutely,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana. “I’m trying to be diplomatic.”

Influential conservative groups have also sharply criticized the bill. The Charles and David Koch-backed groups Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners came out against it because of the tax credits but also because of the penalty for people who don’t purchase insurance. The Republican plan attempts to incentivize continuous health care coverage by allowing health insurance companies to charge an extra 30 percent on premiums.

Hilgemann calls it a mandate for coverage but one where the penalty is reaped by the insurance companies instead of the government, like in Obamacare.

“We’re really focused on telling the story of decades’ worth of work that AFP has done to see real transformative health care reform in this country. What we saw come out of the House last night just falls short of that,” said Luke Hilgemann, CEO of Americans for Prosperity. “This law is broken we need a better solution and what we’ve seen out of Washington so far is not that.”

AFP has been organizing around its opposition to Obamacare for years, using that as its top motivating factor in getting conservatives involved in its organization and to the polls. Their opposition could mobilize its members to pressure Republican lawmakers, further complicating the law’s passage.

And Club for Growth and the Heritage Foundation, two other conservative groups with influence among Republican members of Congress, also came out strongly against it. President David McIntosh called it a “warmed-over substitute for government-run health care.”

“The problems with this bill are not just what’s in it, but also what’s missing: namely, the critical free-market solution of selling health insurance across state lines,” McIntosh, who dubbed the measure “RyandCare,” said. “Republicans should be offering a full and immediate repeal of Obamacare’s taxes, regulations, and mandates, an end to the Medicaid expansion, and inclusion of free-market reforms, like interstate competition.” (NBC News)

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U.S. Sent $221 million To Palestinians in Obama’s Last Hours |The Republican News

By MATTHEW LEE and RICHARD LARDNER

FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2017 file-pool photo, Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with the media in Paris. Defying Republican opposition, officials say the Obama administration in its waning hours quietly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority that GOP members of Congress had been blocking. The official said John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time on. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool, File)© The Associated Press FILE – In this Jan. 15, 2017 file-pool photo, Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with the media in Paris. Defying Republican opposition, officials say the Obama administration in its waning hours quietly released $221 million…  

WASHINGTON — Officials say the Obama administration in its waning hours defied Republican opposition and quietly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority that GOP members of Congress had been blocking.

A State Department official and several congressional aides said the outgoing administration formally notified Congress it would spend the money Friday morning. The official said former Secretary of State John Kerry had informed some lawmakers of the move shortly before he left the State Department for the last time Thursday. The aides said written notification dated Jan. 20 was sent to Congress just hours before Donald Trump took the oath of office.

In addition to the $221 million for the Palestinians, the Obama administration also told Congress on Friday it was going ahead with the release of another $6 million in foreign affairs spending, including $4 million for climate change programs and $1.25 million for U.N. organizations, the congressional aides said. The aides and the State Department official weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.

Congress had initially approved the Palestinian funding in budget years 2015 and 2016, but at least two GOP lawmakers — Ed Royce of California, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Kay Granger of Texas, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee — had placed holds on it over moves the Palestinian Authority had taken to seek membership in international organizations. Congressional holds are generally respected by the executive branch but are not legally binding after funds have been allocated.

The Obama administration had for some time been pressing for the release of the money for the Palestinian Authority, which comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development and is to be used for humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza, to support political and security reforms as well as help prepare for good governance and the rule of law in a future Palestinian state, according to the notification sent to Congress.

The $1.25 million for U.N. agencies is to be used as voluntary contributions to the U.N. Peacebuilding Fund; the U.N. Special Coordinator on improving the U.N. response to sexual exploitation and abuse; the Montreal Protocol Secretariat, which oversees the protection of the ozone layer; the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; and the U.N. System Staff College.

The $4 million for climate programs includes assistance for clean energy, sustainable landscapes, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and creating a climate technology center.

The last-minute allocation also contained $1.05 million in funding for the State Department’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan office and the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.

The Palestinian funding is likely to draw anger from some in Congress as well as the Trump White House. Trump has vowed to be a strong supporter of Israel and has invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Washington next month.

He has also pledged to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, although White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday a final decision on that had yet to be made. Despite speculation in Israel that an announcement of the move is imminent, Spicer said the decision-making process is only in its very early stages. it was already a decision, then we wouldn’t be going through a process,” Spicer told reporters.

Associated Press

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Rough Beginning For U.S. Republicans In First Day Of Trump-era Congress |The Republican News

Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON – The Republican-led U.S. Congress had a rough start to its first session of the Donald Trump era on Tuesday when a public outcry that included a dressing-down from the president-elect prompted the House of Representatives to backtrack on its plans to defang an ethics watchdog.It was supposed to have been a ceremonious beginning in which lawmakers set plans to enact Trump’s agenda of cutting taxes, repealing Obamacare and rolling back financial and environmental regulations.

With Trump set to be sworn in as president on Jan. 20, Republicans will control both the White House and Congress for the first time since 2007.

The moment was overshadowed, however, by a an uproar over a surprise move by Republicans in the House of Representatives in a closed-door meeting late on Monday to weaken the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which is in charge of investigating ethics accusations against lawmakers.

Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to “drain the swamp” and bring ethics reform to Washington, was not pleased by the timing.

“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority,” he said on Twitter on Tuesday.

<span>Republican members of the U.S. Congress react to Democratic members voting for Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for House Speaker on the first day of the new congressional session in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on. Jan. 3, 2017.</span>© Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS Republican members of the U.S. Congress react to Democratic members voting for Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for House Speaker on the first day of the new congressional session in the House…  

“Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance!”

The ethics office was created in 2008 following several corruption scandals. Some lawmakers have charged in recent years that it has been too quick to investigate complaints from outside partisan groups.

Lawmakers wanted to have greater control of the watchdog, and inserted changes into a broader rules package, set to pass when the House convened on Tuesday.

Even before Trump’s tweet, many House Republicans, including top leaders, had opposed the measure and worried about its ramifications. Trump’s tweet prompted an emergency meeting and a quick change of course by Republicans.

“It was taken out by unanimous consent … and the House Ethics Committee will now examine those issues,” said AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan.

OBAMACARE IN SIGHTS

As expected, Ryan was re-elected speaker on a vote of 239-189. He was first elected speaker in October 2015 after predecessor John Boehner retired following repeated revolts by House conservatives.

The speaker election was part of the ceremony involved in the first meeting of the 115th Congress, as the 435 members of the House of Representatives and a third of the 100-member Senate were sworn in.

Ryan, who kept his distance from Trump during his campaign only to embrace him after his Nov. 8 victory, said Republicans understood from the 2016 election that Americans were dissatisfied with Washington.

“We hear you. We will do right by you and we will deliver,” Ryan said.

Trump has made clear he wants to move swiftly to enact proposals he outlined during the campaign such as simplifying the tax code and slashing corporate tax rates.

He also promised to make good on a Republican pledge to repeal and replace Democratic President Barack Obama’s 2010 signature Affordable Care Act – a law better known as Obamacare.

“People must remember that ObamaCare just doesn’t work, and it is not affordable,” Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday, adding: “It is lousy healthcare.”

In the first step of a process that could take years, Republican Senator Mike Enzi introduced a resolution on Tuesday to provide for repeal of the law.

House Republicans were set to clear the decks later for Obamacare repeal by tucking a measure to prevent Democrats from slowing or stopping repeal legislation into a vote on rules governing House procedures.

But Republicans face a dilemma on a replacement program to provide health insurance to people who do not have a plan at work or cannot afford private coverage.

The White House says the law has expanded coverage for 20 million Americans, including an estimated 13.8 million people who buy insurance on exchanges, many who receive tax credits to make it affordable.

“If Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act they’ll be hastening the demise of Medicare that millions of seniors rely upon for their basic healthcare needs,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at a news briefing.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not address Obamacare in remarks on the Senate floor on Tuesday. He has said his top priorities for the new Congress were dealing with the “massive overregulation” he said had been a brake on the U.S. economy and making changes in the tax code to stop companies from moving jobs out of the country.

Republicans might use upcoming spending bills funding government agencies to try to kill some environmental and banking regulations. Trump also is expected to try to use his executive powers toward that end.

OBAMACARE DEFENSE

Leading Democrats warned of a fierce battle over Obamacare and said they planned to mobilize grassroots support for it. Obama is scheduled to meet on Wednesday with congressional Democrats to discuss strategies for fending off the Republican attacks on Obamacare.

But Senator Charles Schumer, in his first floor speech as the top Democrat in the Senate, said he was ready to work on some issues with Trump.

“If the president-elect proposes legislation that achieves that – on issues like infrastructure, trade, and closing the carried interest loophole, for instance – we will work in good faith to perfect and, potentially, enact it,” Schumer said.

“When he doesn’t, we will resist.”

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told a packed House chamber that Democrats would work with Trump “wherever we can,” including reforming taxes and trade deals.

Pelosi also warned that Democrats would “stand our ground” and fight Trump and Republicans if they attempt to weaken environmental regulations or civil rights protections.

(Additional reporting by Doina Chaicu, Jeff Mason and Steve Holland in Washington and Gina Cherulus in New York; Writing by Richard Cowan and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bill Trott and Peter Cooney)  (Reuters)

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