In it, but not of it. TPM DC

As Thursday's House vote on the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act looms, the pressure is ramping up on GOP lawmakers who remain undecided or opposed to the legislation. Even after threats to their careers, invitations to the White House, special carve-outs for their states, amendments on their pet issues, and other tactics, critics of the bill still say enough members are holding strong to ensure the bill will fail on the House floor.

As the clock ticked down on Wednesday, Republican leaders made a new promise to the dissenters: that the Senate will add a provision gutting Obamacare's Essential Health Benefits (EHB) rule once the House passes the bill and sends it their way.

The EHB rule, which the current House GOP repeal bill retains, requires that insurance plans have to cover a basic minimum of health care services, including emergency room visits, hospitalization, outpatient services, maternity care, mental health and substance abuse services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services, lab tests, preventive care like vaccines, and vision and dental care for children.

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Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) tried very hard to get Neil Gorsuch to tip his hand on abortion. It didn’t work.

The two engaged in a lengthy back and forth Wednesday about what Gorsuch would and wouldn’t say about key Supreme Court decisions concerning personal privacy. Blumenthal attempted to lead Gorsuch down a path that would illuminate how the judge would rule on abortion, but Gorsuch resisted mightily -- reiterating his respect for the decisions as precedent but withholding deeper engagement with them.

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In a marathon markup of the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the House Rules Committee on Wednesday, Republicans argued that a package of amendments unveiled Monday night would make the legislation more "patient-centered" by giving Americans more "choices" and "freedom" in the health care market.

But among the provisions increasing tax credits for older Americans and allowing states to impose work requirements on their Medicaid recipients, lawmakers tucked in a provision that limits the freedom and choices available for how people can spend the federal dollars meted out under the Republican plan.

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A unanimous decision handed down by the Supreme Court Wednesday quickly became the focus of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings, as the new decision -- Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District --- undercut reasoning in an opinion written by Gorsuch in an appeals court decision in 2008.

The cases concerned the rights of disabled children under the 2004 law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In 2008, Gorsuch and two other judges on a 10th Circuit appeals court panel ruled that under the IDEA, an education agency need only provide the educational benefits for the child in question that are “merely ... more than de minimis” – a finding Gorsuch defended Wednesday by pointing to a 1996 precedent in the 10th Circuit.

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Paul who?

The White House is going to great lengths to put distance between President Donald Trump and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as a series of explosive news reports emerge detailing the millions of dollars he received from a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin and a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday that Manafort, a key member of the Trump campaign for six months, played “a very limited role for a very limited amount of time.” By Wednesday morning, Spicer was refusing to even say Manafort’s name, telling NBC News that “it would be inappropriate for us to comment on a person who is not a White House employee.”

Yet Trump’s ties to Manafort predate the 2016 campaign, and appear to have stretched well into the post-election transition period. FBI Director James Comey confirmed this week that the bureau is investigating ties between Trump’s associates and Russian officials, including whether there was any "cooperation" between the two, casting a cloud over the administration as it tries to shepherd the GOP's long-promised Obamacare repeal bill through Congress. Manafort is reportedly at the heart of this probe.

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A clothing and accessories boutique in San Francisco has filed a class action lawsuit against Ivanka Trump's brand, alleging that the business has an unfair advantage over competitors now that President Donald Trump is in office.

Lawyers for the Modern Appeal Clothing alleged in the complaint, filed last week in Superior Court in California, that once Trump took office, competition between the boutique and Ivanka Trump's brand began to favor Ivanka Trump. It's similar to an unfair competition claim filed earlier this month by a bar and restaurant in Washington, D.C. Cork Wine Bar alleged in its suit that Trump International Hotel in D.C. has an unfair advantage over other restaurants in the District due to Trump's presidency.

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As the third day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Neil Gorsuch's rolled on, Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee grew weary of Gorsuch's refusal to weigh in on issues, cases, precedents and even basic legal questions.

"What worries me is you have been very much able to avoid any specificity," the top committee Dem, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told him.

Republicans on the committee however defended his coyness. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) posed the question: "If you were to make a commitment today, as to how you might rule, on a certain issue, on a particular type of case and if that issue were subsequently to come before the Supreme Court of the United States, and if by then, you have been confirmed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, isn't it possible and in fact isn't it likely that a litigant could file a motion for your recusal in that case?"

With Gorsuch keeping to to his line that revealing his personal views would hamper his abilities as a judge, senators zeroed in on the some of his opinions, including one that was undercut by a Supreme Court opinion issued Wednesday morning.

"You have told us time and again, no place for my heart here, this is all about the facts, this is all about the law," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said. "I don't buy that. I don't think that the decisions of courts are so robotic, so programmatic, that all you need to do is to look at the facts and look at the law, and there's an obvious conclusion."

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Less than 48 hours ahead of Thursday's House floor vote on the GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, some Republican lawmakers were openly worrying about what would happen if the bill goes down in flames.

“It will really make us look bad in the eyes of the public, and this unity we have now—the House, Senate, and presidency—could be hurt in 2018," warned a still-undecided Rep. Peter King (R-NY) following a meeting with President Trump in the basement of the Capitol Tuesday morning. “It’s bad for the whole Republican agenda if we can’t make it on this one. It’ll hurt us on everything going forward. It makes us look like we can’t get our act together.”

King and other lawmakers said Trump made an even more direct warning in the meeting, telling House members that they would be "ripe for a primary" challenge in 2018 if they did not fall in line and back the bill. The Trump administration and GOP leadership offered carrots as well as sticks to wavering and dissenting members, unveiling a package of amendments Monday night designed to assuage the concerns of both moderates and conservatives.

Still, the gambit may fail. Several Republicans publicly declared their opposition to the bill even after Trump's sales pitch, and members of the hardline Freedom Caucus say they have the votes to bring the repeal effort to a screeching halt.

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