TPM News

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration issued a permit Friday to build the Keystone XL pipeline, reversing the conclusion of the Obama administration and clearing the way for the $8 billion project to finally be completed.

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As Republicans geared up for a vote on their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare on Friday morning, despite uncertainty that leaders had gained enough support to pass the bill, President Donald Trump tried to push the conservative Freedom Caucus to back the legislation.

Trump used his favorite communication tool, Twitter, to single out the Freedom Caucus for its members' opposition to the House bill. The President noted that the bill would defund Planned Parenthood and that the caucus would be forgoing an attempt to block funding for the organization, perhaps in the hopes that he could shame the caucus into backing the bill.

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Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, one of the top administration officials who had been working to pass the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, on Friday morning brushed off concerns about a new provision in the bill that repeals the Essential Health Benefits requirement.

That provision would repeal a requirement that insurers cover a list of 10 essential benefits, including maternity care. Asked about this on CBS' "This Morning," Mulvaney argued that states can still require that insurance companies cover the EHBs.

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House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) said on Thursday night that he felt an obligation to tell President Donald Trump about “incidentally collected” information on Trump and his associates from the intelligence community because the President has been criticized in the media.

"It’s clear that I would be concerned if I was the president, and that’s why I wanted him to know, and I felt like I had a duty and obligation to tell him because, as you know, he’s taking a lot of heat in the news media,” Nunes told Fox News' Sean Hannity.

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Since sparking a political conflagration by tweeting, in the wee hours of March 4, that his phones at Trump Tower were wiretapped by Barack Obama prior to the 2016 election, President Donald Trump has insisted he'd eventually be vindicated. According to Trump and his supporters, that vindication arrived Wednesday.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) called reporters to the Capitol Visitor Center to solemnly claim that the intelligence community “incidentally collected” information about Trump and some members of his transition team following the election. That information, he said, was collected apart from the FBI's investigation into whether there was any "cooperation" between Trump's campaign and Russian government officials in their efforts to meddle in the U.S. election.

Nunes said the information was collected legally, but his vague and cagey claims were seized upon in a rush of breathless, speculative, and, in some cases, incorrect reports that claimed Trump was telling the truth about having his "wires tapped" all along. The Obama administration spied on the then-President elect, these news outlets agreed (the cat was well out of the bag before Nunes’ office conceded Thursday afternoon that he didn’t know “for sure” that intelligence agencies actually collected communications from Trump or his staffers.)

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Maybe it was the bad headlines. Maybe it was just too complicated.

But on Thursday President Trump was done negotiating over Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill. That was the message delivered to GOP House members in a basement conference room Thursday evening, where White House officials told lawmakers that their replacement bill—the American Health Care Act—would be brought to the floor on Friday whether the conference had the votes to pass it or not.

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On Thursday evening, after nearly 12 hours of delay, the House of Representatives voted along party lines to implement "martial law"—a term that in this instance doesn't mean a military coup but rather a loophole that allows them to hold a floor vote on a bill that was marked up and changed that same day.

The vote was 227-189, along party lines.

The move clears the way for the House to quickly bring to the floor their Obamacare repeal bill – when and if they finally reach internal agreement on what it should be. A final vote on the bill is expected Friday.

The rules change became necessary after House Rules Committee did not complete its revisions of the controversial bill after 13 hours of deliberation on Wednesday. Negotiations with both the House's hardline conservatives and moderate Republicans failed to produce a compromise Wednesday. Instead, the committee voted to waive a House rule that mandates lawmakers wait at least a day before voting on a bill once it clears the committee process.

Negotiations on the bill dragged on through the day Thursday until leadership eventually postponed a final vote on the yet-to-be seen bill.

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer late Thursday characterized the delay of an expected House vote on legislation to repeal Obamacare as a move for transparency, rather than as a bid to buy more time to lock down enough votes to ensure the bill's passage.

“We could have continued through the night and voted in the middle of the night, that's what Democrats have done in the past,” Spicer told Fox News’ Eric Bolling.

“That's not what we were going to do,” he continued. “We wanted to do this in broad daylight tomorrow, when every one of the American people can see not only the bill that we put online days ago for everyone to read, but actually watch the debate take place and watch the vote go down.”

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