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President Donald Trump’s administration is considering a draft executive order that would withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), according to reports published Wednesday by Politico and Reuters.

A White House official told TPM by email that NAFTA remains a priority for Trump and that his administration has been working on it since he took office.

Politico first reported, citing two unnamed White House officials, that a draft of the order has entered the final stages of review and could be announced by early next week.

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro, the head of Trump’s newly formed National Trade Council, drafted the executive order “in close cooperation,” according to Politico’s report.

Reuters cited an unnamed senior administration official who said the order is “under consideration” and confirmed Politico’s report.

On the campaign trail, Trump called NAFTA “one of the worst economic deals ever made by our country” and pledged to renegotiate it “to get a much better deal for America.”

CNN reported in November, citing a draft memo from Trump’s transition team, that he would look at formally withdrawing from NAFTA by day 200 of his presidency. Trump will mark 100 days in office on Saturday.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday afternoon announced that the caucus would support the House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, the American Health Care Act, with a new proposed amendment.

The move was not a surprise. The negotiations in the weeks since the original bill was pulled from the House floor for lack of votes have focused on moving the bill further to right the win Freedom Caucus support. The big question now is whether it’s moved too far to the right to win enough moderate Republican votes.

“Over the past couple months, House conservatives have worked tirelessly to improve the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to make it better for the American people. Due to improvements to the AHCA and the addition of Rep. Tom MAcArthur’s proposed amendment, the House Freedom Caucus has taken an official position in support of the current proposal,” the caucus said in a statement.

“The MacArthur amendment will grant states the ability to repeal cost driving aspects of Obamacare left in place under the original AHCA,” the statement continues. “While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs.”

The new amendment, drafted by moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC) would allow states to apply for waivers from certain Obamacare mandates.

During a press conference earlier on Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that the amendment “helps us get to consensus.” However, it’s not clear that the amendment would earn enough support from moderate members of the Republican caucus to ensure the legislation’s passage.

Some moderates, including Rep. Charlie Dent (R0PA), still won’t back the AHCA with this amendment, and other moderates had yet to finalize their positions on the amendment early Wednesday.

As Congress nears a funding deal to avert a government shutdown later this week, House Paul Speaker (R-WI) said Wednesday that explicit appropriations for crucial Obamacare subsidies to insurers would not be included.

“Obviously CSRs — we’re not doing that,” Ryan said, referencing the payments known as cost-sharing reduction subsidies. “That is not in an appropriation bill, that’s something separate that the administration does.”

The fate of the subsidies, which are currently paid by the Treasury Department, is unclear as they are the target of a House GOP lawsuit and ending them has been floated by President Trump as a potential bargaining chip as he seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If the subsidies were halted, it’s anticipated that insurers would jack up premiums to make for the revenue shortfall or leave the individual market entirely.

While Ryan suggested that the administration would just continue making the payments, there has been confusion over whether the White House had really made that assurance.

A Democratic aide said that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Tuesday night that administration was considering not making next month’s payments and just allowing a federal court ruling against the payments to stand, according to reports in the Washington Postthe Hill and Vox. Pelosi had been stressing to Mulvaney Democrats’ desire to to see the payments included in the spending bill, according to the reports. A White House aide disputed the account somewhat to the Hill and Vox, by clarifying that the administration was still making up its mind on its next steps.

“The 11th hour is not the time nor the place for that discussion,” an OMB official told Vox, stopping short of guaranteeing the payments would continue.

The lack of clarity is making insurers, providers and patient advocates extremely antsy.

The subsidies go to insurers so they can keep out-of-pocket costs down for low income consumers, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. House Republicans challenged the payments in 2014 under the Obama administration, arguing that Congress had not appropriated the funds for the subsidies. They won a ruling against the payments from a district court judge last year. The Obama administration appealed the ruling and the payments have been allowed to continue while the case proceeded. After Trump was elected, the appeals court now overseeing it allowed the proceedings to be paused while his administration and the House GOP work out their next steps.  They will need to update the court in May, around the time insurers will be making their decisions whether to participate in ACA exchanges in the 2018 plan year.

Trump, meanwhile, suggested earlier this month that he would use the payments as leverage to get Democrats to negotiate on Obamacare repeal, prompting Dems to ramp up their calls for the payments to be appropriated. Insurers would prefer the payments be included in congressional spending legislation, rather than simply continued by the administration.

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Campaign promises may have been reshaped and some self-imposed deadlines reset. But among the things kept intact in the opening months of the new administration is the unmistakably distinct style of President Donald Trump’s speech.

Trump’s trademark talk is full of rambling, aside-filled bursts of simple but definitive words, laden with self-congratulatory bravado and claims that have fact-checkers working overtime, all dispatched from mind to lips in such record time it seemingly bypasses any internal filter.

It has been a source of curiosity for language scholars and laymen alike, sparked anew by a recent Associated Press interview with Trump that has brought newfound opportunity for parsing a brand of presidential oratory not previously recorded.

“This kind of pushes the limits of linguistic analysis,” said historian Kristen Kobes Du Mez.

A look at some features of Trump-speak:

A NEW PRESIDENTIAL SCRIPT

Trump garnered the attention of the masses, in part, because he sounded different from what the public had come to expect from politicians. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, said Trump’s extemporaneous speech is best described as stream-of-consciousness, a big change from what we’re used to from those seeking — and occupying — the highest office in the land.

“The public speech of the president in the past has been crafted speech, it has been considered speech. Presidents prepared before speeches, presidents prepared before press conferences, presidents had stock answers ready to give,” she said.

With Trump, the mold of focus-group-tested, carefully-selected words was broken.

REPETITION, ASIDES AND NON SEQUITURS

The AP interview is just the latest example of some of Trump’s favored tactics in speaking. Word choice is typically simple — to Trump, things are terrible or incredible, best or worst. Asides are frequent. And repetition is rampant: When Trump wants to get a point across, he makes it again and again.

Then there are the familiar non sequiturs. In one campaign speech, for example, Trump begins to talk about the Iran nuclear deal only to veer far afield into talking at length about his uncle, who was a scientist.

Early in the AP interview, he makes an unprompted mention of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying his chemistry with her was great. He then goes on to say the credit he’s been given for his “great chemistry with all of the leaders,” and even when the interviewer attempts to shift the discussion, returns to the point he wants to make, talking again of establishing “amazing relationships” and “great relationships” and “great chemistry.”

“There is a lot of repetition, building up patterns of trust with the listener, repetition of ‘you know,'” said Paul Breen, a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster in England. “I think there is actual method in what others may portray as his madness.”

Trump has suggested there’s method to his word choice too, that the simple terms he often opts for can be more effective than the flowery eloquence listeners may be used to from presidents. “I went to an Ivy League school. I’m very highly educated. I know words; I have the best words,” he said during the campaign.

VERY, SUPER-DUPER, GREAT

Throughout Trump’s interview with AP, his remarks are littered with “verbal intensifiers,” in the parlance of Du Mez, chair of the history department at Calvin College. That means things like “very, very” and “many, many” or, the rare “super-duper.”

“I don’t know that any president has ever used ‘super-duper’ in his rhetoric before,” Du Mez said. Still, while she said the president is sometimes mocked for his elementary word choices, “In terms of oral rhetoric, you want a simpler grade level. That’s a more effective way to communicate.”

Eric Acton, a linguist at Eastern Michigan University, noted Trump’s penchant for superlatives including ‘biggest,’ ‘toughest,’ and ‘strongest.’ And, of course, the word Trump stitched into campaign hats and repeats, dozens of times, in an hour-long conversation.

“He really does seem to love the word ‘great,'” Acton said.

TELEPROMPTER VS. TOUGH GUY

As with anyone, Trump’s manner of speaking can vary with the setting. John Baugh, a linguist at Washington University, says Trump’s communiques can be generally pooled into three groups: spontaneous speeches; scripted, carefully-delivered addresses; and tweets.

The scripted speeches hew closest to the presidential norm, with his address to a joint session of Congress in February most often pointed to as an example of Trump mirroring leaders past. The most bombastic talk is delivered in Trump’s spontaneous remarks or hastily penned tweets.

All of it, though, comes tinged in a very specific voice.

“There is a style of speaking that’s associated with tough New Yorkers, the stereotype of men in New York and we typically associate this with working-class men,” said Baugh. “They’re not only plain-spoken but they’re tough guys.”

SALESMAN’S SPIEL?

In Barack Obama, you often heard a lawyer at work, speaking carefully and with some semblance of self-monitoring, Jamieson said. With Trump, glimpses of a businessman come through in his use of categorical statements and his repeated assertions that he’s successful and admired.

“He’s telling you that the Trump brand is a good brand, that everyone likes the Trump brand,” Jamieson said.

David Beaver, a linguist at the University of Texas at Austin, said Trump mirrors the tactics of advertisers, going with an emotional type of persuasion over rationality. That means graphic imagery stirred by vivid words, and language more typical on streets than of statesman.

“When was the last time you heard a president say ‘scum’ twice in one sentence?” Beaver asked.

___

Sedensky can be reached at msedensky@ap.org or https://twitter.com/sedensky

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Fox News personality Jesse Watters, who last got into hot water for a racist segment set in Chinatown, denied on Wednesday that his remarks on the way Ivanka Trump spoke into a microphone were any kind of innuendo.

“During the break we were commenting on Ivanka’s voice and how it was low and steady and resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ,” Watters said in a statement obtained by TPM. “This was in no way a joke about anything else.”

He posted a similar statement on Twitter on Wednesday morning.

Fox News did not respond to questions from TPM about whether it plans to address criticism of Watters’ comments as inappropriate.

Watters did not in fact refer to the quality of Trump’s voice in the original segment on Fox News’ “The Five” broadcast Tuesday night, which opened with a discussion of the chilly reception Trump received at an international women’s summit in Germany when she tried to promote her father as a great advocate for women and families.

“You know, the left says they really respect women and then when given an opportunity to respect a woman like that, they boo and hiss,” Watters said.

He did not specify what he meant by “a woman like that” but appeared to defend Trump’s comments, saying that her father “has probably hired a ton of fathers and mothers and children.”

“So I don’t really get what’s going on here but I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone,” Watters continued with a smirk, making a fist and holding it in front of his face.

Two deep-pocketed conservative groups announced their support Wednesday for an amendment to the American Health Care Act, signaling a change that could sway conservative congressional votes.

Freedom Works and Club for Growth, who both opposed Republicans’ first effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, announced Wednesday that they would support the bill if it included an amendment penned by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) of the conservative Freedom Caucus and Rep. Tom MacArthur of the more moderate Tuesday Group.

The amendment was first leaked in a white paper dated April 13 published by Politico last week. According to that bare outline, the amendment would allow states to apply for waivers for Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits and community rating rules, with some exceptions, if they do so in the name of lowering costs, increasing coverage or advancing some other “benefit to the public interest.”

States that set up federal risk pools, or participate in a federal high risk pool, would be able to apply to waive the rule preventing insurers from raising rates based on health status under the amendment.

“The MacArthur-Meadows amendment addresses two costly parts of ObamaCare, community rating and the essential health benefits, providing states with much-needed flexibility to stabilize the market, enroll more people in health plans, and bring down the cost of premiums,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said in a statement Wednesday. “We thank Reps. MacArthur and Meadows for their work on this amendment, which represents a path forward on health care in House. If the MacArthur-Meadows amendment were adopted, we would immediately withdraw our key vote against the American Health Care Act.”

“A month ago we said ‘conservatives and moderates… should start by meeting together to see what common ground they have.’ Today, we believe the hard work of Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11) and Rep. Tom MacArthur (NJ-03), facilitated by Vice President Mike Pence, has yielded a compromise that the Club for Growth can support,” Club for Growth president David McIntosh said in his own statement obtained by TPM.

Last week, a senior GOP aide tempered expectations about the amendment to TPM, noting that there wasn’t even a legislative text prepared yet. And unnamed members of the Tuesday Group stressed to Politico Wednesday that MacArthur was negotiating the amendment on his own, not on behalf of the group.

During a press briefing Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the amendment “helps us get to consensus.” Conservative Republicans were similarly enthusiastic about the amendment.

This post has been updated.

House Republicans seemed optimistic Wednesday morning coming out of their conference meeting— their first, full-conference gathering since their two-week recess—about the prospect of reviving their Obamacare repeal push with a new agreement between one prominent moderate and a leader of the hard-right faction of the House. Whether the deal actually secures enough votes to make the GOP’s failed health care legislation, the American Health Care Act, passable out of the lower chamber is still very much an open question

The new amendment proposed for the bill appears to have stirred some movement among skeptical conservatives towards favoring the bill. At the same time, some moderates who had been uncomfortable with the original legislation were reticent to say Wednesday whether the new proposal would out them solidly in the “yes” column. Other centrists and rank-and-file members previously supportive of AHCA were hopeful that the new proposal would hit the sweet spot in securing the 216 votes needed to pass the repeal, while leadership kept expectations down.

“It helps us get to consensus,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said at a press conference after the morning meeting.

The new proposal was crafted by moderate Tuesday Group co-chair Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and House Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC) over the recess, with the involvement of  Trump administration officials. It allows states to apply for waivers from certain insurer mandates under Obamacare.

So far, conservatives seemed most excited about that changes.

Rep. David Brat (R-VA), a vocal critic of previous iterations of the health care bill, said the proposal made him a yes on the legislation, because it gives states the “ability opt out of regs to lower prices.”

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), a member of the Freedom Caucus who had wavered on supporting the original bill, told reporters Wednesday.

Additionally some influential conservative groups who had opposed previous versions of the bill issued statements of support of the new changes. The Freedom Caucus will meet Wednesday evening to further discuss the proposal.

Moderates have been less eager to share how the proposal affected their votes.

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), who came out against the original bill before it was pulled from the floor, told reporters while heading into the meeting that she hadn’t had a chance to look at the new language. Coming out of the conference meeting, Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA) said that he was not a firm yes or no yet.

“The concerns are what they have always have been, and I’ll have to look at what the amendment does, what the implications may be,” Costello, who was undecided on the original bill, told reporters.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), who co-chairs the Tuesday Group, said Tuesday he was still opposed to the bill, as did Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ).

Nonetheless, Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) told reporters that he believed the new proposal found a “sweet spot” for moderates by bringing back essential health benefits, an ACA mandate that was gutted by the original bill, but giving the states the option to waive them.

“I think it could be a sweet spot that attracts enough people to get us to a majority,” Cramer said.

According to the moderate Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), a Trump ally who was supportive of the original bill, members at the conference meeting were told that the whip team would start reaching out to previous “no” and “lean no” votes to see if their votes had changed with the amendment. Those who were “yes’s” on the original bill would be assumed to be still be supportive, Collins said, unless they approached leadership to tell them that the new proposal had changed their vote.

“There is no definitive timeline” on bringing it to a floor vote, Collins said, pointing to the need to pass a government funding bill this week.

“Everyone would like to do it sooner than later, many of us would like to do it this week. The Speaker was clear: we will bring it to the floor when we have the votes to pass it,” Collins said.

The new proposal, according to legislative text leaked by Politico, is similar to what was being floated before recess and would allow states to waive out of certain Affordable Care Act insurer mandates.

The first waiver, which would be available to states in 2018, would allow states to extend the so-called age band—which sets the maximum premium ratio between a plan’s youngest and oldest consumer—from its current three-to-one limit. (It’s unclear how this interacts with the previous version of the repeal bill, which already extended the ratio to five-to-one).

The second waiver would let states rewrite and scale back the ACA’s essential health benefits, the 10 coverage areas insurers are now currently required to offer. That waiver would be available in 2020.

The third type of waiver applies to the ACA’s so-called community ratings, which currently restrict insurers underwriting based on health and other factors. Under the proposal, states could permit insurers to engage in some underwriting, specifically based on one’s health’s status, if the state participated in some sort of high risk pool, reinsurance or risk sharing program. The proposal also stipulates that those who maintain continuous coverage would not be subject to that kind of underwriting.

In their waiver applications to the Health and Human Services Department, states would have to describe how their request would help the state one of a few goals, such as lowing average premiums or increasing coverage. If HHS doesn’t respond in 60 days, the waiver would automatically be granted.

“Essentially, any state that wanted a waiver would get one,” Timothy Jost, a health law specialist at Washington an Lee, wrote on Health Affairs blog Tuesday night.

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