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Caitlin MacNeal

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Articles by Caitlin

During a meeting Thursday night with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, President Donald Trump praised Australia’s universal health care system.

He made the comments while insisting that Republicans are “united” in their push to repeal Obamacare and praising the legislation passed by the House on Thursday.

“It’s a very good bill right now. The premiums are going to come down, very substantially. The deductibles are going to come down. It’s going to be fantastic health care. Right now Obamacare is failing. We have a failing health care,” Trump said. “I shouldn’t say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia, because you have better health care than we do.”

Australia has a universal, government-funded health care system called Medicare. Australians are able to go to the hospital and see doctors free of charge under the system, but citizens there must purchase private insurance for some medical services. The system is partially funded by taxes, including an additional tax on wealthy Australians who do not have private health insurance.

The legislation passed by House Republicans on Thursday, meanwhile, makes major cuts to Medicaid and an analysis of the original bill by the Congressional Budget Office in March projected that the bill would cost 24 million people their health insurance within ten years.

Shortly after House Republicans passed their revised bill to repeal and replace Obamacare on Thursday afternoon, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said that the legislation would need major changes before he could pledge his support.

His statement goes to show that while the repeal bill passed the House with a razor-thin margin, it faces an uphill battle in the Senate.

“Congress must take responsible action that lowers health care costs, but these changes must be made in a way that does not leave people behind,” he said in a statement.

The Republican senator cited concerns that his constituents would lose their Medicaid coverage under the American Health Care Act.

“I’ve already made clear that I don’t support the House bill as currently constructed because I continue to have concerns that this bill does not do enough to protect Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population, especially those who are receiving treatment for heroin and prescription drug abuse,” the statement continued. “We have an opioid crisis in this country, and I’m going to continue to work with my colleagues on solutions that ensure that those who are impacted by this epidemic can continue to receive treatment.”

House Republicans and President Donald Trump are planning on having a celebration at the White House, and a Bud Light or two, if they pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare on Thursday afternoon.

Trump has apparently delayed his plans to travel to New York City by a few hours, and the White House has sent transportation to the Capitol so that House Republicans may quickly dash off to a party at the White House.

Buses wait to whisk Republican House members to the White House for a press conference with the President after the passage of the AHCA. Photo via Tierney Sneed

Trump himself confirmed that House Republicans would head to the White House for a press conference if the bill passes.

This post has been updated.

Jon Ossoff’s campaign on Thursday announced a television ad about cutting wasteful government spending in an apparent bid for independent and Republican voters in Georgia’s Sixth District, where Ossoff is competing against Republican Karen Handel for a U.S. House seat.

In the 30-second spot, titled “Table,” Ossoff says that “both parties in Congress waste a lot of your money” and pledges to cute wasteful spending, reduce the deficit and bring jobs to Georgia.

The ad is already running in the Atlanta market, but it’s not clear how long the ad will run and Ossoff’s campaign would not confirm the size of the ad buy to TPM. The campaign has set aside at least $5.2 million for ads through the June 20 runoff election, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The spot, along with a press conference Wednesday laying out Ossoff’s plan to reduce wasteful spending, appears to be a pitch to a broad swath of voters in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, including independents and Republicans.

Democrats are hopeful about their chances in the district because while Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price previously won re-election in the district without breaking a sweat, President Donald Trump only won the district by one point in November. Still, given the partisan makeup of the district, Ossoff will likely need Republican votes to edge out his runoff opponent, Republican Karen Handel, for the seat.

Ossoff has sought to capitalize on anti-Trump fervor in the suburban Atlanta district, but he has made a point not to campaign as an anti-Trump candidate. Before the initial jungle primary, Ossoff ran ads pledging to hold Trump accountable, but in the final days before that April 18 vote, Ossoff declined to directly attack Trump in interviews.

Watch the new ad:

The money allocated in the House Republican bill to repeal Obamacare for states to help those with pre-existing conditions pay for health insurance would not provide sufficient funds for that purpose, according to a new report published Thursday by the health consulting firm Avalere.

The American Health Care Act would give states $23 billion to help cover residents with pre-existing conditions: $15 billion through an amendment that calls on states to set up high-risk pools, plus another $8 billion over five years through the most recent amendment to the repeal legislation proposed by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI). According to Avalere’s calculations, this amount would help cover just 110,000 people with pre-existing conditions each year, a fraction of the 2.2 million people with pre-existing conditions currently enrolled in the individual marketplace.

States would theoretically be able to spend more money from the AHCA’s Patient and State Stability Fund on people with pre-existing conditions. But even if states spent the entire $123 billion allocation for that purpose, just 600,000 individuals with pre-existing conditions would be covered each year, the report found.

An amendment to the AHCA offered by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) and backed by the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus would allow states to apply for waivers from certain Obamacare mandates. States that secure waivers could allow insurers to engage in medical underwriting and increase a person’s premium based on their health status. States granted waivers also would have to set up high-risk pools, which are very expensive.

According to Avalere’s analysis, if a significant number of states allow underwriting, the money allocated to help people with pre-existing conditions afford bigger premiums would not be sufficient.

“Given the amount of funding in the bill, the program can only afford a few small states to opt into medical underwriting,” Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president at Avalere, said in a statement. “If any large states receive a waiver, many chronically ill individuals could be left without access to insurance.”

President Donald Trump on Thursday will sign an executive order to make it easier for religious organizations to delve into politics, according to reports in the Washington Post and New York Times citing White House officials.

The White House order declares that “it is the policy of the administration to protect and vigorously promote religious liberty,” according to the Washington Post.

The administration appears to have backed away from an earlier draft order leaked to The Nation that would have allowed religious groups to refuse to hire or serve LGBT individuals.

The order to be signed Thursday will also direct federal agencies to exempt some religious organizations from the Obamacare mandate requiring that employer health plans cover birth control, according to the Post and the Times.

With the executive order, Trump will not be able to reverse the Johnson Amendment, which bans churches and religious organizations with tax exemptions from supporting political candidates. Instead, the order will direct the IRS to “exercise maximum enforcement discretion of the prohibition,” per the Post.

Rep. David Brat (R-VA), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who was part of the recent negotiations on the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said on Wednesday that it can be challenging to negotiate with President Donald Trump because it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking.

“He’s very good, but you don’t know what the deal is he’s got in his mind,” Brat told New York Magazine about Trump’s negotiating style. “So that’s, like, are we in, like, the middle of a negotiating thing? Or is he at the end of it? Or is he at the beginning of it? And you don’t know, right? So that’s the hard part for us, we’re like, ‘We think he wants this, but we know how he negotiates, so where are we?'”

Later in the interview, Brat again said that it’s hard to decipher what Trump is looking for in legislation and indicated that the President is not focused on details.

“I mean, you know strategically, roughly, what he wants. But in this city, roughly’s not it. He’s big picture: ‘Look, repeal Obamacare, replace it with something that makes some sense.’ But then when you get down in the weeds in our conference, and the Senate hasn’t even weighed in yet … and he’s like, ‘Are you kidding, you guys are arguing over that? When this is the goal?’ And I think he’s amazed,” Brat told New York Magazine.

Brat said that Trump acted similarly on the budget process, and that he will go into future negotiations with more details in mind.

“He’s learned that if you don’t weigh in, that what comes out of the sausage factory is not always pretty,” Brat said.

House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on Wednesday said that he will re-introduce a bill vetoed by President Barack Obama that would impose limits on presidential pensions now that Obama has reportedly accepted $400,000 for a speech.

“The Obama hypocrisy on this issue is revealing,” Chaffetz told USA Today. “His veto was very self-serving.”

He later tweeted USA Today’s headline, which reads, “Obama’s $400,000 speech could prompt Congress to go after his pension,” with the phrase “Yes, it will.”

The bill, which was sponsored by Chaffetz last year, would cap presidents’ pensions at $200,000 with an additional $200,000 for expenses like paying staff. With the bill, titled the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act, the president’s pension would see cuts when the president’s income exceeds $400,000.

Congress passed the bill last year with support from both parties, but Obama vetoed it, citing concerns that the legislation would immediately cut off the salaries of former presidents’ staffers without a transition period.

Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-MD) office on Wednesday indicated that he would be open to reviving the legislation with some tweaks.

“Cummings definitely supports the concept, and if we can work out the technical issues with the bill that arose late in the last Congress, we expect he would strongly support it again,” Cummings spokeswoman Jennifer Hoffman told USA Today.

A staffer hired by the Trump administration for a prominent role in the State Department has been accused of sexual assault by five cadets at The Citadel military college, where he was a student, ProPublica reported on Wednesday.

Steven Munoz, a former staffer on Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign, will serve as the assistant chief of visits at the State Department, where he will help arrange foreign leaders’ visits to the United States. Before he was hired at the State Department, Munoz worked as a consultant for the Trump campaign and for the Inaugural Committee, per ProPublica.

Accusations of sexual assault against Munoz first surfaced back in 2012, when Buzzfeed News obtained an email showing that he was accused of inappropriate behavior by younger cadets while he attended The Citadel.

One cadet said that Munoz made unwelcome sexual advances in 2010, and another said that Munoz assaulted or groped him on three separate occasions in 2012, the Post and Courier newspaper reported at the time without naming Munoz. An email obtained by Buzzfeed News confirmed that Munoz was the suspect.

When initial accusations of sexual assault against Munoz surfaced in the press in 2012, his lawyer, Andy Savage, told the newspaper that the allegations were merely political attempts to hurt Munoz and Santorum.

Now, ProPublica reports that five students at The Citadel have accused Munoz of sexual assault while he was a student there. One incident was reported in 2010, prompting The Citadel to give Munoz a warning, and the other four incidents were reported after Munoz graduated in 2011, according to ProPublica.

One student said he woke up with Munoz on top of him, kissing and groping him, according to the report. In another incident, Munoz allegedly jumped on a student in bed during a trip to Washington, D.C. for the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The Citadel investigated those incidents and in 2014 found that they “likely occurred,” according to ProPublica. A local prosecutor declined to prosecute Munoz, however.

Read the whole ProPublica report here.

After proposing their own amendment to the House GOP bill to repeal Obamacare and huddling with President Donald Trump, two key Republican members who had opposed the bill announced Wednesday that they will now support the legislation.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) emerged from a meeting with the President to tell reporters at the White House that they’re now comfortable backing the American Health Care Act.

“I think it is likely now to pass in the House,” Upton told reporters, according to Bloomberg News.

Upton and Long surprised Republicans earlier in the week when they came out against the bill because of an amendment offered by moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ). That amendment, which prompted the House Freedom Caucus to officially support the AHCA, would allow states to apply for waivers from certain Obamacare mandates.

The MacArthur amendment was met with skepticism from other moderate Republicans who were worried about the impact the waivers could have on coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions, however.

The amendment proposed by Upton and Long would secure an additional $8 billion to cover people with pre-existing conditions, according to Politico.

In a statement to Politico, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said Upton and Long “will find broad support” for their amendment in the House Freedom Caucus.

But it’s not yet clear that the AHCA will maintain enough conservative votes and gain enough moderate votes to pass in the House with this addition.

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