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

After Senate Republicans suffered a major setback when their bill to repeal Obamacare failed early Friday morning, a spokesman for former President Barack Obama called for Congress to improve the Affordable Care Act in a bipartisan manner.

In a statement, Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said that Obamacare is “bigger than politics” and lauded the law for giving health insurance to millions of Americans.

“The Affordable Care Act has made American stronger and healthier, but there will always be more work to do,” Lewis added. “President Obama has always said we should build on this law, just as members of both parties worked together to improve Seocial Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the years. President Obama still believes that it is possible for Congress to demonstrate the necessary bipartisanship and political courage to keep delivering on the promise of quality, affordable health insurance for every American.”

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After the Senate’s latest effort to repeal Obamacare sputtered out early Friday morning, blocking President Donald Trump from finally notching a legislative victory, the President suggested nuking the Senate rules.

Republicans control the Senate with a slim majority of 52 senators, and on most legislation, Democrats can force a 60-vote threshold, making it challenging for leaders to pass a purely partisan bill. For that reason, Senate leaders used the reconciliation process, which only requires a 51-vote majority, to craft their Obamacare repeal legislation. Even that strategy ran into some hurdles when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that certain key provisions in the Better Care Reconciliation Act could not be included in a reconciliation bill.

So with the Senate parliamentarian nixing provisions and GOP leaders unable to garner enough support for the bill anyway, the Senate turned to the bare-bones “skinny repeal,” which also went up in flames.

In response, Trump turned to his typical devices, calling for a major change in strategy in order for him to score one legislative victory. This is not the first time he’s called for a big change to Senate rules: He urged the GOP to nuke the legislative filibuster in the Senate twice before, once in early May and once in late May.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he will not blow up the legislative filibuster, although he was willing to remove the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees earlier this year.

Earlier Friday morning, Trump suggested that Republicans just let Obamacare “implode” before eventually crafting a replacement. This is another strategy that Trump has turned to when Congress struggles on health care.

Yet, in his speech following the failed vote Friday morning, McConnell suggested Democrats come forward with their ideas next.

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After the Senate’s bare-bones bill to repeal Obamacare suddenly crashed and burned in the wee hours of Friday morning, conservative pundits went into full freak-out mode, blasting the Senate for its failure.

Some specifically aimed their ire at Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). McCain cast the final, decisive vote on Friday morning against the bill, bringing the Senate’s third stab at repealing Obamacare to a grinding halt. His vote against the measure shocked Republican senators standing in the chamber, especially since he returned to the Capitol earlier this week to cast a vote that allowed the Senate to proceed to debate on the legislation in the first place.

This last twist left conservative pundits reeling. Former Republican presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was so angry with the three senators who voted down the bill that he suggested changing the way senators are elected.

Fox News’ Eric Bolling also called for the ouster of the three Republicans who killed the bill.

Conservative radio host Dana Loesch took the failed vote as a sign that the “pathetic” GOP will never repeal Obamacare.

Other pundits specifically lashed out at McCain. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) also voted against the bill.

Later Friday, the conservative group FreedomWorks issued a statement blasting the three Republicans who voted down “skinny repeal,” calling them “frauds” who won’t keep their promise to repeal Obamacare now that there is a Republican president in the White House.

“Last night’s vote was a slap in the face to every conservative who has been promised that Republicans would repeal ObamaCare. Sens. John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins voted against the ‘skinny repeal’ of ObamaCare, theoretically the least repeal that can be achieved because so many Republicans went back on their votes for a 2015-style repeal,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said in a statement. “The Republican Party has been all about ObamaCare repeal for the better part of a decade, and now we see that they have been writing checks to voters that they knew the Bank of Obama wouldn’t cash. Now that President Trump would sign it, they have exposed themselves as frauds.”

This post has been updated.

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Before Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) cast the deciding vote to kill the Senate’s effort to repeal Obamacare early Friday morning, he put on a dramatic show for onlookers, willfully ignoring pleas from his Republican colleagues on the Senate floor.

As he walked to the Senate floor to vote, McCain said he’d made his decision but gave no indication of how he would vote, simply telling reporters to “watch the show.” Once on the floor, it became clearer that McCain was prepared to vote down the “skinny repeal” bill after voicing his concern about passing it Thursday evening.

On the Senate floor, McCain’s colleague from Arizona, Sen. Jeff Flake, was sent to chat with him first, and after that appeared to be useless, Vice President Mike Pence tried to win McCain’s support for the legislation.

McCain also spoke with a group of Democrats huddled on the Senate floor, reportedly telling them that he would vote down the bill.

“Let’s get this over with,” he told the Democrats, according to senators who spoke with Politico. “I really want to do NDAA.”

As the Senate waited for the vote to take place, McCain walked off the Senate floor to take a call from President Donald Trump himself, Politico reported.

After Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) already cast votes against the bill, McCain strode back into the Senate floor to reveal his final decision. McCain walked over to the Senate clerk, not far from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KU), gave a thumbs down, and said “no.” His vote was met with an audible gasp in the Senate chamber as the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare went down in flames.

McCain had returned to the Senate earlier in the week after being diagnosed with brain cancer to vote in favor of proceeding to debate on Obamacare repeal. Without his presence in the Capitol this week, the vote on Friday would never have taken place. But after he cast a vote allowing Senate Republicans to proceed, he delivered a blistering speech blasting GOP leaders’ process and calling for bipartisanship.

After his decisive vote, McCain released a statement echoing the concerns he laid out in his speech. He slammed the Senate’s rushed process to repeal Obamacare and calling for the Senate to consider repeal and replace through the regular process. He also said that House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) comments on his chamber’s commitment to a conference committee were not enough to ease concerns that the House could just pass the Senate’s bare-bones bill without attempting to agree on comprehensive legislation.

Read McCain’s full statement:

From the beginning, I have believed that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals. While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens. The Speaker’s statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time.

I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace. We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.



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After the Senate’s latest effort to repeal Obamacare failed early Friday morning, President Donald Trump proposed simply letting the Affordable Care Act “implode” before working up replacement legislation.

The Senate GOP’s effort to pass a “skinny repeal” bill came to a halt Friday morning when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) joined Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in opposing a vote on the legislation. Republican leaders pitched the “skinny repeal” bill as a vehicle to creating a conference committee with the House to hammer out a comprehensive deal, but that strategy hit a last-minute snag Friday when McCain and a few other senators questioned whether the House would go to conference or just rush to pass the bare-bones bill.

Trump’s proposal to let Obamacare “implode” is not a new one. He has offered several different strategies for replacing the health care law as Congress has struggled to come up with a bill that enough lawmakers can agree on. He’s now circled back to letting Obamacare fail.

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Alice Ollstein contributed reporting.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on Thursday downplayed a phone call she had with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke during which he reportedly threatened her over her vote on Obamacare repeal, saying that she is “strong and independent.”

Murkowski’s office confirmed to TPM that Zinke called the senator to express that the President was not happy with her vote on Obamacare repeal. Murkowski herself told reporters on Capitol Hill that Zinke told her what she “already knew,” which is that President Donald Trump “wasn’t pleased with the vote that I had taken,” according to a clip of her remarks that aired on MSNBC.

Murkowski was one of two Republican senators to vote this week against beginning debate on Obamacare repeal, and Trump singled her out for her opposition in a Wednesday morning tweet. The senator told reporters Thursday that she had also spoken to the President himself about it.

Murkowski’s colleague, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), had earlier told the Alaska Dispatch News that Zinke called him and threatened to retaliate against the state over the senators’ vote on Obamacare repeal. He noted that Zinke also spoke with Murkowski.

Alaska’s senior senator described the call a little bit differently, characterizing it as a difficult conversation as opposed to a threat, according to CNBC.

She also signaled that threats and pressure from the White House would not do much to change her mind.

“I’m a pretty strong and independent individual,” she told reporters, according to CNBC. “I listen to the input from all sides, whether it is the President, whether it is certainly the secretary of Interior where we have much, much in common, and always absolutely, the people of Alaska.”

In a statement obtained by TPM responding to the Dispatch News report, Murkowski said that she will continue to push for the path she thinks is best for repealing Obamacare, which she identified as starting with the committee process.

“I pledged early on that I would work with the President to help advance Alaska’s interests. I will continue to do that—to help build and strengthen our economy, keep the promises made to us as a state, and ensure access to healthcare. While I have disagreed with the Senate process so far, the President and I agree that the status quo with healthcare in our country is not acceptable and that reforms must be made,” she said in the statement. “I continue working to find the best path for what I believe will achieve that–a committee process where we can work issues in the open and ensure Alaskans have the healthcare choices they want, the affordability they need, and the quality of care they deserve.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of the Senate GOP leadership team, on Thursday chimed in to say that any threats from the administration likely won’t work.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve seldom seen threats be very effective,” he told reporters when asked about Zinke’s reported threat to the Alaska senators.

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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has issued a threat to both of Alaska’s senators, warning them that opposing efforts to repeal Obamacare could prompt the Trump administration to retaliate against their state in some way, according to Alaska’s junior senator.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) told the Alaska Dispatch News that Zinke had called him with a “troubling message.”

“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan said.

“I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans,” he added. “We’re facing some difficult times and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the President have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear.”

Sullivan told the Dispatch News that Zinke also called Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who has opposed the Senate’s replacement plan and who voted against proceeding to debate on Obamacare repeal. Murkowski also chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee for Interior and Environment, which plays a large role in determining funding levels for the Interior Department. Sullivan told the newspaper that he believes Zinke’s threat was in response to Murkowski’s vote against the motion to proceed.

President Donald Trump himself on Tuesday singled out Murkowski for her “no” vote, one of two out of the Senate Republican caucus.

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Angered by a story in Politico using his publicly available financial disclosure form, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci waged an all-out war on “leakers” Wednesday night and Thursday morning, appearing to specifically blame Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the Politico report.

Likely upset that someone in the administration was looking to take him down a peg, Scaramucci threatened to sic the FBI and Justice Department on the supposed leaker, even though those agencies are supposed to operate independently from the White House. Scaramucci denied that he was trying to blame Priebus for the Politico story. But he later followed up with cryptic comments about Priebus suggesting that the chief of staff has been behind leaks from the White House.

Scaramucci started on a tear against “leakers” the very moment he accepted the communications director position, pledging to root out traitors in the White House and other parts of the administration who leak juicy tidbits and sensitive information to the press. On Wednesday morning he complained on Fox News about the backstabbing within the White House and said that he is “more of a front-stabbing person.”

The 12-hour saga began with a tweet from Scaramucci Wednesday night — which he deleted two hours later — that appeared to blame Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the “leak” of his financial disclosure form to Politico.

Scaramucci said he would talk to the FBI and the Justice Department about the “leak,” which he erroneously claimed was a felony. During a CNN interview Thursday morning, Scaramucci denied that he was blaming Priebus for the Politico story on his disclosure form.

“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the #TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45,” Scaramucci said in a tweet screen captured by several news outlets.

After Scaramucci’s initial tweet, New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza reported on Twitter Wednesday night that Scaramucci wants the FBI to look into whether Priebus is behind leaks to the press.

The Justice Department also chimed in with a statement pledging to “aggressively pursue leak cases.”

Scaramucci, who has been at odds with Priebus, denied on Twitter Wednesday night that he was trying to blame Priebus for the “leak,” but Lizza told CNN Thursday morning that he spoke to a senior White House official who said Scaramucci wanted Priebus investigated for leaks.

The White House communications director then joined CNN’s “New Day” for a lengthy interview about the tweet and leaks from the White House.

Scaramucci said on CNN that he spoke to Lizza on Wednesday night, but did not say that he discussed his anger with Priebus about the disclosure form. He instead told CNN that he has interviewed White House staff and that he has “a very, very good idea of who the leakers are, who the senior leakers are in the White House.” He acknowledged that it was not illegal to send a reporter his disclosure form, but said he had an issue with the political games.

“I know that there was a public disclosure mechanism in my financial forms. What I’m upset about is the process and the junk pool, the dirty pool, Chris, in terms of the way this stuff is being done, and the leaking won’t stop,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

He then offered a confusing explanation for his tweet tagging Priebus, suggesting that he was not blaming Priebus for the leaks while also suggesting that journalists’ assumptions about the tweet may show that Priebus is behind the leaks.

“When I put out a tweet, I put Reince’s name in a tweet, they are all making the assumption that it’s him because journalists know who the leakers are. So if Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that,” Scaramucci said.

Later in the interview, Cuomo asked Scaramucci if he really believes the Politico story on his financial disclosure form warranted contacting the FBI.

Scaramucci said that he has contacted Attorney General Jeff Sessions and that he’s “got buddies of mine in the FBI that I’ll be calling.”

Asked again if the FBI should really be investigating the leak of his disclosure form, Scaramucci explained that he mentioned the FBI and Justice Department in order to make leakers “nervous.”

“When the iceberg hits the boat, the rats start flying up from steerage,” he said.

Scaramucci said that he does not want the FBI to investigate “dirty politics.”

“But I like mentioning them because I know knee-knockers when I see them and their knees will start knocking,” Scaramucci added.

Cuomo then asked Scaramucci if he has concerns about Priebus.

“Reince Priebus can speak to you about that and he can address that himself,” Scaramucci replied. “People know my history between me and Reince. I can speak for my own actions. He’s going to need to speak for his own actions.”


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A bipartisan group of ten governors, including four Republicans, on Wednesday sent a letter to Senate leaders warning them against passing “skinny repeal,” which would just nix some of Obamacare’s taxes and mandates.

“The Senate should also reject efforts to amend the bill to a ‘skinny repeal,’ which is expected to accelerate health plans leaving the individual market increase premiums, and result in fewer Americans having access to coverage,” the governors wrote in the letter after telling Senate leaders to oppose the House replacement bill as well.

Senate GOP leaders are pushing for their caucus to approve “skinny repeal” so that they can move to a conference committee with the House and hammer out a comprehensive deal between both chambers.

The governors argued in their letter that instead of rushing a repeal bill through Congress now, the Senate should hold hearings and work with Democrats on a bipartisan bill.

“True, lasting reforms can only be achieved in an open, bipartisan fashion,” they wrote. “We agree with Senator John McCain that the Senate should ‘return to regular order,’ working across the aisle to ‘provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.’”

The Republicans who signed the letter include Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, and Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

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Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) on Wednesday defended Attorney General Jeff Sessions from President Donald Trump’s public attacks and offered up a plan to help the attorney general retake his old Senate seat, should he want it.

Brooks, who’s a candidate in the special election to fill Sessions’ old seat, said that he would be willing to withdraw from the race if the other Republican candidates also agree to do so.

“If all Republican candidates collectively agree to simultaneously withdraw from this race, then we clear the way for the Republican Party of Alabama to nominate Jeff Sessions to be the Republican nominee for the December 12, 2017 general election,” Brooks said in a statement issued by his Senate campaign. “He can return to the Senate where he has served us so well. President can then appoint whomever he wants as Attorney General.”

In the statement, Brooks defended Sessions as a “patriot” and one of the “greatest public servants I have ever personally met.” He called on Trump to end his “public waterboarding” of the attorney general.

“I cannot remain silent about the treatment Jeff Sessions is receiving from President Trump,” Brooks said in the statement. “If the President has reservations about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that is okay. No two people agree all the time. But President Trump should raise his reservations with Attorney General Sessions privately, man to man, one on one, not publicly scorn a great man like this.”

“I support President Trump’s policies, but this public waterboarding of one of the greatest people Alabama has ever produced is inappropriate and insulting to the people of Alabama who know Jeff Sessions so well and elected him so often by overwhelming margins,” he added.

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