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

President Donald Trump on Wednesday morning singled out Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for her votes against debate on a Obamacare repeal bill and against the Senate’s replacement bill, saying the senator let Republicans down.

Murkowski was one of two Republican senators who voted Tuesday against a motion to proceed to debate on Obamacare repeal, though her defection did not prevent Republicans from clearing that procedural hurdle. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) also voted against the motion to proceed, but her opposition to beginning debate had long been solidified. It was an open question going into the vote Tuesday afternoon which lawmakers and how many would vote against moving to debate.

After voting against the motion to proceed, Murkowski released a statement calling on Republicans to hold hearings on health care.

“I have repeatedly said that healthcare reform, and especially major entitlement reform, should go through the committee process where stakeholders can weigh in and ideas can be vetted in a bipartisan forum,” she said in the statement. “I voted ‘no’ today to give the Senate another chance to take this to the committee process.”

Murkowski also voted against the Senate Obamacare replacement bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, on Tuesday night, but she was joined by eight other Republican senators in doing so.

Trump has not played a large role in the Senate’s process to repeal and replace Obamacare. He has only weighed in occasionally and has tried to threaten and guilt Republicans into passing a bill. As he has attempted to persuade Republicans to hammer out a deal, he has waffled on which approach would make the most sense.

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As President Donald Trump escalated his public attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week, the two have not spoken, but Sessions has signaled to the White House through aides that he will not step down, according to reports in Politico and the Washington Post.

Sessions’ chief of staff told White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that the attorney general would not resign as Trump and Sessions avoid talking to each other, the Washington Post reported. Per the Post:

In a recent conversation, Sessions’s chief of staff, Jody Hunt, told White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that the attorney general had no intention of stepping down. Hunt, according to people familiar with the conversation, made it clear to Priebus that Sessions “plans to move forward with his agenda in the department and he has no plans for resigning,’’ according to one person familiar with the exchange. Priebus, for his part, did not say Trump planned to fire Sessions if he did not leave, these people said.

While Trump refuses to speak with Sessions and instead hints at letting him go in public remarks, White House aides have been urging Trump to end his attack on his own attorney general, per Politico and CNN. Steve Bannon in particular has pleaded with Trump to stop going after Sessions, Politico and CNN reported.

After publishing tweets earlier in the week calling Sessions “beleaguered” and “weak,” Trump on Tuesday said he was “disappointed” in the attorney general and was looking into letting Sessions go. He has reportedly talked with staff about potential replacements for Sessions, and White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said that Trump “probably” wants Sessions gone.

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After Senate Republicans voted to proceed Tuesday afternoon on the repeal of Obamacare, GOP leaders touted the move as the “beginning” of a long, open process to repeal and replace the health care law.

“This is just the beginning,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters during a brief press conference after the vote. “We’re not out here to spike the football.”

McConnell said he expects the Senate to finish debating on the legislation by the end of the week, but he would not provide details about which bills or amendments would be offered on the floor. He said that it’s “impossible to predict” what will happen in such a process.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, referenced what he said was an “important message” in Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) speech after the motion to proceed vote, in which he called for bipartisanship. Cornyn called on Democrats to help build a bipartisan health care bill, arguing that “could be the beginning of that healing process” for a “polarized” institution.


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Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), one of the most vocal critics of the Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, announced Tuesday that she will support a motion to proceed to a motion to repeal on Obamacare repeal.

It’s not clear exactly which bill or set of bills the Senate will vote on this week. One plan gaining momentum is the “skinny repeal.” With that plan, senators would vote on a bill to strip just a few aspects of Obamacare, and then work out more details on a comprehensive plan with the House in a conference committee.

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Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), one of a handful of Republican senators who has been wary of the Senate GOP’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, announced on Tuesday that he will vote for the motion to proceed that will allow the Senate to vote on legislation to repeal Obamacare.

Heller said that supporting the motion to proceed will “give us a chance to address the unworkable aspects of the law that have left many Nevadans – particularly those living in rural areas – with dwindling or no choices.”

“If the final product isn’t improved for the state of Nevada, then I will not vote for it; if it is improved, I will support it,” he added in the statement.

It’s still not entirely clear which bill or set of bills the Senate will vote on if they are able to proceed to debate on Obamacare repeal. One emerging plan is the “skinny repeal.” The Senate would pass a bill that strips just a few aspects of Obamacare so that they can then hammer out the details of a more comprehensive plan with the House in a conference committee.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday cautioned President Donald Trump against forcing Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of office and appointing a replacement while Congress is away on recess next month.

In a speech on the Senate floor, he warned that Democrats have tools to stop such a recess appointment and urged Republicans to join them in blocking it should Trump make that move.

“Many Americans must be wondering if the President is trying to pry open the office of attorney general to appoint someone during the August recess who will fire special counsel [Robert] Mueller and shut down the Russian investigation,” Schumer said. “First let me state for the record now, before this scheme gains wings, Democrats will never go along with the recess appointment if that situation arises. We have some tools in our toolbox to stymie such action. We’re ready to use every single one of them.”

Any Republican colleague who may support a recess appointment would be “complicit in creating a constitutional crisis,” he added.

Trump has recently stepped up his criticism of Sessions as he continues to fume over the attorney general’s recusal from the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The administration is reportedly floating replacement options for Sessions, such as Rudy Giuliani or Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

The President could theoretically appoint a replacement for Sessions during the August recess, which would not require Senate confirmation.

Democratic senators already are plotting to keep the chamber from officially going on recess by filibustering the resolution to adjourn the session, CNN reported, citing both Democratic and Republican aides.

During his floor speech, Schumer blasted Trump for publicly ridiculing his attorney general, a key ally who was the first big congressional backer of the real estate mogul’s presidential candidacy.

“In recent days, President Trump has gone out of his way to undermine his own attorney general, his first supporter,” Schumer said. “He has tweeted scathing criticism of Attorney General Sessions, chastised himself publicly for recusing himself from the Russia investigation and several other perceived failures in the eyes of the President.”

“We should all take a moment to think about how shocking these are on a human basis,” he continued. “This is the first person who stuck his neck out for Donald Trump, who was with him through thick and thin, and now, even if the President has disagreements with him, which are ill-founded self-centered and wrong, you don’t ridicule him in public.”

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In a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) warned the more moderate Republicans in the Senate against voting for a motion to proceed on a health care bill.

“Don’t be fooled by this ruse,” Schumer told Republican senators who have opposed the deep cuts to Medicaid in the Senate replacement bill.

The minority leader acknowledged an emerging plan from Senate GOP leadership: pass a “skinny repeal” bill in the Senate that only strips a few aspects of Obamacare in order to push the Senate into a conference with the House. Schumer argued that the final bill could then make deep cuts to Medicaid and cut taxes for the wealthy, hurting  millions of Americans.

He argued that voting to proceed on the bill is a “permission slip” for Republicans to gut Obamacare without a proper replacement.

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Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), noted climate change denier and chair of the House Science Committee, on Monday penned an eyebrow-raising op-ed that argued there are “benefits” to a changing climate.

“The benefits of a changing climate are often ignored and under-researched. Our climate is too complex and the consequences of misguided policies too harsh to discount the positive effects of carbon enrichment,” Smith wrote in an op-ed for The Daily Signal, a website run by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Smith acknowledged that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing and argued that it would help plant growth and farming. He also posited that sea ice melting in the Arctic would open up new shipping routes, spinning ice melt as a positive change for the Earth.

“The use of fossil fuels and the byproducts of carbon enrichment play a large role in advancing the quality of human life by increasing food production to feed our growing population, stimulating the economy, and alleviating poverty,” he wrote. “Bad deals like the Paris Agreement would cost the U.S. billions of dollars, a loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, and have no discernible impact on global temperatures.”

Smith, as chair of the House Science Committee, has led a crusade against climate scientists, in particular targeting a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study in 2015. He has also gone after environmental groups and state attorneys general over investigations into ExxonMobil’s climate change denialism.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Tuesday declined to criticize President Donald Trump for lashing out at his attorney general when asked about the chance that Trump could fire Jeff Sessions as head of the Justice Department.

“The President gets to decide what his personnel is, you all know that. He is the executive branch,” Ryan said when asked if he was concerned that Trump could fire Sessions and appoint a new attorney general, who could in turn fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

“He determines who is hired and fired in the executive branch. That’s his prerogative,” Ryan continued. “If he has concerns or questions or problems with the attorney general, I’m sure he will bring them up with him himself.”

Asked if it would amount to obstruction of justice for Trump to fire the attorney general over his frustration that Sessions had recused himself from the Russia probe, Ryan similarly demurred.

“It’s up to the President to decide what his personnel decisions is [sic] and any possible thought that comes from that,” he said. “If he has concerns about anyone in the administration, their conduct or their jobs, I’m sure he is going to talk to them directly.”

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After saying on Sunday that President Donald Trump supported a bill imposing new sanctions on Russia, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders backtracked on Monday, telling reporters that the President was still reviewing the bill.

“He’s looking over where it stands exactly at this point and we’ll keep you posted on the decision,” Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One when asked about the Russia sanctions bill.

“The President has been very vocal about his support for continued sanctions on those three countries. He has no intention of getting rid of them, but he wants to make sure we get the best deal for the American people possible. Congress doesn’t have the best record on that,” she said, describing the President’s thinking on the bill working its way through Congress, which would impose new sanctions on North Korea and Iran as well as Russia.

Her comments Monday differed from the answer she gave on Sunday when asked on ABC News’ “This Week” whether Trump backed the bill.

“The administration is supportive of being tough on Russia, particularly in putting these sanctions in place,” she said Sunday. “We support where the legislation is now and will continue working with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place on Russia.”

Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, said on Sunday that Trump had not yet made a decision on the legislation.

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