Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously associate editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at email@example.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
A key moderate Republican is withholding support from Republicans’ second effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, potentially spelling trouble for the bill.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) told Bloomberg Politics Friday of the bill: “I’m not comfortable with it and I told the leadership that.”
Upton is a member of the moderate Tuesday Group, whose co-chair negotiated an amendment to the American Health Care Act with Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows (R-NC).
The amendment allows states to opt out of Obamacare’s protections against premium price discrimination based on medical history, among other things. Though that protection would only expire for insurance applicants who went without coverage for more than 63 days in the prior 12 months, it would also incentivize dual marketplaces for sicker and healthier people, respectively, so that individuals with pre-existing conditions would face higher costs even without the 63-day gap in coverage.
“The issue is potential higher costs to those with pre-existing illnesses,” Upton told Bloomberg. “They’re trying to say that they still maintain access with continuous coverage but the question is what happens on the costs side of the thing.”
“I’ll go back to the premise that Ryan has, and that is if they have the votes, they’ll move it. So, clearly they don’t have the votes,” he added.
President Donald Trump said Friday that he was “disappointed” with congressional Republicans, especially over the failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“Are you disappointed with how the Republicans have handled these big issues?” Fox News’ Martha MacCallum asked Trump Friday, in a clip released by the network.
“Yeah, I’m disappointed,” Trump interrupted.
“Health care went down the first time, and there was some suggestion it might happen today, but now it’s not going to happen,” MacCallum continued.
“I’m disappointed that it doesn’t go quicker,” Trump said. “I like them a lot, I have great relationships. Don’t forget, most of them I didn’t even know. But many of them, like the Freedom Caucus came, and I see them all the time, ‘We love our President, we’re doing this for our President.’ You look at that, you look at the moderates, the same thing.”
“I’m disappointed,” he continued. “I’ll tell you, Paul Ryan’s trying very, very hard. I think everybody’s trying very hard. It is a very tough system.”
Despite his frequent boasts as a deal-maker, Trump has hit walls on nearly all of his major agenda items in his first 100 days in office, including a pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare. Republicans decided Thursday not to attempt a second vote on a health care bill, which was originally pulled last month after failing to secure enough votes.
Trump himself said Thursday in an interview with Reuters that he thought being President “would be easier” than his life as a reality TV producer and star real estate developer.
When Republicans’ first effort at a health care bill failed, in late March, it reportedly came after Trump abruptly decided to set a deadline on negotiations within the party.
The Thursday night before the bill failed to get enough Republican support to justify a vote in the House of Representatives, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told legislators, CNN reported, that Republicans would be “stuck with Obamacare” if they failed to reach consensus by Friday.
President Donald Trump told the NRA’s annual conference Friday that “the eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end,” part of a a speech that was light on policy but heavy on conservative shout-outs and campaign rhetoric.
The conference convened at the Georgia World Congress Center, just a few miles south of the June 20 congressional run-off between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Georgia’s former Republican Secretary of State Karen Handel. Trump noted the impending election early in his remarks.
“She’s totally for the NRA and she’s totally for the Second Amendment, so get out and vote,” he said of Handel. “You know, she’s running against someone who’s going to raise your taxes to the sky, destroy your health care and he’s for open borders — lots of crime — and he’s not even able to vote in the district that he’s running in, other than that, I think he’s doing a fantastic job. Right? So get out and vote for Karen.”
The endorsements didn’t stop there: Trump praised Singer Lee Greenwood (“We’re all very proud, indeed, to be an American.”); Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, whose ouster was reported Friday (“Those people have been fantastic, they’ve been real friends.”); Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society Leonard Leo (“They really helped us out.”); Govs. Rick Scott, Phil Bryant and Nathan Deal; and Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) (“Like, dislike, like,” Trump said of his relationship with the latter).
NBC’s Ali Vitali reported a sighting of Donald Trump Jr. in the audience, despite the Trump scion’s pledge to stay away from government.
Trump also took aim at a potential political rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
“I have a feeling that in the next election you’re going to be swamped with candidates, but you’re not going to be wasting your time,” he told the group. “You’ll have plenty of those Democrats coming over and you’re going to say, ‘No, sir, no thank you, no, ma’am,’”
“It may be Pocahontas, remember that,” Trump said, using a derogatory nickname referencing Warren’s past unsubstantiated claims that she was part-Cherokee, which she said were based off of family accounts.
The speech was celebratory, even triumphant, though it frequently veered abruptly away from the truth.
“The NRA protects in our capitals and legislative houses the freedoms that our service members have won for us on those incredible battlefields,” Trump said. “And it’s been a tough fight against those who would go so far as to ban private gun ownership entirely.”
No national office-holding Democrat has proposed banning private gun ownership.
“But I am here to deliver you good news and I can tell you that Wayne and Chris have been fighting with me long and hard to make sure that we were with you today, not someone else with an empty podium,” Trump continued, recalling that he was the only candidate for president to address to conference in 2016.
Jim DeMint is on his way out as the president of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, Politico and the New York Times reported Friday.
Politico first reported, according to three unnamed people with knowledge of the situation, that the former South Carolina senator’s ouster would follow a difference of opinion on a variety of issues with a portion of the foundation’s board.
The far-right foundation, funded in part by billionaire Republican kingmakers Charles and David Koch and their network, became more politically active during DeMint’s tenure. He took up the office in 2013, and has used its political advocacy arm, Heritage Action, to target Republicans in Washington, D.C. deemed insufficiently conservative.
The foundation did not immediately respond to TPM’s questions about DeMint’s status.
One unnamed operative who has worked with Heritage told Politico, “If Heritage pushes Jim DeMint out it was because a few board members, who are close to the Republican establishment, never wanted him to be president and have been working to push him out ever since.”
The publication noted that DeMint had worked to ingratiate the foundation with the Trump administration, even allowing foundation employees to work on Trump’s transition team.
The Times, which confirmed the impending ouster with two unnamed people with knowledge of Heritage’s internal dynamics, reported that part of the turmoil came as a result of what it described as Heritage’s position on the “sideline” of the health care debate.
In March, Heritage Action opposed Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, saying it did not go far enough to get rid of the underlying infrastructure of the current law.
On April 26,the group announced it was no longer opposed to the effort if it included an amendment proposed by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Tom MacArthur (R-NJ). That amendment, among other things, would allow states to opt out of some federal Obamacare requirements, like its ban on price discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.
The Homeland Security secretary aggressively tamped down on expectations for President Donald Trump’s endlessly hyped border wall Thursday, saying that concrete barrier would only be constructed along a fraction of the U.S. border with Mexico.
“I foresee there being an increase in physical barrier, backed up by the men and women of CBP, Customs and Border Protection, and technology,” Secretary John Kelly told Bloomberg’s David Gura Thursday. “There are places along the border, and I would offer to you, down in the southern Rio Grande valley, where a wall, a concrete wall, makes all the sense in the world.”
“There are other places where a see-through wall, say a large bollard, if you will, fence, makes a lot of sense,” he said. “There’s places, probably, we won’t build a wall, because it’s across river beds, and we can’t dam up the rivers. And there’s other places that are just so rough — you know, the Big Bend area of Texas, canyons, high ground, low ground. Very little moves through there, anyways. So we are all still committed to a barrier, wall in some in places, in some places see-through wall, but once again, technology, and backed up by CBP.”
In February, Fox News’ Catherine Herridge reported that Kelly had told her the wall “will take a multi-layered approach. There will be the physical wall and then parts of the wall that you can see through because it will rely on sensors and other technology.”
“Any discussion about the protection of our southwest border involves discussion, clearly, of physical barriers, but also of technological sensors, things like that. It’s a layered approach,” Kelly told her at the time.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said in March that at some points along the border, “border control’s actually telling us that they like the one you can see through, because it reduces the number of violent attacks on our folks. So it’s a complicated program.”
Trump, meanwhile, has not backed down from his campaign pledge of a “beautiful” concrete wall, not a fence, along the entire border. After early murmurs that a stopgap government funding bill would not including funding for a wall, Trump tweeted his support for the campaign pledge:
Don't let the fake media tell you that I have changed my position on the WALL. It will get built and help stop drugs, human trafficking etc.
Asked if he thought the barrier could be completed for Trump’s projected sum, under $10 billion (though the President has not been consistent on this number), Kelly didn’t commit one way or the other.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I wouldn’t disagree with that number. But he’s a businessman. He, like me, we’ve not gotten specific, because we don’t know yet, because we haven’t done the specifics on wall design, what it will take to acquire land, that kind of thing. But these estimates of $30, 40 billion, I mean, I don’t know what it will cost, yet, and the people that are putting that out are just dreaming.”
After a hectic day in which he rattled an entire continent with his threat to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Donald Trump made the seemingly contradictory claim: “I’m a nationalist and a globalist.”
The terms are often situated opposite each other: nationalists favor protectionist measures like tariffs and border walls, both of which Trump has advocated. Globalists support the free movement of people and capital.
Trump’s threat to terminate NAFTA — he was eventually convinced not to pursue the matter, in favor of simply renegotiating the deal — was another example of nationalist muscle-flexing. In his closing campaign ad before the 2016 election, widely criticized as anti-Semitic, Trump decried “global interests,” and “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”
But Trump, especially since taking office, has projected U.S. economic and military power globally himself. His administration is teeming with billionaire bankers. After endlessly pledging to label China a currency manipulator, he said he would rather have their cooperation in dealing with North Korea. He recently voiced support for the export-import bank, which finances businesses to sell their products overseas. He ordered a missile strike against a Syrian airfield.
There is a reported split in Trump’s administration between nationalists (Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller) and globalists (Jared Kushner, Reince Priebus).
Asked about that split in an interview with the Wall Street Journal Thursday, Trump dismissed the idea.
“Hey, I’m a nationalist and a globalist,” he said. “I’m both. And I’m the only one who makes the decision, believe me.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Friday that nobody could have been expected to catch ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s failures to disclose payments from foreign governments.
That’s a departure from White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who noted Thursday that Flynn’s security clearance was last issued during the Obama administration.
“We need to do a good job of vetting that, but that’s a complex issue, and I’m not sure anyone could be expected to find that,” Sessions told “Good Morning America.”
He told “Today” the same on Friday: “They do the best they can,” referring to the Trump transition team who vetted Flynn. “It’s impossible to know everything. I don’t know what they did in that case.”
Sessions noted to both programs that he didn’t expect to be involved in any potential investigation of Flynn, and he would not confirm that one existed. Flynn was forced to resign in February after revelations he had misled the Vice President about his discussions of sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
The chair and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee said Tuesday that Flynn could have broken the law by not disclosing payments from the Russian state-owned network RT, whose anniversary gala Flynn addressed in late 2015.
Flynn also retroactively filed paperwork after his ouster declaring that he had worked as a foreign agent on behalf of the Turkish government during the presidential campaign.
During his press briefing Thursday, Spicer was asked if “General Flynn came in with just the Obama administration vetting?” without any additional vetting from the Trump transition team.
“Why would you re-run a background check on someone who is the head of the Department of the Defense Intelligence Agency that had and did maintain a high-level security clearance?” Spicer replied.
“Are you comfortable with the level of vetting that was done?” Robach asked Sessions Friday.
“I’m comfortable that they’re working hard to do vetting, but it’s obvious that, often times, you don’t catch everything that might be a problem,” he replied. “I don’t know the facts of this case, and maybe there’s an explanation for it.”
At some point between Feb. 25 and April 26, the Department of the Interior scrubbed nearly any mention of climate change from its webpage on the topic.
What was once a vigorous endorsement of the scientific consensus that the Earth is warming as a result of human activity — “Climate change affects every corner of the American continent. It is making droughts drier and longer, floods more dangerous and hurricanes more severe,” the webpage used to read — has now been whittled down to a single, vanilla paragraph:
“The impacts of climate change have led the Department to focus on how we manage our nation’s public lands and resources. The Department of the Interior contributes sound scientific research to address this and other environmental challenges.”
The department has yet to respond to TPM’s request for comment on the change, first reported by Vice’s Motherboard.
The publication noted similar incidents of sanitization since Trump’s inauguration at the EPA, whitehouse.gov and a regulatory page belonging to the Bureau of Land Management.
Politico reported on March 29 that a supervisor at the Energy Department’s Office for International Climate and Clean Energy had instructed staff not to use the phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction” or “Paris Agreement” in written communications, though a department spokesperson denied there had been any official change.