Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

Articles by Nichole

Despite the announced delay on Republicans’ health care bill vote to give GOP senators more time to get on the same page, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Congress is “still on schedule” with getting a health care plan passed.

“As we said, tax reform is later in the year, in the fall, so we still have the summer here to work on health care,” he told reporters Thursday. “We are perfectly on time with our schedule.”

However, he said he couldn’t answer a question on how long it would take to get something passed because “I don’t know when the Senate is going to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” but that he would make sure the House moved “fairly quickly” after that.

“We still think we’re on track. Look, I’m familiar with this, this is exactly what we did here in the House. We brought it to the floor and we pulled it back, then we brought it and passed it,” he said. “It’s a bit of deja vu. I told Sen. McConnell, I know how he feels, but I do think we will persevere through this because we have promise to keep.”

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After the President sent out a vicious tweet attacking MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski and claiming she had a “face lift,” deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended President Donald Trump, saying he “fights fire with fire.”

Look, I don’t think that the president’s ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn’t push back. There have been an outrageous number of personal attacks, not just to him but to frankly everyone around him. People on that show have personally attacked me many times, this is a president who fights fire with fire,” Sanders said on Fox News. “And certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media or liberal elites within the media or Hollywood or anywhere else.”

When asked whether this type of personal attack was necessary, Sanders said what’s “necessary is to push back against unnecessary attacks on the President both personally” and claimed there have been “outrageous attacks” “day in and day out” on “Morning Joe” against her and Trump.

“I have seen far worse things come out of that show. Again, directed not just at the President, but everyone around him, personal attacks, mean, hateful attacks. Again this President is not going to sit back and not push back and fight fire with fire and that’s exactly what he did today,” she said.

Trump apparently tweeted about the show’s co-hosts Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough after hearing they criticize him on the show.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly verbally exploded at the head of the President’s personnel office, Johnny DeStefano, last week for blocking Tillerson’s nominees to head State Department posts and questioning his judgement, according to a report from Politico.

Tillerson allegedly shouted at DeStefano in front of White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, top aide Jared Kushner and Tillerson’s chief of staff Margaret Peterlin, and told him he didn’t want DeStefano to have “any role in staffing” the State Department, according to a Politico sources who were familiar with the meeting.

Tillerson was so infuriated that Kushner told Peterlin his behavior was unprofessional and needed to be addressed, Politico’s sources said.

The outburst comes after months of Tillerson reportedly expressing frustration with his new role. While President Donald Trump promised him autonomy in his department, Tillerson has complained about the White House trying to control his hiring process, Trump’s tweets and the working condition in the West Wing, according to Politico’s report. As the former CEO of ExxonMobil, the secretary of state has reportedly expressed frustration over taking orders from young political aides.

“Rex is a 65-year-old guy who worked his way up from the bottom at Exxon, and he chafes at the idea of taking orders from a 38-year-old political operative,” one of Politico’s sources said.

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Only 20 to 25 percent of lawmakers in the Senate like the Republican’s health care bill, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said Thursday morning during an appearance on “Morning Joe.”

“Well, let’s see. Hm. All the Democrats hate it, and half the Republicans hate it. That means 20 to 25 percent of the people like it,” he said, when asked if the plan was fixable. “It’s got to get better.”

He thinks the reason there’s been such a divide between Republicans on the health care bill is because there was a lack of communication in his party.

“For years and years, Republicans said, ‘We’re for repealing it, ripping it out root and branch.’ Then when we got into the discussion, we discovered that about a third of our caucus wants to keep large portions of Obamacare,” he said. “So the bill we currently have before us keeps the Obamacare subsidies, keeps 10 out of 12 of the Obamacare regulations and actually preserves Medicaid expansion forever. The left hates it because they don’t believe any of that.

Some on the right hate it too, he said, because “we see this as too much big government in an era” where the national deficit is so high.

“So there’s concerns on the right and left side. When the right and the left hate something, you really have difficulty I think getting any popular support,” he said.

He offered a solution that he thinks might get both his Republican and Democratic colleagues onboard with the plan, suggesting the Senate should write two different plans to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“I think if we split it in two pieces, we pass one that’s more, looks like repeal that conservatives like. The other you load up with Christmas ornaments, gifts, money, pile money on it that the Democrats will vote for and some of the Republicans will vote for,” he said. “Then I think both will end up passing. It may not be completely good for the country. You at least get the repeal that way.”

When pressed on the issue of Medicaid cuts, Paul said the entitlement isn’t going away under the current plan.

“Medicaid expansion never goes away, states are forced to pay for it. CBO may say ‘States won’t pay for it,’ so maybe less people will have Medicaid. I think under the law, I don’t believe it denies anybody on Medicaid, Medicaid,” he said. “That’s why I think the bill is exceedingly generous. … There’s never less money in Medicaid, it’s less of an increase each year.”

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President Donald Trump doesn’t appear to be completely confident Republicans will get enough GOP Senators on board to pass the Senate health care bill, according to comments he made during an energy roundtable discussion with governors on Wednesday.

The President said Obamacare is “essentially dead” and called it a “headache for everybody” and a “nightmare for many,” before praising Republicans’ latest Affordable Care Act repeal plan that he wasn’t fully confident would pass.

“So we have a plan that if we get it approved, it’s very tough. Every state is different, every senator is different. But I have to tell you, the Republican senators had a really impressive meeting yesterday at the White House. We had close to 50 of them, we have 52, but we need almost all of them. That’s never easy,” he said. “I think we’re going to get at least very close, and I think we’re going to get it over the line.”

He said the meeting of GOP senators at the White House Tuesday — after Republican leaders announced they were going to delay the vote on the new health care bill — had a “really great feeling” and said he thinks the bill has “a chance to be a great health care at a reasonable cost.”

“We’ll see what happens. We’re working very hard, we have given ourselves a little bit more time to make it perfect,” he said. “We’re sending a lot of it back to the states, where it belongs, and this will be something really special if we can get it done. Always tough. It’s probably the toughest subject from the standpoint of approval because every state is different, every state has different needs.”

When asked about the plan to make significant cuts to Medicaid expansion, the President told reporters, “It’s gonna be great. It will be great for everybody.”

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Despite calls from Republican senators like Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) that tinkering won’t be enough to get them to support the GOP Obamacare repeal bill, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said there are just a few “little” issues to address to get the votes Republicans need.

“We’re going to take the bill we have and try to, there are always little things, dials you can twist to try to attract support,” he said Wednesday, appearing on “Fox and Friends.”

He said there are “a couple of issues” conservatives want to address and “a couple of issues” moderates want to address, likely referring to the fact that several GOP Senators in Medicaid-expansion states have said they can’t support the plan because of its rollback of the expansion.

“It is a function of just trying to figure out that sweet spot where we can get the 50 votes you need to pass it and of course the assistance of Mike Pence, the vice president, and the chair if necessary,” he said. “We will get there.”

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Since the Better Care Reconciliation Act was released last week, just 17 percent of Americans are enthused about the Senate Republican’s Obamacare repeal bill, according to a poll conducted by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist.

From June 21 to June 25, the poll surveyed 1,205 U.S. adults, and 55 percent of those indicated they disapprove of the GOP plan, which would leave 22 million people uninsured, according to an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. About a quarter of those surveyed said they didn’t know enough about the proposal to form an opinion about it.

Of those surveyed who identify as Republicans, just 35 percent said they liked the plan, and 21 percent said they oppose it. Independents aren’t thrilled about the proposal either, with 68 percent against it.

Slightly less than half of Americans — 46 percent — said they wanted to see changes made to the Affordable Care Act that would expand the law. Just 7 percent of those surveyed said they wanted Obamacare to do less, which is the aim of Republican lawmakers.

A quarter of Americans want to see Obamacare completely repealed, and if Congress doesn’t go through with a repeal, 37 percent of Americans said they would blame Republicans and 23 percent would blame Democrats. Just 15 percent would blame President Donald Trump. About half of Republicans said they would blame Democrats if their party’s bill collapses, 20 percent would blame GOP legislatures and only 6 percent said the responsibility falls on the President.

Those surveyed were contacted by live interviewers over the phone by Marist poll. The survey has a ± 2.8 percent margin of error.

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After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced a delay on the vote for the health care bill Republicans introduced last week, a few GOP senators, who were reluctant to come out against the bill before the announcement, said they couldn’t support the plan Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) took to Twitter to say he was “pleased” with the delay to vote on the bill, noting that the current plan “missed the mark” for his constituents and did not have his support.

Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Shelley Capito (R-WV), who were on the radar as noncommittal or potential opponents of the bill, issued a joint statement Tuesday confirming their opposition, saying they’d like to repeal Obamacare, but not with this current plan and highlighted issues that need to be addressed in their home states.

“The Senate draft before us includes some promising changes to reduce premiums in the individual insurance market, but I continue to have real concerns about the Medicaid policies in this bill, especially those that impact drug treatment at a time when Ohio is facing an opioid epidemic,” Portman said. “For months, I have engaged with my colleagues on solutions that I believe are necessary to ensure that we improve our health care system and better combat this opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, the Senate draft falls short and therefore I cannot support it in its current form.”

He added that he’s committed to working with his colleagues to come up with a plan that fixes health care and protects “Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Capito said she’s “consistently looked for opportunities to improve” Obamacare and says she still believes Congress needs to “scrap what is not working and create a better health care reality” for her constituents.

“I recognize that many West Virginians rely on health coverage and access to substance abuse treatment because of my state’s decision to expand coverage through Medicaid. I have studied the draft legislation and CBO analysis to understand its impact on West Virginians,” she said. “As drafted, this bill will not ensure access to affordable health care in West Virginia, does not do enough to combat the opioid epidemic that is devastating my state, cuts traditional Medicaid too deeply and harms rural health care providers.”

She said her concerns will need to be addressed before she can support the bill moving forward.

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Secretary of Energy Rick Perry doesn’t believe the science is settled on climate change, but he’s open to the conversation, he told reporters gathered in the White House press briefing room Tuesday.

“The climate is changing, man is having an impact on it. I’ve said that time after time,” he said. “The idea that we can’t have an intellectual conversation about just what are the actual impacts, I mean as late was this last week, an undersecretary for the Obama administration, Steve Koonin, he believes we need to have a sit down and have a conversation.”

Perry said if top scientists are saying the data isn’t settled on climate change, then maybe it’s time to sit down and talk it over.

“The people who say ‘The science is settled, it’s done, if you don’t believe that you’re a skeptic.’ … I don’t buy that. I mean this is America, let’s have a conversation,” he said. “Let’s come out of the shadows of hiding behind your political statements and let’s talk about it. What’s wrong with that? And I’m full well, I can be convinced, but why not let’s talk about it.”

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