Fox News Halftime Report

Will Trump stick with TrumpCare?

President welcomes House lawmakers to the White House


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On the roster: Will Trump stick with TrumpCare? - Whodunnit? CIA chasing culprit in damaging breach - I’ll Tell You What: Health fibs and panda ribs - Nerd Bracket: The Flourishing Four - He only reads it for the ordinances

President Trump
 is reportedly heading to Louisville this weekend and it’s not to get a head start on handicapping the Derby.

The Bluegrass State is home to one of the many critics of Trump’s newly proposed overhaul of America’s health care system, Sen. Rand Paul, who was one of Trump’s most detested rivals during the 2016 Republican primaries.

Paul could be feeling the squeeze. Trump won 63 percent of the vote in Paul’s commonwealth, a full 6 points better than Paul did in his re-election bid last year. Trump can also apply some friendlier pressure to Paul’s Kentucky colleague, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while he’s at it.

And if the President means to see his first major policy initiative succeed, his weekends are going to look a lot like this and less like Mar-A-Lago golf outings for some time to come.

Trump’s legislation is unpopular, but then again any replacement for ObamaCare was going to be unpopular.

Now, that’s not to say that they couldn’t have come up with something better than this, which is both simultaneously unambitious and flinty. But let’s face facts: this was never going to be easy.

The components of this legislation reveal the audience of one for whom the bill was written, the president of the United States. 

Speaker Paul Ryan and the House leadership team, working in conjunction with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, have months to work on cutting side deals with specific caucuses and interest groups but without Trump they cannot succeed.

But Trump cannot succeed without this bill.

It only took a day for the moniker “TrumpCare” to adhere to this plan. That’s good news for Ryan & Co. since they will need the president’s unflagging support and undivided attention to jam and cram the legislation through.

Getting Trump and the White House on the record with full-throated support was the first and, arguably, main objective in preventing legislative disaster. The legislation already looks to be on life support, but a more tepid response by Trump would have put the plan straight in the morgue. 

Instead, now the president owns it and its success or failure will be determined in the largest part by his gifts as a salesman and an enforcer.

Paul makes an interesting case study, much like his fellow critics Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. They are conservative Republicans who have reasons to oppose the hyper-regulatory approach of the proposed law but also represent states that would suffer considerably under its slated elimination of Medicaid coverage.

They are doubly motivated to kill the bill, and Trump provides the only counterweight.

If the law is to pass, there will be considerable deal making at the end. But, to get to that point Trump will have to deploy political brute force. Trump extols the rebellious virtues of Andrew Jackson, but it is the backroom badgering of Lyndon Johnson that the 45th president will need to emulate right now. 

Other than his pride, what Trump has on the line now is no less than the entirety of his ambitious agenda. 

If this measure fails, which it surely could, Trump can kiss goodbye his plans for overhauling the tax code and a trillion-dollar infrastructure spending package. Ryan and the rest of the Republican leadership have to now hope that Trump sees it the same way. 

What remains to be seen is if Trump, famously mercurial, will stick with the already-unpopular plan as the seas get heavier. 

Remember, the negotiations and sweeteners come later. If Trump can’t enforce party discipline in the opening phase of this bill, there will be no deals to be made at the end because there will be no bill.

WaPo: “House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) sought on Wednesday to stem the tide of resistance to a Republican proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, calling his plan a ‘conservative wish list’ that will deliver on many years of GOP campaign promises to reform the health care system. ‘I have no doubt we’ll pass this because we’re going to keep our promises,’ Ryan said at a news conference following 24 hours of conservative backlash against the bill. ‘This is a monumental, exciting conservative reform,’ Ryan said. ‘I’ve been working on this for 20 years. This is exciting. This is what we’ve been dreaming about doing.’ Lawmakers gathered in two House committees Wednesday to begin working on the legislation, which has also received pushback from moderates in the Senate and key health -care industry stakeholders since it was released on Monday.”

Conservative caucus says Ryan doesn’t have the votes - The Hill: “House Freedom Caucus members said Tuesday the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal and replace plan does not have the votes necessary to pass the lower chamber. The 40-member conservative caucus didn’t take a formal position on the GOP’s plan at their meeting Tuesday night, but several members indicated afterward that they would not support it. … The House needs 218 votes to pass the bill, meaning Republicans can only lose 20 members.” 

Cotton says TrumpCare plan moving too fast: ‘That’s what we did with ObamaCare’ - WashEx: “Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton believes Republicans are moving too quickly on healthcare reform and the process is reminding him a lot of what was done in order to pass the Affordable Care Act that Republicans opposed. …’We’re moving a bit too quickly on healthcare reform,’ [said on MSNBC Wednesday]. ‘This is a big issue. This is not like the latest spending bill … we’re going to live with healthcare reform forever.’ He added, ‘I don’t think we need to introduce legislation on Monday and have one chance to amend it on Wednesday. That’s what we did with Obamacare.’”

Physician, medical organizations slam plan - Forbes: “Providers of medical care, including the American Medical Association, that have benefited from millions of paying customers under the Affordable Care Act have come out strong against the GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives’ American Health Care Act, also known as Trumpcare… with the AMA calling it ‘critically flawed,’ harming ‘vulnerable populations.’ The AMA joined a chorus of groups, including the American Hospital Association and the American Academy of Family of Physicians, bemoaning the House bill’s lack of coverage, financial details and transparency.

AARP moves to kill bill - The Hill: “AARP is going on the warpath against the Republican proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare. The lobbying group for seniors accused House Republican leaders of crafting legislation that increases insurance premiums for consumers, while giving a ‘sweetheart deal’ to ‘big drug companies and special interests.’ ‘Although no one believes the current health care system is perfect, this harmful legislation would make health care less secure and less affordable,’ said Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president, said in a statement.”

Going it alone: Corporate bigs chart own course on health care - WSJ: “Plans include prescription-drug contracts with CVS and UnitedHealth, using IBM’s Watson to analyze data. A U.S. alliance formed last year by more than three dozen companies, including American Express Co., Johnson & Johnson and Macy’s Inc., is announcing its first plans aimed at lowering the companies’ health-care spending.”

[Ross Douthat explains why Republicans are so bad at health care legislation.]

“When the dimensions of a State attain to a certain magnitude, it requires the same energy of government and the same forms of administration which are requisite in one of much greater extent.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 13

Nat Geo: “Spring is coming, and as some of us prepare to trade snowsuits for swimsuits, we may find a few extra pounds under our winter coats. Animals are smart. They never take their coats off. But what does animal skin look like under fur or hair—especially strikingly patterned animals such as big cats and zebras? … The short answer is it depends on the animal. All mammalian hair color is dictated by melanin-producing cells, called melanocytes, that live within hair follicles. Melanocytes that live between follicles control skin color, says Greg Barsh, a geneticist at Hudson Alpha Biotechnology Institute in Huntsville, Alabama. The two systems are controlled by different genes, hormones, and other factors, says Barsh, who studies the genetics of animal color patterns.”

Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with
your tips, comments or questions.

Reuters: “U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Wednesday that they have been aware since the end of last year of a security breach at the CIA that led to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks publishing agency documents on its hacking tools. The officials, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters that they believed that the documents published by WikiLeaks on Tuesday were authentic. Investigators were focusing on CIA contractors as the likely source of passing materials to WikiLeaks, the officials said. The group published what it said were nearly 8,000 of pages of internal CIA discussions about hacking techniques used between 2013 and 2016.”

Cyber contractor warns of more to come: ‘heavy s--- coming down’ - Fox News: “A day after WikiLeaks released what it alleged to be the ‘entire hacking capacity of the CIA,’ the focus Wednesday began shifting to just who gave the stunning surveillance information to [WikiLeaks]. ‘There is heavy s--- coming down,’ said a veteran cyber contractor for the intelligence community who previously worked in the breached unit, the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence.”

[Apple’s response to the Wiki dump? Keep your security software updated.]

AP: “The leaders of a congressional inquiry into Russia’s efforts to sway the U.S. election called on the Justice Department Wednesday to produce any evidence that supports President Donald Trump’s explosive wiretapping allegation. Declaring that Congress ‘must get to the bottom’ of Trump’s claim, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente and FBI Director James Comey to produce the paper trail created when the Justice Department’s criminal division secures warrants for wiretaps.”

 Perino and Chris Stirewalt look back on how we got ObamaCare and where Republicans go next. And how about those claims of wiretapping? Our duo break it all down. Plus, Dana talks about her upcoming trip with Mercy Ships while Stirewalt further pushes the acceptable boundaries of acceptable food items. WATCH HERE.

“You’re stuck with me for another six and a half years.” – FBI Director James Comey at a Boston College law enforcement conference affirming his intention to serve out a full term, despite being dogged by political controversy for months.

Trump taps former Bush lawyer Noel Francisco as solicitor general as part of new high-powered legal team - WashEx

Perdue, Cotton say Trump is onboard with their plan to clamp down on legal immigration - Politico

Bipartisan Senators sign letter asking Trump to address bomb threats against Jewish groups  - Time

Q Poll: 81 percent of Republicans agree with Trump that the press is ‘the enemy of the American people’ - Quinnipiac University

It’s down to four. And what a quartet it is.

Thanks to the hundreds of voters who have helped us get to the semifinals of our bracket challenge for great American political oratory. But now we’re heading down to two and, our grand champion.

Submit your winning choices for each of the two brackets listed below toHALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM before Friday at noon ET to have your voice  heard. The winner of the championship will be determined by which of the two finalists got the most votes in this round.

a) Abraham Lincoln: Gettysburg address (1863)
b) George Washington: Farewell address (1796)

a) Ronald Reagan: “The Boys of Pointe du Hoc” (1984)
b) Patrick Henry: “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” (1775)

When you send in your submission to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM, you can just list the corresponding number before the entry.

[Ed. note: A sample entry would look like this: 1b, 2a]

“The Gettysburg Address is simply far and away the predominant speech ever given by any American. What boggles the mind is that Mr. Lincoln was basically a self-educated man who studied word and sentence structure via the classics in order to hone those skills he felt he would need in a courtroom. That he mastered those skills ‘we hold to be self-evident.’ (Sorry, couldn’t help myself there).” – Brett Carls, Prescott Valley, Ariz.

[Ed. note: Lincoln may have been self-educated in large part, but his source material was pretty great. The collected plays of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible would be a good enough grounding for even a prairie boy with dreams of great things. One of the hallmarks of Lincoln in his youth was his insatiable appetite for books and reading. He famously had to work for a neighbor to pay off the debt of a book that had become damaged by water and was also said to keep a slim volume in his back pocket while plowing so he could pause at the end of a row to turn a few pages. Needless to say, this was not common practice in the frontier woods of Indiana.]

“I think people favor the impact of things they’ve personally experienced. I especially wish citizens were more familiar with Lincoln’s second inaugural address, which is a masterpiece of healing and of accepting corporate responsibility for institutional sins. If only he were here for the immigration debate!” – Kathy Nesper, Long Beach, Calif.

[Ed. note: You could hardly be more right, Ms. Nesper. Appreciation and proximity often go together. But even at a distance so great as ours to the spring of 1865 the power and significance of Lincoln’s words to a nation at the end of its most horrible struggle sound a powerful note in any human heart.]

“For us oldsters, Patrick Henry’s speech represents the real American spirit of freedom. Of course, my ancestors (Virginia first generation 1720’s) were more than likely non-players on either side – Quakers I think.” – Mike Wilmore, Driftwood Texas

[Ed. note: Henry’s challenge to his fellow Virginia burgesses is a stark one, especially for Americans today who daily wrestle with the balance between liberty and comfort. Henry’s argument was that no amount of concessions from the crown would be worth sacrificing the inherent freedom granted by God to all human kind. Very little discussion in America today centers on the discussion of freedom for its own sake. I wonder about its chances in the final pairings since the language is not just archaic, but unfamiliar to the ears of many today.]

“Your second bracket of the second round, Ronald Reagan’s ‘The Boys of Pointe du Hoc’ (1984) v. Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (1865) appears to be the exact same pairing from the first round. Admittedly, I know very little about sports, so if there’s something I’m missing please forgive this email!  I love the Halftime Report--thank you so much for your witty and informative writing. A fellow Mountaineer.” –Susan Kescenovitz, Sheboygan, Wisc.

[Ed. note: You are right and our listing was in error. But it is too late now to start again. We transposed Reagan’s entries and ended up with a different, more beautiful, but less historically significant entry for the 40th president. Even so, the Gipper is represented, and with a speech that was good enough to get him in to the final four. We’re sorry for the error, but glad that it didn’t affect the outcome.]

“Great idea to do a ‘Worst Speeches Ever’ and Jimmy Carter’s ‘Malaise’ speech should definitely make the ‘Sour Sixteen.’ I also nominate Bill Clinton’s 1988 keynote speech to the 1988 Democratic National Convention when he was still Governor of Arkansas.  It went on forever and ever and ever. It was supposed to last 15 minutes and instead lasted 33 minutes. I grew a full beard as I listened.  The crowd actually cheered when he said ‘In conclusion . . .’” – Duane Brown, Decherd, Tenn.

[Ed. note: If only politicians could learn that excellence and duration are usually inversely correlated when it comes to political oratory!]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

Panama City News Herald: “The city of [Springfield, Fla.’s] former website has been taken over by some questionable content. Last week the city began receiving complaints from citizens who were visiting the city’s old website. ‘Our main website is, and if the citizens go to (the old website), it now goes to a porno site,’ Mayor Ralph Hammond said. Hammond said the city apparently let the domain name expire, and the site now contains Japanese pornography. … The city’s IT department now is seeking to buy back the domain and any domains names similar to the city’s current website. Hammond said the city will keep its .gov website and will have a year to buy back the old domain. ‘It’s quite embarrassing,’ Hammond said. ‘I had one gentleman call and say, ‘I’m not voting for you anymore because you got porn on the city website.’”

“But the real story is I think this is worse than [EdwardSnowden. It’s one thing to disclose names and places and even operations, but once you are describing the sources and methods, that’s the key to what we do.” - Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.