Fox News Halftime Report

GOP goes back to the beginning on ObamaCare

Chris Stirewalt

 

On the roster: GOP goes back to the beginning on ObamaCare - Senators want answers from lynch on Hillary probe - Obama to return to the campaign trail for Virginia race - Democrats: Pelosi is ‘impediment’ to taking back the House - Florida gonna FloridaOn the roster: GOP goes back to the beginning on ObamaCare - Senators want answers from lynch on Hillary probe - Obama to return to the campaign trail for Virginia race - Democrats: Pelosi is ‘impediment’ to taking back the House - Florida gonna Florida

GOP GOES BACK TO THE BEGINNING ON OBAMACARE
It’s taken Republicans a long time to get back to where they started on ObamaCare, but that’s pretty much what the proposed legislation in the Senate would do. 

If you think back to springtime, when House Speaker Paul Ryan & Co. rolled out their proposal, it was to essentially keep Obamacare afloat in the short term while constructing a replacement to be implemented a few years from now. 

Conservatives rejected this plan, saying that the big changes promised for the out years might never materialize while the propping up of the existing law in the meantime would only give it the further imprimatur of Republican support. 

It was a politically attractive plan, for the same reasons that Democrats chose to stagger the implementation of the law in the first place. “Eat dessert first,” is not just a good phrase for whimsical throw pillows, it also often good politics. 

But with the support of President Trump, conservatives got Ryan to back down from his splay-footed posture and into something more like immediate repeal. But in order to make that work, the replacement had to be, essentially, a scaled-back version of ObamaCare. 

In Ryan’s original plan, as in the program put forward by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his team, the two-step process was intended to buy time for more ambitious changes later. 

Yes, many of those might never materialize as deadlines and new elections approached.  But such gauzy notions – the Washington version of magical thinking – have been part of selling every major domestic agenda proposal since Thomas Jefferson built the Cumberland Pike. 

It has occurred to Republicans that in order to benefit from the enhanced bargaining power created by the rapidly unwinding individual insurance market under ObamaCare, that they actually have to have a plan to repair it. And that plan has to be in place before the fall.

The Senate plan is relatively generous when it comes to propping up these ailing state markets, with plenty of bailout money for insurers and lots of subsidies to prop up markets. The plan would also keep the welfare component of the law pretty much intact by maintaining support for the expansion of Medicaid that brought coverage to an estimated ten million Americans under Obamacare. 

Neither does the Senate plan mount any attack on the core principal of former PresidentBarack Obama’s signature legislation: the requirement that insurance companies must provide coverage to all who apply and do so under tight restrictions on cost and available benefits.

What we don’t know yet is whether the grinding cycle that afflicted the House version of the plan will now beleaguer its cousin in the Senate. A quartet of conservatives have staked out an early negotiating position, but it’s not yet entirely clear whether they want the legislation to be dramatically different, or if they will accept the two step process but only want stingier benefits. 

The Senate should be a place more conducive to the Ryan-McConnell approach, given the more moderate, pragmatic membership of the upper chamber. But with a majority so narrow that McConnell can only afford three defections and still pass the bill, it will be tough.

The bet in the Senate is that the GOP leadership can move with the kind of speed that eluded their House counterparts. McConnell’s argument to pass something before Independence Day recess and then hand it over to negotiators to hammer out a deal with the House will sound pretty good to senators. They sure don’t want to still be arguing over a politically painful subject when they get back.

Remember, comprehensive legislation on health insurance is important to many Americans, but senators know that with two fiscal cliffs fast approaching – a debt ceiling breach and the expiring of current spending authorization before the end of September – there are other, even more pressing concerns just ahead.

If this gambit fails, though, Republicans will have to count on Democrats to prop up Obamacare in order to avoid mass coverage losses and huge premium increases ahead of next year. 

That would mean browbeating some from red states, but also sweetening subsidies and bailouts in order to get the votes they need. If Republicans can’t handle healthcare as part of their overall budget blowout, they will need eight Democrats to get a standalone Obamacare rescue package through. 

Whether such a pragmatic punt can find purchase among 50 Republicans will say a great deal about how rough things will be this fall.

THE RULEBOOK: ALL FOR ONE
“Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 10

TIME OUT: ANATOMY OF A FLIP FLOP 
The Economist: “Moralisers who later changed their mind were indeed seen as more hypocritical and, therefore, less worthy of support. There was no evidence for the idea that changing one’s position on an ethical matter would be seen as morally courageous. The data did, however, suggest two tactics that might soften the reputational impact of changing one’s mind on a moral issue. The first was to attribute the change to a transformational personal experience. (‘I spent some time with a death-row inmate and saw what a truly unjust system we have.’) … The other was simply to deny that a true change of opinion had taken place, and instead explain the situation away by citing factors beyond one’s control. (‘My colleagues in the legislature have refused to put this issue on our agenda.’) Moralising leaders who used such tactics … were rated as being slightly more courageous than those who did not.”

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

SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating:  -18.2 points
Change from one week ago: -.8 points

SENATORS WANT ANSWERS FROM LYNCH ON HILLARY PROBE
WashEx: “Senate Judiciary Committee leaders have sent letters to former Attorney GeneralLoretta Lynch and others asking for information about allegations of political interference in the FBI's investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. The letters from Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Ranking MemberDianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Ranking Member Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., come as the panel carries on its broad investigation into last month's abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey. … ‘The reports come amidst numerous allegations of political inference in controversial and high-profile investigations spanning the current and previous administrations. The Senate Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the FBI and Justice Department and is obliged to oversee any potential misconduct or inappropriate political influence at these agencies,’ the senators said Friday.”

Trump attacks Mueller - Fox News: “President Trump on Friday called the investigation into allegations of Russia collusion and claims he obstructed justice ‘ridiculous’ while saying special counsel Robert Mueller’s friendship with fired FBI Director James Comey ‘is very bothersome,’ during a wide-ranging interview on ‘Fox & Friends’ that also touched on his stalled legislative agenda and the health care debate. ‘Robert Mueller is an honorable man and hopefully he’ll come up with an honorable conclusion,’ Trump said, though he noted that Mueller and Comey were ‘very, very good friends’ and also criticized the makeup of Mueller’s growing team of attorneys involved in the investigation. ‘I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters, some of them worked for Hillary Clinton,’ Trump said. “I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous if you want to know the truth.’

Coats said Trump seemed obsessed with Russia - The Hill: “Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told House investigators Thursday that President Trump repeatedly asked him to publicly announce there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, NBC News reported. Coats’ comments to investigators line up with previous reporting that Trump asked multiple officials to confirm the status of the investigation publicly.”

Gowdy outraged over leaks - Free Beacon: “Rep. Trey Gowdy, R.-S.C., appeared incensed on Thursday that someone leaked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats' private congressional testimony and made it clear that he wants to know who is responsible. Gowdy explained to CNN's Erin Burnett how he and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), told Coats that their conversation would not be selectively leaked. Since then, it has been. ‘What I found out, Erin, is that about eight hours ago Adam Schiff and I looked Dan Coats in the eyes and we assured him that there would be no selective leaking of his testimony to us and I'll be damned if eight hours later there aren't three different leaks with what he told us,’ Gowdy said.”

Podesta to be interviewed by House Intel Committee - WashEx: “The House Intelligence Committee next week plans to interview John Podesta as part of its investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, according to a new report. CNN reported Thursday night that the meeting with Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman last year, will occur in private. Intelligence agencies say Podesta's email account was hacked by the Russians.”

F.B.I. probes Manafort real estate deals - NYT: “Federal investigators are examining financial transactions involving Paul Manafort and his son-in-law, who embarked on a series of real estate deals in recent years fueled by millions of dollars from Mr. Manafort, according to two people familiar with the matter. The transactions involve the financing of apartments and luxury homes in New York and California using money from Mr. Manafort, as well as from other investors solicited by the son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, including the actorDustin Hoffman and his son. F.B.I. agents have reviewed financial records related to Mr. Yohai, who has been accused in a lawsuit of defrauding investors, the sources said.”

OBAMA TO RETURN TO CAMPAIGN TRAIL FOR VIRGINIA RACE
WaPo: “Former president Barack Obama is making his first campaign foray of 2017, agreeing to stump for Democrat Ralph Northam in his bid to be Virginia’s next governor.David Turner, a spokesman for Northam, said the former president agreed this week to hit the campaign trail for Northam, but said he wouldn’t ‘go into any further detail about the private conversations that Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam had with President Barack Obama.’ An aide to Obama confirmed that the former president agreed to campaign for Northam during a congratulatory call, although no events have been planned.”

Behind Obama’s decision to stay silent on Russian election interference - WaPo: “It took time for other parts of the intelligence community to endorse the CIA’s view. Only in the administration’s final weeks in office did it tell the public, in a declassified report, what officials had learned from Brennan in August — that Putin was working to elect Trump. Over that five-month interval, the Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could ‘crater’ the Russian economy.”

DEMOCRATS: PELOSI IS ‘IMPEDIMENT’ TO TAKING BACK HOUSE 
ABC News: “House minority leader Nancy Pelosi is facing down a fresh threat to her job just days after Tuesday's special election setback in Georgia. A group of younger House Democrats is leading the charge, saying that the party faces an uphill battle to take back the majority in the chamber as long as Pelosi is the party’s public face. ‘If you can’t get elected, you can’t govern. It’s just that simple,’ Rep. Tim Ryan, R-Ohio, said. The contentious Russian investigation, for example, is ‘just disconnected from what normal people and average people are going through.’ Ryan lists home ownership, health care, and the price of energy as key issues his party should focus on.”

Pelosi fires back at Democrats calling for resignation - RealClearPolitics: “Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, who unsuccessfully challenged Pelosi for her minority leader position last year, said Pelosi is ‘toxic’ to Democratic candidates and that the party would lose in 2018 if Republicans could make the House minority leader its face. Pelosi disagrees, singing her own praises as a ‘master legislator’ and ‘astute leader’ who is ‘worth the trouble.’ ‘My decision about how long I stay is not up to them,’ Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday morning. ‘I love the arena. I thrive on competition, and I welcome the discussion.’”

POWER PLAY: A SWINE TIME FOR A NEWS QUIZ
Chris Stirewalt
 is back with another quiz. This week contributing editor to the Washington Free Beacon Daniel Halper and Fox News colleague Shannon Bream face off for some delicious bacon mints. But, which contestant knew the most about West Virginia history!? Play along! WATCH HERE

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump names Jets owner Woody Johnson as ambassador to U.K. -Bloomberg

Judge halts deportation of more than 100 Iraqi Christians USA Today

Basketball and politics collide in race to replace Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah - Sports Illustrated

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
On deck for this Sunday, Chris Wallace sits down with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen.John Barrasso, R-Wyo., for the latest on the GOP healthcare bill. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

AUDIBLE: HEADS HE WINS, TAILS YOU LOSE 
“I don’t think he’ll get the blame. I think he’ll get credit for trying. It’ll be the people that vote against it that get the blame.” – An unnamed Republican senator when asked by Politico whether Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will be blamed if the GOP health bill fails.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Just curious where you get your Trump net job approval number. RCP's average over the past 5 days is -14.4, Rasmussen says -10 with an ‘approval index’ (strongly approve minus strongly disapprove) of -14. You say -18.8, which seems to be an outlier.” – Stephen D. Leonard, Boise, Idaho

[Ed. note: Good question, Mr. Leonard! We get our score on the president’s net job approval rating by finding the average approval and disapproval in the five most-recent, methodologically sound public polls and then subtracting the disapproval average from the approval average. That way, anything in positive territory is, well, positive and anything below zero is bad. Today, Trump’s -18.2 point score includes surveys from Gallup, NBC/WSJ, ARG, CBS News and Pew Research. We don’t use surveys from Rasmussen, which doesn’t include calls to cell phones – a big no-no in polling.]

“I love the Halftime Report and ‘I'll Tell You What’. For perspective, why not include Congressional approval in the scorecard? I've heard Pres. Trump has better approval than Congress, Rep. Pelosi, Sen. Schumer, Rep. Ryan, and Sen. McConnell. Perhaps the trend is just that politicians are unpopular.” – Eric Standard, Toms River, N.J.

[Ed. note: The only things more useless than Congress are approval ratings about Congress. Pointing out that Congress has a 20 percent approval rating, according to Gallup, doesn’t tell us very much. We can assume that almost every Democrat disapproves of Congress since their party is out of power. We can further assume that many Republicans don’t like Congress right now because of contentious debates and slow progress on key issues. Except for a brief spike after Trump’s inauguration, Congressional approval has essentially been between 10 percent and 20 percent since 2011. Back then, the roles were reversed as all Republicans disapproved of the job the Democratic Senate was doing, while almost all Democrats disapproved of the job the new Republican House was doing. Remember, despite poor marks for decades, incumbent re-election rates in the House remain sky high – 97 percent. A common view among American voters is that while Congress is bad, their representative is good. It’s sort of like surveys on the desire for compromise and bipartisanship. Those don’t matter much either, since everyone thinks there ought to be compromise – in their direction. As we get closer to midterm elections, though, we will start including a more useful metric for Congress: the generic ballot test. Scant polling on the subject now would make an average pretty useless, but as we get closer, it will be helpful to know voters’ preference for either a Republican-led or Democratic-led Congress since such attitudes are often reflected in votes for open seats and in narrowly divided districts.]

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

FLORIDA GONNA FLORIDA:
Palm Beach Post: “An early-morning raid broke the relative quiet of a large Florida retirement community that turned up drugs, weapons and — in a distinctly Florida twist — evidence of a golf cart chop shop. Sumter County deputies said undercover deputies had bought drugs at the residence three different times … Deputies also said the residence also had spurred multiple complaints from neighbors after the theft of several golf carts. Once inside, investigators found numerous parts of golf carts, including windshields, wheels, seat cushions and tires. But deputies say they have not been able to tie any of the recent thefts to the five people who were arrested in the bust.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“You just showed Ron Wyden saying that our purpose between now and then, our task is to be loud. Loud is not a program. They are obsessed with the process, secrecy. Americans don't care one way or the other if this plan was hatched in a winery or pulled out of a refrigerator. All they want is something that works.” –  Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Dave Sweet 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 FoxNews.com. 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.