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On the roster: Senate GOP gets real on ObamaCare - Sanders dodges question on wife’s FBI investigation - Ethics woes for top House Dems - Syria denies U.S. allegations of coming chemical attack - Toot, toot
SENATE GOP GETS REAL ON OBAMACARE
When negotiations began over the Republican answer to ObamaCare 16 weeks ago, the debate was about what kind of comprehensive system the GOP envisioned for what amounts to a fifth of the U.S. economy.
That’s not where they are today.
As Republican senators head, en masse, to the White House today for a little jawboning from President Trump, the co-author of “The Art of the Deal” will likely not be urging the reluctant members into backing a grand vision but rather to take the least-bad short-term deal available.
The decision by Senate leaders to delay the vote, which had been previously set for a damn-the-torpedoes Friday deadline, reveals just how important that consideration is getting to be.
There was a school of thought in Washington that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was willing to call the vote and let the proposal fail if it didn’t have the votes.
That would have meant kicking the can on ObamaCare until closer to the fall when Republicans would have to go to Democrats in order to get 60 votes to patch the growing holes in the existing law. But on the upside, failing fast is better than failing slowly. A decisive defeat would have at least allowed the Senate to move on to the pressing issues of taxing and spending.
By delaying the vote, McConnell makes clear a couple of things.
First, and not surprisingly, he does not have the 50 votes he needs to send his counteroffer to the House. But we already knew that since the line at the microphones for senators to announce their opposition was getting longer by the day and McConnell can only lose two members.
Second, it makes clear that there will be no “let ObamaCare collapse and try to blame Democrats” anytime soon.
Most of the coverage of the bill has focused on things that will probably never happen, even if it passed. The idea that this version of the legislation would still be in place a decade from now is particularly laughable given the changes we’ve already seen to the underlying law since it was passed in 2010.
This would be placing the locomotive on a different track, yes, but you’re kidding yourself if you think whatever Republicans pass now will be unchanged by executive orders and the results of five election cycles.
What matters is what is in the deal to prop up ObamaCare five months from now. Republicans have continued to point to the unraveling of the individual insurance market under ObamaCare as insurers understandably flee losses and mounting uncertainty.
But if Republicans expect to avoid presiding over such a catastrophic failure, they need to move quickly to stabilize markets – and that means bailing out insurance companies, directly and indirectly.
Trump has continued to publicly toy with the idea of letting the program fail and then aggressively blaming Democrats for the original laws shortcomings. That’s not McConnell’s approach and neither is it that of his House counterpart, Speaker Paul Ryan.
Whether McConnell & Co. can prevail upon enough members to make enough hard votes with that argument remains to be seen. Democratic attack ads will not worry themselves over out-year projections from the Congressional Budget Office. They will just say that Republicans took health insurance away from sick children and the working poor.
Having accepted their unhappy dilemma, Republicans now must decide whether they are ready to accept something they dislike in the name of preventing an even worse choice later this year.
Meet the senators who will make or break the ObamaCare cuts -AP: “These lawmakers range from moderate to conservative Republicans, and include senators who were just re-elected and a couple facing tough re-election fights.”
White House bashes CBO over health care score - Axios: “The White House has issued a statement slamming the Congressional Budget Office over its estimate that 22 million more people would be uninsured under the Senate health care plan…”
THE RULEBOOK: LIBERTY FIRST
“But experience assures us… that some more adequate defense is indispensably necessary for the more feeble, against the more powerful, members of the government.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 48
TIME OUT: THE RETURN OF THE KING
History: “There was quite a bit more than just 12 years and a few extra pounds separating the Elvis Presley of 1968 from the Elvis that set the world on fire in 1956. With a nearly decade-long string of forgettable movies and inconsistent recordings behind him, Elvis had drifted so far from his glorious, youthful incarnation that he’d turned himself into a historical artifact without any help from the Beatles, Bob Dylan or the Stones. And then something amazing happened: A television special for NBC that Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker envisioned as an Andy Williams-like sequence of Christmas carol performances instead became a thrilling turning point in Elvis’s legendary career. Elvis began taping his legendary ‘Comeback Special’ on this day in 1968. … [Director Steve Binder] sold Elvis on the idea that would become the most memorable segment of the show: an informal, ‘unplugged’ session before a live audience.”
[Ed. note: Go on, skinny Elvis fans – try to tell me that this performance of “That’s All Right, Mama” isn’t spellbinding.]
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Trump net job-approval rating: -19.2 points
Change from one week ago: -1.8 points
SANDERS DODGES QUESTION ON WIFE’S FBI INVESTIGATION
The Hill: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday ignored questions about the FBI investigation into his wife from Fox News and the Associated Press, opting instead to give an answer about healthcare to a Fox News reporter who caught up with him outside the Capitol. ‘No, that's not what I'm talking about today,’ Sanders told an Associated Press reporter who also attempted to ask about the FBI's investigation into his wife. The FBI is reportedly looking into whether Jane Sanders falsified loan documents while she served as the president of Burlington College. The small Vermont liberal arts school closed down in May 2016 after going bankrupt and failing to meet accreditation standards. A family spokesperson confirmed to the AP on Monday that Jane Sanders has hired a lawyer to protect her interests.”
Ethics woes for top House Dems - Politico: “Democratic Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico are under scrutiny by the House Ethics Committee for alleged violations, although both men strongly deny any wrongdoing. The allegation against Lujan is tied to the Democratic "sit-in" on the House floor in June 2016. Conyers has come under review for his interaction with a former top aide who pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property. And Michael Collins, chief of staff for Rep. John Lewis, is also under investigation by the Ethics panel following a complaint from a conservative watchdog group over allegedly serving improperly as the Georgia Democrat's campaign treasurer and top aide at the same time.”
SYRIA DENIES U.S. ALLEGATIONS OF COMING CHEMICAL ATTACK
AP: “The involvement of external powers in the Syrian war continued to accelerate Tuesday as President Bashar Assad's government and Russia dismissed White House allegations that it was preparing a new chemical weapons attack. Hours later activists reported an airstrike on an Islamic State-run jail in eastern Syria that they said killed more than 40 prisoners and was carried out by the U.S.-led coalition. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 15 militants were also killed in the airstrike that happened on Monday in the Deir El-Zour province. The activist-run Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet said at least 60 civilians were killed.”
White House issued a strong warning - WaPo: “The White House issued an ominous warning to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday night, pledging that his regime would pay a ‘heavy price’ if it carried out another chemical attack this year. In a statement, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the United States had detected evidence of preparations for a chemical attack, similar to the preparations that occurred before an attack in April. Russia, a key Syrian ally, dismissed the White House statement on Tuesday and called Washington’s threats against Syria ‘unacceptable.’”
Fight between GOP House chairs imperils budget deal - Politico
Perry seeks energy pact with Mexico, Canada as NAFTA talks near -Bloomberg
Poll: U.S. image suffers as publics around world question Trump’s leadership - Pew
Kushner adds prominent lawyer Abbe Lowell to defense team - NYT
AUDIBLE: KENTUCKY HOLD ‘EM
“Senator McConnell, as the Republican leader, has a stack of chips in front of him that he’s going to be playing for each Senate vote. Whether it’s going to be something special for opioids or something special for this state or that state – doing his darndest to make sure he has the votes to win. That's what a majority leader does.” – Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., talking to reporters.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I was listening to the Freakonomics podcast (it's not nearly as entertaining as I'll Tell You What!) & it was an interview with Charles Koch. Mr. Koch mentions that the last president that he really liked was Calvin Coolidge & I immediately thought of you & your fondness of President Coolidge. I never really heard anything about President Coolidge until I started reading Halftime Report & listening to I'll Tell You What. I wanted to say thanks for the civics lessons & now I understand why Mr. Koch liked President Coolidge so much. By the way, it's been about 8 months since I've had a square from the Elm Grove DiCarlos, I'm hankering for a family visit & few squares from Dicarlos!” – Colleen Mansuetto, Cleveland
[Ed. note: A woman after my own heart! I’ll meet you in the parking lot on National Road for a slice. As for silent Cal, I place him, along with Grover Cleveland, as victims of the long-standing bias among historians to favor activist presidents even when they fail. Who wants to be an expert on a guy who is most famous for doing as little as possible with executive authority and for a parsimony of words?]
“Yes, the more temperate version of Trump's executive order on travel did win the day at the Supreme Court. Too bad. I prefer the intemperate approach myself. More fun until the next morning. Oh, well… Na-zda-rov-ye. P.S. Yes I colluded with a Russian dictionary on this. Cheers!” – Paul Thomson, Edmond, Okla.
[Ed. note: Khorosho, tovarishch! Unfortunately, when you are the president, the whole country wakes up with a hangover…]
“First, I am concerned that ‘healthcare’ and ‘health care insurance’ are typically conflated. Right now, (most) emergency wards care for ‘dying’ people, without regard to their insurance coverage. This would make the accusation that 200,000 people will die because of the House version of the new ‘healthcare’ legislation appear to be somewhat questionable. Next, making Republicans the scapegoat for trying to fix the failing and totally Democrat ‘Obamacare’, and saying loudly that the Republicans now ‘own’, it seems to me like the folks cleaning up the nuclear reactor fallout in Japan being made the scapegoats for the reactor failure, and worse, for the tsunami that led to the failure.” – David Johnson, Bend, Ore.
[Ed. note: No doubt that the lazy, unfair accusation that cuts to subsidized insurance results in 1:1 deaths is pretty despicable. Yes, there is a strong argument to be made that people who have insurance get more regular care and, therefore, lead healthier, longer lives. But this is hardly an unambiguous line of reasoning. Other studies have shown that access to health insurance does not necessarily result in better outcomes for recipients. Plus, those individuals without insurance tend to be poorer than most and are afflicted by other maladies beyond a lack of insurance. If you are to follow the same logic for, say, taxes, you might be able to argue that increased taxes result in economic slowdowns and unemployment and unemployed people tend to have more health problems than people who have jobs. Would it be fair to say that tax increases are tantamount to murder? As for the question of who gets blamed if Congress cannot come with a solution for the unraveling individual insurance market before November, don’t worry there will be enough for everyone. But as it happens, the Republicans have more to lose just now.]
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KCBY: “Imagine a car alarm going off in the dead of night. Only it didn't stop. For hours. Now amplify that sound to a ship's horn that is designed to carry wide distances and you can imagine what some residents of Everett had to endure Sunday night when a tug boat horn got stuck in the on position. ‘We apologize for the prolonged horn noise at the Port last night,’ Port of Everett CEO Les Reardanz said in a letter addressed to neighbors. ‘One of our customers has been doing some finishing work on a new ocean-going tug boat, and the horn malfunctioned.’ … With record heat that had temperatures well into the upper 80s only a few hours earlier, residents were faced with a choice in their likely non-air-conditioned homes and apartments: Open the windows and suffer the noise, or close the windows and suffer the heat. Reardanz says the customer has assured them they have remedied the issue.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland 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.