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On the roster: A win, but now comes the hard part for GOP - Trump intensifies attacks on Sessions - Scouts disavow politics after Trump slams at jamboree - House Dems sink both veterans and intel bills - Low-speed getaway
A WIN, BUT NOW COMES THE HARD PART FOR GOP
They said to never count Mitch McConnell out. And it turns out, they were right again.
With a squeaker in the Senate, the majority leader kept alive the faint hope that Republicans will be able to find a way amongst themselves to deal with the collapsing individual insurance market for 2018 and, potentially, make some changes to ObamaCare for years to come.
They may end up having to go begging to Democrats, but congressional Republicans live to fight (with themselves) another day.
In a less chaotic time, today’s Senate vote on whether to proceed with legislation making changes to ObamaCare would feel like a more massive milestone.
But instead, in the midst of the chaos of the era, one of the most important legislative considerations in a decade struggled for attention. The consuming controversies and counter-controversies of our time will pass, but the work of the government will last.
President Trump may or may not fire his attorney general in a bid to block the ongoing investigation into Trump’s campaign, but however long he tries to delay the result, the investigation will eventually be completed.
In fact, each firing and every fulmination makes it more and more likely not only that the conclusion will come but that the consensus view will fall harder on Trump. This isn’t some beef with a local prosecutor in Atlantic City that can be made to go away. This one is inevitable.
But while the president is attacking his own cabinet and his foes are thundering about constitutional crises, the work of Washington and the government goes on. As the president has pointed out, there are even many successes for his already battle-weary team that go unnoticed.
This business about health insurance, though, is not one of them.
Whatever the final conclusion, Trump and his party are managing to convince Americans anxious about their coverage and their care that this is a fly-by-night operation.
One of the reasons that ObamaCare was so unpopular for so long was the Democrats didn’t seem to care as much for what was in it but rather that they pass something for the sake of passing it. In hindsight, it is clear that they scored a lasting political success in forcing Republicans to accept as a permanent condition that the federal government has a duty to provide health insurance to as many Americans as possible.
But at the time, the midnight votes, the procedural shenanigans, the sweetheart deals for holdout senators, the peripatetic policy positions and party-line cram downs gave Americans reason to believe that Democrats were less interested in building something good than they were in just defeating Republican obstruction.
Now, it may be that in our depleted civic condition, America now is only capable of this kind of governance. But that sounds quite a lot like the soft bigotry of low expectations.
That’s not to say there aren’t Republicans with big ideas about how to re-regulate or how to de-regulate the insurance industry or provide better care or coverage for more people, but none of that was on display today.
Today was just about beating Democrats. That’s fine for elections, but when you are asking senators to make decisions about something that touches the lives of every American in an intimate way, ideas should come first.
It is possible that the process now underway will yield big ideas as it lurches forward – if it really does – but these months of confusion and contradiction have not gone very far in building the consent of the governed.
Today was a win, but it only gets harder from here. The work now is to convince Americans that what is being built really is better than the alternative. Brute political force is sometimes necessary, but when you’re talking about people’s doctors and life-saving care, force is not enough. Persuasion, and reason and, yes, compassion, are also required.
It is easy for lawmakers to forget the significance of their real jobs in the midst of the soap opera/spy thriller that plays out in the headlines every morning and on television every night. But those things will pass away in time, no matter how dramatic the plot twists.
The president understands this, at least on an intellectual level, even when he is not able to stay focused on the task.
“You’ll have people out there who will say, ‘How do we know we’re going to have health care?’” Trump said in a new interview with the WSJ. “And I hate to do that to people. I’m always concerned about that. I don’t like it from that standpoint.”
Their choices about the way Americans get their health care will not pass away for many years to come.
THE RULEBOOK: SHINE A LIGHT
“Could its interior structure and regular operation be ascertained, it is probable that more light would be thrown by it on the science of federal government, than by any of the like experiments with which we are acquainted.” – Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Federalist No. 18
TIME OUT: HIPSTERS AND HISTORY
WSJ: “The last battle of the American Revolution is being waged on an empty lot in Brooklyn. The lot, long suspected to hold the mass grave for nearly 260 Maryland Revolutionary War-era soldiers, is set to become a prekindergarten after archaeologists settle the mystery surrounding the soldiers’ final resting place. In May, the city Education Department bought the land, at Ninth Street and Third Avenue in the Park Slope neighborhood, to build a 180-seat prekindergarten on it. In response, historians and preservationists pushed the city to pay for an archaeological study of the grounds to determine if a mass grave for the soldiers exists. If it does, some believe the land should instead be used to build a memorial for the men who died during the Battle of Brooklyn 241 years ago. For years, historians and politicians … have visited the lot, which is about 13,500 square feet, and paid their respects. Now that a permanent building is set to be constructed there, preservationists hope the archaeological probe might finally answer their questions regarding the fate of the soldiers known as the ‘Maryland 400.’”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -18.4 points
Change from one week ago: -0.8 points
TRUMP INTENSIFIES ATTACKS ON SESSIONS
Fox News: “The top White House spokesperson warned Tuesday that President Trump’s frustration with Jeff Sessions is not going away, moments after the president tore into his attorney general on Twitter as ‘VERY weak’ on Hillary Clinton’s supposed ‘crimes.’ Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, speaking with ‘Fox & Friends,’ also neither confirmed nor denied reports that Trump has discussed the possibility of firing Sessions and did not rule it out. … ‘That frustration certainly hasn’t gone away, and I don’t think it will,’ Sanders said. As for whether Trump wants Sessions out, she said, ‘That’s a decision that if the president wants to make, he certainly will.’ … The Associated Press, citing three people who have recently spoken to the president, reported that Trump continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation -- and has talked to aides about the possibility of firing him.”
Breitbart knocks Trump on Sessions abuse - Breitbart: “President Trump’s decision Tuesday to attack Attorney General Jeff Sessions over Sessions’ “position” on Hillary Clinton’s various scandals only serves to highlight Trump’s own hypocrisy on the issue — and is likely to fuel concerns from his base who see Sessions at the best hope to fulfill Trump’s immigration policies.”
Senators subpoena Manafort - Daily Beast: “The heads of the Senate Judiciary Committee last night issued a subpoena to compel Paul Manafort’s presence at a public hearing Wednesday. ‘Mr. Manafort, through his attorney, said that he would be willing to provide only a single transcribed interview to Congress, which would not be available to the Judiciary Committee members or staff,’ Senators Chuck Grassley and Dianne Feinstein said in a statement.”
Kushner returns to Capitol Hill for second day of interviews - WashEx: “[Jared] Kushner, son-in-law and top advisor to President Trump, remained tight-lipped after the three-hour session, taking no questions as he left the House Intelligence Committee. … Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican who is now heading up the committee's Russia investigation, said he found Kushner to be ‘straightforward, forthcoming, [he] wanted to answer every question that we had.’ … The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, said Kushner and his lawyers expressed their openness to returning to talk to the committee further at a later date, but added Tuesday's meeting was ‘productive’ on ‘a range of issues.’”
Ivanka Trump retains defense lawyer for Russia investigation - The Hill: “Ivanka Trump will retain criminal defense lawyer Abbe Lowell to counsel her in the ongoing Russia probe, according to the National Law Journal. Lowell, an attorney for the D.C.-based firm Norton Rose Fulbright, will work to provide both Ivanka and husband Jared Kushner with legal and ethical advice during the investigation.”
Ryan offers strong defense of Mueller - The Hill: “Speaker
Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Monday defended special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Justice Department's investigation into the Russia election interference, saying he's ‘anything but’ a Democratic partisan. ‘I don't think many people are saying Bob Mueller is a biased partisan. He's really, sort of, anything but,’ Ryan said on the Wisconsin-based radio program ‘The Jay Weber Show’… The Speaker argued that both the federal and congressional probes investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia actually ‘de-politicizes this stuff.’”
Trump DOJ nominee represented Russian bank - The Hill: “President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Justice’s criminal division used to represent a major Russian bank whose owners have ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Brian Benczkowski, whom Trump nominated for the position in June and will have his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, disclosed to lawmakers that he used to represent Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions, The New York Times reported Monday.”
Scaramucci gets to work, ousts first White House staffer -
Politico: “Newly appointed White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said on Tuesday that he plans to dismiss assistant press secretary Michael Short. It would be Scaramucci’s first step toward shaking up the communications shop, which has been dominated by former Republican National Committee staffers loyal to White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, a former RNC chairman.”
SCOUTS DISAVOW POLITICS AFTER TRUMP SLAMS AT JAMBOREE
WaPo: “Following President Trump's campaign-style speech at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday evening, the Boy Scouts of America released a statement that did not comment on the president's remarks but stated that the nonprofit organization is ‘wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy.’ The organization said that it is a ‘long-standing tradition’ to invite the sitting president to speak at the jamboree… Trump completely broke with tradition and focused on politics in his speech, urging Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, threatening to fire his secretary of health and human services if the legislation fails, bragging about his electoral wins in November, mocking Hillary Clinton for losing Midwestern states that he visited more often, and asking the Scouts whether [Barack] Obama had ever attended a jamboree, getting a response that started as a ‘no’ and turned into booing.”
Voices on left compare Boy Scouts to Hitler Youth - Newsweek: “The president, the first sitting U.S. commander-in-chief to address the group since George W. Bush, used his speech to slam the ‘fake news,’ demand loyalty from administration officials and advocate for the overhaul of federal health care. He spoke to about 40,000 people at the Boy Scouts of America 2017 National Scout Jamboree. ‘As the scout law says, a scout is trustworthy, loyal,’ Trump said, before adding, ‘We could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.’ As he spoke, the crowd chanted ‘U.S.A’ and applauded, prompting some critics of the president, who has the lowest approval ratings in modern history, to compare his rhetoric to the Hitler Youth, a wing of Germany’s Nazi party.”
Trump to hold campaign rally in Ohio tonight - Politico: “Trump will test the waters [tonight] when he takes the stage in Youngstown at the Covelli Centre, a large arena that typically hosts events like ice hockey, WWE wrestling matches, and monster truck tours. The campaign rally is designed to energize the president, excite his base, and offer Trump a chance to tack away from the Russia scandal that never stops brewing in Washington – one that his advisers claim no regular, outside-the-beltway Americans really care about. Trump campaigned across Ohio as the ‘jobs candidate,’ promising to re-negotiate trade deals, protect Social Security, make no cuts to Medicare or Medicaid, invest $550 billion in infrastructure — assurances that have yet to materialize.”
HOUSE DEMS SINK BOTH VETERANS AND INTEL BILLS
Politico: “House Democrats sank two key bills on the House floor Monday, embarrassing Republican leaders who were banking on the noncontroversial legislation sailing through — in a new sign of the opposition's party's frustration with the majority's approach. Kicking off a busy week in the House, most Democrats and a handful of Republicans joined forces to deny GOP leaders big-enough majorities to pass an annual intelligence policy bill and legislation to restore funding for a key veterans health care program. Both bills came to the House floor Monday under suspension of the rules, an expedited process that allows for less than an hour of debate and no amendments but also requires a two-thirds majority for passage. The suspension process is typically used for noncontroversial bills that have broad bipartisan support. One suspension bill failing on the House floor is a rarity, but two back to back is extremely rare.”
Funding now unclear for Veterans Choice Program - NYT: “This was supposed to be a relatively easy task, meant to buy lawmakers time as they debated the future of the program. As recently as last week, Republican leaders were considering using a bill temporarily funding the Veterans Choice Program as a vehicle to raise the debt ceiling, a perennially bitter pill for Republicans. … The defeat left House leaders scrambling for an alternative late Monday, with only a handful of legislative days left before the chamber is scheduled to begin its extended summer recess. Money for the Veterans Choice Program is expected to run out early next month.”
Trump nominates two former lawmakers to administration positions - The Hill
U.S. judge allows Trump election commission to seek voting data - Reuters
Coast Guard OKs kayakers on river near Trump's Virginia golf course - The Hill
Anti-Putin activist files complaint against Rep. Dana Rohrabacher for filing U.S. sanctions on Russia- Business Insider
Horrific episode of human smuggling fuels both sides of immigration debate - WaPo
Poll shows tie in Virginia’s governor race - Monmouth University
“He’s huge… he’s so unattractive, it’s unbelievable.” – Sen. Susan Collins R-Maine caught on tape by a reporter for the Huffington Post discussing Rep. Blake Farenthold R-Texas who told a radio host that if Collins were a man, he would challenge her to a duel for her opposition to repealing ObamaCare without a replacement.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, One thing missing from your description of the shoe shop, the smell of the wax, the lather, the oiled machines. I can still smell it.” – Jim Cline, New Bern, N.C.
[Ed. note: I didn’t write it – that was the New Yorker – but yes you are so right. Smell is, for me, the most evocative sense when it comes to memory. When I drop a pair of shoes off at the cobbler now, that smell instantly transports me to the little shop on the alley between Market and Main Streets in Wheeling, W. Va. All at once I am a little boy standing next to my father, his camel coat flecked with dry snowflakes. The bitter cold of a winter day at twilight giving way to the rich warmth of that little shop, crowded floor to ceiling with old shoes, repaired shoes and an absolutely glorious mess.]
“You may file this under ‘grossly premature’ if you like, but I think given what's been happening, the discussion of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ may prove prescient. Please note I'm not advocating such an action.... yet. Most people discussing ‘the witch hunt’ have fixated on the fact that no statute has seemingly been violated. However, that is not a prerequisite for impeachment. The Wiki definition, if you'll pardon the source, is illuminating …Very expansive and broad. So while putting aside the hysterical lamentations of Maxine Waters, the issue of actual criminal conduct is irrelevant. There's also the 25th amendment, likely also grossly premature, but I'd be willing to bet it's been rolling around the backs of people's minds given the bizarre events.” – Jeff Smith, Statesboro, Ga.
[Ed. note: You don’t need to go to Wikipedia, Mr. Smith. Article I of the Constitution makes it plan: It is the majority of the House of Representatives that decides what offense merits removal from office. Impeachment was conceived as a political, not judicial activity. No judge or high council can remove a president from office. Only the representatives of the people. That’s why impeachment has only happened twice, and never successfully brought to a conviction and removal. The Framers set the threshold high for removal, and it’s good that they did. But they were also wise to make the power of the Congress absolute in this regard.]
“The Covelli Center in [Youngstown] seats 7,100 people. There have been over 20K requests for tickets as reported on local TV news this AM. Trump support is alive and well in the democratic stronghold of northeast Ohio, Trumbull and Mahoning counties. I am one of those lifelong Democrats that switched and have no plans for going back. The major media is playing us as dumb and that makes us just support Donald and the [Republicans] even more. Think you will see more of the same type of support from us in the 2018 midterms. Enjoy that podcast, keep it up!” – Rob Viers, Youngstown, Ohio
[Ed. note: I grew up not far away from Youngstown and had reason to travel to your city and through it very often. My father was a coal salesman and I had the chance to crisscross your corner of the Buckeye State with him and then, later, on my own. If you would have told us 30 years ago that Northeastern Ohio would be Republican country, we would not have believed you. It is a good reminder in politics not to assume any truths about voters are immutable. People change, parties change, circumstances change and time rolls on.]
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HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
HuffPo: “He was a rebel. An outlaw. A defector from the human world. But after three years on the lam in Massachusetts, Steve the tortoise is set to be reunited with his old human family. Daniela Tsvetanova told the local newspaper Waltham Patch that Steve, a Russian tortoise, was her son’s beloved pet. But in October 2014 — after living with the family for five years — Steve disappeared from the family home in Waltham. At the time, Tsvetanova posted on Patch that the family thought he may have slipped out while they were opening the door to the home. … Months after Steve vanished, the family moved to California. … But this week, the family got an incredible surprise. About a mile from Steve’s old home, couple Josuhua Bennet-Johnson and Andrea Coughlan saw a little tortoise in their yard. … The couple did some research, and eventually, social media led them Steve’s previous owners. … The family’s friends in Waltham plan to reunite Steve with his old humans soon.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“I think if you are after surgery in the brain, you don't really want the pressure changes of going up and down on an airplane. He really shouldn't do this. If it was life-and-death and the fate of the republic hung on it, it's a war and peace vote, but there's a very easy way to do this, which is one of those who oppose is to take his proxy. It's very easy to do. It should be done.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
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.