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On the roster: GOP ObamaCare hopes hang on Cruz plan - I’ll Tell You What: Dimes are dropping - Trump defends son on Russia: ‘Very standard in politics’ - Mon ami! Trump, Macron feel the love in Paris - But did they charge him a $3 fee for withdrawal? 

Skydivers say you should always pack your own parachute. But Senate Republicans are about to hop out of their airplane with one packed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.


For a guy who has been called the “most hated man in Congress,” this is not probably the expected course of events, even for Cruz. But here we are.

Many Republicans were leery of Cruz being included in the working group that drafted the original legislation that flopped just before Independence Day. Those suspicions seem to be borne out when Cruz joined a claque of fellow conservatives to oppose the legislation.

If the idea was to keep the stream of Cruz’s micturition directed outward from the GOP tent, why was he making water inside the flaps?

Today may provide us the answer. Cruz’s proposal to allow a two-tiered system for health insurance regulations – in which insurance companies would still be required to offer plans with more lavish benefits but would be allowed bare-bones policies as well – made it into the new version of the Senate bill.

The cynical among you might conclude that this was a set-up in which Cruz, by objecting to the first draft, can now play pied piper for skeptical conservatives.

But it is probably simpler than that. Cruz’s bargaining power was enhanced by the failure of the first version, and so he found himself in a better position. Whether or not other conservatives see the inclusion of Cruz’s plan as enough, we don’t know yet.

The Cruz plan would achieve a long-sought goal on the right of rolling back ObamaCare regulations and invigorate the preferred conservative policy prescription of allowing younger, lower-wage workers to obtain stripped down, catastrophic coverage and then pay for regular medical services from a tax-free account.

But the new plan also comes with a lot more spending and more taxes than the original draft.

There is more money for Medicaid and $70 billion more in subsidies. All told, there seems to be about $230 billion in increased spending over the next decade compared to the first version, money obtained from keeping ObamaCare taxes on top earners and investors.

So while there is much for moderates to like, the Cruz provision is sure to be controversial. The concern ardently expressed by the insurance industry is that if healthy consumers are allowed to buy cheaper plans, older, sicker customers will be stuck under the old system and the “death spiral” we have already seen playing out in government-run insurance exchanges will badly intensify.

Will the new spending be enough to offset those concerns? A slightly different, yet still similar approach in the House of deregulation offset by additional spending eventually made it over the finish line. That’s pretty clearly the hope here.

But the arithmetic in the Senate is less forgiving than in the House. Think of it this way, House Speaker Paul Ryan could afford to lose almost 10 percent of Republican members and still pass his bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell only has 4 percent to spare.

Remember also that failure is an option for many members on the Senate side. Conservatives don’t want to vote for legislation that maintains the framework of ObamaCare. Moderates don’t want to vote for cuts to Medicaid and stingier coverage rules.

Both sides know that this legislation failing means having to take up, with the help of Democrats, a plan to patch the program for the coming year. If the current bill fails, conservatives can leave it to moderates and Democrats to pass the patch and go home to voters with clean hands but still know that calamity has been averted.

The same goes for moderates in this sense, many of them would rather work with Democrats on patching the existing law for a year instead of having to swallow legislation that could prove to be damaging not just in 2018 but in several cycles beyond that. They need only ask their Democratic counterparts how long the ObamaCare hangover lasted.

This approach of strategic failure is how congressional Republicans operated throughout their years of majority when a Democrat was in the White House. Perhaps they will simply revert to form even in majority.

Republican leaders are hoping that the Cruz-packed parachute, when it unfurls fully next week with a budget score, will be enough to save them from a hard landing.


“But whatever may be our situation, whether firmly united under one national government, or split into a number of confederacies, certain it is, that foreign nations will know and view it exactly as it is; and they will act toward us accordingly.” – John JayFederalist No. 4

NYT: “True Story [card game and mobile app] was a case study in what two Stanford professors call ‘flash organizations’ — ephemeral setups to execute a single, complex project in ways traditionally associated with corporations, nonprofit groups or governments. The professors, Melissa Valentine and Michael Bernstein, contend that information technology has made the flash organization a suddenly viable form across a number of industries. And, in fact, intermediaries are already springing up across industries like software and pharmaceuticals to assemble such organizations. … But to the extent that temporary organizations replace permanent ones, they have the potential to add to the economic uncertainty that workers must increasingly contend with. … In principle, many companies would find it more cost-effective to increase staff members as needed than to maintain a permanent presence. The reason they do not, economists have long argued, is that the mechanics of hiring, training and monitoring workers separately for each project can be prohibitively expensive.”

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Trump net job-approval rating: -12.2 points
Change from one week ago: +2.2 points

This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss President Trump’s trip to France, Donald Trump Jr.’s Russia imbroglio and health care. Plus, Chris shares places on his summer vacation trip list and Dana shares her iced tea woes. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

WashEx: “President Trump defended his son’s decision to accept a meeting last year with a Russian lawyer, and argued the media has made a ‘very big deal’ out of a routine research-gathering discussion. ‘My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer, but a Russian lawyer,’ Trump said during a joint appearance with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday. ‘It was a short meeting, it was a meeting that went very, very quickly, very fast.’ ‘I do think this, I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research,’ Trump said. … ‘I’ve had many people call up [and say] ‘Oh, gee, we have information on this factor or this person or, frankly, Hillary.’ That’s very standard in politics,’ Trump said. ‘In the case of Don... I guess they talked about, as I see it, they talked about adoption and some things,’ Trump said.”

Grassley wants Donald Jr. to testify - NPR: “Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tells NPR that he has sent a letter to Donald J. Trump Jr. saying that he wants the president’s son to testify in an open session of the committee as early as next week and will subpoena him if necessary.”

Russian officials overheard discussing trump associates before campaign - WSJ: “Investigators are re-examining conversations detected by U.S. intelligence agencies in spring 2015 that captured Russian government officials discussing associates of Donald Trump… Russian officials are routinely monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies, and it wouldn’t be unusual for them to discuss people who have business interests in Russia. … The 2015 conversations were detected several months before Mr. Trump declared his candidacy for the White House. The conversations have been in investigators’ possession for some time, but officials said the Donald Trump Jr. news this week prompted them to look at them again.”

Senate Dems turn fire toward Kushner over Trump Jr. meeting - Politico: “White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is facing mounting backlash from Senate Democrats for participating in a controversial meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, with lawmakers calling for his security clearance to be revoked and questioning his place in the Trump administration. … Sen. Chris Murphy on Wednesday reportedly called for Kushner to resign, saying Trump's son-in-law had either misled the president — who has repeatedly denied contact with Russia — or a larger plot was afoot within the Trump White House.”

Democrats ask DOJ about settlement involving Trump-linked lawyer - Bloomberg: “Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee asked the Justice Department to explain a decision to settle a money-laundering case in May that involved the Russian lawyer who held a controversial meeting last year with Donald Trump Jr. Democrats are interested because one of the lawyers involved in the case was Natalia Veselnitskaya …Veselnitskaya worked with a Cyprus-based company, Prevezon Holdings Ltd. that is controlled by a Russian businessman and was accused of a tax theft and money laundering scheme.”

What about that? - Try this thought experiment from Jonathan Last. Weekly Standard: “So before you come to any initial conclusions about Donald Trump Jr.’s don’t-call-it-collusion with the Russians, put the situation to the Earth 2 Test: If Clinton were president and you saw an email from the campaign where Chelsea had been informed that the Russian government had damaging information about Trump … would you think it was all just an overblown media story that didn’t matter?”

Daily Telegraph [U.K.]: “US President Donald Trump suggested Thursday he could change his position on the Paris climate accord, in remarks after talks with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. ‘Something could happen with respect to the Paris accord,’ he said at a joint news conference with Mr. Macron six weeks after announcing that the United States would abandon the 2015 pact, adding: ‘We'll see what happens.’ Mr. Macron told the conference he ‘respected’ his US counterpart's decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord but that France remained committed to the 2015 pact.”

WaPo: “Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in a closed-door meeting Wednesday that an initiative that grants work permits to more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants may not survive a looming legal challenge. Kelly declined to take questions after the meeting, but his spokesman said the secretary told the members that the Obama-era program, which shields immigrants brought to the United States as children, is at risk. ‘This is what he’s being told by different attorneys, that if it goes to court it might not survive,’ DHS spokesman David Lapan said. If Congress does not pass a bill to protect the program, he added, ‘they’re leaving it in the hands of the courts to make a decision.’”

Budget boss Mulvaney lays out agenda: Introducing MAGAnomics - WSJ

Gallup finds Trump slide with working-class voters since 100-day mark Gallup

CBO says Trump budget plan would add trillions to debt - AJC

House GOP makes seeks more modest trims to education than White House wantedWaPo

Kellyanne Conway used visual aids on television. It did not work out wellTwitchy

Koch group wants Republicans to drop border tax - WashEx

State Department spent $15K at Trump Hotel - WaPo

“War on MEDICAD” – A sign used as a visual aid by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., during her Wednesday floor speech opposing proposed cuts to ObamaCare. Thanks to @brithume.

“You said in [Wednesday’s] Halftime Report that Natalia Veselnitskaya was working for the Russian government but both she and the Kremlin both say she has no government connection. As of 2016, the US had over 1.3 million attorney, I don't think they all work for the US government... isn't it possible that not every Russian attorney work for the government?” – Larry Roland, Todd, N.C.

[Ed. note: The issue there, Mr. Roland, wasn’t what Veselnitskaya actually is but what the president’s eldest son thought she was when he eagerly agreed to the meeting. There’s no question that she is well connected to the Russian mobocracy and the oligarch friends of Vladimir Putin who have worked hard to get tough sanctions imposed by the West lifted. But that doesn’t really matter. We can only take the word of the participants in the meeting that it amounted to nothing and that, unlike the promise made to Donald Trump Jr. she did not really have damaging information via the Kremlin.]

“What would happen if Trump supporters eliminated their local newspapers for a month or more OR stopped watching main stream TV news – do you think there would be consequences? All that advertising revenue disappearing – it may be the only way to send a strong message that we won’t tolerate ‘fake news’ any longer…” – Delores Chantra, Westlake Village, Calif.

[Ed. note: Well, one thing that would surely happen is that people would be more ill-informed about local events. I am a huge proponent of local newspapers and local digital news platforms. The paramount mission for Americans today is to rebuild their own communities and strengthen their sense of connectedness to their own neighborhoods and neighbors. Part of the reason that people are so disappointed in the federal government is that the flow of information runs like a torrent through Washington, New York and Hollywood but is a mere trickle in many communities. The rise of the internet has severely damaged one of the most important parts of our republic: reliable purveyors of local news. It’s important to know what Congress is doing or what the president says, but probably not as important as knowing what your county commissioners, state legislators and other officials closer to home are doing.] 

“So just what does the CBO project happens under the ACA, if there are no changes?  The system as it stands now is collapsing!  Are those 22 million people (and millions more) going to have access to anything at all if ACA remains unchanged, what with insurance companies withdrawing from the marketplace because of adverse selection? As always, I enjoy your repartee!” – David ZickBingham Farms, Mich.   

[Ed. note: Pity the poor Congressional Budget Office. What they can and cannot do is tightly proscribed by Congressional rules, and that means they can only score actual legislation and they must offer projections on a 10-year basis, even though they would tell you that a decade is a long time to try to predict the social psychology of consumers and changes to any market. That said, everybody knows what happens next year if something isn’t done about the existing law. That’s why Republicans are sweating and Democrats are delighted. ObamaCare may have been their idea, but the Blue Team is enjoying watching Republicans’ anguish.]

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HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

KRISTV: “Police say a contractor was working on changing a lock inside a room that connects to the ATM around 2:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. Officer [RichardOlden says, ‘he leaves his phone in his truck, he's installing a new lock on the door, and he gets locked inside the building where the ATM is.’ Since the ATM still works, people were stopping by to get cash, and the contractor decided to slip out notes through the receipt slot stating, ‘Please Help. I'm stuck in here, and I don't have my phone. Please call my boss.’ Officer Olden said people thought it was a joke, but someone took it seriously and called the police. ‘We come out here, and sure enough we can hear a little voice coming from the machine. So we are thinking this is a joke. It's got to be a joke,’ Olden said. … Later the contractor supervisor arrived, and police had to kick down a door to get the gentlemen out of the ATM room. Olden says, ‘Everyone is okay, but you will never see this in your life, that somebody was stuck in the ATM, it was just crazy.’”

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.