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On the roster: GOP plays small ball on ObamaCare - Russia tied group dumps purported CIA secrets - China threatens over U.S. missile system - Refugee ban does less, says more - You guys are no fun anymore

The Republicans’ proposed replacement for ObamaCare does everything the existing law does, but in a way that even fewer Americans are prone to like.

The suggested replacement ends the much-maligned “mandate” that forces individuals to purchase coverage or face a tax penalty… but replaces it by allowing insurance companies to hit customers who let coverage lapse with a 30 percent surcharge.

It would end the expansion of Medicaid that covers an estimated 10 million middle-class Americans in 31 states… but not for four years and then substitutes a state-level block grant system to try to maintain some of the coverage.

The new GOP plan eliminates the means-tested federal tax subsidies that help people buy plans under ObamaCare… but replaces them with new subsidies partly determined by age.

The proposal also would prevent insurance companies from charging older customers as much as three times more than younger customers… and instead let them charge five times the amount.

These modest-seeming modifications to the law are deemed necessary because of what the new law keeps entirely: all of the most popular components of ObamaCare, which happen to be the ones most expensive to insurance companies.

If you want to force insurance companies to allow the adult children of their customers to remain on their family policies, to write policies for everyone regardless of health and set no limits on expenditures, then insurers will demand something in return.

In this case, it’s the aforementioned fees and regulations plus one other component formerly reviled by the GOP: Customers would not be allowed to buy bare-bones plans. They would still be forced to pay for comprehensive coverage.

Conservatives once mocked the idea that men and women beyond childbearing age would be forced to buy policies with coverage for obstetrical and gynecological care. Now, the GOP leadership proposes to ratify the idea.

President Trump announced today that there will be a “phase 2 & 3 of healthcare rollout” that deals with his call to end state-level restrictions on insurance and, presumably, other conservative favorites like setting federal limits on state medical malpractice lawsuits.

But that’s all somewhere out over the horizon.

As for now, Republicans can’t even answer their own questions about the plan. On the House’s Q&A page for the bill, one “Q” is “How are you paying for this plan? How much is it going to cost taxpayers?”

Good question! The answer, hilariously, begins thusly:We are still discussing details…”


Proponents of the plan will plead for mercy, saying they are just getting underway. And that’s a fair assertion…up to a point. There are many months of debate ahead for this plan, which is unlikely to look anything like this if Congress ever does pass an ObamaCare replacement.

And yet, Republicans have been knocking this ball around for seven years but never bothered to craft an actual replacement. In that sense, this represents one of the more jaw-dropping lapses of political foresight in recent memory.

It’s as if Churchill had warned for years of the looming Nazi menace and then simply shrugged when the Panzers crossed the Polish border. “I don’t know, lads. We’d better try to spiff up the old Attlee plan.”

Conservatives are bound to hate this reworked version of ObamaCare. Moderates will be inclined to resist because of cuts to coverage. It’s not as if these were unforeseeable events.

The looming question is Washington now is whether Republicans are frightened enough of the consequences of ObamaCare’s impending collapse to accept this patching of the plan or if they are so utterly terrified that they will end up retreating and just keeping the whole shooting match.

But as for the bold reforms promised since they started fighting the original legislation eight years ago: Not so much.

“Civil power, properly organized and exerted, is capable of diffusing its force to a very great extent; and can, in a manner, reproduce itself in every part of a great empire by a judicious arrangement of subordinate institutions.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 13

Madison Square Garden went old school Saturday night with no audio or video to accompany the Knicks game. Atlantic: “Madison Square Garden had announced an unusual experiment, via a message on the arena’s jumbo screen, before the game: ‘The first half of today’s game will be presented without music, video, or in-game entertainment so you can experience the game in its purest form. Enjoy the sounds of the game.’ It’s not that it was quiet, exactly. You could still hear a roiling crowd in the stands, the bleat of a referee’s whistle, the reliable thud of the ball, and the squeaking of sneakers on polished maple. But to anyone who is accustomed to the pace and sound of a professional game, things were definitely different.”

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

AP: “WikiLeaks on Tuesday published thousands of documents purportedly taken from the Central Intelligence Agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence, a dramatic release that appears to provide an eye-opening look at the intimate details of America's cyberespionage toolkit. The dump could not immediately be authenticated by The Associated Press and the CIA declined comment, but WikiLeaks has a long track record of releasing top secret government documents. Experts who've started to sift through the material said it appeared legitimate — and that the release was almost certain to shake the CIA.”

General tapped for NSA due on Hill amid Russia uproar - AP: “The senior Army officer tapped by President Donald Trump to be his national security adviser faces questions from senators during a rare closed-door meeting amid intense scrutiny of the White House for alleged Trump campaign contacts with Russian officials. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster’s appearance before the Armed Services Committee, slated for Tuesday, is unusual because national security advisers aren’t subject to Senate confirmation and typically don’t testify on Capitol Hill. But McMaster’s situation is different. He elected to stay on active duty rather than retire from the military and generals of his grade need the chamber’s approval when they’re promoted or get new assignments. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the committee’s Republican chairman, said members will vote at the end of session on whether to recommend to the full Senate that McMaster retain his three-star rank.”

WaPo: “China warned Tuesday of 'consequences' for South Korea over the deployment of a U.S. antimissile system, raising regional tension and questions about China’s commitment to free, open trade. The U.S. military began deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea on Monday, the same day North Korea launched four missiles that landed off the Japanese coast. The United States and South Korea say the system is a necessary defense against Kim Jong Un’s regime, but Beijing rejects the plan. The Chinese side sees THAAD as a threat to the Chinese military and evidence of U.S. meddling in East Asian affairs. To signal its anger, Beijing has been taking aim at South Korean businesses in China and, since March 3, warning would-be Chinese tourists about booking trips.”

USA Today: “Under pressure from the courts, President Trump has rescinded his executive order instituting a travel ban and replaced it with one that’s more narrowly tailored — but also more than twice as long. Trump’s new, 6,100-word order represents an unusual attempt to have an executive order explain and defend the order itself, both to the courts and to the public. It begins with an extraordinary 19-paragraph section explaining the ‘policy and purpose’ behind the travel ban. ‘It is the policy of the United States to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, including those committed by foreign nationals,’ Section 1 of the order begins. It then recites the history of the first executive order, addresses specific issues raised by the courts, and gives a country-by-country rationale for the six predominately Muslim countries included in the list of banned countries. It even references specific cases of refugees.”

“Don’t let someone turn that into something bad.” – Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson appearing on a talk radio show to defend his remarks to agency employees that slaves had come to the United States as immigrants, comments which proved outrage among critics. Carson argued that his ancestors had ‘a tremendous amount of toughness and will power and strength and hope” that others lacked to survive and should be acknowledged for it.

White House denies knowledge of Comey’s bid to knock down Trump claims of Obama wiretap - NYT

Trump wants to keep federal funding for Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services - AP

Trump takes credit for Exxon expansion in the U.S., but investments occurred in 2013 - ABC News

As storms wrack administration, press secretary Spicer takes a lower profile - Politico


[Ed. Note: Here are the full results from our version of March Madness for those of you who did not receive the newsletter Monday. Time is running short to get your vote in for the next round!]

You people really love politics!

The votes are in on the first round of our version of March Madness, and the response was overwhelming. We gave readers eight pairings of famous political speeches and asked you to pick your favorites.

There weren’t many bracket busters. All the top seeds all survived – except for one. In an upset, George W. Bush’s brief remarks through a bullhorn at Ground Zero knocked out John Kennedy’s iconic 1961 inaugural address. You can see the full listing in Friday’s note here.

But the tests are about to get a lot tougher for the favorites.

For the next round, we are pitting the top scorer, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, against Bush’s bracket buster, which won by a scant six votes of almost 300 cast. The new pairings promise considerable drama…

In the first round, you came through with not just a large number of responses, but very thoughtful insights, some of which we will share below. Our expectations are high for the next round.

Send you submissions by noon ET on Wednesday if you want to have your say in picking the final four. Email your submissions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM

a) Abraham Lincoln: Gettysburg address (1863)
b) George W. Bush: Ground Zero bullhorn speech (2001)

a) Ronald Reagan: “The Boys of Pointe du Hoc” (1984)
b) Abraham Lincoln: Second inaugural address (1865)

a) George Washington: Farewell address (1796)
b) Franklin Roosevelt: “Day That Will Live in Infamy” (1941)

a) Martin Luther King: “I Have a Dream” (1964)
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, 3b, 4a]

“The picture of Bush and the bullhorn is emblazoned forever in my memory. A proud moment for our nation.” – Fred MacDonald, Artesia, N.M.

[Ed. note: I have no way of knowing, but I wonder if the close race between Bush and Kennedy here isn’t reflective of a generational divide. For Baby Boomers, Kennedy’s speech, delivered bare-headed and imbued with the unflinching optimism of a post-war America, set the frame for many Baby Boomers’ concept of politics. For many Millennials and members of Gen Ythe events of 9/11 and Bush’s clear-eyed promise deliver swift justice upon its perpetrators reset the political world for a generation.]

“I believe no matter the outcome the greatest speech ever written is the ‘Gettysburg Address.’ All others pale in comparison, when speaking about our great experiment in self-governance. Like the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, it is the cornerstone of our republic.” – John Zapatka, Phoenix, Arizona

[Ed. note: Though I promise we are not putting our thumb on the scale, I find it hard to disagree with you, Mr. Zapatka. Lincoln himself once observed that he could think of almost no political idea that he could not trace to the Declaration and its creed. And a note for politicians today, he got the whole thing done in less than three minutes.]

“The quotes from the Teddy Roosevelt speech have been up on my wall since the early ‘70s. Would have picked that in some other matchup. The one you missed listing was the 1964 Reagan speech televised before the election promoting the election of Goldwater. It launched Reagan and the rest is history.” – Lou Banas, Brea, Calif.

[Ed. note: You are not the only one, Mr. Banas! Others observed that Reagan’s 1964 speech was a turning point in American political history. Certainly, his election 16 years later would tend to reinforce that argument. But the selection committee has adjourned and we will simply have to live with our choices as they stand.]

“George Washington’s Farewell Address…voluntarily left after two terms, warned about factions, made the office what it has become…” – Steve Bell, Washington, D.C.

[Ed. note: On the matter of consequence, it would be hard to disagree, Mr. Bell. What we can’t really know, is how it sounded. A great speech isn’t just the words, but rather how they were delivered and received. Washington, in this regard, probably suffers for the modernist turn away from flowery language. But, no doubt, in defining the presidency and bestowing a glorious vision for the republic, Washington would be hard to beat.]

“Warning: sarcasm ahead! How can I take this list seriously? Sure you’ve included great speeches by the likes of giants like Lincoln, Reagan and MLK, Jr. But a true Sweet Sixteen would NEVER leave off Jimmy Carter’s ‘Malaise’ speech! Seriously, I really enjoy the Halftime Report. Your sense of humor and way with words, obviously having honed your craft (there’s that word again) during your time in West Virginia, Mountain Mama, are highlights of my day!” – Duane Brown, Decherd, Tenn.

[Ed. note: Maybe next time we will do the worst speeches! Thank you for the cornpone appreciation.]

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

The Oregonian: “A very decomposed sperm whale washed ashore near the Peter Iredale shipwreck in Warrenton [Ore.] on Monday. According to a statement from the Seaside Aquarium, the whale, which measured 36 feet long, was first spotted a few miles off the coast near Newport last Tuesday, March 2…Back in 1970, a 45-foot sperm whale washed ashore near Florence. During that episode, the Oregon Department of Transportation decided it was best to dynamite the whale carcass. While the idea had potential, ultimately, it ended up in everyone in the vicinity covered in dead whale pieces and at least one smashed car. This time, authorities are taking a different approach. The whale’s lower jaw was removed with the help of the Oregon State Parks and the jaw will be sent to Portland State University. ‘As for the rest of the carcass,’ said the aquarium, ‘it is going to remain on the beach for nature to take its course.’ That means there will be no whale rain, but there will be birds feasting on whale meat and oil.”

“[Republicans are] going to have to concede the fact that Obama created an entitlement and they are now going to transmute into something different. But the entitlement will stay.” – 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.