GOP will end up saving Obama's legacy on health insurance

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On the roster: GOP will end up saving Obama’s legacy on health insurance - Trump’s 2018 budget: Increase for defense, slash for EPA - Trump to dine with local anchors - Dubya calls for ‘welcoming’ immigration policy - You’re doing it wrong

Could there be any crueler irony than Republicans having to be the ones to protect and defend Barack Obama’s most important legacy?

One of the reasons liberals who felt the final version of ObamaCare was too limited still supported the legislation was for the precedent it would set: Henceforth, it would be an obligation of the federal government to see that every American had insurance coverage.

It may seem a distant era now, but just eight years ago, the federal government had almost nothing to do with the private insurance industry, which was almost entirely regulated at the state level.

The insurance executives who met with President Trump at the White House today sat down with the man with the most to say about how their sector will operate in the near term. When representatives of the same companies met with Obama eight years ago, he didn’t have much to say about what they did or did not do at all.

But ObamaCare changed that, granting the Department of Health and Human Services, and by extension, the president, broad latitude over the way private insurance works (or doesn’t).

If you were a liberal senator on the fence about ObamaCare, which didn’t include the much sought-after “public option” government insurance program, the law was still worth passing because it finally put the federal government in control of that sector of the economy.

So who among you believes that the federal government is going to relinquish that power? If you do, you haven’t been paying attention.

It has not taken very long at all for the Republican Party to abandon its previous opposition to government control of health care for the general public.

America started with government insurance for the indigent and the elderly in the 1960s with Medicaid and Medicare, and then in fits and spurts expanded those entities to cover more people, especially children.

But until 2010, conservatives had very successfully held the line on the question of the rest of the population, which mostly obtains health insurance through their employer or the employer of a family member.

Conservatives could be forgiven for being a little bewildered by what is going on right now as Trump and members of Congress discuss the best means by which to continue coverage for those tens of millions of individuals who get at least partly subsidized policies under ObamaCare.

What happened to all that jazz about getting the government out of people’s health insurance? As it turns out, that sounded better on the campaign stump than it did in practice.

Trump has decreed, and Congress has apparently agreed, that no change to the law can result in disruption of coverage.

That’s tantamount to saying that Republicans accept the most important underlying premise of ObamaCare: health insurance is a federal duty. Whatever the means of fulfilling that new responsibility, the debate over its existence has faded with amazing speed.

For example, the topic at hand for Trump and the insurance executives today was likely this: how to restore bailouts to the industry promised under ObamaCare but successfully blocked by Sen. Marco Rubio and other Republicans back when conservatives were still hoping to see the federal government remove itself from the sector.

Now, the unhappy duty for Republicans seems to be how to quietly restore those funds, at least temporarily, in order to avoid massive disruptions in coverage.

The growing verdict in Washington is that while ObamaCare was a failure in execution, Obama seems to have succeeded in an aim that bedeviled his liberal predecessors for three generations: making universal health insurance a duty of Uncle Sam.

The punchline is that Republicans are going to be the ones who have to figure out how to make it work.

“The delicacy and magnitude of a trust which so deeply concerns the political reputation and existence of every man engaged in the administration of public affairs, speak for themselves.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 65

History: “On this day in 1827, a group of masked and costumed students dance through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, marking the beginning of the city’s famous Mardi Gras celebrations. The celebration of Carnival–or the weeks between Twelfth Night on January 6 and Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian period of Lent–spread from Rome across Europe and later to the Americas…Though early French settlers brought the tradition of Mardi Gras to Louisiana at the end of the 17th century, Spanish governors of the province later banned the celebrations. After Louisiana became part of the United States in 1803, New Orleanians managed to convince the city council to lift the ban on wearing masks and partying in the streets. The city’s new Mardi Gras tradition began in 1827 when the group of students, inspired by their experiences studying in Paris, donned masks and jester costumes and staged their own Fat Tuesday festivities.”

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Fox News: “The White House will propose boosting defense spending and slashing funding for longtime Republican targets like the Environmental Protection Agency in a set of marching orders to agencies as it prepares its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. President Donald Trump’s proposal for the 2018 budget year, which will be sent to agencies Monday, won’t make significant changes to Social Security or Medicare, according to an administration official. The official, as well as Capitol Hill aides, confirmed details of the upcoming blueprint on the condition of anonymity to discuss nonpublic information and a sensitive process…The Pentagon is due for a huge boost, as Trump promised during the campaign. But many nondefense agencies and foreign aid programs are facing cuts, including at the State Department. The specific numbers aren’t final and agencies will have a chance to argue against the cuts as part of a longstanding tradition at the budget office.”

President Trump intends to host a dinner tonight for anchors of television stations from across the country, as well as their Washington bureau chiefs, to outline his priorities for his speech to Congress Tuesday, according to the White House Press Office. The stations attending include: WJLA in Washington, WFLA in Tampa, Fla., WBRE in Scranton, Ohio, WSB TV in Atlanta, WFX TV in Boston, TMJ 4 in Milwaukee, WYMD-TV in Detroit, 13ABC in Toledo, Ohio, WOWT in Omaha, Neb., as well as Hearst affiliates from West Palm Beach, Fla. and Des Moines, Iowa. Washington bureaus for Sinclair Broadcast Group, Hearst Communications, Nexstar Media Group, Cox Communications, Scripps and Gray Television are also invited. An administration spokeswoman told Fox News that the move is part of the administration’s greater goal to expand outreach to local communities, like extending Skype seats to affiliates in the press briefings. The White House has plans to host a similar presidential dinner for Washington-based regional media outlets soon.

Fox News: “As the Trump administration hunts for the source of a series of politically embarrassing leaks that have plagued the young administration, dozens of White House staffers have had their phones searched in what is being termed ‘recess’ compared to what may be planned, two top administration officials told Fox News. One official told Fox that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called nearly two dozen staffers into his office and demanded the staffers’ cell phones in order to check for evidence of leaks…A second senior administration official confirmed the first official's account to Fox, adding that staffers were instructed to place their phones on a desk as soon as they walked in. Spicer also deleted the Confide app from his phone to show that high-ranking officials weren’t immune to rules and regulations, Fox News learned.”

Fox News: “Former President George W. Bush offered what appeared to be a thinly veiled critique of his Republican successor on Monday, as he defended the importance of the media and immigration policies that are ‘welcoming.’ Bush, during an interview on NBC’s ’Today’ show to promote a new book of military portraits, addressed a range of President Trump controversies, specifically when asked about the executive order to temporarily restrict travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries… ‘I am for an immigration policy that’s welcoming and upholds the law,’ Bush said. Host Matt Lauer referred to a ‘Muslim ban’ and asked how Trump’s policies meshed with Bush’s warm White House rhetoric directed toward Muslims. ‘I think it’s very important for all of us to recognize one of our great strengths is for people to be able to worship the way they want to or not worship at all,’ Bush said…He also echoed the reported comments of new National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, refusing to term terrorism as inherently Islamic.”

“We needed the media to hold people like me to account.” – Former President George W. Bush on NBC News talking about the importance of a free press.

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“Chris, can you explain why some cabinet members need confirmations and others do not? Love seeing you on the Fox News shows and your wittiness! Keep it up!!!!” – Loa Arno, Ridgefield, Wash.

[Ed. note: President Trump has a big cabinet by historical standards, with 24 members. Two of those posts, like the White House chief of staff and the vice president, need no confirmation, but all the rest do. It’s up to each president to decide how many people will make up his cabinet, with some including larger numbers, and others trimming down the bunch to the exclusion of heads of agencies like the Small Business Administration or the Office of Management and Budget. What may be confusing though are posts like National Security Advisor or other senior advisers to the president who require no confirmation. The cabinet is a distinct entity within the government but not defined by the Constitution. Here’s pretty much all the charter has to say about it: “[The president] shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law: but the Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.”]

Kamala Harris? Really? This is the person who, during Pompeo’s confirmation hearing, spend her allotted time questioning the future CIA director on global warming! If she’s the ‘future’ of the Dems, good news for the GOP!” – Peter Ford, St. Petersburg, Fla.

[Ed. note: I don’t think she’s likely to win any Republican primaries, Mr. Ford. But I wonder what Republicans would’ve said in 2005 about a freshman senator from Illinois with the middle name Hussein, who rose to fame for his abject opposition to the Iraq invasion, what he called “a dumb war.” Americans are not as ideological as we think them to be but instead tend to respond to personalities and tone more than position papers, as the 2016 Republican primaries revealed. Harris is a political talent with lots of admirers and hails from the largest state in the Union. If she can bring Bernie Sanders’ message in a manner more palatable to centrist voters, she would be a force with which to be reckoned.]

“Your account of the Priebus request of the FBI to comment upon news reports of Trump team communications with the Russians was misleading in that you failed to explain that the sequence started with the FBI #2 volunteering to Priebus that his outfit had determined that the anonymously sourced news reports were inaccurate. Your first paragraph leaves the impression the Administration pressured the agency out of hand instead of instigating the exchange.” – Joe Guyton. San Antonio, Texas

[Ed. note: I think you’re referring to the account from the AP we passed along Friday that discussed the back and forth between the FBI and the White House. Since we are necessarily relying on incomplete accounts here, I think the simplest takeaway is probably this: a higher up on the FBI would not have tipped off the White House without the expectation that the information would leak. Law enforcement officials know better than to tell politicians about investigations unless they expect it to get out. Priebus would have been better off to simply leak the information and do so with a high degree of certainty. Instead, he tried to get the FBI to do it and the whole thing turned out in a rather clumsy way. If he gets a heads up next time, I bet Priebus will handle it differently.]

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The [London] Telegraph: “South London vandals have defaced [soccer team] Crystal Palace’s team bus after believing it belonged to their Premier League relegation rivals, Middlesbrough. The [motor] coach, which was parked at a hotel nearby Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park stadium, was spray-painted with the words ‘Crystal Palace FC’ in the early hours of Saturday morning. The vandals sprayed the club’s name in red, white and blue paint across the sides and rear of the coach. Despite the damage, Sam Allardyce’s team still used the vehicle ahead of their bottom of the table clash with Middlesbrough on Saturday afternoon.”

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.