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Republicans finalize new Obamacare repeal proposal

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The proposal calls for allowing states to opt out of key Obamacare regulations under certain conditions. | Getty

The White House, top House conservatives and a key moderate Republican have finalized an Obamacare repeal and replace plan they hope will break a month-long GOP logjam.

GOP leadership has been circulating the text to the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative group that helped block the original bill, and to more centrist Republicans. But it not yet clear if the deal will provide Speaker Paul Ryan the 216 votes needed for the House to pass the legislation.

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The proposal would allow states to opt out of key Obamacare regulations under certain conditions.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, who helped author the changes, is likely to support the measure, according to a conservative source. At least two members of the House Freedom Caucus also are shifting to support the new proposal, a sign of potential momentum for the stalled campaign to eliminate the Democrats’ health care law.

Reps. Dave Brat (R-Va.) and Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.), both of whom opposed prior versions, indicated they will support the legislation once the new provisions are added to allow states to opt out of some of Affordable Care Act consumer protections.

The Freedom Caucus opposed the Obamacare repeal bill that Ryan pulled last month. But the hard-line conservative group faced blame from other Republicans for blocking the legislation, which they said didn't repeal enough of Obamacare. Now that the White House has made additional concessions to conservatives, there are signs some members of the group will get on board.

Still, it’s unclear how many members of the Freedom Caucus will join the bill and it’s far from certain the changes — drafted by Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), with consultation from Meadows and Vice President Mike Pence — won’t eliminate support from the few moderates who were already “yes” votes.

It's also uncertain whether the entire Freedom Caucus will take an official position, which would require support from 80 percent of its members. Some Freedom Caucus members, including Reps. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.) told reporters they’re considering the changes.

“The Pence compromise [is] very promising, a lot of people like it,” said Brat, adding that he still needs to make sure that the legislative language matches the policy that’s been discussed.

Meadows said he’s waiting to see final language.

“There’s no definitive statement yet,” Meadows said. “I’m really waiting on the leadership and Tom MacArthur and them. Certainly, I support the premise of what it was drafted under and waiting to see final language.”

Privately, however, insiders say he’ll support the agreement. If more than 20 members of the hard-line conservative group supports the bill, it would bring the Republican whip count closer to the necessary 216 and provide much-needed momentum for the bill mired in GOP infighting.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) declined to tell reporters Tuesday evening whether he supports the bill. “We’ve got a meeting tomorrow with our whole group,"

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The Case for Accrediting Breitbart

The Case for Accrediting Breitbart

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The five-journalist -committee that controls press access to one of the Senate press galleries again tabled Breitbart’s request for permanent credentials on Tuesday morning. The site’s current temporary credentials will sunset on May 31.

“They are just not ready for a credential,” standing committee member Joe Morton of the Omaha World Herald sniffed to USA Today . The sticking points for the committee include these Breitbart shortcomings: The lack of properly zoned office space for the site; the ties between Breitbart’s masthead and Steve Bannon’s nonprofit Government Accountability Institute; and the right-wing Mercer family’s ownership stake in the site. Oh, and the charge that Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart chief who now works as chief strategist for President Donald Trump, has not sufficiently separated himself from the site, and therefore Breitbart is not sufficiently independent.

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You don’t have to be a Breitbart fan—and I’m not—to ask whether the site deserves this kind of rebuff and rejection. Does not the site run Washington news? Does not the site attract millions of readers (15.3 million in February compared with Politico’s 23.8 million, according to comScore)? Haven’t media figures moved to government service before Bannon? A short list would include Edward R. Murrow, Strobe Talbott, John Chancellor, David Axelrod, Amanda Bennett, Pat Buchanan and Bernard Kalb. A dozen journalists, including Jay Carney and Tony Snow, have left journalism to become the president’s flack. Since when is going through that revolving door disqualifying?

I’d wager that the standing committee’s upturned nose has more to do with Breitbart’s outré views on race, its toadyish support of Trump during the campaign and through the first 100 days, its shameful coverage of the Shirley Sherrod video, the witless misogyny of former staffer Milo Yiannopoulos and its unrelenting partisanship than it does its fitness to carry the “members only” card that allows reporters to collect news in Washington’s official sanctums.

If the standing committee wants to blackball Breitbart because its funders, the Mercer family, routinely take activist positions or have donated deeply to political campaigns, may I suggest that they arrange to have the credentials of Bloomberg News reporters revoked? Michael Bloomberg, who owns almost 90 percent of Bloomberg News’ parent company, gave more than $23 million to federal candidates, parties, PACs and other political groups in the 2016 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org . He finances an anti-NRA political group and has pledged millions to the Sierra Club’s anti-coal activism. And, you may recall, Mike left his media and financial information business to join government, serving three terms as the mayor of New York City. Rupert Murdoch has a history of spending on federal candidates, too. I would call for the credentialing committees to take back the Fox News Channel and Wall Street Journal press cards, but somebody might take me up on it.

If it were the government denying Breitbart their precious press passes, the usual complainers would launch a First Amendment stink like nothing you’ve ever heard. I would be one

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Republicans pitch spending compromise with military boost

The Pentagon is pictured. | Getty

“I can’t tell you exactly what amount of the $30 [billion] will be in there. But I think, yes, we will definitely have more money for the military in there,” Sen. John Hoeven said. | AP Photo

Congressional Republicans offered Democrats a spending deal Tuesday that would give the Pentagon and homeland security budgets a substantial boost, according to sources familiar with negotiations.

Free now from President Donald Trump’s border wall demands, GOP leaders’ most recent bid would deliver a major victory to the White House on military and border spending even as it leaves out funds specifically for a structure along the U.S.-Mexico border.

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The GOP’s offer would include “the most robust increase in border security in more than a decade,” according to one source familiar with negotiations.

Congressional leaders have been locked in negotiations for weeks on a spending package to fund the government by the Friday midnight deadline. Democrats say one of the biggest hurdles to a deal has been Trump’s insistence that Congress approve $1.5 billion to begin planning for a 30-foot wall along the Mexican border.

As the president backed away from his border wall request this week, Republicans on Capitol Hill were increasingly vocal about their desire to secure money outlined in the supplemental military funding request the White House submitted last month.

Multiple GOP senators said Tuesday they were confident a government spending package would deliver at least some of the $30 billion military package, and possibly all of the $1.5 billion requested for border security, albeit not for the border wall.

That position represents a stark reversal from last month, when several Republicans — including Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), both an appropriator and member of Senate leadership — suggested lawmakers might have to advance the extra military money separately from the must-pass spending bill.

“I can’t tell you exactly what amount of the $30 [billion] will be in there. But I think, yes, we will definitely have more money for the military in there,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), a subcommittee chairman on the Appropriations Committee, told POLITICO.

Hoeven said some of the extra defense funding would be classified as emergency spending, which means it wouldn’t raise the overall cost of the package, making it more palatable to Democrats. Any boost for defense funding could become a problem in the House, however, due to potential objections from budget hawks.

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Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that handles homeland security spending, said the final funding package would likely include the full $1.5 billion Trump requested for border security, but with an understanding that it would not go to the wall.

“I think it would be the same,” Boozman told POLITICO. “Just instead of physical barrier, some of the other things you need to do on the

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Ryan likely to get rolled on tax reform

Donald Trump is set to steamroll Paul Ryan on tax reform, the issue the speaker has devoted his political career to achieving.

But don’t expect Ryan to relinquish his pet cause easily.

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The White House on Wednesday will drop the outlines of a tax plan that insiders expect will contradict the blueprint Ryan has been working on for more than a year. It won’t include the House speaker’s controversial new tax on imports, which was expected to bring in $1 trillion to finance lower tax rates. And top Trump officials are insisting their tax plan need not be paid for, rejecting Ryan’s stance that any package should not add to the deficit.

The administration’s sudden change of course came as a surprise to the speaker’s office, which didn’t get a heads-up before Trump announced on the fly last week that he would drop a tax plan Wednesday. Ryan had been working with the administration on a tax proposal “hand in glove,” as he put it, and the administration seemed content to let him take the lead.

But after Ryan failed to get his Obamacare replacement bill over the finish line last month, the White House changed its mind. Trump decided the administration needed to take a more hands-on role in tax reform rather than leaving the details to the speaker, three administration sources told Politico. Indeed, Ryan’s team has been kept largely in the dark on some key details of the plan, congressional and White House sources say.

“We made a mistake last time” in having Ryan take the lead on health care, one senior administration official told Politico. “We learned our lesson.”

Still, the White House strategy could backfire, namely because it’s far from certain that it can pass.

If the administration were to pursue a tax cut that’s not paid for — sticking instead with the supply-side theory that tax cuts pay for themselves — it would take at least eight Democrats to get it through the Senate. That’s a tall order, because Democrats generally are loath to pass tax cuts for corporations, especially without corresponding cuts for individuals.

Trump’s plan would drastically lower the corporate rate from 35 percent to 15 percent — at an eye-popping price tag of $2 trillion.

“The best chance to have tax reform is through reconciliation,” said a senior House Republican, referring to GOP leadership’s plan to use a fast-track tool to pass the bill on simple-majority votes.

Ryan’s office stressed that talks are ongoing and nothing is decided.

“We all agree on the benefits of tax reform and the place we want to land, and the question is how you reach that place,” Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said in a statement. “We continue to have productive discussions with the administration about all ideas on the table.”

To be sure, only the House — not the White House — has the power to write a tax bill. In that regard, Trump can’t force the hands of Ryan or Ways

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Pelosi and Hoyer at odds over budget negotiations

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, right, is demanding the final funding bill include language to provide permanent Obamacare subsidies to help cover costs for low-income enrollees, but House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, left, publicly dismissed the idea Tuesday. | Getty

House Democratic leaders are split over how to handle a push on Obamacare subsidies.

By Heather Caygle

04/25/17 06:15 PM EDT

A disagreement between House Democratic leaders over Obamacare subsidies spilled into the open Tuesday, threatening to undermine their negotiating position as they hash out a deal with Republicans to fund the government.

Democratic negotiators, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), are demanding the final funding bill include language to provide permanent Obamacare subsidies to help cover costs for low-income enrollees and keep insurance markets afloat.

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But House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), No. 2 behind Pelosi, publicly dismissed that idea Tuesday, saying the fix would be nice to have in the funding bill but should not be a requirement for supporting the legislation and should not be used as a political bargaining chip.

“From my perspective, this is not a part of our negotiations… I’m not urging my side to have this as part of the negotiations,” Hoyer told reporters. “The president has the authority to go ahead and do it and he ought to do it.”

In a statement later Tuesday, he emphasized that “millions of Americans will be adversely impacted” if the subsidies are cut off, and that they should not be "a quid pro quo that Republicans are giving to us to get funding for a border wall or other partisan priorities.”

Lawmakers are trying to hash out a funding deal before government spending lapses Friday at midnight.

President Donald Trump’s administration can continue funding the Obamacare subsidies without congressional action. But Trump had threatened to yank the subsidies in recent weeks — potentially sending the insurance market into chaos — as a way to bring Democrats to the negotiating table on health care.

In response, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) demanded the funding bill include a permanent fix for the subsidies, a move that if successful would defuse Trump’s threat and offer insurers long-term assurance that they’ll continue to be paid.

Schumer did not say that the subsidies need to be included in the funding bill when asked directly about it on Tuesday afternoon. But a senior Democratic aide insisted Pelosi, Schumer and other Democratic negotiators are still in lock-step on this push.

While Hoyer is a member of Democratic leadership, he is not directly part of the funding bill negotiations.

But he’s not alone in his stance on the issue. A handful of other Democratic lawmakers and staffers privately said they are irked by Pelosi and Schumer’s public insistence on including a fix they say lawmakers shouldn’t be negotiating at all.

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