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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 7.25.17

07/25/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* There's no link available just yet, but the House approved new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea this afternoon, following a 419-to-3 vote. The bill now heads to the Senate.

* The latest on Manafort: "Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was subpoenaed to testify Wednesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the panel's top members said."

* The Boy Scouts are on the defensive after Donald Trump turned one of their national events into a partisan political rally.

* Some House drama: "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 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."

* It sounds like he's steadily making progress: "A group of House Republicans got a surprise pep talk Monday from their missing man: Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who continues to recover from a gunshot wound suffered in last month's baseball-practice shooting."

* Shouldn't Priebus be playing some role in this? "Anthony Scaramucci spent his third day as White House communications director telling reporters he will 'fire everyone' in the press office if leaks from the administration don't stop.... Assistant Press Secretary Michael Short seemed to be the first part of Scaramucci's overhaul -- he resigned on Tuesday."

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks from the chamber as Republicans pushed legislation toward Senate approval to defund Planned Parenthood and the ACA, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 3, 2015. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Senate Republicans overcome hurdle, advance ACA repeal crusade

07/25/17 04:16PM

It wasn't easy, and it took quite a bit more drama than anyone expected to see, but Senate Republicans took their first meaningful step this afternoon toward taking health care benefits from millions of Americans.

With Vice President Mike Pence casting a tie-breaking vote, Republicans moved forward on health care reform Tuesday as the Senate successfully passed a key motion to proceed to debate on repealing and possibly replacing Obamacare.

Momentum built over the course of the day as several previously skeptical members announced they would support Senate GOP leaders after they began detailing plans for more votes over the next days to shape the details of the legislation.

It's important to understand what did and did not happen today. Senate Republicans did not, for example, repeal the Affordable Care Act, in whole or in part. Today's 51-50 vote was a procedural step, not a vote on the substance of any health care legislation.

If even one additional GOP senator either missed the vote or voted "no," the Republicans' repeal crusade would have effectively ended today. But with two GOP senators -- Maine's Susan Collins and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski -- voting "no" instead of three, it means the process can and will move forward.

Perhaps the most striking vote was cast by West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito‏ (R), who assured voters just last week, "I will only vote to proceed to repeal legislation if I am confident there is a replacement plan that addresses my concerns." She appears to have broken her word: there is no replacement plan that addresses her concerns, but Capito voted the way her party told her to on the motion to proceed anyway.

Indeed, Capito, like every other senator, still has no idea what health care reform policy they're moving towards. There is no bill; there is no Congressional Budget Office analysis; there have been no legislative hearings; there has been no scrutiny of the final plan because the plan does not currently exist.

And yet, 50 Republican senators and the far-right vice president voted to move forward toward their amorphous finish line anyway.

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The dome of the U.S. Capitol Building is reflected in a puddle on a rainy morning in Washington.

Senators still don't know what health care bill they're voting on

07/25/17 12:11PM

Last week, when Senate Republican leaders announced plans to begin a series of health care votes today, their schedule immediately became the subject of ridicule. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) knew he wanted the legislative fight to begin in earnest on the chamber floor, but just days ahead of the showdown, no one -- including McConnell and his members -- had any idea what they'd be voting on.

As of today, with just hours remaining before the floor process gets under way, that mockery has led to genuine and widespread bafflement. As Dylan Scott explained, senators still don't know.

Senate leaders are bent on holding a vote. But after the plan was drafted in secret, it now needs substantial revisions under the Senate budget rules. And yet the White House and GOP leadership insist on forcing members to vote on Tuesday.

It is an unprecedentedly opaque process to try to pass legislation that overhauls an industry worth more than $3 trillion, which would undercut a law that has extended health coverage to more than 20 million middle-class and low-income Americans in the past seven years.... [As] the vote approaches, there is no final text, no Congressional Budget Office score.

The scale of this absurdity has no precedent in the American tradition. The Huffington Post, noting that the United States Senate used to describe itself as "the world’s greatest deliberative body," explained quite accurately that the institution "gives more care and consideration to bills renaming post offices than it has to legislation with staggering consequences for the health care system."

Making matters worse, some members not only don't know what they'll be voting on; they also don't care. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), asked about not know the specifics of his own party's plan, said yesterday, "It doesn't concern me. As I said, I'll vote for anything"

An inspiring approach to modern governing in a global superpower, to be sure.

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Abandoning subtlety, Trump lashes out at AG Jeff Sessions

07/25/17 08:40AM

Last week, Donald Trump complained bitterly about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, condemning the Alabama Republican's decision to recuse himself from overseeing the investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal. The president's argument wasn't subtle: Trump wanted Sessions to help shield the White House, and he's outraged that the A.G. isn't helping cover up the controversy.

Almost immediately, there was a question about whether Sessions, lacking the confidence of the president who appointed him, would have to resign, but the attorney general vowed to remain at his post.

That, in turn, has apparently led to a new strategy: Trump will attack Sessions publicly, in the hopes that the attorney general will get the hint and quit.

President Donald Trump blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Twitter early Tuesday as having a "very weak position" when it comes to investigating Hillary Clinton and intelligence leakers.

His tweetstorm began with claims that Ukraine had tried to "sabotage" his campaign in favor of his Democratic rival. He appeared to allude to a Politico report in January that said a Ukrainian-American operative working for the Democratic National Committee had gone to the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington for help to uncover any ties between Trump, campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia.

"So where is the investigation A.G.," Trump tweeted.

As Rachel noted on last night's show, this comes against the backdrop of a new Washington Post report, which said the president and his advisers "are privately discussing the possibility of replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some confidants are floating prospects who could take his place were he to resign or be fired, according to people familiar with the talks."

It's hard to overstate how extraordinary these developments are.

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Image: U.S. President Trump calls on Republican Senators to vote on a healthcare bill to replace the Affordable Care Act at the White House in Washington

Even the Boy Scouts aren't exempt from Trump's boorishness

07/25/17 08:00AM

Donald Trump recently said his bizarre antics and behavior may not be "presidential," per se, but he believes they're "modern-day presidential." In practice, evidently, that means putting on a partisan political show for a group of children.

President Trump looked out Monday evening at the sea of Boy Scouts who were gathered in a remote field, far away from the travails of the capital, and declared that he would not talk about politics.

"Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I'm in front of the Boy Scouts?" he asked.

As it turns out, Donald Trump wants to speak about politics when he's in front of the Boy Scouts.

The rules of the Boy Scouts appear to discourage participation in partisan political events, but Trump just couldn't seem to help himself. He spent his time yesterday lashing out at journalists, pollsters, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Affordable Care Act.

Trump celebrated the 2016 electoral-college map, promised the restoration of "Merry Christmas," and threatened to fire his HHS secretary if the Republican health care plan didn't pass Congress.

If it sounds like I'm describing a Trump campaign rally, it's because, in effect, I am. From Trump's perspective, that's precisely what his appearance was supposed to be.

Daniel Dale highlighted the 17 "most jaw-dropping moments" from the president's appearance, which included a meandering five-minute story about developer William Levitt:

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Monday's Mini-Report, 7.24.17

07/24/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Jared Kushner "spent about two hours Monday answering questions from Senate investigators about his contacts with Russian officials, insisting he had not colluded with foreign agents before or after the 2016 presidential campaign."

* Afghanistan: "An errant U.S. airstrike confirmed by the Pentagon killed 12 Afghan National Police officers and wounded two others, Helmand provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Safi said Saturday."

* A disappointing ruling: "A federal judge on Monday allowed President Trump's voting commission to go forward with seeking voter data from 50 states and the District, ruling that the White House advisory panel is exempt from federal privacy review requirements whatever additional risk it might pose to Americans' information."

* Poland: "Andrzej Duda was a relatively obscure member of the right-wing Law and Justice party when the leader of the party and the most powerful man in the country plucked him from the chorus line to become its candidate for president in 2015. For most of the party’s first 20 months in power, he was a reliable proponent for the governing party’s nationalist initiatives."

* I guess the chat with Trump at the White House is off? "Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte hit back on Friday at U.S. lawmakers opposed to the prospect of his visiting the White House, saying he would never go to the United States, which he called a 'lousy' country."

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Blake Farenthold, Chris Matthews - 09/20/2013

House Republican has unfortunate words for 'some female senators'

07/24/17 04:20PM

Sometimes, a quote is so misguided, it's hard to know where to start.

A Texas Republican congressman says it's "absolutely repugnant" that the GOP-led Senate hasn't acted on repealing the health care law and he singled out "some female senators from the Northeast."

In a radio interview with "1440 Keys," Rep. Blake Farenthold said the Senate has failed to show the courage to dismantle the health care law. The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to move ahead on legislation.

According to the Associated Press' report, Farenthold added, in apparent reference to Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Shelley Moore Capito, "If it was a guy from south Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style."

In other words, Farenthold is so upset about the state of the health care debate, he can imagine a duel with members of his own party who see the issue differently.

Oh my.

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