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Latest from Jamie Dupree

    After the collapse of health care reform legislation in the House on Friday, Republicans in the Congress and President Donald Trump now must decide what’s next on their respective agendas, as the GOP tries to pick up the pieces from a very public legislative failure over an issue that had been their central political focus for the last seven years. Here’s the look from Capitol Hill. 1. The first big setback for the Trump agenda. You can try to downplay what happened, but there was little positive to take from this health care debacle in the House. “I will not sugarcoat this; this is a disappointing day for us,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan after the vote was canceled. President Trump tried to blame Democrats, but that rang hollow since the White House had done no serious outreach to the other party. With this setback, it’s even more apparent how little has been done so far by the GOP Congress with respect to the Trump Agenda. Other than approving a series of plans to reverse specific regulations of the Obama Administration, no bills of any import have been passed. Infrastructure, jobs bills, tax cuts, cutting government – all of that sounds good – but so far, no action. And Trump wrote 'The Art of the Deal' — Bill Mitchell (@JerseyGuy_Bill) March 25, 2017 2. Trump allies turn their sights on Speaker Ryan. It wasn’t hard to hear the low rumbling of some supporters of President Trump, as they used the Friday health care debacle to immediately try to make Speaker Ryan the scapegoat. Ann Coulter bluntly said, “Ryan is not on Trump’s side.” Pro-Trump websites like InfoWars and Breitbart immediately attacked Ryan as well, with some conservatives urging the House Freedom Caucus to help dump Ryan, arguing that he is the perfect illustration of the Republican Establishment that needs to be excised from Swamp of Washington, D.C. Paul Ryan is not on @POTUS' side – https://t.co/QVOHBDIKiT #KilledTheBill #FunFactFriday — Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) March 24, 2017 3. Full repeal of Obamacare needs 60 votes in the Senate. If Republicans couldn’t muster a majority in the House – how are they going to get 60 votes in the Senate to really change the bulk of the Obama health law? The answer – they’re not going to do that any time soon. But full repeal was still the mantra from a number of Republicans as the House GOP health care bill went down the tubes on Friday. “I remain committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with conservative reforms,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN). “Congress should take its time and pass a good bill that actually repeals ObamaCare,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). But the truth is, unless Republicans get 60 votes in the 2018 elections, an Obama health law repeal bill faces a difficult road in the Congress. I applaud House conservatives for keeping their word to the American people. I look forward to passing full repeal https://t.co/ftyj6sCw0v — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 24, 2017 4. This fight on health care is already over? It seems hard to believe that Republicans are just going to drop the issue of health care reform, especially after making it such a central part of their political message in recent years. But President Trump seemed to send the signal that he is going to focus his political capital on other issues, like tax reform. “That one is going to be fun,” the President said earlier this week, as his Treasury Secretary predicted a final tax bill would on the President’s desk by early August. The last time Congress approved major tax reform was 1986. There’s a reason it hasn’t happened in over 30 years. It is not easy. And the lobbyists of Gucci Gulch will be ready. President Trump says tax reform is the next item on his agenda https://t.co/dLNduSPgl6 — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 24, 2017 5. This wasn’t really much of an effort. The White House said the President “left everything on the field” to get a health care bill. But it doesn’t look like that at all. Go back eight years, and Democrats were just launching their 13 month effort to forge what would become known as Obamacare. It went through the spring, summer, fall, winter, and then into the next spring of 2010, before being achieved. By contrast, the GOP introduced its health care bill on March 6 and gave up on March 24. Back in 2009 and 2010, Democrats struggled to keep their side together, but managed to get 60 votes for their package in the Senate. The GOP couldn’t even get a majority in the House. There is still time to go back to the drawing board. But it takes more than 18 days of work. Remember when Republicans promised they would try to fiddle with Obamacare for a few weeks and then give up? — Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) March 24, 2017 6. Let the Republican finger pointing begin. One of the biggest immediate targets was the Freedom Caucus, the group of more conservative lawmakers which for years has been very good at holding out against the GOP leadership, but has done almost nothing in the way of substantive legislating. Some of that ire was aimed at Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the head of the Freedom Caucus. “Mark Meadows is more interested in being on the TV than solving problems,” fumed Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), who then aimed some more barbs at Meadows and pointedly made sure to tell a reporter – “You can quote me on that.” Exactly right. GOP & Trump own this,but @freedomcaucus & @Heritage_Action & others caused it. They are the pie-in-the-sky caucus. https://t.co/9tMcfk45ox — Brit Hume (@brithume) March 24, 2017 7. Don’t downplay the importance of this setback. Yes, it’s just one bill. Yes, it’s not the end of the world. But this failure was a big deal. Republicans have been talking for years about how they would repeal and replace the Obama health law. Donald Trump said he would do it right away. But for years, I have been reporting – and taking flak for saying – that while the GOP had lots of ideas, they didn’t have consensus on any plan. And that was obvious as they desperately tried to stitch together deals at the last minute to keep the bill moving. It’s pretty easy to lob verbal grenades at the other party – it’s a little different to offer substantive legislation and pass it. Humiliating defeat for GOP after years to prepare. Real blow to their argument that they could govern if only given the chance. — carl hulse (@hillhulse) March 24, 2017 8. This was not a good week for President Trump. It started Monday with the FBI Director publicly confirming that not only was there an investigation of how Russia meddled in last year’s election, but also a probe of any links between the Trump Campaign and Moscow. The FBI chief also made clear there was no evidence to back up Trump’s claim that he had been wiretapped in 2016. And the NSA shot down talk that British Intelligence had helped with surveillance on Trump Tower. Meanwhile, the Trump travel and refugee ban stayed on hold the courts, despite Mr. Trump’s declaration that judges were overstepping their authority. Then the week ended with a health care thud. Tomorrow's cover: Trump forced to cancel health care vote in stunning blow https://t.co/53Po4iXVbM pic.twitter.com/lEQe5Qc22g — New York Post (@nypost) March 24, 2017
  • Unable to convince GOP lawmakers to get on board with a plan to overhaul the Obama health law, Republicans in the House decided not to even force a vote on the measure, a major setback for both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. “This bill is dead,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who played a central role in cobbling together this plan. 'This bill is dead,' House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Walden says — Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) March 24, 2017 The bill never even came to a vote, as it became obvious that Republicans had nowhere near a majority of lawmakers ready to vote for it. Democrats were more than happy to pile on the GOP legislative debacle. #ObamaCare 1 – #Trumpcare 0. — Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) March 24, 2017
  • After hours of negotiations that featured personal intervention by President Donald Trump, Republican leaders in the Congress were forced to back off a planned vote on a GOP health care bill, unable to find enough votes approve it and send it on to the Senate for further work. While House leaders said votes were possible on Friday, there was no final agreement to vote on, as more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus refused to get on board with a deal offered by the White House. “We have not gotten enough of our members to get to yes,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the chair of the Freedom Caucus. “I am still a no at this time,” Meadows told a crush of reporters. “I am desperately trying to get to yes.” Rep. Mark Meadows: “I am still a no at this time. I am desperately trying to get to yes” https://t.co/cQi0OGdJGY — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 23, 2017 Other Freedom Caucus members said very little as they exited a Congressional hearing room after a two hour meeting on the health bill, leaving Meadows to get out the message. “No comment,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). “Mark’s got everything,” referring to Meadows. “You know I’m not going express the substance of anything that we talked about in there,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) said as reporters trailed him down the hall. Earlier at the White House, there had been optimism after a meeting between Freedom Caucus members and the President. Lengthy standing ovation from the Freedom Caucus when @POTUS walked into the Cabinet Room just now. Big momentum toward #RepealAndReplace. pic.twitter.com/N1FLGAVFMN — Cliff Sims (@CSims45) March 23, 2017 But, there was no deal.
  • In a last minute bid to thread the needle between more conservative and more moderate Republicans, President Donald Trump and GOP leaders in the House are still hoping to bring a health care overhaul bill to a vote today, as they try to find a magic legislative formula that will produce a final agreement acceptable to a bare majority of Republican members. Here’s where things stand. 1. Republicans still seem short on votes. Despite a full day of arm twisting and closed door meetings that stretched late into Wednesday night, the President seemed no closer to a majority in the House – in fact, the numbers seemed to go the wrong way yesterday, as several more moderate Republicans like Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) announced they could not support the bill. “We gave our word that we would repeal and replace it,” said Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) of Obamacare. “This bill does not go far enough.” Yoho – a Freedom Caucus member – though said he was open to a last minute deal, but that remained elusive as the sun came up on Thursday. President Trump is set to meet with Freedom Caucus members just before lunch at the White House. Believe ldrshp lost more votes today (Dent, LoBiondo, David Young, Dan Donovan) than they gained (Steve King, Barletta) – at least publicly — Erica Werner (@ericawerner) March 23, 2017 2. For some the negotiations just don’t matter. As we have seen on major legislation in recent years, there are a small group of Republicans who just aren’t going to get to a “Yes” vote under the current direction of negotiations. “We promised to repeal Obamacare and improve health care for Americans. This bill does neither,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who is a certain “No” vote. Even as members of the House Freedom Caucus met into the night on Wednesday, it was obvious that some in that group, like Amash, would not get on board with the final product – and on their own, they have more than enough votes to sink this GOP bill if they withhold their support. This was a tweet from the group’s spokeswoman. BREAKING: more than 25 Freedom Caucus 'No's' on AHCA — group says 'start over' — Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) March 22, 2017 3. There is no groundswell of support back home. One peculiar situation about the GOP drive on health care is that they are not only taking flak from Democrats, but also from conservative groups who don’t like the direction of the bill – and that combination is bringing a distinct message from back home, as well as groups that watch GOP lawmakers like a hawk. “Unfortunately, even with recently submitted changes, the American Health Care Act has too many ObamaCare-like flaws,” the conservative group Freedom Works said in a statement. Other groups like the Heritage Foundation have been openly working to stop the bill as well – and lawmakers say the folks back home have made quite clear their dislike for the bill. Rep Walter Jones R-NC on calls/emails from his district about GOP health care bill: 4 were in favor, 800 against — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) March 23, 2017 4. What late changes are being considered to the GOP bill? There was a lot of talk on Wednesday night of major alterations to the bill, some of which might not even survive tight Senate rules dealing with budget reconciliation. The work mainly centered on re-writing the definition of “Essential Health Benefits” in the Obama health law, to allow insurance companies to offer more limited – and therefore less expensive for consumers. Here is the EHB list in current law – these can be modified administratively by the Trump Administration and the Secretary of Health and Human Services; but a number of Republican lawmakers want them changed in law. That most likely will take 60 votes in the Senate. 5. Wait – the EHB change takes 60 votes in the Senate? The logical question to ask is – if you can’t change the Essential Health Benefits in a budget reconciliation bill, because it will get knocked out in the Senate, why put that in this House bill? Well, it may be the only way to get the bill out of the House with enough votes, and send it over to the Senate. Republicans were already engaged in public lobbying of the Senate Parliamentarian, who has the job of ruling on specific provisions of reconciliation bills, as they tried to argue in public that she might change her mind on the matter. Behind the scenes, it wasn’t really apparent that anything had changed along these lines, but the GOP hope was that if EHB changes were included in the bill, the provision could get through the House and just be knocked out in the Senate, without destroying the underlying measure. BREAKING: Mike Lee says parliamentarian told him it may be possible to repeal Obamacare regs via reconciliation https://t.co/OqxadhUbAu — Philip Klein (@philipaklein) March 22, 2017 6. Will the vote be Thursday or later? Republicans were ready to give themselves several days of wiggle room on the health care matter, as the House was expected to approve a measure that allows the GOP to quickly bring a final health care deal to the floor for a vote, any time over the next four days – through Monday. So, there could be a showdown vote on health care today, tomorrow, over the weekend, or early next week. Basically, if Republicans and the White House think they’ve got the votes, then they will rush to the House floor to push that through. “We have not cut the deal, yet,” Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) acknowledged late on Wednesday night in the House Rules Committee. Republicans have said they will vote Thursday on their plan to overhaul Obamacare, but no vote is scheduled https://t.co/R7KtadKwh3 pic.twitter.com/9H5Ior3DvC — CBS News (@CBSNews) March 23, 2017 7. GOP ready to repeat the Nancy Pelosi 2010 quote. Republicans love to talk up the out-of-context quote from then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2010, when she said the Congress would just have to pass a health care bill in order to see what was in it. If you really research the quote, you see she wasn’t saying that, but that hasn’t stopped the GOP from throwing it in her face for the past seven years. Now, Democrats are delighting in watching the GOP maybe doing the same thing. With major changes being looked at last night, it was not clear as the day began what exactly the Republicans would be voting on – and it was possible that no cost estimate, or insurance coverage estimate details would be ready for when lawmakers did vote in the House. With no CBO score, the full effect of eliminating essential health benefits won't be known to House lawmakers before they vote #votingblind — Noam Levey (@NoamLevey) March 23, 2017 Stay tuned – it could be a very interesting day in the House.
  • Two days after the FBI Director confirmed that an investigation was underway into election meddling by Russia and any ties to the Trump Campaign, the Republican Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee announced that U.S. Intelligence had legally monitored actions of the Trump transition, and maybe even some communications of Mr. Trump himself. Here is what we know: 1. What is in this new information? House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) said he had been provided with raw intelligence intercepts which showed information related to President-Elect Trump and members of the Trump Transition team. Nunes would not identify who had provided him with the information, which he seemed to indicate came through regular channels, possibly by a whistle blower inside the U.S. Intelligence Community – it just wasn’t clear. But what was clear was that he took the information to President Trump and the White House before telling his committee, and Democratic members on that panel. Whoa. At presser, Nunes just revealed IC collected info about Americans associated w/ the Trump transition team—separate from Russia probe. — Eric Geller (@ericgeller) March 22, 2017 2. Nunes: It has nothing to do with Russia. One puzzling part of the dramatic announcement by Nunes was that the subject matter did not relate to the probe into election meddling by Russia in 2016, or ties between Russia and the Trump Campaign. If that indeed is the case, then the communications monitored by U.S. Intelligence must have been focused on some other foreign intelligence targets which were being monitored by the United States. Was it other nations that are on the radar of U.S. Intelligence? Certain foreigners who are the target of a criminal investigation? It wasn’t clear. Rep. Devin Nunes: The reports I've seen 'did not have anything to do with Russia or the Russia investigation” https://t.co/sCYhWJArgW — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 22, 2017 3. What is incidental collection? Is it legal? This is one of those bureaucratic phrases that sounds complicated, but really isn’t. First, incidental collection of an American during a wiretap of a foreigner is totally legal. In this situation (as described by Nunes), officials of the Trump Transition – or maybe even the President-Elect at the time – could have been in contact with foreign persons who are under surveillance. When that happens, that is known as “incidental collection.” While there are rules on how that is dealt with, just because a U.S. citizen appears on a wiretap involving a foreigner does not mean that U.S. Intelligence suddenly stops listening. Nunes said the intercepts showed that information with no intelligence value was circulated widely inside the Intelligence Community. Rep. Devin Nunes: The reports I've seen 'did not have anything to do with Russia or the Russia investigation” https://t.co/sCYhWJArgW — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 22, 2017 4. Democrats hit the roof. Democrats were outraged by the Nunes move, immediately saying that it raises questions about how Nunes could lead a bipartisan review of the election interference charges against Russia. The Top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (R-CA) expressed his displeasure in a statement, and at his own news conference. “You don’t take information that the committee hasn’t seen and present it orally to the press and the White House, before the committee has a chance to even vet whether it is significant.” Rep. Adam Schiff: “This is not how you conduct an investigation” https://t.co/J6dJQWqV9d https://t.co/IMLTAxmn5p — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 22, 2017 5. New calls for an independent probe on Russia. The dustup over the Nunes announcement opened a new door for Democrats to demand an independent investigation of the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, as Democrats have long been suspicious of Nunes, who was a member of the Trump Transition team. “Unfortunately, I think the actions of today throw great doubt into the ability of both the Chairman and the committee to conduct the investigation the way it ought to be conducted,” Schiff said at his own news conference. Schiff says Nunes needs to decide if he is Chair of independent oversight committee or surrogate for the White House https://t.co/5AaB4kTNjI — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 22, 2017 6. More partisan elbows from both sides. It didn’t take long for both parties to weigh in, for and against Nunes. “The unprecedented comments of Chairman Nunes are an act of diversion and desperation,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who labeled the Nunes brief of President Trump, “highly irregular conduct.” On the other side, the statements were just as pointed. “The Chairman’s statements today detailing the incidental collection and dissemination of the Presidential transition team’s communications is highly concerning,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). I used to deal with FISA SIGINT all the time. That's some seriously compartmented stuff, folks. I am still in shock about Nunes' disclosure. — John Schindler (@20committee) March 22, 2017 7. White House welcomes Nunes information. After taking all sorts of flak for claiming that he had been wiretapped by President Obama, President Trump and his aides found themselves with some new ammunition in their arguments about how U.S. Intelligence has treated Mr. Trump. Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the Nunes information was a “startling revelation.” The President – who has routinely ignored questions about his Twitter wiretap claims – was more than happy to give a quote to the TV cameras, saying it made him feel vindicated. President Trump on if he feels vindicated by Rep. Devin Nunes’ comments: “I somewhat do” https://t.co/5WJCX615rG — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 22, 2017 This could well boil over again next week, when the House Intelligence Committee holds a second public hearing about Russia on Tuesday, March 28.
  • The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee told reporters Wednesday that he has been given evidence from inside the U.S. Intelligence Community, which shows that personal communications of President Trump were collected during the Presidential transition as part of legally approved foreign intelligence surveillance operations. “It looks to me like it was all legally collected, but it was essentially a lot of information on the President-Elect and his transition team and what they were doing,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) told reporters at a news conference in the Capitol. Nunes would not detail how the information was obtained – it is known as “incidental collection,” where an American citizen unknowingly speaks with someone who is under surveillance by U.S. intelligence. “From what I’ve seen, it appears to be incidental collection,” Nunes stressed, meaning that Mr. Trump himself was not the target of the surveillance. Whoa. At presser, Nunes just revealed IC collected info about Americans associated w/ the Trump transition team—separate from Russia probe. — Eric Geller (@ericgeller) March 22, 2017 Nunes made clear that the surveillance had nothing to do with Russia, or any investigation into Russia and the U.S. 2016 elections. It was not immediately apparent why Trump communications were incidentally collected, or who he may have been in touch with that was under intelligence surveillance.
  • U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch vowed to uphold the law if confirmed to the nation’s highest court, not tipping his hand as he sidestepped controversial political subjects, as Gorsuch directly pushed back against President Donald Trump’s criticism of federal judges. “When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening; I find that demoralizing,” Gorsuch said in response to questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “Anyone including the President of the United States?” Blumenthal pressed. “Anyone is anyone,” Gorsuch replied. In a day of testimony that stretched for almost twelve hours, Gorsuch parried most questions from Democrats, who tried in vain to get him to reveal his views on issues like abortion, and items that might come before the Supreme Court, like President Trump’s travel ban. Gorsuch repeatedly refused to take the bait. “I can’t get involved in politics, and I think it would be very imprudent of judges to start commenting on political disputes,” Gorsuch said. Under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Gorsuch was asked what he had discussed with President Trump on the issue of abortion. “In that interview did he ever ask you to overrule Roe v Wade?” Graham asked. “No, Senator,” Gorsuch replied, adding that if the President had asked that question, “I would have walked out the door.” Gorsuch was pressed about the President in a number of different ways, telling Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that, “nobody is above the law in this country, and that includes the President of the United States.” With Republicans strongly in support of Gorsuch, there was already maneuvering behind the scenes over the expected floor fight in the Senate, as Democrats have made clear they think the GOP should be forced to get 60 votes for his nomination. That has prompted GOP leaders to criticize the threat of a filibuster. “If there aren’t 60 votes for a nominee like Neil Gorsuch it’s appropriate to ask the question is there any nominee any Republican president could make that Democrats would approve,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Gorsuch’s lengthy day of testimony ended on a light note, as Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) suggested to Gorsuch that he have a cocktail before bed. “Just don’t drink vodka,” Kennedy said to chuckles from the audience. Kennedy then drew even more laughter by adding in one more surprise. “You never been to Russia, have you?” “I’ve never been to Russia,” a smiling Gorsuch said.
  • In a closed door meeting with House Republicans at the U.S. Capitol, President Donald Trump on Tuesday urged GOP lawmakers to get on board with a Republican health care overhaul bill that he supports, arguing that if the plan goes down to defeat later this week, it could cost Republicans their majorities in both the House and Senate in the next election. Here is what came out of that meeting: 1. Trump tries to make the final sale. There was laughter and applause inside as the President cajoled reluctant Republicans to get on board. “Look, the guy is very personable,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). “He speaks bluntly.” At one point, Mr. Trump had the leader of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) stand up for some good-natured ribbing. “I’m still a no,” Meadows told reporters after the meeting, saying he was worried about policy matters. But Meadows noted the effectiveness of the Trump message. “You know, if this was a personality thing, we wouldn’t be having these discussions,” Meadows added. In other words – as multiple Republicans told reporters after the meeting – this President is very effective in lobbying lawmakers for their support. 'Oh Mark, I'm gonna come after you,' Trump said to Rep. Mark Meadows this morning. Room laughs. 'I hope Mark will be with us in the end.' — Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 21, 2017 2. Trump warns of GOP election losses if health care is defeated. In making his argument for Republicans to back the GOP health plan, the President warned Republican lawmakers that they would suffer at the ballot box in the 2018 mid-term elections. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) said the argument was basically, “politically, it’s the right thing to do.” Jones is still against the bill. “The American people are expecting us to do this,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), as he noted that this was something every Republican vowed to do in the 2016 campaign. “The political repercussions are we might lose the House and the Senate next year,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) about not approving the health bill. President Trump just told House Rs he thinks many will lose their seats in 2018 if don't get this repeal done — Alex Moe (@AlexNBCNews) March 21, 2017 3. Trump arguments don’t sway some Republicans. After the Trump visit, there were still some more conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus who weren’t interested in buying the plan that the President was selling. “All I’m concerned about is doing what I told the voters in the Fourth District of Ohio what I was going to do,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who won’t budge on his opposition, as he wants a full repeal of the Obama health law, and nothing less. “The President did a great job with his presentation, but the legislation is still bad; it doesn’t do what we told the voters we were going to do, and I’m still opposed to it,” Jordan told reporters. From Rep. Jim Jordan, Freedom Caucus member: “The president’s great, the bill’s still bad.” Said he doesn't think votes are there for AHCA. — Lissandra Villa (@LissandraVilla) March 21, 2017 4. But other Republicans seemed to move to back the bill. While reporters crowded around GOP lawmakers like Jordan and Meadows – who are still opposed to the health care bill – there were others who seemed like they were coming around on the plan. Some of it was related to Trump the Cajoler, as he urged specific lawmakers in the GOP meeting to get on board. For others, it was the changes in the bill that have been made. “I’m encouraged by the process,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL). “He did refer to quite a few of the changes,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), a more moderate Republican who has been on the fence in recent weeks. In the hallways, it seemed like the numbers were going in the right direction for Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House. As some conservatives hold out on health bill, Ryan' vote-counters peel off some key centrists, MacArthur, McSally, McClintock and Aderholt. — Billy House (@HouseInSession) March 21, 2017 5. Republicans defend specific provision on Medicaid in New York. As the GOP unveiled changes to the health care bill on Monday night, one provision on a New York-specific issue quickly attracted the attention of reporters digging through the legislative text. It wasn’t a plan that gives extra money to New York, but rather one that could make the state pay the full cost of Medicare coverage, and not county governments far from Manhattan. “That really brought the New Yorkers on board,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), as he happily defended the addition. What the change would do is stop the state of New York from forcing a number of counties to chip in $2.3 billion in money to add to state Medicaid coverage for low-income residents, mainly in the New York City area. “In my county, that’s 83 percent of our property tax levy,” Collins told reporters. 'It would be like a Buffalo Billion, every single year, in every single community in New York.' On Medicaid shift from counties to NYS — Bob Lonsberry (@BobLonsberry) March 21, 2017 House leaders are still planning a vote on the GOP health care bill on Thursday.
  • Still trying to bring aboard reluctant conservatives, Republicans in the House on Monday night unveiled a series of changes to a GOP health care bill, accelerating a series of tax cuts and providing more money for tax credits to help older Americans buy health insurance, still aiming for a vote in the full House on Thursday. “With the President’s leadership and support for this historic legislation, we are now one step closer to keeping our promise to the American people and ending the Obamacare nightmare,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. The highly technical changes also included language dealing with limits on state Medicaid spending, including a provision designed to win over a group of Republicans from New York, by freeing counties in that state from being forced to contribute money for Medicaid operations. It's like upside-down pork: A few NY reps will only vote for the bill if it cuts Medicaid funding to their state. https://t.co/rVr9CJ5fsM — Margot Sanger-Katz (@sangerkatz) March 21, 2017 States also be able to boost their Medicaid funding by five percent, by instituting work requirements for able-bodied adults who are getting such benefits. The revised plan would also freeze Medicaid expansion under the Obama health law, preventing other states from getting access to billions in extra coverage dollars. In the tax arena, the GOP changes would move to repeal the many tax hikes under the Obama health law now – in 2017 – rather than waiting until 2018. As for a move to provide larger tax credits for older Americans – that was the stated goal of the GOP – but when you look in the text of the revised bill language, it isn’t there. The explanation of the bill says the revised language, “provides budgetary space for the Senate to increase tax credits for older Americans.” In other words, the Senate will have to work out the specifics. Shorter House GOP: We want to increase tax credits by $85B but that would take like a week to figure out, so screw it. Senate your job now https://t.co/F49pppX4Gq — Jon Walker (@JonWalkerDC) March 21, 2017 But even as those changes were released, there were ominous signs from some rank-and-file GOP lawmakers on the House Freedom Caucus, as a number were still refusing to jump on board with the plan, just days before a scheduled Thursday vote. “They haven’t changed the bill’s general framework. They don’t have the votes to pass it,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI). NEWS: After @FreedomCaucus meets on health care, Chairman Mark Meadows says: 'Currently there are not enough votes to pass the legislation.' — Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) March 21, 2017 The changes seem certain to further reduce the amount of deficit reduction linked to the bill, which was at $337 billion over ten years – now that figure may drop to under $200 billion. But GOP leaders were ready to deploy their secret weapon on Tuesday morning, as President Trump will speak to Republicans – and presumably urge them to vote for the health overhaul bill – despite their reservations.  
  • The House Intelligence Committee held the first public hearing on questions involving actions taken by Russia to interfere with the 2016 elections in the United States, as both parties used starkly different strategies as they asked questions of the heads of the FBI and National Security Agency about that probe. Here are some of the highlights: 1. FBI confirms Trump-Russia investigation for the first time. Many had long assumed that the FBI was investigating meddling by Russia in the 2016 U.S. elections, but today was the first time that it had been publicly announced by the FBI Director. “Our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations,” Comey said. But the FBI Director said that he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm that the U.S. does have a counter intelligence probe of Russia. And that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” Comey added. Comey testifies on Russia: The FBI is investigating 'the Russian governments efforts to interfere' in the election https://t.co/viHmLboGXY — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 20, 2017 2. FBI and NSA reject Trump “wiretap” tweets. Adding their voices to those of top members in both parties on the House and Senate Intelligence committees, both FBI Director Comey and Admiral Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, said that they had found no evidence to support the March 4 tweets of President Trump, which charged that he had been subjected to wiretaps by President Obama. “I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Director Comey told lawmakers. There was no ambiguity involved. Comey on Trump's allegations that Obama ordered wiretapping: 'I have no information that supports those tweets' https://t.co/aTED00vaUJ — NBC News (@NBCNews) March 20, 2017 3. The White House doesn’t back down on Trump “wiretap” tweets. Just a few hours after the FBI Director bluntly said there was no evidence to back up Mr. Trump’s charge that he was wiretapped during the Obama Administration, the Trump White House refused to back down from the charge. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said there was still time for more information to come out from the investigations of the House and Senate Intelligence committees, so there was no reason to say the President had been wrong in making that claim. .@PressSec to @jonkarl: Pres. Trump not prepared to withdraw wiretap accusation after Comey testified FBI has no information supporting it. pic.twitter.com/vtIQP5i7C8 — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) March 20, 2017 4. Republicans focus not on Russia but on leaks. Republicans used most of their time in this first public hearing to zero in on who leaked information about top Trump aide Michael Flynn, and his conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the United States. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) pressed the heads of the NSA and FBI repeatedly on who knew about incidental collection of Flynn’s phone calls, and who might have leaked them, naming a number of Obama Administration officials as possible suspects. The White House then used that hearing exchange to seemingly make the case that former President Obama might even have been the source of the information. It was another new theory from the White House – that did not seem to have any evidence behind it. FBI Director Comey refuses to deny he briefed President Obama on calls made by Michael Flynn to Russia. pic.twitter.com/cUZ5KgBSYP — President Trump (@POTUS) March 20, 2017 5. One Republican drills down into Russia efforts. While many of her colleagues focused on leaks, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – who did not support President Trump during the election campaign – pushed for examples from the FBI and NSA on what the Russians actually did to upset the U.S. elections, and how it was different from the past. “We never saw in previous Presidential elections information being published on such a massive scale that had been illegally removed,” said the NSA chief. FBI Director Comey said it was almost like the Russians didn’t care if their actions were uncovered. “They were unusually loud,” Comey said, labeling the Russian intrusions, “very noisy.” Comey says the Russians were 'unusually loud' in their involvement in 2016 election. 'Almost like they didn't care or wanted us to find out' — Walt Cronkite (@WCronkite) March 20, 2017 6. Comey admits the FBI kept Congress in the dark. In his testimony, FBI Director Comey said the counter intelligence investigation into Russian election meddling began back in July, but that Congressional leaders were not told of it before the elections – or even immediately after Election Day. “Why was the decision made not to brief senior Congressional leadership until recently,” asked Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY). “Why was that decision made to wait months?” Comey said it was because of the “sensitivity of the matter.” Asked who made that decision, Comey indicated it would have been made by the head of the FBI Counter Intelligence division. Comey: Even though investigation had been going on for months congressional leaders weren’t briefed until recently because of “sensitivity' — Eliza Collins (@elizacollins1) March 20, 2017 7. Republicans grumble about Comey’s “no comments.” Members of both parties tried repeatedly to get Comey to respond to hypothetical questions that might shed some light on the investigation, but didn’t get far. “I’m not going to answer,” Comey said. “I’m not going to comment,” he said when asked about a number of different people that Democrats wanted to talk about. Rebuffed a number of times in a quest for information, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) bluntly told the FBI chief that his reluctance to discuss the probe was only helping Moscow, by putting a cloud over U.S. democracy. Turner: 'Mr. Comey, by your announcement today, there is now a cloud that undermines our system' — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) March 20, 2017 8. Democrats use the hearing to lay out broader questions. While Democrats did go after the Russia-meddling matter with much more direct gusto, they also had clearly decided to use this hearing to put a number of matters on the table, to make sure they were aired to a broader audience. For example, the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), used a chunk of his opening statement to refer to matters in the ‘Steele Dossier,” which emerged just before the election, a document that some had said was all false. But the fact that it received more attention today made others wonder whether parts of it had been verified along the way. Schiff spent lot of time on Christopher Steele’s dossier. Seems significant. He should know if it had been rejected by US intelligence comm. — Cordelia Lynch (@CordeliaSkyNews) March 20, 2017 9. Not just the Trump tweets, but the British Intel story as well. Not only did today’s witnesses completely reject President Trump’s assertion that he was wiretapped in 2016, but the head of the National Security Agency also ridiculed the story – promoted last week by the White House – that British Intelligence had been used by the Obama Administration to wrongly monitor Trump Tower as well. Asked directly if the NSA had asked the British GCHQ to monitor Trump, Admiral Mike Rogers did not mince words. “No sir,” Rogers said. “Nor would I.” Rogers went on to say that agreed with other assessments that such a plan would be “ridiculous.” Ooof. Adm. Rogers says he agrees with GCHQ that WH promoting suggestion Obama used them to hack Trump is 'utterly ridiculous.' — Alex Mallin (@alex_mallin) March 20, 2017 10. Another finger pointed at Wikileaks. While U.S. Intelligence has never publicly spelled out why it feels that Wikileaks is directly connected to Russia, there was no doubt left today that the FBI Director and others fully believe there is a link. Asked how leaked emails and more were delivered to Wikileaks, FBI Director Comey said there was an intermediary, a “cut-out” as he described it, to send information to the website, which many U.S. officials believe is nothing more than a front for Russian Intelligence. Still, others will rightfully point out that no direct links have been shown – but there is a lot of smoke. 'We assess they used some kind of cut-out' says Comey about how Russian intelligence maintains contact & control with Wikileaks. — John Schindler (@20committee) March 20, 2017
  • Jamie Dupree

    Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog.

    A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989. Politics and the Congress are in Jamie’s family, as both of his parents were staffers for members of Congress. He was also a page and intern in the House of Representatives. Jamie has covered 11 national political conventions, with his first being the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta. His political travels have had him on the presidential campaign trail every four years since 1992, chasing candidates throughout the primary calendar.

    He is heard on Cox Radio stations around the country: WSB-AM Atlanta, WDBO-AM Orlando; WOKV-AM/FM Jacksonville; WHIO-AM/FM Dayton, Ohio; and KRMG-AM Tulsa, Oklahoma.

    Jamie and his wife Emily live just outside the Beltway with their three children. Some may know Jamie from his other on-air hobby, as he is a licensed amateur radio operator. When not at work or playing with his kids, you can often find him with a golf club in his hands.

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  • After the collapse of health care reform legislation in the House on Friday, Republicans in the Congress and President Donald Trump now must decide what’s next on their respective agendas, as the GOP tries to pick up the pieces from a very public legislative failure over an issue that had been their central political focus for the last seven years. Here’s the look from Capitol Hill. 1. The first big setback for the Trump agenda. You can try to downplay what happened, but there was little positive to take from this health care debacle in the House. “I will not sugarcoat this; this is a disappointing day for us,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan after the vote was canceled. President Trump tried to blame Democrats, but that rang hollow since the White House had done no serious outreach to the other party. With this setback, it’s even more apparent how little has been done so far by the GOP Congress with respect to the Trump Agenda. Other than approving a series of plans to reverse specific regulations of the Obama Administration, no bills of any import have been passed. Infrastructure, jobs bills, tax cuts, cutting government – all of that sounds good – but so far, no action. And Trump wrote 'The Art of the Deal' — Bill Mitchell (@JerseyGuy_Bill) March 25, 2017 2. Trump allies turn their sights on Speaker Ryan. It wasn’t hard to hear the low rumbling of some supporters of President Trump, as they used the Friday health care debacle to immediately try to make Speaker Ryan the scapegoat. Ann Coulter bluntly said, “Ryan is not on Trump’s side.” Pro-Trump websites like InfoWars and Breitbart immediately attacked Ryan as well, with some conservatives urging the House Freedom Caucus to help dump Ryan, arguing that he is the perfect illustration of the Republican Establishment that needs to be excised from Swamp of Washington, D.C. Paul Ryan is not on @POTUS' side – https://t.co/QVOHBDIKiT #KilledTheBill #FunFactFriday — Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) March 24, 2017 3. Full repeal of Obamacare needs 60 votes in the Senate. If Republicans couldn’t muster a majority in the House – how are they going to get 60 votes in the Senate to really change the bulk of the Obama health law? The answer – they’re not going to do that any time soon. But full repeal was still the mantra from a number of Republicans as the House GOP health care bill went down the tubes on Friday. “I remain committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with conservative reforms,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN). “Congress should take its time and pass a good bill that actually repeals ObamaCare,” said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). But the truth is, unless Republicans get 60 votes in the 2018 elections, an Obama health law repeal bill faces a difficult road in the Congress. I applaud House conservatives for keeping their word to the American people. I look forward to passing full repeal https://t.co/ftyj6sCw0v — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 24, 2017 4. This fight on health care is already over? It seems hard to believe that Republicans are just going to drop the issue of health care reform, especially after making it such a central part of their political message in recent years. But President Trump seemed to send the signal that he is going to focus his political capital on other issues, like tax reform. “That one is going to be fun,” the President said earlier this week, as his Treasury Secretary predicted a final tax bill would on the President’s desk by early August. The last time Congress approved major tax reform was 1986. There’s a reason it hasn’t happened in over 30 years. It is not easy. And the lobbyists of Gucci Gulch will be ready. President Trump says tax reform is the next item on his agenda https://t.co/dLNduSPgl6 — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 24, 2017 5. This wasn’t really much of an effort. The White House said the President “left everything on the field” to get a health care bill. But it doesn’t look like that at all. Go back eight years, and Democrats were just launching their 13 month effort to forge what would become known as Obamacare. It went through the spring, summer, fall, winter, and then into the next spring of 2010, before being achieved. By contrast, the GOP introduced its health care bill on March 6 and gave up on March 24. Back in 2009 and 2010, Democrats struggled to keep their side together, but managed to get 60 votes for their package in the Senate. The GOP couldn’t even get a majority in the House. There is still time to go back to the drawing board. But it takes more than 18 days of work. Remember when Republicans promised they would try to fiddle with Obamacare for a few weeks and then give up? — Ramesh Ponnuru (@RameshPonnuru) March 24, 2017 6. Let the Republican finger pointing begin. One of the biggest immediate targets was the Freedom Caucus, the group of more conservative lawmakers which for years has been very good at holding out against the GOP leadership, but has done almost nothing in the way of substantive legislating. Some of that ire was aimed at Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the head of the Freedom Caucus. “Mark Meadows is more interested in being on the TV than solving problems,” fumed Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), who then aimed some more barbs at Meadows and pointedly made sure to tell a reporter – “You can quote me on that.” Exactly right. GOP & Trump own this,but @freedomcaucus & @Heritage_Action & others caused it. They are the pie-in-the-sky caucus. https://t.co/9tMcfk45ox — Brit Hume (@brithume) March 24, 2017 7. Don’t downplay the importance of this setback. Yes, it’s just one bill. Yes, it’s not the end of the world. But this failure was a big deal. Republicans have been talking for years about how they would repeal and replace the Obama health law. Donald Trump said he would do it right away. But for years, I have been reporting – and taking flak for saying – that while the GOP had lots of ideas, they didn’t have consensus on any plan. And that was obvious as they desperately tried to stitch together deals at the last minute to keep the bill moving. It’s pretty easy to lob verbal grenades at the other party – it’s a little different to offer substantive legislation and pass it. Humiliating defeat for GOP after years to prepare. Real blow to their argument that they could govern if only given the chance. — carl hulse (@hillhulse) March 24, 2017 8. This was not a good week for President Trump. It started Monday with the FBI Director publicly confirming that not only was there an investigation of how Russia meddled in last year’s election, but also a probe of any links between the Trump Campaign and Moscow. The FBI chief also made clear there was no evidence to back up Trump’s claim that he had been wiretapped in 2016. And the NSA shot down talk that British Intelligence had helped with surveillance on Trump Tower. Meanwhile, the Trump travel and refugee ban stayed on hold the courts, despite Mr. Trump’s declaration that judges were overstepping their authority. Then the week ended with a health care thud. Tomorrow's cover: Trump forced to cancel health care vote in stunning blow https://t.co/53Po4iXVbM pic.twitter.com/lEQe5Qc22g — New York Post (@nypost) March 24, 2017
  • Unable to convince GOP lawmakers to get on board with a plan to overhaul the Obama health law, Republicans in the House decided not to even force a vote on the measure, a major setback for both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan. “This bill is dead,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who played a central role in cobbling together this plan. 'This bill is dead,' House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Walden says — Cristina Marcos (@cimarcos) March 24, 2017 The bill never even came to a vote, as it became obvious that Republicans had nowhere near a majority of lawmakers ready to vote for it. Democrats were more than happy to pile on the GOP legislative debacle. #ObamaCare 1 – #Trumpcare 0. — Rep. Hank Johnson (@RepHankJohnson) March 24, 2017
  • In the end, monolithic opposition by Democrats coupled with opposition from the far right doomed Friday’s vote on the American Health Care Act, the GOP bill that would have repealed and replaced the law commonly known as “Obamacare.” GOP leadership decided to pull the bill, realizing that it could not pass. The Trump administration made it clear early Friday that negotiations were over, and the president wanted an up or down vote Friday. House Speaker Paul Ryan went to the White House to report he didn’t have the votes to pass the bill; President Trump had previously said win or lose, Rep. Ryan should keep his position as Speaker. The GOP plan (AHCA) would have ended the mandate that all Americans pay for health insurance, replacing it with a plan where the federal government would give Americans tax credits, based on age. That would have saved taxpayers billions of dollars, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, but would have left  24 million additional Americans without health coverage within the next decade. Many governors, including some Republicans, also had serious concerns about the additional burdens passed on to states under the AHCA.
  • The Pawhuska woman recently accused of exposing herself to a classroom of students was arrested this week on accusations of stealing a purse.  According to the arrest report, Lacey Sponsler allegedly stole a purse while at the Broken Arrow Lanes bowling alley near 111th and Elm last Thursday.   The report states that witnesses saw her acting suspiciously and looking at people’s belongings. One witness saw her grab a purse and asked if it was hers. She said it was not.   A witness then reportedly saw Sponsler walk into the game room and return wearing different clothes. Police were called and found her in the bathroom.   Sponsler was arrested in February for doing a cartwheel in front of students at a Pawhuska school. She was not wearing anything under her dress and exposed herself to the students.
  • Authorities in Ohio arrested three people after they discovered the badly decomposed body of a 71-year-old Vietnam veteran in a home, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news Deputies with the Tuscarawas County Sheriff’s Office found the body of Bob Harris, 71, after learning that his Social Security debit card was being used despite the fact that he hadn’t been seen for months, WJW reported. The body had decomposed to the point where the remains were mostly skeletal, lying in the living room of a home in Wainwright. The body was kept a short distance from where the home’s residents slept, according to WJW. “It’s a horribly graphic case,” Sheriff Orvis Campbell told TimesReporter.com. He said Harris’ body was found in some “of the most deplorable conditions we can describe.” Trash and animal waste was found near the body. Harris was living with a married couple and their daughter, according to TimesReporter.com. The family had spread stories about Harris moving to Stark County and allowing them to use his Social Security benefits, Campbell said. Authorities arrested Brian and Stacy Sorohan on charges of abuse of a corpse and theft of a credit card, according to The Associated Press. The couple’s 18-year-old daughter was charged with abuse of a corpse. Deputies said the circumstances surrounding Harris’ death were not immediately clear. An autopsy will be performed to determine whether his death involved foul play, according to TimesReporter.com.