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Washington Brief: Trump Gets More Involved in Effort to Repeal Obamacare

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump joined GOP leaders in their effort to repeal Obamacare, (The New York Times) but his participation has resulted in mixed signals from the White House. (Politico)
  • House Republican leaders spent Thursday making the case to conservative lawmakers that now is the only chance to repeal Obamacare and replace it with their own policies. (Morning Consult)
  • The Treasury Department called on Congress to raise the debt limit. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he is already taking “extraordinary measures” to delay the U.S. government from defaulting on its financial obligations. (The Washington Post)
  • Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the chairman of the Senate GOP’s campaign committee, said building a wall along the southern U.S. border is “not the right way to proceed.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) scoffed at the idea that Mexico will pay for a border wall. (Politico)

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Friday
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General

GOP Leaders Say Republicans Won’t Get 2nd Chance on Health Care
Jon Reid, Morning Consult

Congressional Republican leaders are pushing back against party criticism of their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. In media appearances on Thursday, House and Senate leaders drove home the message that their plan is Republicans’ best shot to make good on their No. 1 campaign promise.

Treasury calls on Congress to raise debt limit, begins steps to delay default
Damian Paletta, The Washington Post

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday began taking “extraordinary measures” to delay the U.S. government from defaulting on its obligations, as he called on House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to lift the debt ceiling “at its first opportunity.” Mnuchin, in a letter to Ryan, said Treasury was now suspending the sale of certain state and local securities, a practice the federal government normally performs to assist with tax policies.

The Man Who Wants to Unmake the West
Michael Crowley, Politico

Europeans are starting to worry that Steve Bannon has the EU in his crosshairs. Here’s how the White House could genuinely help pull it apart.

Nigel Farage Just Visited The Ecuadorian Embassy In London
Marie Le Conte, BuzzFeed News 

Nigel Farage visited the Ecuadorian embassy in west London on Thursday, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been living since he claimed asylum in 2012. The former UKIP leader spent around 40 minutes in the building and left at noon, accompanied by Christian Mitchell, the head of operations at radio station LBC, where Farage hosts a regular show.

Violence in Seoul as South Korean President Park Geun-hye ousted
Bryan Harris, Financial Times

Clashes erupted outside South Korea’s constitutional court on Friday after a landmark decision to strip Park Geun-hye of her presidency, with police saying at least two people had died. In a unanimous ruling, judges upheld an earlier impeachment vote by the nation’s legislature, making Ms Park the country’s first democratically elected leader to be thrown from office.

Presidential

After Halting Start, Trump Plunges Into Effort to Repeal Health Law
Maggie Haberman and Robert Pear, The New York Times

President Trump, after a halting start, is now marshaling the full power of his office to win over holdout conservatives and waffling senators to support the House Republicans’ replacement for the Affordable Care Act. There are East Room meetings, evening dinners and sumptuous lunches — even a White House bowling soiree.

Trump’s Obamacare moves cause chaos in Congress
Rachael Bade and Burgess Everett, Politico 

President Donald Trump’s early efforts to court conservatives opposed to the GOP’s Obamacare replacement is backfiring in Congress — emboldening the far-right to demand changes that could repel centrists critical to its passage. While the president has given a full-throated endorsement of the bill, he’s also suggested he’s open to “negotiations.”

Trump says privately second healthcare bill ready as early as next week
Sarah Westwood and Gabby Morrongiello, The Washington Examiner 

President Trump told a closed-door meeting of grassroots conservative leaders on Wednesday to expect another, companion healthcare bill to hit the House as early as next week, according to sources present for the meeting. The new legislation would differ from the plan presently working its way through the House in that it would not proceed through budget reconciliation and would therefore require cloture in the Senate.

White House Casts Pre-emptive Doubt on Congressional Budget Office
Alan Rappeport, The New York Times

President Trump showed an affinity for “working the referees” in his race to the White House, criticizing a federal judge as biased, panning polls as rigged and even questioning the aptitude of the nation’s intelligence agencies. Now, with Mr. Trump’s administration aggressively pitching the House Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Capitol Hill’s official scorekeeper — the Congressional Budget Office — is coming under intense fire.

Steve Bannon Helped Preserve DACA But Democrats And Activists Aren’t Celebrating
Adrian Carrasquillo and Tarini Parti, BuzzFeed News

The Trump administration doesn’t want to talk about it. When asked about the Obama-era program that allowed undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to remain in the country and work, press secretary Sean Spicer has repeatedly demurred.

The political lexicon of a billionaire populist
Marc Fisher, The Washington Post

From the start of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump pledged “total change,” delivering his promises with a scorched-earth political vocabulary — “Lyin’ Ted,” “Crooked Hillary,” “drain the swamp,” “lock her up.” Some found his language appalling, but others found it refreshing enough to make him president.

Senate

Democrats Tie Senate Candidates to House GOP Health Care Plan
Simone Pathé, Roll Call 

Democrats plan to hold Senate Republicans — and House Republicans who may run for Senate — accountable for the health care plan proposed by House GOP leadership this week. “The new health care dynamic: GOP Senate candidates own this plan” is the subject line of a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee memo released to interested parties Thursday and obtained first by Roll Call.

GOP campaign chair disses Trump’s wall
Eli Stokols, Politico 

Another Republican senator is throwing cold water on President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, stated his opposition to a physical wall in fairly explicit terms during a telephone town hall Wednesday night.

Orrin Hatch Leaning Toward Running for Eighth Term
Simone Pathé, Roll Call 

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch said Thursday he’s continuing to edge toward seeking an eighth Senate term in 2018. But speaking with reporters at the Capitol Thursday afternoon, the Utah Republican did not go as far as he was reported to have gone in remarks to CNN earlier in the day.

Senate dumps Obama rule for holding schools accountable
Caitlin Emma and Michael Stratford, Politico 

The Senate voted 50-49 Thursday to scrap the Obama administration’s rule for holding schools accountable for student performance despite strong opposition from business, labor and civil rights groups, as well as Democrats. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) was the only Republican who opposed the Congressional Review Act resolution, which has already cleared the House.

House

House GOP Leaders Surprised by Conservative Opposition to Health Plan
Stephanie Armour et al., The Wall Street Journal

Rep. Mark Meadows, who leads a group of conservative House lawmakers, was home in North Carolina about two weeks ago when he learned details of the emerging Republican health-care plan. Mr. Meadows jumped in the car and drove back to Washington, where he said he warned White House officials he couldn’t support the bill being pushed by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan planning more health care votes alongside repeal effort
Rachael Bade, Politico 

House Republicans will vote on a second health care bill the week they vote to repeal Obamacare, Speaker Paul Ryan told Sean Hannity on Thursday afternoon. The Wisconsin Republican did not divulge many details about the legislation, though he said it would likely allow people to purchase insurance through association health plans.

House Oversight Panel Issues Warning About Trump’s Tweets, Encrypted Apps
Amir Nasr, Morning Consult

The leaders of the House Oversight Committee raised concerns about how President Donald Trump’s use of Twitter complies with federal records laws, and they questioned government employees’ use of encrypted messaging applications. In a letter to the White House, Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and the panel’s top Democrat, Elijah Cummings (Md.), said that many tweets coming from Trump’s two Twitter accounts — his @POTUS presidential account and his personal @realDonaldTrump one — constitute communications that would have to be preserved under the 1978 Presidential Records Act.

States

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidates pitch $15 minimum wage
Fenit Nirappil, The Washington Post

Virginia’s two Democratic gubernatorial candidates stopped by Reagan National Airport this week to meet workers trying to unionize and achieve a $15 minimum wage, a show of solidarity with both a key constituency and a national movement. In separate appearances, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former congressman Tom Perriello told workers they will urge the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to require contractors to increase wages for baggage handlers, skycaps and other hourly workers.

University of Michigan Endowment Banks on Funds That Make Loans
Janet Lorin, Bloomberg News

The University of Michigan is betting its endowment can make money on loans to small businesses from Barcelona to Beijing. The endowment, valued at $10.5 billion as of Dec. 31, has added more managers who specialize in lending — through private credit, distressed and other forms of debt — according to annual reports and other public documents.

Advocacy

Health Groups Left Out as GOP Sought ‘Patients-Centric Bill’
John Bennett, Roll Call 

An extensive list of major health care organizations that are opposing a Republican overhaul measure were consulted as it was crafted, but the White House says those groups’ views were cast aside in favor of a “patients-centric bill.” From the American Medical Association to the American Hospital Association to the AARP, a seemingly ever-growing list of influential groups that backed the Obama administration’s 2010 overhaul push are opposed this time around.

Anthem CEO Praises GOP Health Bill, Calls for Swift Action
Mary Ellen McIntire, Morning Consult

Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish called several provisions of the Republican health care bill “essential,” and called for their quick passage in a Thursday letter to two House committee chairmen obtained by Morning Consult. Swedish’s support for the proposal comes as many doctors and hospital groups have said they don’t support the bill as it’s currently written.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Looking for something voters can agree on? Repeal the Durbin amendment. Recent polling shows that by a 2-1 margin voters think the Durbin amendment should be repealed. It is a failed policy, with retailers pocketing an extra $42 billion at their customers’ expense. Get the facts about retailers’ broken promises from EPC.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The Republican Health Care Crackup
David Brooks, The New York Times

The Republican health care bill could represent the moment when the old order of American politics completely cracks up, the end of a certain era in American politics. That era began around 1974, when Ted Kennedy introduced a bill to supplement America’s employer-based insurance system with a government program.

House Republicans Repeat an Obama Error
Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal

It is challenging for important Republicans on Capitol Hill now. They are leading their party at a time when it is changing and the country has changed.

The lawless obstructionism of Beltway elites
Hugh Hewitt, The Washington Post

There is a deep divide in the United States, and it isn’t blue-red or liberal-conservative. It’s between those who believe in applying the law as it exists and those who think they have the right — through various government authorities — to ignore laws they don’t like.

Rex Tillerson is off to an agonizingly slow start
David Ignatius, The Washington Post

Rex Tillerson is off to an agonizingly slow start as secretary of state. That matters, because if Tillerson doesn’t develop a stronger voice, control of foreign policy is likely to move increasingly toward Stephen K. Bannon, the insurgent populist who is chief White House strategist.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Across party lines, a majority of voters identify the Durbin amendment as a price control. History has taught us price controls rarely work as intended and the Durbin amendment is another example of failed policy. It’s time to end the merchant markup once and for all. Learn how to take action now.

Research Reports and Polling

Expect the CBO to estimate large coverage losses from the GOP health care plan
Loren Adler and Matthew Fiedler, The Brookings Institution

On Wednesday a pair of House Committees began considering Republicans’ Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal legislation, the first formal step toward consideration of that legislation by the full House of Representatives. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates of the effects of this legislation are not yet available, and it appears they will not be available until after both committees have voted on the bill.