A lot of state legislators, including Republicans, are putting more stock in what the Speaker said Friday, that Obamacare will be the law of the land for the foreseeable future.
The bill that was being considered in the House would have phased out the expansion under the 2010 law, which has already grown the Medicaid rolls by more than 11 million people. It could have left states holding the bag over the next couple of years.
With Obamacare repeal less likely, opponents of expansion in the states have just lost their best argument.
-- The Kansas Senate voted last night to expand Medicaid, which would mean coverage for 150,000 currently uninsured Kansans. Senators cleared a procedural hurdle by a vote of 25-13. There will be a final vote today. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has signaled a likely veto, but he’s also expected to soon get appointed to an overseas posting by President Trump. So the legislature might be able to try again soon.
“The failure of the federal effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act hung over the debate,” the Wichita Eagle reports of the floor fight. “Elections last fall swept a number of moderate Republicans and Democrats into (state) office, giving supporters of expansion a boost. … The House already passed the bill 81-44. The House vote and the initial Senate vote are just shy of the number needed to override a veto. Override takes 84 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate.”
-- In Georgia, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal announced yesterday that his administration is exploring changes to the state’s Medicaid program now that the House bill has gone down. A former congressman, he said he’ll get with HHS Secretary Tom Price, who hails from Georgia, about what kind of waivers the state might be able to get now to sweeten the deal. “We will be looking at those possibilities,” Deal said at a press conference. “We have not formulated any proposal at this time, but the waivers will be primarily restricted to our Medicaid program.”
“Georgia lawmakers in 2014 passed legislation that gives the Legislature the final say over any expansion to the Medicaid program,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution explains. “Georgia flirted with a wide-ranging waiver in 2015 under Barack Obama’s administration that would have sought more Medicaid money to help the state’s struggling rural hospitals and its big ‘safety net’ hospitals like Grady Memorial in Atlanta. But the state later quietly abandoned those discussions.”
-- In Virginia, meanwhile, the failure of Congress has emboldened Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe to renew his stalled crusade to expand Medicaid. Yesterday he proposed an amendment to state budget language to give him power to set an expansion in motion, and called on the Republican-controlled General Assembly to immediately begin making plans. Republican legislators were unmoved by the plea, saying they would reject the amendment and that they stood firm against expanding Medicaid. But it ensures that Medicaid expansion will now be a top issue in this year’s open gubernatorial contest. (Gregory S. Schneider has more.)
-- Forbes Magazine says to keep an eye on other places like North Carolina, which now has a Democratic governor. “And there may be even more states that will resurrect state legislative efforts to expand Medicaid. Before Trump was elected … Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota were considering expansion,” notes Bruce Japsen. Legislators stopped debating expansion in those places when it seemed like the ACA would be repealed.
“In Maine, GOP Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed several bills to expand Medicaid passed by the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature, most recently last year. But Mainers will get a chance to vote on expansion in a referendum this November,” the Huffington Post notes.
-- A robust debate over Medicaid is playing out this week in Arkansas, as well. “An effort to continue the hybrid Arkansas Medicaid expansion another year failed (last night) in the state Senate,” the AP reports from Little Rock. “The budget bill for the state's Medicaid program and the expansion failed on two votes. … Legislative leaders said they planned to try again with the proposal on Tuesday, and were confident they had the votes needed. The top Republican in the Senate said he didn't believe the program would be blocked while the future of the federal health law remains in limbo. ‘I don't think there's sufficient will right now to start blocking budgets when we don't even know what's going to happen or how long it's going to take,’ Senate Majority Jim Hendren said after the votes.” More than 300,000 people are on Arkansas' hybrid program, which uses Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for low-income residents.
-- Once Medicaid is expanded, it is politically very hard to take coverage away from people. Key opponents of the House GOP bill, for example, included Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, two Republicans who chose to expand Medicaid. A lot of the House moderates from the Tuesday Group who helped torpedo the bill hailed from expansion states and did so because they were concerned about Medicaid recipients in their districts getting hurt.
-- The New York Times has a good story on its front page today about how the health care fight last week showed the degree to which Medicaid has come of age: “When it was created more than a half century ago, Medicaid almost escaped notice. Front-page stories hailed the bigger, more controversial part of the law that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed that July day in 1965 — health insurance for elderly people, or Medicare, which the American Medical Association had bitterly denounced as socialized medicine. … But over the past five decades, Medicaid has surpassed Medicare in the number of Americans it covers. It has grown gradually into a behemoth that provides for the medical needs of one in five Americans — 74 million people — starting for many in the womb, and for others, ending only when they go to their graves.”
Some remarkable figures: “In 2015, the nation spent more than $532 billion on Medicaid, of which about 63 percent was federal money and the rest from the states. … Medicaid now provides medical care to four out of 10 American children. It covers the costs of nearly half of all births in the United States. It pays for the care for two-thirds of people in nursing homes. And it provides for 10 million children and adults with physical or mental disabilities. For states, it accounts for 60 percent of federal funding — meaning that cuts hurt not only poor and middle-class families caring for their children with autism or dying parents, but also bond ratings.”
-- Speaking to his donors on a conference call, Ryan insisted that the House got pretty close to passing his bill. “Basically … 90 percent of our members of the conference were there and ready to go and be a governing party and were happy with where we were, and around 10 percent were still in what I would call ‘opposition party mode,’” Ryan said on the call, an audio recording of which was obtained by The Post. “About 10 percent of our people, a particular bloc, just weren’t there yet, even with the president’s involvement.”
Ryan said he intends to work “on two tracks” as he pursues other elements of Trump’s agenda at the same time he keeps working on health care. “We are going to keep getting at this thing,” Ryan said on the call. “We’re not going to just all of a sudden abandon health care and move on to the rest. We are going to move on with rest of our agenda, keep that on track, while we work the health-care problem.”
Ryan did not disclose details of what the next iteration of the bill might look like, but he suggested that a plan was being developed in time to brief the donors at a retreat scheduled for Thursday and Friday in Florida, according to Mike DeBonis.
-- Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who twice chaired the NRCC, warns in an op-ed for The Post today that Republicans could lose the House if they don’t quickly get their act together: “Unless the current trajectory is reversed, the Trump administration faces a difficult midterm that could undo its agenda and put House gavels and subpoena power in Democratic hands. … The collapse of the Republican health-care bill was a massive case of legislative malpractice. But playing the blame game and pointing fingers does little to advance the ball. … There is time to recover from a difficult start. This will entail compromise and, in some cases, working with Democrats to get half a loaf. But your fumbling of health care puts you in a weakened bargaining position and your internecine fighting dispirits the party base. As James Bond’s nemesis liked to say, ‘Choose your next move carefully, Mr. Bond, it may be your last.’”
-- But Republican strategists and elected officials are deeply divided over the best path forward. The Times's Jonathan Martin talked to players on both sides of the debate—
The case for moving on: “We’ve got a lot of time to do real things on infrastructure, to do real things on tax reform, on red tape reform, and really get the American economy moving,” said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), the current chairman of the NRCC. “We do those things and we still have a lot of time to recover. … If you’re going to fumble the ball, better to do so in the first quarter of a football game. … I think we need to start negotiating with Democrats instead of the Freedom Caucus. They don’t know how to get to yes.”
Even if leadership tried and Trump re-engaged, it’s not clear they could get it done: “Not unless Harry Houdini wins a special election to help us,” said Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.).
The case for circling back: “What troubles many Republican strategists is the specter of the party’s most reliable voters being bombarded by reminders of their leaders’ failure to address the health law. They fear a recurring story line sure to pop up every time insurance premiums increase, providers leave local networks, or, most worrisome, Republicans fund Barack Obama’s signature achievement. Conservatives … now warn that it is untenable to stand pat on the issue — and that lawmakers will face retribution if they do not return to the repeal-and-replace effort. ‘If people are looking at a situation where there’s no action on this, there are going to be conversations about primaries,’ warned Michael A. Needham, the chief executive of Heritage Action for America … which worked to scuttle the … bill last week.”
-- John Cornyn, the number two Republican in Senate leadership, said flatly that health care will not be attempted again via the budget reconciliation process. "It's clear it needs to be done on a bipartisan basis,” the Texan told the AP.
-- Trump, for his part, tweeted last night that he’ll come back to the issue “as soon as ObamaCare folds”:
-- Greetings from spring training in West Palm Beach, Fla. The Nationals were in great form against the Mets yesterday. Bryce Harper and Trea Turner each homered twice, and Washington beat New York 6-0. The game showed why all the handicappers think the Nats will win the NL East again. The most memorable moments in Port St. Lucie were when Max Scherzer kept striking out Tim Tebow, the Heisman-winning quarterback who fizzled in the NFL and now wants to be a pro baseball player. Tebow was no match for our Cy Young winner, one of the best pitchers in baseball, who clearly relished the match-up. Then my dad and I drove down A1A and enjoyed some delicious Cuban food.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, Devlin Barrett and Adam Entous scooped this morning. “According to letters The Post reviewed, the Justice Department notified Yates earlier this month that the administration considers a great deal of her possible testimony to be barred from discussion in a congressional hearing because the topics are covered by the presidential communication privilege. Yates and other former intelligence officials had been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee this week, a hearing that was abruptly canceled by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). … Trump fired Yates in January after she ordered Justice Department lawyers not to defend his first immigration order temporarily banning entry to United States for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from around the world…
“As acting attorney general, Yates played a key part in the investigation surrounding Michael T. Flynn, a Trump campaign aide who became national security adviser before revelations that he had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to the United States in late December led to his ouster. Yates and another witness at the planned hearing, former CIA director John Brennan, had made clear to government officials by Thursday that their testimony to the committee probably would contradict some statements that White House officials had made, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The following day, when Yates’s lawyer sent a letter to the White House indicating that she still wanted to testify, the hearing was canceled."
GET SMART FAST:
- The U.S. military said it is not considering immediate changes to procedures governing airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, defending the conduct of its air campaign against ISIS amid reports of increased civilian deaths. (Missy Ryan and Loveday Morris)
- Michigan and the city of Flint have agreed to replace roughly 18,000 aging water lines by 2020, as part of a sweeping agreement to settle a lawsuit over Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis. The proposed settlement requires Michigan to foot $87 million for the project and was praised by local officials as a “significant step forward." (Brady Dennis)
- New York prosecutors have upgraded charges against a white man who admitted to fatally stabbing a black man with a sword earlier this month, indicting him on two new charges of murder as an act of terrorism. Authorities say the 28-year-old Maryland man drove to New York specifically to target and kill black men, and, once in the city, stalked “numerous potential victims” for days before fatally confronting 66-year-old Timothy Caughman. (Mark Berman)
- British police said they have found no evidence that the London attacker was linked to ISIS, despite a claim last week from the militant group taking credit for the rampage. (Griff Witte)
- A group of Muslim women in London gathered on the Westminster Bridge, linking arms and lining the structure as the clock struck four, in order to express solidarity with the victims. (CNN)
- Uber has put its self-driving cars back on the road after a car crash on Friday prompted the company to temporarily suspend them. Officials said no serious injuries were reported in an Arizona accident, and that the Uber vehicle did not appear to be at fault. (Steven Overly)
- Uber also announced plans to use Northern Virginia as a testing ground for its new carpooling feature, described as a “digital slug line” and an even lower cost alternative to uberPool. Reactions in the community have been mixed, however -- with some longtime sluggers turning their noses up at the idea of being charged for a service that is traditionally free. (Faiz Siddiqui)
- The Maryland Senate voted to ban hydraulic fracking, clearing the bill of its final legislative hurdle and putting it onto the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has pledged to sign it. The move will make Maryland the third state in the country to prohibit fracking. (Ovetta Wiggins and Josh Hicks)
- Owners of the NFL’s teams voted 31-1 to ratify the Raiders’ proposed relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas, a move that once would have been practically unthinkable given the league’s long-standing public opposition to sports gambling. (Mark Maske in Phoenix)
- The U.S. women’s hockey team is scheduled to begin world championship play with a first-round game Friday night, but USA Hockey still has no players willing to take the ice. The organization’s executive board met throughout Monday to weigh its options, facing a vow from the national team players to boycott the year’s biggest tournament until a resolution is struck over pay and resources afforded to the women’s program. Twenty Senate Democrats sent a letter to USA Hockey, saying members of the women’s national team “deserve fairness and respect” and urging the organization to resolve its dispute with the players over pay. (Rick Maese)
- An 18-year-old Maryland student was allegedly thwarted from carrying out an “imminent” attack at her high school, after her parents found evidence of a possible threat and immediately contacted officials in Frederick. Authorities said they found a shotgun, ammunition and bomb-making materials that included pipes, shrapnel, fuse material and fireworks at the teenager’s home. (Dana Hedgpeth and Justin Wm. Moyer)
- A Tennessee father is outraged after his 17-year-old daughter was killed in a car crash on her way to school – and then subsequently billed thousands of dollars for the guardrail that was damaged in her death. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- Scientists have discovered the largest-ever dinosaur footprint in northwestern Australia: a 5-foot-9 inch print believed to have belonged to a sauropod, or long-necked dinosaur. But it’s far from the only fascinating local dino discovery– paleontologists have dubbed the region “Australia’s Jurassic Park” for the diverse footprint assemblage they’ve recorded in the area. So far, they’ve found evidence of at least 21 different species. (Sarah Kaplan)
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE ... WHITE HOUSE?
-- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes acknowledged Monday that he secretly visited the White House last week to view intelligence documents he then cited as proof of “potentially improper spying activity” against Trump and his associates, casting new doubt on the independence of his panel’s Russian investigation. Karoun Demirjian, Greg Miller and Philip Rucker report: “Current and former national security officials described Nunes’s trip to the White House complex, apparently late in the evening after he had slipped away from his staff, as highly unusual. Doing so would ordinarily require Nunes and the person he met with to have been cleared in advance and accompanied by an escort — requirements that seemed to undercut White House claims to have no information about the encounter.”
“How incredibly irregular,” said Matt Olsen, who formerly served as the head of the National Counterterrorism Center. “The only explanation you’re left with is that this is all being orchestrated by the White House.”
-- Nunes’ admission immediately prompted calls for him to recuse himself from the Intelligence committee’s investigation of the Trump campaign's ties with Russian officials:
- Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said: "There was no legitimate justification for bringing that information to the White House instead of the committee. That it was also obtained at the White House makes this departure all the more concerning. ... I believe that the Chairman should recuse himself from any further involvement in the Russia investigation, as well as any involvement in oversight of matters pertaining to any incidental collection of the Trump transition."
- Nancy Pelosi called on Paul Ryan to demand Nunes recuse himself. "That leadership is long overdue,” she said.
- Chuck Schumer agreed: “If Speaker Ryan wants the House to have a credible investigation, he needs to replace Chairman Nunes.”
-- Nunes denied any wrongdoing and dismissed calls for him to step down: “I’m sure that the Democrats do want me to quit because they know that I’m effective at getting to the bottom of things,” he told Bill O’Reilly on Fox News last night.
-- The speculation among insiders is that Michael Ellis is Nunes’s source, a lawyer who worked for Nunes on his committee staff until he was recently hired to work on national security matters at the White House, per Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff.
-- Trump, true to form, attempted to create a diversion on Twitter:
HAWKS EXPRESS CONCERN:
-- Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former military prosecutor who understands the danger of interfering with an investigation, said Nunes's trip to the White House is “not good." "It’s not a confidence builder," the South Carolina senator said. We’re “rapidly getting” to the point where a select committee or independent commission is needed to conduct the investigation, he added.
John McCain echoed his mejor amigo this morning on CBS:
Bill Kristol, the conservative editor of The Weekly Standard and a Trump critic, kept his eye on the ball:
-- Dick Cheney says Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election could be "considered an act of war.” “There’s not any argument at this stage that somehow the election of President Trump was not legitimate, but there’s no question that there was a very serious effort made by Mr. Putin and his government, his organization, to interfere in major ways with our basic, fundamental democratic processes,” the former vice president said at an event sponsored by The Economic Times. “In some quarters, that would be considered an act of war.” (Politico)
-- Subterfuge? A new University of Oxford study finds that nearly a quarter of web content shared by Twitter users in Michigan during the 10 days before the presidential election was false. Researchers determined that a sample of 140,000 users shared approximately as many fake news items as “professional news” over the same period. (Financial Times)
-- Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul says the Kremlin is the real beneficiary from the House Intelligence Committee investigation: "Trump already seems to many Russian observers as a weak president, incapable of delivering on his pro-Russian campaign pledges. But the spectacle of the ... hearing on Russia must have given the Kremlin renewed inspiration about achieving another foreign policy goal: weakening the United States. In the Trump era, our society is deeply divided, even on the Russian threat. That serves Russia’s purposes well. Even more amazing is how the United States’ current ruling party, the Republican Party, (mostly) does not want to acknowledge the Russian attack on our sovereignty last year, let alone take steps to prevent future assaults in 2018 or 2020. Putin violated our sovereignty, influenced our elections, smugly dared us to respond and now gets to watch us do nothing because of partisan divides. Imagine hearings after Pearl Harbor or 9/11 that barely mentioned the attackers? Without question, Putin was the big winner from last Monday’s hearing.”
-- The Post’s David Filipov shares his experience from Sunday’s anti-corruption protest in Moscow, where more than 20,000 demonstrators gathered – and where even holding up a yellow rubber duck toy was enough to get arrested: “The young man with the sign had looked so confident, striding by the cheering crowd and seemingly indifferent to police, his poster decrying official corruption held high, like a homemade flag. Then, in an instant, five riot police in full body armor dragged the man down, picked him up and carted him away as the cheers turned to jeers of ‘Shame! Shame!’ As fearsome-looking police in urban camouflage lined the streets, I was amazed at the festive attitude among the protesters.”
-- Is Sean Spicer out of the loop? He claims he is in the dark when it comes to who signed Nunes into the White House grounds: “I’m not sure that that’s how that works,” he told reporters, pleading ignorance. The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus notes that the problem has an easy fix: “One way the White House could help clear up potential future controversies: if it began updating the online visitor log maintained by former [Obama’s] administration. Under the former administration, visitor logs were typically updated within 90 to 120 days. Since [Trump] took office, the website has been down, with a message that says: ‘This page is being updated. It will post records of White House visitors on an ongoing basis, once they become available.’ The White House in recent months has declined to say when or even if it will update the log.”
-- The Nunes news coincided with yet another Monday disclosure that Jared Kushner privately met last year with the CEO of a Russian bank being targeted by U.S. sanctions. He has agreed to discuss his contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee. Spicer defended the meetings as “insignificant,” noting that Kushner was the “official primary point of contact” with foreign governments and officials during the campaign and transition period. “I’m not going to get into who he met with or why he met with them,” Spicer told reporters.
-- “Trump and his family’s myriad financial activities are unique for a White House occupant,” Walter Pincus notes in his column for The Cipher Brief today:
“It was announced in January that Kushner would be covered by conflict rules applying to senior federal officeholders, which includes filing a financial disclosure form. He joined the administration on January 21, yet to this date the so-called Form 278 financial disclosure statement has yet to be made public by the Office of Government Ethics...
“Ivanka Trump, now an unpaid White House advisor to the president, still owns her clothing, jewelry and accessories company through a revocable trust. She has turned over its daily management to her firm’s president. Nonetheless she will retain veto power over any new deals or licensing arrangements, according to her attorney. She has a West Wing White House office, is getting a security clearance and a government-issued phone, but because she is not taking an oath of office, Ivanka apparently will not be required to file a financial disclosure statement."
-- The Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins reminds us just how massive the 36-year-old Kushner’s White House portfolio has become: “So, if you’re keeping track, Kushner, who comes to Washington with no government experience, no policy experience, no diplomatic experience, and business experience limited to his family’s real estate development firm, a brief stint as a newspaper publisher, and briefly bidding to acquire the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be working on trade, Middle East policy in general, an Israel-Palestine peace deal more specifically, reforming the Veterans Administration, and solving the opioid crisis.”
-- A prominent Turkish gold trader who has been jailed in New York on charges of violating the United States sanctions on Iran, has added Rudy Giuliani to his legal team, adding intrigue to a case that has been steeped in international politicking between Turkey and the United States. The New York Times’s Benjamin Weiser and Maggie Haberman report that, just last month, Giuliani and former George W. Bush attorney general Michael B. Mukasey traveled to meet with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as part of their efforts on behalf of Reza Zarrab. Giuliani is close to Trump He’s technically the cyber czar. The Times says this raises “the question of whether Mr. Zarrab has retained him in an effort to negotiate a beneficial resolution of his case at the highest levels of the Trump administration.” Since Trump won, there has been a warming of ties between Turkey and the U.S. Erdogan has publicly criticized Zarrab’s prosecution in the United States. He said last fall that he had raised this case with Joe Biden during talks at the U.N.
-- Ranking Senate Finance Committee Democrat Ron Wyden has asked the top government ethics watchdog to probe Steven Mnuchin’s comments plugging the “Lego Batman Movie” during a live interview Friday, saying that promotion of the film – which was produced by one of his companies – could present a possible ethics breach. (Reuters)
TRUMP UPROOTS KEY OBAMA-ERA PROVISIONS:
-- Trump is slated to sign a sweeping executive order at the EPA today ordering the agency to begin rewriting key rules that curb U.S. carbon emissions. The move is Trump’s most decisive action yet to obliterate his predecessor’s climate-change record. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “Some of the measures could take years to implement and are unlikely to alter broader economic trends that are shifting the nation’s electricity mix from coal-fired generation to natural gas and renewables. The order sends an unmistakable signal that just as [Obama] sought to weave climate considerations into every aspect of the federal government, Trump is hoping to rip that approach out by its roots. ‘This policy is in keeping with [Trump’s] desire to make the United States energy independent,’ said a senior administration official … ‘When it comes to climate change, we want to take our course and do it in our own form and fashion.’ ...
“The sweeping executive order also seeks to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing and remove the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions. Accelerating fossil-fuel production … could lead to higher emissions of the greenhouse gases driving climate change and complicate a global effort to curb the world’s carbon output. But Trump has repeatedly questioned whether climate change is underway and emphasized that he is determined to deliver for the voters in coal country who helped him win the Oval Office.”
-- Trump yesterday signed a bill killing an Obama-era worker safety rule requiring large businesses to disclose and correct serious safety and labor law violations. Kimberly Kindy reports: “The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces regulation was finalized in August but most of it was never implemented. Within days of it being finalized, the Associated Builders and Contractors sued, securing a temporary injunction that prohibited the federal government from implementing it."
In a last-minute effort to fight for the rule, Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a staff report that showed 66 of the federal government’s 100 largest contractors have at some point violated federal wage and hour laws. Warren criticized the Republican-led effort during a speech on the Senate floor moments before the vote: “Instead of creating jobs or raising wages,” she said, “they’re trying to make it easier for companies that get big-time, taxpayer-funded government contracts to steal wages from their employees and injure their workers without admitting responsibility.”
-- Trump also signed bills overturning two Obama-era education regulations, scrapping requirements for programs that train new K-12 teachers, and rolling back a set of rules outlining how states must comply with the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” a bipartisan federal law meant to hold schools accountable for student performance. (Emma Brown)
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Jeff Sessions threatened to strip some “sanctuary cities” of coveted Justice Department grants for local law enforcement, saying places that “did not comply with a particular federal law on immigration” would not be eligible for the funds. “I urge our nation’s states and cities to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and to rethink these policies,” the attorney general said in a speech Monday. “Such policies make their cities and states less safe, and put them at risk of losing valuable federal dollars.”
“This effort to punish cities where local leaders refuse to hand over undocumented immigrants for deportation is the latest effort by the Trump administration to crack down on illegal immigration,” Sari Horwitz and Maria Sacchetti write. “Sessions said jurisdictions would not be eligible for grant money if they could not certify compliance with a law against blocking the sharing of information about a person’s immigration status with Immigration and Customs Enforcement."
Critics of Trump’s sanctuary-city crackdown said they had no plans to reverse their policies and accused Trump of wrongly portraying undocumented immigrants as criminals when studies show their communities tend to be safer: “California State Senate president pro tempore Kevin de León … called Sessions’s crackdown ‘nothing short of blackmail.’ ‘Instead of making us safer, the Trump administration is spreading fear and promoting race-based scapegoating,” he said. ‘Their gun-to-the-head method to force resistant cities and counties to participate in Trump’s inhumane and counterproductive mass-deportation is unconstitutional and will fail.’”
-- An ICE agent shot and injured a man in Chicago while attempting to arrest another person in the city. However, it is still not clear whether immigration officials were attempting to arrest someone due to their immigration status or if the person was being sought on other charges, a potentially key distinction at a time of fear nationwide among immigrants. (Mark Berman)
-- The father of an 18-year-old Rockville, Maryland, high school student who was charged raping a freshman girl has been arrested for being in the country illegally. ICE officials confirmed his arrest, saying he has been issued a notice to appear in immigration court and is currently being detained at the Howard County Detention Center. (Fox News)
-- “Congress may stiff Trump on wall funding,” by Politico’s Burgess Everett and Rachael Bade: "Congressional Republicans might deliver some more bad news for [Trump], fresh off their embarrassing failure to scrap Obamacare: No new money is coming to build his wall. Trump hoped to jump-start construction of a massive wall on the U.S.-Mexico border with money in a must-pass government funding bill. But Democratic leaders are vowing to block any legislation that includes a single penny for the wall. Republican leaders, wary of this, are considering a plan that would not directly tie the border wall money to the April 28 government funding deadline. While no decision has been made by GOP leadership, Republican lawmakers may decide to decouple the two to avoid a confrontation with Democrats. If they do, the chances of getting Trump’s wall funding passed this spring become slim.”
-- In Sweden, hundreds of refugee children have fallen unconscious after being told that their families are facing deportation – robbed of the ability to eat, drink, or respond to any pain or physical stimuli, sometimes for years. The New Yorker’s Rachel Aviv chronicles the bizarre phenomenon: “They are like Snow White,” a doctor told her. “They just fall away from the world.”
-- The Trump administration is gearing up for its next big legislative battle: Tax reform. And unlike the health care bill, White House officials are planning a “much more assertive role” in its overhaul – with some advisers working to create concrete blueprint for specific changes rather than letting Congress dictate details. Damian Paletta reports: “Some GOP allies say they have already produced tax legislation and that it would not make sense for the White House to produce its own. Key division points could be about whether to seek a broad overhaul of the tax code or whether to limit it to more specific provisions — such as those affecting corporations — and whether such an initiative could increase the deficit without offsetting spending cuts or changes to tax policy. Also highly controversial is a proposal to impose a new tax affecting imports.”
Within the administration, meanwhile, there are open questions about who will lead the charge on tax policy: “The Treasury Department has close to 100 people working on the issue, and [Steven Mnuchin] has signaled to lawmakers that he will be a point person in any negotiations. At the same time, some legislators say National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn has also emerged as a powerful force within the White House for overseeing economic policy and that he could attempt to take the reins of what is likely to be the administration’s most important policy issue going forward.”
-- The State Department didn’t hold a single on-camera press conference for the first six weeks of Trump’s presidency. And after less than three weeks, they’ve stopped again. The Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz reports: "The pause comes as Mark Toner, a foreign service officer who has served as the department’s acting spokesman, is slated for another assignment. Administration officials said the on-camera briefings won’t resume for at least another two weeks, as Tillerson moves to get a permanent spokesperson in place. He is widely expected to pick Fox News anchor Heather Nauert, but she has not yet been officially named, and is still awaiting approval of her security clearance."
-- “Neil Gorsuch may fall short of votes needed for smooth Supreme Court confirmation,” Ed O’Keefe and Dave Weigel report: "He needs 60 votes to clear a procedural hurdle required of high-court confirmations in the Senate, but Republicans, who hold just 52 seats, may not have the votes in a chamber that is divided deeply along partisan lines. Republicans do, however, have the votes to choose the ‘nuclear’ option — to change the rules and allow Gorsuch’s confirmation (and others after it) to proceed on a simple majority vote. That would upend a longstanding Senate tradition that forces the governing party to seek bipartisan support."
- Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced plans to filibuster Gorsuch last week, and others, including Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) quickly followed suit.
- No Democrat has announced support for Gorsuch, and some moderates say they are still mulling a final decision. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said he is planning to meet with Gorsuch again before deciding. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said in a statement that she is “in the process of reviewing” the nomination and will not make a final decision for several days. Others, including Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), did not reply to requests for comment.
- At a town hall meeting Sunday afternoon in Rhode Island, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) was welcomed with a standing ovation for his role in the Gorsuch hearings as a member of the judiciary panel.
-- “In New York, searching for the reclusive and elusive Melania Trump,” by Paul Schwartzman: “Two months after her husband’s swearing-in, the nation’s new first lady approaches her role with a discernible reticence, her paucity of public appearances — each defined by tight smiles and spare verbiage — overshadowed by a vanishing act that stretches days on end. Melania Trump is a Rorschach test in Louboutins, inspiring praise from those who see in her inscrutable gaze an elegant, dutiful mother charting a new role for the first lady; compassion from those imagining her as the president’s unhappy captive, her penthouse-turned-prison costing taxpayers ungodly sums to secure; and contempt from those rendering her as her husband’s chief enabler, abiding his sexist and anti-immigrant bluster … The hashtag #FreeMelania is now a pillar of Twitter-speak, while questions about the Trumps’ marriage inspire headlines such as ‘Melania’s Struggle,’ an Us Weekly yarn that claimed the 46-year-old first lady is ‘secretly miserable.’”
-- “Duterte plays a winning hand with foreign policy, but will his luck run out?,” by Emily Rauhala: “Rodrigo Duterte does not need your money. But he will take it. Since his electoral triumph last summer, the man famous for cursing foreign leaders and calling for mass killing seems to be raking in the cash for Manila. A tidy $24 billion in deals with China. Fresh billions from Japan. Not to mention the tens of millions in military and development aid the U.S. sends each year — despite his call for a ‘separation.’ Indeed, eight months into his tenure, with [Trump] in power and Asian affairs in flux, Duterte’s devil-may-care diplomacy and relentless talk of ‘slaughter’ seem to be paying off, propping up his domestic popularity even as an International Criminal Court prosecutor warns of a possible war crimes investigation against him. Courting the president of the Philippines are new friends such as [China and Russia] … [who] see Duterte as an ally against the U.S. military’s Asian ambitions. Duterte, meanwhile, seems happy to flirt with his various suitors, alternating between swearing and sweet talk, backtracking as required.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Delta responded to the news that rival United Airlines barred two girls from boarding their flight in athleisure:
A Buzzfeed editor stumbled upon this amusing throwback of Trump and Marla Maples:
Actors Christopher Gorham and Alyssa Milano drove voters to the polls in Georgia, where early voting for the special election to replace Tom Price has begun:
Everyone in Britain is talking about this sexist newspaper cover:
Many noted that the markets have been in a rough patch:
And that Trump took credit when they were doing well:
Anthony Weiner has been ambling around Manhattan on crutches:
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) outlined the Democratic rationale for requiring Gorsuch to get 60 votes:
Jimmy Fallon got a bit of a makeover for Monday’s show:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- SHOT: Wall Street Journal, “With Help From France’s Elite, Le Pen Tries to Steer Far-Right Party to Mainstream,” by Stacy Meichtry and William Horobin: “For more than a year, French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, representing the once-ostracized National Front, met with influential bankers, corporate executives and government officials to get advice on the radical changes vowed by her campaign. Ms. Le Pen has dubbed these members of France’s elite “Les Horaces,” a reference to the poet who penned verses for the first Roman emperor. It’s a measure of her rise that she has lured talent and expertise from parts of the same establishment she rails against. Her recruitment of elites is a delicate matter that began years [ago] … [and] nearly all the Horaces have remained in their jobs while clandestinely lending assistance to her. “They’re what you call shadow advisers, and they want to remain as such,” said Jean Messiha, a Horace who recently took a leave of absence … to join Ms. Le Pen’s campaign.
“Believers, including members of the country’s leadership class, are eager to help Ms. Le Pen prepare for the practicalities of governance—and are willing to accept her incendiary campaign rhetoric and a result that would threaten the concept of a united Europe.”
-- CHASER: “Is it possible the populist tide is cresting?” asks the Wall Street Journal’s Gerald F. Seib: “The reverse seemed true last fall, when British voters defied their prime minister and voted to exit the E.U., and when [Trump] smashed expectations as well as the establishment. … Those forces still undoubtedly exert more influence than they did just a year ago, but exactly how much influence has been the question. The rocky opening weeks of the new Trump administration, as well as some buyer’s remorse in the wake of the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, may have served to erode some of the appeal of populist movements elsewhere … It’s also likely, though, that if the political establishment in the West is regaining its footing, it is doing so in part because it has moved to co-opt some of the nationalist messages of its opponents. The sentiments unearthed by the Brexit vote and the Trump victory are real and aren’t going away. It may be, though, that the establishment now is learning better how to adapt to them.”
-- McClatchy DC, "Steve Bannon's man in the Middle East," by Katie Glueck in Tel Aviv: “When [Trump] named Steve Bannon his chief strategist, backlash from Jewish leaders was swift amid fears that the ex-Breitbart News boss would bring white nationalist sympathies to the White House. So in one of his first interviews … Bannon tried to quiet those concerns by invoking something most people had never heard of: ‘Breitbart Jerusalem.’ It’s a line that Bannon and his allies have used repeatedly since his appointment, turning to the fledgling media operation as a shield against suggestions that he, and the administration by extension, are tolerant of anti-Semitism. And Klein, Bannon’s choice to lead Breitbart’s Middle East outpost, is playing his part, emerging as a vocal validator for Bannon while building the controversial outlet’s international brand. On a Wednesday afternoon in March, Klein was found running Breitbart Jerusalem operations from his luxurious three-story apartment located, notably, not in Jerusalem but in Tel Aviv.”
-- Related: Breitbart News was declined – at least temporarily -- from obtaining permanent press credentials on Capitol Hill. The standing committee of the US Senate Daily Press Gallery requested that the right-wing news site first clarify its links to the conservative nonprofit Government Accountability Institute, as well as the involvement of Rebekah Mercer, whose family is an investor into the site. (Buzzfeed)
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Fox News said Trump spent the weekend ‘working at the White House.’ He was at his golf club,” from Amy B Wang: “The alert from Fox News went out at 5:30 p.m. Sunday. ‘PRESIDENT TRUMP SPENDING WEEKEND WORKING AT THE WHITE HOUSE,’ the chyron announced ... The timing of the tweet alert was curious … And, as it turned out, the announcement wasn't entirely true. According to pool reports, the president spent Saturday visiting the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls … wearing a suit, a white shirt with no tie and a red hat with ‘USA’ emblazoned on the front. Though the traveling press pool asked multiple times about the president's activities, Trump's team did not provide answers, the report stated. The press pool was told that Trump had 'meetings' at the golf club. But by the time he departed, pictures had emerged on social media of Trump riding a golf cart and dressed in golf attire. Another post appears to show Trump watching the Golf Channel with two unidentified people."
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“California Bill Forces Transgender Bathrooms Into Nursing Homes,” from the Daily Caller: “A new bill introduced in California’s state senate requires nursing homes and similar long-term care facilities to implement transgender bathroom policies. The bill makes it unlawful to require transgender residents to use the biologically correct bathroom, and prohibits nursing home employees from calling residents anything other than their chosen name and pronoun. Section 1 of the bill argues that ‘many LGBT seniors are members of multiple underrepresented groups, and as a result, are doubly marginalized.’ … [and] devotes a whole paragraph to defining the term ‘gender identity.’ The Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit legal organization, sent a letter to the committee opposing the bill on free speech and religious freedom grounds.”
At the White House: Trump will meet with members of the Fraternal Order of Police, sign the Energy Independence Executive Order, and meet with Rex Tillerson and John Kelly. In the evening, Trump will hold a reception for Senate lawmakers and their spouses.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"I never lost a vote in 15 years in Congress.” -- Tom DeLay, apparently tweaking Paul Ryan, during an interview on Newsmax TV
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Another day of wacky spring weather awaits. Today’s Capital Weather Gang forecast: “Scattered showers or thundershowers dot the area early this morning under mostly cloudy skies and steadily rising temperatures. More steady rain and some rumbles of thunder roll into the area by middle to late morning. Highs by middle to late afternoon should reach the lower to middle 70s. More showers and storms are possible this afternoon. Some of those storms may be strong with heavy downpours and gusty winds.”
-- Fairfax County authorities are searching for a mystery thief who posed as a Target employee – waltzing unnoticed into the back room and poaching more than $40,000 worth of iPhones. (Victoria St. Martin)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert opened his show last night by making fun of Trump for saying he'll let Obamacare "explode":
Trevor Noah joked about all of Trump's "haters" killing his health bill:
Anastacio Hernandez, who was trying to return to his family after being deported, was tased and beaten to death by Customs and Border Protection officers in 2010: