With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: An uncovered dynamic in the current health care fight is the degree to which congressional Democrats have held together in unified opposition.
There are 10 Democratic senators and a dozen House members up for reelection next year in places Donald Trump carried. Not one has defected to support the GOP effort to unravel Obamacare or even gone wobbly. House Republicans, who voted in unison dozens of times to repeal the law when they knew it was just for show, are now the ones struggling to get on the same page.
The complexion of the House Democratic caucus has changed, as Blue Dogs got wiped out and the base of the party moved to the left. Of the 34 Democrats who voted against the Affordable Care Act when it passed in 2010, only three remain: Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Daniel Lipinski of Illinois and Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts. Each is against the GOP push to undo the law.
We take this unity for granted because of how effectively Republican leaders held their rank-and-file together against even the most popular elements of Barack Obama’s agenda. Just as tea party activists enforced this discipline from the right under the last president, the so-called Resistance movement now demands the same lock-step opposition from the left.
-- In a wide-ranging 45-minute interview with The Washington Post yesterday afternoon, Nancy Pelosi explained why opposing the GOP repeal effort has been much easier than passing the original bill: “When you tell people, ‘This is what you’re going to get,’ that’s harder than saying, ‘This is what you’re going to lose.’”
The House Minority Leader revealed that she has been running the same playbook to stop Obamacare repeal that she used to block George W. Bush’s 2005 push to create private accounts under Social Security. “It is exactly the same thing,” she said.
Pelosi has relentlessly stuck to four talking points that polling and focus groups show are most effective: The GOP plan would raise out-of-pocket costs, hurt people between the ages of 40 and 65, mess up Medicare and strip away coverage from some of the 24 million who got it under the ACA.
She has prodded her members at private meetings to exhibit the same level of message discipline. “If you want to win, you have to have the clarity of message of ‘How this affects YOU’ in the clearest possible way, not ‘How this runs counter to MY vision of public policy,’” she recalled.
Another key element of the California congresswoman’s approach has been steadfastly refusing to offer any kind of alternative plan for how to fix the health system. Obamacare is the law of the land, and she’s diligently put the burden of proof on her opponents to articulate why their replacement would make people better off, rather than trying to defend the status quo. She recognized immediately after the election that this fight would be most winnable if the conversation centered around the flaws in the GOP approach instead of the flaws in the current law.
“Don’t have an alternative until it’s time,” the 77-year-old said. “Keep the focus on what they’re doing. Otherwise you confuse people. The margin of support for our position is like double when you just focus on that. … As a practical manner … if you say, ‘This is what they’re doing and this is what we would do to change the ACA,’ it’s like, ‘What are you telling me that for?!’ I just want to kill this bill. Don’t distract people!”
Pelosi, first elected to the House in 1987, acknowledged being frustrated during the health fight of 2009-10 that outside groups didn’t give her more air cover. She praised them for mobilizing in a constructive way this time: “That was very important because lots of time the outside will say, ‘While we’re at it, why don’t we go for single payer?’ I’m like, ‘Save that for another day! Because you’re not going to get anything unless we kill this bill. And the only way we’re going to kill this bill is going to be to focus on what it does.’”
“Once they take repeal off the table,” Pelosi promises that Democrats will happily work with the GOP to “find common ground” to fix problems that she agrees exist with the law. “But if you’re a deconstructionist, then there’s just almost no common ground,” she said.
If Trump is trying to appropriate Democrat Andrew Jackson for the GOP, Pelosi would like to claim the Abraham Lincoln for Democrats. She quoted him three times during her sit-down with The Post. A portrait depicting a youthful Lincoln, from his single term in the House during the 1840s, hangs in the conference room where she met with us. She kept pointing to it: “This man said, ‘Public sentiment is everything!’”
Democrats need to pick up 24 seats to win the House in 2018, a heavy lift made especially difficult by redistricting. Pelosi said it’s too early to predict how many seats they’ll gain. “We fully intend to win the House,” she said with a smile. “In another few days, we’ll be a quarter of the way (from the last election to the next one). Can you believe that? In the next six months, I’ll be able to tell you better.”
-- The newsiest part of yesterday’s interview came when Pelosi said abortion should not be a litmus test for Democratic candidates. “I grew up Nancy D’Alesandro, in Baltimore, Maryland; in Little Italy; in a very devout Catholic family; fiercely patriotic; proud of our town and heritage, and staunchly Democratic,” she said. “Most of those people — my family, extended family — are not pro-choice. You think I’m kicking them out of the Democratic Party? … You know what? That’s why Donald Trump is president of the United States — the evangelicals and the Catholics, anti-marriage equality, anti-choice. That’s how he got to be president. Everything was trumped, literally and figuratively by that.”
Abortion has become a flashpoint recently in the debate over the Democratic Party’s future, Karen Tumulty notes in her write-up of those comments: “Newly installed Democratic National Committee Chairman Thomas Perez and former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) came under criticism by abortion rights advocates during their ‘unity tour’ last month, when they appeared together at a rally for an Omaha mayoral candidate who has sponsored legislature bills to restrict abortion. Perez responded with a statement declaring that support for abortion rights is ‘nonnegotiable’ for Democrats, and that they should speak with ‘one voice’ on it.”
But polls show that about one-third of Democrats want abortion to be illegal in all or most cases. And Pelosi, focused on winning control of the House and Senate, stressed the importance of having people like Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in the big tent. The minority leader also pointed out that pro-life Catholic nuns are speaking out against the Republican health care plan: “Do we subject them to a test and say, ‘Before you speak out on this bill, we want to know where you are on this, that and the other thing?’ No! No!”
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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Justice Department decided not to bring charges against officers involved in the death of Alton Sterling, whose videotaped killing outside a Baton Rouge convenience store last summer prompted unrest across the city. The feds plan to reveal in the next 24 hours that they have closed the probe. Matt Zapotosky and Wesley Lowery report: “As of Tuesday afternoon, the Sterling family had yet to be informed by the Justice Department of the decision, and it is unclear how and when the department will announce its findings. The case will be the first time under Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the department has publicly declined to prosecute officers investigated for possible wrongdoing in a high-profile case, and officials in Baton Rouge have been girding for a possible reaction there.” The burden of proof in federal civil rights cases is extraordinarily high, and even in the Obama administration federal prosecutors declined to bring such charges in high-profile incidents. Still, civil liberties advocates fear that the DOJ under Sessions and Trump might be even more reluctant to prosecute alleged wrongdoing by police.
-- Another ambush: Two Chicago police officers were shot while on duty last night. Authorities said they were sitting in their squad car around 9 p.m. when they were approached by two other vehicles, whose passengers opened fire on the officers. Both are in serious but stable condition. (Chicago Tribune)
-- A Texas police officer was fired for fatally shooting an unarmed black 15-year-old last weekend, after an internal affairs investigation concluded he violated multiple department policies. Jacob Edwards was a high school freshman and is the youngest of the 333 people who were shot and killed by police so far this year. (Wesley Lowery and Derek Hawkins)
-- Former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager, who was captured on video opening fire on an unarmed black man, Walter Scott, as he fled from a traffic stop in 2015, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal civil rights charge. (Matt Zapotosky and Wesley Lowery)
-- “Isaiah Thomas outduels John Wall as Wizards let Game 2 slip away against Celtics,” by Candace Buckner in Boston: “Thomas spent six hours in a dentist’s chair Monday, the result of having his front tooth knocked out at the start of this Eastern Conference semifinal slugfest between his Boston Celtics and the Washington Wizards. Thomas’s mouth was so swollen that he felt that he would have frightened the viewing audience tuning in for Game 2 on Tuesday night. He needed more meds before arriving at TD Garden and was forced to wear a mouth guard — an impediment for a player who enjoys the finer points of trash talking. Yet all this, the tedious surgery and lingering pain after 10 hours of dental work over two days, seemed trivial considering the heaviness of this day. Thomas’s younger sister, who recently was killed in a car crash, would have celebrated her 23rd birthday Tuesday. With this weighing on his mind, of course Thomas was going to play. He turned a rough-and-tumble playoff game into a classic shootout while leading the Celtics to a 129-119 overtime win and a 2-0 series lead. In a duel featuring two all-star guards, Washington’s John Wall performed as a singular force with 40 points and 13 assists, but Thomas shined brightest by scoring 53, the second-highest point total for an individual in Boston’s storied playoff history.”
-- Also in Boston last night: A day after Adam Jones complained of suffering racial taunts while playing against the Red Sox, he was greeted with an ovation at Fenway Park. In the first inning last night, fans made a point of applauding, and many came to their feet in a show of support for the Baltimore star. It was pretty classy. (Des Bieler)
GET SMART FAST:
- A suicide bomber rammed a car filled with explosives into an armored NATO convoy in Kabul, killing eight Afghan civilians and wounding 28 others, including three coalition soldiers. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred just a few hundred yards from the U.S. embassy and several Afghan government ministries. (Pamela Constable and Sayed Salahuddin)
- The Republican primary in the special election to replace Mick Mulvaney in South Carolina is going to a runoff. Former state Reps. Ralph Norman and Tommy Pope will face off May 16. (Charlotte Observer)
- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) underwent a medical procedure to correct an abnormal heart rhythm known as an “atrial flutter." “I anticipate that this heart tune-up will give my classic roadster many more miles of reliable service,” the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat said in a statement. (Politico)
- Emergency responders in Arkansas are frantically searching for a missing toddler, who was separated from her mother and four-year-old brother as massive floodwaters overturned their SUV on a bridge earlier this week. (William Wan and Kristine Phillips)
- Continuing public concerns over high-priced hepatitis C drugs are taking a new twist as Louisiana’s top health official proposes using an obscure federal patent law to get the medicines at a much lower cost. If successful, other states could reap the benefits. (Kaiser Health News)
- A Baylor fraternity is under fire after hosting a “Cinco de Drinko” party, in which students dressed like maids, donned bright orange construction vests and painted their faces brown. One party attendee reportedly described the theme as “Mexican.” (Samantha Schmidt)
- CNN declined to air a new Trump campaign ad because it included a graphic referring to the mainstream media as “fake news.” Trump campaign officials issued a statement accusing the network of “censoring” free speech “because it doesn’t fit their narrative.” (Politico)
- Bad news for commuters: A preliminary Amtrak repair plan obtained by the New York Times calls for 44 days of track shutdowns at Penn Station this summer – lasting for nearly three weeks in July and almost the entire month of August. This could make traveling to the Big Apple even more unpleasant.
- Mexican soldiers nabbed another successor to former drug kingpin “El Chapo” Guzman in Mexico City, delivering yet high-profile blow to the Sinaloa drug cartel as it struggles to maintain its dominance. (Joshua Partlow)
- Educators and mental health professionals are expressing deep concern about “13 Reasons Why,” the Netflix show about a teenage girl who takes her own life – and gives classmates a series of tapes detailing her decision. Many have criticized the show for romanticizing suicide among a particularly vulnerable age group, and school psychologists have linked it to a rise in self-harm and suicide threats. (Moriah Balingit)
- The “DaddyOFive” parents who earned YouTube fame – and a steady stream of ad revenue – for pulling disturbing “pranks” on their young children have now lost custody of two of them, and are under investigation for child abuse by Child Protective Services. (Abby Ohlheiser)
HEALTH CARE LATEST:
-- Senior Capitol Hill and White House officials said a new amendment was drafted overnight to address concerns from moderate Republicans about preexisting conditions. Politico’s Josh Dawsey, Josh Bresnahan and Rachel Bade report: “Earlier in the day, multiple sources said House leadership floated the idea of adding additional money to high-risk pools aimed at subsidizing more expensive premiums for people with such medical conditions. The changes are expected to circulate Wednesday. It was not clear Tuesday night, however, if the amendment would include new funds, though one White House official indicated it would. The last-ditch effort comes after GOP leaders faced a major setback in their whip effort Tuesday … sending leaders scrambling to stop the bleeding. Changes to the bill are possible in the next 24 hours, two senior officials said, but the changes ‘can't be that significant, or we will lose the support from the Freedom Caucus,’ [one official said].”
-- A Post analysis shows 21 House Republicans either opposed to or leaning against the bill as presently constituted, and 22 more either undecided or unclear. Republicans can lose no more than 22 votes. Moderates have been citing the preexisting conditions problem more than any other issue. Sean Sullivan and David Weigel report: “Influential Rep. Fred Upton came out against the plan, dealing a major blow to proponents trying to secure enough votes to pass it in the House. ‘I told the leadership I cannot support the bill with this provision in it,’ Upton said in a radio interview, saying the proposal ‘torpedoes’ safeguards for people with preexisting conditions. ‘I don’t know how it all will play out, but I know there are a good number of us that have raised real red flags.’” (Amber Phillips is taking point on our internal whip count effort. Her running list is here.)
-- Trump, eager to make good on his promises to overturn Obamacare, continued pressing Republicans to act – with Mike Pence again traveling to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers, and Trump phoning them from the Oval Office.
-- Want to know more about health care? Paige Winfield Cunningham, one of the smartest and most deeply-sourced health care reporters in Washington, will launch a newsletter next Tuesday called THE HEALTH 202 as part of our growing portfolio. Her daily digest will be chock full of insights on health policy and politics. Sign up here.
GOP CIVIL WAR:
-- The board of the Heritage Foundation ousted Jim DeMint after days of turmoil and internal debate, blaming the now-former president for management and communication problems that have roiled the conservative think tank. Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold report: “The decision was announced at the conclusion of an hours-long, closed-door meeting in which the board contended with deep disagreements among its members that resonated beyond the organization’s Capitol Hill headquarters. Unhappiness with DeMint among Heritage board members began shortly after the former senator took over the think tank in 2013 ... [even as] DeMint won applause in some quarters for increasing the organization’s political clout and outreach to grass-roots conservatives. Trump’s election initially appeared to vindicate DeMint’s approach. Heritage served as a policy and staff pipeline for the Trump campaign and the transition … While the alliance with Trump raised the think tank’s profile, it also repelled some ideological conservatives who did not view Trump as consistently compatible with conservative traditions. ... Among the problems was tension between DeMint and Ed Feulner, his predecessor, who was concerned that the DeMint-era emphasis on political activism overshadowed the institution’s role in the intellectual development of the conservative movement.” Feulner will replace DeMint on an interim basis.
-- Top Republicans in Congress forcefully rejected Trump's call to get rid of the legislative filibuster and played down his suggestion that a "good shutdown" is needed this fall. “That will not happen,” Mitch McConnell said at his weekly press conference, when asked about changing the rules again. "There is an overwhelming majority on a bipartisan basis not interested in changing the way the Senate operates on the legislative calendar."
“Trump's latest outbursts — no sitting president has called for the government to be shut down like this — could cast a shadow over how Congress approaches numerous bills this year," Damian Paletta and John Wagner report. "Trump’s new threats suggest he will jettison attempts at compromise and instead use the bombastic partisan warfare he employed during his campaign. ... The threats come after White House officials said they were furious at what they viewed as gloating by Democrats over the terms of a short-term spending bill that funds government operations through Sept. 30. 'Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!' Trump wrote on Twitter."
More pushback from a Republican senator who is up for reelection in Arizona next year:
No, we don't need a government shutdown, and no, we shouldn't change senate rules on the legislative filibuster— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) May 2, 2017
-- Hillary Clinton declared herself “part of the resistance” – and spread blame around for why it is not her occupying the West Wing. Philip Rucker reports: "Making a rare public appearance, Clinton attributed her surprise loss in the 2016 election to interference by Russian hackers and the actions of [James Comey] in the campaign’s homestretch. ‘If the election had been on October 27, I would be your president,’ Clinton told moderator Christiane Amanpour, the CNN anchor, at an event in New York. And while she stated broadly that she takes “absolute personal responsibility” for her loss, she declined to fault her strategy or message – nor did she acknowledge her campaign’s struggle to grasp the deeply angry mood in broad swaths of the electorate." Six months after the election, Clinton is stepping back into the public arena: "She wants to be heard and to stay relevant, even as her Democratic Party is turning the page on the Clinton era and looks for new figures to lead it out of the political wilderness. ‘I’m back to being an activist citizen — and part of the resistance,’ Clinton said.”
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST WATCH:
-- “Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is currently in business with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and billionaires George Soros and Peter Thiel,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The previously undisclosed business relationships with titans of the financial and technology worlds are through a real-estate tech startup called Cadre.” He didn’t report this initially when he took his government job and will now a file an amended disclosure.
-- “While in White House, Trumps remained selling points for ‘very special’ Philippines project,” by Drew Harwell and Matea Gold: “Investors looking to buy a condo at Trump Tower in the Philippines would have found, until this week, some high-powered video testimonials on the project’s official website. There was [Trump], in a message filmed several years before he was elected … declaring that the skyscraper bearing his name near the Philippine capital would be ‘something very, very special, like nobody’s seen before.’ Then there was his daughter Ivanka lavishing praise on the project … Four months into [Trump’s] tenure, his business relationship with a developer who is one of the Philippines’ richest and most powerful men has emerged as a prime example of the collision between the private interests of a businessman in the White House and his public responsibility to shape U.S. foreign policy. The potential conflict first came into focus shortly before Trump was elected, when the Philippines’ iron-fisted president, Rodrigo Duterte, named the Trump Organization’s partner on the Manila real estate venture his top trade envoy. The connection burst back into public view this week, after Trump stunned human rights advocates by extending a White House invitation to Duterte, known for endorsing hundreds of extrajudicial killings of drug users … Although the promotional videos were posted online in 2013, the continued presence of Trump and his daughter in marketing materials for the Manila tower reflects the extent to which they remain key selling points even as they have vowed to distance themselves from their global real estate and branding businesses."
-- The Trump administration suspended enforcement of an FDA regulation finalized under Obama that would have imposed strict oversight on the e-cigarette and cigar industry for the first time. The Justice Department, siding with vaping and tobacco groups challenging the rule, agreed to a three-month delay to give “new leadership personnel” at the HHS “additional time” to review the issues in the case. (Juliet Eilperin)
-- Momentum has turned against the Paris climate agreement in the White House, where top officials are engaged in an ongoing debate about whether or not to pull out of the pact. Also from Juliet: “On Thursday, several Cabinet members … met with top White House advisers, including [Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Reince Priebus.] During that meeting … the White House counsel’s office informed participants that the U.S. could not remain in the agreement and lower the level of carbon cuts it would make by 2025. The administration is working to unravel many Obama-era policies underpinning that pledge, and the economic consulting firm Rhodium Group has estimated that the elimination of those policies would mean the U.S. would cut its emissions by 14 percent by 2025 compared with 21 percent if they remained in place. This interpretation represented a change from the White House counsel’s earlier analysis and is at odds with the State Department’s view of the agreement. ... (Ivanka) urged White House staff secretary Rob Porter to convene a second meeting Monday with lawyers from both the White House and the State Department. ... Still, administration advisers on both sides of the political spectrum emphasized that Trump himself would make the final decision."
-- The Senate confirmed Wall Street lawyer Jay Clayton to lead the SEC: “Clayton will police many of the same large banks that he has spent decades representing, including Goldman Sachs and Barclays," Renae Merle reports. "He also will play a key role in Trump's efforts to roll back the 2010 financial reform legislation known as the Dodd-Frank Act. During his confirmation hearing, Clayton sought to assure lawmakers that he could be tough on Wall Street despite his industry connections. But he has faced stiff opposition from many Democrats and consumer groups."
-- The House voted 229 to 197 to change overtime rules for workers, advancing long-promised legislation that would allow employees in the private sector to exchange overtime pay for comp time. Jena McGregor explains that Republicans have promoted this since the Newt Gingrich era: "The bill -- which supporters say would add flexibility to hourly workers' schedules while opponents worry it doesn't do enough to protect employees -- is not a new idea. It seeks to take a similar provision that has been available to government workers since 1985 and extend it to private-sector employees, making it legal for them to choose between an hour and a half of paid comp time and time-and-a-half pay when they work additional hours. Similar bills have been introduced multiple times over the past two decades, passing the House three times before failing to pass the Senate. While its fate is unclear in the Senate this year, the White House said Tuesday it supports the bill."
-- The president has invited conservative leaders to the White House tomorrow for what they expect will be the ceremonial signing of a long-awaited-and highly controversial-executive order on religious liberty. Politico’s Tim Alberta and Shane Goldmacher report: “Thursday is the National Day of Prayer, and the White House was already planning to celebrate the occasion with faith leaders. The signing would represent a major triumph for [Mike Pence] -- whose push for religious-freedom legislation backfired mightily when he served as governor of Indiana -- and his allies in the conservative movement. The original draft order, which would have established broad exemptions for people and groups to claim religious objections under virtually any circumstance, was leaked to The Nation on Feb. 1."
-- “Trump (hearts) truckers and on the border they are closely watching what he does with NAFTA,” by Jenna Johnson in Laredo, Texas: “Just north of one of the busiest commercial border crossings with Mexico is Interstate 35’s Exit 12B, where U.S. truckers often stop before hauling trailers filled with Mexican groceries, car parts, construction materials and other goods out into the country. ... Truckers recently passing through ... sharply varied in their views of Trump’s promise to upend NAFTA, with some worrying it would threaten their livelihood and others optimistically hoping it would lead to a revival of manufacturing in America that would create more jobs in their far-flung home towns." Many of these truckers said they couldn’t imagine Trump actually doing anything that would slow trade with Mexico, which could crash the economy on the border: “He’s really going to mess the economy up?” said Ervin Whipple, “If he does that — nah, he ain’t going to do that. He’s just talking!”
-- Democrats homing their messaging on tax reform. From USA Today’s Heidi Przybyla: “Mainly, it’s not good enough to rail against tax cuts for the rich because many voters don’t understand why the wealth accumulation of others impacts them and their families. … As Senate Democrats draw the battle lines over Trump’s proposed tax plan, they are borrowing an argument from their predecessors who fought Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts 35 years ago — by tying them directly to potential future cuts in Social Security and Medicare for the middle class and poor.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump spoke by hone with Vladimir Putin for the first time since the U.S. launched a targeted strike on Syria last month, discussing the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis and a possible cease-fire in the region. The two men also discussed the possibility of trying to organize a personal meeting at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg in July. David Filipov and Ashley Parker report: "'They agreed that the suffering in Syria has gone on for far too long and that all parties must do all they can to end the violence,’ the White House said in a readout of the call. The White House described the conversation as ‘a very good one,’ while the Kremlin called it ‘businesslike and constructive.’ But the dueling readouts contained some discrepancies. Though both governments spoke of a cease-fire, with the United States announcing that it planned to send a representative to the cease-fire talks that begin in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, the Trump administration also said the two leaders spoke of establishing safe zones in Syria. The Russian government, however, did not mention the possibility of safe zones." Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also spoke by phone Monday, agreeing in a phone conversation to meet on the sidelines of an Arctic Council meeting next week in Fairbanks, Alaska.
-- Putin is one bad hombre, cont.: Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny said he has lost 80 percent of the sight in one eye, after suffering a chemical burn when an assailant threw a green liquid in his face last week. The New York Times reports: “Dousing opposition figures with green dye is a common occurrence and often attributed to pro-Kremlin activists. The Moscow police have formally opened an investigation but appear to be stalling, Mr. Navalny wrote, as they have not interviewed witnesses from among his supporters, sought surveillance video or made arrests.”
-- The administration is really going soft on China. Now U.S. Navy patrols in disputed zones of the South China Sea are being curtailed. The New York Times’ Helene Cooper reports on moves that Republicans would have ripped Obama for: “Six weeks ago, the U.S. Pacific Command requested permission from senior American officials for a United States warship to sail within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal, a disputed reef in the South China Sea that is claimed by the Philippines and China. The Navy had good reason to think the request would be granted. During last year’s campaign, [Trump] labeled Obama as weak in defending international waters in the South China Sea, where Beijing has started a sharp military buildup … But instead, the Pacific Command request — and two others by the Navy in February — was turned down by top Pentagon officials before it even made it to [Trump’s] desk. More than 100 days into the Trump presidency, no American Navy ship has gone within 12 miles of any of the disputed islands in the South China Sea, Defense Department officials said. The decision not to challenge China’s territorial claims represents a remarkable deference toward Beijing from an administration that is increasingly turning toward President Xi Jinping for help amid the escalating crisis in the Korean Peninsula."
-- Former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) is the top contender to become U.S. Ambassador to NATO, a senior Trump official told CNN.
TWO HOT POLITICAL READS:
-- Carlos Lozada reviews “Rising Star,” the massive new Barack Obama biography that tells us not only how he lived, but explores the sacrifices and calculations he made in the decades before his political success: “[David J. Garrow] portrays Obama as a man who ruthlessly compartmentalized his existence; who believed early on that he was fated for greatness; and who made emotional sacrifices in the pursuit of a goal that must have seemed unlikely to everyone but him. Every step — whether his foray into community organizing, Harvard Law School, even the choice of whom to love — was not just about living a life but about fulfilling a destiny. It is in the personal realm that Garrow’s account is particularly revealing. He shares for the first time the story of a woman Obama lived with and loved in Chicago, in the years before he met Michelle, and whom he asked to marry him. Sheila Miyoshi Jager … is a recurring presence in ‘Rising Star,’ and her pained, drawn-out relationship with Obama informs both his will to rise in politics and the trade-offs he deems necessary to do so. Garrow, who received a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Martin Luther King Jr., concludes this massive new work with a damning verdict on Obama’s determination: ‘While the crucible of self-creation had produced an ironclad will, the vessel was hollow at its core.’”
-- The New York Times’ Jennifer Senior calls Ivanka's new book, “Women Who Work," a "strawberry milkshake of inspirational quotes": “For a while, it reads like the best valedictorian speech ever. Pursue your passion! Make sure you, and not others, define success! Architect a life you love in order to fully realize your multidimensional self! Eventually, though, a pair of related existential questions emerge. Namely: For whom is Ivanka Trump writing? [And] as Sinek likes to ask, what is the why of this book? Lee Iacocca appears two pages before Socrates. Toni Morrison appears one page after Estée Lauder. A quote from Nelson Mandela introduces the section that encourages women to ask for flextime: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ In a crowded marketplace of freelance thought leaders and spiritualists, Trump, with her social-media following of millions, is carving her own niche as a glambition guru, with an explicit aim to ‘inspire and empower women to create the lives they want to live.’” This book may be making a big media splash, but Emily Heil reports that copies aren't exactly in high demand in Washington.
TWO BIG FOREIGN ELECTIONS COMING UP:
-- The Post’s Anna Fifield interviewed Moon Jae-in, the liberal candidate in South Korea who is on the brink of being elected president next week – and whose distinctly different ideas on North Korean relations could complicate efforts to punish the Kim regime: “Moon, who is closely associated with the ‘sunshine policy’ of engagement with North Korea, could hardly be more different from Park — or from Trump. He wants to reopen an inter-Korean industrial park and in TV debates has talked about South Korea taking the initiative on North Korea. He wants South Korea, not the United States, to have operational control of the military alliance if a war breaks out. … Privately, Moon aides say they are ‘furious’ about what they see as the expedited installation of THAAD. Moon warned that the U.S. actions could undermine south Koreans’ faith in Washington and complicate the countries’ security alliance.”
-- “Where is France's famed ‘Republican Front’ in 2017?” by James McAuley: “‘Republican Front’ is the French term for the bipartisan opposition that has prevented an extremist from winning the presidency. It is what defeated Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002, but its impact on his daughter’s bid in 2017 has yet to be seen. … Although many politicians and voters remain opposed to the National Front, few can claim to be taken aback by its ascent. When Marine Le Pen emerged in second place from the election’s first round with 21 percent of the vote, politicians from both the left and the right immediately backed her opponent, the former investment banker Emmanuel Macron. But in a remarkable break with tradition, others did not. The most notable example remains that of Jean-Luc Mélenchon … As the gap narrows between Macron and Le Pen, many of the Mélenchon backers appear to lean toward leaving their presidential choice blank or staying home altogether.” On Monday in Paris, thousands gathered for the annual International Worker’s Day union demonstrations. The largest of these events condemned Le Pen but stopped short of endorsing Macron.
-- “NFL players fight pain with medical marijuana: ‘Managing it with pills was slowly killing me,’” by Rick Maese: “One by one, they entered a nondescript building on the eastern edge of town, 18,000 square feet with no signage out front. They came looking for relief. These nine former professional football players are part of the Denver Broncos Alumni Association. They played in nearly 700 NFL games combined and have enough aches and pains to keep an entire hospital staff busy. ‘Every day, I wake up in pain, from my ankles to my neck,’ said Ebenezer Ekuban … ‘It’s part of the territory. I know what I signed up for.’ For decades, football players have treated pain with postgame beers, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and powerful prescription painkillers. The sport’s overreliance on drugs for pain management is the subject of a federal lawsuit and has sparked an investigation by the DEA. Retired NFL players use opioids at four times the rate of the general population, according to one study, and marijuana advocates say there’s a safer, healthier alternative available. No professional sport has so many outspoken proponents of marijuana’s medicinal qualities, but then again no sport is as closely associated with pain and injury.”
IF YOU READ ONE PROFILE TODAY:
-- “Jon Tester could teach Democrats a lot about rural America — if he can keep his Senate seat,” by Ben Terris in Big Sandy, Montana: “When Tester was 9 years old, he had a job: take meat from cows slaughtered on his family’s farm and feed it into the steel maw of a meat grinder. The motor took it from there, pushing the beef through four spinning blades and then squeezing it, like toothpaste, out a series of small holes. It was a powerful, dangerous machine, something Tester learned the hard way the day it sliced off three of his fingers. He doesn’t remember his left hand slipping in but remembers pulling it out. Blood splattered the walls of the butcher shop. Tester pressed his right hand over the wound to stop the bleeding, pushing so hard his bones bore holes into his palm. He was in too much shock to feel pain. His mother whisked him to their blue 1965 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon and high-tailed it to the closest hospital. Fortunately, it was only 13 miles away. ‘It’s hospitals like that out here in rural America that will close down if we don’t look out for them,’ the second-term Democrat said recently from his Montana farm. ‘If you tack on another 35 miles on that trip, who knows, I could be dead.’ Tester is now 60. He’s close to 300 pounds and sports a flat-top haircut. He works the land his parents and grandparents worked before him. He still uses the same meat grinder…
“Suddenly, a party that has focused on expanding its base to include more women, minorities and young people is looking to a seven-fingered farmer from Montana to help stop the bleeding. … Now, more than ever, Democrats are realizing that any path to regaining their power must go through the small towns that Trump won. ‘I think that for too long the Democratic Party has been branded by the views of the coasts,’ said Heidi Heitkamp, the junior senator from North Dakota who is also up for reelection in 2018.
This is how a Democrat wins in Montana: “When he last ran for reelection he had an A rating from the NRA and drew progressive ire for voting against the Dream Act, which would have created a pathway to citizenship for the foreign-born children of undocumented immigrants. Sometimes it can feel as if Tester is more willing to take a shot at Sen. Bernie Sanders (‘I like Bernie, but he needs to see himself as a senator, not the leader of a movement’) than at Trump (‘I’ve got my problems with Trump, but I’m going to give him every opportunity to succeed’). It took him longer than any Democrat in Senate leadership to endorse Hillary Clinton, and he dragged his feet before coming out against Neil M. Gorsuch’s nomination for the Supreme Court. ‘Democrats, we didn’t have any kind of unified message,’ he said. His party, Tester contends, would be better off to stop ‘leading’ with issues such as gay rights (which he supports), bathroom bills and Trump’s sexism, and to start heeding the appeal in the way the president talked about the economy.”
But, but, but: “Even a cautious alignment with Trump comes with pitfalls. Tester experienced this after he and nine other moderate senators took a meeting with him at the White House. He was there to discuss the problems his constituents were having with Medicare and Medicaid, but all anyone seemed to care about after the fact was that Trump referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) as ‘Pocahontas’ and Tester did nothing to object. ‘My goal there was to try and build a relationship, not call him an a--hole the first time I met him,’ Tester said, still smarting from the bad press he got back home.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The president responded to Clinton's speech in a stream of tweets around 11 p.m.:
FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2017
...Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2017
Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, also trolled Clinton:
You Ignored WI— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) May 3, 2017
Called us deplorable/irredeemable
Had oodles of $$ & no message
Lost to a better candidate
From: Woman in the White House https://t.co/bJQ0xbXwH3
The White House's director of social media also piled on:
More commentary on Clinton's speech yesterday:
What @HillaryClinton didn't say: She missed the mood of the country. Email server and paid speeches were big deal. All but ignored rural USA— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) May 2, 2017
One Republican admits that repealing Obamacare was kind of a fantasy to begin with:
Mark Sanford not optimistic on OCare repeal, tells me that "full repeal was, in essence, a pipe dream from the very start."— Alexandra Jaffe (@ajjaffe) May 2, 2017
A memorable quote from another "no" vote:
Paul Cook on repercussions for voting no: "What are they gonna do to me? Give me a haircut and send me to Vietnam? That's already happened."— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) May 2, 2017
Meanwhile, in the Senate:
Shelley Moore Capito walks out of meeting with VP Pence, tells me she's still uncomfortable with AHCA's Medicaid provisions— Dylan Scott (@dylanlscott) May 2, 2017
Jimmy Kimmel thanked supporters after revealing his newborn son's heart condition and praising Obamacare:
on behalf of my family, thank you for the lovely and loving tweets about our son Billy and for your donations to https://t.co/HOIUvNt8WE XO— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) May 2, 2017
sincere thanks for the outpouring of love & support - Dr. Jane is keeping a close ear on Billy, who is very well - XO pic.twitter.com/QgSUminhmg— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) May 2, 2017
Obama was one of those well-wishers:
Well said, Jimmy. That's exactly why we fought so hard for the ACA, and why we need to protect it for kids like Billy. And congratulations! https://t.co/77F8rZrD3P— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 2, 2017
As one of those kids with a pre-existing condition, I know just how hard it can be. That's why I'll keep fighting for care for everyone. pic.twitter.com/09iT2DtGa5— Tammy Baldwin (@tammybaldwin) May 2, 2017
Not everyone was convinced:
Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn't obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else's health care.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) May 2, 2017
QOTD: "This is going to be a disaster" —Mick Mulvaney on conference call with reporters where lines were unmuted/playing hold music— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) May 2, 2017
A competitor for quote of the day:
"I don't stand by anything." -- Donald Trump— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) May 2, 2017
It's easy to forget amid the maelstrom of news but that is an absolutely unreal quote
Trump's longtime political adviser accused Fox's Sean Hannity of trying to become White House chief of staff:
Sean Hannity and his lackey Bill Shine blocked me from Fox because I blocked Sean's insane effort to become @realDonaldTrump WH COS— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) May 3, 2017
Chris Barkley left Ben Sasse's office last week to become the policy director for the Senate Republican Policy Committee. This was his goodbye gift:
The Nebraska senator made clear to his followers that it was tongue-in-cheek:
we meant it in a loving way https://t.co/jEV2gq86XU— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) May 3, 2017
Scenes from the House floor:
Chuck Schumer translated Trump's first 100 days in office into a Spotify playlist — and in doing so either elevated political comedy or helped ruin a good meme:
The White House had a reception to celebrate Israeli Independence Day, with several prominent GOP senators. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach posted a stream of photos from his visit, including this one from inside Steve Bannon's office that shows the chief strategist's list of promises made by the president:
Lindsay Graham and Alan Dershowitz pic.twitter.com/9Jxz0LsUMq— Rabbi Shmuley (@RabbiShmuley) May 3, 2017
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“A Woman Is On Trial For Laughing During A Congressional Hearing,” from HuffPost: “The U.S. Capitol Police officer who decided to arrest an activist because she briefly laughed during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing in January is a rookie cop who had never conducted an arrest before nor worked at a congressional hearing. Nevertheless, prosecutors persisted this week in pursuing charges against the 61-year-old woman the rookie had taken into custody. Coronado was involved in the arrest of Desiree Fairooz, an activist affiliated with the group Code Pink, after Fairooz laughed when Sen. Richard Shelby said that Sessions’ record of ‘treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.’ Ariel Gold … who was also at the Monday hearing, testified that she believed Fairooz’s laughter was a reflex and not a purposeful interruption.” She said she was “very shocked” and “appalled” by her arrest.
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Bill Funds Border Security--in Libya, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Egypt...” from CNS News: “The 1,665-page spending bill the Republican-controlled Congress is planning to pass this week includes multiple measures that seemingly demonstrate a commitment to securing the border — in Libya, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. It does not include the $1.4 billion [Trump] requested to begin building the wall he promised to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. But, the bill makes clear, Jordan's border must be secured. The section that appropriates money for the ‘Global War on Terrorism’ provides: ‘That these funds may be used to support the Government of Jordan, in such amounts as the Secretary of Defense may determine, to enhance the ability of the armed forces of Jordan to increase or sustain security along its borders …’ While the Republican leadership would not appropriate the $1.4 billion needed to start the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, it is appropriating $1.3 billion for aid to Egypt.”
At the White House: Trump will welcome Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House, where the two will meet and participate in a working luncheon. Trump will then give a joint statement with President Abbas. In the evening, Trump will have dinner with religious leaders.
Pence will join Betsy DeVos to deliver remarks at a school choice event and meet Trump at the White House for a working luncheon with President Abbas. Later, he will return for a dinner with religious leaders before delivering the keynote address at the Susan B. Anthony List’s 2017 Campaign for Life Gala.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Jeb Bush on Trump’s tweeting: “Someone oughta grab the damn phone and stop allowing him to create this uncertainty.” (Palm Beach Post)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Temperatures are taking another nosedive for the rest of the week, the Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Mostly sunny skies help morning temperatures through the 50s, and to near or past 60 by lunchtime. But countering the warm sun is a brisk breeze from the northwest … Afternoon highs top out on the cooler side of normal, in the mid- to upper 60s.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Diamondbacks 6-3.
-- Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby will miss tonight’s Game Four against the Washington Capitals after suffering a concussion on Monday night. (Barry Svrluga)
-- A D.C. woman was sentenced to 12 years in prison in connection with two attacks against her ex-boyfriend last summer. Authorities said one of the attacks involved a knife and the other involved sulfuric acid. A judge sentenced Linda Washington, 53, to two years for the knife attack and a consecutive 10 years for the acid attack. (Victoria St. Martin)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert is taking heat for this monologue:
Bryce Reeves, a Republican running for lieutenant governor in Virginia, is going on the air today with a new commercial that depicts two masked men robbing a house while a woman holding a bag of groceries watches with her two kids across the street. “This is the America Obama left behind: terrorists living here, the FBI investigating ISIS nationwide, frightening families,” he says to camera, adding that he’s a former police officer who will fight to defund sanctuary cities. “Safety” is a preview of the kind of spots that might dominate Republican primaries this cycle:
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, Virginia’s current lieutenant governor, is up with a bio spot ahead of next month’s primary that calls Trump “a narcissistic maniac” whose “hate” is not welcome in the Commonwealth. He’s trying to fend off a challenge from Bernie-backed Tom Perriello:
This is not the way to win: Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial hopeful Scott Wagner angrily and forcefully took a tracker’s camera away during a speech at a country club in York. “You’re about to see your senator in action,” says the state senator, unhitching a microphone from his lapel and striding over to the tracker from American Bridge 21st Century. Police were called, the Philadelphia Daily News reports, but it does not appear any charges were filed. “You want to go to court? Let’s go to court,” Wagner said later, challenging the opposition group. The candidate, who plans to challenge Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf next year, took the memory card from the camera, but the tracker was able to retrieve the footage because he had set it to record both on the camera and the memory card.
In a second cellphone video, the tries to get his video equipment back. Wagner tries to block the camera, and the tracker says he’s been assaulted and his finger is bleeding:
Here are the ways that Trump thinks being president is complicated:
Members of the House Transportation Committee grilled airline executives about a series of unpopular policies that have infuriated customers and spawned viral videos. Peter Holley has a write-up. Here's a video with highlights:
Hillary complained that no one asked about how the candidates would create jobs during the debates. In fact, it was the first question of the first debate:
American University released video of the man it says is behind a racial incident:
This video shows you like what it's like to be trapped in an avalanche:
See this awesome shot by Steph Curry:
Steph Curry dropped Rudy Gobert into the blender. Turned him into a smoothie pic.twitter.com/c6h1tdggUm— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) May 3, 2017