Here’s where things stand heading into Day 64 of the Trump administration:
Now, the rubber really meets the road for the closer in chief, President Trump.
At the urging of the president, Republicans plan to try again Friday to vote on the American Health Care Act after hastily scuttling plans to move the legislation through the House on Thursday afternoon because of a lack of support from Republican members.
So far, there are 30 to 40 Republican members, mostly from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, who are firmly opposed to the bill. Meanwhile, GOP leadership can afford to lose only about 22.
Aides to the president delivered a blunt message to holdouts on the Hill late Thursday night: If they don’t approve the bill this week, there won’t be another chance. The president, they said, plans to move on to other priorities if the health-care effort fails.
The White House and Republican leadership are offering conservative Republicans changes to the “essential health benefits” currently in the Affordable Care Act.
But that and other concessions were not enough for many conservatives in the Freedom Caucus, who asked for more.
The White House insists that there is no Plan B if this bill fails. Conservatives on the Hill are calling their bluff. So far, by delaying the vote, the White House and House GOP leadership have been the first to blink.
REPEAL AND REPLACE ON THE LINE
So what do all these potential changes mean? According to the Congressional Budget Office, the same number of people will be uninsured in 2026 as under the original Republican proposal. The biggest difference is that the proposed changes make the bill cost more, leading to less deficit savings after a decade than the original measure would have produced.
In other words, the bill doesn’t help Republicans get more people covered by health insurance. In addition, the CBO predicts that the effects on premiums would be the same as in the original Republican proposal. To recap, the CBO predicted earlier this month that premiums would rise 15 to 20 percent before 2020, then fall roughly 10 percent by 2026 compared with the current law.
But heading into the bill’s next vote, more changes were being made, and it is not likely that the CBO will have time to provide a new score on the final product.
WIRETAP MEA CULPA
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’s revelation that the names of Trump transition advisers may have been caught up in surveillance of foreigners was like throwing a hand grenade into his committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The California Republican is now under fire for that, especially his decision to brief the president at the White House on information he acknowledged is incomplete. Nunes took a first step to address the concerns by apologizing to his fellow committee members for how he handled the situation.
But pressure is mounting for an independent committee to step in.
And Nunes’s blockbuster revelations are also being called into question. Was Trump or any of his aides on any of the intercepted calls? Nunes says he doesn’t know for sure.
SUPREME COURT FILIBUSTER ADDED TO THE DOCKET
Things are heating up in the otherwise sleepy hearing for Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch. Democrats, as expected, are threatening to filibuster, preventing a straight up-and-down vote on Gorsuch’s nomination unless Republicans are able to gather 60 votes.
Fifty-two senators caucus with the Republicans — so that means they need at least eight more lawmakers on their side.
It seems like an uphill battle, but already, moderate Democrats appear to be willing to play ball.
West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III has already said that “we should have an up-or-down vote” on Gorsuch’s nomination.
If Democrats do decide to filibuster, it could force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to change Senate rules or invoke the “nuclear option,” which removes the threat of a filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.
TRUMP HOTEL IN THE CLEAR ON ETHICS
Trump has stepped away from the day-to-day management of his business, including his luxury hotel in Washington.
And because of that decision, government oversight officials said Thursday that Trump’s business is in full compliance with its lease with the federal government, which bars an “elected official of the government of the United States” from benefiting from the deal.
Because Trump won’t be benefiting directly from the hotel until after he leaves office, the lease is still valid. Trump’s son Eric Trump, who oversees the hotel, is acting on the president’s behalf until he leaves office.