The Daily 202: Senate Republicans still face narrow path to pass health-care bill after procedural victory – Washington Post

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Republican Sens. John Cornyn (Tex.) and John Barrasso (Wyo.) leave the Senate chamber after Vice President Pence breaks a 50-50 tie to formally open debate on Republican health-care legislation. (Oliver Contreras For The Washington Post)

THE BIG IDEA: Mitch McConnell is like a quarterback who has just converted on fourth and long. The Senate majority leader kept the drive to repeal Obamacare alive, but he’s still trailing by a touchdown, the game clock keeps ticking down and a win is not inevitable.

— He didn’t have a single vote to spare, but the Kentuckian demonstrated impressive legislative prowess by getting 50 Republican senators to vote for the motion to proceed to debate on the health-care bill. It was high political theater: John McCain, recovering from surgery and battling brain cancer, traveled 2,300 miles from Arizona. As police removed protesters yelling “kill the bill” from the gallery, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson (who has been a holdout in recent weeks) held off on voting until he saw what the outcome was going to be. Vice President Pence then cast a tiebreaking vote.

— But last night underscored what a tough row to hoe this remains. The rules of the body mean that any senator can now submit amendments that need to be voted on. This leads to what’s called a vote-o-rama, an often chaotic and sometimes unpredictable process.

The first item members took up last night was the Better Care Reconciliation Act. That is the carefully negotiated package that McConnell spent weeks crafting, with compromises to get conservatives like Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and moderates like Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on board. But nine Republicans broke ranks and voted no.

The diversity of those who opposed the measure underscored the ideological split within the Republican conference about the best path forward on health care. The group included moderates like Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), as well as conservative purists like Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Also voting no were Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).

— President Trump, who has stepped up his efforts in recent days to get a bill done, marveled yesterday at the small margin for error. “It’s a very, very difficult situation,” he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “because you move a little to the left, and you lose four guys. You move a little bit to the right, and all of a sudden you have a bloc of people who are gone. You have a one-inch road and it wheels through the middle of the valley.

— Senators will next cast an up-or-down vote on whether to completely repeal Obamacare. The vote could come as early as today. It will fail. The only question is how many Republicans vote against it. Two years ago, all but one of them voted for the identical measure — when they knew that it was only for show and Barack Obama would veto it.

— It’s hard to overstate the degree to which White House officials and Senate GOP leaders just want to pass something — really, anything — to show the base that they are keeping their promise to roll back Obamacare. They would happily portray even most modest tweaks to the Affordable Care Act as major successes to save face. As far as they’re concerned, whatever gets passed will be the basis for negotiations with the House. So this is not even a final product.

That’s where what’s being called “skinny repeal” comes in. “The ‘skinny repeal’ option would repeal the ACA’s mandates that individuals buy plans and that employers with 50 or more employees provide coverage … as well as eliminate the law’s tax on medical device manufacturers,” Sean Sullivan, Juliet Eilperin and Kelsey Snell explain. “This … strategy would keep the overhaul effort alive but amount to a tacit acknowledgment that broader efforts to revise or repeal the law cannot succeed … The conservative group Freedom Partners (backed by the Koch political network), urged senators to use the votes to partly repeal the law and then keep pushing for full repeal. … But one key way Senate leaders won Tuesday’s procedural vote was by assuring several centrist Republicans that they may end up with a modest bill.”

The devil is in the details. Kim Soffen and Kevin Schaul have created a cool graphics page to track some of the most significant amendments expected to come up in the next few days, along with which senators to watch for each one.

“There has been a mismatch all along between many of the Republicans’ critiques of current law and the likely outcomes of their reforms,” Margot Sanger-Katz writes in the New York Times. “But earlier bills grappled with the issues by trying to deregulate insurance markets or provide stabilization funds, even if analyses suggested that the changes would still increase consumer costs and the number of Americans without insurance. A skinny repeal bill, instead, leaves those policy goals to the side in an effort to find a slender majority of votes.”

— Keep in mind: Opening floor debate may be a Pyrrhic victory for the GOP: Democrats are going to force Republicans to cast some uncomfortable votes in the coming days as part of the freewheeling amendment process. Regardless of whether a bill ultimately passes, and how they try to spin it, every senator who voted for the motion to proceed just gave years of fodder to Democratic admakers. “These votes, frankly, are a lot tougher for them than they are for us,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “They are squeezed in both directions.”

McConnell, for his part, warned his members that voters “expect us to tackle the big problems.” “So all we have to do today is to have the courage to begin the debate,” the GOP leader said in a floor speech. “Let the voting take us where it will.”

THE MAC IS BACK:

— “John McCain, maverick of the Senate, did not return to Capitol Hill and suddenly stop the progress of the Republican health-care effort. But the Arizona Republican, now battling an aggressive form of brain cancer, did use his moment in the spotlight Tuesday to deliver a sobering message to colleagues,”Elise Viebeck, Paul Kane and Ed O’Keefe report. “The Senate might be known as the world’s greatest deliberative body, McCain said, but it is not clear it deserves that reputation today. The partisanship, the gridlock and the political subterfuge have dragged down the institution, he said. Senators’ work is ‘more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember,’ McCain told a rapt audience on the Senate floor. ‘Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now, they aren’t producing much for the American people.’” (Read Kane’s column about McCain’s emotional return.)

Even though he delivered a pivotal vote to move the health-care debate forward, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee publicly criticized his party’s leaders for their lack of transparency and suggested that a bill may not ultimately pass. “We’ve tried to do this by coming up with a proposal behind closed doors in consultation with the administration, then springing it on skeptical members, trying to convince them it’s better than nothing, asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition,” McCain said. “I don’t think that’s going to work in the end, and it probably shouldn’t …

“Let’s trust each other,” he added. “Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.”

HOW IT’S PLAYING BACK HOME:

Arizona Republic: It won’t take long to see whether McCain’s message dented the partisan stalemate on Republican efforts to overhaul the Affordable Care Act. Both sides are expected to wrangle for the rest of the week over competing versions of the health-care bill to see if any ideas can muster a majority.”

Denver Post: Cory Gardner votes to advance Senate GOP health care bill but circumspect on what comes next. Regardless, Colorado Republican plans to pitch idea involving private insurance for low-income residents.”

Alaska Dispatch News: “Alaska’s senior Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Tuesday that her decision to vote no on beginning debate on health care legislation was a last-minute decision. In the end, an allegiance to ‘the process’ won out.”

Las Vegas Sun: “[Sen. Dean Heller] voted in support of a motion to push forward with efforts to roll back Obamacare. … He noted that his vote to proceed was not a vote in favor of the GOP bill. … Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who is running against Heller next year, said in a statement after today’s vote that Heller folded under pressure from President Donald Trump and GOP leaders.”

Charleston Gazette-Mail: “Following the roll call, [Sen. Shelley Moore] Capito said she expects that the final Senate version will put more money into combating the worsening opioid epidemic and beefing up the Patient and State Stability Fund, which would soften the blow of some of the lost federal funding.”

Columbus Dispatch: “Despite his sharp criticisms of nearly every health-care bill pushed by Republican leadership this year, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman sided with party leaders Tuesday to keep alive the GOP effort to dismantle and replace Obamacare.”

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Rick Perry. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Oops: Energy Secretary Rick Perry got a prank call. Perry thought he spoke with the prime minister of Ukraine, but it turned out to be a pair of high-profile Russian pranksters, who posted audio from the hoax online. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  2. President Trump is eyeing Afghanistan’s mineral deposits. Like his two predecessors, the president wants to look into possible mining as Pentagon officials consider increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. (New York Times)
  3. Trump mistakenly praised Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri for fighting Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a political partner to Hariri. (Anne Gearan)
  4. The West Wing will undergo major maintenance in August. The construction will force some staffers to temporarily work elsewhere. (Real Clear Politics)  
  5. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) are proposing a bill to revamp the bail system. The unlikely bipartisan duo’s Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act would set aside a modest $10 million in federal grant money to encourage states to change their cash bail systems. (Ed O’Keefe)
  6. Discrimination against Muslims is on the rise in the United States. In a new Pew poll, 48 percent of Muslim Americans reported at least one discriminatory incident over the past year compared to 40 percent a decade ago. (Abigail Hauslohner)
  7. Scientists studying the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE,found that 99 percent of brains belonging to ex-NFL players showed signs of the neurodegenerative disease. Although researchers cautioned that the results are not representative of the general population, the findings do suggest CTE is much prevalent in the sport than previously realized. (Rick Maese)
  8. A U.S. Navy patrol ship fired warning shots at an Iranian military ship in the Persian Gulf, after the vessel came within 150 feet of the U.S. ship and risked collision. A Pentagon official said no one was hurt in the “isolated incident.” (Andrew deGrandpre)
  9. A woman who said her fiance died in a kayaking accident on the Hudson River pleaded guilty in his death. Angelika Graswald, 37, had originally told authorities that freezing, turbulent waters had flipped her husband’s boat upside down. But after police found discrepancies in her story, she admitted to sabotaging the kayak. (Alex Horton)
  10. Prosecutors in the case of “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli will rest their case today. Shkreli’s defense attorney doesn’t intend to call any witnesses, so closing arguments will likely occur tomorrow. (Renae Merle)

TRUMP VS. SESSIONS:

— The public standoff between Trump and Jeff Sessions escalated Tuesday: The president criticized his attorney general on Twitter, in a news conference and during a newspaper interview, and Sessions says he plans to stand his ground. Devlin Barrett, Philip Rucker and Sari Horwitz report: “Trump was asked at a Rose Garden news conference if he would fire the attorney general … ‘We’ll see what happens,’’ said Trump — a potentially ominous choice of phrase, considering the president used the same expression when talking [about fired FBI Director James Comey] … It is unheard of for a Cabinet-level official to be subjected to such visceral and public criticism, which has now gone on for a week. But Sessions showed no sign of buckling … and in fact his position was bolstered by support from prominent conservatives taking his side.”

  • Jody Hunt, Sessions’s chief of staff, told White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus that the AG has no intention of stepping down. Priebus, for his part, did not say Trump planned to fire Sessions if he did not leave.
  • Trump’s reluctance to act on his anger and fire Sessions may be based in part on the lack of an immediate plan for a successor at the Justice Department. … One informal adviser said there is another reason Trump has yet to fire Sessions: ‘The president doesn’t want to be seen as firing another law enforcement official.’
  • “Officials said Sessions is due to announce in coming days a number of criminal leak investigations based on news accounts of sensitive intelligence information. And within hours of Trump’s public broadside, the Justice Department announced it would change a police funding program to add new requirements that cities help federal agents find undocumented immigrants to receive grants.”
  • “Current and former Justice Department officials said they hope Sessions holds out, refusing to resign as a means of defending the department’s independence. … Officials at Justice said the standoff is beginning to affect the department’s work. One official said the pace of meetings with senior leaders has slowed, and the dust-up has distracted from some policy goals.”

— Movement conservatives are very angry at Trump for going after one of their best allies in government: Breitbart, which has been Trump’s staunchest defender in right-wing media and was formerly run by Bannon, posted an article saying the president’s attacks on Sessions “only serves to highlight Trump’s own hypocrisy” and it warned that firing Sessions would “fuel concerns from his base.” The lead story overnight was headlined: “Trump vs. Trump: Potus Endangers Immigration Agenda.” The banner on the Drudge Report is: “Sessions in Dog House; Republicans on Brink of Civil War.”

Hard choice! Risk the future of the country (immigration) or score a few political points (Hillary)? https://t.co/0roWRpTBCN

— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) July 25, 2017

— Frustration from the base has been building for a while, and the Sessions donnybrook has prompted some pro-Trump thought leaders to speak out: “Weeks ago, Mr. Bannon brought Ann Coulter, the firebrand pundit, to see Mr. Trump … Ms. Coulter railed at the president that he needed to focus more on his core supporters,” per the New York Times. “‘If an early supporter like this is thrown under the bus, then who is safe?’ asked Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and a supporter of stricter immigration policies like those promoted by Mr. Sessions. ‘You can imagine what the other cabinet secretaries are thinking.’”

— In his interview with the Journal, Trump played down the significance of Sessions being the first and only GOP senator to endorse him before he locked down the party’s nomination. “When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama,” Trump said. “I had 40,000 people. He was a senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot, massive numbers. A lot of the states I won by massive numbers. But he was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ‘What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me. So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement.”

— “Trump famously said, ‘You’re fired!’ But he tends to demean rather than dismiss,” Phil Rucker and Ashley Parker note.

— Meanwhile over at Foggy Bottom, amid reports that Rex Tillerson is considering resigning in part because of Trump’s comments on Sessions, a State Department spokesperson refused to say yesterday whether he is happy in his role. CNN’s Michelle Kosinski, Zachary Cohen and Elise Labott report: “Tillerson is also taking time off at a time when the US faces multiple foreign policy challenges. … [Spokeswoman Heather] Nauert dodged a question about Tillerson’s feelings over the White House’s involvement in foreign policy decisions. … Nauert added that Tillerson is not considering resigning and any reports saying so are ‘false.’ … Tillerson has been on vacation this week — Nauert said it had been planned for a while and is not related to reports of his dissatisfaction. Defense Secretary James Mattis is also currently taking time off. Tillerson is returning to work on Wednesday and will meet with the Lebanese Prime Minister and Qatari Foreign Minister.”

Anthony Scaramucci talks with reporters outside the White House. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

THE MOOCH HAS BEGUN HIS PURGE OF PRIEBUS LOYALISTS:

— “Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, threatened on Tuesday to fire his entire staff in an effort to stem the leaking that has plagued President Trump’s administration,”Ashley Parker reports. “Scaramucci, wearing blue-tinted aviator sunglasses and speaking to a small group of reporters in the White House driveway Tuesday morning, gestured to the guard booth on the outskirts of the complex to emphasize his threat. ‘If they don’t stop leaking, I’m going to put them out on Pennsylvania Avenue — it’s a very clear thing,’ he said. … ‘I’m going to fire everybody, that’s how I’m going to do it,’ Scaramucci said. ‘You’re either going to stop leaking or you’re going to get fired.’”

“The first to leave the West Wing on Tuesday was senior assistant press secretary Michael Short, who resigned after a report emerged in Politico hours earlier saying that he would be fired … “Asked about press reports that he has already begun to fire West Wing staffers, Scaramucci mentioned that name of a particular staffer floated in a news story as a likely candidate for firing … ‘This is actually a terrible thing,’ he said. ‘The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic, you got that? So I should have the opportunity, if I have to let someone go, to let the person go in a very humane, dignified way.’

“But Scaramucci also made clear ‘1,000 percent’ that he is prepared to fire any communications staffer he suspects of disloyalty. ‘I’ve got the authority from the president to do that,’ he said. … Typically, the job of firing staffers — even those in the press shop — would be left to the chief of staff, but Priebus has found himself increasingly isolated in recent days, with few areas of the White House reporting directly to him.”

Paul Manafort talks to reporters on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Matt Rourke/AP)

THE RUSSIA INVESTIGATIONS MAKE HEADWAY:

— Paul Manafort appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed-door meeting Tuesday, answering questions and providing documents from a meeting he attended with a Russian lawyer last summer. Rosalind S. Helderman and Karoun Demirjian report: “Manafort’s submission … could offer a key contemporaneous account of the June 2016 session, which was organized by the president’s oldest son and has gained attention in recent days from lawmakers as well as [Robert Mueller]. Manafort’s testimony had been widely anticipated but took place without prior announcement early Tuesday, hours before [Jared Kushner] appeared on Capitol Hill to meet with the House Intelligence Committee. Manafort’s lawyers have agreed to make him available to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee staffers and members in the future to discuss other issues.”

Late Tuesday, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced the panel had withdrawn its subpoena compelling Manafort to appear, saying the former Trump campaign chairman had begun producing documents to the committee. “Our investigation is still in its early stages, and we will continue to seek information from witnesses as necessary,” they said, indicating the committee could seek to compel Manafort’s testimony at some point in the future. “As we’ve said before, we intend to get the answers that we need, one way or the other.”

Meanwhile, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, whose firm produced a dossier last year including salacious but unverified information linking Trump to Russia, agreed to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a closed-door, transcribed interview. (A lawyer for Simpson had previously said his client would invoke his Fifth Amendment right if forced to appear.)

— Lawyering up: White-collar defense lawyer Abbe Lowell said he has a “confidential” relationship with Ivanka Trump, tied to his previously announced work for her husband. (National Law Journal)

TRUMP’S NEWEST DILEMMA:

— House lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to advance a Russian sanctions bill yesterday, delivering a foreign-policy brushback to Trump and setting up a veto dilemma for the president.Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian report: “Included in the package, which passed 419 to 3, are new measures targeting key Russian officials … as well as sanctions against Iran and North Korea in response to those nations’ weapons programs. Members of the Trump administration … have resisted the congressional push — in particular a provision attached to the Russian measures that would require Congress to sign off on any move to relieve those sanctions. The legislation was revised last week to address some administration concerns … But the bill passed Tuesday retains the congressional review requirement.”

Lawmakers in both parties urged Trump to sign the bill — but it remains unclear how the president will respond. “While the President supports tough sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, the White House is reviewing the House legislation and awaits a final legislative package for the President’s desk,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement yesterday. “He has no intention of getting rid of them, but he wants to make sure we get the best deal for the American people possible. Congress does not have the best record on that …He’s going to study that legislation and see what the final product looks like.

— Meanwhile, some European leaders warned the effort could actually backfire by dealing a blow to transatlantic efforts to curb Russian aggression against Ukraine. Michael Birnbaum reports: “The bill’s main goal is to force Trump to consult with Congress before dialing back sanctions … But the legislation would also give Trump the power to ban investments in certain Russian energy projects, most notably a major Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline under development called Nord Stream 2, and to promote U.S. energy exports instead. The bill’s language was softened in the days ahead of the vote … But many policymakers and experts in the E.U. capital, Brussels, and in Berlin still say that Congress may ultimately harm its own effort to pressure Russia.”

TRUMP IN OHIO:

— In his rally speech last night, Trump returned to his greatest hits from the campaign trail and offered an “unfiltered” perspective on his first six months as president. John Wagner and Jenna Johnson report: “Over the course of nearly an hour, Trump touted the work of his administration in getting gang members and other illegal immigrants ‘the hell out of our country,’ and he promised a continuing crackdown on ‘sanctuary cities.’ … And here in the heart of the industrial Midwest, Trump promised to refill lost manufacturing jobs in factories or to ‘rip ’em down and build brand-new ones.’ … As he started to detail his achievements, Trump offered an assessment of his work that he said he knew the media — whom he called ‘a dishonest group of people’ — would not share. ‘I think, with few exceptions, no president has done anywhere near what we’ve done in his first six months,’ Trump asserted. … Trump continued: ‘With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president who has ever held this office.’

A message on the corner of Avondale Avenue and Market Street in South Youngstown, Ohio. (Dustin Franz/For The Washington Post)

— Jenna Johnson, who spoke to dozens of local residents in Youngstown, reports that Trump’s simplistic view of the former steel town is stuck in time: “To Trump, this part of America is still covered with ‘rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape’ … [But] some of the largest employers in the Youngstown area are local governments, Youngstown State University, and a major hospital and health-care companies that would likely suffer under the GOP’s proposed cuts. [Now], those living in Youngstown and its suburbs are worried about health care, the schools … the opioid crisis … the care of military veterans, and the region’s overall economy — access to full-time, good-paying jobs in place of the ones their parents and grandparents once had in the mills. … Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat who represents the area, said that he’s tired of Trump name-dropping Youngstown without doing anything to help the city. ‘He’s a great marketer, and he tries to use [Youngstown] as the kind of city to paint a picture about why people should support him and vote for him,’ Ryan said. ‘The reality is, people are waiting for him to do something for our area, and he has not done anything that he said that he was going to do.’”

THE NORTH KOREA THREAT IS VERY REAL:

— Pyongyang will be able to field a reliable, nuclear-capable ICBM capable of hitting North American cities as early as next year,U.S. officials have concluded in a new confidential assessment — drastically accelerating earlier predictions and further increasing pressure on U.S. and Asian leaders to halt the country’s progress. (Ellen Nakashima, Anna Fifield and Joby Warrick)

— Also on Tuesday, North Korea threatened to strike the “heart of the U.S.” should it try to remove Kim Jong Un from power. The threat was reported by Pyongyang’s state-run news agency, and comes in response to remarks from CIA director Mike Pompeo, who said recently that the U.S. needs to “find a way to separate” the supreme leader from his nuclear stockpile. (CNN)

— Western researchers tasked with scouring troves of North Korean internet data have noticed a very surprising trend among the country’s elite:their Internet usage looks a lot like our own. Very few families in the country have unfettered access to the web, but researchers said the ones that do use sites such as Gmail, Facebook, and iTunes – even using shipping sites such as Amazon or Alibaba to browse for goods. (Craig Timberg and Ellen Nakashima)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

McCain’s colleagues welcomed him back to the Senate:

Senator John McCain just showed up on the Senate floor and voted yes to proceed with the healthcare bill discussion. God bless him!

— Randy Weber (@TXRandy14) July 25, 2017

I believe Senator McCain’s floor speech will be remembered for decades to come. Beautifully written & a great reminder for us all.

— Rep. Jeff Duncan (@RepJeffDuncan) July 25, 2017

a cobra once bit John McCain’s eyebrow. After five days of excruciating pain, the cobra died. pic.twitter.com/vbO7c9xFtP

— Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) July 26, 2017

But commentators on the left derided McCain for returning to D.C. after a medical emergency to advance debate on a bill that, according to estimates, would result in fewer insured Americans.

From a writer at Vox:

Inspiring to see McCain risk his health so that millions could some day experience the unique freedom that comes from having no insurance.

— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) July 25, 2017

From a former Obama and Clinton campaign staffer:

Senator Hirono cast her vote after a second surgery battling Stage 4 cancer. I think that deserves a standing ovation.

— Christina Reynolds (@creynoldsnc) July 25, 2017

From a liberal blogger:

John McCain isn’t just a cancer patient cutting off other cancer patients. He’s also an 80 year-old cutting off people in nursing homes.

— Eric Kleefeld (@EricKleefeld) July 25, 2017

McCain also had a change of heart on one of the health-care proposals:

McCain earlier today: “I will not vote for the bill as it is today.”
6 hours later
McCain votes for BCRA

— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) July 26, 2017

Protesters thanked Sen. Lisa Murkowski for her “no” vote on the motion to proceed:

Murkowski walked out of the Capitol to chants of “stay strong Lisa” and “thank you” from people gathered outside.

— Caitlin Owens (@caitlinnowens) July 26, 2017

Sen. Susan Collins explained why she voted against advancing the bill:

I voted no on MTP. When dealing w/ a complex issue that affects millions of Americans & 1/6th of our economy, we must proceed carefully. 1/3

— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) July 25, 2017

A congresswoman challenging Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) in his reelection bid next year lambasted him for voting in favor of opening debate:

No, @DeanHeller. Nobody’s smiling. Your deciding vote to strip health care from tens of thousands of Nevadans is a disgrace. pic.twitter.com/WTKK17VQON

— Jacky Rosen (@RosenforNevada) July 25, 2017

This is a heartless, reckless vote to take health care away from tens of thousands of Nevadans. Let’s repeal & replace @DeanHeller in 2018. https://t.co/bHutqVZNHw

— Jacky Rosen (@RosenforNevada) July 25, 2017

Eric Schultz, a former DSCC communications director, sees parallels between the health vote and the 2002 vote to authorize the war in Iraq:

echoes Iraq vote: based on faulty info, seems politically obligatory @ the time, weighs on conscience for yrs, impacts country 4 generations

— Eric Schultz (@EricSchultz) July 25, 2017

Some on the right echoed the criticism.

From a Weekly Standard editor:

If GOP votes to proceed to a bill w/ no text, no hearings, no CBO score, no clarity on Byrd rule, they deserve the fiasco they’re inviting.

— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) July 25, 2017

Some perspectives on the recent polling—

From a Wonkblog reporter:

ACA polled at 40%-ish and ended in electoral armageddon for Dems. Trumpcare is currently at 25%. https://t.co/KCw2ydkYcc

— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) July 25, 2017

From a political scientist at MIT:

Aggregating across polls, only 25% of public supports GOP health care bill. It remains historically unpopular compared to other major bills. pic.twitter.com/6rXPfbyguj

— Chris Warshaw (@cwarshaw) July 25, 2017

Lots of chatter about Sessions taunts:

I asked two ppl close to Trump why he is tormenting Sessions instead of firing him. The answer from both, paraphrased: Because he can.

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 25, 2017

From a Wall Street Journal reporter:

Wonder if Trump realizes if he succeeds in getting Sessions to prosecute HRC, he is in cross-hairs of the next Dem potus. #bananarepublic

— Del Quentin Wilber (@DelWilber) July 25, 2017

From an editor at the National Journal:

The revolution eats its own.

— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) July 25, 2017

A Washingtonian writer added a lighter note:

It sounds like Trump is trying to get Jeff Sessions to break up with him first. Classic male move.

— Elaina Plott (@elainaplott) July 25, 2017

From an Obama-era DOJ official:

Maybe Sessions can report Trump to Melania’s cyberbullying initiative?

— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) July 25, 2017

Criticism also came from Republican lawmakers:

President Trump’s tweet today suggesting Attorney General Sessions pursue prosecution of a former political rival is highly inappropriate. 4

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 25, 2017

Mr. President, maybe just try a meeting? This is beneath the office – of any held office – from city councilman to POTUS. https://t.co/5u7E2n0m6G

— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) July 25, 2017

But Roger Stone, one of Trump’s former campaign associates, continued to defend the president:

Where are prosecutions of Obama Spy Crimes or Clinton thievery. ? AG too busy trying to lock up Americans for using medical marijuana? https://t.co/HvYBJqHWQ9

— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) July 25, 2017

Some alarming merchandise was sold at Trump’s rally last night:

Some Trump merch @ Youngstown #Trump rally pic.twitter.com/y1bIoJOcKf

— Stephanie McNeal (@stephemcneal) July 25, 2017

Trump misstated the 2016 results from Youngstown:

Trump just told Ohio vets he won Youngstown in 2016. Fact check: he lost it to Clinton. https://t.co/oBByS9wsLR

— Jon Passantino (@passantino) July 25, 2017

And CNN credited Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) with his experience as an Eagle Scout:

This was a first… #EagleScoutpic.twitter.com/mo2y5X1dVk

— Mark Sanford (@RepSanfordSC) July 25, 2017

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— New York Magazine, “Who Is Betsy DeVos?,” by Lisa Miller: “Betsy DeVos used to have more friends. Way back in 2016, a coalition of reputable, fair-minded education reformers — some of them Democrats — got together to vouch for her. Jeb Bush liked her. So did his mother. So did Campbell Brown, the TV anchor turned education activist. On Twitter, Eva Moskowitz, the prominent charter-schools founder, said she was ‘thrilled to see such a passionate leader selected for such an important role.’ True, these were people who had taken her money and sat on her boards (or she on theirs), but they still staked their optimism on her prospective success. But what’s right in the bubble in which she has always lived doesn’t translate on YouTube, or in Cabinet meetings, or on the battlefield of public schools … This is what those advocates who had admired the zeal she brought to their cause didn’t have the foresight to grasp. Out of Michigan, without her checkbook, DeVos is like a mermaid with legs: clumsy, conspicuous, and unable to move forward.”

— Politico Magazine, “For America, It Looks Like Chaos. For Trump, It’s Just Tuesday,” by Michael Kruse: “This is how Trump ran his business, and it’s how he ran his campaign. For six months now, it’s how he’s run his White House. But within the whirl of these past two nonstop, dizzying days, it has reached blinking-red-light levels. To people who have been around him, and those who still are, from Trump Tower to the West Wing, this can be unnerving. To people across the country and the world, it can feel dismaying or disorienting or just plain insane. For Trump, though, it feels like … the start to another week. ‘This is Donald,’ former Trump Organization Vice President Louise Sunshine told me Tuesday. ‘This is his style.’”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“Psychiatry group tells members they can ignore ‘Goldwater rule’ and comment on Trump’s mental health,” from STAT: “A leading psychiatry group has told its members they should not feel bound by a longstanding rule against commenting publicly on the mental state of public figures — even the president. The statement, an email this month from the executive committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association to its 3,500 members, represents the first significant crack in the profession’s decades-old united front aimed at preventing experts from discussing the psychiatric aspects of politicians’ behavior. It will likely make many of its members feel more comfortable speaking openly about President Trump’s mental health.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Wasserman Schultz aide arrested trying to leave the country,” from Politico: “Imran Awan, a House staffer at the center of a criminal investigation potentially impacting dozens of Democratic lawmakers, has been arrested on bank fraud and is prevented from leaving the country while the charges are pending. … Awan pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to one count of bank fraud during his arraignment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Awan is accused of attempting to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 home equity loan for a rental property, which is against the credit union’s policies since it is not the owner’s primary residence. Those funds were then included as part of a wire transfer to two individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan.”

DAYBOOK:

Trump will give an afternoon speech to the American Legion Boys Nation and the American Legion Auxiliary Girls Nation and will later make an announcement on jobs.

Pence will deliver a speech to the White House interns before joining Trump for the jobs announcement.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

When a hot mic was left on after a Senate meeting, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) was caught saying about President Trump, “I think he’s crazy. I mean, I don’t say that lightly and as a kind of a goofy guy.” To which Sen. Susan Collins responded, “I’m worried.”

Reed and Collins went on to chat about Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.), who suggested in a radio interview that, if Collins were a man, he would challenge her to a duel over her opposition to the Senate health-care bill. Reed said, “Trust me. Do you know why he challenged you to a duel? ‘Cause you could beat the s— out of him.” Collins replied, “Well, he’s huge. And he — I don’t mean to be unkind, but he’s so unattractive it’s unbelievable.”

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

— It should be another nice day in the District. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We do have a bit of an onshore flow, with light winds from the northeast this morning, and then from the southeast this afternoon. That means partly cloudy skies with the chance of a sprinkle along the way. But we can’t complain about highs in the low to mid-80s, even with the humidity rising toward the moderate range.”

— The Brewers crushed the Nationals 8-0 last night. (Jorge Castillo)

— One of the undocumented immigrants who died in a San Antonio tractor-trailer Saturday grew up in Northern Virginia and graduated from a Fairfax County high school before getting into legal trouble and being deported back to Guatemala. Maria Sacchetti, Moriah Balingit and Fenit Nirappil report: “He was sneaking back into the United States. [19-year-old] Frank G. Fuentes was one of at least six Guatemalans packed into a poorly ventilated truck with scores of other migrants who had crossed the border illegally, said Cristy Andrino, the consul of Guatemala in McAllen, Tex. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Fuentes had been brought to this country before his third birthday and was deported on March 2 after being convicted of assault and battery by a mob.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Trevor Noah recounted how the Republicans’ health-care bill came back to life:

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Stephen Colbert dissected Trump’s speech to the Boy Scouts:

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The Post analyzed on how Trump’s behavior aligns with the Boy Scout’s Law:

The Fact Checker team explored Trump’s “Pinocchio filled” 26 hours:

And a baby panda was weighed at Tokyo’s zoo:

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Trump Says Immigrant Gang Members ‘Slice and Dice’ Young, Beautiful Girls – Newsweek

President Donald Trump compared America to a nation under wartime occupation that needs to be liberated from illegal immigrants during a “Make America Great Again” rally in Ohio Tuesday night.

Trump said illegal immigrant gang members are like “animals” and that they’re not using guns to kill people “because it’s too fast and it’s not painful enough.”

He claimed gang members will “take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15 and others and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die.”

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RTX3CWF4 U.S. President Donald Trump holds a rally with supporters in an arena in Youngstown, Ohio, U.S. July 25. Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The president didn’t cite a specific example of this happening, but Fox News reported July 19 about how young girls associated with the gang MS-13 were used to lure four men from a rival gang to a Long Island New York park in April before gang members hacked the men to death with machetes. Some of the young men who died were the children of immigrants.

Several murders on Long Island have been linked to the gang. In March, gang members were charged with the September 2016 killing of two teen girls who were also hacked to death.

“We are throwing MS-13 the hell out of here so fast,” Trump said during the rally in Youngstown, Ohio. “We are cracking down hard on the foreign criminal gangs that have brought illegal drugs, violence, horrible bloodshed to peaceful neighborhoods all across our country,” he said.

Read more: Trump’s border policy is getting people killed

The MS-13 gang was originally founded in Los Angeles, California, in the 1980s and has since spread throughout the U.S. and to Mexico and Central America. Members are mainly from El Salvador.

Trump said that “people are screaming from their windows, thank you, thank you to the border patrol and to General Kelly’s great people that come in and grab these thugs and throw them the hell out.”

“We’re liberating our towns, and we’re liberating our cities. Can you believe we have to do that?” he asked. Trump said that this is not being done “in a politically correct fashion. We’re doing it rough.”

Trump said he is cracking down on “sanctuary cities” which don’t require local law enforcement officers to arrest undocumented immigrants. On Tuesday Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved to make federal grants to local law enforcement more difficult if police don’t help more with federal immigration enforcement.

Police chiefs from major cities across the U.S. have said doing this will make their job of fighting local crime more difficult as it will deter witnesses and victims from coming forward.  

Early this year Trump signed a pair of executive orders directing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to round up illegal immigrants who have previously been charged with even minor non-violent crimes.

In the hundred days after those orders were signed, arrests of illegal immigrants rose 38 percent from the previous year. Yet deportations also shrank 12 percent during the same period.

Illegal immigration to the U.S. has shrunk overall during Trump’s administration, falling by more than 61 percent.

By and large, those arrested under Trump’s executive orders have been undocumented immigrants who have not committed a violent crime.

Between January 22 and April 29, ICE made 10,800 “non-criminal arrests” compared to just 4,200 during the same period in 2016. There are many examples of families who have been separated in these instances.

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For America, It Looks Like Chaos. For Trump, It’s Just Tuesday. – Politico

It started Monday morning with Donald Trump calling his own attorney general “beleaguered.” It continued with an Air Force One flight to West Virginia and a rambling, partisan speech to thousands of hollering Boy Scouts. And it kept going with another manic jag of tweets on Tuesday, as the president took a second shaming swipe at Jeff Sessions, delegitimized the acting directorof the FBI, urgedsenators to “step up to the plate” on getting rid of Obamacare and railed away in his exclamation-laced syntax about Democrats who are “obstructionists” and the “Witch Hunt” of the Russia investigation. Meanwhile, his new communications director was threatening to fire his entire staff for leaking as rumors swirled about Cabinet-level departures. Chaos bordering on crisis.

This is how Trump ran his business, and it’s how he ran his campaign. For six months now, it’s how he’s run his White House. But within the whirl of these past two nonstop, dizzying days, it has reached blinking-red-light levels. To people who have been around him, and those who still are, from Trump Tower to the West Wing, this can be unnerving. To people across the country and the world, it can feel dismaying or disorienting or just plain insane.

Story Continued Below

For Trump, though, it feels like … the start to another week.

“This is Donald,” former Trump Organization Vice President Louise Sunshine told me Tuesday. “This is his style.”

“He’s operating just like he always has,” former Trump Shuttle President Bruce Nobles said in an interview.

“The prince of chaos,” said Trump biographer Gwenda Blair.

The spawn of Norman Vincent Peale and Roy Cohn, Trump has stomped through life armed with the obstinate, self-centered tenets of optimistic thinking and the sneering, deep-seated lessons of attack, attack, attack. He creates chaos, and then he responds to that chaos, withstanding it, even embracing it, feeding on it—and then he outlasts the outrage, emerging not only alive but emboldened.

“Hey, look, I had a cold spell from 1990 to ’91,” Trump said almost a quarter-century ago to a reporter from New York magazine, referring to the breakup of his marriage to the mother of his first three children, his affair with a busty, B-movie actress and the reckless spending and negligent management of his company that left him nearly a billion dollars in debt—all of which was covered breathlessly by the press. “I was beat up in business and in my personal life. But you learn that you’re either the toughest, meanest piece of shit in the world, or you just crawl into a corner, put your finger in your mouth, and say, ‘I want to go home.’ You never know until you’re under pressure how you’re gonna react.”

This crisis was formative, and Trump survived because of family money, permissive banks that were tied to him as much as he was tied to them, the Houdini-esque work of a lender-mandated financial rescue artist and far more than his fair share of chutzpah. The close scrape with personal bankruptcy and business ruin didn’t chasten Trump. It did the opposite. “The fact that he got through it,” former Trump Organization Vice President Barbara Res said, “made him believe he could accomplish anything, conquer anything.”

His path from The Art of the Deal to The Art of the Comeback to “The Apprentice” consisted of a media-stoked stew of self-promotion and provocation. WrestleMania antics and celebrity feuds were fuel. And he talked when he could about running for president. It was always a bluff. Until, of course, it wasn’t.

His campaign was a rolling crisis. Beset by backstabbing and infighting, careening from one five-alarm fire to the next, Trump’s unprecedented presidential bid seemed perpetually on the edge of political viability. And he won.

“Chaos creates drama, and drama gets ink,” former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg told me Tuesday. “This is a new kind of presidency. He’s followed the tabloid model, and it got him to where he is, and it’s the model that will be followed until it doesn’t work. And it has worked. He’s sitting in the Oval Office.”

On Monday, at the fairly standard hour of 6:40 a.m., he kickstarted a particularly agitated sequence of tweets by labeling Washington not a “Swamp” but a “Sewer” and yelling “Fake News!” He insisted there’s “Zero evidence” of his or his campaign’s collusion with Russian officials. Then he called Sessions, the first senator to endorse him and for a long period during the campaign his most credible surrogate, “beleaguered.” Then he called a member of Congress “Sleazy.” Then he poked Republicans about their “last chance” to “Repeal & Replace.” Then he boarded the presidential plane to go talk to the Boy Scouts.

In Glen Jean, West Virginia, at the National Scout Jamboree, at a gathering of “the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training,” Trump pledged to the crowd of an estimated 40,000, mostly boys between 12 and 18 years old, that he wouldn’t talk about policy fights or political disagreements. “Who the hell wants to speak about politics when I’m in front of the Boy Scouts?” he said. He did. The president talked about Tuesday’s health care vote and called Obamacare “this horrible thing that’s really hurting us” and found ways to criticize Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and told the amped-up teens stale stories about his big win of 2016. “USA!” they chanted back.

By Tuesday morning, he was back on Twitter, blasting the FBI boss and Sessions, too, for his “VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes” and “leakers.” He also praised John McCain for being a “Brave” “American hero” after disparaging him for being captured in Vietnam not once but twice before. (Trump never apologized.)

This is not the way it’s supposed to work, or at least not how it has. “I have not seen any indication of a normal appreciation of the functioning of government coming from the president,” former Senate attorney and Watergate prosecutor Richard Ben-Veniste told POLITICO on Tuesday. But while members of Congress scrambled to respond, their assessments of the president’s latest behavior ranging from confusion to condemnation to twisted justification to tepid defense, the people who have watched Trump for a lot longer simply shook their heads.

“Typical Donald,” Sunshine said.

“I’m not surprised by anything I’m seeing,” said Nobles, the former Trump Shuttle boss. “He’s always liked chaos.”

“He’s spent his life creating and surrounding himself with chaos,” Res said, “so that he can be the one person who can emerge in charge. The winner. The guy on the top. It’s a way of slaying his enemies.”

“If you’ve ever been on a construction site, they’re always chaotic,” Billy Procida, another former Trump Organization vice president, told me Tuesday. “And he’s good at construction.”

But he’s no longer on a construction site. He’s the most powerful person in the world.

“This is certainly different. It’s certainly new,” Nunberg said. “But it’s what people want.”

Chaos? All the time?

“Entertainment,” Nunberg said. “Entertainment.”

Michael Kruse is a senior staff writer for Politico.

More from POLITICO Magazine

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Senate Votes Down Broad Obamacare Repeal – New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted narrowly on Tuesday to begin debate on a bill to repeal major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but hours later, Republican leaders suffered a setback when their most comprehensive plan to replace President Barack Obama’s health law fell far short of the votes it needed.

The Tuesday night tally needed to reach 60 votes to overcome a parliamentary objection. Instead, it fell 43-57. The fact that the comprehensive replacement plan came up well short of even 50 votes was an ominous sign for Republican leaders still grappling with a formula to pass final health care legislation this week.

For Republicans, the failure ended the day on a sour note, hours after a more triumphant scene in the well of the Senate. Lawmakers from both parties had risen to their feet in the afternoon and applauded when Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, showed up in the chamber despite his diagnosis of brain cancer. He cast a crucial vote in favor of opening what promises to be a freewheeling, hard-fought debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act.

The Run-Up

The podcast that makes sense of the most delirious stretch of the 2016 campaign.

The 51-50 vote to start debate, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie, came only a week after the Republican effort to dismantle a pillar of former President Barack Obama’s legacy appeared all but doomed. It provided an initial win for President Trump, who pushed, cajoled and threatened senators in recent days to at least begin debating the repeal of the health care law.

But the victory could be fleeting: Senate Republicans still have no agreement on a repeal bill that they can ultimately pass to uproot the law that has provided health insurance to millions of Americans.

The Senate is now moving ahead with debate, amendments and ultimately a final vote in the coming days on legislation that would have a profound effect on the American health care system — roughly one-sixth of the United States’ economy. But it is entirely possible that by week’s end, they will have passed nothing.

“Now we move forward towards truly great health care for the American people,” Mr. Trump said from the White House Rose Garden, where he was holding a news conference with the visiting prime minister of Lebanon. “This was a big step.”

Only two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted against the procedural motion, though at least several other Republicans had been seen as possible holdouts. No Democrats voted in favor of the motion.

The Tuesday night vote was on a comprehensive amendment that included disparate proposals calculated to appeal to conservatives and moderates in the Republican caucus.

One proposal, offered by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, would have allowed insurers to sell stripped-down health plans, without maternity care or other benefits required by the Affordable Care Act, if they also sold plans that included such benefits.

“You shouldn’t have to buy what the federal government mandates you must buy,” Mr. Cruz said. “You should choose what meets the needs for you and your family.”

The amendment also included money to help pay out-of-pocket medical costs for certain low-income people, including those who buy private insurance after losing Medicaid coverage as a result of the Senate bill. This proposal was devised by Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and other senators from states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

But nine Republicans defected from the package, but all ends of the party’s ideological spectrum.

The debate to come will have broad implications for health care and households in every state, and emotions are high.

Before senators voted to start the debate in midafternoon, protesters in the Senate gallery chanted, “Kill the bill, don’t kill us!” and “Shame, shame, shame!”

Despite his vote to move ahead, Mr. McCain offered harsh words for the secretive process by which Senate Republican leaders came up with their bill to repeal and replace the health law, and he delivered a pessimistic take on its chances.

“Asking us to swallow our doubts and force it past a unified opposition — I don’t think that’s going to work in the end, and probably shouldn’t,” Mr. McCain said, adding that it “seems likely” that the current repeal effort would end in failure.

Arizona is one of the 31 states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and Mr. McCain’s remarks could be an ominous sign for other senators from states that expanded Medicaid, including the junior Republican senator from his state, Jeff Flake.

“We are ground zero for the failure of the exchanges, but we are also an expansion state,” Mr. Flake said. “I think all of us are concerned that we don’t pull the rug out from people.”

Just before the Senate vote, the Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, made an impassioned plea to Republicans.

“We know that A.C.A. is not perfect,” Mr. Schumer said. “But we also know what you’ve proposed is much worse. We can work together to improve health care in this country. Turn back now before it’s too late and millions and millions and millions of Americans are hurt so badly in ways from which they will never, ever recover.”

Given the divisions within their caucus, Senate Republican leaders were considering a new approach to keeping their repeal quest alive: They could try to reach agreement on a slimmed-down bill that would repeal a few major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, like the penalties imposed on people who go without insurance and businesses that do not offer insurance to their employees. Republicans leaders would not intend for such a bill to become law, but they believe that it could win approval in the Senate.

That “skinny” bill could then be a basis for negotiations with the House.

Republican leaders in Congress have struggled all year to fulfill their promise of repealing the 2010 health care law. By a vote of 217 to 213, the House approved a repeal bill in early May, but only after Republicans overcame their own difficulties in that chamber.

Mr. Trump kept up pressure on the Senate on Tuesday with Twitter posts. After the procedural vote, he applauded the Senate, but was cutting toward Ms. Collins and Ms. Murkowski: “We had two Republicans that went against us, which is very sad, I think. It’s very, very sad for them.”

The successful procedural vote was also a moment of redemption, at least temporarily, for Mr. McConnell, who just last week appeared to have failed in his effort to put together a health bill that could squeak through the narrowly divided Senate.

That said, it remained far from certain whether Republicans would be able to agree on a bill in the days to come — and what exactly the contents of that bill would be. Mr. McConnell promised an “open amendment process” in which members of both parties could propose changes.

“This is just the beginning,” Mr. McConnell said. “We’re not out here to spike the football.”

For weeks, Mr. McConnell has been promoting and revising a comprehensive bill that would repeal the health law while also replacing it, but he has struggled to nail down the support needed to pass that measure. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has yet to assess the most complete version of that legislation, which includes the proposals by Mr. Cruz and Mr. Portman.

Without that assessment, the measure needed 60 Senate votes, and it failed that test on Tuesday night.

The Senate is also expected to vote on a measure that would repeal the health law without putting in place any replacement, but that approach does not appear to have enough support to pass, either.

That proposal resembles a bill passed by the Senate in 2015 and vetoed by Mr. Obama in early 2016. But it would increase the number of people who are uninsured by 32 million in 2026, the budget office said.

Senator Portman had anguished for weeks over provisions of Mr. McConnell’s repeal bill that would make deep cuts in projected Medicaid spending and roll back the expansion of the program under the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Portman voted to move ahead with the debate on Tuesday after being assured that the Senate would vote on his plan to provide financial assistance to people moving from an expanded state Medicaid program to private health insurance.

States could have used the money, totaling $100 billion, to help low-income people pay deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs when they receive medical care.

Mr. Portman worked on the plan with the Trump administration and with several other Republican senators from several states that have expanded Medicaid, including Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Dean Heller of Nevada.

Mr. Heller voted Tuesday to open the debate, but he made no commitment to vote for the repeal bill itself.

“If the final product isn’t improved for the state of Nevada, then I will not vote for it,” Mr. Heller said. “If it is improved, I will support it.”

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McCain returns — backing and blasting his own party – Politico

It was quintessential John McCain: a dramatic return to the Senate to salvage the GOP’s Obamacare repeal effort — followed by a speech blasting the process his party used to get there.

The Arizona Republican sported a scar above his eye from surgery that resulted in a brain cancer diagnosis, quipping that he was “looking a little worse for wear,” but pointedly chided his party’s leaders for crafting a health care bill in private and attempting to jam it past any resistance.

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Some Obamacare supporters had held out hope that McCain would use his theatrical homecoming to deliver the deciding vote against starting debate, rebuking the president who had mocked his decorated service in the Vietnam War. But McCain, who prides himself on respect for Senate tradition, was unlikely to make a difficult cross-country journey days after his cancer diagnosis only to tear down his colleagues’ foundation for Obamacare repeal before Republicans could try to build it out.

Instead, McCain waved spiritedly to a throng of reporters as he entered the chamber he’s called home for 30 years, served as the crucial 50th vote to proceed to a repeal debate, and then delivered a passionate speech undercutting the “shell of a bill” he had just agreed to take up.

“Our health care insurance system is a mess,” McCain said on the floor, adding of Obamacare: “We Republicans have looked for a way to end it and replace it with something else without paying a terrible political price. We haven’t found it yet, and I’m not sure we will. All we’ve managed to do is make more popular a policy that wasn’t very popular when we started trying to get rid of it.”

“We all know Sen. McCain is a fighter,” McConnell said on the floor before the Arizonan came back to the Hill. “That’s evidenced by his remarkable life of public service, just as it is evidenced by his quick return to the Senate this afternoon.”

Trump hailed McCain in not one but two Tuesday tweets, calling him an “American hero” and apparently changing his mind two years after declaring on the campaign trail that “he’s not a war hero” and “I like people who weren’t captured.” McCain spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, earning several medals for valor.

McCain said he plans to remain in the Senate in order to manage floor consideration of the annual defense authorization bill, part of his duties as Armed Services chairman, before returning to Arizona for further treatment of his glioblastoma — the same type of tumor that killed his friend, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.).

“I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you cause to regret all the nice things you said about me,” he said.

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