Steel Valley’s Youngstown is much more complicated than Trump portrays – Washington Post

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Dustin Franz

For The Washington Post

A message on the corner of Avondale Avenue and Market Street in South Youngstown, Ohio.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — President Trump escaped the roiling turmoil of Washington on Tuesday evening — leaving behind the chaotic effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the intensifying Russia investigation and his latest staff shake-up — to rally with his supporters in this former steel town.

“I was looking at some of those big, once incredible job-producing factories. And my wife, Melania, said, ‘What happened?’ I said, ‘Those jobs have left Ohio,’ ” Trump said to a cheering audience of several thousand. “They’re all coming back. . . . We’re going to fill up those factories or rip ’em down and build brand new ones. That’s what’s going to happen.”

Trump’s simplistic view of this city, located in what was once known as “Steel Valley,” is stuck in time. Youngstown suffered closures of steel mills in the 1970s and ’80s that laid off thousands, tanked the local economy and led to a mass exodus of residents. But the region has evolved significantly since then, and few say they expect Trump to revive the steel industry here as he has promised.

Instead, those living in Youngstown and its suburbs are worried about health care, the schools their children and grandchildren attend, the opioid crisis that now kills more Ohioans than car crashes, 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.

In interviews with dozens of local residents, both liberals and conservatives said Trump has not accomplished as much as they had expected by now — something that many of Trump’s supporters blame fully on Congress.

“It just seems like no one can get on the same page there, not even the Republicans,” said John Morris, 63, a postmaster who lives in the suburb of Canfield and attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel Basilica’s Italian festival on the edge of downtown Friday.

Dustin Franz

For The Washington Post

Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe and Vice Chairman Tracey Winbush reach out to supporters about VIP tickets for Tuesday’s rally.

Morris grew up in a Democratic family but has voted for Republicans for about two decades. He voted for Trump, despite his flaws, he said, because he hoped an outsider could change how Washington operates.

“It hasn’t changed,” he said. “We thought things might be different. . . . We thought he would be a lot further along than he is right now, but we didn’t know how many walls would go up.”

Morris said that it is up to Republicans to find a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, especially now that they control Congress and the White House — and that not doing anything is not acceptable. As he spoke, one of his friends, who reluctantly voted for Hillary Clinton, jumped in to say that he’s frustrated that no Democrats are willing to break with leadership to work with Republicans on health care.

Morris mostly watches Fox News Channel, along with the nightly newscasts on the major networks. He doesn’t understand the breathless obsession with examining every tiny connection between Trump and Russia.

“I still haven’t heard anything as far as collusion,” he said. “Whatever comes out, comes out — but it has been six months. It has been six months, and I haven’t seen anything yet. I don’t think anything more is going to come out.”

Youngstown is located in Mahoning County, which voted for Richard Nixon in 1972 but has sided with Democratic presidential candidates ever since. Last year, a wave of Democrats changed their party registrations, and there’s still a sign up on Route 7, next to a gun and ammunition shop, that says: “Cross over. Vote Trump.” Clinton eked out a win here, earning 49.9 percent of votes to Trump’s 46.6 percent, but Trump’s strong showing was considered a victory in itself.

Trump also won the two neighboring counties in Ohio’s Steel Valley, which is now called Mahoning Valley: Trumbull County to the north, which hadn’t voted for a Republican since Nixon, and Columbiana County to the south, which has mostly voted Republican for years.

Mahoning Valley is home to cities such as Youngstown that have struggled with poverty and crime, but also to suburbs filled with moderately priced homes and historic mansions with sprawling lawns, big-box stores and chain restaurants with packed parking lots, upscale fitness studios, retirement communities, drug detox centers, and grocery stores offering both dirt-cheap deals and large displays of organic produce. There are quaint downtowns, food trucks, summer festivals, locally owned coffee shops, luxury apartments in renovated historic buildings, outdoor jazz concerts and farmers markets.

Dustin Franz

For The Washington Post

A reflection off a storefront window in downtown Youngstown.

Some of the largest employers in the Youngstown area are local governments, Youngstown State University, and a major hospital and health-care companies that probably would suffer under the GOP’s proposed cuts. Up the road in Lordstown is
a General Motors plant that produces the Chevrolet Cruze, but it has laid off hundreds of workers and recently shut down for five weeks because the model isn’t selling well.

To Trump, this part of America is still covered with “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape,” as he put it in a speech to Congress earlier this year.

“It’s a sad remembrance of what the valley used to be,” said Deborah Anderson-Timar, 59, an accountant and Trump supporter living in the Youngstown suburbs whose father once worked in the industry. She appreciates that Trump sees how difficult life has been for communities like hers.

Youngstown has half the population now that it did in the 1960s, and the city in recent years has been tearing down abandoned factories, stores and homes. Although the suburbs are predominantly white, more than 45 percent of Youngstown’s 64,000 residents are African American and 9 percent are Hispanic. More than 38 percent of residents live in poverty, and state authorities have taken over the city’s failing school system.

Jonathan Stevenson, 26, who lives on Youngstown’s impoverished south side, excitedly voted for Barack Obama twice but sat this election out. Although he thought Obama did the best he could and enacted a number of reforms, Stevenson said, he didn’t see much change in his neighborhood.

“The stuff they say they need to fix, they don’t fix,” said Stevenson, who spent most of his life in foster care and now works part-time at a call center and studies business administration at the local community college. “The only way we’re going to change things is everyone coming together, because a president can’t do everything.”

Stevenson, who doesn’t have health insurance, said he doesn’t understand why Republicans want to cut Medicaid and other health-care programs that help not only his neighbors but also those across the valley.

“It’s like water, gas and electricity — if you don’t give people the initial stuff to live, you don’t know who is a failure and who is a diamond in the rough,” he said over an early lunch in a suburban mall food court.

A new grass-roots coalition called Valley Voices United for Change pushed city leaders in Youngstown and Warren, a city in Trumbull County, to pass resolutions opposing the Republican health-care plan, which they argue will lead to a drop not only in the number of people who are insured but also in the number of health-care-related jobs. Sweeping proposed cuts to Medicaid would also be a major setback for local opioid treatment centers that have seen a rush in new patients who gained health insurance coverage when Medicaid expanded in Ohio.

Dustin Franz

For The Washington Post

Jeff Schroeder, 59, and his wife Kathy, 64, enjoy ice cream in the back of their pickup truck in a parking lot in Canfield, Ohio.

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.”

Elsewhere in the Youngstown area, longtime residents say they voted for Trump because they wanted to try something different, even if it doesn’t end up working.

James Barkett, 65, a chaplain and counselor for the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center who once worked in the health-care industry, considers himself a centrist and believes in investing in social programs. He voted for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and Trump in November because he was “the lesser of two evils” and offered a different approach.

“It’s the same rhetoric every four years, and that’s what people are tired of,” he said. “They’re tired of hearing the same thing: ‘Oh, we need health care, we need jobs, we need better education.’ Well, then, do it. Quit talking about it, and do it — and I think that’s where Youngstown finally woke up and said: ‘You know what, you guys? You’ve been Democratic strongholds for however many elections. We’re going to try the other side for once and see how it’s going.’”

Dustin Franz

For The Washington Post

Festivalgoers enjoy the last day of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Italian festival in downtown Youngstown on July 23.

Barkett’s brother-in-law is David Betras, chairman of the county’s Democratic Party, who sent the Clinton campaign a memo in May 2016 warning that her message was not resonating in the Rust Belt.

The tightknit family loves discussing politics, but they have learned that even among themselves, there’s a need to fully hear one another out, said Barkett’s youngest son, Ernie. After protesting at some of Trump’s other rallies, he planned to attend Tuesday’s event and soak up the experience that won over so many of his relatives and neighbors.

“You don’t have to agree with them — but you do need to understand them,” said Ernie Barkett, 21, a senior at Youngstown State University who was a delegate for Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention last summer. “I’ve tried to tone it down, to stop doing the ‘Ha-ha, I told you so.’ The conversation always ends when you start to do that.”

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In Trump’s World, ‘Very Weak’ Sessions Twists in Wind – New York Times

WASHINGTON — In the annals of cutthroat Washington politics, it would be hard to find a cabinet secretary left abandoned and humiliated in the way President Trump has left Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

After days of questioning Mr. Sessions’s decisions, Mr. Trump all but signed his political death warrant on Tuesday by dismissing the attorney general as “VERY weak,” perhaps the most cutting assessment for a president who prizes strength above all else. He made no effort to dispel the impression that he wants Mr. Sessions out. “We will see what happens,” he told reporters. “Time will tell.”

The consequences go beyond the fate of one cabinet officer. In escalating his unforgiving campaign against Mr. Sessions, Mr. Trump opened a rift with conservatives who see the attorney general as their champion. And he put the White House in a virtual state of war with the Justice Department amid a high-stakes investigation in a way that it has not been since President Richard M. Nixon’s administration.

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Even if the standoff does not end in Mr. Sessions’s departure — and the conventional wisdom in Washington assumes it will eventually — the spectacle raised questions about the future of the investigation into Russia’s election interference, led to criticism from conservative news organizations that are usually deferential to the president and left Republican lawmakers unsettled as they defended the attorney general.

While Mr. Sessions remained silent, other cabinet members reached out to allies to express anxiety about what they were witnessing and what it might mean for them. White House aides sought to defuse the situation, but found it impossible to mollify the president, who was angered that Mr. Sessions’s recusal paved the way for the appointment of a special counsel to lead the investigation now threatening his team.

“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.”

That may not bother Mr. Trump, who seems to thrive on slapping those close to him and keeping them on edge. Notoriously fickle, he left Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, on the hook for six months before his resignation last week. Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, is still on the bubble and said to be looking for a graceful exit of his own.

But that does not necessarily mean that Mr. Trump will push out Mr. Sessions. Stephen K. Bannon, the chief White House strategist, was in trouble a few months ago, but survived. For Mr. Trump, the former reality-show star, the suspense over Mr. Sessions is a season-ending cliffhanger: Stay tuned to see whether he gets voted off the island.

Mr. Trump raised the dramatic tension on Tuesday with a morning message on Twitter: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”

Mr. Trump repeated at a news conference later in the day what he told The New York Times last week: that he would not have appointed Mr. Sessions if he had known that the attorney general would step back from the Russia inquiry. “I am disappointed in the attorney general,” he said in the White House Rose Garden.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Trump dismissed the notion that Mr. Sessions, as the first senator to endorse his candidacy, deserved special loyalty.

“When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama,” Mr. 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.”

The loyalty Mr. Trump was looking for, aides said, was about protecting him now that he is in office. “The president wants his cabinet secretaries to have his back,” said Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director.

Mr. Sessions, however, is more than just another employee who has fallen out of favor with a volatile boss. No cabinet member is more closely associated with the conservative nationalism that helped propel Mr. Trump to the White House. For conservatives skeptical of Mr. Trump, Mr. Sessions has been an insurance policy in an administration stacked with suspect New Yorkers, relatives and Wall Street bankers.

Breitbart News, the conservative nationalist outlet once led by Mr. Bannon, reflected anger on the right. “Trump vs. Trump: Potus Endangers Immigration Agenda,” its lead headline read on Tuesday. One article said the attack on the attorney general “only serves to highlight Trump’s own hypocrisy” while another said Mr. Sessions’s ouster “would be a devastating blow” to the nationalist-populist movement.

The division was clear, too, on the Drudge Report, the conservative-leaning website whose double-barreled headline on Tuesday was “Sessions in Dog House; Republicans on Brink of Civil War.”

Frustration among conservatives has been building for some time. Weeks ago, Mr. Bannon brought Ann Coulter, the firebrand pundit, to see Mr. Trump, according to two people briefed on the visit. Ms. Coulter railed at the president that he needed to focus more on his core supporters.

On Capitol Hill, where Mr. Sessions served for 20 years, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, and other Republicans came to his defense. “Sessions is not weak,” said Senator Richard C. Shelby, a former colleague from Alabama. “He’s strong. He’s a man of purpose, integrity, substance.”

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said: “Jeff Sessions is one of the most decent people I’ve ever met in my political life. He’s a rock-solid conservative, but above else he believes in the rule of law.”

Democrats, never fans of Mr. Sessions, nonetheless warned that Mr. Trump should not dump him and install a more sympathetic replacement during the coming Senate break. “Democrats will never go along with the recess appointment,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader. In a challenge to Republican leaders, he said, “I can’t imagine they would be complicit in creating a constitutional crisis.”

As for Mr. Sessions, who does not have a Twitter account, he has stayed out of the fray since he said on Friday that he wanted to continue working “under Trump’s direction.” On Tuesday, Mr. Sessions announced a new measure to withhold funding from states and cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Critics said Mr. Trump’s assault on Mr. Sessions undermines the traditional independence of the Justice Department. “It is an extraordinary departure from how the relationship of the White House and the Department of Justice is supposed to operate and has operated under administrations of both parties,” said Matthew S. Axelrod, a department official under President Barack Obama.

Some Democrats criticized Mr. Sessions for remaining quiet. “The fact that the president has talked about politicizing investigations and the attorney general has nothing to say?” said Matthew Miller, a department spokesman during the Obama administration. “I thought that was a really, really bad moment for him as attorney general.”

The question remains whether it might be one of his last moments as attorney general.

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McCain Returns to Cast Vote to Help the President Who Derided Him – New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senator John McCain is less the lion of the Senate than its wildcat, veering through the decades from war hero to Republican presidential nominee to irascible foil for an unlikely president.

On Tuesday, Mr. McCain ambled gingerly into the Capitol to sustained applause less than two weeks after brain surgery, casting a vote to aid President Trump, who has served as more tormentor than ally.

But moments later in a speech on the Senate floor, Mr. McCain turned what had been an applause-pecked moment for his colleagues — whom he saved from an embarrassing failure on the floor — into an ominous cloud for any health care legislation. He said that although he had voted to begin debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act, he would definitely not vote for a Senate health care bill without major changes.

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“I stand here today looking a little worse for wear, I’m sure,” Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, said in his speech, the marks of an incision for the removal of a blood clot and tumor clearly visible over his left eye. Noting that he has never been president, Mr. McCain began his remarks celebrating the history and traditions of the Senate, a body he has served in for a generation.

“Make no mistake,” Mr. McCain said, “my service here is the most important job I’ve had in my life.”

Mr. McCain quickly moved on to critique the current state of the Senate and his own role in a partisan, quarrelsome era of American governing. The Senate, Mr. McCain said, has not “been overburdened by greatness lately; they aren’t producing much for the American people. Both sides have let this happen.”

In self-reproach, he added: “Sometimes I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague.”

Mr. McCain cautioned his colleagues to ignore “bombastic” pundits. “To hell with them,” he said to applause as he implored his colleagues to work in a bipartisan manner — a provocative message after the hyperpartisan vote. (In all, 50 Republicans voted to take up the health care debate and two voted no. On the other side, 46 Democrats and two independents voted no.)

On social media, Mr. McCain took a beating in the 24 hours after he revealed that he would make the five-hour flight to Washington to vote for what many viewed as a bill to take away health care from poor people when Mr. McCain was receiving the best treatment available. In 2008, Senator Edward M. Kennedy had the same tumor that has sickened Mr. McCain, and the Massachusetts Democrat made a surprise appearance to help Democrats break a filibuster they said would protect access to doctors by older Americans.

Over the last year, Mr. McCain, 80, has displayed every element of his disputatious, droll, scolding, informed, press-loving, press-hating, senatorial self. He has zipped around the world at a pace that has exhausted colleagues decades younger, trying to assure allies rattled by Mr. Trump’s tweets and remarks.

He has remained watchful and characteristically hawkish on all things Russia-related, even as his fellow Republicans have largely shied from the issue since Mr. Trump entered the White House. He has remained bizarrely captivated by the vexing problem of catfish inspection processes. He has cooperated loyally with the party, except when he hasn’t. He brought down a Republican measure to end emissions curbs on methane because he was mad about the Trump administration’s choice for United States trade representative.

But his Teflon veneer showed cracks this spring when he seemed to be occasionally confused and at times more testy than usual. Last month, Mr. McCain seemed muddled while questioning James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, during a Senate hearing. Mr. McCain later said his befuddlement was because of a late night watching an Arizona Diamondbacks game. This month, Mr. McCain learned he had brain cancer.

It was striking enough that Mr. McCain, held and tortured for five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, returned dangerously sick to the Capitol to help put a health care bill over the line. It was stunning that he did it for Mr. Trump, who as a candidate derided Mr. McCain’s military service — “I like people who weren’t captured,” Mr. Trump said in July 2015 — and who ridiculed scores of policy and political conventions that Mr. McCain has embodied over a generation.

This was the John McCain who, rather than attend the 2016 Republican National Convention, chose instead to stomp around his home state and to take a train to his beloved Grand Canyon.

On Tuesday morning, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, expressed his thanks on the Senate floor. “Senator McCain is a fighter,” he said. “That’s evidenced by his remarkable life of public service, just as it’s again evidenced by his quick return to the Senate this afternoon. I know he’s eager to get back to work, and we’ll all be very pleased to have him back with us.”

Mr. McCain does not expect the health care vote to be the culmination of his congressional career, which began when he won a House seat in 1982. It is Mr. McCain’s intense wish to oversee the annual Pentagon policy bill, and he has repeatedly told Republican leaders he will manage the passage of the legislation.

“I’ve had so many people say such nice things about me recently that I think some of you must have me confused with someone else,” Mr. McCain said, suggesting that he would get the Pentagon bill moving in the next few days before going home for treatment. His colleagues rose to applaud him.

Mr. McCain, who will soon undergo treatment for his cancer, said he would be back. “I have every intention of returning here,” he said, “and giving all of you cause to regret all of the nice things you said about me.”

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Trump Steps Up Attacks on Sessions, Calling Recusal Bad for the Presidency – New York Times

WASHINGTON — President Trump continued his attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, reviving his campaign call to investigate Hillary Clinton’s “crimes” as he criticized Mr. Sessions’s inaction.

In a news conference Tuesday, Mr. Trump also said he was “disappointed” in Mr. Sessions for recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.

“He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have, quite simply, picked somebody else,” Mr. Trump said. “So I think that’s a bad thing, not for the president but for the presidency.”

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Pressed to say whether he intends to fire Mr. Sessions, the president said he wants the attorney general to be “much tougher” on leaks from intelligence agencies. But he declined to say whether he wanted Mr. Sessions to resign.

“I told you before, I’m very disappointed in the attorney general,” he said. “We will see what happens. Time will tell. Time will tell.”

Two Twitter posts Tuesday morning were the latest in a string of attacks on Mr. Sessions that began when he told The New York Times in an interview that he never would have appointed Mr. Sessions if he had known he would recuse himself in the Russia inquiry. The recusal was the first in a series of steps that led to the appointment of a special counsel to oversee that investigation.

One of Mr. Trump’s top advisers acknowledged that the president most likely wanted Mr. Sessions out of the attorney general’s office.

The adviser, Anthony Scaramucci, hired last week as White House communications director, said he did not want to speak for Mr. Trump, but given the level of public tension between the president and his attorney general, it’s “probably right” that Mr. Trump wants him out of that job.

“He’s obviously frustrated,” Mr. Scaramucci said in an interview with the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

On Monday, Mr. Trump called Mr. Sessions “beleaguered” in a tweet, raising questions about whether Mr. Sessions would resign. Mr. Sessions, one of Mr. Trump’s earliest campaign supporters, has previously shown no indication that he was considering resigning.

Mr. Trump was critical on Tuesday about what he called Mr. Sessions’s “VERY weak position” on an investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private computer server. The F.B.I. investigated and closed the inquiry without charges in 2016.

Mr. Scaramucci told CNN on Monday that Mr. Sessions and the president needed to “sit down, face to face, and have a reconciliation and a discussion of the future.”

If Mr. Sessions were to resign or be fired, Mr. Trump could appoint a successor during the congressional recess who would not face Senate inquiries into his or her position on recusal and could take over, at least temporarily, without a confirmation vote. That could allow the president to assert greater control over the special counsel investigation into his campaign’s contacts with Russia.

In another tweet on Tuesday, Mr. Trump attacked the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew McCabe, for what Mr. Trump described as his role in the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s computer use.

In criticizing Mr. McCabe, Mr. Trump revived reports that Mr. McCabe’s wife accepted contributions from a longtime Clinton supporter in her bid for a Virginia state Senate seat.

Mr. Trump also tweeted that Ukraine tried to “sabotage” his presidential campaign and help Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Trump appeared to be referencing the Fox News host Sean Hannity’s discussion of a Politico article in January about Mrs. Clinton’s allies coordinating with Ukrainian officials to research politically harmful information about Mr. Trump and his advisers. Mr. Trump’s supporters have used this anecdote to justify the actions of Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald J. Trump Jr. In June 2016, the younger Mr. Trump had a meeting with a Russian lawyer in which he was promised potentially damaging information on Mrs. Clinton.

United States intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia hacked into Democratic servers and stole emails in an effort to help Trump win the election.

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North Korea promises nuclear strike on US if regime is threatened – CNN

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John McCain Makes Dramatic Return Amid Political Storm – NPR

Senator John McCain leaves after a procedural vote on healthcare on Thursday, as the Senate was to vote on moving head on health care with the goal of erasing much of Barack Obama’s law.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

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Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Update at 4:05 p.m. ET

Sen. John McCain, diagnosed with a deadly form of brain cancer just five days ago, returned to applause on the Senate floor Tuesday, where he cast a crucial vote to move forward on repeal of the Affordable Care Act and urged his colleagues to regain their sense of bipartisan cooperation.

However, the longtime Arizona senator, two-time presidential candidate and perhaps America’s most famous former prisoner of war, warned that he “will not vote for this bill as it is today,” describing it as “a shell.”

McCain said he would attend the Senate for a few days and then go home to Arizona to recuperate.

“I have every intention of returning here to give you all reason to regret the nice things you said about me,” he told his fellow senators, addressing the outpouring of support he’s received since announcing his diagnosis.

It was a remarkable moment, to see McCain, whose daughter described him poetically as a “warrior at dusk,” take his place again in the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” where he has represented his southwestern state for 30 years.

McCain, with surgical stitches clearly visible above his left eye, admonished both Republicans and Democrats to work together in the old way and to stop trying to make laws “behind closed doors.”

He acknowledged that it was easy to fall victim to the urge to win instead of doing what is right. “Merely preventing your political opponents from getting what they want isn’t very inspiring,” he said.

And, he advised strongly: “Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the television, radio and Internet. The hell with them!”

Meanwhile, McCain’s vote, along with a tiebreaker from Vice President Mike Pence, gave Republicans the 51 votes they needed for the “motion to proceed.”

A still image from Senate TV shows Arizona Sen. McCain speaking on the floor of the Senate after returning to Washington for a vote on healthcare reform.

Senate TV via Reuters

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Senate TV via Reuters

A motion to proceed is what it sounds like — a measure to allow debate to begin. There will be 20 hours of debate, which will expire Wednesday, NPR’s Susan Davis reports.

Republicans could only lose two votes for a majority without any Democratic support. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, both voted no.

Beyond the motion-to-proceed vote and the ensuing debate, no one is quite sure — not even Republicans — what of substance the GOP will try to pass to overhaul health care, which affects roughly one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, promised to bring a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act with a two-year delay to the floor, which President Trump seemed to be on board with. But, up to this point, the votes aren’t there for that approach; too many Republicans have come out publicly opposing the idea.

So then what? If the full repeal isn’t brought to the floor, or if it fails, then it’s on to the Senate’s version of no-holds barred — a “vote-o-rama,” where anyone can bring any amendment to the floor and have it voted on.

That would be kind of like doing the work normally done for months in committees out on the Senate floor in a matter of hours and days.

This is just the latest chapter in Republicans’ difficulty replacing the ACA, also known as Obamacare. Legislatively, they have been plagued by starts and stops during the Trump presidency, unable to get their differing ideological factions on the same page.

“Obamacare is the law of the land,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., declared after the House’s health care flameout months ago.

But, through arm twisting and legislative tweaks, the House eventually passed a version that tinkered with the ACA. The Congressional Budget Office said the law would increase the number of uninsured by tens of millions, especially because of how it would change Medicaid.

Nonetheless it was a political victory, if only a lead at halftime. It was greeted by Bud Lights in the House and a Rose Garden celebration with the president of the United States. There was no “45” jersey with GOP on the front and “Trump” on the back, but there might as well have been.

One would have thought a new law had been signed. It hadn’t. The House version was headed to the Senate, where it would certainly change and have to be reconciled with the House.

Back to the drawing board.

Nearly three months later, that Rose Garden ceremony remains the high point for Republicans. The GOP has not been able to gather the votes in the Senate — and that has started to really rankle Trump. His irritation was evident during his appearance Monday at the Boy Scouts National Jamboree in West Virginia.

“As the Scout law says, a Scout is trustworthy, loyal,” Trump said. He added, “We could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that.”

Speaking of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who was on stage with him, Trump said, “Hopefully he’s going to get the votes tomorrow to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare that’s really hurting us.”

Trump spoke of Price as if he were McConnell, as if he had some control over whipping the votes on health care. Price wasn’t even a senator before joining Trump’s Cabinet; he was a member of the House from Georgia.

He went on: “By the way, are you going to get the votes? He better get them. He better get them. Oh, he better. Otherwise, I’ll say, ‘Tom, you’re fired.’ I’ll get somebody.”

Then Trump turned to Price, smiling, as if to say, “Only kidding.”

Or maybe not. That came on the same day he called his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, “beleaguered.”

On Tuesday morning, he tweeted criticism of Sessions, calling him “weak” on Hillary Clinton and “leakers” from the intelligence community.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017

Speaking to the Scouts, Trump wasn’t quite done yet: “He better get Sen. [Shelley Moore] Capito to vote for it. He better get the other senators to vote for it. It’s time.”

At that time, Capito, a West Virginia Republican, was one of the holdouts on voting for what Republicans have so far proposed when it comes to health care. She was one of a dozen or so senators who had not committed to even voting for the motion to proceed. (During Tuesday’s vote, she did support the motion.)

The Boy Scouts is supposed to be an apolitical organization, and after the speech, the group put out a statement saying it does not endorse any candidate.

Trump has begun referring to Republicans as “they” and “you” (“they” promised to repeal and replace Obamacare for seven years; “you” didn’t do it). It’s a remarkable effort to separate himself from the party he is supposed to lead.

He tweeted that any senator who votes against the motion to proceed is for Obamacare.

And he seemed to threaten them politically.

Any senator who votes against starting debate is telling America that you are fine w/ the #OCareNightmare!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2017

Where any of this goes is anyone’s guess. But as a nation watches a new president who is blowing through with Twitter maelstroms and appears ready to politically fire in all directions, the Senate paused for a few moments Tuesday to recognize a man in McCain who means something very different.

And then it was back to the wind — with Trump, speaking immediately after McCain’s remarks on the Senate floor, about how no Democrats had voted in favor the Republican effort to undo Obamacare and reaffirming his recent negative comments about Sessions.

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‘We’re getting nothing done.’ John McCain’s no-holds-barred lecture to the Senate, annotated – Washington Post

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on July 25 addressed senators days after being diagnosed with brain cancer. He said the Senate has become too partisan. (U.S. Senator)

Not even a week after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced he was diagnosed with a particularly brutal form of brain cancer, he stood on the Senate floor in Washington, all 99 senators and the vice president at his attention, and delivered an indictment of the modern era’s hyper-politicized environment, Republicans’ secretive health-care process and a wishful look back at the way things used to be. It was an emotional, no-holds barred moment that came right after the Senate voted 50-50 to debate a health-care vote, requiring Vice President Pence to break the tie. We’ve posted his remarks, as prepared, below and annotated it using Genius. Click on the highlighted text to read the annotations.

Mr. President:

I’ve stood in this place many times and addressed as president many presiding officers. I have been so addressed when I have sat in that chair, as close as I will ever be to a presidency.

It is an honorific we’re almost indifferent to, isn’t it. In truth, presiding over the Senate can be a nuisance, a bit of a ceremonial bore, and it is usually relegated to the more junior members of the majority.

But as I stand here today – looking a little worse for wear I’m sure – I have a refreshed appreciation for the protocols and customs of this body, and for the other ninety-nine privileged souls who have been elected to this Senate.

I have been a member of the United States Senate for thirty years. I had another long, if not as long, career before I arrived here, another profession that was profoundly rewarding, and in which I had experiences and friendships that I revere. But make no mistake, my service here is the most important job I have had in my life. And I am so grateful to the people of Arizona for the privilege – for the honor – of serving here and the opportunities it gives me to play a small role in the history of the country I love.

I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics. They came from both parties, and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict. They held different views on the issues of the day. And they often had very serious disagreements about how best to serve the national interest.

But they knew that however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively. Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.

That principled mindset, and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today.

I’m sure it wasn’t always deserved in previous eras either. But I’m sure there have been times when it was, and I was privileged to witness some of those occasions.

Our deliberations today – not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities – authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role – are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. 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.

Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.

Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel like a political triumph. But it’s usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.

Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces, and the liberty and justice it preserves, is a magnificent achievement.

Our system doesn’t depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections, and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning.’ Even when we must give a little to get a little. Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to ‘triumph.’

I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.

Let’s trust each other. 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.

We’re getting nothing done. All we’ve really done this year is confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Our healthcare insurance system is a mess. We all know it, those who support Obamacare and those who oppose it. Something has to be done. 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.

I voted for the motion to proceed to allow debate to continue and amendments to be offered. I will not vote for the bill as it is today. It’s a shell of a bill right now. We all know that. I have changes urged by my state’s governor that will have to be included to earn my support for final passage of any bill. I know many of you will have to see the bill changed substantially for you to support it.

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. I don’t think that is going to work in the end. And it probably shouldn’t.

The Obama administration and congressional Democrats shouldn’t have forced through Congress without any opposition support a social and economic change as massive as Obamacare. And we shouldn’t do the same with ours.

Why don’t we try the old way of legislating in the Senate, the way our rules and customs encourage us to act. If this process ends in failure, which seem likely, then let’s return to regular order.

Let the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee under Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray hold hearings, try to report a bill out of committee with contributions from both sides. Then bring it to the floor for amendment and debate, and see if we can pass something that will be imperfect, full of compromises, and not very pleasing to implacable partisans on either side, but that might provide workable solutions to problems Americans are struggling with today.

What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? We’re not getting much done apart. I don’t think any of us feels very proud of our incapacity. Merely preventing your political opponents from doing what they want isn’t the most inspiring work. There’s greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don’t require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.

The Senate is capable of that. We know that. We’ve seen it before. I’ve seen it happen many times. And the times when I was involved even in a modest way with working out a bipartisan response to a national problem or threat are the proudest moments of my career, and by far the most satisfying.

This place is important. The work we do is important. Our strange rules and seemingly eccentric practices that slow our proceedings and insist on our cooperation are important. Our founders envisioned the Senate as the more deliberative, careful body that operates at a greater distance than the other body from the public passions of the hour.

We are an important check on the powers of the Executive. Our consent is necessary for the President to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and in many respects to conduct foreign policy. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!

As his responsibilities are onerous, many and powerful, so are ours. And we play a vital role in shaping and directing the judiciary, the military, and the cabinet, in planning and supporting foreign and domestic policies. Our success in meeting all these awesome constitutional obligations depends on cooperation among ourselves.

The success of the Senate is important to the continued success of America. This country – this big, boisterous, brawling, intemperate, restless, striving, daring, beautiful, bountiful, brave, good and magnificent country – needs us to help it thrive. That responsibility is more important than any of our personal interests or political affiliations.

We are the servants of a great nation, ‘a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’ More people have lived free and prosperous lives here than in any other nation. We have acquired unprecedented wealth and power because of our governing principles, and because our government defended those principles.

America has made a greater contribution than any other nation to an international order that has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have been the greatest example, the greatest supporter and the greatest defender of that order. We aren’t afraid. “We don’t covet other people’s land and wealth. We don’t hide behind walls. We breach them. We are a blessing to humanity.

What greater cause could we hope to serve than helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice? That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us.

What a great honor and extraordinary opportunity it is to serve in this body.

It’s a privilege to serve with all of you. I mean it. Many of you have reached out in the last few days with your concern and your prayers, and it means a lot to me. It really does. I’ve had so many people say such nice things about me recently that I think some of you must have me confused with someone else. I appreciate it though, every word, even if much of it isn’t deserved.

I’ll be here for a few days, I hope managing the floor debate on the defense authorization bill, which, I’m proud to say is again a product of bipartisan cooperation and trust among the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

After that, I’m going home for a while to treat my illness. I have every intention of returning here and giving many of you cause to regret all the nice things you said about me. And, I hope, to impress on you again that it is an honor to serve the American people in your company.

Thank you, fellow senators.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) gave a sweeping speech about his time in the Senate, the lack of bipartisanship today and his thoughts on the GOP health-care bill upon his return to Congress on July 25, after being diagnosed with brain cancer. (U.S. Senate)

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Trump escalates shame campaign against Sessions – Politico

President Donald Trump on Tuesday ramped up his public shame campaign against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, even as conservatives and some White House advisers are cautioning Trump against seeking his ouster.

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!” Trump tweeted. He seemed to reference a

Later on Tuesday, Scaramucci predicted that there would soon be movement on Sessions’ future. “There’s obviously an issue in the relationship,” he told reporters. “We’ll get to a resolution shortly.”

In the meantime, Scaramucci, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders all stressed that Trump is frustrated by Sessions’ recusal.

“That frustration certainly hasn’t gone away, and, you know, I don’t think it will,” said Sanders, who maintained that Trump would “certainly” fire Sessions “if the president wants to.”

“That is up to the president,” Conway told Fox about the possibility of Trump firing Sessions, “but Sarah is right. The president has expressed frustration and consternation because the recusal really has allowed this — what he considers to be a witch hunt and a hoax, a complete nothing of a Russia investigation — to carry forward, and look at what’s happened.”

Sessions’ recusal — along with other events — paved the way for special counsel Robert Mueller to be appointed, which has led to a sprawling investigation of the president and his closest allies and family members. Trump’s tweets, however, have glossed over the fact that Sessions has recused himself from any campaign probes, which include Clinton matters.

Even with Trump emphatically calling out Sessions during a New York Times interview last week, the attorney general has said he will stay on “as long as that is appropriate.”

But just how long that will be has suddenly become a hot topic of conversation.

Trump’s public assault on Sessions is alarming Democrats, who worry that Trump is trying to clear the path for an attorney general who will do more to protect him.

“Fully transparent: @POTUS wants to force Sessions to resign so he can appoint someone to curb Mueller probe. Only works if Senate lets it,” Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is also conducting a Russia probe, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

“Why doesn’t he just fire him? If he’s lost confidence in him, he could just say so and he would resign,” Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) told POLITICO outside the NAACP Convention in Baltimore on Tuesday. “At some point, you ought to get the hint and resign.”

If Sessions quits or is fired, Trump does have some options available to him, including appointing an acting attorney general or making a recess appointment — though it’s not clear how much power that person would have to oust Mueller or otherwise limit the FBI’s Russia investigation.

Scaramucci, in his interview with Hewitt, said that he has advised Trump against having Mueller terminated. “In candid conversations with the president, I have said, ‘Why would you fire him?’” Scaramucci said.

As for Sessions, he has so far shown no public signs of stepping aside. He left a 20-year career in the Senate for the attorney general post, which has allowed him to fulfill some of his long-held goals, including overseeing a widespread crackdown on immigration and other priorities.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters it’s up to Trump to determine the personnel of his administration but argued that the chamber is focused on the president’s agenda.

“It’s up to the president to decide what his personnel decisions [are] and any possible fallout that comes from that. If he has concerns about anyone on in the administration in the conduct of their jobs, I’m sure he’s gonna talk to them directly,” Ryan said. “What we’re focused on here is doing our jobs. We’re not focused on what the Department of Justice is or is not doing.”

But GOP senators went to bat for their former colleague. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a longtime friend of Sessions, said on Tuesday morning that the attorney general made the “right decision” to recuse himself from the Russia probe.

“I know Jeff Sessions well … and I think he’s doing what he believes he’s obligated to do under the rules that govern attorney generals, and in order to restore the credibility of the Department of Justice and the FBI, something we sorely need,” Cornyn said on CNN.