Senate GOP effort to unwind the ACA collapses Monday – Washington Post

The latest Republican effort to unwind the Affordable Care Act collapsed on Monday, as a third GOP senator announced her opposition to the proposal and left it short of the votes it would need to win passage.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced she could not back the measure authored by Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), moments after a much-anticipated partial analysis of the measure by the Congressional Budget Office forecast that “millions” of Americans would lose coverage by 2026 if it was enacted.

Two GOP senators — and Rand Paul (Ky.) and John McCain (Ariz.) — had already come out against the bill, even after a new round of drafting, and Collins’ announcement means it lacks the votes to pass. Republicans hold a 52-to-48 advantage in the Senate and can lose only two votes from their party and still pass legislation with the help of a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Pence.

A fourth Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), indicated through his aides Monday that he could not back the bill because it does not go far enough in repealing the 2010 law.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who had been overseeing a raucous hearing on the proposal, said Monday evening that he would only allow one more round of questions given the bill’s predicament.

“Let’s face it, we’re not getting anywhere,” he remarked.

Collins delivered a scathing assessement of the bill in a statement, saying the fourth version that the senators had produced in an effort to win over her vote and others’ “is as deeply flawed as the previous iterations.”

“Health care is a deeply personal, complex issue that affects every single one of us and one-sixth of the American economy,” she said. “Sweeping reforms to our health care system and to Medicaid can’t be done well in a compressed time frame, especially when the actual bill is a moving target.”

The CBO also projected that a reduction in government spending on health care would lessen the federal deficit by at least as much as a $133 billion drop under an ACA-repeal bill that the House passed earlier this year.

In his opening remarks on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) thanked Cassidy and Graham for their work, but suggested their work had stalled out. He thanked other lawmakers and committees of jurisdiction, as one might do at the official conclusion of a legislative push.

“I’d like to thank each of these committees, their chairs, their members and their staffs for their hard work to provide the American people with a better way than Obamacare and its years of failures,” McConnell said.

The legislation’s sponsors have rewritten the bill to deliver more money to Alaska and Maine than the original version. Two GOP senators in those states — Collins and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — had expressed concerns, but had not yet declared how they would vote on the measure by the start of the week.

[Latest GOP effort to dismantle Obamacare on the brink of failure after defections]

The contentious debate erupted into public view Monday afternoon as protesters chanted so loudly at the hearing’s outset that the panel’s chairman, Hatch, was forced to temporarily adjourn as police officers arrested and removed several of them.

“No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty!” screamed one woman in a wheelchair as she was wheeled out.

After a brief recess, Hatch resumed the session, but warned the audience that if their behavior got out of hand, “I won’t hesitate to adjourn.” He added that the situation had not yet reached that point, “but it’s close.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the panel, questioned why Republicans were rushing to pass a measure this week that was just having its first hearing, and one which he considered “a lemon.”

“Nobody has to buy a lemon, just because it’s the last car on the lot,” Wyden said.

Cassidy acted as a witness during the hearing after sitting on the panel as a member — a unique role that drew an objection from Wyden but a defense from Hatch. After listening to Graham’s opening remarks from his seat on a far end of the horseshoe-shaped dais, Cassidy took his seat at the witness table at the center of the room and told his colleagues that he pushed ahead with a GOP-only bill after years of trying to work with Democrats.

“So when I ask people, ‘Will you help me?’ — three years I’ve been doing this, and for three years I’ve was basically told, ‘Nice try,’ ” he said.

[Cassidy on new health-care plan: ‘It’s not for Susan, it’s for the Mainers’]

In an interview earlier in the day, Cassidy said he hoped that the new language — coupled with the fact that failing to act would keep the current Obama-era health law intact — would persuade some colleagues to change their positions.

“If there’s a billion more going to Maine … that’s a heck of a lot,” Cassidy said. “It’s not for Susan, it’s for the Mainers. But she cares so passionately about those Mainers, I’m hoping those extra dollars going to her state … would make a difference to her.”

Several Republicans close to the process have long counted Collins as an eventual no, predicting that little could be done to the bill to change her mind.

The last-minute changes over the weekend, which came as GOP leaders were racing to pass legislation before losing the budget authority Oct. 1 that lets them to pass legislation by a simply majority, underscore the tense atmosphere on the Hill.

The rush to rewrite the bill was so frenetic that Cassidy posted two separate bills on his website Monday morning. “The last version was just correcting drafting errors,” Cassidy told the Finance Committee.

Unlike earlier GOP proposals to repeal the ACA, Senate leaders have remained one step removed from the process. Asked whether any staffers outside his own had been involved in making changes to the bill over the weekend, Cassidy declined to answer.

The Cassidy-Graham legislation would overhaul the Affordable Care Act by lumping together the current law’s spending on insurance subsidies and expanded Medicaid and redistributing it to states in the form of block grants. Alaska would get 3 percent more funding between 2020 and 2026 than under current law, and Maine would get 43 percent more funding during that period under the updated bill.

While the figures in the revised bill draft aim to ease concerns of several key senators, there was no indication that the sponsors have abandoned their plan to make steep cuts to Medicaid through a per capita cap.

Such a move would end up cutting federal funding by tens of billions of dollars by 2026 and would mean that even with another carve-out for Alaska elsewhere in the bill, the state may end up losing money. And other states will still be hit hard.

Aides to Murkowski did not comment Monday on the revised bill.

Graham, who spoke quickly and intensely in support of the bill’s block grant approach before the Senate panel Monday, said it reflected his trust in politicians who have more direct interaction with their constituents.

“My goal is to get the money and power out of Washington, closer to where people live,” he said.

[In radio interview, Trump slams McCain, dings McConnell and botches a Senate candidate’s name]

But even President Trump expressed skepticism Monday about the bill’s chances of passage, blaming McCain and Collins for its expected demise in an interview on the “Rick & Bubba Show,” an Alabama-based syndicated radio program.

McCain came out against the measure Friday, arguing that Republicans should work with Democrats to produce a bill that can attract wider support.

“You can call it what you want, but that’s the only reason we don’t have it, because of John McCain,” Trump said of efforts to repeal the 2010 health-care law, adding later, “Looks like Susan Collins and some others will vote against. So we’re going to lose two or three votes, and that’s the end of that.”

Trump did not mention Paul, who told reporters Monday that could not back Cassidy-Graham unless it was changed dramatically — cutting off the “entire trillion dollars” the bill devoted to block grants and having states opt in to the current law’s essential health benefits requirement.

“Republicans did not promise to block grant Obamacare; they promised to repeal,” Paul said. “I think it’s actually better to monitor the death spiral of Obamacare.”

Democrats, for their part, continued to rail against the measure during the Senate hearing. Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) was especially animated during his remarks, raising his voice as he questioned the motivations of Republican senators.

“Why are we here, colleagues, making matters worse?” he asked.

[The Cassidy-Graham bill probably won’t become law. And more than half of America is good with that.]

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), whose state has expanded Medicaid, also has indicated that he needs to see the CBO analysis before taking a position on the legislation.

Cruz made it clear over the weekend that he had grave reservations and on a Monday call with reporters, his aides said that the senator had moved from yes to no after learning that the bill would not include the “consumer freedom” changes he’d wanted from the start.

“We had an agreement and that was moved away from us,” said the aides. “His focus is on premiums, on cost. It’s that consumers have sufficient freedom and options on the waiver pieces and the regulations.”

[A closer look at how the revised GOP health bill affects key states ]

The bill has been roundly rejected by influential national groups representing physicians, hospitals and insurers. Over the weekend, six such organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association, issued a joint statement urging the Senate to reject the measure.

These groups, along with others, are escalating their efforts to derail the bill. A group of patients held a rally Monday at the U.S. Capitol, to protest its effect on Americans with preexisting conditions. And the advocacy group Save My Care is airing a new six-figure ad in Washington starting Tuesday that will highlight the opposition of not just the AMA but also AARP, Medicaid directors in all 50 states, and a range of patients’ rights organizations.

Kelsey Snell, Paige Winfield Cunningham, Amy Goldstein, Elise Viebeck and Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

Read more at PowerPost

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CBO predicts millions will lose coverage under latest GOP Obamacare repeal bid – Los Angeles Times

Republicans’ latest bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act appeared to falter Monday as the Congressional Budget Office predicted major coverage losses under the bill and Republican leaders struggled to win over GOP holdouts.

The CBO report, which provides only a preliminary analysis of the Senate GOP plan, does not include detailed coverage estimates, which the office said would take weeks to develop.

But budget analysts estimated “the number of people with comprehensive health insurance that covers high-cost medical events would be reduced by millions.”

That is likely to deal another serious blow the sweeping repeal proposal.

Monday afternoon, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) predicted GOP leaders would not be able to hold a vote this week on the new plan.

And as key GOP senators who have expressed opposition to the bill remained unmoved Monday, President Trump sounded increasingly doubtful about the bill’s chances.

“We’re going to lose two or three votes, and that’s the end of that,” Trump said on Alabama radio’s popular “Rick and Bubba Show,” criticizing Republican senators for withholding their support after years of promising to repeal and replace the law. “They pander and they grandstand.”

Plans for this week’s vote remain uncertain.

Meanwhile, protesters arrived in force at the Capitol, filling the hallways ahead of the one planned public hearing on the legislation.

Consumer advocates stepped up warnings that the bill — authored written by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) — would be devastating to sick Americans.

“This bill is an even harsher version of the previous failed proposals that were overwhelmingly rejected by Americans,” said Betsy Imholz, special projects director for Consumers Union. “It is not only a repeal of the Affordable Care Act — threatening key consumer protections and coverage requirements that ensure those with preexisting conditions have access to meaningful care — but also a historic undercutting of the Medicaid program.”

Cassidy and Graham have said Americans will not lose vital insurance protections, including the guarantee that they could get insurance even if they are sick.

“This plan protects those with preexisting conditions and gives states resources and flexibility to lower premiums and increase the number of Americans insured,” Cassidy said Monday after releasing his latest proposal.

But those claims have been refuted by nearly every major voice in the U.S. healthcare system, including leading hospitals, physician groups and patient advocates.

On Monday, 36 current and former state insurance commissioners, including several Republicans, sent a strongly worded letter to congressional leaders urging them to reject the latest proposal.

“The Cassidy-Graham bill would increase the number of people without health coverage and severely disrupt states’ individual insurance markets, with sharp premium increases and insurer exits likely to occur in the short term and over time,” wrote the commissioners.

Senate Republican leaders and the Trump administration are trying to woo key Republican senators who have expressed strong doubts about the bill, which appears to remain at least a vote or two short of what GOP leaders need for passage.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said in an interview on CNN on Sunday that “it’s very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill.”

Sen. John McCain of Arizona previously said he would oppose the bill, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has said she remains undecided.

On the right, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has previously said several times that he opposes the bill, kept up his criticism Monday. He remains opposed, a spokesman said. And Sen. Ted Cruz, speaking in his home state of Texas, said that “right now they don’t have my vote.” He, too, remained unmoved Monday. Cruz said he did not think Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) was supporting the bill either, though Lee’s office said Monday that the senator was reviewing the latest version.

With 52 Republicans in the Senate and no Democrats supporting the repeal effort, sponsors of the bill can afford to lose only two GOP votes.

The revised version would send more money to Alaska, Arizona and Maine in a clear effort to win over Murkowski, McCain and Collins.

And in a bid to win over Cruz and other conservatives, Graham and Cassidy appear to have further weakened consumer protections, giving states more authority to waive requirements such as the prohibition on insurers charging sick people more for coverage.

The full impact of the changes will be difficult to assess as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which lawmakers rely on to analyze major legislation, will not have time to issue a full report on the new proposal.

Senate Republicans must vote this week before a Sept. 30 deadline, after which they can no longer use a special rule that allows them to advance repeal legislation with only 50 votes instead of the 60 normally required to pass controversial bills in the Senate.

That would require them to vote on one of the most sweeping pieces of domestic legislation in at least half a century with almost no time for study and debate.

House Republicans have indicated they are in no such rush, not guided by Senate rules, and would not likely vote until skeptical lawmakers — especially those Republicans in California, New York and other states that would lose healthcare funding — could review the Senate legislation.

The GOP proposal would not only roll back the government programs created by the current law to guarantee Americans’ health coverage, it would completely restructure the 52-year-old system of federal support for state Medicaid programs that currently cover approximately 70 million people.

It would also dramatically cut future Medicaid funding that supports coverage for poor children, mothers, seniors and the disabled.

At the same time, the bill would give states broad new authority to remake their healthcare systems and waive many protections in the current law.

[email protected]

@LisaMascaro

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UPDATES:

3:10 p.m.: This article was updated after the CBO report was released.

10:55 a.m.: This article was updated with Trump’s comments.

This article was originally published at 8:10 a.m.

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Seven ways the latest Republican health-care effort is impulsive and chaotic – Washington Post

Senate Republicans have just six more days to pass a last-ditch plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

That is very little time — and even less when you remember the bill was introduced less than two weeks ago. But this doesn’t seem to matter to Republicans desperate to make good on seven years of campaign promises. They want to avoid a Democratic filibuster by passing something on health care by the end of the month, even if it means an unusually chaotic process.

The chances for the bill known as Cassidy-Graham are still up in the air as the week begins. Although some key senators have voiced concerns (Susan Collins, R-Maine) or outright opposition (John McCain, R-Ariz.), others who were expected to vote no have signaled new flexibility (Rand Paul, R-Ky.), putting the whip count back in flux. This has provided just enough hope to keep Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), the White House and GOP leaders busy trying to persuade undecided senators to support the measure.

[Why Senate Republicans are in such a rush this month on health care]

If all of it has struck you as impulsive and haphazard, you’re not alone. Here are seven ways the latest health-care effort has defied legislative norms.

• The bill was released less than two weeks ago.

Republicans seemed to have given up on repealing the Affordable Care Act until about a week ago, when GOP leaders in the Senate decided to go all in on an effort to win 50 votes for Cassidy-Graham — enough to pass, as a result of the all-but-certain tiebreaking vote of Vice President Pence. Just a few days earlier, on Sept. 13, the two senators had received little attention from the media or their fellow lawmakers when they released the proposal.

If the plan does receive a vote by the end of the month, its details will have been publicly available for just over two weeks.

• The bill will have only one legislative hearing.

In a normal process, legislation restructuring the health-care system would receive months or even years of work in several congressional committees. Lawmakers would attend informational hearings about the problems health-care legislation would try to solve. They would hear from medical provider groups, patient advocates, stakeholders from the health-care industry and outside experts at every step. A bill might go through several drafts, which would receive not only hearings but markups to allow lawmakers to debate the details.

Because the Cassidy-Graham bill came about in a completely different way, it wasn’t clear that it would have a single hearing until McCain and others began expressing concerns. Now, the Senate Finance Committee will meet to discuss the measure at 2 p.m. on Monday, with primary testimony coming from Cassidy and Graham.

[The key players in Republicans’ last-ditch effort to kill the Affordable Care Act]

• Between Cassidy and Graham, only Cassidy specializes in health policy.

It’s unusual that such a significant bill would have only one sponsor who specializes in health-care policy. Cassidy is not only a doctor but he sits on the two health-oriented Senate committees (Finance, and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions). Graham sits on neither one.

• The CBO won’t provide a complete score.

Most health-care bills that receive votes on Capitol Hill come with a complete analysis from Congress’s nonpartisan budget analyst. These reports are designed to help lawmakers understand the likely consequences of legislation.

In the case of a health-care bill, the Congressional Budget Office typically estimates its effect on the federal budget and deficit, the number of Americans with health-care coverage and the amount insurers charge in monthly premiums. For Cassidy-Graham, however, the CBO said it would not have time to complete its normal projections. Senators will not receive the CBO’s estimates on overall coverage or premium changes until later — almost certainly after any vote that might take place.

• Cassidy and Graham plan to introduce a new version of the bill Monday.

As if the process weren’t complicated enough, the bill’s sponsors now plan to introduce a new version of the legislation Monday in a bid to win support from two key holdouts.

The new draft will include more funding for Maine and Alaska, home of Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), respectively, who have said they want to understand how Cassidy-Graham would affect their states before they vote. Previous estimates indicated the two states would lose funding under the bill.

The release of a new version means that if there is a vote, senators will have only a few days to study the legislation.

[As GOP’s repeal bill struggles, Democrats ask whether they gave it life]

• That version won’t get a complete score, either.

If the CBO couldn’t produce a complete analysis of the first version of Cassidy-Graham within a week, it follows that it won’t be able to do so for the second version, either. So if there’s a vote, senators will have incomplete information either way.

To make things even more complicated, Cassidy has already urged people to discount the CBO’s first report because it won’t reflect the bill’s second draft.

“Whatever the CBO scores [are] will be superseded by another score later this week,” he told ABC on Sunday. “So some of what we’ll be seeing [Monday] will no longer be relevant.”

• To pass a bill without Democratic votes, Republicans must act by Saturday.

Senate Republicans want to pass a health-care bill before the end of the month because that is when their ability to pass budget-related legislation with a simple majority of votes will expire. Starting Oct. 1, fiscal measures will require 60 votes to pass rather than 51, a situation that would force Republicans to form a coalition with some Democrats.

In a normal process, there would be no looming deadline, and lawmakers would not be in a rush.

Read more at PowerPost

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What’s the deal with the new travel ban? – CBS News

President Trump rolled out a new travel ban outlining new restrictions on eight countries — here’s what you need to know.

Why is there a new travel ban?

The previous ban, which was designed to only be in effect for 90 days, expired on Sunday. Of course, that one was highly controversial, and this time around, the administration tried to base the ban on more rigorous and specific requirements, so that it’ll hold up in court. More on that below.

When will this one expire?

Here’s the thing: it probably won’t, instead remaining on the books indefinitely. Assuming, of course, that it doesn’t get struck down by the courts. Administration officials have made it clear this ban is condition-based, not time-based. Countries that aren’t compliant with federal requirements will stay on the restricted list until they come into compliance.

Wait, didn’t the courts strike down the last travel ban?

The first travel ban, which was issued in January, was struck down by the courts. A less-sweeping version of the ban, however, was issued in March, shot down again in the courts, and then mostly reinstated in June by the Supreme Court. 

This more recent travel ban blocked the issuance of visas to people from Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Sudan, and Syria, all of which are majority Muslim. The Trump administration argued that this was necessary to stop potential terror attacks in the U.S. The Supreme Court is taking up the more recent ban again in October. And on Sunday, the Justice Department suggested that the Court direct the parties to ask for supplemental briefings (that would be due next week) to address how the president’s proclamation will affect the existing travel ban case currently before the Court.

What countries will be included in this new ban?

According to the proclamation signed by the president, the ban will apply to Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen. They have all been deemed to have “inadequate” identity-management protocols, information-sharing practices, and risk factors. The U.S. is implementing travel limitations and restrictions unique to the foreign nationals of each country. 

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke also assessed that Iraq did not meet the baseline but concluded that entry restrictions and limitations under the proclamation are not warranted for Iraq. Duke, according to officials, recommended that Iraqi nationals seeking entry into the U.S. be subject to additional scrutiny to determine if they pose risks to the national security or public safety of the U.S.

The U.S. is easing restrictions on Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia, and it removed restrictions on Sudan altogether. There will be enhanced vetting procedures and new restrictions for four new countries that have been found not to be in compliance with U.S. vetting procedures — Chad, Iraq, North Korea and Venezuela.

The citizens of countries that refuse to comply with DHS requirements will face travel restrictions and more stringent screening measures that would last indefinitely, until their governments comply.

Will it affect people who already have visas to enter the U.S.?

No. The restrictions on individuals and new countries covered by executive order will not be implemented immediately. Instead, they’ll take effect October 18, in what senior administration officials calling a “phased-in implementation period.”

How did the new ban come about?

This summer, the U.S. notified a number of countries of its baseline verification standards, which is the information on citizens foreign countries must be able to provide about travelers to the U.S. The State Department gave all countries 50 days to comply, and while most met the verification standards, others did not. Some improved their standards, to U.S. satisfaction, while others declined to cooperate.

Elaine Duke, the acting Homeland Security secretary, then used that information to create a new list of countries subject to the restrictions, and gave that list to the president earlier this month. 

The new restrictions, according to senior administration officials, were a result of a worldwide review based on a new baseline for information sharing and for vetting procedures for those seeking entry into the U.S.

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Trump revels in latest war of words with professional sports – FOXSports.com

WASHINGTON (AP) With his attacks on activist athletes, President Donald Trump plunged into the middle of his favorite kind of drama – personal, aggressive, culturally volatile and entirely of his own making.

For three days, the provocateur president has drawn criticism from the worlds of politics and sports for saying that football players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired. The conflict peaked Sunday with Trump’s remarks, which had the effect of uniting a newly minted opposition coalition that included a growing number of players and coaches, as well as some owners who have backed the president.

Late Sunday, Trump continued to defend the scrap – which prompted about 200 players to stand, kneel or raise their fists during the national anthem at games – telling reporters in New Jersey that kneeling was “very disrespectful to our flag and to our country” and that “owners should do something.”

Trump also offered his own take on the players and coaches who chose to lock arms on the field during the anthem, describing it as a display of “solidarity” that he approved of. And he pushed back against the suggestion that his critique could inflame racial tensions, arguing: “I never said anything about race.”

After a week dealing with weighty international issues at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump seemed to relish the moment, which he started with comments at a rally Friday night and continued on Twitter throughout the weekend. In addition to attacks on NFL players, he also rescinded a White House invitation for basketball player Stephen Curry, a star player on the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.

On Twitter Sunday night, Trump continued to press his case against politically charged athletes, saying: “sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!”

White House aides and allies said Trump remains confident that his supporters are strongly behind his attacks on kneeling players, a practice that started with a handful of players to protest a number of issues, including police brutality against black people. As criticism rolled in, supporters argued the president was not targeting African-Americans, but simply expressing patriotism.

“It’s a perfect example of where the president gets it right,” said Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a longtime Trump friend, who said team officials and the news media were not in line with much of the country. “It’s a win for him at the end of the day.”

Some allied groups were quick to take action. The pro-Trump political non-profit America First Policies released a Facebook ad with the tagline “Turn off the NFL.”

Trump has had a history of engaging in racially fraught battles, from his promotion of the false story that the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama was not born in the United States, to his campaign proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from the United States. He drew condemnation last month for saying “both sides” were to blame for violence between white supremacists and their opposing demonstrators during clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Some longtime supporters of Trump distanced themselves this time, notably New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. In a statement Sunday, Kraft said he was “deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president.” He added that there is “nothing more divisive than politics” and said he supported players’ “right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”

Trump shrugged off the comments, saying: “he’s a good friend of mine and I what him to do what he wants to do.”

Critics argued the president had waded into an unnecessary – and potentially damaging -battle.

“There’s no upside here except he may stimulate some excitement by the base,” said former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele. “I think it’s the president’s way of continuing his reality TV presidency.”

Trump began his latest tirade during a raucous campaign rally in Huntsville, Alabama Friday evening before thousands of cheering fans. Amid comments about a Senate candidate and his agenda, Trump said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired, he’s fired.”

The crowd chanted: “U.S.A, U.S.A.”

Trump continued: “that’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for, OK? Everything that we stand for.”

Top administration officials backed the president on Sunday talk shows, saying he just wanted players to show patriotism and respect. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on ABC’s “This Week” that players have “the right to have the First Amendment off the field.”

Still, Republican strategist Karl Rove said Trump had missed an opportunity. Rove said there is support for the president’s overall argument about patriotism and the flag, but he could have offered a more unifying message.

Said Rove: “the president, in the middle of huge battles that are so consequential to the future of his presidency, gets involved in this dispute and does it in a way that makes him look smaller not bigger.”

Associated Press writer Tom LoBianco contributed to this report from Silver Spring, Maryland.

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Almost no North Koreans travel to the US, so why ban them? – Washington Post

HONG KONG — President Trump’s extension of the travel ban to North Korea is mostly symbolic and will have little to no effect on Kim Jong Un’s regime, experts said Monday.

Trump on Sunday issued an executive order indefinitely banning travel to the United States from eight countries. The list includes all but one of the countries covered by the original ban plus three more: Chad, Venezuela and North Korea.  

While the entire order is sure to be controversial, the timing of the North Korea add is particularly sensitive because it comes amid a protracted standoff over North Korea’s weapons program.

Successive rounds of U.N. sanctions have done little to curb missile and nuclear tests, with the Kim regime pushing ahead and threatening, repeatedly, to target the United States. 

In recent days, the situation has devolved into name-calling with the U.S. president tweeting vague threats to “Rocket Man” Kim and the North Korean dictator firing back at “dotard” Trump.

In the context of this escalating conflict, the North Korea travel ban may appear to be part of the U.S. push to isolate the regime. But experts said the provisions are unlikely to do so — or, in fact, accomplish anything concrete at all.

Trump pitched the new order as a measure designed to keep Americans safe. “Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet,” he tweeted.

The problem with punishing Pyongyang by stopping North Koreans from traveling to the United States is that there are very few — almost none — making the trip. 

The new executive order suspends “immigrant and nonimmigrant” travel from North Korea to the United States. But people cannot immigrate from North Korea to the United States to begin with.

“They should have checked if there is North Korean immigration before they banned it,” said John Delury, an associate professor at Seoul’s Yonsei University. “Why are you banning something that doesn’t exist?”

North Korean defectors who end up in the United States usually arrive via South Korea and are typically traveling on South Korean, not North Korean, passports. 

Although North Korean diplomats do travel to the United States, mostly to United Nations headquarters in New York, the order notes that diplomatic visits are exempt from the ban.

That only leaves the handful of officials or academics who attend conferences in the U.S. each year, a group that is already closely vetted by the State Department.

Given all this, Cheng Xiaohe, a North Korea expert at Renmin University, in Beijing, predicted the impact of the ban on North Korea would be “very limited.”  

Lu Chao, a Korea specialist at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences in Shenyang, said there would by no practical impact at all. “It’s propaganda,” he said.

Yet, if this is a message, nobody seems certain what message Trump is trying send — or to whom.

Delury said the move may be aimed at a domestic audience, not an international one. The original travel ban was widely criticized for targeting Muslims — adding North Korea and Venezuela changes the conversation.

“There’s no logic in the North Korea context, so we can conclude this is not really about North Korea,” Delury said. “This is not part of real North Korea policy at all.” 

Amber Ziye Wang and Shirley Feng reported from Beijing.

Read more:

White House expands travel ban, restricting visitors from eight countries

Trump calls North Korea’s leader ‘madman’ whose regime will face new tests

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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Trump slaps travel restrictions on North Korea, Venezuela in sweeping new ban – Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Sunday slapped new travel restrictions on citizens from North Korea, Venezuela and Chad, expanding to eight the list of countries covered by his original travel bans that have been derided by critics and challenged in court.

Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia were left on the list of affected countries in a new proclamation issued by the president. Restrictions on citizens from Sudan were lifted.

The measures help fulfill a campaign promise Trump made to tighten U.S. immigration procedures and align with his “America First” foreign policy vision. Unlike the president’s original bans, which had time limits, this one is open-ended.

“Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet,” the president said in a tweet shortly after the proclamation was released.

Iraqi citizens will not be subject to travel prohibitions but will face enhanced scrutiny or vetting.

The current ban, enacted in March, was set to expire on Sunday evening. The new restrictions are slated to take effect on Oct. 18 and resulted from a review after Trump’s original travel bans sparked international outrage and legal challenges.

The addition of North Korea and Venezuela broadens the restrictions from the original, mostly Muslim-majority list.

An administration official, briefing reporters on a conference call, acknowledged that the number of North Koreans now traveling to the United States was very low.

Rights group Amnesty International USA condemned the measures.

“Just because the original ban was especially outrageous does not mean we should stand for yet another version of government-sanctioned discrimination,” it said in a statement.

”It is senseless and cruel to ban whole nationalities of people who are often fleeing the very same violence that the U.S. government wishes to keep out. This must not be normalized.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement the addition of North Korea and Venezuela “doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban.”

The White House portrayed the restrictions as consequences for countries that did not meet new requirements for vetting of immigrants and issuing of visas. Those requirements were shared in July with foreign governments, which had 50 days to make improvements if needed, the White House said.

A number of countries made improvements by enhancing the security of travel documents or the reporting of passports that were lost or stolen. Others did not, sparking the restrictions.

The announcement came as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments on Oct. 10 over the legality of Trump’s previous travel ban, including whether it discriminated against Muslims.

International passengers wait for their rides outside the international arrivals exit at Washington Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, U.S. September 24, 2017. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

NORTH KOREA, VENEZUELA ADDED

Trump has threatened to “destroy” North Korea if it attacks the United States or its allies. Pyongyang earlier this month conducted its most powerful nuclear bomb test. The president has also directed harsh criticism at Venezuela, once hinting at

a potential military option to deal with Caracas.

But the officials described the addition of the two countries to Trump’s travel restrictions as the result of a purely objective review.

In the case of North Korea, where the suspension was sweeping and applied to both immigrants and non-immigrants, officials said it was hard for the United States to validate the identity of someone coming from North Korea or to find out if that person was a threat.

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“North Korea, quite bluntly, does not cooperate whatsoever,” one official said.

The restrictions on Venezuela focused on Socialist government officials that the Trump administration blamed for the country’s slide into economic disarray, including officials from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service and their immediate families.

Trump received a set of policy recommendations on Friday from acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and was briefed on the matter by other administration officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a White House aide said.

The rollout on Sunday was decidedly more organized than Trump’s first stab at a travel ban, which was unveiled with little warning and sparked protests at airports worldwide.  

Earlier on Sunday, Trump told reporters about the ban: “The tougher, the better.”

    Rather than a total ban on entry to the United States, the proposed restrictions differ by nation, based on cooperation with American security mandates, the threat the United States believes each country presents and other variables, officials said.

Somalis, for example, are barred from entering the United States as immigrants and subjected to greater screening for visits.

After the Sept. 15 bombing attack on a London train, Trump wrote on Twitter that the new ban “should be far larger, tougher and more specific – but stupidly, that would not be politically correct.”

The expiring ban blocked entry into the United States by people from the six countries for 90 days and locked out most aspiring refugees for 120 days to give Trump’s administration time to conduct a worldwide review of U.S. vetting procedures for foreign visitors.

Critics have accused the Republican president of discriminating against Muslims in violation of constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and equal protection under the law, breaking existing U.S. immigration law and stoking religious hatred.

Some federal courts blocked the ban, but the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to take effect in June with some restrictions.

Additional reporting by James Oliphant, Yeganeh Torbati, and Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Peter Cooney

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Chad, N. Korea, Venezuela added to list, but some moves look symbolic

President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban will morph into a new set of restrictions on travelers from an expanded set of countries, U.S. officials announced Sunday night as major parts of the order were close to expiring.

The current policy, which denies visas to citizens of six majority Muslim countries, will be replaced by a new set of travel limits on eight countries, including all but one of those on the previous list. The nations facing travel restrictions under the new policy are Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen, officials said Sunday.

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Existing visa-holders are exempt, and waivers will remain available for travelers with U.S. ties, although those exemptions appear to be narrowed in the new directive.

One country on the current list, Sudan, was dropped from the restricted roster — effective immediately. The new countries and the revised waiver policy are set to take effect Oct. 18.

“We are taking action today to protect the safety and security of the American people by establishing a minimum security baseline for entry into the United States,” Trump said in a statement. “We cannot afford to continue the failed policies of the past, which present an unacceptable danger to our country. My highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and in issuing this new travel order, I am fulfilling that sacred obligation.”

“Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet,” Trump

“Six of President Trump’s targeted countries are Muslim. The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the U.S. — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn’t obfuscate the real fact that the administration’s order is still a Muslim ban,” said American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero. “President Trump’s original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list.”

Trump issued his first travel ban order one week after he took office in January, banning travel to the United States by nationals of seven majority Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Announced with immediate effect, it triggered widespread protests at U.S. airports and significant confusion about its application, particularly to green card holders.

Many critics said the measure was a thinly veiled version of the Muslim ban Trump championed during the presidential campaign. After courts blocked key parts of the first directive, Trump issued a new order in March dropping Iraq from the list of targeted countries and removing other language that courts suggested indicated religious animus. He also excluded existing visa and green cardholders from the impact of the suspension.

The revised order still encountered quick resistance from the courts, which issued injunctions against aspects of the ban.

The Supreme Court cut those injunctions back somewhat in June when it agreed to take up the question of whether Trump’s order was legal. Under the high court’s interim order, close family members of U.S. citizens or residents are exempt from the visa ban and another portion of Trump’s directive halting refugee admissions. The justices also exempted people with bona fide ties to U.S. companies, schools or organizations.

The new proclamation includes waivers available to foreigners with close family members in the United States and for some people seeking to come to the U.S. for work or to do business with U.S. firms, but if the courts allow the new directive to take effect the waiver may apply to a smaller set of relatives. A mere tie to a U.S. company or organization, such as a past relationship or a speaking invitation, might not be enough to qualify.