Blue states will lose the most funding under Republican health plan

Creatas/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new analysis finds that blue states could lose a significant amount of federal funding for health care under the Graham-Cassidy bill.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that if Graham-Cassidy became law, the federal government would spend $160 billion less from 2020-2026 to expand health insurance coverage. And 35 states, plus the District of Columbia, would face losses in federal funding.

Graham-Cassidy -- named for the two Republicans spearheading the bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La. -- is the latest effort by Senate Republicans to follow through on a campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. The bill works by redistributing federal funds that would have been used for Medicaid expansion or insurance subsidies. The funds would be given to states in the form of block grants, which Republicans say would give states enormous discretion on how to provide coverage.

But the Kaiser report shows that the redistribution is not equal.

New York, for example, stands to lose 35 percent of the money it currently receives from the federal government to subsidize health insurance and pay for Medicaid.

But Mississippi, the report estimates, could see a whopping 148 percent gain in federal funding under Graham-Cassidy. States that could see increases in funding are states that chose not to expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare.

Non-expansion states, according to Kaiser, could gain $73 billion, while Medicaid expansion states could lose $180 billion.

Next week, the Senate will vote on Graham-Cassidy, and all eyes are on three senators who could decide its fate: Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Alaska and Arizona will face moderate losses in federal funding, while Maine, which did not expand Medicaid, stands to gain 8 percent in federal funding.

The top five losers in federal funding as a percentage compared to current funding include New York (-35 percent), Oregon (-32 percent), Connecticut (-31 percent), Vermont (-31 percent) and Minnesota (-30 percent).

The winners? Mississippi (148 percent), Texas (75 percent), Kansas (61 percent), Georgia (46 percent) and South Dakota (45 percent).

The large unknown that remains is what happens in 2026, when block grants end under Graham-Cassidy. Kaiser notes that if that money isn’t renewed, funding would decrease by $240 billion in 2027 alone.

“Graham-Cassidy would be the biggest evolution of federal money and responsibility to states ever,” Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation said. “So until this passes, there’s just no way to know what kinds of changes people face, because it will be different in every state.”

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Inspector general reviewing requests to probe HHS Secretary Tom Price's private jet travel

kafl/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The inspector general's office at the Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing requests to investigate the private jet travel of the agency's chief, Tom Price, who reportedly chartered five flights last week, drawing widespread criticism from congressional Democrats.

Price's travel, first reported by Politico Wednesday, comprised trips to Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania aboard private planes estimated to cost tens of thousands of dollars per flight. Politico noted that the chartered jets did not explicitly violate government regulations, but that past HHS secretaries have typically flown commercially, especially when traveling domestically.

In response, the Democratic ranking members of five congressional committees sent a letter to HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson Thursday to request a review of Price's observance of departmental rules.

The letter cites the Code of Federal Regulations which notes, "...because the taxpayers should pay no more than necessary for your transportation, generally you may travel on Government aircraft only when a Government aircraft is the most cost-effective mode of travel."

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At least two Democratic members of Congress seized on the report to promote rail travel, their preferred method of commuting to Washington, D.C., while criticizing Price.

"Mr. Secretary, I invite you to join me on [Amtrak] when you travel to Philly," tweeted Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. Wednesday. "I assure you it's very comfortable with shorter security lines."

"Dear Tom Price, As someone who travels from DC to Philly every week let me recommend Amtrak," tweeted Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., whose district encompasses a portion of the Pennsylvania city.

HHS defended Price's travel choices by noting the secretary's "demanding schedule" and the size of the "$1.2 trillion agency."

"The travel department continues to check every possible source for travel needs including commercial, but commercial travel is not always feasible," read a statement from Charmaine Yoest, the assistant secretary for public affairs at Health and Human Services. "The President has made it clear his Administration will move power out of Washington and return it to the American people. Secretary Price will continue meeting with the American people outside of the Beltway to hear their concerns and ensure HHS makes decisions that best provide for their needs.”

Since his appointment as HHS secretary and during his tenure in the House of Representatives, Price has frequently served as a critic of government waste.

Speaking before Congress in March about his department's budget, Price said, "One of our priorities is to try to find the waste and abuse that exists," in regard to government outlays on Medicare.

As chair of the House Budget Committee, Price publicly decried federal spending and attacked "fiscal irresponsibility" in a 2009 CNBC interview amid a ultimately-abandoned proposal to spend $550 million on planes for members of Congress and government officials.

The issue of Price's travel follows an ABC News report last week that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin faced an inquiry by the Treasury Department's inspector general over a request to use a government airplane to travel to his European honeymoon this summer. The inquiry is the second travel-related review faced by Mnuchin. His official trip to Kentucky during August's solar eclipse is also being reviewed.

Mnuchin dropped the honeymoon request but later defended it as in the interest of "national security" so he would have a secure line of communication.

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Sean Spicer defends brief White House tenure

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer acknowledges that he has "made mistakes," but says that for those who "want some blanket apology," "that's not happening."

"I made mistakes," Spicer, who's been out at the White House for less than a month, told ABC News' Paula Faris. "There's no question. I think we all do."

Spicer added that he "tried to own" some of his mistakes, but said that "the personal attacks, questioning my integrity" were "really over the top."

When asked if he had ever lied to the American people, Spicer responded, "I don't think so."

"I have not knowingly done anything to do that, no," he added when pressed harder.

Spicer touched on some of the most notable moments during his short tenure as President Donald Trump's spokesman, including his first appearance in the White House briefing room, when he read a statement to the press about the size of the crowd at the inauguration.

His comments sparked widespread criticism after photos later emerged online that contradicted him.

"I think it might've been better to be a lot more specific with what we were talking about in terms of the universe, not focus so much on photographic evidence, et cetera," Spicer said.

Spicer added that many people viewed the inauguration online versus in person, saying, "There are more social platforms, more online platforms to view things "than existed eight years ago.

Spicer also acknowledged the controversy that ensued after Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey.

When asked repeatedly if it was his obligation as press secretary to set the record straight regarding contradictory information that emerged following Comey's firing, Spicer said President Trump accomplished that himself.

"He set it straight," Spicer said of Trump.

Spicer opened up about when Trump contradicted his statements by tweeting about a "ban" shortly before Spicer told reporters, "It’s not a travel ban."

"I would definitely say that I wish we had been more consistent from the beginning in terms of the terms that we would use and the goals that we were trying to achieve," Spicer said.

When asked about the ongoing investigation into whether there was Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Spicer said he was "not going to discuss" the issue, even as Faris pressed him on it.

Spicer most recently made headlines during a surprise appearance at the 2017 Emmy Awards on Sunday, entering the stage on a mock White House press secretary podium, and poking fun of his infamous presser following Trump's inauguration, saying, "This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys -- period."

Spicer said the president was "very supportive" of his Emmys cameo when they spoke on the phone.

"He thought I did a great job," Spicer added.

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'Indivisible' activist group takes aim at Obamacare repeal bill

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The liberal activist group "Indivisible," a primary force behind the big anti-Donald Trump protest marches this spring and those raucous summer town halls, is now running full steam to stop the latest GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, known as the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Operating out a start-up space in Washington, D.C., the Indivisible leadership team is calling for a national day of action for Sept. 25, just as the Republican Congress returns for the make-or-break last effort to deliver on the campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“We’re activating out entire network right now to push back against the Graham-Cassidy bill,” said Leah Greenberg, the former Congressional staffer who launched Indivisible last November as a center of resistance against the Trump agenda. “That means everything from in-person events all around the country, showing up at Senate offices, showing up at rallies, showing up in person and meeting with as many senators as possible to let them know the depths of the opposition to this bill.”

Both sides are running against the clock. Republicans need to get the bill passed before the Sept. 30 deadline when the rules that allow a bill to proceed on a simple majority expire. Indivisible and the Democrats are trying to build a wall of public outrage and opposition before wavering Republicans are persuaded to get behind the bill.

Indivisible got a boost Wednesday morning when former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton retweeted to her 18 million followers the group’s online campaign, called "Kill the Bill."

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Our friends at <a href="">@IndivisibleTeam</a> explain what&#39;s happening and what you can do (need to do!) to stop it. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) <a href="">September 20, 2017</a></blockquote>
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Roy Moore’s defiant road to become US senator

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) -- In his nearly three decades in the public eye, Roy Moore has never been one to shy away from controversy or confrontation.

Whether it’s the public display of the Ten Commandments or his refusal to enforce the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage, Moore has gained national attention for his dogged and bombastic defense of his brand of Christianity’s role in the American political system.

The twice-removed former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice is now vying to become Alabama’s next U.S. senator, taking on sitting U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, who is backed by both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump.

The race has become a proxy war between the populist and establishment wings of the Republican Party, and has even pitted the president against his former top aides Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who are backing Moore.

Next Tuesday, voters will choose Moore or Strange to take on former U.S. Attorney and Democratic nominee Doug Jones in the general election in December.

Here’s a look back at some of Moore’s most controversial moments since his first appointment to public office.


Moore’s first appointment as a judge came in 1992, when then-Gov. H. Guy Hunt appointed him to the 16th Circuit Court of Alabama.

Moore quickly generated controversy by hanging a wooden plaque inscribed with the Ten Commandments on the wall of his courtroom, and started the practice of beginning his court proceedings with a prayer.

In 1995, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Moore, claiming his display of the Ten Commandments and courtroom prayers were unconstitutional.

The suit was eventually dismissed after it was ruled the ACLU lacked standing in the case, and Moore was allowed to keep his plaque up and continue his prayer tradition.

In 1999, Moore announced his campaign for Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, largely focusing on his defense of the Ten Commandments and status as a defender of religion in the public sphere.

Surprising many, Moore won the seat, defeating sitting Alabama Associate Supreme Court Justice Harold See in the Republican primary. Moore went on to win the seat easily in the general election.


After his election, Moore began designing a monument that he said was meant to depict “the moral foundation of law.”

What was eventually unveiled in the summer of 2001 was a 5,280-pound, granite monument affixed with the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama state judicial building in Montgomery.

That fall, the ACLU, along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, sued Moore for violating “the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.”

In November 2002, U.S. District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson ordered Moore to remove the Ten Commandments monument within 30 days, ruling that its placement violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Judge Thompson’s ruling was affirmed by the U.S. Court of Appeals in July of 2003, and in August, Moore was again ordered to remove the monument. Again, he refused, appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

In November 2003, Moore was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary for “willfully and publicly” defying the orders of a United States District Court.


Nearly a decade after his removal, Moore was again elected as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2012.

Moore’s next battle came in June of 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

In defiance of the ruling, Moore -- who had already been battling a U.S. District Court that ruled the state’s marriage laws unconstitutional -- ordered Alabama’s probate judges to continue enforcing the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

In September 2016, after numerous ethics complaints, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission found Moore guilty of six ethics charges in connection with his refusal to comply with “binding federal law”, and he was suspended for the remainder of his term on the Alabama Supreme Court.


Moore announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April 2017, and his candidacy thus far indicates he has no desire to temper his controversial rhetoric or beliefs.

In speeches and radio appearances discovered by CNN, Moore has speculated as early as December 2016 that there was a “big question” about whether Barack Obama was a U.S. citizen.

In a speech at an Alabama church this past February, Moore suggested that the 9/11 terrorist attacks may have been the result of the U.S. turning away from God.

Just this week, Moore against caused controversy after he appeared to refer to Native Americans and Asians as “reds” and “yellows” in a campaign speech.

But despite his rhetoric, Moore has remained popular among many in Alabama, winning almost 40 percent of the vote in the first round of the Republican primary last month.

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Sen. Van Hollen confident Democrats will invest in Alabama's heated Senate race

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., expressed confidence in the Democratic Party's position in the upcoming Alabama Senate race, where he said there is a “full-blown Republican civil, political war.”

“We all know it’s Alabama. That’s been tough territory for Democrats, and no one is kidding themselves how tough politically Alabama has been,” the Democratic senator from Maryland told ABC News’ Powerhouse Politics podcast Wednesday, adding, “On the other hand, we have a terrific candidate.”

The runoff for the Republican primary to fill the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became attorney general is Sept. 26. President Donald Trump has endorsed incumbent appointed Sen. Luther Strange and plans to visit on Friday. Vice President Mike Pence will also campaign for Strange in Alabama on Monday.

Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, however, are backing Judge Roy Moore, who was twice elected to the Alabama Supreme Court and removed for defying court orders.

Van Hollen, chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) for the 2018 cycle and tasked with fighting to hold Senate seats, said he does not plan to reassess the Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, based on who wins the Alabama GOP primary.

“I think Doug Jones is going to energize a lot of voters to come out, and I’m not sure, after a bitter Republican primary, that’s going to be the case on the Republican side,” Van Hollen told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein, adding, “Republicans have just gone through months of beating the hell out of each other.”

Jones was appointed U.S. attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, by former President Bill Clinton in 1997. He was the lead prosecutor in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing case that killed four African-American girls. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights icon, and former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Jones in August. Biden is expected to hold a rally for Jones on Oct. 3.

There has not been a Democratic senator in Alabama since 1997, when Sessions succeeded Howell T. Heflin.

When asked to predict the Senate election map, Van Hollen said, “It’s a very tough map. Here’s what we’re gonna do: We’re gonna fight like hell to hold the blue wall in the United States Senate.”

Democrats will be defending 25 of 33 seats. Ten of those seats are from states Trump won in the 2016 presidential election.

Van Hollen also discussed the GOP's latest efforts to ditch former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act as the crucial deadline nears.

"I think it's the wrong thing to do for the country. It's going to totally screw up our health care system," the senator said of the Graham-Cassidy bill. "I think they will not only hurt lots of Americans, but I think, politically, they're going to have to be held accountable."

He said he welcomes lots of ideas, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' latest bill for a government-run, single-payer health care system -- dubbed "Medicare for All" -- but insisted that the focus right now is to prevent the GOP from "blowing up" the Affordable Care Act.

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Mueller inquired about Comey and Flynn firings, Russia meeting: Sources

Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Special counsel Robert Mueller sent a letter to the White House inquiring about a number of topics, including the firings of former FBI Director James Comey and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and an Oval Office meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian diplomats, sources familiar with Mueller's investigation confirmed to ABC News.

The letter, first reported by the New York Times and Washington Post, asked questions covering 13 specific categories, among them the Flynn and Comey dismissals and Russia meeting. In May, the Washington Post reported that Trump shared classified information in the Oval Office with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

White House attorney Ty Cobb would not confirm the report when reached by ABC News, saying, "The White House has repeatedly confirmed that out of respect for the special counsel and his processes the White House will not comment on any exchanges we have with his office. The White House remains committed to fully cooperating with the special counsel.”

The special counsel’s office also declined to comment.

As Mueller's investigation continues, congressional probes are inching forward as well.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr told reporters Wednesday that his panel will hold a hearing next month on Facebook and other social media companies' role in the election as potential platforms for Russian efforts to influence the presidential race.

And Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is preparing to potentially subpoena two former aides to former FBI Director James Comey, James Rybicki and Carl Ghattas.

The Justice Department has prevented Grassley's investigators from interviewing both men regarding their conversations with Comey - a potential sign of Mueller's interest in the officials and their conversations with Comey about his multiple interactions with Trump.

The special counsel is investigating the circumstances around Trump's firing of Comey to determine whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice and interfere with the Russian election interference probe.

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Senate could vote on Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill next week

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to hold a vote on the Graham-Cassidy health care proposal next week, he said in a statement Wednesday.

According to a statement released by McConnell's office, "it is the Leader's intention to consider Graham-Cassidy on the floor next week." That does not mean a vote will definitely happen on the controversial bill. A number of Republican senators have been non-committal on the proposal.

Republicans have until September 30 to vote on a health care bill under budget reconciliation, which would allow them to pass a bill with a simple majority, or 50 votes, instead of the normally required 60.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Wednesday that if the Senate can pass the measure, his caucus would also act next week. "If the Senate acts, we will act as well," he told reporters at a Coast Guard news conference in Miami.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., tried to rally Democrats to block the bill at her Wednesday news conference. "This is really an emergency," she said. "We've got to stop this bill."

Graham-Cassidy would remove the individual and employer mandates to sign up for health insurance, a pair of tax penalties tied to the Affordable Care Act that remain unpopular with voters. It would also roll back the medical device tax and repeal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year.

Experts believe that health insurance premiums for older and disabled Americans would go up under the Graham-Cassidy proposal, in part because of cuts to Medicaid expansion.

A powerful trade organization for health insurance companies came out against the plan on Wednesday as well. American Health Insurance Plans -- which represents Anthem, Cigna, Humana and Harvard Pilgrim -- says it will not support the bill, because it does not meet six criteria:

1. “Reforms must stabilize the individual insurance market”
2. “Medicaid reforms must ensure the program is efficient, effective, and has adequate funding to meet the health care needs of beneficiaries”
3. “Reforms must guarantee access to coverage for ALL Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions”
4. “Reforms must provide sufficient time for everyone to prepare – from doctors, hospitals, and health plans to consumers, patients, and policymakers.”
5. “Reforms should improve affordability by eliminating taxes and fees that only serve to raise health care costs or reduce benefits for everyone.”
6. “Reforms should rely on the strengths of the private market, not build a bridge to single payer systems."

"The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal fails to meet these guiding principles," Marilyn Tavenner, President and CEO of AHIP said Wednesday. She added that the bill would "have real consequences on consumers and patients by further destabilizing the individual market; cutting Medicaid; pulling back on protections for pre-existing conditions; not ending taxes on health insurance premiums and benefits; and potentially allowing government-controlled, single-player health care to grow."

Insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield also expressed "significant concerns" with the bill on Wednesday.

Still, President Donald Trump remains optimistic about the bill, saying "I think it has a very good chance."

"I believe that Graham-Cassidy will do it the right way," he added, saying that the proposal has "tremendous support from Republicans."

"Whether it happens or not something's going to happen and it's going to be positive," the president said. "[The Affordable Care Act] can not make it. At some point the Senate is going to be forced to make a deal."

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Trump congratulates African leaders: 'I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump congratulated the leaders of African nations Wednesday on the "business potential" of their countries, telling them that he has "so many friends" going to the continent "trying to get rich."

The comment came in a speech during a working lunch with the leaders amid the United Nations General Assembly. The bulk of Trump's remarks struck a positive tone on continental efforts to promote "prosperity and peace on a range of economic, humanitarian and security issues."

"We hope to extend our economic partnerships with countries who are committed to self-reliance and to fostering opportunities for job creation in both Africa and the United States," said the president.

"I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich. I congratulate you," continued Trump, adding that Africa represented "huge amounts of different markets and for American firms."

"It's really become a place that they have to go, that they want to go," he said.

Trump went on to acknowledge allies on the continent who partnered to fight the spread of terrorism in Africa and pledged the U.S. would continue to monitor violence in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He noted that U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley would travel to Africa to assist in resolving conflicts.

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Obama on Republican health care repeal-and-replace efforts: 'It is aggravating'

The White House(NEW YORK) -- Former President Barack Obama offered an optimistic vision for the future, but condemned the latest attempt by Republicans to repeal his signature legislation, the 2010 Affordable Care Act, calling the efforts "aggravating” on Wednesday.

“When I see people trying to undo that hard-won progress for the 50th or 60th time with bills that would raise costs or reduce coverage, or roll back protections for older Americans or people with pre-existing conditions -- the cancer survivor, the expecting mom or the child with autism, or asthma, for whom coverage once again would be almost unattainable -- it is aggravating,” Obama said at the Gates Foundation’s "Goalkeepers" event in New York.

“And all of this being done without any demonstrable economic or actuarial or plain common sense rationale, it frustrates," he added. "And it is certainly frustrating to have to mobilize every couple of months to keep our leaders from inflicting real human suffering on our constituents.”

Obama also joked that he’s not quite sure why some Americans don’t support the single-payer system -- a tenet of Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign platform in 2016 -- that has since gained steam in the Democratic Party.

“Those of you who live in countries that already have universal health care are trying to figure out what's the controversy here,” Obama said to laughter. “I am, too.”

In keeping with the unwritten tradition that former presidents don’t outright disparage a sitting president, Obama did not criticize President Donald Trump by name. But he expressed his frustration with the current administration on another achievement during his presidency, addressing climate change through the Paris climate agreement. But he said progress can still be made by people outside the White House.

“Even if at the current moment the federal government is not as engaged in these efforts as I would like, nevertheless, progress continues because of the efforts of people like Bill [Gates] and a whole host of entrepreneurs and universities and cities and states,” Obama said.

“They are making change around energy policy in America separate and apart from what government is doing. And that gives me confidence that we can continue to make progress.”

Despite his overall optimism, Obama also warned about the rise of nationalist impulses in politics.

“The rise of nationalism and xenophobia in politics that says it's not ‘we’ but ‘us and them’ — a politics that threatens to turn good people away from the kind of collective action that has always driven human progress. … These are real challenges. And we can't sugar coat them.”

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