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Friday
Mar242017

Budget director Mick Mulvaney on fate of GOP health care bill: 'I have a lot of confidence in the president'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — After a last-ditch appeal to House Republicans, Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, said Friday morning that he's not sure if there will be enough votes in the House to pass the GOP health care bill.

"That's up to the House to count their own votes," Mulvaney said in an interview on Good Morning America.

"Republicans all want the same thing," he added. "They want to get rid of Obamacare and give people the control and the options that they want, the quality that they need and the affordability they deserve. This is the chance today to deliver all of those things in the House."

Despite heavy criticism from a group of moderate and conservative Republicans, both the White House and House Speaker Paul Ryan are pushing hard for the American Health Care Act. Ryan said Thursday night that the bill will be voted on Friday.

The White House said it is "confident" the bill will pass. "We feel this should be done in the light of day, not in the wee hours of the night and we are confident the bill will pass in the morning," according to White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Mulvaney, a former member of the rabble-rousing House Freedom Caucus, told House Republicans during a meeting on Capitol Hill Thursday night that President Trump felt the time had come for a vote, sources told ABC News.

"The president wants to get rid of Obamacare," Mulvaney said on GMA. "Say what you want to about Donald Trump — this is not an ordinary politician. He wants to do this and he wants to do it now."

He went on, "That's the message I delivered on his behalf last night and I hope the House Republicans were listening. I think they were."

Trump had made his final sales pitch to conservative House Freedom Caucus members at the White House earlier Thursday. But after the meeting, caucus members said they hadn't reached a point where they could back the American Health Care Act in its current form.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its score on the amended health bill, saying it would reduce the deficit by less than the original and leave just as many more people uninsured after a decade — 24 million.

While acknowledging the White House might not get the votes it needs to pass the health bill, Trump's budget director said he's confident in the president's ability to seal the deal.

"I have a lot of confidence in the president," Mulvaney said. "The president is a tremendous sales person, a tremendous closer. I wouldn't count him out."

 

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Friday
Mar242017

Health bill vote set for Friday as Trump draws line in the sand

tupungato/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, a central promise of GOP leadership, is set for a showdown Friday as President Donald Trump issued an ultimatum, demanding that
the House of Representatives move forward.

The American Health Care Act is being pushed full steam ahead by both Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House, despite heavy criticism from a group of moderate and conservative Republicans.

House leaders said Thursday night that the plan is to put the bill to a vote on Friday.

“For seven-and-a-half years we have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it's collapsing and it’s failing families,” Ryan said. “And tomorrow
we're proceeding.”

The statement came after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a score on the amended bill, saying it would reduce the deficit by less than the original and leave just as many more
people uninsured after a decade -- 24 million.

President Donald Trump's top advisers told House Republicans in a meeting on the Hill Thursday evening that the president felt the time had come for a vote. Sources in the room told ABC News that
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney, a former member of the rabble-rousing House Freedom Caucus, delivered President Trump's message.

"That's what POTUS wants," one attendee told ABC News.

“We have to have a vote tomorrow. He expects it to pass. But he’s moving on if for some reason it didn't," Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., told reporters after the meeting.

Senior Trump aides Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and Kellyanne Conway were in the room but did not speak during the session, sources said.

On his way into the meeting, Priebus told ABC News he's "feeling good" about the situation. "Still feeling positive. A lot of work to do," he said.

While sources said White House officials didn't rule out further negotiations or changes to the bill, they made clear the time has come to put the conference on record.

"This is the only train leaving the station that is going to be repealing Obamacare," White House press secretary Sean Spicer told Fox News after the meeting broke. "Tomorrow it is time to vote."

House Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, who has led opposition to the plan and has been courted personally by the president, was not in attendance. He told reporters
outside the meeting that he was looking to have discussions with the more moderate "Tuesday Group" later this evening.

The AHCA vote was postponed this afternoon as the party struggled to collect the votes needed to ensure its passage.

The White House said it is "confident" the bill will pass Friday. "We feel this should be done in the light of day, not in the wee hours of the night and we are confident the bill will pass in the

morning," said White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

President Trump had made his last-minute sales pitch to conservative House Freedom Caucus members at the White House earlier in the day. After the meeting, however, caucus members said they hadn't
reached a point where they could support the AHCA in its current form.

The president and caucus members discussed options and were "trying to get creative," Meadows told ABC News.

“We are certainly trying to get to yes,” Meadows told reporters on the Hill today before the vote postponement. “But, indeed, we've made very reasonable requests and we are hopeful that those
reasonable requests will be listened to and, ultimately, agreed to.”

Spicer had earlier called the meeting a “positive step” and said the White House was “very, very pleased with the direction” of the negotiations.

He also dismissed characterizations of the meeting as attempts to strike a deal.

“I think some of them stood up and said, ‘Mr. President, we're with you.’ I think a lot of them said, ‘We're going to go back and think about it.’ The meeting didn't conclude by saying, ‘Do we have
a deal?’ That’s not why we have it,” Spicer said. “This was a discussion that the president continues to have.”

Some House Republicans have grown frustrated with the demands of their colleagues in the Freedom Caucus.

"Two groups that don't represent even the majority of the Republican conference have been given every opportunity to have multiple conversations with the president and the leadership," Rep. Bradley
Byrne, R-Alabama, said. "At some point, you've got to say, 'That's it.' And we're at that point."

At least 32 Republicans had said they would oppose the bill, according to ABC News’ latest whip count. The GOP needs 216 votes for a simple majority to pass the bill in the House, so they can
afford to lose 21 votes for passage.


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Thursday
Mar232017

President Trump climbs into an 18-wheeler and pretends to be a trucker

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Donald Trump, trucker in chief?

That's the role the president briefly assumed Thursday when he climbed into the driver’s seat of a Mack 18-wheeler parked on the South Lawn of the White House.

Trump, who wore an "I Love Trucks" button on his lapel, tried his best to emulate a truck driver: He enthusiastically pumped his fists, made a series of facial expressions that lit up the
Twittersphere, and excitedly tooted the big rig's horn at least six times.

And Trump clearly didn't run out of gas: following his spirited session of trucker role play, he met with truckers and CEOs from the American Trucking Association to discuss healthcare.

"No one knows America like truckers know America," he said during the meeting. "You see it every day. You see every hill, and you see every valley and you see every pothole in our roads that have
to be rebuilt."

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Thursday
Mar232017

GOP health care plan would hit people in counties Trump won hardest

apbalboa/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Areas that voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election by the widest margins could see significantly larger cuts in health care subsidies than other Americans, according to a new
ABC News analysis of data provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the 2016 election results.

The numbers show that voters who are older and low-income would get hit hardest by the American Health Care Act, but those aren't the only reasons many Trump voters could fare worse than other
Americans if the bill becomes law.

A look at the how the law would change health care policy in different parts of the country shows that people of the same age and same income could see thousands of dollars more or less in tax
credits based on where they live.

The areas that voted for Trump -- especially those where Trump won big -- could be hit hardest.

The new numbers show that geography, cost of living, family income, rural/urban divides and state-by-state healthcare rules mean people in areas that voted for Trump would get less in tax credits
than those who voted for Clinton under the new legislation -- even with the exact same age and income.

That's according to a new ABC News analysis of the data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit focusing on national health issues, and Associated Press election results.

Fox example, a 40-year-old making $30,000 per year under the new plan would get $138 more in tax credits, on average, in counties where Clinton won. But in counties where Trump won, this person
would get an average of $353 less in tax credits.

Similarly, a 60-year-old making $40,000 per year would get $2,747 less in tax credits in counties Clinton won, but would get $4,181 less in tax credits in counties that Trump won.

And for a 27-year-old making $30,000 per year, tax credits would rise by $16 on average in counties that Clinton won but would decrease by an average of $329 in counties that Trump won.

This analysis does not take into account changes the House made on March 20 that would potentially allow for larger tax credits under the AHCA for people over age 50, according to Kaiser.

The margin by which Trump or Clinton won each county also makes a difference. People in counties that most overwhelmingly voted for Trump -- by a margin of more than 30 percent -- would see their
tax credits go down more than a person with the exact same age and income who lives in a county Clinton won by similar margins.

And for older Americans, these difference could amount to thousands of dollars. A 60-year-old making $40,000 per year who lives in a county that strongly favored Trump would see their tax credit
cut by almost twice the amount as would be the case in a county where Clinton dominated.

For other people, the difference could be between receiving more or less in tax credits under the new plan. Take a look at this chart for a 40-year-old making $30,000 per year:

The differences are even more stark in terms of the tax credits each person would receive.

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Thursday
Mar232017

Intel chair Devin Nunes unsure if Trump associates were directly surveilled

Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, R-Calif., does not know "for sure" whether President Donald Trump or members of his transition team were even on the
phone calls or other communications now being cited as partial vindication for the president’s wiretapping claims against the Obama administration, according to a spokesperson.

"He said he'll have to get all the documents he requested from the [intelligence community] about this before he knows for sure," a spokesperson for Nunes said Thursday. Nunes was a member of the
Trump transition team executive committee.

At a press conference yesterday, Nunes announced he obtained "dozens of reports" showing the U.S. intelligence community -- through its "normal foreign surveillance" -- "incidentally collected
information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition."

But Nunes never said Trump or any of the president's associates personally participated in the communications that were intercepted.

Nevertheless, Nunes called it a "significant" development, and President Trump later said it "somewhat" vindicated his controversial Tweets two weeks ago alleging that President Obama wiretapped
him and his campaign.

Based on the limited amount of information provided by Nunes so far, it's possible that foreign officials were overheard talking about Trump transition team members, one intelligence official
speculated, as opposed to transition members participating directly in the communications.

It's also possible the information now cited by Nunes came from emails –- not phone calls –- intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.

"We don't know exactly how it was picked up," Nunes acknowledged yesterday.

U.S. officials who spoke with ABC News said they assume the reports obtained by Nunes are summaries or other accounts of communications collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act.

That section allows the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the phone calls and emails of foreigners located overseas.

While foreigners are targeted by such surveillance, "it's actually unavoidable" that Americans will be caught up in it too, board member Rachel Brand, now nominated to be the number-three at the
Justice Department under President Trump, said at a 2014 hearing of the government's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

In fact, "Congress knew full well when it passed Section 702 that incidental collection of communications of U.S. persons would occur when they're in communication with valid foreign targets,"
Robert Litt, then the Director of National Intelligence's top lawyer, told the board.

"And it's important to note," Litt continued, "that this kind of incidental collection occurs all the time in other contexts. ... When we seize someone's computer, we may find communications with
persons who are not targets."

At his press conference yesterday, Nunes expressed concern that details about the Trump transition members "with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in
intelligence community reporting," and at least some of those people were specifically identified –- or "unmasked" – in intelligence community documents.

But some of the government’s top intelligence officials, speaking at that March 2014 hearing, insisted such information about Americans is closely held and only distributed more widely when
necessary.

"You can only disseminate information about a U.S. person if it is foreign intelligence, or necessary to understand foreign intelligence, or is evidence of a crime" that should be turned over to
the FBI, according to Brad Wiegmann, who’s still a top attorney in the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

If it’s "key" for a foreign government to understand that 'Joe Smith' is a threat – that he's a "malicious cyber hacker" for example – "and it was key to know the information, then you might pass
Joe Smith's name," Wiegmann said. "If it was incidentally in the communication but was not pertinent to the information you're trying to convey, then that would be deleted. It would just say ‘U.S.
person.’ It would be blocked out."

So was the U.S. intelligence community spying on the Trump transition team?

"It all depends on one's definition of spying," Nunes said yesterday.

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Thursday
Mar232017

Why 'essential benefits' are sticking point in Obamacare overhaul

Image Source Pink/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Republicans are scrambling on Capitol Hill to rewrite their health care bill ahead of an anticipated vote on the measure, which could come as early as Friday morning after it was
postponed on Thursday.

Some Conservatives want -– among other things –- language included in the law to scrap "Essential Health Care Benefits," a key provision in the Affordable Care Act, which mandated that all
insurance plans sold on the individual marketplaces had to cover “essential” items, including:

- Ambulatory patient services

- Emergency services

- Hospitalization

- Pregnancy, maternity and newborn care

- Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment

- Prescription drugs

- Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)

- Laboratory services

- Preventative and wellness services and chronic disease management

- Pediatric services, including oral and vision care

Free-market conservatives have long argued that these regulations are unfair to consumers and raise premiums. Their position is that insurance recipients -- like a young, healthy male -- shouldn't
have to pay for a plan that includes coverage they don't need, like maternity care, particularly if it increases the cost of their plan.

“It's this potpourri of mandated benefits that everyone has to have. We've lost consumer choice,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters during his briefing on Thursday. “The idea
is to instill choice back into the market.”

Spicer suggested that the White House was open to cutting these benefits, but said that everything was still up for negotiation.

Democrats –- and some Republicans –- argue that insurance economics work differently. They say insurance premiums often fall when more people buy into a pool, not just those who are sick or
anticipating the need for coverage for a life event, like pregnancy. In their scenario, everyone chips in, and while only some people need services, everyone is covered just in case.

Before the ACA, consumers sometimes unintentionally bought so-called “junk plans” that did not provide basic benefits. Because those buying coverage on their own have little-to-no leverage, they
can be susceptible to gimmicks or ploys from big carriers. Democrats argued these were important consumer protection regulations and would help drive down costs of better plans.

Democrats argue that a change to mandated benefits would not fly under Senate rules, which only permit budget-related tweaks for the measure to pass with 51 votes, as Republicans have been trying
to do with this “repeal and replace” measure.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters she was very proud that her party included these benefits in the law they passed under president Obama.

“I'll just say that [cutting] essential health benefits means Republicans are making being a woman a preexisting condition again. Stripping guaranteed maternity care is a pregnancy tax pure and
simple. Stripping guaranteed maternity care is a pregnancy tax pure and simple. Worsening the addiction epidemic and making it harder to access mental health care, making it more expensive to be
sick in America,” she said.

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Thursday
Mar232017

Revised GOP health bill still leaves 24M more uninsured after decade, CBO says

wutwhanfoto/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the GOP’s health care bill says that the revised version would have similar effects on health insurance coverage and
premiums, and a smaller effect on reducing the federal deficit than initially predicted.

The CBO’s initial estimate, released last Monday, projected that 14 million people more people would be uninsured next year than would be under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. That number
was estimated to rise to 24 million by 2026. The new report states of the revised version that "estimates differ by no more than half a million people in any category in any year over the next
decade."

Republican supporters of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) were quick to focus on the CBO's calculation that the law would eventually reduce the deficit by $337 billion over the next decade in
the initial version of the bill. However, that number has now been reduced by $186 billion to $151 billion in deficit reduction over the 2017-2026 period in the revised version.

The new report is adjusted for the changes House Republicans made to the AHCA bill late Monday night.

The House vote on the AHCA, originally scheduled for Thursday, has been delayed and is expected to take place Friday morning.

The White House is "confident" that the bill will pass, according to deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

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Thursday
Mar232017

Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter under investigation for potential campaign finance violations

Joe Raedle/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice is investigating Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., for potentially violating campaign finance laws by using tens of thousands in those funds for personal use,
according to the House Committee on Ethics.

In a statement released Wednesday, Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., and Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the chairwoman and ranking member of the committee, explained that they are deferring their investigation at the request of the DOJ. Hunter has denied any intentional wrongdoing.

According to a House ethics report, Hunter allegedly "may have converted tens of thousands of dollars of campaign funds from his congressional campaign committee to personal use to pay for family
travel, flights, utilities, healthcare, school uniforms and tuition, jewelry, groceries, and other goods, services and expenses."

Among the campaign expenses that may have raised Ethics Committee eyebrows -- a $600 charge to campaign credit card to buy an airline ticket to transport the family's pet rabbit, as reported by the
San Diego Tribune in January.

CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed a complaint about Hunter's expenses with the Congressional Ethics office in April and also requested an audit by the Federal
Election Commission.

The group pointed to payments that included a purchase for hundreds of dollars at a jewelry store in Florence, Italy billed as "food/beverages."

"This is the most egregious Congressional spending scandal since Aaron Schock,” CREW said in a statement. Schock, a Republican congressman from Illinois who resigned, was indicted last year for
wire fraud and other charges, which his lawyer called "made-up allegations," according to the New York Times. Schock has not yet been tried in court.

The attorneys for Hunter, Elliot S. Berke and Gregory A. Vega, said in a statement that Hunter and his wife learned about his campaign committee's expenditures issues last year and "out of an
abundance of caution" repaid the committee "approximately $60,000."

"Congressman Hunter intends to cooperate fully with the government on this investigation, and maintains that to the extent any mistakes were made they were strictly inadvertent and unintentional,"
Hunter's attorneys said in a statement.

While the committee's report on Hunter does not indicate any violation of the law, the House Ethics Committee is strict on how members can use campaign money, specifically saying "members have no
discretion whatsoever to convert campaign funds to personal use."

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Thursday
Mar232017

Thursday night's vote on health care a pivotal moment for GOP

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The fate of House Republicans' health care plan remains up in the air as it heads for a vote in the House later Thursday, the timing of which has yet to be announced.

Despite Wednesday’s late-night negotiations and personal pitches from President Trump, the list of "no" votes against the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is growing.

At least 30 Republicans have said they will oppose the bill in its current form, according to ABC News’ latest whip count, meaning Republicans could fall at least nine votes short. The GOP needs 216 votes for a simple majority to pass the bill in the House.

House Republicans planned to hold a full conference meeting sometime Thursday as a final huddle before Thursday night's crucial vote. And Trump will make his last-minute sales pitch to conservative House Freedom Caucus members at the White House.

As the clock ticks, the House still awaits the Congressional Budget Office's new score for the bill, evaluating its budgetary effect, which is expected at some point before the House vote.

A series of meetings on Capitol Hill about the plan went late into the evening, but no deal was reached. The House Freedom Caucus met to discuss potential alterations to the bill’s text and also reached no agreement.

But as House Freedom Caucus members inch closer to achieving changes that could sway them to support the bill, the House risks losing moderates’ votes.

Nearly two dozen moderate lawmakers burned the midnight oil, gathering in House Speaker Paul Ryan's office to hash out the plan. After nearly two hours, most of those lawmakers sneaked out of his office, avoiding the media.

One prominent moderate, Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., the leader of the moderate Tuesday Group, released a statement announcing his opposition to the bill after attending that meeting. Earlier Wednesday, a handful of moderates had already said they would not support the measure.

In a sign of the chaos on Capitol Hill Thursday, Republican leaders abruptly canceled a 9 a.m. conference meeting, catching some members by surprise.

"My party intends to bring forth an agreed-to bill that we will be able to show to the American people, and we will own it," House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, said on the House floor Thursday morning as the chamber debated the procedural rule to bring a bill to the floor later Thursday.

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Thursday
Mar232017

House intel chair apologizes for briefing White House before ranking member

US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., apologized to the full House Intelligence Committee Thursday for failing to inform the committee's Democratic ranking member of his findings -- that the intelligence community "incidentally collected" surveillance of Trump's transition team and possibly the president himself -- before he briefed the White House and held a press conference Wednesday.

"I am not confident that he can run this committee," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who informed reporters that Nunes had apologized in a closed door meeting. A second Democratic member Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, corroborated the story.

Nunes has refused to share the source of his information with the committee. Speier said she believes Nunes obtained it "either from the White House or possibly by someone associated with the White House."

Earlier Thursday, Nunes told reporters that his decision not to alert ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., before talking to the media was his "judgment call."

"I mean, there was a lot going on yesterday and it was a judgment call on my part ... at the end of the day, sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the wrong one, but you've got to stick by the decisions you make," Nunes said.

Nunes' decision to brief the White House comes during the House intelligence committee's investigation into Russia's meddling in the U.S. election and any alleged connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The committee is also investigating potential leaks by the intelligence community.

During his press conference Wednesday, Nunes stressed that the communications "incidentally collected" had nothing to do with Russia. He also said the surveillance was legally collected under a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant.

Schiff said Thursday he was "blindsided but mostly just mystified" by Nunes' actions Wednesday.

"He's having difficulty separating his role as a surrogate for the administration, with his role as a committee chairman that has to do a very important -- arguably pivotally important investigation," Schiff said in an interview on ABC's The View Thursday. "He can't do both roles. It compromises the work we're doing."

Schiff declined to answer whether Nunes apologized to him and the other committee members, only adding that "we shared our concerns with the chair and the majority about what happened yesterday and how the investigation is being conducted."

Schiff said he and his members still have not seen the report Nunes has read.

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