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Wednesday
Mar222017

Trump warns Republicans: Don't be 'fools' on health care vote

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump delivered a warning to House Republicans Tuesday: don't be "fools" and kill the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

For roughly 40 minutes, the president huddled with the Republican conference behind closed doors, delivering what his aides described as a final sales pitch ahead of Thursday's expected House floor vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

Multiple members in the room told ABC News the president said they will lose seats in the 2018 midterm elections if they don't follow through and pass the AHCA, a sentiment repeated later Tuesday by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

"I think there's going to be a price to be paid," Spicer said. “It will be with their own voters. They'll have to go back and explain why they made a commitment to them and then didn't follow through."

One source added that the president said if Republicans don't stick together they're "fools." The message, seen by some participants as meant in jest rather than as a threat, did signal that the president supports Speaker Paul Ryan's view that the Thursday vote is a defining moment for the party.

"We had a great meeting and I think we’re going to get a winner vote," Trump told reporters as he left the meeting. "It was a great meeting, we have terrific people and they want a tremendous healthcare plan -- and that’s what we have. And there are going to be adjustments, but I think we’ll get the vote on Thursday."

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said that the president was there "to do what he does best and that is to close the deal."

"He is all-in and we are all-in to end this Obamacare nightmare," said Ryan.

Many Republicans emerged from the session and described to ABC News that Trump's visit was pulling at their heartstrings.

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., said that it is powerful when the president visits Capitol Hill and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said the meeting may not have changed minds but it did change hearts.

Members said that one target of Trump's attention was Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C. Meadows has been among those in most ardent opposition to the Trump and Ryan-backed bill. The president reportedly asked Meadows to stand and joked about whether or not he'd have to "come after him," one member said, if Meadows did not back the bill.

The president reportedly asked other individuals members who had recently been swayed to back the bill to stand and be recognized. Lawmakers leaving the room said the president made wink-and-nod comments about how, where and for whom he may choose to campaign down the road depending on their votes.

The president's confidence in his ability to get the bill passed was in full view even before the meeting, as he arrived on Capitol Hill. Asked by ABC News if he can get the votes, the president paused and said "I think so" and gave a thumbs up when pressed again on the bill's passage.

Later this afternoon, Trump will meet with the "Tuesday Group" of moderate Republicans at the White House.


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Tuesday
Mar212017

Uncommitted Republicans put Obamacare overhaul in jeopardy

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- At least 22 Republicans in the U.S. House oppose or remain undecided on the American Health Care Act, enough to jeopardize the fate of the sweeping bill when it is slated to come for a vote on Thursday evening, according to an ABC News count.

House GOP leaders need 216 votes to pass the bill, which allows for 21 Republican "no" votes, assuming every Democratic member in the chamber also votes "no." Still, the count remains fluid as the lobbying efforts on both sides continue.

Several conservative members of the Republican caucus say the bill, aimed at repealing and replacing Obamacare, doesn't go far enough. GOP leaders made tweaks to the bill today in order to try to bring those members on board.

"No" votes from the 22 Republicans would kill the bill in the House. Regardless, the fate of the bill in the Senate, where only three Republican defections would kill the bill, is uncertain.

The White House says President Trump is enthusiastic about the bill and is all-in in the efforts to get it passed. He has been personally and intensively engaged over the past few weeks, warning Republican lawmakers today in a meeting not to be "fools" and kill the legislation, according to some attendees.

"We had a great meeting and I think we’re going to get a winner vote," Trump told reporters after leaving the meeting. "It was a great meeting, we have terrific people and they want a tremendous healthcare plan -- and that’s what we have. And there are going to be adjustments, but I think we’ll get the vote on Thursday."

Over the next 48 hours, Trump is expected to keep working the phones and meeting face-to-face with lawmakers at the White House. Tomorrow he will host another gathering of members to pitch the bill, following his meeting with the GOP conference today.

There are 430 sitting members in the U.S. House. Five seats are currently vacant.

Nonpartisan Congressional budget officials say the bill will result in 24 million more uninsured people over the next 10 years. It will also save $337 billion from federal deficits in the same time span and lower premiums by 10 percent after a slight increase.

An updated report is expected on Tuesday.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Supreme Court nominee seeks distance from Trump administration, says attacks on federal judges 'disheartening'

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) – Judge Neil Gorsuch sought to distance himself from the Trump administration and hit the president over comments made on the campaign trail during testimony before members of Congress on his second day of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

Gorsuch hit President Donald Trump over his remarks about federal judges, including a Mexican-American federal judge whom he called a "so-called judge" because of his involvement with a Trump lawsuit.

"When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening. I find that demoralizing because I know the truth," Gorsuch said.

When Gorsuch was asked if "anyone" included Trump himself, Gorsuch responded, "Anyone is anyone."

Gorsuch also refused to say whether he'd support or undermine a travel ban barring citizens from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

"I'm not going to say anything here that would give anybody any idea how I would rule in any case that could come before the Supreme Court or my court of the 10th Circuit," Gorsuch said in reference to the travel ban. "It would be grossly improper of a judge to do that."

But Gorsuch stressed to Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that Trump's authority on national security matters is limited.

"Nobody is above the law in this country and that includes the president of the United States," Gorsuch said, rejecting the idea that he is a surrogate for Trump or a particular interest group.

Gorsuch was quizzed for hours by the 20-member committee about his career as a federal judge, his understanding of precedent in the law as it applies to landmark Supreme Court cases and whether or not he could be impartial to the executive branch.

At one point, Gorsuch was forced to deny that he made any promises to Trump before accepting the nomination to be the next Supreme Court justice in an effort to assure senators that he is not beholden to the president.

“I have offered no promises on how I’d rule on any case to anyone and I don’t think it’d be appropriate for a judge to do so," Gorsuch said.

"You should be reassured, no one in the process from the time I was contacted to the time I was nominated, no one asked me for any commitments in any kind of case," Gorsuch added in response to further questions from committee chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Gorsuch said he interpreted judicial independence as a no-brainer.

"There’s no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge. We just have judges in this country," he said.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, repeatedly asked Gorsuch if he knew who was behind a reported $10 million dark money political ad campaign working in his favor. Dark money refers to funds given to organizations that do not have to be disclosed publicly.

"I know there's a lot of money being spent as I understand it by both sides," Gorsuch quipped.

Whitehouse pressed again, "Do you know who is spending the money?"

“You’d have to ask them,” Gorsuch said.

Whitehouse fired back: “I can’t because I don’t know who they are. It is just a front group.”

Republicans later came to his defense and gave Gorsuch another opportunity to dismiss the idea that organizations with dark money have his support.

“Nobody speaks for me,” Gorsuch said. “Nobody. I speak for me. I am a judge. I don’t have spokesmen. I speak for myself.”

In an exchange with Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Gorsuch addressed the controversy surrounding alleged comments he made last year about women abusing maternity leave for benefits.

Gorsuch clarified that he believed asking a prospective hire if she was planning to have a baby would be an "inappropriate question" and that comments he made during a classroom discussion were taken out of context.

"We talk about the pros and the cons in this dialogue that they can think through for themselves how they might answer that very difficult question," Gorsuch said about his conversations with students in his class at the University of Colorado.

He continued, "I ask it of everybody. How many of you have had questions like this asked of you in the employment environment? An inappropriate question about your family planning. I am shocked every year, senator, how many young women raise their hand. It's disturbing to me."

Durbin also asked Gorsuch about a case involving a truck driver who believed he was wrongly fired. The driver had radioed for help after the brakes on his trailer froze and was told to wait for a repair truck to arrive. Hours later, the truck driver, numb and disorientated from sitting in the unheated truck for hours in freezing temperatures, decided to unhook the trailer from the truck so he could seek assistance.

The truck driver was eventually fired for breaking protocol but a judge later concluded that his firing violated whistleblower provisions. As an appeals court judge, Gorsuch was the sole dissenter in the case and sided with the trucker's employer.

"Senator, all I can tell you is my job is to apply the job you write. The law as written said he would be protected if he refused to operate, and I think by any plain understanding, he operated the vehicle. If congress wishes to revise the law, I wrote this -- I wrote -- I said it was an unkind decision. I said it may have been a wrong decision, a bad decision, but my job is not to write the law," Gorsuch said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee's ranking member, expressed her concern for women's rights by recalling Trump's campaign promise to overturn Roe v. Wade and the right to an abortion.

"It is a precedent in the United States Supreme Court," Gorsuch replied. "It has been reaffirmed many times."

Feinstein asked about wiretapping -- Gorsuch said he believed the president does not have the authority to intercept communications -- and she inquired about previous cases he had ruled on, including on workers' rights.

"How do we have confidence in you that you won't just be for the big corporations, that you will be for the little man?" Feinstein asked.

"The bottom line is that I'd like to convey to you from the bottom of my heart is that I'm a fair judge," Gorsuch responded. "I can't guarantee you more than that, but I can promise you absolutely nothing less."

Democrats have promised to push back on Trump's nominee in light of the Republicans' refusal to grant President Obama's nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, his own confirmation hearings last year.

"Do you think he was treated fairly by this committee? Yes or no," asked Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

"As I explained to you before, I can't get involved in politics," Gorsuch replied.

On Monday, after listening to more than three hours of prepared opening statements and remarks by the committee, Gorsuch testified on a message of unity and respect for the rule of law while paying homage to his mentors including the late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom he could replace on the bench.

Gorsuch, 49, is a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2006 and confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote. He clerked for Judge David B. Sentelle on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and then for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. He attended Harvard Law and has a Ph.D. from Oxford, where he was a Marshall scholar.

Calling the judgeship a "lonely and hard job," Gorsuch hailed his own ability to remain neutral and independent in the face of an executive branch that could press its own agenda.

"Putting on a robe reminds us that it's time to lose our egos and open our minds," Gorsuch said.

Republicans heaped praise on Gorsuch for his "exceptional" record.

"Fortunately for every American, we have before us today a nominee whose body of professional work is defined by an unfailing commitment to these principles. His grasp on the separation of powers — including judicial independence — enlivens his body of work," Grassley said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-SC), said in his remarks, "Donald Trump deserves to be congratulated for listening to a lot of people and coming up with what I think is the best choice available in terms of nominating someone who will keep the conservative philosophy alive and well in the court."

"We're here today under very unusual circumstances," Feinstein said, in reference to Garland.

"I just want to say I'm deeply disappointed that it's under these circumstances that we begin our hearing," she added.

Feinstein and other Democrats addressed issues of relevance to most Democrats in their prepared remarks -- reproductive rights, voting rights, campaign finance, the environment and gun control, while stressing the role of the Supreme Court in upholding landmark decisions and protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans, including women, people of color, other minorities and the poor.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, (D-Hawaii), told Gorsuch that she had "not seen that the rights of minorities are a priority for you. In fact, a pattern jumps out at me. You rarely seem to find in favor of the little guy."

She continued, "The Supreme Court shapes our society ... Will America be a land of exclusivity for the few or the land of opportunity for the many? Will we be a compassionate and tolerant America that embraced my mother, my brothers and me? ... You consistently choose corporations and powerful interests over people."

When it comes to religious liberties and access to contraception, Gorsuch is a defender of the First Amendment's free exercise clause, which reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

He sided with Christian employers and religious organizations in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases, in which the plaintiffs argued for an exemption from the contraception mandate in Obama's signature health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, citing their religious beliefs.

In the Hobby Lobby case, Gorsuch wrote, "The ACA's mandate requires them to violate their religious faith by forcing them to lend an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct their religion teaches to be gravely wrong."

When it comes to criminal procedure, he dissented in the United States v. Carlos case, arguing that police officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they entered a home that had a "no trespassing" sign posted.

In a press conference last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York cautioned that Gorsuch has important questions to answer about some of his opinions, most notably "his decisions he wrote that favored the powerful over the powerless."

Schumer last week suggested that he would not support the confirmation of Gorsuch and urged his Senate Democratic colleagues to do the same.

Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society told ABC News he is confident that "Gorsuch will be confirmed."

The hearings are expected to conclude by the end of the week. Grassley announced he will call for a vote on Gorsuch's nomination on April 3.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Key moments from SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearing

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee to be the next U.S. Supreme Court justice, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, answering questions about the president's travel ban, Roe v. Wade and other hot button issues.

Here are some of the key takeaways from today's hearing.

Gorsuch denies being a Trump surrogate and won't comment on Trump's travel ban

Gorsuch refused to say whether he'd support or undermine a travel ban barring citizens from six Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States as he testified before members of Congress on his second day of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

"I'm not going to say anything here that would give anybody any idea how I would rule in any case that could come before the Supreme Court or my court of the 10th Circuit," Gorsuch said. "It would be grossly improper of a judge to do that."

But Gorsuch stressed to the 20-member Senate Judiciary Committee that Trump's authority on national security matters is limited.

"Nobody is above the law in this country and that includes the president of the United States," Gorsuch said, rejecting the idea that he is a surrogate for Trump or a particular interest group.

Gorsuch says he didn't promise anything to Trump before accepting the Supreme Court nomination

Gorsuch denied that he made any promises to Trump before accepting the nomination to be the next Supreme Court justice in an effort to assure senators that he is not beholden to the president.

“I have offered no promises on how I’d rule on any case to anyone and I don’t think it’d be appropriate for a judge to do so," Gorsuch said.

"You should be reassured, no one in the process -- from the time I was contacted to the time I was nominated -- no one asked me for any commitments in any kind of case," Gorsuch added in response to further questions from committee chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Gorsuch said judicial independence was a no-brainer.

"There’s no such thing as a Republican judge or a Democratic judge. We just have judges in this country," he said.

Gorsuch on whether he would overturn Roe v. Wade

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee's ranking member, expressed her concern for women's rights by recalling Trump's campaign promise to overturn the landmark law protecting a woman's right to an abortion.

"It is a precedent in the United States Supreme Court," Gorsuch replied. "It has been reaffirmed many times."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., later asked, "Did [Trump] ever ask you to overrule Roe v. Wade?"

"No," Gorsuch said. "Senator, I would have walked out the door. It's not what judges do. They don't do it at that end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and they shouldn't do it at this end either, respectfully."

Gorsuch and the $10 million political ad campaign

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, repeatedly asked Gorsuch if he knew who was behind a reported $10 million dark money political ad campaign working in his favor.

Dark money refers to funds given to organizations that do not have to be disclosed publicly.

"I know there's a lot of money being spent as I understand it by both sides," Gorsuch quipped.

Whitehouse pressed again, "Do you know who is spending the money?"

“You’d have to ask them,” Gorsuch said.

Whitehouse fired back: “I can’t because I don’t know who they are. It is just a front group.”

Republicans later came to his defense and gave Gorsuch another opportunity to dismiss the idea that organizations with dark money have his support.

“Nobody speaks for me,” Gorsuch said. “Nobody. I speak for me. I am a judge. I don’t have spokesmen. I speak for myself.”

Gorsuch addresses previous controversial rulings and alleged comments

In an exchange with Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Gorsuch addressed the controversy surrounding alleged comments he made last year about women abusing maternity leave for benefits.

Gorsuch clarified that he believed asking a prospective hire if she was planning to have a baby would be an "inappropriate question" and that comments he made during a classroom discussion were taken out of context.

"We talk about the pros and the cons in this dialogue that they can think through for themselves how they might answer that very difficult question," Gorsuch said about his conversations with students in his class at the University of Colorado.

He continued, "I ask it of everybody. How many of you have had questions like this asked of you in the employment environment? An inappropriate question about your family planning. I am shocked every year, senator, how many young women raise their hand. It's disturbing to me."

Durbin also asked Gorsuch about a case involving a truck driver who believed he was wrongly fired. The driver had radioed for help after the brakes on his trailer froze and was told to wait for a repair truck to arrive. Hours later, the truck driver, numb and disorientated from sitting in the unheated truck for hours in freezing temperatures, decided to unhook the trailer from the truck so he could seek assistance.

The truck driver was eventually fired for breaking protocol but a judge later concluded that his firing violated whistleblower provisions. As an appeals court judge, Gorsuch was the sole dissenter in the case, siding with the trucker's employer.

"Senator, all I can tell you is my job is to apply the job you write. The law as written said he would be protected if he refused to operate, and I think by any plain understanding, he operated the vehicle. If congress wishes to revise the law, I wrote this -- I wrote -- I said it was an unkind decision. I said it may have been a wrong decision, a bad decision, but my job is not to write the law," Gorsuch said.

Gorsuch was asked about the case later by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who seemed perplexed by Gorsuch's dissent.

"It is absurd to say this company is in its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or causing other people to die possibly by driving an unsafe vehicle," Franken said.

"That's absurd. Now, I had a career in identifying absurdity," Franken said. "And I know it when I see it. And it makes me -- you know, it makes me question your judgment."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

Republicans who vote against health care bill could 'pay a price,' Spicer warns

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- White House press secretary Sean Spicer warned Republicans who oppose the proposed health care bill to expect to “pay a price at home” in the event the bill fails.

"I think there's going to be a price to be paid,” Spicer said to ABC News' Jon Karl at today's White House press briefing.

"It will be with their own voters. They'll have to go back and explain why they made a commitment to them and then didn't follow through," Spicer said.

Asked if the president would consider campaigning against those who oppose the American Health Care Act, Spicer didn’t rule it out.

"Let's get through the vote," Spicer said. "One of the things that we made clear this morning was that he was going to make sure the people who did support this, he would be out there supporting them."

The House is scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday.

Earlier today, President Trump met with House Republicans to rally support for the bill.

During the meeting, Trump appeared to make a similar veiled threat to lawmakers.

"The president was really clear. He laid it all on the lines for everybody. We made a promise ... if we keep our promise, people will reward us. If we don't keep our promise, it will be hard to manage this," House Speaker Paul Ryan said this morning.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

How first daughter Ivanka Trump's role at the White House has grown

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump has been by her father's side since he took office, joining him on a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture and a tour of the Boeing plant in South Carolina, among other trips.

But with Monday's announcement that she’ll have her own seat in the White House -- as she is getting an office in the West Wing, as well as other upgrades -- her role as first daughter is heading into unprecedented territory.

She has even acknowledged as much, saying in a statement that “while there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president, I will voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees.”

The news that Ivanka Trump, 35, is being given a West Wing office, in addition to increased security clearance and a government-issued communications device, was met with shock by some experts.

“There really is no precedent for this. I do not have any knowledge of a similar arrangement of an individual with no formal title with an office and clearance. But like many things in the administration they are breaking new ground,” said Anita McBride, a former assistant to President George W. Bush and chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush.

Kathleen Clark, an ethics expert and professor at Washington University, described the arrangement as “outrageous.”

“This is extremely troubling because the White House seems to be pretending that it can treat somebody as a government employee -- give them an office and responsibilities -- and not be bound by government ethics standards,” Clark said.

“They assert that she will voluntarily comply with government ethics standards, that means they think she doesn’t have to comply,” she continued.

Clark described the move as “skillful” erosion of government ethics standards that could possibly pave the way for potential future arrangements by which other informal advisers can use government access and inside information to enrich themselves without the consequences that would apply to government employees.

“It’s brilliant on their part because I think the public may perceive this as not a big deal because her husband has already been appointed,” Clark said. “This is miles away from the Jared Kushner arrangement because he’s bound by the ethics rules and he can be held accountable.”

While the latest announcement is a sign of Ivanka Trump's growing involvement in the administration, she is no stranger to the White House. Ivanka Trump has been present for family events -- like the various inauguration celebrations -- as well as closed-door meetings and sit-downs with heads of state.

In February, she met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House, where she was part of a roundtable discussion about female business entrepreneurs, and also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the White House last week, Ivanka Trump was seated right beside her.

Ivanka Trump’s involvement in various business roundtable discussions could be attributed to her business background at her eponymous fashion label [update where she stands on that right now] and as part of her father’s real estate empire, but she has also had a say in other causes that she is passionate about. When President Trump held a listening session about domestic and international human trafficking on Feb. 23, he started his remarks by thanking Ivanka Trump and then-senior counselor for economic initiatives Dina Powell “for working so hard to set this up.”

“As far as her impact thus far, she has had time to observe and learn the way the White House works and has identified where she can make the most difference, and use her convening authority and have influence on issues that not only she cares about, but that she has encouraged her father to focus on as well,” McBride told ABC News.

“[President Trump] clearly wants her to be more involved in those areas and that sends a signal to the administration that the president cares about it too-- which is the criteria most important to any impact and success she will have as the administration moves forward.”

One thing that the latest announcement excluded is a formal title. In spite of her involvement in meetings and events to date, she has had no formal title in the administration, unlike her husband Kushner, who is a senior adviser to the president.

“The more formal [her role] is, the less powerful it is,” said ABC News political commentator Cokie Roberts. “She's much more powerful as an adviser without a portfolio where she can credibly say 'I’m just there to be my dad’s daughter and give him advice.'”

Roberts, who has written multiple books about the role of women in the development of the United States and in previous administrations, said that Ivanka Trump isn’t the first first daughter to play a role in her father's administration, but her role may be the largest yet. Roberts cited President James Monroe’s daughter Eliza Monroe Hay as a first daughter who had a public role in her father’s administration, which occurred largely as a result of her mother’s frail health.

“She was really the first lady and she totally irritated everyone in town,” Roberts said of Eliza Monroe Hay.

Beyond that, there have also been first ladies who played advisory roles for their husbands during their administrations, “but I can’t think of any other time that a White House daughter did this.”

“There have been first daughters who have played East Wing roles,” Roberts said, referencing the area of the White House generally reserved for the offices of the first lady. “She’s playing a West Wing role.”

Perhaps most concerning of all is the lack of a formal title, Roberts added. "She is wise to say she will abide by government rules," she said of Ivanka Trump. "But there's no real way of checking."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar212017

House Republicans introduce changes to health care legislation

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — House Republicans introduced a number of changes to their controversial health care legislation — which has sparked criticism from both conservatives and liberals.

The American Health Care Act, designed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature legislation, featured a series of tax credits and was designed to give access to health care.

But an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office indicated that some 24 million more people would be uninsured in a decade than under the current law.

"We feel good about where we are, and are continuing to make really strong progress in our discussions with members," one senior GOP aide said. "We're doing the work to have a good vote on final passage this week."

According to GOP leadership, the amendment accelerates the repeal of Obamacare taxes, lowering the threshold for deducting medical expenses from taxes and only allowing federal tax credits to be used for health plans that do not cover abortions.

It would also prevent new states from opting in to the expansion of Medicaid and increases funding for the disabled and elderly, the GOP leadership said.

"With this amendment, we accelerate tax relief, give states additional options to spend health care dollars how they choose, strengthen what were already substantial pro-life protections, and ensure there are necessary resources to help older Americans and the disabled," said House Speaker Paul Ryan.

"With the president’s leadership and support for this historic legislation, we are now one step closer to keeping our promise to the American people and ending the Obamacare nightmare."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar202017

Trump sidesteps Russia inquiry at Kentucky rally

ABC News.(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers testified before the House Intelligence Committee Monday about an issue long dismissed by President Donald Trump as a “ruse” and “fake news” concocted by his political adversaries: Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and alleged connections between Trump associates and the country.

The president -- who prides himself on counterpunching -- and his aides have hit back hard, calling for the discussion to instead focus on what they call illegal leaks of classified information, as well as an unsubstantiated insistence that Trump was surveyed by order from the previous administration.

But hours after Comey and Rogers confirmed the existence of an investigation into Russian interference in the election, the topic went completely unmentioned during Trump's speech at a campaign-style rally in Kentucky.

The typically-combative Trump did not mention Russia or Comey, who directly refuted the president's allegation that he was "wiretapped" by former President Barack Obama during last year's campaign, as a part of his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee earlier in the day.

The audience at the Kentucky Exposition Center's Freedom Hall in Louisville was instead treated to remarks bearing a resemblance to Trump's campaign stump speeches. For just over 40 minutes, the president touched on staples of his agenda, including the effort to secure the nation's southern border, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and prevent instances of terrorism.

Trump also commented upon the confirmation hearing for his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch which began Monday with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Last week at a similar event in Nashville, Tennessee, Trump chose to address the news of the day head-on when he launched into a searing criticism of a federal judge's ruling in Hawaii to issue a temporary restraining order on his revised travel ban, calling the move an "an unprecedented judicial overreach."

The administration's response to Monday's intelligence committee hearing remained limited to White House Secretary Sean Spicer's press briefing.

"Senior Obama intelligence officials have gone on record to confirm there is no evidence of a Trump-Russia collusion," said Spicer, who also noted that Trump would not withdraw his wiretap accusation.

Following the event in Nashville last week, Trump said he planned to continue to hold rallies with supporters throughout the country every two weeks. The events are paid for by Trump's campaign committee.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar202017

Electronics restricted on flights from certain Middle Eastern airports

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Passengers flying to the United States from certain airports in the Middle East and Africa will soon be banned from carrying electronic devices on board, except cell phones and medical devices, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The directive from the U.S. government is expected to be announced Tuesday.

The sources tell ABC News that the move is just a precaution, but is based on new intelligence collected by authorities. Last year, a suicide bomber carried a bomb, believed to be concealed in a laptop, on to a flight out of Somalia.

Nine airlines from 10 airports in eight countries will be affected by the ban, according to another source.

Earlier Monday, in a now deleted tweet and Facebook post, Royal Jordanian Airlines informed passengers that starting Tuesday, passengers would no longer be allowed to carry-on electronic devices, except cell phones and medical devices, due to a directive from the U.S. government.

The ban affects the carrier's New York, Chicago, Detroit and Montreal flights, according to the message.

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told ABC News, "We have no comment on potential security precautions, but will provide any update as appropriate."

The Amman-based airline's message said electronics such as laptops, tablets, cameras, DVD cameras and electronic games should be transported in checked baggage only.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar202017

Ivanka Trump to receive White House office, security clearance

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump  will receive an office in the West Wing of the White House and a security clearance as she serves, informally, as an adviser to her father, ABC News has confirmed.

Ivanka Trump will not be considered a federal employee and will not draw a salary, but will receive a government-issued communications device, in addition to her office, "to protect government records and any information to which she may have access," according to senior White House officials and sources close to her. Her clearance will allow her to receive classified information.

The 35-year-old Trump is her father's second child. She worked as an executive vice president for the Trump Organization and ran an eponymous fashion brand prior to her father's election in November. During the transition, she resigned from her position with the brand and restructured her participation in the family business.

Officials noted that she will "follow the same ethics restrictions that apply to government employees."

During the presidential campaign, Ivanka Trump frequently spoke on her father's behalf, taking special interest in women's issues. She introduced her father when he accepted the GOP's nomination for president on the final night of the Republican National Convention in July.

In February, Ivanka Trump's brand made news when it was promoted by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway during a television interview from the White House. Ivanka Trump has not commented on the incident and press secretary Sean Spicer reported that Conway was "counseled" on her actions.

Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner, already works as a senior adviser to the president. In January, he too said he would not take a salary for his work at the White House.

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