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Latest from Jamie Dupree

    GOP leaders in the U.S. Senate seem ready to push ahead with a showdown procedural vote on a bill to overhaul the Obama health law, even without any assurance that they have enough votes to simply start debate, and without a final decision on what changes Senate Republicans might offer to a health care bill narrowly approved by the House in early May. While most of the attention this week will be on the machinations involving health care legislation in the Senate, the House will take the first steps on spending bills for next year’s budget, and vote on a revised plan for new sanctions against Russia, as the House gets ready to head home for an extended summer break. Here’s the latest from Capitol Hill: 1. Senate GOP bill on health care still in limbo. GOP leaders are still vowing to press ahead this week on a procedural vote that would begin debate on a House-passed bill to overhaul the Obama health law, but it’s not clear that Republicans have enough votes to take that first step. The absence of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) – diagnosed last week with brain cancer – is a big deal, since the White House needs every vote possible. Some still wonder if Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) might be convinced to at least vote to start debate – though he has made clear he is against the options that have been floated so far by top Republicans on health care legislation. As for Democrats, they’re still worried about a late rush to victory by the GOP. We saw what happened in the House of Representatives. They passed a bill after everyone thought it was dead. We can’t let that happen again. — Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) July 23, 2017 2. Senate Parliamentarian knocks some holes in GOP plan. Because Republicans chose to use the expedited procedure known as budget reconciliation, the Senate rules play a much larger than normal role, and that has resulted in problems for a series of provisions in the bill. On Friday, the Parliamentarian said a dozen pieces of the Senate bill could be subjected to parliamentary points of order, which could only be overridden by a 60 vote super majority, something the GOP does not have. That includes provisions designed to block any federal dollars from going through the Medicaid program to Planned Parenthood. And the bill may have more holes poked in it on Monday, when the Parliamentarian goes over four other provisions. 3. Trump keeps pressing GOP on health care. While President Trump again pushed GOP Senators over the weekend to act on health care, his call for action doesn’t seem to be making Republicans in the Congress tremble at the thought of being the target of his ire – and for now, the votes aren’t there to get this Senate health care bill over the finish line. As I type this, it’s not even clear what the GOP might be voting on in the Senate as early as this week – if enough Senators decide to begin debate on the Senate floor. It’s a big week for Republican leaders in the Congress on health care – watch to see what the President says in public about the process, as well as GOP holdouts, and what he does behind the scenes to twist some arms of GOP Senators. Don’t count him out just yet. The Republican Senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace. Next, Tax Reform and Infrastructure. WIN! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017 4. House to pass Russia sanctions bill. After sitting on the measure for a few weeks, Republicans in the House will approve a plan that steps up sanctions on Iran and Russia – it was approved on a vote of 98-2 in the Senate. The House though, will add provisions dealing with North Korea, and send that back to the Senate for further action. It’s expected to be approved swiftly there. Behind the scenes, the White House has expressed frustration about the sanctions bill, because it would not allow President Trump to unilaterally roll back economic sanctions against Moscow. The vote comes as there has been more talk that the Trump Administration wants to give two compounds back to Russia, which were confiscated by the Obama Administration last December, in the first punishment for election interference in 2016. The only thing Republicans have fought Trump on are Russian sanctions… is he that upset that the GOP isn't protecting Trump through Putin? https://t.co/Ufvo9pqXDc — Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) July 23, 2017 5. House will leave town without passing all 12 funding bills. For weeks, House GOP leaders and rank-in-file lawmakers have told reporters that they were certainly going to have action on all twelve funding bills for the federal government. Reporters tried not to laugh out loud, knowing full well that was not likely. After this week, the House will be gone from Washington until Labor Day, and the plan is to jam four of the twelve funding bills into one package, and pass them in what’s known as a ‘minibus’ (the smaller version of the omnibus). Funding bills for the military, VA, energy and water programs, and the Legislative Branch (Congress) will be in that plan – but eight other bills will not voted on this week. And yet, the House will go home for five weeks. As you can see, a lot of budget work has not been done in both the House and Senate. Unfortunately, that has become standard procedure no matter which party is in charge. How many spending bills each chamber has passed — House got the last of its bills through cmte yesterday. 2.5 months until govt $$ runs out pic.twitter.com/TlwXVgspWa — Sean McMinn (@shmcminn) July 20, 2017 6. One odd provision in the minibus. One interesting choice made by Republicans this week is that the House will vote on money to build the border wall backed by President Trump – but not the underlying bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security. A provision for $1.6 billion to start work on the wall along the border with Mexico is part of the “Make America Secure” minibus appropriations bill – but the plan to actually fund Homeland Security operations won’t be voted on by the House – until after Labor Day. You can see the House schedule – a rare five day legislative work week is scheduled this week for the House, and then lawmakers head back home for five weeks. 7. Democrats look to force votes on Trump hotels. It wouldn’t be a debate on spending bills without some nettlesome votes being forced by the minority. This week, Democrats have asked for amendments that would prohibit government workers from staying at hotels owned or operated by President Trump’s family. One amendment gives the Defense Secretary the right to waive that on national security grounds; another amendment from Rep. Don Beyer (R-VA) gives a list of 40 different Trump hotels that would be off limits for federal government official business. Just one of the votes to look forward to this week in the ‘minibus.’ Democrats in the House try to stop federal workers from staying at Trump hotel properties https://t.co/ASJrKVr51q — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) July 23, 2017 8. Not on the schedule – the GOP budget blueprint. While the House Budget Committee last week was finally able to approve a budget outline for 2018, that budget resolution won’t be on the House floor this week. Why? Because it doesn’t have the votes to pass at this point in time. That means any talk you hear from GOP leaders and/or President Trump about action on tax reform needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because that budget blueprint has to be approved by both the House and Senate before any votes on can take place on a tax bill – and since the House isn’t going to be back until after Labor Day, that means tax reform remains on hold in the Congress. So what’s next? Three important agenda items now loom –tax reform, debt ceiling and budget resolution. Path to each is somewhat unclear. — Charlie_Commodities (@lfucha) July 22, 2017 9. Tax reform must be ‘budget neutral.’ One story that didn’t get much play last week because of the GOP troubles on health care is a wonky type of detail from the GOP budget resolution – but it has a big impact on tax reform plans for Republicans. At issue is a provision that says any tax bill must be budget neutral; in other words, if you cut taxes – and therefore raise the deficit by cutting revenue – then you must offset that lost revenue. That most likely would mean getting rid of tax deductions and tax breaks, a plan that sounds great in theory, but is difficult in practice to get through the Congress. Eliminate or cut back on the mortgage interest deduction? Make health care benefits through your job into taxable income? Get rid of the business interest deduction? Lots of difficult choices. If you think health care is hard, tax reform will be even more difficult. 'Budget neutral' tax reform could mean some difficult choices for Republicans in the Congress https://t.co/BcWNLAIlPo — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) July 22, 2017 10. Infrastructure – the missing Trump agenda item. Along with tax reform, there has been talk for months by the President, top Administration officials, and GOP lawmakers in Congress about voting for a bill to spur the construction of new roads and bridges. Mr. Trump has talked repeatedly about a $1 trillion public-private plan, but no proposal has been sent to the Congress, and none is expected until after Labor Day. Some thought the President should have started with this idea, since increased infrastructure spending is something that Democrats favor – but for a number of Republicans, that wasn’t a good idea, as they repeatedly opposed plans from the Obama Administration for more highway dollars. For now, this is going nowhere fast. Nobody knew infrastructure could be so complicated, complains President Trump https://t.co/QKpBhPMIhL pic.twitter.com/TMXjDW44xy — David Frum (@davidfrum) July 23, 2017
  • As House Republicans move to consider the first bills to fund the operations of the United States government next year, Democrats are hoping to force votes on plans that would prohibit federal workers from staying at hotels and other properties in which President Donald Trump has a financial interest. The plans are being pushed by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), a frequent critic of Mr. Trump, as Beyer hopes to bring them up for debate on four different funding bills that are scheduled to be voted on this week by the full House. The format is the familiar “funding limitation” amendment, in which ‘none of the funds’ can be used by the feds for certain purposes – in this case, staying at a hotel that is either owned or operated by the Trump family. The effort comes after press reports earlier this month, that the State Department spent over $15,000 to book rooms at the new Trump Hotel in Vancouver; the information was obtained by the Washington Post in a Freedom of Information Act request. For the bill that funds the operations of Congress, and programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Military Construction, the language spelled out above would block government workers from spending money to “pay or reimburse lodging expenses of a Federal employee or official in the course of official Government travel or business at any hotel or property in which the President maintains a financial interest.” For the spending bill that funds the operations of the Pentagon, Beyer’s plan would give the Secretary of Defense the power to waive those same prohibitions, “on a case-by-case basis,” on the grounds of national security. But in the funding bill for Energy and Water programs, Beyer’s amendment gets specific, listing over three dozen different Trump properties in the U.S. and around the world. It’s not clear if the plans will be considered during debate this week on these four funding bills, which are being grouped together into one ‘minibus’ funding measure, officially known as the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act.” The House Rules Committee will meet on Monday to sort through amendments proposed to the bill by lawmakers, and determine which ones should be debated.  
  • Republican plans for tax reform could be less sweeping than originally envisioned by the White House and GOP leaders in Congress, as a provision in a House GOP budget blueprint would require any tax bill to be ‘budget neutral,’ which would force lawmakers to offset any tax cuts with revenue increases that could be difficult in some cases to gain approval. Deep in the fine print of the budget resolution for next year, the Republican plan allows for a tax reform bill under budget reconciliation, “if such measure would not increase the deficit for the total of fiscal years 2018 through 2027.” In other words, you can’t just cut taxes – which technically deprive the federal treasury of revenue, and therefore increase the budget deficit – you have to find revenue to pay for those tax cuts. And Republicans on the House Budget Committee were actively trumpeting that message. It’s time for deficit-neutral #taxreform, and our budget makes that possible. pic.twitter.com/naed7nv7o9 — House Budget GOP (@housebudgetGOP) July 19, 2017 On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan was touting tax reform during a trip to a New Balance factory in Massachusetts. “First and foremost, we’re going to cut your taxes,” the Speaker said. But when a tax plan is deficit neutral – a cut for one person means that revenue must be found somewhere else to offset that reduction – in other words, some other tax increase, mainly one would assume by taking away deductions in the tax code. And many veterans of Capitol Hill say that’s not going to be easy. “I spent much of 2011-16 negotiating tax reform proposals in the Senate,” said Brian Reidl, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who used to work for Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). “Revenue-neutral tax reform will make health care look easy,” Riedl said in a post on Twitter. Key Republicans have made clear that they want to put together a proposal that dramatically simplifies the current tax system. “So 96% of the people can do their tax return on a single postcard size,” said House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Diane Black (R-TN). To do that, you would lower tax rates, and then most likely eliminate or reduce tax deductions – and that’s where things get tricky. Revenue neutral tax reform is hard. pic.twitter.com/B5ohufu90y — John Arnold (@JohnArnoldFndtn) July 20, 2017 Do you get rid of the deduction for mortgage insurance? Lots of people talk about that, but it always goes nowhere. What about the deduction for state and local taxes? That has bipartisan opposition in and around big cities on the East Coast. The tax break on employer provided health care benefits? That went nowhere fast in the negotiations over the GOP bill to overhaul the Obama health law. End or restrict the business interest deduction? Hard to imagine. Deficit neutral tax reform – it sounds wonky. But it’s a pretty important development that may rein in the scope of a GOP tax plan.
  • The White House communications team underwent a major change on Friday, as Press Secretary Sean Spicer turned in his resignation, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was elevated to Spicer’s job, and Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci was brought in by President Donald Trump to be the new Communications Director, delivering a new tone in dealing with the press. “The President is phenomenal with press,” said Scaramucci. “I love the President. The President is a very, very effective communicator.” While Scaramucci – known by many insiders as “Mooch” – made clear that he thinks the news media does not treat the President fairly, Mr. Trump’s new Communications Director laid out that message in a totally different way in his first few minutes in the White House Briefing Room. What is clear from Mooch's first fifteen minutes – he understands Trump in a way Spicer never was able to, from years-old relationship — Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 21, 2017 New White House Communications Dir. Scaramucci: 'The president is phenomenal with the press, and he's a great communicator.' pic.twitter.com/Mthqjsy31S — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 21, 2017 As for Spicer, he will be replaced at the podium by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who will move from Deputy to White House Press Secretary. Spicer, who battle relentlessly with the press, and never seemed to have the full confidence of the President, will officially leave the White House in August. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve President Donald Trump and this amazing country,” Spicer wrote on Twitter. “I will continue my service through August.” While there had been questions that Spicer wanted no part of working with Scaramucci, the next White House Communications Director went out of his way to praise Spicer. Scaramucci on Spicer: 'I would love to have Sean here. Sean decided he thought it would be better to go.' https://t.co/qxhTiObu1w pic.twitter.com/HgWl5765DB — CBS News (@CBSNews) July 21, 2017
  • Republican Senators headed home for the weekend still at odds over the details of a GOP bill to overhaul the Obama health law, as Senate leaders vowed to press ahead early next week with a first procedural vote on the matter, though it still isn’t clear what exactly the GOP might vote on in an effort to break the deadlock on this top agenda item of President Donald Trump. “The Democrats did their bill on their own, and obviously it’s got flaws that I think everyone would recognize; Republicans are beginning to feel like we’re getting into that same mode, if you want to be honest,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who said he worried that the GOP plan was being slapped together without an overall grand plan. With a procedural vote expected next week on a motion to start debate on the bill, it wasn’t even clear for Senators what GOP leaders would offer on the floor as an alternative to the House-passed health care bill. “I’m not yet decided,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) told a group of reporters pursuing him in the hallways of the Capitol. “It depends what’s in the bill.” And on that point, GOP leaders didn’t have an answer on the details. 'That's a luxury we don't have' – @JohnCornyn when asked 'don't some people want to know the plan before they vote' on health care. — Kelsey Snell (@kelsey_snell) July 20, 2017 GOP Senators were being pursued every-which-way-possible at the Capitol complex, as reporters sought the latest update on the health care bill. Down in the basement of the Capitol, as Senators arrived for votes, Democrats would walk by – and sometimes not one reporter would move; a few seconds later, a Republican Senator would walk off the subway, and was immediately mobbed by reporters. Sen Heller went for the taco salad pic.twitter.com/oNexT1St3z — Erica Werner (@ericawerner) July 20, 2017 “I think they want to talk to you,” a smiling Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said as reporters descended upon him and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-ND), who sold insurance for many years in his home state. “With the Obamacare model that’s in place today, you’re going to have increases in deductibles and co-pays,” Rounds argued to reporters, though GOP Senators haven’t rallied around what their full answer should be to reverse that. “You just have people committed to trying to fix this problem,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has repeatedly made clear his frustration with how GOP leaders have tried to put together this bill. And that has led some Republicans to openly worry about how the GOP is forging a final plan. “It’s feeling a little bazaar like – like a bidding war right now,” Corker said. Demonstrating some of the frustration of the moment, Corker even suggested that his party go back to the idea of repealing large chunks of the Obama health law – without anything to replace it. “I am beginning to feel that the best way to do it would be just to repeal – set a two or three year transition period, and force both parties to get together,” Corker said. But there did not seem to be enough GOP votes for that idea. “Senate Republicans complain of chaos in healthcare effort,” was one headline in my morning email inbox – as it’s not clear which way the GOP is going on health care reform at this point. In the House, GOP lawmakers could only sit back and wait. “I’m hopeful that we’ll see the Senate try to regroup, look at the issue, and try to work it out,” said Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK). “I continue to trust that the Senate will do their job,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). Not only is there some frustation with the Senate among GOP lawmakers, but a little with the White House as well. “I really lay a lot of the blame on the Trump Administration itself,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH). “The President hasn’t really shown leadership and guidance on what the plan should be, and it’s left several different groups to work together to try to fashion one,” Turner said.
  • A day after a newspaper interview in which President Donald Trump raised questions about his choice for the job of Attorney General, the White House expressed public support for Jeff Sessions, saying Mr. Trump “has confidence in his ability” to lead the Department of Justice. “He was disappointed,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the President’s view of Sessions and his recusal earlier this year from any involvement in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and possible links to the Trump campaign. “But clearly he has confidence in him or he would not be the Attorney General,” Sanders told reporters at an off-camera White House briefing. Sarah Sanders said if Trump didn't have confidence in Jeff Sessions as attorney general 'he wouldn't be in that position.' — Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) July 20, 2017 It was a much different answer than one publicly given to reporters in early June, when news surfaced of Mr. Trump’s frustration with Sessions and the Russia probe recusal, as the White House at that point refused to give any answer on whether the President wanted Sessions to quit. Here is the exchange between reporters and Spicer on the subject of Trump/Sessions pic.twitter.com/WF59VZ5E9q — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) June 6, 2017 Back then, supporters of Mr. Trump claimed the New York Times story was ‘fake news,’ but the President’s own words – in a New York Times interview on Wednesday – confirmed that Trump-Sessions frustration scenario. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else,” the President told a group of New York Times reporters. Earlier in the day at an unrelated news conference, the Attorney General was asked by reporters about Mr. Trump’s remarks, and gave no hint about possibly resigning. AG Sessions: 'I have the honor of serving as attorney general…I plan to continue to do so as long as that is appropriate.' pic.twitter.com/suukiMokyE — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 20, 2017 Back in June, it was reported that Sessions – stung by the President’s frustration over the Russia-recusal matter – had offered to resign his post. Sessions was the very first GOP Senator to endorse Mr. Trump, in late February of 2016. In Congress, Democrats seized on Mr. Trump’s remarks, saying it was obvious that the President wanted someone in the job of Attorney General who would squelch the Russia investigation. “The smoke billows higher and higher,” said Rep. Don McEachin (D-VA), “the fire is likely not too far behind.”
  • President Donald Trump marks six full months in office on Thursday, still pressing lawmakers in the House and Senate to act on a bill to overhaul the Obama health law, as the Republican Congress continues to struggle on a variety of fronts to produce a major legislative victory for Mr. Trump, with no action yet on tax cuts, a balanced budget or government reforms. But the President’s backers argue that while his agenda is not moving at top speed in the Congress, he has had successes in some areas. Let’s take a look at where Mr. Trump stands: 1. Biggest Trump success remains Justice Gorsuch. Ask just about anyone on Capitol Hill about the President’s record so far, and they will probably talk about getting Neil Gorsuch on the U.S. Supreme Court. For conservatives, this is a very big deal, and the few rulings that Gorsuch was involved in at the end of the 2016-2017 term seemed to indicate that he will be a justice in the mold of his predecessor, Antonin Scalia. The best part about this achievement is that Gorsuch is only 49 years old – he will turn 50 next month – meaning he could be on the U.S. Supreme Court, and leave his imprint on the law, for several decades. Any conservative who is not celebrating @realDonaldTrump for the supreme court justice Neil Gorsuch is a hypocrite — Benjamin (@BenjCharis) July 19, 2017 2. Crackdown on illegal immigration yields big changes. In terms of policy so far, the President’s tough line on enforcing existing immigration laws, and deporting illegal immigrants has already been a success for the President. As of the end of June, the feds had arrested almost 66,000 people for being in the U.S. illegally – 48,000 of those people had been convicted of a crime. “73 percent — of everyone we have arrested were criminals, something that’s been lost in the messaging on immigration enforcement,” said Tom Homan, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The numbers from along the border are also a big change, and something that most Republicans see as a big plus for the President. Border Patrol union chief praises 'miraculous' drop in illegal immigration under Trump https://t.co/SJRfQ5Uvzc — Drew McKissick (@DrewMcKissick) July 19, 2017 3. Rolling back Executive Branch regulations. In terms of administrative change, just by being in charge, President Trump has forced change in various federal agencies, rolling back or slowing or changing a host of rules that had been planned during the Obama Administration. Congress also got in on the action, by approving 14 different resolutions that overturned specific regulations approved late in the Obama Administration, which is really the most significant action by lawmakers so far in terms of legislation. Getting rid of regulations is a big winner with Trump supporters, many of whom believe the Obama Administration was strangling business with all sorts of red tape and government requirements. Remove burdensome business regulations. When their operating costs go down and profits go up, they will hire more Americans. Trump gets it. — norcalgunguy (@norcalgunguy) July 13, 2017 4. Trump shakes things up at the White House. The televised White House briefing has become an endangered species over recent months, as the President’s communications team has seemingly decided to keep the daily briefing off TV. (I’m not complaining about that – they’re in charge, and they set the rules.) Originally, the Trump Team was going to shake things up in the briefing by bringing in more conservative voices to the briefing room, and by using “Skype seats” to bring in questions from outside of Washington, in hopes of generating friendlier queries about the Trump agenda. But those efforts didn’t make much of an impact at all. Refusing to call on CNN or the New York Times didn’t have much of an impact, either. And not televising the briefing is a dual-edged sword – yes, you don’t have reporters possibly playing ‘gotcha’ with their questions – but you don’t give your own administration an elevated voice on TV, either. The last on camera White House briefing was June 29. — Hunter Walker (@hunterw) July 18, 2017 5. Trump Agenda still on slow-motion in Congress. One thing that President Trump has not been able to do is translate his election win into action by lawmakers in the Congress on major agenda items. Yes, the GOP passed a series of special resolutions to repeal certain regulations of the Obama Administration. But health care remains in limbo at this point, and there has been no action as yet on tax reform, the Trump $1 trillion infrastructure plan, lawmakers are ignoring much of the President’s budget, and no votes have been taken yet on money for the wall along the border with Mexico. Again, we are only six months in to the Trump Administration, so there is still a lot of time to get things done. But there is also the chance that Mr. Trump may have a skimpy record of legislative achievements as the calendar turns in the rest of 2017. This is one area where the Trump team – and GOP leaders in Congress – need to buckle down, and figure out how to turn things in the right direction. 6. Russia probe not going away anytime soon. With his latest interview for the New York Times showing again how the Russia probe deeply aggravates him, President Trump will not be able to escape the matter in coming months. Next week, his son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to appear before two Senate committees, his son Donald Jr. will be at one hearing, along with Kushner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Also hanging over everything is the probe being led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is assembling a top notch team of prosecutors and investigators. The President’s own frustration has boiled over repeatedly on this matter, especially on Twitter, and in many ways, that has only expanded the investigation because of things Mr. Trump has said. Whether you think it’s right or not, Russia will continue to be a big deal. In Interview, Trump Expresses Anger at Sessions and Comey, and Warns Mueller @peterbakernyt @nytmike and me https://t.co/0guEatTwyc — Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) July 19, 2017 7. Trump’s impulsive nature drives his Presidency. Just as his interview last night with the New York Times made headlines that advisers probably had not planned for, Mr. Trump’s ways often seem to overshadow the political debates on major issues – like in recent days on health care, as the President has been all over the road on the issue. One day he was for repeal and replace, then he was advocating straight repeal, then saying he would do nothing and let the current system collapse, and then again endorsing efforts at repeal and replace. The back and forth has often left GOP lawmakers a bit exasperated, worried that the President isn’t using the bully pulpit as effectively as possible. Mr. Trump had a very strong statement on Wednesday on health care – but those have been rare in recent months. In a span of 36 hours, Trump has taken 3 different positions on what should be tried next on health care pic.twitter.com/PEt4lLEdKJ — Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) July 19, 2017
  • Changing his mind yet again on health care, President Donald Trump on Wednesday directly urged Republicans in the Senate to keep searching for a deal on a bill to overhaul the Obama health law, spurring a new flurry of negotiations among GOP Senators, as top Republicans vowed to hold a vote next week to start debate on the health care plan. “There is a large majority in our conference that want to demonstrate to the American people that they intend to keep the commitment they made in four straight elections to repeal Obamacare,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “We came from that meeting with a renewed commitment to keep working, to keep negotiating, and to get to yes,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). “In my view, failure is not an option,” Cruz told reporters outside the U.S. Capitol. . @SenTedCruz: We came from that meeting with a renewed commitment. Failure is not an option. For 7 years Republicans have promised repeal. pic.twitter.com/NSQnZg2MhT — FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) July 19, 2017 At the White House, the President had made a similar appeal. “We should hammer this out and get it done,” the President told Senators over lunch, as he said lawmakers should not leave town for their August vacation until that job is finished, and a bill is signed into law. “The people of this country need more than a repeal – they need a repeal and a replace,” Mr. Trump said. The President’s remarks were a notable turnaround from a day before, when he said Republicans should just let the Obama health law fail on its own; earlier in the week, he had suggested simply repealing the law, and waiting on a replacement. What happened to Trump's 'Let Obamacare fail'? 'That's not the responsible thing to do,' said @SenRonJohnson — Lisa Mascaro (@LisaMascaro) July 19, 2017 “I would say there is no question the meeting gave a boost to the effort,” on health care, said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). “I just hope we get over the line.” “He feels like we’re very close to getting there,” Corker said of the President, as the Tennessee Republican downplayed the President’s latest shift on what he wants out of the Congress on health care. A group of Senators were set to meet tonight at the Capitol to go over problems they had with some of the details, and to find a way forward. “I think we are substantially there,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), though he acknowledged there are obviously differences. “They are key.” “The President very much emphasized that there has to be a replace with the repeal,” Cassidy added. After the meeting, the Senate Majority Leader told reporters that he still plans to go ahead with a procedural vote next week on the Senate floor, to officially begin debate on the health care issue. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Next week, we’ll be voting on the motion to proceed” https://t.co/5gcAJkN5J5 — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 19, 2017 “We had a really good meeting with the President,” McConnell said as he returned to the Capitol. Whether that can bridge the gaps and thread the needle for Senate Republicans remains the big question.
  • President Donald Trump gave his strong support to a special commission tasked with uncovering voter fraud in the United States, telling the first meeting of the group that it’s time to find out more about illegal votes possibly “canceling out the votes of lawful American citizens.” “Any form of illegal or fraudulent voting – whether by non-citizens or the deceased,” Mr. Trump said, “must be stopped.” “Every time voter fraud occurs, it cancels out the vote of a lawful citizen, and undermines democracy,” the President added. “Can’t let that happen,” Mr. Trump said. Trump says people have told him of 'voter irregularities…in some cases having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states' pic.twitter.com/FypOe3nvOR — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 19, 2017 “This commission is tasked with the sacred duty of upholding the integrity of the ballot box, and the principle of one citizen, one vote,” Mr. Trump added. The President also took a clear jab at states – controlled by both parties – which have refused to cooperate and turn over the voter information requested by this panel. “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about,” Mr. Trump said. “What are they worried about?” the President asked with a tone of skepticism. “There is something, there always is.” President Trump on states that refused to share voter information: 'One has to wonder what they're worried about' https://t.co/rIic2jaUqd — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) July 19, 2017 Critics savaged the panel even before the first official meeting occurred, charging it was nothing but an effort at voter suppression. “This isn’t a war on voter fraud. It’s a war on voters – and it’s only being waged by Republicans,” said Democratic national party chief Tom Perez.
  • With GOP efforts in Congress on hold to overhaul the Obama health law, Republican leaders threatened to force wayward GOP Senators to go on the record and publicly record their vote in opposition to plans to repeal chunks of the Obama health law, but such a health care showdown on the Senate floor was put off until at least early next week. “As of today, we just simply do not have 50 senators that can agree on what ought to replace the existing law,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been unable to solve what he called the ‘Rubik’s Cube’ inside the GOP on health care. “I was hopeful that we would be moving to a vote this week,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). “But obviously, that’s not going to happen.” Here’s the latest on where health care overhaul stands on Capitol Hill: 1. The inaction on health care is all on Republicans. There was no Senate filibuster involved as Republicans watched their effort to overhaul the Obama health law implode on Tuesday. The GOP has the majority in the House – they could barely pass their health care bill there. The GOP has the majority in the Senate – and hasn’t been able to pass anything. 60 votes were not needed in the Senate on this, as Democrats watched from the sidelines, while the GOP couldn’t get 50 votes, plus the tie breaking tally of the Vice President. The failure leaves the GOP unable to follow through on their biggest campaign pledge of the past seven years. The White House and the President tried to blame it on Democrats – but Republicans are the ones in charge at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Fact: There are 48 Democrats in Senate & 52 Republicans. #Trumpcare only needed 50 Rs to pass. It failed on the merits, not by obstruction. — Senator Jack Reed (@SenJackReed) July 19, 2017 2. Republicans still haven’t united behind one plan. Back in early January, I wrote this: “The Obama health law was approved almost seven years ago, and while Republicans are overflowing with ideas on what they would change, there isn’t one plan out there which could get a majority in either the House or Senate if a vote were held this week.” That’s still true today in the Senate – and frankly, the House might have a hard time repeating its vote of early May in favor of a GOP health care bill. For whatever variety of reasons, Republicans never hammered out the details of a ‘repeal and replace’ plan – except for their snappy bumper sticker saying. On health care, Republicans are like a dog finding out it's easier to bark at the car than to catch it. — Rob Archer (@RobArcher) July 17, 2017 3. GOP strategy on health care has been a see-saw. After President Trump won in November, many in the GOP wanted to start off 2017 by having Congress vote to repeal large chunks of the Obama health law – and then move later on to fill in the blanks on what should replace the system. But that did not get the seal of approval from the President-Elect, so Republicans opted for ‘repeal and replace.’ As we have seen, that hasn’t gone too well, and this week the GOP ricocheted back to repeal, and then move later on to fill in the blanks on what should replace. Here is a tweet from January, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was joining the President in calling for ‘repeal and replace.’ Not anymore. I just spoke to @realDonaldTrump and he fully supports my plan to replace Obamacare the same day we repeal it. The time to act is now. — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) January 7, 2017 4. No Senate health care vote until at least next week. There was talk in the halls of a vote as early as Wednesday on the Senate floor, on whether to start debate on the GOP health care bill. By the end of the day, Senate Majority Leader McConnell backed off a quick showdown. “At the request of the President and Vice President, and after consulting with our members, we will have the vote on the motion to proceed to the Obamacare repeal bill early next week,” McConnell said. It’s not clear that the GOP will have 50 votes next week to begin debate, and start entertaining amendments on the Senate floor, raising the question of why top Republicans would want to move ahead with a vote that they might lose. Some wondered if it was a signal that it is time to move on to other issues. Have asked multiple McConnell-world insiders what his endgame is—bill? no bill? repeal? replace? Consensus is: Just get it over with. — Molly Ball (@mollyesque) July 18, 2017 5. There is the option of doing nothing. President Trump again said today that maybe the best choice for Republicans is to do nothing legislatively about the Obama health law, just let the situation fester and worsen, and then bring both parties together later to fix things in Congress. “I think we’re probably in that position where we will just let Obamacare fail,” the President told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re not going to own it – I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it,” as the President tried to isolate himself, and the GOP from any political fallout related to failed efforts to repeal and replace the Obama health law. As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan. Stay tuned! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2017 6. No love from House Republicans for the Senate. After going through their own near-death experience on health care in March, April and May, GOP lawmakers in the House have little sympathy for Republicans in the Senate, and made that clear on Tuesday, as the Senate health care bill was derailed by GOP infighting. “Repeal. Replace. Congress, keep your promise,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). “It’s time for the Senate to act and repeal Obamacare,” said Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL). “We cannot be the party of ‘no.’ We must be the party of solutions, and there is no bigger problem right now than the ongoing collapse of Obamacare,” said Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH). But for now, that magic solution has not appeared for the GOP in the Senate. The US Senate needs to get its act together and repeal the #Obamacare disaster. — Doug Collins (@Douglas_Collins) July 18, 2017 7. ‘Repeal and Delay’ seems to be going nowhere. The idea of bringing back a plan that was vetoed by President Obama last year does not have legs in the Senate right now, as at least four Republicans have made clear they will not support the idea – even though some of them voted for it back in 2015. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) were the three who deep-sixed the GOP backup plan – then others, like Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said they also want to see the GOP forge a replacement plan. I don’t think it’s appropriate just to repeal, we’ve also got to put a replacement in place,” Portman told home state reporters by telephone in Ohio. It wouldn’t surprise me if a few more GOP Senators agreed with that sentiment. We must do more than just repeal, we must have a replacement solution in place as well. https://t.co/lmZNuUkmZH — Rob Portman (@senrobportman) July 18, 2017 8. Will there be bipartisan negotiations on health care? For months, Democrats have jabbed at the GOP by demanding bipartisanship, while Republicans have said Democrats ran away on health care, refusing to offer up any ideas on how best to fix the Obama health law. Now, with Republicans short on votes, comes a real moment of truth for the GOP. What if – what if Republicans can’t muster a majority in the Senate? Should they start looking at talks with Democrats on a health care bill? That opens a big can of worms, because for some the answer would be, ‘absolutely not.’ But there were some surprising and influential voices who endorsed that idea – like conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham: There's no point pretending that the GOP will pass major legislation on its own. Must either work w/ Dems or do nothing. — Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) July 18, 2017
  • Jamie Dupree

    Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog.

    A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989. Politics and the Congress are in Jamie’s family, as both of his parents were staffers for members of Congress. He was also a page and intern in the House of Representatives. Jamie has covered 11 national political conventions, with his first being the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta. His political travels have had him on the presidential campaign trail every four years since 1992, chasing candidates throughout the primary calendar.

    He is heard on Cox Radio stations around the country: WSB-AM Atlanta, WDBO-AM Orlando; WOKV-AM/FM Jacksonville; WHIO-AM/FM Dayton, Ohio; and KRMG-AM Tulsa, Oklahoma.

    Jamie and his wife Emily live just outside the Beltway with their three children. Some may know Jamie from his other on-air hobby, as he is a licensed amateur radio operator. When not at work or playing with his kids, you can often find him with a golf club in his hands.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • GOP leaders in the U.S. Senate seem ready to push ahead with a showdown procedural vote on a bill to overhaul the Obama health law, even without any assurance that they have enough votes to simply start debate, and without a final decision on what changes Senate Republicans might offer to a health care bill narrowly approved by the House in early May. While most of the attention this week will be on the machinations involving health care legislation in the Senate, the House will take the first steps on spending bills for next year’s budget, and vote on a revised plan for new sanctions against Russia, as the House gets ready to head home for an extended summer break. Here’s the latest from Capitol Hill: 1. Senate GOP bill on health care still in limbo. GOP leaders are still vowing to press ahead this week on a procedural vote that would begin debate on a House-passed bill to overhaul the Obama health law, but it’s not clear that Republicans have enough votes to take that first step. The absence of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) – diagnosed last week with brain cancer – is a big deal, since the White House needs every vote possible. Some still wonder if Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) might be convinced to at least vote to start debate – though he has made clear he is against the options that have been floated so far by top Republicans on health care legislation. As for Democrats, they’re still worried about a late rush to victory by the GOP. We saw what happened in the House of Representatives. They passed a bill after everyone thought it was dead. We can’t let that happen again. — Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) July 23, 2017 2. Senate Parliamentarian knocks some holes in GOP plan. Because Republicans chose to use the expedited procedure known as budget reconciliation, the Senate rules play a much larger than normal role, and that has resulted in problems for a series of provisions in the bill. On Friday, the Parliamentarian said a dozen pieces of the Senate bill could be subjected to parliamentary points of order, which could only be overridden by a 60 vote super majority, something the GOP does not have. That includes provisions designed to block any federal dollars from going through the Medicaid program to Planned Parenthood. And the bill may have more holes poked in it on Monday, when the Parliamentarian goes over four other provisions. 3. Trump keeps pressing GOP on health care. While President Trump again pushed GOP Senators over the weekend to act on health care, his call for action doesn’t seem to be making Republicans in the Congress tremble at the thought of being the target of his ire – and for now, the votes aren’t there to get this Senate health care bill over the finish line. As I type this, it’s not even clear what the GOP might be voting on in the Senate as early as this week – if enough Senators decide to begin debate on the Senate floor. It’s a big week for Republican leaders in the Congress on health care – watch to see what the President says in public about the process, as well as GOP holdouts, and what he does behind the scenes to twist some arms of GOP Senators. Don’t count him out just yet. The Republican Senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace. Next, Tax Reform and Infrastructure. WIN! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2017 4. House to pass Russia sanctions bill. After sitting on the measure for a few weeks, Republicans in the House will approve a plan that steps up sanctions on Iran and Russia – it was approved on a vote of 98-2 in the Senate. The House though, will add provisions dealing with North Korea, and send that back to the Senate for further action. It’s expected to be approved swiftly there. Behind the scenes, the White House has expressed frustration about the sanctions bill, because it would not allow President Trump to unilaterally roll back economic sanctions against Moscow. The vote comes as there has been more talk that the Trump Administration wants to give two compounds back to Russia, which were confiscated by the Obama Administration last December, in the first punishment for election interference in 2016. The only thing Republicans have fought Trump on are Russian sanctions… is he that upset that the GOP isn't protecting Trump through Putin? https://t.co/Ufvo9pqXDc — Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) July 23, 2017 5. House will leave town without passing all 12 funding bills. For weeks, House GOP leaders and rank-in-file lawmakers have told reporters that they were certainly going to have action on all twelve funding bills for the federal government. Reporters tried not to laugh out loud, knowing full well that was not likely. After this week, the House will be gone from Washington until Labor Day, and the plan is to jam four of the twelve funding bills into one package, and pass them in what’s known as a ‘minibus’ (the smaller version of the omnibus). Funding bills for the military, VA, energy and water programs, and the Legislative Branch (Congress) will be in that plan – but eight other bills will not voted on this week. And yet, the House will go home for five weeks. As you can see, a lot of budget work has not been done in both the House and Senate. Unfortunately, that has become standard procedure no matter which party is in charge. How many spending bills each chamber has passed — House got the last of its bills through cmte yesterday. 2.5 months until govt $$ runs out pic.twitter.com/TlwXVgspWa — Sean McMinn (@shmcminn) July 20, 2017 6. One odd provision in the minibus. One interesting choice made by Republicans this week is that the House will vote on money to build the border wall backed by President Trump – but not the underlying bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security. A provision for $1.6 billion to start work on the wall along the border with Mexico is part of the “Make America Secure” minibus appropriations bill – but the plan to actually fund Homeland Security operations won’t be voted on by the House – until after Labor Day. You can see the House schedule – a rare five day legislative work week is scheduled this week for the House, and then lawmakers head back home for five weeks. 7. Democrats look to force votes on Trump hotels. It wouldn’t be a debate on spending bills without some nettlesome votes being forced by the minority. This week, Democrats have asked for amendments that would prohibit government workers from staying at hotels owned or operated by President Trump’s family. One amendment gives the Defense Secretary the right to waive that on national security grounds; another amendment from Rep. Don Beyer (R-VA) gives a list of 40 different Trump hotels that would be off limits for federal government official business. Just one of the votes to look forward to this week in the ‘minibus.’ Democrats in the House try to stop federal workers from staying at Trump hotel properties https://t.co/ASJrKVr51q — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) July 23, 2017 8. Not on the schedule – the GOP budget blueprint. While the House Budget Committee last week was finally able to approve a budget outline for 2018, that budget resolution won’t be on the House floor this week. Why? Because it doesn’t have the votes to pass at this point in time. That means any talk you hear from GOP leaders and/or President Trump about action on tax reform needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because that budget blueprint has to be approved by both the House and Senate before any votes on can take place on a tax bill – and since the House isn’t going to be back until after Labor Day, that means tax reform remains on hold in the Congress. So what’s next? Three important agenda items now loom –tax reform, debt ceiling and budget resolution. Path to each is somewhat unclear. — Charlie_Commodities (@lfucha) July 22, 2017 9. Tax reform must be ‘budget neutral.’ One story that didn’t get much play last week because of the GOP troubles on health care is a wonky type of detail from the GOP budget resolution – but it has a big impact on tax reform plans for Republicans. At issue is a provision that says any tax bill must be budget neutral; in other words, if you cut taxes – and therefore raise the deficit by cutting revenue – then you must offset that lost revenue. That most likely would mean getting rid of tax deductions and tax breaks, a plan that sounds great in theory, but is difficult in practice to get through the Congress. Eliminate or cut back on the mortgage interest deduction? Make health care benefits through your job into taxable income? Get rid of the business interest deduction? Lots of difficult choices. If you think health care is hard, tax reform will be even more difficult. 'Budget neutral' tax reform could mean some difficult choices for Republicans in the Congress https://t.co/BcWNLAIlPo — Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) July 22, 2017 10. Infrastructure – the missing Trump agenda item. Along with tax reform, there has been talk for months by the President, top Administration officials, and GOP lawmakers in Congress about voting for a bill to spur the construction of new roads and bridges. Mr. Trump has talked repeatedly about a $1 trillion public-private plan, but no proposal has been sent to the Congress, and none is expected until after Labor Day. Some thought the President should have started with this idea, since increased infrastructure spending is something that Democrats favor – but for a number of Republicans, that wasn’t a good idea, as they repeatedly opposed plans from the Obama Administration for more highway dollars. For now, this is going nowhere fast. Nobody knew infrastructure could be so complicated, complains President Trump https://t.co/QKpBhPMIhL pic.twitter.com/TMXjDW44xy — David Frum (@davidfrum) July 23, 2017
  • Tyler Swantek, 24, was already in custody on drug charges when police tacked on a first-degree murder charge. Police said he killed his father, Todd Swantek, and left the corpse on the couch for weeks. The Standard-Speaker reported that Swantek allegedly shot his father in the head with a rifle. >> Read more trending news Police reportedly were called to the scene in Frackville, Pennsylvania, in late May by a friend of Todd Swantek’s, who had not heard from the father for a month. When police entered the house, they found a gruesome scene: The badly decomposed body was on the couch, covered in blankets and a sleeping bag, the Standard-Speaker reported. Police said they searched the house and found the rifle, which they believe to be the murder weapon, in Tyler Swantek’s bedroom. There were a number of candles and air fresheners in the house, apparently put out in an attempt to mask the smell, the Standard-Speaker reported. Police said that when they interviewed Tyler Swantek about his father’s death, he showed no emotion. An autopsy report suggested that the body may have been on the couch for months before it was discovered. Swantek appeared in court where he asked for reduced bail for drug charges, but the judge didn’t agree to the deal. The judge reportedly said, “He’s a danger to himself and society.” Read more here.
  • As House Republicans move to consider the first bills to fund the operations of the United States government next year, Democrats are hoping to force votes on plans that would prohibit federal workers from staying at hotels and other properties in which President Donald Trump has a financial interest. The plans are being pushed by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), a frequent critic of Mr. Trump, as Beyer hopes to bring them up for debate on four different funding bills that are scheduled to be voted on this week by the full House. The format is the familiar “funding limitation” amendment, in which ‘none of the funds’ can be used by the feds for certain purposes – in this case, staying at a hotel that is either owned or operated by the Trump family. The effort comes after press reports earlier this month, that the State Department spent over $15,000 to book rooms at the new Trump Hotel in Vancouver; the information was obtained by the Washington Post in a Freedom of Information Act request. For the bill that funds the operations of Congress, and programs of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Military Construction, the language spelled out above would block government workers from spending money to “pay or reimburse lodging expenses of a Federal employee or official in the course of official Government travel or business at any hotel or property in which the President maintains a financial interest.” For the spending bill that funds the operations of the Pentagon, Beyer’s plan would give the Secretary of Defense the power to waive those same prohibitions, “on a case-by-case basis,” on the grounds of national security. But in the funding bill for Energy and Water programs, Beyer’s amendment gets specific, listing over three dozen different Trump properties in the U.S. and around the world. It’s not clear if the plans will be considered during debate this week on these four funding bills, which are being grouped together into one ‘minibus’ funding measure, officially known as the “Make America Secure Appropriations Act.” The House Rules Committee will meet on Monday to sort through amendments proposed to the bill by lawmakers, and determine which ones should be debated.  
  • Multiple people were found dead early Sunday inside a semi-trailer in the parking lot of a San Antonio Walmart. >> Read more trending news >> Click here or scroll down for more
  • A 5-year-old Massachusetts boy whose story gained national attention when he learned he was getting a long-awaited heart transplant has died. Ari Schultz was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and had to undergo two heart surgeries before he was even born. Earlier this year, after waiting nearly 200 days for a new heart, the family learned Ari would be getting one. >> Read more trending news On June 16, Ari came home from the hospital. On Thursday morning, the family posted on its Facebook page that Ari was taken to the emergency room for a seizure. After over a half-hour of CPR, he was placed on life support in the cardiac intensive care unit. The family posted on Friday evening that Ari passed away peacefully while listening to the Red Sox. Ari has two siblings, his sister Lexi and his brother Eli.