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National Govt & Politics
Republicans face critical week in Congress on health care, Russia, 2018 spending
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Republicans face critical week in Congress on health care, Russia, 2018 spending

Republicans face critical week in Congress on health care, Russia, 2018 spending
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Republicans face critical week in Congress on health care, Russia, 2018 spending

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 - and the details as well.

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.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jamie Dupree
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Jamie Dupree

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.'

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.

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.

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.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

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  • Florida Man makes headlines across the globe almost every day of the week. Now viral social media posts have people finding the Florida Man that matches their personality by Googling “Florida Man” along with their birthday (year not included). >>> Check the 'What the Florida!' section of the WFTV mobile app to stay up to date on the latest Florida Man news <<< TRENDING NOW: Jennifer Kesse: Missing woman's family settles lawsuit against Orlando police All lanes of I-95 southbound shut down after tanker truck tips over, spills fuel across highway Video captures SUV just before crash that injured 4 children in Ormond-by-the-Sea VIDEO: Report: Virginia woman fatally shot herself while handcuffed Maybe on that day Florida Man stole cigarettes and booze while wearing Spider-Man mask (March 15). Or he scared the public by walking around with a rattlesnake he found on the road wrapped around his neck (February 18). The viral craze started based off of a Tumblr post last week and a tweet on Tuesday. As of Thursday afternoon the tweet had 21,743 retweets and 92,213 likes. EVERYBODY google “florida man” followed by your birthday (florida man august 22) and tell me what you get. mine is Florida Man tries to attack neighbor with tractor— swervin merv (@g_pratimaaa) March 19, 2019 If you aren’t satisfied with the Florida Man story that comes up for your birthday, here are a few of our favorite Florida Man stories from the past year: Police: Man shot after refusing shot at Ocoee bar Semi-nude man rides bicycle backward -- again -- on Florida interstate WATCH: Man caught on camera licking doorbell of Florida home No dough: Florida men steal empty safe at Domino's Only in Florida: Man seen hanging onto car's hood on interstate ‘Florida Man’ had quite a year: A look back at 2018 DOWNLOAD: Free WFTV News & Weather Apps Not near a TV? Click here to watch WFTV newscasts live Watch Live: Doppler 9 HD 
  • The Florida man accused of sending pipe bombs last year to several high-profile critics of President Donald Trump is expected to plead guilty Thursday in a Manhattan federal court. >> Read more trending news Cesar Sayoc is scheduled to appear at 4 p.m. for a change of plea hearing before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff.  Sayoc pleaded not guilty in November to a slew of charges after he was identified as the man suspected of mailing pipe bombs to targets including CNN, former President Barack Obama and actor Robert De Niro. >> Cesar Sayoc Jr.: What we know about the man arrested for sending package bombs Sayoc has been held without bail since his late-October arrest outside a South Florida auto parts store. He had been living in a van covered with stickers of Trump and showing images of some Trump opponents with crosshairs over their faces. Authorities launched an investigation in October after pipe bombs were mailed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and philanthropist George Soros. In the subsequent days, similar devices were mailed to several other prominent Trump critics, including U.S. Rep Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Democratic donor Tom Steyer. >> 2nd mail bomb to Tom Steyer recovered; suspect agrees to remain jailed, face charges in New York Authorities said Sayoc was linked to the packages after investigators found his fingerprints and DNA on some of them. Without a plea deal, Sayoc faced charges carrying a potential penalty of mandatory life in prison. A court filing last Friday didn't indicate which charge or charges the plea would involve. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A Florida woman faced a judge Wednesday in connection with the death of a 4-year-old boy. >> Watch the news report here On Tuesday night, the Orange County Sheriff's Office arrested Mariah Butler of Orlando on charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child and neglect of a child. >> On WFTV.com: Boy, 4, dies after being found in SUV parked outside school Investigators said Logan Starling, the son of Butler's boyfriend, was left inside a hot SUV in the parking lot of the Elite Preparatory Academy in October 2018. Detectives said four other children got out of the SUV and went into the school at about 8:20 a.m., but Starling didn’t exit the car.  Court documents show Butler, who worked at the school, was asked during the day where her stepson, Logan, was. The documents also stated that it wasn't until she was asked again at the end of the day that she realized the child was still in the car. >> On WFTV.com: Stepmother of boy who died in hot SUV quits job after receiving death threats Authorities said Butler found Starling in the third row of the SUV, leaning against the window with his eyes closed.  The school's director carried Starling to a nearby fire station, authorities said. Starling was then taken to a hospital, where his body temperature was recorded at 108 degrees. For perspective, doctors say a fever above 104 degrees can cause brain damage. The investigation also showed the inside temperature of the car was 121 degrees when the boy was removed. Investigators believe he was in the car for six hours.  Butler claimed she remembered Starling getting out of the SUV and that she locked the doors when they were walking into the school. >> Read more trending news  Documents said Butler believed Starling got into the SUV later, but she wasn’t sure how. She said during an interview that Starling suffered from autism and was known for wandering around. But arrest documents show Starling’s teacher disputed that claim, and video showed the child never left the SUV. 'You were arrested pursuant to a probable cause capias, where probable cause was previously found for the offense of aggravated manslaughter of a child and neglect of a child,” the judge said in court. Butler was ordered to remain in the Orange County Jail on $15,000 bail. Logan's family believes the bond was set too low. Butler was later able to bond out of jail Wednesday evening. 'Six months of no punishment for Mariah seemed like six years,' said Logan's great grandfather Roy Werner. 'But six months of Logan being gone seems like six days.
  • Orlando city leaders are preparing two new hubs in downtown Orlando for Uber and Lyft drivers waiting for people who need a ride home.  The hubs could not only keep area roads safer by helping people find a ride after drinking, they could also help relieve some of the congestion that takes place downtown around 2 a.m., when bars close.   The two hubs will be in places easy to access by those enjoying the downtown nightlife.   The first is on Magnolia Avenue near the Orange County Regional History Center and Heritage Square Park, close to a cluster of bars.   The second will be located further west, closer to I-4. That hub is planned for Gertrude Street, near Washington and Jefferson.   The hubs will only operate late at night on Fridays and Saturdays, from midnight to 3 a.m. This is a trial run for the ride-sharing plan, which will run for 6 months.

Washington Insider

  • Apart from a few GOP voices in the U.S. House and Senate, most Republican lawmakers in Congress had little to say in recent days about President Donald Trump's continuing attacks on the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), as the President used a speech in Ohio on Wednesday to launch an extended series of jabs as the former POW. 'I have to be honest - I've never liked him much,' Mr. Trump said at a speech at a tank production plant in Lima, Ohio. With Congress on break this week, many Republicans stayed away from the tide of remarks by the President, as only a handful of GOP officials stood up to tell Mr. Trump to back off, and leave the dead U.S. Senator alone. 'It’s deplorable what he said,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said of President Trump in a Wednesday radio interview with Georgia Public Broadcasting.  “That’s what I called it from the floor of the Senate seven months ago. It will be deplorable seven months from now if he says it again, and I will continue to speak out,' said Isakson, who has been one of McCain's few public defenders in the GOP to push back directly at Mr. Trump. 'John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona,' said Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who now holds his seat in Congress - though McSally did not directly mention the President in her statement. But Rep. Peter King R-NY, and Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) were outliers, as some supporters said the President was needlessly picking a fight - with a dead man - which he will never win. 'President 0. Dead Man 1,' wrote conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson. 'Let's be a little less coo-coo,' said Anthony Scaramucci on CNN Thursday morning, who served in the White House for a very short period of time in 2017, but remains a strong supporter of the President. Here's the President's full remarks about McCain from the Wednesday event: In a late night email sent to reporters on Wednesday, the McCain Institute pushed back - without mentioning the President by name - as the group defended the late GOP Senator, and one time Republican nominee for President in 2008. 'John McCain was held for 5 years in a Vietnamese prison and brutally tortured,' the group wrote, offering a laundry list of supportive items from his resume in the military and in Congress. 'John McCain always called on America to stand up for its values of freedom and democracy,' the group added, as even in death, McCain was still embroiled in battles with President Trump.