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Georgia Politics

    Feeling a serious, inexplicable ache or pain? You might typically make a trip to the emergency room, but Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia customers might be prompted to grin and bear it starting July 1. On that day, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia will start a new rule for its patients who have its individual (not group) policies. If they go to the emergency room without a legitimate fear of an emergency, Blue Cross is going to leave them with the bill − the whole emergency bill. RELATED: Blue Cross in Georgia to limit emergency room coverage There are exceptions for children and for some patients in areas without urgent care clinics. (Those exceptions were relayed to the AJC by a Blue Cross spokeswoman and can be read in our full article here, but were not written into the two-page letter sent to patients). But ER doctors fear the new rule will endanger lives, frightening away patients who really ought to go to the ER. And the American College of Emergency Physicians thinks the way Blue Cross is implementing the rule may be illegal. RELATED: A hint that Blue Cross/Blue Shield could withdraw from health care exchanges Blue Cross officials say any customer with a legitimate fear of an emergency should go to the ER. If it turns out it wasn’t an emergency, they’ll still be covered if the concern of serious danger was sensible for a “prudent layperson.” It says people who go to the ER when they could be treated at a clinic, or even evaluated over the internet with Blue Cross’s online health app, waste significant amounts of money. The company’s goal, said the spokeswoman, Debbie Diamond, was to save the wasted money to be able to continue providing quality care. Blue Cross is the only insurer on the Obamacare exchange market in 96 of Georgia’s 159 counties. Read the AJC’s full story, with more details on the policy and what “an emergency” is, here.
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered a government shutdown at midnight Friday after funding for a new state budget failed, NJ.com reported. >> Read more trending news The shutdown came after last-ditch attempts to reach a compromise between Christie and New Jersey Democrats who control the state legislature failed. “This order is necessary to maintain the protection, safety and well-being of the people of New Jersey while I attempt to convince the Legislature to send me a fiscally responsible budget that I can sign and reopen New Jersey’s government,” Christie said. The shutdown is the second in state history and will close government facilities like state parks and motor vehicle service offices, NJ.com reported. It will not affect organizations like the New Jersey State Police and psychiatric hospitals, and the state lottery will remain in operation.
  • Sixth District voters turned out in unprecedented numbers Tuesday for their runoff, but it takes a step back to appreciate by just how much. We already knew that while typical turnout during off-year special elections is notoriously low, Georgia’s 6th District special election on April 18 (which decided who was in Tuesday’s runoff) topped 37 percent — nearly 194,000 people voted. But Tuesday’s unofficial ballot count topped 259,600. That’s more than the 210,000 votes cast in the district in the November 2014 general election – putting the contest squarely in common with midterm contests, not special elections. Many had predicted a 210,000-plus turnout, although few were sure how high it would go despite the district’s reputation as a highly motivated group of voters. With the numbers finally in, we saw a 39 percent increase in ballots cast over April. And overall turnout percentage-wise didn’t disappoint, either. In a district with about 526,000 registered voters in all, nearly half of them came out: Unofficial turnout stood at about 49 percent in the race. And we know the result: Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in what many had considered an early referendum of President Donald Trump’s administration. Click here to read more of our coverage on myAJC.com.
  • Republican Karen Handel staved off a furious challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff on Tuesday in a race to represent a suburban Atlanta seat in Congress, as the GOP and President Donald Trump avoided an embarrassing defeat in the most expensive U.S. House contest in history. A former Georgia secretary of state, Handel emphasized her experience and roots in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District to defeat Ossoff and keep a seat that’s long been held by Republicans in GOP hands. She becomes Georgia’s first female Republican member of the U.S. House. Her victory will be cast as a win for Trump, who campaigned for Handel and hurled a string of antagonizing tweets at Ossoff. And it could buoy jittery GOP incumbents who worry that allying with Trump in competitive districts could doom them. She overcame stiff opposition from Ossoff, a 30-year-old investigative filmmaker who fast became a rising Democratic star. With a carefully calibrated message, Ossoff shattered fundraising records as he appealed to liberals infuriated by Trump and GOP voters frustrated at Washington gridlock. His huge fundraising hauls – he raised at least $23 million – kept his message on metro Atlanta’s airwaves and allowed him to target irregular voters and others who rarely cast ballots for Democrats. And a legion of more than 12,000 Ossoff volunteers inundated the district with appeals to vote. But in the end, the money and Democratic energy wasn’t enough to overcome the district’s Republican underpinning. Once a fervent anti-establishment candidate, Handel ran in this contest as a traditional conservative voice who backed Trump and his top priorities while saying she won’t be an “extension” of the White House. She also relentlessly attacked Ossoff as an inexperienced stooge of national Democrats funded by out-of-state interlopers. At every turn, she sought to remind voters that Ossoff lived outside the district and that his values were “3,000 miles away.” Handel won the conservative-leaning district, which stretches from the outskirts of Marietta to north DeKalb County, by running up big margins in GOP strongholds in places such as east Cobb County and Milton where Republicans have long thrived. She also was able to overcome concerns with Trump across the territory. The president only narrowly carried the district in November, and polls showed him with weak approval ratings. But after keeping him at arm’s length early in the race, she aggressively embraced him after she landed a spot in the runoff in April. The race - which cost more than $50 million – was over little more than a short-term lease to fill the remainder of former U.S. Rep. Tom Price’s term. She’s likely to face another tough Democratic challenger in November 2018, although Ossoff has said he hasn’t yet decided whether he’ll run again.
  • The polls are open in the nationally watched election to represent Atlanta’s northern suburbs in Congress, as 6th District voters choose whether to send Republican Karen Handel or Democrat Jon Ossoff to Washington. The district stretches from east Cobb to north DeKalb, and the voting booths will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The race is much more than a vote to fill out the remainder of former U.S. Rep. Tom Price’s term after President Donald Trump’s tapped him to be health secretary. Both parties have poured unprecedented resources into the race — the cost now tops $50 million — and both see it as a chance to send a message to the American electorate. Follow the AJC’s 6th District runoff results Follow the AJC’s live updates from the voting lines Democrats hope an Ossoff victory could deal a blow to Trump’s presidency and the GOP agenda, while giving other candidates a path to flipping more conservative strongholds. Republicans see a Handel win as a chance to bolster incumbents in competitive districts who are nervous about allying with Trump. The contours of the race have been shaped for weeks. Once an insurgent outsider running against a corrupt political system, Handel casts herself in this contest as an experienced politician and traditional conservative with deep roots in the district. And Ossoff, a former congressional aide and political newcomer, has centered his message on two audiences: There’s left-leaning voters infuriated by Trump and eager to elect a fresh-faced Democrat. And there’s the moderates and independents who have backed GOP candidates but are turned off by national politics. The rollicking race has been filled with twists and turns, and there is no shortage of wild cards as the race hurtles toward an end. Polls show the race neck-and-neck, and analysts say it’s too close to call. “This is uncharted territory analytically. The extremely high turnout, the uncertain political environment,” said Ossoff. “It’s a neck-and-neck race.” Read more on MyAJC: What to watch in the race for Georgia’s 6th District
  • A controversial member of the Georgia House of Representatives has lost his position in leadership and his place on a civics education study committee after sending colleagues an article challenging slavery as the root cause of the Civil War. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, announced Friday that Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson, would no longer chair the House Human Relations and Aging Committee, a post he has held for the past five years. In addition, Ralston announced he was rescinding his nomination of Benton to fill one of three seats on a study committee set up to recommend improvements in civics education in Georgia’s public schools. House spokesman Kaleb McMichen said Ralston received a package from Benton Friday containing an article titled “The Absurdity of Slavery as the Cause of the War Between the States.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has seen a mailer sent to another House member, which includes the printed inscription “Thought this might be of interest to you” above Benton’s signature. Benton has courted controversy over the past two years with provocative comments about the Civil War, race relations and the Ku Klux Klan. In an interview with the AJC published in January 2016, Benton said the Klan “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order.” “It made a lot of people straighten up,” he said. “I’m not saying what they did was right. It’s just the way things were.” Benton also suggested that criticism of the Confederate flag was a distraction from “black-on-black crime” and he sponsored bills to force the state to recognize Confederate Memorial Day, Robert E. Lee’s birthday and prohibit the moving of Confederate monuments. Throughout, Ralston had refrained from directly chastising Benton by name, and earlier this month, the speaker named Benton, a retired middle school teacher, to the study committee. Apparently, the mailer was the final straw. When asked if Ralston disagreed with Benton’s distribution of the article, McMichen said, “The actions he has taken reflect his sentiments on this matter.” Ralston “is focused on the future, not the past,” he said. Re. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee, will take over as chair of Benton’s committee. House Education Committee Chairman Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, will serve in Benton’s place on the civics study committee. It is not clear if Benton used his taxpayer-funded office account to mail the article to House members or which House members received it. McMichen referred those questions to Benton.
  • A Facebook user by the name of James Thomas Hodgkinson, the Illinois man said to be the alleged shooter at Wednesday morning’s GOP baseball practice, posted an explicit comment to the social networking website earlier this week about Georgia 6th Congressional District Republican candidate Karen Handel. “Republican Bitch Wants People to Work for Slave Wages, when a Livable Wage is the Only Way to Go! Vote Blue, It’s Right for You!” the user posted to his account on June 8. He linked to a Yahoo news story about Handel’s comments on the minimum wage during last week’s first 6th District debate. Democrats were quick to pounce on Handel’s comment “I do not support a livable wage” after the former Georgia secretary of state uttered it during the first of two televised debates. Handel later said her comment emphasized the race’s sharp policy divides. The shooter injured several people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and a U.S. Capitol Police officer. Multiple news organizations identified Hodgkinson as the shooter. President Donald Trump reported that the shooter died in a hospital. The Associated Press reported Wednesday afternoon that Scalise was in critical condition following surgery. Handel’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Hodgkinson’s Facebook post. Earlier on Wednesday morning, Handel tweeted that she and her husband were sending “our thoughts & prayers to Rep. Scalise, Capitol Police, staff, & everyone affected by this horrific attack.” Handel has canceled her public events for tonight. Her Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, described the Facebook post as “sickening.” “I condemn this appalling act of violence committed, obviously, by a disturbed individual,” Ossoff said. “The country is united right now in our prayers for those who are fighting for their lives and our appreciation of those who saved lives.” Hodgkinson local newspaper, The Belleville News-Democrat, reported that he frequently wrote letters to the paper protesting against Republicans and tax policies and supporting the legalization of marijuana. Trump’s election as president was disturbing to Hodgkinson, who had also traveled recently to Washington to participate in protests, his brother told The New York Times. “I know he wasn’t happy with the way things were going, the election results and stuff,” Michael Hodgkinson said. Reports say that the shooter asked congressmen whether they were Republicans or Democrats before the shooting began. Hodgkinson also apparently worked as a volunteer with Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders campaign and filed a number posts on Facebook opposing Trump. Sanders responded to Wednesday’s shooting by saying he was “sickened by this despicable act.” Read more: Georgia congressmen safe after shots fired at GOP baseball practice When asked about Hodgkinson’s Facebook post in an interview Wednesday morning, Gov. Nathan Deal said he was “not one to try to presume what the motivations are.” “I just know that we live in an environment in which anyone who is involved in political life is subject to being attacked,” he said. “That’s something we have never anticipated, perhaps years ago, but it now becomes a reality with events like this.” Deal continued, “It requires all of us to be vigilant — but it’s the type of random act that no one can really prepare for.” The same man also reportedly shared a political cartoon by Atlanta Journal-Constitution cartoonist Mike Luckovich on his Facebook account last month. Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.
  • Republican Karen Handel called on conservative activists Saturday to defy “angry” Democrats in Georgia’s 6th District race, casting Democrat Jon Ossoff as a stooge of Washington liberals. Riffing on the 1979 hit “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” she compared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – a favorite foil of the GOP – with a certain horned character: “Nancy is coming down to Georgia. She’s looking for a seat to steal.” She added, rhyming: “Well, Nancy, my name is Karen. And it might be a sin. But I’ll take your bet – you’re going to regret – cause Georgia’s got Handel in.” Her speech to the Georgia GOP convention ended with the Charlie Daniels Band song playing as she walked off stage. Handel and Ossoff square off in the nationally-watched June 20 runoff, a furious proxy battle that both parties are desperate to win. The most expensive U.S. House race in the nation’s history, an Ossoff victory in territory long held by the GOP would be a blow to Donald Trump’s presidency. The district’s demographics favor Handel – Rep. Tom Price won the seat by a landslide in November – and Handel is relying on support from the GOP base to muscle through the runoff. Her speech was heavy with red-meat attacks, including a reference to comedian Kathy Griffin that provoked applause. “Our mission remains constant: And that is to elect Republicans and advance conservative principles and ideas,” Handel said. “Our opposition, they are determined. They are united. United in their anger, united in their intolerance to anyone who would dare disagree with them.” At a Friday night GOP fundraising dinner, Handel echoed the same themes, telling the crowd that Democrats “want this state badly.” “I see the opposition. They’re not here tonight, but I see them every day on the campaign trail,” said Handel. “Let me tell you they’re determined. They’re also kind of angry.” She closed: “On June 20, Nancy is going to get a rude awakening. Because we will have kicked some Ossoff.”  
  • One of the nearly dozen candidates being considered at the moment to become next director of the FBI has Georgia ties.  Larry Thompson is a current University of Georgia professor. His resume also includes time as U.S. deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, as well as a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta.   “Very well respected, life-long Republican, African-American, very well known in D.C., and was discussed more than once by Presidents in both parties for the position of both Attorney General, and at least once to head the FBI previously,” says WSB Radio political analyst Bill Crane. “He’s getting a little up there in years, so given this 10-year appointment, that may be a knock against him. But he’s very well regarded politically, in the legal community, and in the law enforcement community.” The 71-year-old Thompson, according to the Associated Press, is a candidate in a group of others that include several lawmakers, attorneys, and law enforcement officials. 
  • A backlog of tens of thousands of voter registration applications is facing local elections officials ahead of next month’s runoff in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The need to process them comes after a federal judge last week ordered registration reopened until May 21 ahead of the June 20 election. And it has left the three counties in the 6th District scrambling. To see just how many applications there are and how election officials expect to get the work done, click here to read our premium story only on myAJC.com.

News

  • Police are investigating a shooting at a Starbucks in Cobb County. Channel 2's Ross Cavitt learned that a woman was shot outside the Starbucks at Paces Ferry and Cumberland Parkway Thursday afternoon. Witnesses said they heard a pop and then saw the gunman jump over the bushes and run to a waiting truck. Cavitt spoke to a witness who said the woman who was shot asked for help, but then left. The woman has been identified as Sheena Fisse, 31. 'She had come into the door and I heard from other people she asked for help and said she's been shot. She asked for help or announced she'd been shot and turned around and left,' Grant Wyckoff said. TRENDING STORIES: O.J. Simpson granted parole after 9 years in jail Police: Burglar thought he cut security wires, still caught on camera 10-year-old girl hit, killed while walking to store Police said Fisse was shot in the side and drove eight miles down the interstate to Fulton Industrial Boulevard where they found her. She was taken to the hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. Police said they are questioning one person in connection with the shooting. If you have any information, you're asked to call 770-499-3945. Woman shot outside Cumberland Starbucks, drives miles down the highway before stopping. Suspect at large. @wsbtv pic.twitter.com/LNiySLNVz8-- Ross Cavitt | WSB-TV (@RossCavittWSB) July 20, 2017
  • Police said a burglar broke into a local nail salon and got away with cash.Channel 2's Audrey Washington was in Gainesville where police said the man scoped out the shop for one specific reason.Police said the burglar targeted the salon because he knows the nail techs get tipped with cash. They said it's the same reason they want him off the streets before he hits another nail shop.Surveillance video obtained by Washington showed the man walk into the back door of the nail studio and spa inside the Lakeshore Mall before 8 a.m.'Somebody come in through the back door like you see in the video,' the business owner told Washington, 'He just randomly picked it and (was) lucky to get in.' TRENDING STORIES: Woman had $2 million in liquid meth hidden in cleaning jugs during traffic stop, police say 10-year-old girl struck, killed while walking to a store Man shoots AT&T work truck outside parked in front of his home While inside, the shop owner said that the man cut the wires to what he thought was the security system. It turned out the wires he cut were to the audio system, so the camera was rolling as the man made his way inside. 'Not fair for us or anybody or business owners,' the salon owner told Washington.Sgt. Kevin Holbrook, with the Gainesville Police Department, told Washington, 'He did not hit any other businesses in the mall. He went to this nail salon, probably knowing that they do a lot of cash business.'The owner wouldn't say how much the guy got away with and police are hoping someone will recognize the suspect in the video by his distinctive camouflage backpack. Meanwhile police are warning other nail salon owners in the area. 'If you do cash business, if you have employees that receive cash tips, do not keep large amounts of cash in your store,' Holbrook said.The salon owner said he added extra security to his back door and as for the suspect, police believe he lives in the area. Anyone with information is asked to give Gainesville police a call.
  • Sen. John McCain's treatment for brain cancer could keep him out of Washington for weeks, perhaps months, and yet it's unlikely anyone will challenge his extended leave. Congress has a long tradition in which no one questions ailing lawmakers taking time to recover. For starters, it's just poor form. And, frankly, it's up to the stricken member of Congress and their doctors to decide when — or even if — they return to work. Some have recuperated away from the Capitol for a year or more. It's an unwritten courtesy that often doesn't extend to the real working world where employees are forced to file for medical disability or take unpaid leave. Julie Tarallo, McCain's spokeswoman, said Friday that 'further consultations with Sen. McCain's Mayo Clinic care team will indicate when he will return to the United States Senate.' McCain had taken to Twitter on Thursday promising a quick return. 'Unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress, I'll be back soon, so stand-by!' said the six-term Arizona Republican and 2008 GOP presidential nominee. The 80-year-old McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer, according to doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, who had removed a blood clot above his left eye last Friday. He and his family are weighing his treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy. In the immediate aftermath of McCain's diagnosis, Republicans wouldn't speculate about what the temporary loss of McCain's vote would mean. But McCain's absence complicates Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's plans for a Senate vote on a GOP health care bill to erase much of the Affordable Care Act. A vote is possible on Tuesday, but GOP defections plus McCain's likely absence could sink any chance even to get started. McCain wouldn't be the first lawmaker this year to miss votes, hearings and other legislative action. Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson remained in Georgia for several weeks earlier this year as he underwent two back surgeries and recuperated. Isakson missed the vote on confirming Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. In January 2012, then-Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. suffered a major stroke and didn't return for almost a full year, making a dramatic entrance by climbing the steps of the Capitol on the opening day of the following Congress. In a lawmaker's absence, congressional staff keep the office operating, send out news releases — one from McCain on Thursday blasted the Trump administration's Syria policy — and respond to constituents. Absences can leave the margin of control on a razor's edge. The month after Democrats won back the Senate in 2006, South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson had a near-fatal episode of bleeding in his brain that, at the time, threatened to shift the Senate's margin from 51-49 Democratic to 50-50 GOP control with Republican Vice President Dick Cheney the deciding vote. Johnson recovered but was away from the Senate for almost nine months. McCain is battling the same form of cancer that claimed the life of Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., in August 2009. Kennedy was away from the Senate for extended stretches but returned on occasion to vote. 'There were times when Senator Reid had to juggle things because he had two senators absent, Senator Kennedy and Senator Byrd,' said longtime former Senate aide Jim Manley, who worked for both Kennedy and then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. 'Having said that, it really never, with a handful of exceptions, proved to be that big of a problem.' Kennedy also delegated some of his responsibilities as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee by farming out responsibility for bills before the panel to colleagues such as then-Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. McCain has had Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., handle his duties as Armed Services Committee chairman. Unclear is whether Inhofe will steer the sweeping defense policy bill if the Senate begins debate in August. And, if legislative necessity should dictate that McCain return for a crucial, dramatic vote, there's precedent for that. Kennedy, who mostly stayed away from the chamber for fear of infection, returned to the Senate in July 2008 for a key vote. During McCain's first term, Sen. Pete Wilson, R-Calif., recovering from an emergency appendectomy, was wheeled in on a stretcher to cast the deciding vote on a GOP budget plan. And in 1964, California Democrat Clair Engle, whose own bout with brain cancer rendered him unable to speak, was wheeled into the Senate to vote for the landmark Civil Rights Act. Engle pointed to his eye and tried to mouth 'aye,' according to newspaper accounts at the time. In an earlier time, some senators were away from the chamber for years. Karl Mundt, R-S.D., suffered a stroke in late 1969 and refused to resign and allow a GOP replacement to be named. He held the seat until January 1973 and was replaced by Democrat Jim Abourezk. Sen. Carter Glass, D-Va., kept his titles of president pro tempore and chairman of the Appropriations Committee despite being absent because of frailty due to old age.
  • Embattled former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has opened a new consulting firm called Resilient Patriot, LLC that is advising private equity firms, according to one of his brothers, who says Flynn is 'moving on with his life.' Joe Flynn said his family also is in the early stages of starting a fund to pay for the legal bills his brother is racking up as he sits at the center of multiple probes into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. 'Mike's not a millionaire, not even close,' Joe Flynn told The Associated Press this week. 'This situation has put him in a tough spot financially. This is going to cost him a lot of money.' 'There's a lot of people that are big fans of his across the country,' he added. Several of Flynn's siblings plan to administer the fund for the retired Army lieutenant general, and are working on setting up a website and consulting with a lawyer about the legal intricacies of such a fund. Joe Flynn said they want to 'be as transparent as possible' and do it properly. After being forced into retirement in 2014 by the Obama administration, Flynn went on to set up a company that accepted speaking fees from Russian entities and later did consulting work for a Turkish-owned business. He joined the Trump campaign and then the administration as an early supporter. But the Trump White House ousted him after saying he mischaracterized conversations with Russia's ambassador to the U.S. A wide range of his actions — including foreign contracts and payments, and whether he lied to officials — are under scrutiny by investigators. Joe Flynn said his brother is not independently wealthy, and depends on his Army pension. While his brother made some money consulting, Joe Flynn said much of that went into his company and to subcontractors. Now, with Resilient Patriot, Michael Flynn is advising private equity firms on deals they are considering, Joe Flynn said. He did not specify the firms. 'They use him to vet opportunities with his network,' he said. 'He's slowly starting to do that as a totally independent consultant.' While he said his older brother is doing well, 'There's still a cloud over him,' he said, adding 'I think he's not worried about going to jail or anything like that.' His son, Mike Flynn Jr., used the name Resilient Patriot on Twitter, but the work does not involve him, Joe Flynn said. Flynn Jr. sent numerous posts on Twitter about the conspiracy theories of Pizzagate, a fake new story suggesting a Washington, D.C., pizza shop plays a key role in a child sex trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton. The conspiracy theory influenced a North Carolina man to fire a rifle in the restaurant in December. Michael Flynn has been spending most of his summer in Middletown, Rhode Island, where he and his wife grew up and where they built a home years ago. Flynn has spent time surfing and golfing there in recent days. The plans for a legal defense fund were first reported by Bloomberg.
  • Lately the Congressional Budget Office just can't get any respect. Republicans from the White House on down have worked to discredit the nonpartisan agency, in an effort to undermine its inconvenient findings that GOP health care bills would cause more than 20 million people to lose their insurance. Now all eight former directors of the agency, some of them Republicans and some Democrats, have signed onto a letter defending CBO and urging lawmakers to give it the respect it deserves. 'We write to express our strong objection to recent attacks on the integrity and professionalism of the agency and on the agency's role in the legislative process,' the former directors say in their letter Friday to the top Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. CBO is a nonpartisan agency and acts as Congress' official scorekeeper, analyzing the costs and impacts of the bills lawmakers write. Most major legislation does not come to a vote without a CBO 'score' and these scores can be consequential in serving as the bottom line analysis of the impact a bill will have. CBO directors are approved by the House and Senate leaders. The current director, Keith Hall, was chosen by Republican Tom Price, who is now secretary of Health and Human Services but previously chaired the budget committee in the House. Price made the selection and it was blessed by the top Capitol Hill GOP leaders at the time. Hall has served since 2015. Nevertheless, in recent months Republicans have not liked what CBO has had to say about the GOP's legislation to repeal and replace 'Obamacare.' The biggest headlines have been the large numbers of consumers who would lose insurance under the GOP plans, plus the higher premiums for older Americans that would result. Many congressional Republicans have pointed out that CBO's predictions sometimes don't prove accurate. In one example Republicans often cite, the agency overestimated the number of Americans who would gain health coverage on the purchasing exchanges created by Obamacare. Two Trump White House officials, legislative director Marc Short and Brian Blase, special assistant to the president for the National Economic Council, went so far as to write an opinion piece in the Washington Post earlier this month pre-butting the agency's findings about Senate health care legislation. The estimates 'will be little more than fake news' the two claimed. The sitting leadership of the CBO does not respond to such attacks. But in an unusual move the past leadership got together to fight back. In their letter the former directors defended the agency's approach and the high quality of its research, while noting that a law's outcome over time can be difficult to predict in a dynamic economy. 'In sum, relying on CBO's estimates in the legislative process has served the Congress?_?and the American people?_?very well during the past four decades,' they conclude. 'As the House and Senate consider potential policy changes this year and in the years ahead, we urge you to maintain and respect the Congress's decades-long reliance on CBO's estimates in developing and scoring bills.' ___ Online: Read the CBO directors' letter at: https://medium.com/@douglas.elmendorf/letter-from-former-cbo-directors-on-the-importance-of-cbos-role-in-the-legislative-process-278863b7e1c6 An occasional look at what Capitol Hill is talking about
  • Meek Mill faced scrutiny during his highly-publicized rap feud with Drake and relationship with former girlfriend Nicki Minaj. Some may think Mill lost in both situations, especially after Drake's Grammy-nominated diss track 'Back to Back.' But the Philadelphia-bred rapper doesn't view it that way, saying there were other pressing issues in his life he considers as losses — from the death of close friends to a probation violation that landed him three months in house arrest last year. While wearing a gold pendant in remembrance of the late rapper and protege Lil Snupe, who was shot dead in 2013, Mill spoke with The Associated Press about his new album 'Wins & Losses,' which comes out Friday. He also touches on empowering young black youth, Minaj's ex-boyfriend Safaree Samuels being jumped during the BET Awards weekend and his aspirations of doing film. AP: What compelled you to name your album 'Wins and Losses'? Mill: Everybody saying that I'm losing and I lost. I lost my case. I lost my friends to the streets. Those things really meant something to me. I started off in the basement on a karaoke machine. Now I'm in million-dollar studios, making a lot of money being able to feed my family and take them out a crazy environment, still being able to wake up on my own time and do things how I want to do it. That's my definition of winning. I determine my definition of losing on this album. AP: Your single 'Young Black America' has a politically-charged tone. What do you want people to take away from it? Mill: It's an eye-opener for the young people for my culture. It's to help them open their eyes and see what they are really dealing with in real reality. A lot of rap isn't based off reality most of the time. Sometimes it's ignorant. ... I just wanted to give young people in our culture an understanding of what's going on. In one video, we got young kids with guns with KKK masks on, basically saying we killing our own. AP: What run-ins have you experienced with the law that youngsters can relate to? Mill: I was 18 and got beat up by a cop and almost killed by cops. I was just a statistic coming up. The cops are in a dangerous neighborhood thinking everybody else in the neighborhood is dangerous or everybody in the hood is killers. They caught me and treated me like I was a killer. I don't think that's really right. The cop gave me a 100 charges with trying to kill a cop. I don't want to kill a cop. They basically put me on probation for the rest of my life from that point on when I was 18. I'm 30 now and still on probation. I've been to jail three times from that one stint of probation. Any mistake you make, you'll be put in prison. Your freedom can be took. AP: Your relationship with Minaj and beef with Drake really put a spotlight on you. How did you take to the criticism? Mill: I'll look at the internet and see comments like, 'Meek got Nicki money.' You can't know nothing about Meek Mill if you saying something like that. They be like 'Meek Mill can't rap.'... 'Somebody wrote Meek Mill raps'. ... I came up on YouTube rapping since I was 14 years old. That's my importance to the streets. They seen me come up. My story is not a facade. AP: Did you have anything to do with Safaree being jumped? Mill: I don't know nothing about him getting jumped on. I pulled up and actually seen him getting into an altercation. You can look at my face and see that I was surprised. Me and my friends had a party at that spot that night, so that's somewhere we were supposed to be going. I don't communicate with him. I don't know him. I don't even want to base those guys in this interview. That's not even on my level. Street fights take place all the time. I ain't touch nobody. Didn't put no hand on nobody. I'm on strict probation. I'm just trying to handle my business and feed my family. I don't think those dudes are worthy of being talked about. AP: Does your short film, 'Wins & Losses: The Movie' make you want to get more involved in film? Mill: I want to do something that expresses the things we go through. The things we feel. I have a lot of older white friends who don't understand our culture. They might see ignorant or wild things and don't understand why it's going on. But I might have to break it down like, 'Yo, this guy is on drugs for 15 years.' I believe I can express things through film. ___ Online: http://www.meekmilldreamteam.com ___ Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MrLandrum31 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/jonathan%20landrum