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National Govt & Politics
GOP talks about keeping individual mandate in health care reform effort
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GOP talks about keeping individual mandate in health care reform effort

GOP talks about keeping individual mandate in health care reform effort
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

GOP talks about keeping individual mandate in health care reform effort

While most of the headlines and questions in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol in recent days have been about President Donald Trump and the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, GOP Senators continue to work behind the scenes in a bid to forge their own version of a bill to make major changes in the Obama health law.

"The issues that are out there are workable; I don't see any reason that we can't get this done," said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who is one of the strongest allies of President Trump in the Senate.

With the calendar already at mid-May, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noted to his colleagues this week that they need to get moving on a plan soon.

"We can't take forever," McConnell said, as Republicans try to figure out how to forge a deal that can get a Senate majority.

On Wednesday, there was a surprise trial balloon from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who said that he was open to keeping the individual mandate - which is maybe the most hated provision among Republicans, as it requires individuals to buy health insurance or face a tax penalty from the IRS.

Hatch, who is chairman of the important Senate Finance Committee, is a key player in these health care negotiations - but keeping the individual mandate would seemingly be a tough thing to swallow for many Republicans, especially since they denounced it so regularly over the last seven years.

Already, some GOP Senators have said they are open to keeping some of the taxes under Obamacare, raising the possibility that the Senate plan may be more of a reform of existing law, and much less of a repeal of the Obama health law.

New data from the feds out earlier this week showed that 9 percent of Americans were now without health insurance, the lowest percentage rate ever, and down from 16 percent when the Obama health law was approved.

But - that 9 percent still means many people are without health insurance, even with Obamacare in place.

"On the other hand, progress in covering the uninsured under the ACA seems to have stalled at about 20 million people," said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a fresh reminder of how the Obama health law hasn't solved all health access problems.

While Republicans try to forge their own bill, a smaller bipartisan group is also exploring a possible deal, though the chances for an agreement still seem like a long shot.

"We continue to push forward and we continue to think there's a compelling reason for Republicans and Democrats to be involved," said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), a doctor who has spearheaded efforts to find some common ground on health care.

"Every time an insurance company announces another premium increase, of a CEO tells me he will be 40 percent on top of that if things don't change, then we think there's an even more compelling reason," Cassidy added.

While a couple of Democrats have been talking with Cassidy, there are no signs of any emerging deal - as the talks have included Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) - they would be considered by many to be the most likely Democrats to work with the GOP on health care details.

For Republicans in the Senate, finding a deal on health care is going to become just as consuming as it was in the House a few short weeks ago, as the Majority Leader is correct - they can't wait forever to act.

"The foundation of Obamacare is broken," said Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).

How the GOP moves to fix that - and finds enough votes in the Senate - remains an open question.

And Republicans don't have the luxury of an extended debate to figure that out.

Read More

News

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  • Kevin Hunter Jr., the son of talk show host Wendy Williams and her estranged husband, Kevin Hunter, has reportedly been arrested after punching his father at a store in New Jersey. “Entertainment Tonight” reported that officials with the West Orange Police Department confirmed Hunter Jr. was arrested. >> Read more trending news  According to police, the 18-year-old college student was charged with simple assault Wednesday. “Kevin Jr. was a bit aggressive towards his father and his father tried to control the situation,” an unnamed source said of the incident, according to “Entertainment Tonight.” “Kevin Jr. then punched his father in the face and the cops were called sometime later. Kevin Sr. and Kevin Jr. have always had a great relationship. Not everything is as it appears and Kevin Sr. looks forward to moving past this.” Related: Wendy Williams divorcing husband, manager Kevin Hunter amid rumors of affair “(Kevin Hunter Jr.) was arrested and charged with assault yesterday by the West Orange police. He was given a summons,” a spokesperson for Essex County Family Court told Us Weekly in a statement. “Basically this is a matter that will be handled in family court. … He was processed in West Orange and then released to appear on a summons at a later date.” In a statement to TMZ, Hunter Sr. said, “I love my son very much and I will not be pursuing this matter legally. Things are not always how they appear.” TMZ provided more details on the alleged incident, claiming that unnamed sources said Hunter Sr. and Hunter Jr. were arguing over Hunter Jr.’s demand for spousal support. According to the website, Hunter Sr. put his son in a chokehold and Hunter Jr. punched him in the nose to break away. Related: 'Trying to right some wrongs': Wendy Williams' estranged husband Kevin Hunter issues apology Williams filed for divorce from Hunter Sr. in April, citing “irreconcilable differences between the parties which have caused the breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months” and “no reasonable prospect of reconciliation,” according to “ET.” The divorce came after months of speculation that Hunter Sr. had an affair and rumors that he has a child with his mistress.  Related: Wendy Williams says she’s dating again, ‘rediscovering’ her love of men On her talk show, Williams has spoken about dating again, saying she’s “rediscovering” her love of men and living in New York, where her show is filmed. “I am working on my divorce pleasantly,” she said on her May 14 show.  “You don’t just throw away 25 years lock, stock and barrel. I’ve gotta tell you something right now, as a mature single -- almost single -- woman, I will tell you this: We do have our son, and he is away at college and he’s home right now. He’s home for college break. He sees me, he sees his dad.”
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  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday walked out of a planned meeting to discuss infrastructure issues with Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, amid frustrations over ongoing investigations into his presidential campaign and administration. >> Read more trending news Trump walked out of the meeting after three minutes, opting instead to hold a news conference in the Rose Garden. >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree: Trump tells Dems - no legislating until investigations are stopped “I walked into the room and I told Sen. Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, ‘I want to do infrastructure, I want to do it more than you want to do it,’” he said. “‘But you know what, you can’t do it under these circumstances, so get these phony investigations over with.’” Democrats said the walkout seemed scripted. Pelosi called it all 'very, very, very strange' and said she was praying for Trump and the nation. The meeting at the White House had been set weeks ago, after Trump and the Democratic leaders agreed to talk further about a possible $2 trillion infrastructure proposal. Trump was due to provide the Democrats his ideas on how to pay for it. Schumer said when Trump 'was forced to say how he would pay for it he had to run away.' >> From Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree: Pelosi accuses Trump of being 'engaged in a cover-up' Earlier Wednesday, after a closed-door hearing with Democrats, Pelosi accused Trump of being “engaged in a cover-up” aimed at blocking oversight related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and its possible ties to Trump and his campaign officials.  Mueller completed his probe last month after 22 months of investigation. In a report released earlier this month, Mueller said his team found no evidence that Trump or his campaign officials colluded with Russia to win the election. He did not, however, make a determination around whether Trump obstructed justice in connection to the investigation. >> More on Robert Mueller's investigation Trump has denied all wrongdoing and consistently framed Mueller’s investigation as an expensive and politically motivated “witch hunt” aimed at hurting his presidency.  The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A man accused of stealing $80,000 from a woman he met on a dating website was arrested Tuesday in Tennessee. John Martin Hill, 34, allegedly told the Alpharetta, Georgia, woman he was a millionaire and convinced her they were in love. Within a week of meeting on Match.com, they agreed to marry, according to officials with the Gwinnett County Police Department. The money was was purportedly going toward the purchase of their first home. Police spokeswoman Cpl. Michele Pihera said that once the money changed hands, the woman did not hear from him again. Police released a photo of Hill on Tuesday morning and asked for the public’s help to locate him. Before the day was out, he was behind bars in Franklin, Tennessee, Pihera said in a Wednesday news release. Hill faces a charge of theft by deception in Gwinnett County. Since announcing the charge, Pihera said police have heard from a few other women who said they were in a relationship with Hill or knew another woman who was. >> Read more trending news  Police are hoping the Alpharetta woman’s misfortune will be a cautionary tale for others who seek love online. “When meeting someone online, be very cautious sharing personal information, financial information, or cash with someone in the early stages of a relationship,” Pihera said in a statement. “These types of con men are very good at manipulating their victims. They tend to say everything that a woman wants to hear.” According to investigators, the scheme started March 27. Hill and the Alpharetta woman exchanged messages on the dating site and arranged to meet in person later the same day. The proposal came next. “During their short romance, he convinced her that they were in love and wanted to buy a house together,” Pihera said. “They went house hunting and selected a home they were interested in.” Related: Man meets Georgia woman on dating site, defrauds her out of $80K, police say The woman thought her $80,000 contribution would help with a down payment on the home and buy the couple some furniture. Police said she didn’t know Hill was already living in an apartment in Duluth, Georgia, with another woman and a child.  Investigators learned Hill has changed his name more than five times in the past three years and is accused of committing similar acts in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. They did not quantify the number of cases connected to Hill.  According to officials with the Franklin Police Department, officers tracked Hill to a Marriott hotel Tuesday night, acting on a tip. When they confronted him, Hill allegedly darted into a hotel conference room and hid under a table. He came out on officer’s orders and was arrested.  Hill, who also has a listed address in South Carolina, is being held in the Williamson County Jail in Tennessee in lieu of a $500,000 bond, according to Franklin Police Department officials. He is expected to be extradited to Georgia, officials with the department said.  “By sharing this story, it is our hope that he is not able to victimize any other women using this scam,” Pihera said in a statement. “We are thankful that the victim in our case came forward and reported this crime,” she said. “If any other women have been victimized by Hill, we encourage them to contact their local police department.”
  • A Chicago-area high school is reprinting its yearbooks after students appeared to show hand gestures associated with white supremacy in more than a dozen photos. >> Read more trending news  Students made the upside-down “OK” gesture in 18 photos of the Oak Park River Forest High School yearbook, Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams said in an email sent after a specially called school board meeting Monday night. The school will pay $53,794 to reprint the yearbooks, The Chicago Tribune reported. The gesture started as part of the “circle game,” a juvenile “made-you-look” game, according to the Tribune. Students making the hand gestures in the yearbook were of “various races, ethnicities, genders and grades,” Pruitt-Adams said. However, the gesture has recently been appropriated by white supremacists. Among those who have publicly flashed the symbol is the suspected gunman in the March 15 New Zealand mosque attack that left 51 people dead, the Tribune reported. School officials worried the gesture will become more closely associated with white supremacy, and could harm students when they’re applying to colleges or jobs. “My understanding is [yearbook staff] followed protocol,” she said. “Things in this country change so rapidly. I don’t want anyone to think we are accusing our students of anything. For us, it was the impact of what the publication could have on the student body.” Options like cutting pages out of the yearbook or placing stickers over the photos were considered, but deemed infeasible, Pruitt-Adams said. It’s expected to take three to four weeks to receive the new yearbooks. In the meantime, the school has ordered 2,200 autograph books for students to collect signatures in.