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National Govt & Politics
Republicans make big push to forge final health care deal
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Republicans make big push to forge final health care deal

Republicans make big push to forge final health care deal
Photo Credit: Jamie Dupree

Republicans make big push to forge final health care deal

Spurred on by President Donald Trump's latest call for action to repeal and replace the Obama health law, Republicans accelerated their work on Wednesday in a push to forge a GOP health care agreement, but even with a new sense of urgency, Republican leaders still face divides in the Congress on several key issues that could imperil the effort.

Let's take a look at some of the issues that are involved in GOP discussions:

1. Trump gives thumbs up to tax credits. This is one of the biggest issues right now in the health care debate among GOP lawmakers, whether you give Americans tax credits to help them buy health insurance. In his speech Tuesday night, the President plainly said "tax credits" - but that means different things to some GOP lawmakers. "A tax credit is just a subsidy in another form," frowned Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The idea has drawn opposition from conservative House Republicans, who worry it will be an expensive entitlement; that opposition from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and others could threaten action in the Senate.

2. GOP leaders push to get a vote done. A day after President Trump's speech, House and Senate Republican leaders made clear they want to get moving on health care, with talk of votes in House committees as early as next week. That came as a bit of a surprise, since no health care bill is even in final form. Most GOP lawmakers are not involved in the negotiations, and so they are on the sidelines, not only waiting for the final language of the legislation, but also all the cost estimates and related facts and figures that go with it. Some of the machinations are starting to worry conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation.

3. Medicaid reform for the states. This is a very big issue, because it pits the 31 states which expanded their Medicaid programs under the Obama health law, against the 19 states that did not. Republicans like the generic idea that states can be given money through block grants, and then have the power to run their own Medicaid operation without massive red tape from Washington, D.C. But the level of money involved, along with how many people would be covered is a big stumbling block, as this has divided not only GOP lawmakers in Congress, but Republican Governors as well.

4. Taxing health benefits from your employer. As I wrote back in January, one option for the GOP was to treat health benefits provided through your job as a taxable benefit - like regular income. The idea is that such a a plan would help keep a lid on the increase in health care costs. That is still a part of the discussion. "The current tax code discriminates against people who don't get health insurance at work," Speaker Paul Ryan said earlier this week. It's still not clear what income level the cap would be at, and how much money that new tax would bring in, as no final bill is publicly available as yet.

5. There are not easy answers on health care. President Trump took some flak earlier this week when he said that "nobody knew health care could be so complicated" - and Republicans in Congress are finding that out as they try to navigate not only the issues, but the rules surrounding how the GOP can push a health bill through the Congress using the complex rules of budget reconciliation. While that allows Republicans to avoid any filibuster in the Senate, it also limits what can be part of that bill, and does not allow the GOP to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act. "I'm very concerned about that," said Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), who argues Senate reconciliation rules are causing "legislative contortions."

6. When can we expect a vote? The best case scenario for Republicans is to push a bill through the House and Senate before Easter - but there could be a number of hurdles that get in the way. There was even one report on Wednesday that votes would take place before cost estimates are received from the Congressional Budget Office. That might not wash with some conservative Republicans, who are worried about spending. "I haven't seen a final bill," said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), who said he is withholding judgment on what his leadership is developing on health care.

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News

  • 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.
  • The House Intelligence Committee delayed a potential vote Wednesday over whether to hold U.S. Attorney General William Barr in contempt in the ongoing battle over special counsel Robert Mueller’s full report. >> Read more trending news The House Intelligence Committee had planned to meet Wednesday morning to discuss taking “enforcement action” against Barr in light of his refusal to release documents and materials related to Mueller’s investigation, CNN reported. However, the news network reported the meeting was canceled after the Justice Department agreed to turn over documents to the committee. >> William Barr contempt order: What is contempt of Congress; how does it work? “The Department of Justice has accepted our offer of a first step towards compliance with our subpoena, and this week will begin turning over to the Committee twelve categories of counterintelligence and foreign intelligence materials as part of an initial rolling production,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a statement obtained Wednesday by Politico. “That initial production should be completed by the end of next week.” Schiff issued a subpoena earlier this month to compel Barr to share documents and materials related to the Mueller investigation, including the full, unredacted report. Barr has previously declined to release the full report, citing grand jury information that cannot be released by law among other restrictions. >> Trump: 'We're fighting all the subpoenas' “The law is on our side,” Schiff said in a May 8 statement announcing the subpoena. “The Committee’s efforts to obtain necessary documents to do our constitutionally-mandated oversight work will not be obstructed.” In a statement posted Wednesday on Twitter, Schiff said the subpoena “will remain in effect, and be enforced should DOJ fail to comply with the full document request.” Barr has already been held in contempt by one congressional committee for his refusal to turn over an unredacted version of the report to the House Judiciary Committee. The panel voted May 8 to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. >> House committee votes to hold AG William Barr in contempt of Congress Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec told The Wall Street Journal the department appreciates the “continued dialogue with the Committee and look forward to working towards appropriately accommodating their requests.”
  • Officials at a Texas state park posted photographs on social media of a rare snake that mimics a cobra when it feels threatened, the Houston Chronicle reported. >> Read more trending news  The snake, an eastern hognose, was spotted Sunday at Brazos Bend State Park after recent rains flooded areas of the park, the newspaper reported. >> Snake slithers from car hood as woman leaves Texas state park According to a Facebook post by park officials, the snake gets its name from its upturned snout, which is used for digging in sand or dirt. When the reptile believes it is in danger, it raises it head and puffs it out to appear larger. It also flattens out the skin around its neck, making it look like a cobra, park officials wrote. >> Oklahoma man finds 7-foot snake in dryer vent The snake can be found in several colors, including yellow, gray, brown or red. The one spotted Sunday was orange and black, park officials said. Unlike the cobra, the hognose’s venom is not deadly. Park officials called it “mild” and said it was not harmful to humans, the Chronicle reported. >> Snakes alive! Woman scared after finding reptile in golf cart When threatened, the snake can also play dead or spray a “foul, musky smell” to deter predators, the newspaper reported.
  • A senior prank could prevent up to 140 Central Florida high school seniors from walking at graduation. >> Read more trending news  Last week, eight Wekiva High School students were arrested on vandalism charges, and dozens of their classmates might be penalized for the prank, even though they weren't arrested. Deputies said the group broke into the high school May 14. While the Orange County school district will not confirm those students will be banned from graduation, several students said more than 140 seniors will not walk during ceremonies at the Apopka school.  'I just feel it's not right. Nobody's trying to hear our side of the story. They're just going off what they're hearing. Nobody's trying to hear the students' point of view,' student Jakia Dickson said. Investigators said they found graffiti on campus walls and flour, glitter and baby oil throughout the hallways.  Invesitgators said the prank caused $20,000 in damages. 'I'm feeling for these kids because it makes no sense,' student Trinity Bell said. One student who will not be allowed to walk is Wilnes Accius. He said he was playing music while others were using toilet paper and bubble wrap. 'We did a prank -- some of it went too far,' Accius said. '(Some) got inside the school trashing it, but we shouldn't be held accountable for it.' >> High school prank involving chickens runs ‘afowl’ of school administrators Another student has started an online petition in hopes that the district will change its mind. That petition already has 3,300 signatures. Some students said some school employees were aware students intended to carry out a prank at the school and gave them access. The district said the students unlawfully entered the school and the act was vandalism and not a prank.