Day: February 15, 2017

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Melania Trump, Sara Netanyahu visit African-American museum


While President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, first lady Melania and Sara Netanyahu toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Melania Trump and Sara Netanyahu left the White House at about 2:30 p.m. Trump was wearing a white one-piece peplum dress with her hair down, while Netanyahu sported a pink knee-length coat over a pink dress.

Upon arrival at the museum, the duo met Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton and Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum directors escorted the first ladies around the facility and gave them a verbal tour of the 19th Smithsonian institution. They stopped by the Greensboro Lunch Counter, where four black residents of Greensboro, N.C., launched a sit-in at a restaurant inside the Woolworth department store on South Elm Street.

Trump and Netanyahu’s tour stopped at the statue of Thomas Jefferson to see the exhibit called “The Paradox of Liberty,” a reference to the founding father’s owning slaves.

Trump had been expected to visit the latest Smithsonian museum on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16, but did not end up visiting. In a report on Jan. 14, the museum said the White House and Secret Service had not reached out to them to plan the visit at that point. The trip was scheduled days after civil rights leader-turned-lawmaker, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., announced he would not attend Trump’s inauguration.

The museum was first commissioned by Congress in 2003 and opened in September. Since then, more than 1 million people have passed through the building and seen the 36,000 artifacts on display.

McConnell: Gorsuch will be confirmed for Supreme Court

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McConnell said he planned to file cloture on the Gorsuch nomination.

02/15/17 4:36 PM



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DNC will vote on resolution to condemn ABC drama 'Designated Survivor'


The Democratic National Committee is expected to vote next week on a resolution that condemns the ABC drama “Designated Survivor” in an apparent effort to mock and criticize FBI Director James Comey.

The party’s resolution committee will consider the motion during its annual gathering in Atlanta next week.

“Whereas, the ABC TV show ‘Designated Survivor’ portrays a fictional FBI Director as being blackmailed into confessing to a crime he did not commit, and … Whereas, the portrayal of this situation is unbelievable and could result in the undermining of faith in the FBI…” the resolution states.

“Whereas, Director Comey demonstrated in the recent 2016 election that he does not need to be blackmailed to engage in illegal partisan actions, and … Whereas Director Comey’s infamous, partisan, and illegal letters resulted in the election of the man some refer to as ‘not my president,” the resolution continues.

Democrats have claimed Comey’s late October announcement — that his agency had reason to continue an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state — cost the Democratic presidential nominee the election. Comey issued a follow-up statement a week and a half later saying they were no longer looking into the issue, but Democrats have said the initial press conference damaged her chances.

The DNC resolution adds: “Therefore, be it resolved, that all US citizens are encouraged to have the same respect for the FBI as Director Comey demonstrated with his illegal actions.”

“Designated Survivor” — starring Kiefer Sutherland, whose character takes over as president after terrorists blow up the Capitol during the State of the Union address — involves a plotline where a top FBI official is blackmailed into confessing a crime he did not commit.

Surgeon general stresses prevention

Also from the Washington Examiner

Vivek Murthy said healthcare spending has focused too much on treatment.

02/15/17 5:21 PM

McConnell: Gorsuch will be confirmed for Supreme Court

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McConnell said he planned to file cloture on the Gorsuch nomination.

02/15/17 4:36 PM



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Darrell Issa on NRCC list of 10 most vulnerable members


The National Republican Congressional Committee has identified the ten House GOP incumbents it thinks are the most vulnerable in 2018.

Three of the members are from California, including former House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, who narrowly won re-election in November.

“Our Patriots are a group of battle-tested members who won hard-fought races in 2016 and are ready to win once again,” NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers stated in identifying them. “Each of those announced is not only an effective member in Congress, but an integral advocate for the communities they serve.

“The NRCC stands squarely behind each of them and will work tirelessly on their behalf to ensure their important voices continue to represent their constituents,” the Ohioan concluded.

Members in the NRCC’s “patriot program,” get additional financial and strategic support for their campaigns from the NRCC.

The other nine members are: Steve Knight and David Valadao, both from California; Brian Mast of Florida; Jason Lewis of Minnesota; New York’s John Faso and Claudia Tenney; Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania; Will Hurd of Texas; and Barbara Comstock of Virginia.

Labor nominee Puzder drops out

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Fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder officially withdrew his nomination after issues with his bid.

02/15/17 2:39 PM

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Puzder critics exult over withdrawal


Andrew Puzder had not even officially withdrawn his nomination to be President Trump’s labor secretary Wednesday when critics of the bid exulted in the news that he was pulling out.

Puzder, the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, which owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. franchises and is an outspoken conservative, had long been a controversial pick for the Cabinet post. He was opposed by many Democrats and liberal groups, particularly organized labor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told the White House Wednesday afternoon that Puzder did not have enough Republican votes for confirmation, according to the Washington Post. His first Senate confirmation hearing, which had been delayed four times, was scheduled for Thursday morning.

“Reports on @AndyPuzder withdrawing shows the power of collective action by workers. An indictment of everything he stands for,” tweeted Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation.

“Today was another day of chaos of the Trump presidency. The withdrawal of Andy Puzder is another failure by this Trump presidency,” said Tom Perez, former President Barack Obama’s labor secretary who is running to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “We stood up, we fought back and we told Trump that he does not represent working people.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was one of the first to react to media reports about the lack of Republican support. “I’m encouraged my Republican colleagues are starting to agree.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said he was “not surprised” by the news. “His policies and positions were so antithetical to the agency he was picked to lead. Why would he want this job. … His record suggests he has no regard for worker safety and and fairness.”

Washington Examiner reporter Al Weaver contributed to this report.

Labor nominee Puzder drops out

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Fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder officially withdrew his nomination after issues with his bid.

02/15/17 2:39 PM



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Labor nominee Puzder to call it quits


Andrew Puzder, President Trump’s nominee to be secretary of labor, will withdraw from consideration Wednesday, according to multiple reports following a tumultuous day in which video of his ex-wife’s appearance on a 1990 episode of the “Oprah Winfrey Show” dedicated to domestic violence surfaced. His first confirmation hearing was scheduled for Thursday morning.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told the White House that Puzder does not have the votes to win confirmation, according to the Washinton Post.

Puzder, chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants, which owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. franchises, had been a controversial pick from the start. An outspoken conservative and critic of the Obama administration’s efforts to expand workplace regulations, he was staunchly opposed by many liberal groups, especially organized labor. Senate Democrats appeared united against him, while several Republicans expressed doubts about the pick.

While it was known previously that his ex-wife, Lisa Fierstein, had appeared on the Oprah show at the time, the actual footage had not surfaced until Wednesday. Speaking under an assumed named and wearing a wig, Fierstein said, “Most men who are in positions like that don’t leave marks. The damage that I sustained you can’t see. It’s permanent damage but there are no marks. And there never was. They don’t hit you in the face. They’re too smart. They don’t hit you in front of everyone,” said Fierstein, who appeared on the program in a wig and under an alias.

That apparently caused several Republican senators who were previously wavering on Puzder to oppose his nomination. He apparently lacked enough Republican support to advance out of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

His nomination had appeared rocky for weeks. He admitted that he had hired an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper for several years but said he fired her and offered to help her legal status as soon as he found out. And the first hearing before the HELP Committee had been postponed at least four times due to committee Democrats raising questions about how he had divested his personal investments. That sparked rumors that he was considering dropping out. Nevertheless, sources close to the nominee insisted that he was all-in.

That changed Wednesday after Politico posted a 1990 clip of Fierstein appearing on Winfrey’s show along with other women had been recipients of domestic violence.

Fierstein has since repudiated the Oprah appearance, telling the committee in a January letter, “First, let me be clear. Andy is not and was not abusive or violent. He is a good, loving, kind man and a deeply committed and loving father,” she said in a letter dated Jan. 18 that was sent to HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, the committee’s top Democrat.

The Oprah appearance, she said, was the result of becoming “caught up in the notion of a free trip to Chicago and being a champion of women’s issues.”

CNN reporter: 'The fix is in' on White House press conferences

Also from the Washington Examiner

CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta said, at least, for the time being, the national media can expect President Trump to avoid aggressive questioning during press conferences.

On Wednesday, Trump hosted a joint press conference at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. During the Q&A portion, Trump called on two American reporters, both of whom represent right-leaning news outlets.

In a segment on CNN with host Wolf Blitzer afterward, Acosta expressed disappointment that Trump was not pressed harder on the resignation of now-former national security adviser Mike Flynn.

“And so in the last three news conferences, Wolf, all of the questions to the American news media have been handled by

02/15/17 3:10 PM

Reports: Trump asks Harward to be national security adviser

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He’s mulling the offer, according to reports.

02/15/17 1:19 PM



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Netanyahu: Time to 'put to rest' anti-Semitic notions about Trump White House


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advised reporters on Wednesday to “put to rest” suggestions that President Trump or anyone in his administration is anti-Semitic or that he stoked anti-Semitic fires on his way to the White House.

“If I can respond to something that I know from personal experience, I have known President Trump for many years, and to allude to him, or to his people, his team, some of whom I have known for many years, too,” Netanyahu said during a joint news conference with Trump. “There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump.”

“I think we should put that to rest,” he said emphatically.

Wednesday marked the two leaders’ second sit-down since Trump was elected last fall, though the president and Netanyahu have known each other for several years.

The Israeli prime minister also highlighted his close relationship with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, during the press conference, asking the president if he could reveal “how long I’ve known Jared.” Kushner is expected to play an integral role in working with the Israelis to broker a peace deal in the Middle East.

Trump thanked Netanyahu for defending him Wednesday before the two men left for a private meeting with their aides.

“Very nice. I appreciate that very much,” the president said while shaking the prime minister’s hand.

Puzder's ex-wife on 'Oprah': 'Most men who are in positions like that don't leave marks'

Also from the Washington Examiner

“He said, ‘I will see you in the gutter. … You will pay for this,'” Lisa Fierstein said in 1990 appearance.

02/15/17 1:36 PM

Trump won't push for two-state solution, 'would love' US embassy in Jerusalem

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“So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

02/15/17 12:40 PM



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Justice Kennedy wants more 'inspiring' public discourse


"We have a duty to show that democracy works through a discourse that's exciting and admirable." (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wants a more “inspiring” public discourse that he thinks has taken a turn toward “insulting” and “divisive” rhetoric.

In remarks in California Tuesday, Kennedy said his urging for society to become more polite was not commentary on “recent political events or even to political dialogue,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

“In recent years, our civic discourse has all too often become intemperate, irrational, hostile, divisive, insulting, unprincipled,” Kennedy said, according to the newspaper. “I’m talking about our whole culture of dialogue — reviews of movies, comments on books, advice for young people… We have a duty to show that democracy works through a discourse that’s exciting and admirable, that’s inspiring.”

Speculation abounds that Kennedy, appointed by president Ronald Reagan, may be considering retirement. When he was running for president, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz publicly called for Kennedy to quit the high court, and President Trump’s administration is reportedly considering its options about how to replace him. Regardless of whether Kennedy is the next justice to leave the bench, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he believes another seat on the Supreme Court will open before 2020.

Trump won't push for two-state solution, 'would love' US embassy in Jerusalem

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“So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

02/15/17 12:40 PM

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Manchin: Intel hearings on circumstances surrounding Flynn's resignation could begin this month


Sen. Joe Manchin, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he’d like to see the committee begin holding hearings with members of Trump’s team implicated in Mike Flynn’s resignation after Congress gets back from a week-long recess for President’s Day.

Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser for just over three weeks, resigned Monday amid allegations that he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador ahead of the inauguration and then misled Vice President Mike Pence about it, sparking calls among Democrats for an open investigation into both Flynn’s actions and when the president found out about them.

Manchin, D-W.V., said the committee is “getting into it” and that he’d like to see a series of hearings with testimony from Flynn as well as Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general who is suspected of being behind the leaks that outed Flynn, and Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman who was criticized for his ties to Russia.

“Bring them all in,” Manchin told reporters following a Democratic caucus huddle to discuss the Flynn allegations and the way forward.

The senator also said he would like to see the committee’s investigation wrapped up within 90 days.

When asked if he would support the release of transcripts of phone calls between Flynn and the Russian ambassador, Manchin simply said that he wants the investigation to be as transparent as possible without revealing any classified information.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who chairs the Senate intelligence panel, said Tuesday that the committee would conduct aggressive oversight “privately,” but Manchin said the chairman told him that the committee will operate in “the most open light we can.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he couldn’t speak to whether the transcripts should be released without knowing what’s in them.

“I think we should find out what’s in them and then make the decision then,” McCain said. “I can’t specifically state. We need to ask a lot of questions and we need a lot of answers.”

Democrats demand meeting with ICE over immigration arrests

Also from the Washington Examiner

House Democrats are demanding the Trump administration reschedule a meeting with immigration officials that party lawmakers said was abruptly canceled.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other Democrats arranged a meeting with the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Thomas Homan, about the recent string of arrests of illegal immigrants. But Homan cancelled after the CHC expanded attendance at the meeting.

“I’m very disappointed, actually angry, that the administration cancelled the meeting at the last minute,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. “We need to get to the bottom of it.

02/15/17 1:05 PM

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., when asked about whether he would support the release of phone call transcripts, also said the intelligence community should have a chance to vet what’s in the transcripts before any public release.

He also called for an independent investigation to try to mend the rift between the intelligence community and the White House.

“This is extraordinary that the president’s own intelligence services seem to be at war with him. This should make everyone uncomfortable,” Murphy said.

Several other senators who serve on the armed services, intelligence and foreign affairs committees dodged questions specifically about the release of the call transcripts or said that they simply didn’t know enough at this time to make a statement on whether they should be made public.

Many senators also seemed tired of talking about Flynn’s resignation and the questions it raises. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., slipped by reporters without taking questions following the Democrats’ meeting and McCain noted that he’s being grilled repeatedly on the same subject: Whether an independent investigation outside of the intelligence committee is warranted.

Netanyahu: Time to 'put to rest' anti-Semitic notions about Trump White House

Also from the Washington Examiner

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it’s time to “put to rest” any suggestions that President Trump or anyone in his administration is anti-Semitic or tried to stoke anti-Semitic fires on the way to the White House.

“If I can respond to something that I know from personal experience, I have known President Trump for many years, and to allude to him, or to his people, his team, some of whom I have known for many years, too,” Netanyahu said during Wednesday’s joint news conference with Trump. “There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump. I think we should put that to rest.

02/15/17 1:04 PM

“This is the 50th time I’ve answered this question and it’ll be the last time,” he told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Trump won't push for two-state solution, 'would love' US embassy in Jerusalem

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“So I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”

02/15/17 12:40 PM



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Ashton Kutcher nearly breaks down at Senate hearing on sex trafficking


Actor and entrepreneur Ashton Kutcher nearly broke down in a Senate hearing Wednesday testifying on human sex trafficking.

Kutcher opened with describing his fight to protect individuals’ right to “pursue happiness.”

“It’s bestowed upon all of us by our Constitution,” he told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Every citizen in this country has the right to pursue it and I believe that is incumbent upon us as citizens of this nation, as Americans, to bestow that right upon others. Upon each other and upon the rest of the world. But the right to pursue happiness, for so many, is stripped away. It’s raped. It’s abused. It’s taken by force, fraud, or coercion. It is sold for the momentary happiness of another.”

Kutcher’s organization, Thorn, uses a web-based technology called Spotlight to combat “modern slavery,” which is defined by the State Department as human trafficking in which individuals are exploited for labor or sex.

He held back tears at various times as he told the committee what he has seen during his fight to stop human trafficking.

“I’ve seen video content of a child that’s the same age as mine being raped by an American man that was a sex tourist in Cambodia. This child was so conditioned by her environment that she thought she was engaging in play,” Kutcher said.

Kutcher again got emotional when describing how he was unable to give technology to the Department of Homeland Security to help to locate a young girl being raped a video on the dark Web.

“It devastated me,” he said. “It haunted me. Because every night, I had to go to sleep every night and think about that little girl who was still being abused, and the fact that if I built the right thing, we could save her. So that’s what what we did. And now, if I got that phone call, the answer would be ‘yes.'”

Spotlight is described by Thorn as a software that “takes massive amounts of data and turns it into an asset for law enforcement, improving the effectiveness of human trafficking investigations.”

Liberal groups urge Congress to oppose Gorsuch

Also from the Washington Examiner

More than 100 groups write letter to Senate Judiciary Committee against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

02/15/17 12:31 PM

At least 27 million people worldwide are forced into modern slavery, Kutcher said Wednesday. He said he has seen victims of human trafficking in Russia, India, Mexico, New York and New Jersey, and has also been alongside the FBI on raids.

Kutcher also answered critics who say he should stick to his day job of acting. But he said of his fight against human trafficking, “That’s my day job and I’m sticking to it.”

Last year, Kutcher said Thorn — which he founded with his ex-wife, Demi Moore — saved more than 6,000 victims and identified more than 2,000 traffickers in the process.

Kutcher said organizations like his own show the success public-private partnerships and investment in technology can have.

“We need government to join us as investment partners and support the ongoing innovation needed to stay ahead of perpetrators as well as invest in the technical support for law enforcement agents that are working to protect our kids,” he said.

Conservative media dub Flynn ousting 'political assassination'

Also from the Washington Examiner

Voices on the right are referring to former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s ousting this week as a “political assassination.”

The phrase was first used by national security reporter Eli Lake at Bloomberg View on Tuesday. But some in the conservative media have picked up on it.

The Drudge Report linked to Lake’s column with the banner headline, “POLITICAL ASSASSINATION.”

Also on Tuesday, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh described it that way.

“So what we have here, we have a political assassination that’s taken place here,” he said. “The media’s gonna try as hard as they can not to let go of this, because now they’ve got their scalp.

02/15/17 12:24 PM

President Trump takes first steps to change Obamacare

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The rule proposed Wednesday morning by CMS would halve the regular enrollment period.

02/15/17 9:48 AM



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Mulvaney survives procedural vote on his OMB nomination


President Trump’s nominee for budget director advanced toward confirmation Wednesday after the Senate voted 52-48 to cut off debate on his nomination, a step that was not guaranteed amid concerns from the Right and the Left.

Republican South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney, a staunch fiscal conservative, now appears set for final confirmation as President Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget Thursday morning, as Democrats are expected to drag out the vote to the maximum extent.

Wednesday’s vote was critical because of skepticism even within the GOP of Mulvaney, who has been among the most conservative members of Congress in recent years. A key question has been his support for increased defense spending given his drive to cut overall federal spending.

Mulvaney used his confirmation hearing to argue that stabilizing the debt is necessary for ensuring the country’s safety.

But prior to the vote, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had indicated that he would vote against Mulvaney on the grounds that he was insufficiently pro-military. During a confirmation hearing in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, McCain grilled Mulvaney about a series of votes to cut military spending and pull troops out of Afghanistan.

McCain on Wednesday voted to end debate on Mulvaney’s nomination, which doesn’t rule out that McCain might vote against Mulvaney in the final confirmation vote.

Other Republicans have also indicated they may not be able to support Mulvaney in the final vote, but all voted to advance him in the procedural vote.

Any Republican defections will make Mulvaney’s passage to confirmation more difficult. He can afford to lose two Senate Republicans before Vice President Mike Pence would be needed to break a 50-50 tie, as Pence did in the final vote for Betsy DeVos as Trump’s education secretary.

But if any more Republicans vote against him, Republicans would have to find support from Democrats to get him across the line.

Tom Friedman: Trump's election was another 9/11, Pearl Harbor

Also from the Washington Examiner

Friedman said Flynn’s resignation offers renewed opportunity to demand answers to White House’s ties to Russia.

02/15/17 10:15 AM

Another major complication to Mulvaney’s nomination was his revelation that he had failed to pay $15,000 in payroll taxes for a nanny that helped raise his triplets. He said he paid those taxes after learning that they were owed, but tax snafus have sunk the candidacies of Cabinet-level nominees in the past.

Democrats generally opposed Mulvaney on the grounds of his fiscal conservatism. Mulvaney has long advocated reforms to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

During his hearings, Democrats contrasted Trump’s campaign trail suggestions that he would not seek such reforms with Mulvaney’s own statements, but Mulvaney didn’t back down from his pro-entitlement reform stance. “I like to think it’s why he hired me,” he told senators.

President Trump takes first steps to change Obamacare

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The rule proposed Wednesday morning by CMS would halve the regular enrollment period.

02/15/17 9:48 AM



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