Category: New Posts


Trump meets with GOP leaders to 'start the process' of Obamacare reform

President Trump met with Republican congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday to kickstart the process of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, just one day after he laid out a blueprint for healthcare reform in his speech to a joint session of Congress.

“Thank you very much, we are here to start the process,” Trump said at the outset of the meeting. “It begins as of now and we’ll have tremendous success.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were joined by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House majority leader, Rep. Steve Scalise, House majority whip, Sen. John Cornyn, Senate majority whip, and Sen. Cory Gardner, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, among others.

Vice President Mike Pence, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus also attended the lunch.

Trump outlined several of his top priorities for an Obamacare replacement during his speech Tuesday evening. The president said any replacement plan should allow Americans to purchase health insurance plans across state lines, give states more flexibility on Medicaid and increase the use of Health Savings Accounts, among other provisions. He called on Democrats to help Republicans fix the crumbling healthcare system.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said earlier Wednesday that Trump will meet with Democratic leaders as well as other “rank and file” members in the coming weeks, but stressed that the event “has always been a Republican lunch.”

“The Republicans control the agenda, and this is about charting out the agenda and the timeline,” Spicer said of the lunch meeting.

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Republicans stall on approving Obamacare chief Seema Verma

An insufficient number of Senate Republicans showed up Wednesday morning to approve President Trump’s pick to lead a top healthcare agency.

The Senate Finance Committee tied on a 9-9 vote on whether Seema Verma should lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an agency that oversees the federal government’s health insurance programs including the Obamacare marketplaces.

Verma, who helped Indiana and several other states craft alternative Medicaid expansion programs, is expected to eventually be approved as administrator of CMS, although Democrats have raised some ethical concerns and dislike her views on Medicare and Medicaid.

Sen. Ron Wyden, the committee’s top Democrat, voted against approving Verma, saying she hadn’t sufficiently answered his questions about how she would approach the issue of drug prices and Medicaid eligibility.

“What I read was a lot of happy-talk that didn’t amount to much substance,” Wyden said. “That’s deeply troubling for me when considering a position that’s responsible for a trillion dollars of spending on healthcare — something that touches every American family.”

A spokesman for committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said the plan is to hold a second vote later in the day, once enough members are present.

Verma’s nomination has attracted some bipartisan support, unlike HHS Secretary Tom Price, so opposed by Senate Finance Democrats that they boycotted his confirmation vote. Hatch said he hopes some Democrats will vote in favor of Verma.

“I think she is a highly qualified nominee,” Hatch said. “I really don’t think there’s anyone who reasonably disputes that.”

White House: Conway plugged Ivanka Trump brand 'inadvertently'

Also from the Washington Examiner

“Ms. Conway has acknowledged her understanding of the standards” and will abide by them.

03/01/17 12:32 PM

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Dow surges past 21,000 in wake of Trump speech

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose past 21,000 Wednesday morning as investors processed President Trump’s address to Congress and bullish comments from Federal Reserve officials Tuesday.

Stocks surged, led by big banks, and the dollar strengthened as markets priced in expectations about growth and earnings.

If the Dow finishes above 21,000, it would tie the record for the fastest time from one thousand-point milestone to another, according to the Wall Street Journal. The index first hit the 20,000 mark on January 25.

Wednesday’s rally came after Trump’s major speech, in which he pledged to pursue tax reform, regulatory reform, and several other items pleasing to investors. Some analysts were giving the speech credit for the Wednesday surge.

“The belief is it will be a more pro-business agenda and create better optimism and better opportunity, and you’re seeing that play through in terms of sentiment,” said Baird Advisors chief investment officer Mary Ellen Stanek, speaking on Bloomberg TV.

Another factor buoying markets was the reassurance from Fed officials throughout Tuesday that the recovery has momentum and that they are on track to continue raising interest rates later this year, perhaps as soon as March.

On Wednesday, investors saw greater than a 50-50 chance that the central bank would raise its interest rate target three times in 2017, according to bond market prices published by CME Group. Fed officials projected in December that they would hike three times in the year, but until Wednesday investors had remained skeptical.

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Democratic bill would kick Steve Bannon out of National Security Council meetings

A handful of House Democrats proposed legislation on Tuesday that would prevent White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon from participating in National Security Council meetings.

Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., introduced the bill over worries that Bannon last year described himself as someone who wants to destroy the government.

“During an interview on August 22, 2016, Bannon referred to himself as a ‘Leninist’ and stated his goal was to destroy all of today’s establishment,” Espaillat said.

That’s a reference to a Daily Beast story in which Bannon was quoted as saying, “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

Espaillat’s bill would change federal law so that Bannon or anyone else who makes these kinds of statements cannot serve on the NSC.

“I refuse to stand idle as Bannon along with others within the Trump administration try to dismantle our democratic process,” Espaillat said.

“Anyone who makes statements in threat to our government or to the security of our nation, similar to the remarks made by White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon about overthrowing the U.S. government, should not have a security clearance, no less a seat on the National Security Council,” he said.

Bannon last week stressed that a major goal of his is the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” which he described as efforts to eliminate federal regulations and move power back to the states and the people.

Pence on immigration compromise: 'We'll see'

Also from the Washington Examiner

Pence refuses to comment on why Trump has delayed the immigration order.

03/01/17 12:17 PM

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Rep. Ryan Zinke confirmed as Trump's Interior secretary

The Montana Republican won a relatively easy confirmation vote on the Senate floor, 68 to 31, although most Democrats voted against him. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Rep. Ryan Zinke as President Trump’s first secretary of the interior.

The Montana Republican won a relatively easy confirmation vote on the Senate floor, 68 to 31, although most Democrats voted against him.

As interior secretary, Zinke will oversee energy development on federal lands and waters, the protection of endangered species and the operation of the country’s national parks.

The vote in favor of Zinke was not expected to be particularly constrained or controversial. Many Democrats said they believed they could work with him, although his views on climate change weren’t completely in line with their own.

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Trump's Labor Department to delay conflict-of-interest rule by 60 days

President Trump’s Labor Department will delay the implementation of a rule cracking down on conflicts of interest in retirement investing, the first step in reversing one of President Obama’s late-term priorities.

The Labor Department announced on Wednesday that it planned to delay by 60 days the start date of the “fiduciary rule,” giving it time to reassess the rule and scrutinize its financial and legal costs.

Originally slated to go into effect April 10, the rule would require that all investment advisers and brokers working with tax-privileged retirement accounts, such as Individual Retirement Accounts, are required to act in their clients’ best interests.

Obama and congressional liberals backed the rule as necessary to prevent some advisers from steering clients into inappropriate high-fee financial products in order to get kickbacks. Those conflicts of interest, the Obama White House claimed, cost people billions annually.

Yet Republicans have criticized the rule as overly burdensome, saying it would make it impossible for some middle-income savers and small businesses to access retirement advice.

“We commend the Department of Labor for its swift action to protect retirement savers by issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking to delay the fiduciary rule, which will help ensure all Americans have access to the advice and choices needed when saving for their future,” said Thomas Donohue, head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Trump demanded that the Labor Department review the rule as one of his first acts in office.

The agency, however, is still without a head. Trump’s original nominee, fast food executive Andy Puzder, withdrew from consideration in February. His replacement selection, law professor and former President George W. Bush appointee Alexander Acosta, has not yet been vetted by the Senate.

Are the 'trivial fights' really 'behind us'?

Also from the Washington Examiner

A CNN survey found 7-in-10 Americans “said the speech made them feel more optimistic about the direction of the country.”

03/01/17 9:56 AM

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Sen. Jack Reed says Trump taking credit for F-35 savings he didn't achieve

The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee slammed President Trump for his repeated attempts to “take credit” for jobs he didn’t create and savings that were achieved before he took office.

In Trump’s joint address to Congress on Tuesday night, the president touted his achievements since taking office, including several companies announcing they will create “tens of thousands of new American jobs.” He also said he’s been able to save money on the contract with Lockheed Martin to build the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“We’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by bringing down the price of the fantastic new F-35 jet fighter, and will be saving billions more dollars on contracts all across our government,” Trump said.

Experts have previously said that statements like this amount to Trump taking credit for savings that were achieved through hard work by people in the procurement system during negotiations that took place long before the inauguration. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and ranking member on the panel, echoed that sentiment following Trump’s speech.

“President Trump has a serious credibility problem. He tries to take credit for jobs he didn’t create and, with respect to the F-35 program, savings that were achieved before he even took office,” Reed said.

Reed also criticized Trump’s speech for not mentioning Russia, a key point of tension in the Trump administration after former national security adviser Mike Flynn resigned over allegations of inappropriate communications with Russia. The Senate’s intelligence panel is investigating Russia’s influence operations during the presidential election.

“Americans cannot afford to turn a blind eye to Russian interference in our democracy. We need to get to the facts and learn lessons to prevent future misconduct by foreign governments,” Reed said. “But this administration and its allies are throwing up roadblocks to a fair, impartial investigation. We need bipartisan action in Congress to ensure no foreign attack on our electoral process goes unchecked.”

Are the 'trivial fights' really 'behind us'?

Also from the Washington Examiner

A CNN survey found 7-in-10 Americans “said the speech made them feel more optimistic about the direction of the country.”

03/01/17 9:56 AM

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Pelosi: Immigration reform bill must include path to citizenship

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she would not sign off on an immigration reform bill from President Trump that didn’t allow a pathway to citizenship for the millions of people already in the country without documentation.

“It’s very important for our country to say the path to citizenship is the dignity these people need,” she said Wednesday morning on MSNBC.

Pelosi said one the areas that Democrats want to work with Trump, when the time comes, is immigration reform.

“If it’s something that forbids citizenship, no I couldn’t sign onto that. If we want to talk about — I think there are plenty of ways we can work in a bipartisan way on immigration, in fact we have to,” Pelosi said.

She said she was hopeful about Trump’s statements to news anchors Tuesday before his speech that reporters said were a sign he would be open to legal status for illegal immigrants who haven’t committed a crime. But Trump kept to his hardline immigration position during the speech, and Pelosi admitted that a shift by Trump would face blowback in his own party, she said.

“Whatever the president might propose, it’ll be interesting how the Congress disposes of it,” she said.

Pelosi said her conference isn’t planning on cooperating with Trump’s agenda for the time being because she sees nothing worth backing. She said Democrats would present their own agenda for governing when the time comes.

“When we believe the time is right, we will put forth our positive agenda, and not while people are enamored with a snake oil salesman,” she said. “All we have is rhetoric, we don’t have any legislation.”

Oprah reconsidering if she could be president after Trump

Also from the Washington Examiner

Oprah is reconsidering whether she could be president in the wake of President Trump’s political rise to the Oval Office, she said in an interview released Wednesday.

“I actually never thought that was – I never considered the question, even that possibility,” she said in an interview with Bloomberg. “I just thought, oh. Oh.”

“I thought, oh gee, I don’t have the experience, I don’t know enough. And now I’m thinking, oh. Oh.”

The popular daytime talk show host has no experience in politics, but has previously endorsed former President Barack Obama and interviewed the former first couple multiple times.

03/01/17 9:00 AM

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Trump's message: Government has failed you

President Trump delivered an hour-long address to Congress Tuesday night that carried a consistent, unmistakable message — the federal government has failed, and it’s time to pick up the pieces.

But Trump also managed to deliver an optimistic message, one based on the government’s return to its core function of protecting its people, and giving people the freedom to pursue their hopes and dreams.

Trump’s message was perhaps most clear when he introduced his guests as those whose families were torn apart in domestic terrorism attacks, attacks that he said happened because the government failed in that basic mission.

“Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them,” he said.

He returned a few times to the failure of Obamacare to deliver a working, affordable healthcare system for millions of people. He said Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky has reported that Obamacare is “failing in his state… it is unsustainable and collapsing.”

Later he called it the “imploding Obamacare disaster,” and said mandating that people buy government-approved health insurance was “never the right solution for America.”

He said all recent administrations have done is chalk up more government debt, watch as people struggle to find work, and cede manufacturing jobs to China.

“And we’ve spent trillions of dollars overseas, while our infrastructure at home has so badly crumbled,” he said.

He said President Lincoln warned 150 years earlier that “the abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people.”

Pence: Trump's speech showed his true nature

Also from the Washington Examiner

Vice President Mike Pence praised President Trump’s speech to Congress Tuesday as the start of a pivot that would bring the country forward in a more united and bipartisan way.

Pence said on NBC Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress was the president he knows behind the scenes. Now that the American people have seen him as Pence sees him, the vice president believes the turmoil sweeping the country may calm down.

“What the American people saw was the president I serve with every day,” Pence said. “Broad shoulders, big heart.”

“He’s a fighter … but maybe it was just the context of the elite nature of an address to a joint session of Congress that the American people saw him in full,” he added.

03/01/17 8:14 AM

“Lincoln was right – and it is time we heeded his words,” he said.

Trump listed a series of solutions to these problems, and each one involved either paring back the government’s involvement, or fixing errors the government has made.

He talked about fixing the over-priced contract for the F-35 fighter jet, the elimination of “job crushing regulations,” and freezing the hiring of “non-essential federal workers.”

Regarding healthcare, he talked about health savings accounts to give people access to the plans they want, “not the plan forced on them by the government.”

A healthier population would arise, he said, “if we slash the restraints, not just at the FDA, but across our government.”

Obama official: 'Nothing magic' about saying 'radical Islamic terrorism'

Also from the Washington Examiner

Marie Harf noted that Trump’s own staff has said they oppose using that term.

03/01/17 7:25 AM

Trump indicated that the failure to secure the border has been the government’s biggest failure, and said he would put the government back on the mission of protecting its people.

“It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur,” he said.

Trump also concluded with a series of inspiring remarks that relied on individual achievement, instead of hope in the government.

“We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts,” he said. “The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls. And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action.”

“And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and, believe in yourselves. Believe in your future,” he said. “And believe, once more, in America.”

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Obama official: 'Nothing magic' about saying 'radical Islamic terrorism'

A former Obama administration official dismissed President Trump’s reference to “radical Islamic terrorism” in his speech to Congress last night as a talking point that doesn’t matter much in the war against ISIS.

“There’s nothing magic about those three words, and they’re not a strategy, they’re a talking point,” said Marie Harf, a former State Department spokeswoman, on Fox News.

Harf noted that Trump’s own staff has said they oppose using that term because it “alienates a lot of the people that we actually need to work with us in defeating ISIS.”

She said Obama’s plan was effective and was working, which was to build up local forces to fight the group and give them air support. But that plan was criticized by many Republicans, who said it required waiting for several years to make progress.

Republicans also said Obama hurt the effort by failing to acknowledge that radical Islam was the source of the terrorist threat, and charged that he couldn’t effectively fight an enemy he refused to identify.

Unlike President Obama’s push to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, Trump said his plan was to “demolish and destroy” the group.

“As promised, I directed the Department of Defense to develop a plan to demolish and destroy ISIS – a network of lawless savages that have slaughtered Muslims and Christians, and men, women, and children of all faiths and beliefs,” Trump said.

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