Day: July 28, 2017


Senate health bill: Marathon vote spree to determine fate of ObamaCare repeal – WATCH: McCain riffs on Graham's phone ringing, Cassidy's tardiness

The Senate was poised late Thursday to launch into a marathon “vote-a-rama” on health care as part of Republican leaders’ bid to pass some version of an ObamaCare repeal amid intense disagreements inside the party. 

A deal has proved elusive, and two major Republican proposals already have failed. The final spree of amendment votes could drift into the wee hours of the night — and make clear whether the GOP-controlled Congress has any path for passing even a pared-down repeal measure. 

Anticipating an airtight vote, Vice President Pence is expected to be on Capitol Hill after midnight, in case he’s needed to break a tie — as he was earlier this week. 

At this point, it’s unclear what the final bill might look like, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been playing his cards close to the vest.

But the proposal could be what’s been dubbed the “skinny” repeal, where just a few elements of ObamaCare, like the individual and employer mandates and the taxes on medical device makers, are reversed.

President Trump, who has been pushing Senate Republicans to pass some sort of health care legislation, tweeted encouragement to senators Thursday morning.

“Come on Republican Senators, you can do it on Healthcare,” Trump said. “After 7 years, this is your chance to shine! Don’t let the American people down!”

During Thursday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t comment specifically on the “skinny” repeal, saying they hadn’t reviewed its details yet.

“We got to see what they get to tonight,” Sanders said. “We haven’t seen a final piece of legislation. We’re continuing to work with the Senate to make sure we get the best health care we can.”

Sanders also said that when it comes to talking about the efforts to repeal and replace, “we actually like the term ‘freedom bill’ a lot better, because we think it addresses what this bill actually is.”

Republicans have 52 seats in the Senate. McConnell can lose only two Republican votes if all Democrats vote against the effort and Pence breaks a tie.


Earlier Thursday, Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines offered a “single payer” health care amendment in order to get some Democrats on the record in support of the government-run health care system liberals like Sen. Bernie Sanders support.

“I do not support a single-payer system, but I believe Americans deserve to see us debate different ideas, which is why I am bringing forward this amendment,” Daines said. “It’s time for every senator to go on the record on whether or not they support a single-payer healthcare system.”

The amendment failed 57-0. No Democrats voted for it — 43 of them voted “present.”

Meanwhile, as the Senate planned to vote again on health care, an Alaska news outlet reported Thursday that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called both of the state’s Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, to warn that the state could suffer if they don’t vote for health care legislation.

“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan told the paper.

On Wednesday, Trump singled out Murkowski for her votes opposing the health care measures.

“Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday,” Trump tweeted. “Too bad!”

Senate Republicans drafted their first repeal measure of this session several months ago. But the Senate has struggled to pass any measure that repeals or replaces ObamaCare, even as Republicans have repeatedly watered down legislation to try to win over its divided caucus.

On Wednesday, Republicans faced its latest setback, as a “straight repeal” plan to repeal the bulk of ObamaCare and give lawmakers a two-year window to replace it failed on a Senate vote.

But across the Capitol, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told lawmakers to be prepared to stay in town longer in case the Senate passes. The House, which passed a repeal bill earlier this year, is slated to start the August recess Friday afternoon.

“While last votes are currently scheduled to take place tomorrow, members are advised that—pending Senate action on healthcare—the House schedule is subject to change,” McCarthy said. “All members should remain flexible in their travel plans over the next few days.”

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.

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Conservative watchdog group files lawsuit for metadata of Comey memos

Conservative watchdog organization Judicial Watch has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice asking for the metadata of the memos written by former FBI Director James Comey about his meetings with President Trump.

“We want to figure out when Mr. Comey wrote or edited his memos and how his records were created and managed by the FBI,” Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said Thursday.

The group said the lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Thursday. Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the information last month but said the Department of Justice didn’t respond.

Comey, who was fired as FBI director by Trump in May, acknowledged during a congressional hearing last month that he wrote memos after his meetings with the president. He also admitting having a friend, Columbia Law professor Daniel Richman, leak information from the memos to the media after his firing.

Comey was fired by the president amid tensions over the Russia investigation.

Judicial Watch said they are also asking for records about Comey’s “FBI-issued laptop computer or other electronic devices and records about how Comey managed his records while he was FBI director.”

The group said it is “pursuing numerous” other Freedom of Information Act lawsuits “related to the surveillance, unmasking, and illegal leaking targeting President Trump and his associates during the FBI’s investigation of potential Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.”


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JUDGE NAPOLITANO: Trump, Sessions and the Justice Department — a clash that should not be happening – KARL ROVE: Trump vs. Sessions — It's time for the president to think very hard about how ugly the next six months could be

During the past two weeks, President Donald Trump has made no secret of his unhappiness at the management of the Department of Justice under Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Actually, Trump seems most agitated at the growing parts of the DOJ that are not under Sessions’ management.

He is also angry that the trail of the well-known evidence of the crimes of his former opponent Hillary Clinton seems to have been vacated by the DOJ.

How is it that parts of the DOJ cannot be controlled by the attorney general, whom Trump appointed to run the DOJ? And with a mountain of evidence of Clinton’s espionage — her failure to safeguard state secrets, crimes far more treacherous than those alleged against Trump’s campaign — why has she not been prosecuted?

Here is the back story.

Shortly before he left office, President Barack Obama quietly changed a DOJ regulation so as to permit any federal intelligence agency — there are 16 of them that the federal government acknowledges — that lawfully possesses raw intelligence data to share it with any one or more of the other intelligence agencies. For generations, this had been prohibited.

Raw intelligence data is the untouched fruit of government surveillance, such as copies of emails, text messages and fiber-optic data, as well as digital copies of telephone conversations. We know today that — notwithstanding the Constitution, federal statutes and federal judicial rulings — the National Security Agency captures all communications into, out of and within the United States of every person and entity in the U.S., in real time, 24/7/365.

Among the raw data captured and shared with politicians and the press (such sharing can often be a felony) were transcripts of a series of telephone conversations between Trump’s first national security adviser, former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

When portions of those transcripts were revealed to the press, it appeared that then-FBI Director James Comey thought there may have been a relationship between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government worth investigating. The FBI was also aware of British and NSA surveillance of the Trump campaign going back to the summer of 2015, selected portions of which had been made available to it.

When Sessions became attorney general and learned whatever it is that the FBI learned about the Russians, he concluded that he might become a reluctant witness in the FBI investigation of the Russians because he had been involved in the management of the Trump campaign. Fearing this conflict and rejecting the toughness demanded of his office, Sessions recused himself from the management of all DOJ matters involving the Russians. Then Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, overreacted and appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as an independent counsel to investigate the Russians and all related matters.

Thus was born a now growing part of the DOJ, which is lawfully independent of the president and which has challenged him. On the very day the president warned Mueller to steer clear of investigating Trump’s businesses, Mueller subpoenaed many of their banks’ records.

Shortly before all of this took place, Trump fired Comey because in July 2016, he had dropped the ball by declining to recommend the prosecution of Clinton for destroying 30,000 government emails and for failing to safeguard the secrets contained in the thousands of emails she failed to destroy. Trump was very critical of Comey for usurping the role of the DOJ itself and announcing publicly that Clinton would not be prosecuted — a decision and an announcement that were not Comey’s to make.

At this writing, Sessions is still the attorney general of the United States. Were he to be replaced with an attorney general who has not recused himself from the most significant DOJ investigation since Watergate, there would be no need for an independent counsel.

Whether Sessions stays or goes, the attorney general should not feel bound by Comey’s decision to let Clinton go. He should put the evidence of her crimes before a fresh team of prosecutors and instruct them to present it to a grand jury for indictment.

And he should also identify and indict those in the Obama administration who started this mess with their leaks of raw intelligence data. I have condemned universal surveillance since we first learned of it in 2005. Now we know how horrific the unlawful political use of it can be.

The president is frustrated because he wants to do what he was elected to do. Instead, the DOJ’s lethargy and the independent counsel’s zeal have him at bay.

I have argued in this column and elsewhere that a fair reading of the Constitution and a reasonable understanding of the separation of powers militate in favor of the doctrine of the unitary executive. That doctrine, which was well-accepted by the Framers, states succinctly that when it comes to the executive branch of the federal government, since only the president is accountable to the voters, only he can run the executive branch. The doctrine further articulates that since the consent of the governed is the base line for the government’s moral legitimacy, we should not have agents in the government to whom the voters have never given consent.

Look for a break in the dark clouds soon.

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. 

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