Repeal in motion
With the assist of an ailing Sen. John McCain, Senate Republicans on Tuesday narrowly voted to bring an Obamacare repeal bill to the floor for debate and amendments.
As protesters chanted “kill the bill” and “shame” before being cleared from the gallery, 50 of the 52 Republican senators voted to move ahead to work with the House version of the bill, setting in motion 20 hours of debate and a raft of amendments, reports Newsday’s Tom Brune.
The tiebreaking vote came from Vice President Mike Pence. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska joined Democrats in voting against the bill.
What comes next?
Tuesday’s procedural vote to repeal did not actually trigger any changes to the existing Affordable Care Act, report Newsday’s Paul LaRocco and Tom Brune in this explainer piece.
The Senate will begin the formal process of discussing, amending and — potentially — voting on repealing specific portions of the ACA, including the individual mandate on insurance coverage and state Medicaid expansions. The process, which will unfold in the coming weeks, is almost certain to alter the repeal and replacement plan passed by the House earlier this year. And passage is not certain, as some Republicans who voted for debate have not committed to supporting a final product.
Trump took to Twitter to laud Tuesday’s vote, thanking McCain, who arrived in Washington, D.C., to cast his vote despite undergoing surgery last week and receiving a recent brain cancer diagnosis.
“@SenJohnMcCain-Thank you for coming to D.C. for such a vital vote. Congrats to all Rep. We can now deliver grt healthcare to all Americans!” Trump wrote.
Trump also celebrated the vote during a campaign-style evening rally in Youngstown, Ohio.
Republicans are now one “step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare and delivering great health care for the American people,” he said.
Beleaguered, weak, disappointing?
Trump ramped up his criticism of his “beleaguered” attorney general, Jeff Sessions, leaving his longtime campaign ally’s future in flux.
The president started off the morning taking aim at Sessions on Twitter: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said he was “very disappointed” with his A.G., but declined to answer any questions about Sessions’ future. Sessions was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump’s campaign bid, but Trump downplayed the early support, telling the Journal: “It’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement.”
Later, at an afternoon Rose Garden news conference, Trump would not say whether he believed Sessions should stay on, resign or be fired, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.
Stand by their man
Several GOP senators rallied behind Sessions, their former colleague.
“Jeff understands that we are a nation of laws, not men,” wrote Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Twitter.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas told CNN: “I know Jeff Sessions well, and he’s a good and honorable man, and I think he’s doing what he believes he’s obligated to do under the rules that govern attorneys general.”
A list of other Sessions backers can be found here via CNN.
Trump’s LI stump
Trump will speak Friday afternoon at the Suffolk County Police Academy near communities rocked by MS-13 gang violence, two sources told Newsday’s David M. Schwartz.
The president is scheduled to speak at the academy in Brentwood at 1:30 p.m., according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to get ahead of the White House announcement.
Perhaps the president was looking to earn a badge for starting a fire — a political fire — when he regaled a national Boy Scout gathering with talk of “fake news,” the “cesspool” of politics and some other not-so-PG-13 remarks on Monday.
A day later, Trump continued to draw criticism on social media from angry parents and famous former Scouts, who noted the annual Boy Scout Jamboree is traditionally an apolitical event.
For the past 80 years, past presidents have focused their remarks on promoting “good citizenship” and “serving one another,” and avoided partisan speeches before the nonpolitical group, according to transcripts reviewed by The Washington Post.
In a statement, Boy Scouts of America officials said the nonprofit organization’s invitation to the president to speak “is in no way an endorsement of any political party.”
What else is happening
- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) were caught on a hot mic chatting up their concerns about Trump. “He’s crazy,” Reed said. “I’m worried,” Collins replied.
- Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort met behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence committee as the panel continues its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
- Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, threatened to fire the president’s entire communications shop if the leaks to the media don’t stop.