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Long IslandPolitics

Trump thrilled by victory vs. Obamacare, but it’s just Round 1

President Donald Trump celebrates with House Speaker Paul

President Donald Trump celebrates with House Speaker Paul Ryan at the White House on Thursday, May 4, 2017, after the House passed an Obamacare repeal-and-replace health care bill. Photo Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

A midrace victory lap

There was no signing ceremony because there’s nothing to sign yet. But a triumphant Donald Trump welcomed House Republicans to a Rose Garden celebration after enough of them held together to pass an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill by a 217 to 213 vote.

“We won and we’re going to finish it off,” the president said. “It’s going to be an unbelievable victory when we get it through the Senate.” (Video here.)

Easier said than done. The Senate’s Republican majority is narrow -- 52 to 48 -- and many of them are lukewarm to cool over the House’s bill. It’s not clear that Senate Republicans can thread the rules needle to avoid needing 60 votes to pass a bill. And they don’t seem to be in any hurry.

“People are going to want to improve it. I don’t see any way that it goes back in the form that it comes,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

Long Island’s two House Republicans both voted yes -- but Rep. Lee Zeldin said he’d welcome what senators could do to “make the bill better” and Rep. Peter King insisted on it. If a Senate version doesn’t preserve Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, King said, “We can always vote no when it comes back.”

See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.


House Speaker Paul Ryan said the bill creates a “marketplace for competition and lower premiums” to replace an act that “has failed and is collapsing.” The bill passed before the Congressional Budget Office could report back on its potential costs and effects.

Emerging issues are going to give Democrats more ammo beyond the one -- affordable coverage for pre-existing conditions -- that dominated debate in the past week.

The Wall Street Journal (pay site) said a last-minute amendment to the House bill opens the door for employer-sponsored plans to impose lifetime caps on essential benefits. Obamacare abolished the caps, under which treatment for a serious illness could quickly exhaust coverage.

Medicaid cutbacks in the bill threaten funds used by schools to provide services to millions of students with disabilities, The New York Times reported.

Making Australia wait again

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s first encounter with Trump, by phone, didn’t go well. Trump got irritated and cut the call short.

Turnbull flew more than 10,000 miles for a face-to-face meeting with Trump in New York Thursday. But it was delayed, and shortened, so Trump could have his Rose Garden celebration.

CNN reported an official working with Australia’s government called it an “amazing snub” of a longtime U.S. ally, while a senior White House official said “It’s not a snub.”

And speaking of socialism...

Appearing with Turnbull, Trump was apparently so intent on bashing Obamacare anew that he praised Australia for its "better health care" -- which happens to be single-payer, with some private participation.  

The ordinarily stern-looking Sen. Bernie Sanders laughed upon hearing it, but quickly and earnestly added, "Thank you, Mr. President" -- and suggested the United States should examine Australia and Canada and other western systems as others have suggested all along.

Old pals

Appearing later with Turnbull at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Thursday evening, Trump celebrated U.S. friendship with the Land Down Under, reports Newsday’s Laura Figueroa.

“We’ve been allies for 99 years. Can you imagine that?”

The event marked the 75th anniversary of the World War II Battle of the Coral Sea, in which U.S. and Australian naval forces halted a Japanese advance.

Trump was introduced by Australian-born media baron Rupert Murdoch.

Across 12th Avenue, protesters banged on pots and pans, trying to drown out Trump. Newsday’s Matthew Chayes and David M. Schwartz covered the demonstrations.

The take-away: Trump’s gospel

As Trump marked National Prayer Day, Newsday’s Dan Janison took note of the religious leader who influenced him as a young man, the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale.

Peale’s 1952 book “The Power of the Positive Thinking” sold 2 million copies in two years, pioneering what has come to be known as “prosperity gospel.”

“For a Christian minister, he devoted precious little attention to the Bible or to God,” wrote Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio.

Trump: Don’t prey on churches

Trump signed an executive order Thursday aimed at easing an IRS rule -- rarely enforced -- that limits political activity by religious groups, declaring he was giving churches their “voices back.”

The order also will offer assistance to religious groups that have faced fines for defying an Obamacare mandate to provide contraceptives to their employees.

Not included were provisions on “conscience protection” that were in an earlier draft that some conservative religious groups sought for clashes over LGBT rights.

See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

Wistful thinking

Getting used to the idea of Trump as president has been a challenge for some, including, it seems at times, Trump.

At the National Day of Prayer event, he said that if he hadn’t won the presidency, “I’d be out enjoying my life.” In his Reuters interview last week, he said, “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. ... This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

But the thrill was back at the Rose Garden celebration of the House health care vote:

“Am I doing OK? Hey I’m president! I’m president! Can you believe it?!”

What else is happening

  • As Trump is to American history, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus is to sports metaphors. “The president stepped up and helped punt the ball into the end zone,” Priebus said after the House health care vote.
  • Trump saw this coming: the engagement of MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-hosts and his periodic hate-tweet targets, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. The couple told Vanity Fair they won’t take him up on past offers to officiate at the ceremony and to use the White House or Mar-a-Lago as a destination wedding venue.
  • Trump will travel to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican in his first foreign trip later this month. The Vatican visit will include a meeting with Pope Francis, with whom he clashed during the 2016 campaign.
  • Hillary Clinton is building a new political group to fund organizations working on the resistance to President Donald Trump’s agenda, Politico reported. It is expected to be called Onward Together.
  • White House aide and “Apprentice” veteran Omarosa Manigault told Chicago’s WVON radio she has a “good relationship” with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and would “look forward” to meeting with him. That upset the Anti-Defamation League because of Farrakhan’s history of anti-Semitic remarks.
  • Ivanka Trump’s new book, “Women Who Work: Redefining the Rules for Success,” is getting rough reviews. Amazon readers are polarized: 39 percent award it five stars -- the highest rating -- and 58 percent give it one star, the lowest.

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