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Powers North Central keeps streak alive with double OT buzzer-beater, 84-83 -

Berkley Information from Google News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 8:27pm

Powers North Central keeps streak alive with double OT buzzer-beater, 84-83
Powers will play the winner of the Buckley/Lansing Christian winner in the Class D final at 10 a.m. Saturday. The craziest ending you will ever see. Powers North Central wins Class D state semifinal 84-83 in double overtime at the the buzzer. pic ...
Jets face Southfield Christian in semifinalsIron Mountain Daily News
North Central preps for matchup with loaded Southfield ChristianDaily Mining Gazette
Jets look ahead to Southfield Christian in state

all 16 news articles »

Categories: Berkley Area News

Michigan Kossacks: CD Roll Call

Daily Kos Michigan Feed - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 6:18pm

I’m hoping you’ll help me out a little here. I know some of our Kossacks in Michigan but far from all of you. Would you mind taking a moment in the comments to say what Congressional District you live in? And then besides that, two more items: first, to describe what you know about the activity of your own U.S. Representative in response to the effort to repeal the ACA (temporarily sidetracked), and second, what citizen groups have been doing in your district to support the ACA?

I’ll start with a snapshot of what my representative, Debbie Dingell, has been up to lately.

Last Sunday, she and the MI House representatives from Washtenaw (Donna Lasinski, MI-52; Yousef Rabhi, MI-53; Ronnie Peterson, MI-54; Adam Zemke, MI-55) spoke at a well-attended Town Hall on Eastern Michigan’s campus about the impact of ACA repeal on Michigan.

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Debbie is about as solid as they come in support of Obamacare, not surprising given her husband’s role in the matter (which he explained via Twitter, at a series starting here). 


Who knew health care could be so complicated?

— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) March 21, 2017

Unfortunately, David Trott, from MI-11, is not such a stalwart defender of his constituents’ health and well-being. In case you missed it, the local Indivisible chapters from his district helped coordinate a very successful protest in Novi last Saturday. Eclectablog has a good write-up here, which went viral once people realized the subject matter (and thanks as well perhaps to a boost from Jen Hayden). 

So please regale us with what is happening in your district, if you would be so kind. This is one good platform for us to use to share this information in lieu of other effective state-wide MSM.

PS—Tomorrow, Tom Perez and Keith Ellison will be in Michigan for a series of meetings and presentations, including this Town Hall in Detroit, at Ellison’s brother’s church (RSVP here; details provided). I can’t make it but I am confident it’ll be a fascinating event. If anyone does go and wants to write it up for us, that would be great!

Please help us build this weekly Michigan thread so that it includes any information relevant to turning MI Blue again that you would like me to highlight. MI contributors are always welcome! You can reach me through kosmail at peregrine kate. Or say hi through email here: And please follow me on Twitter @peregrinekate

Please feel free to drop in on ANY State Open Thread! 

Colorado: Sunday Mornings
Kansas: Monday Evenings
Michigan: Thursday Evenings
Missouri: Wednesday Evenings
North Carolina: Sundays, 1:00 PM Eastern

Categories: Local and Michigan Blogs

Obama's Top Civil Rights Official Takes Over 'Nerve Center' Of Trump Resistance

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 6:11pm

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WASHINGTON ― The former top official at the Obama Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is taking over the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a 67-year-old organization sometimes described as the lobbying arm of the civil rights movement.

Vanita Gupta, who ran the Civil Rights Division for the last two-plus years of the Obama administration, was named the next president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Thursday. Later this year, she will succeed Wade Henderson, who has served as president and CEO since 1996 and helped grow the organization into a coalition of more than 200 civil and human rights groups.

Gupta, 42, began her legal career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she fought for dozens of people in a tiny Texas town who had been locked up on the lies of a racist rodeo cowboy paid by police to conduct drug stings. She served as deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. 

In October 2014, just months after the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, Gupta was named acting head of the Civil Rights Division. On her watch, the Justice Department issued a damning report on the operations of Ferguson’s police department and municipal court in early 2015 and later released other critical reports on the Baltimore and Chicago police forces. The Justice Department reached deals with officials in Ferguson and Baltimore to improve their law enforcement practices, while a potential agreement with Chicago remains in question under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Gupta said initiatives that the Civil Rights Division championed during the Obama administration are “quite vulnerable” in the Trump era. The groups that make up the Leadership Conference, she said, are at the “heart of the resistance” fighting rollbacks of civil rights protections.

“We’re going to have to use the power of the field operation here at the Leadership Conference and the member organizations to mobilize an American public that right now is really eager to fight back and to resist assaults on the very values that we all hold dear,” Gupta said.

She sees the Leadership Conference as a “nerve center” for both defending civil rights on the federal level and pushing forward to advance civil rights on the state level.

The member organizations of the Leadership Conference have a crucial role to play during the Trump era in her view. “We can’t rely on Congress to be a check on the executive branch right now,” Gupta said.

It was gratifying, she added, to see people “of all stripes, religions and races coming together” in response to the Trump administration’s travel ban.

“I think this is a time of unprecedented solidarity among the groups that make up the Leadership Conference to recognize that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” said Gupta. “For me, this opportunity could not come at a better time, because I think we all know very well, and all too well, what’s at stake.”

Several civil rights leaders applauded Gupta’s appointment. Former Attorney General Eric Holder praised her “fearless advocacy for the rights of all Americans.” Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, called her a “once-in-a-generation leader.” Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said Gupta was at the “forefront of bold, imaginative and uncompromising civil rights leadership.”

Gupta, who worked closely on policing issues at the Justice Department, said she was troubled by the Trump administration’s indications that the department will pull back from the broad reform efforts pursued by the Obama administration.   

“It is a huge, radical departure for this Justice Department to step away from that work,” Gupta said.

But “even if this Justice Department is out of step with what’s happening around this country,” she said, civil rights advocates and policing organizations have an important role to play in pushing reform forward.

“The role of local community input in holding local officials accountable to enforcement has always been really important, and there will be a role for the Leadership Conference to play in lifting up those community voices and the member organizations that are really engaged on that,” Gupta said. 

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Categories: Political News and Opinion

Senate Republicans Vote To Overturn Internet Privacy Protections

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 6:06pm

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted narrowly to repeal regulations requiring internet service providers to do more to protect customers’ privacy than websites like Alphabet Inc’s Google <GOOGL.O> or Facebook Inc <FB.O>.

The vote was along party lines, with 50 Republicans approving the measure and 48 Democrats rejecting it. The two remaining Republicans in the Senate were absent and did not cast a vote.

According to the rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission in October under then-President Barack Obama, internet providers would need to obtain consumer consent before using precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children’s information and web browsing history for advertising and internal marketing.

The vote was a victory for internet providers such as AT&T Inc <T.N>, Comcast Corp <CMCSA.O> and Verizon Communications Inc <VZ.N>, which had strongly opposed the rules.

The bill next goes to the U.S. House of Representatives, but it was not clear when they would take up the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate was overturning a regulation that “makes the internet an uneven playing field, increases complexity, discourages competition, innovation, and infrastructure investment.”

But Democratic Senator Ed Markey said, “Republicans have just made it easier for American’s sensitive information about their health, finances and families to be used, shared, and sold to the highest bidder without their permission.”

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said consumers would have privacy protections even without the Obama administration internet provider rules.

In a joint statement, Democratic members of the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission said the Senate vote “creates a massive gap in consumer protection law as broadband and cable companies now have no discernible privacy requirements.”

Republican commissioners, including Pai, said in October that the rules would unfairly give websites like Facebook, Twitter Inc <TWTR.N> or Google the ability to harvest more data than internet service providers and thus dominate digital advertising. The FCC earlier this month delayed the data rules from taking effect.

The Internet and Television Association, a trade group, in a statement praised the vote as a “critical step towards re-establishing a balanced framework that is grounded in the long-standing and successful FTC privacy framework that applies equally to all parties operating online.”

Websites are governed by a less restrictive set of privacy rules overseen by the Federal Trade Commission.

Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for advocacy group Consumers Union, said the vote “is a huge step in the wrong direction, and it completely ignores the needs and concerns of consumers.”


(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)

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Categories: Political News and Opinion

Trump's Agriculture Pick Sure Doesn't Seem Opposed To Food Stamp Cuts

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 6:03pm

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The long-delayed confirmation hearing of Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, finally arrived before the Senate on Thursday.

For two hours, members of the Senate’s Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee peppered the former Georgia governor with questions mostly centered on elements of trade, crop insurance and forest policy, but largely avoided more controversial topics.

The most glaring omission was any real interrogation regarding the nutrition programs overseen by the USDA, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known colloquially as “food stamps.”

Perdue faced only one question on SNAP on Thursday. About an hour and a half into the hearing, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) asked whether he would commit “to focusing on how we can deliver more food to more families throughout this country” by supporting the program.

Perdue stopped short of making that commitment, appearing to suggest changes could be coming to the program, though he offered no detail on what sort of reforms he might support or anticipate.

“I hope we can do that even more efficiently and effectively than we have,” Perdue said. “It’s certainly important to the children and families of America. I hope we can work together to accomplish that.”

That response was a red flag to Mike Lavender, a spokesman for the Union of Concerned Scientists’s food and environment program.

“What’s left out of the conversation is just as important as what’s brought in,” Lavender told HuffPost Thursday. “You can read into that in a number of ways, but [Perdue’s comments] doesn’t increase my confidence that SNAP is going to be able to reach more people and get more healthy food to more people.”

The absence of further questions on SNAP or any questions on the agency’s other nutrition programs — such as the National School Lunch Program — belies the fact that these programs eat up about 71 percent of the agency’s annual spending.

Despite its well-documented success at reducing participants’ food insecurity, SNAP has also been the subject of numerous hearings exploring potential reforms, and has been viewed as a likely target for cuts under the Trump administration.

Other controversial topics were left entirely off the table at the Thursday hearing. Climate change — which Perdue has downplayed, despite the close link between farming and greenhouse gas emissions and the significant impacts it is having on farmers’ livelihoods — was not mentioned in any of the questions.

In addition, Perdue’s ethics record and potential conflicts of interests, which have been the subject of a series of detailed recent reports from a number of media outlets, were also left unaddressed.

Tiffany Finck-Haynes, a food futures campaigner at Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group, said she was “deeply concerned” that questions on these topics were avoided by committee members.

“With all of Perdue’s history on denying climate change and all his conflicts of interest that have come out, to have no mention of all these things is a complete missed opportunity,” Finck-Haynes said. “They are not fully fulfilling their duties to make sure he is actually fit for this role and that he is going to prioritize the interests of the American public and the environment over big agribusiness.”

Some of the committee members’ most pointed questions on Thursday concerned the president’s proposed slashing of the USDA’s budget, which is slated for a 21 percent reduction — percentage-wise, one of the largest cuts proposed for any federal agency.

Perdue said Thursday he was not consulted by the administration before they published the agency’s proposed budget. In response to a number of questions concerning those cuts, the nominee stated his support for some USDA programs that have been slated for funding reductions, such as the rural water program and conservation efforts like those impacting the Chesapeake Bay.

“Agriculture is in my heart,” Perdue said in response to a question from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). “I look forward to fighting for the producers of America. We know how vital it is and I will absolutely be a tenacious advocate and fighter [for agriculture] where necessary to do that.”

Committee members can still submit further questions to Perdue until the end of Friday, ahead of a full Senate vote on his confirmation. Finck-Haynes was hopeful senators will push for more detail from the nominee.

“We have very few answers on what he is actually going to do in terms of protecting farmers, consumers and our environment,” Finck-Haynes added. “The American public deserves to know where and what he’s going to do.”

It doesn’t appear likely that Perdue will face much additional grilling or pushback on his nomination, however. He has a wide base of support from farm industry groups who tout his farming background — Perdue grew up on a dairy farm, was trained as a veterinarian and has owned several agriculture related businesses — as evidence that he’s the right pick for the post.

Farm groups are antsy for Perdue’s confirmation. The National Farmers Union, the farming industry’s second-largest organization, reiterated its support for Perdue on Thursday, urging the Senate to move forward with the nominee.

“If confirmed, Sonny Perdue will be stepping into a position of great importance within this administration,” NFU president Roger Johnson said in a statement.“To this point, agriculture and rural America have not had a seat at the table in this administration.”

To date, Perdue is one of only two Trump Cabinet positions yet to be confirmed by the Senate. The other, Department of Labor nominee Alexander Acosta, was nominated in February following the withdrawal of Andrew Puzder. Acosta faced his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

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Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food, water, agriculture and our climate. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

How To Stay Healthy When The Affordable Care Act Is Dismantled

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 5:58pm

If you’re one of the millions of people who stands to lose their healthcare when Congress destroys the Affordable Care Act, you’re probably wondering what you can do to stay healthy!

Well, don’t worry, comedians Brandt Hamilton and Lauren Greenhall have some useful tips that will keep you alive longer ― fingers crossed.

And lucky for you, “fingers crossed” is a treatment fully covered under the Republican plan!

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Categories: Political News and Opinion

AHCA-ward Pause

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 5:54pm

Like what you read below? Sign up for HUFFPOST HILL and get a cheeky dose of political news every evening!

The leader of the free world took a break from being cranky to play with a truck. The State Department will approve the Keystone pipeline permit, capping off another successful election cycle for the Green Party. And the intensity level of Sean Spicer’s press briefing was upgraded today from “making unflinching eye contact while holding a lit match to palm”  to “ripping birds’ heads off with teeth.” This is HUFFPOST HILL for Thursday, March 23rd, 2017:

FREEDOM RAUCOUS, AMIRITE  - The best deals. Matt Fuller and Ryan Grim: “With conservatives unable to find a deal and leadership unable to find the votes, House Republicans are reportedly pulling their health care bill from the floor and delaying a vote that had been scheduled for Thursday. ‘No vote tonight,’ said a GOP leadership aide. Conservatives have teetered between strongly opposing the GOP health care bill and looming support. The House Freedom Caucus has negotiated with the White House on potentially eliminating Essential Health Benefits and some unknown provisions in Title I of the Affordable Care Act. That expansive section of the 2010 health care law Republicans are trying to repeal includes provisions requiring coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to remain under a parent’s plan until they’re 26 years old.  The last-minute renegotiation of the bill spooked moderates, whose trickle of opposition became a steady stream throughout Thursday. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) ― the head of the Tuesday Group, which is made up of roughly 50 moderate House Republicans ― announced his own opposition.” [HuffPost]

Context: “The best reason any Republican can come up with for passing this bill is that they said they would. The pretense that the legislation will result in better health care all but fell by the wayside once the CBO concluded tens of millions would lose their health insurance. As one person said Wednesday, ‘Simply put, this bill does not meet the standards of what was promised; it is not as good or better than what we currently have.’ That person was 11-term Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo (N.J.).” [HuffPost’s Jeffrey Young and Sam Stein]

REVISED CBO SCORE: PRETTY MUCH THE SAME, BUT WORSE - The New Coke of letting grandma die. Peter Sullivan: “The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Thursday released a new score for the revised plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare that Republican leaders are struggling to pass through the House.  The CBO find that the latest version of the healthcare plan contains significantly less deficit reduction than the original bill, but would lead to essentially the same levels of coverage losses and premium increases.  The legislation would reduce the deficit by $150 billion over 10 years, down from $337 billion in the original legislation, the office said. The plan would still result in 24 million more people being uninsured in 2026, a finding that has been a rallying cry for Democrats. Premiums would still initially rise by 15 to 20 percent before eventually becoming 10 percent lower, CBO said.” [The Hill]
AHCA WAY LESS POPULAR THAN ACA - Not A-OK. Ariel Edwards-Levy: “When the Affordable Care Act was signed in March 2010, after months of debate, about 42 percent of the public approved, according to HuffPost Pollster’s aggregate, with about 50 percent disapproving ― a level of discontent that proved to be bad news for Democrats and for Obama. At the law’s lowest ebb, in 2013, support fell to about 38 percent. That level of support, however, seems downright robust in comparison with the pessimism that’s greeted the Republican bill, known as the American Health Care Act. Reactions to the proposal have been overwhelmingly negative, with most surveys finding less than one-third of the public in favor of the bill. Support reached a new nadir Thursday in a Quinnipiac poll, which found just 17 percent of voters expressing approval, and only 6 percent approving strongly.” [HuffPost]

SCHUMER SETS UP GORSUCH SHOWDOWN - Congratulations to all the senators who will make noise about saving the institution before voting to go nuclear. Amanda Terkel and Jennifer Bendery: “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Thursday that he will vote against President Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, adding that Democrats will also demand that Neil Gorsuch get at least 60 votes to be confirmed...Some Senate Democrats have been quietly looking for ways to cut a deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) related to Gorsuch. One idea is to agree to give Gorsuch an up-or-down vote ― where he would need just 51 votes for confirmation ― in exchange for Republicans restoring the 60-vote requirement for advancing district and circuit court nominees. But Democratic leadership hasn’t been a part of those discussions, and Schumer’s announcement on Thursday made it clear that such a deal won’t fly if he has anything to do with it. “ [HuffPost]

Like HuffPost Hill? Then order Eliot’s book, The Beltway Bible: A Totally Serious A-Z Guide To Our No-Good, Corrupt, Incompetent, Terrible, Depressing, and Sometimes Hilarious Government

Does somebody keep forwarding you this newsletter? Get your own copy. It’s free! Sign up here. Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill

TRUMP’S TIME INTERVIEW IS INSANE - A 3.5 out of 5 on our HuffPost Hill patented “Precious Bodily Fluids” rating system. Marina Fang: “Trump said he didn’t really mean wiretapping because he tweeted it with quotation marks, and he was actually referring to the concept of surveillance more broadly, two lines of defense that administration officials have also employed. ..He still thinks he will be ‘proved right’ on his unfounded claim that 3-5 million people voted illegally. ‘Well, now if you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong,’ he said of his assertion. ‘In other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly, and/or illegally. And they then vote. You have tremendous numbers of people. In fact I’m forming a committee on it.’ … And he insists everything is fine because he became president. ‘I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.’” [HuffPost]

NUNES THE WISER - Jessica Schulberg and Michael McAuliff: “House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) apologized to angry Democratic colleagues on Thursday, one day after he unilaterally decided to brief reporters and President Donald Trump on unsubstantiated allegations that the president and his surrogates may have been subjected to indirect surveillance in the final months of the Obama administration. Committee members gathered in a closed-door meeting Thursday morning, where ranking committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) asked Nunes why he didn’t share his information with his colleagues before holding two press conferences and briefing Trump in the White House. Nunes apologized ‘in a generic way,’ Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the committee, told CNN. It was not clear exactly what Nunes was apologizing for, she said.” [HuffPost]

Great video of Nunes unable to end his press conferences.

SEC NOMINATION A PROXY BATTLE FOR DODD-FRANK  - Zach Carter: “A confirmation vote on President Donald Trump’s nominee to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission is quickly developing into a proxy vote signaling whether moderate Democrats will collaborate with the administration’s efforts to roll back the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law. Trump nominated attorney Jay Clayton for the top SEC post in January. A partner at the elite corporate law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, Clayton is one of the top lawyers on Wall Street. Goldman Sachs and other firms hired him during the financial crisis.” [HuffPost]

MAN-TERNITY LEAVE - Today in the latest installment of “bad white guy optics.” Amanda Terkel: “President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence met with a group of conservative male lawmakers to determine the fate of maternity coverage in health care plans Thursday. Members of the House Freedom Caucus, which is composed of all men, went to the White House to talk with the president about what changes they’d like to see to the GOP health care bill. One of the major adjustments would be no longer requiring insurance companies to offer maternity care in all health plans. Pence proudly tweeted a photo of the meeting, which didn’t feature a single woman (although White House counselor Kellyanne Conway was reportedly there).” [HuffPost]

You do you, Sean Spicer: “White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Thursday defended the idea of taking away guaranteed maternity coverage in health insurance, denying that it would mean women must pay relatively more for their health care. He’s wrong about that. Ending the guarantee could mean slightly lower premiums for individual men and much older women, but it would just as surely drive up premiums for women of child-bearing age and their families ― unless it left them paying the full cost of prenatal care and delivery, typically many thousands of dollars, out of their own pockets. [HuffPost’s Jonathan Cohn]

ANOTHER RESOUNDING VICTORY FOR MOTHER EARTH - We’re so excited for when this year’s White House Christmas Tree is replaced with a tire fire pyramid. Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner: “The U.S. State Department will approve on Friday the permit needed to proceed with construction of the Canada-to-United States Keystone XL oil pipeline, a project blocked by former President Barack Obama, according to two government sources familiar with the process. The move would mark the beginning of process that could be lengthy and complicated by approvals needed by state regulators and legal challenges. But President Donald Trump, a Republican, supports Keystone and days after he took office in January ordered its construction. That could mean that project, proposed in 2008, will eventually be completed.” [Reuters]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a great Dane and a puppy.

SWAMP UPDATE: STILL QUITE FULL - Too bad the GOP failed to gut the OCE! John Bresnahan:  “Rep. Duncan Hunter is under criminal investigation by the Justice Department over alleged campaign finance violations, the House Ethics Committee announced Thursday. The California Republican spent tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of campaign funds on items that appear to be personal in nature during 2015 and 2016, according to records from Hunter’s campaign — a potential violation of House rules and federal law. The funds were spent on groceries and outdoor equipment, a dentist, a nail salon and a utility company, as well as on a hotel in Italy and at the Arizona Grand Resort. Although Hunter later repaid nearly $60,000 to his campaign following news reports detailing the questionable spending, the Office of Congressional Ethics began a probe into the case.” [Politico]


- How TV show intros got so good.

- New “Handmaid’s Tale” trailer.

- How iTunes fell apart.


@robdelaney: .@SpeakerRyan courting AHCA votes by saying he’ll add 35% credit card processing fee when you GoFundMe chemo money to people with melanin.

@burgessev: Someone should do a tweetstorm on health care or SCOTUS

@mattyglesias: Like the President of the United States, my two year-old son really loves trucks and making pooping faces.

Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (

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Categories: Political News and Opinion

These Are The 2 Key Ways People Get Hooked On Prescription Opioids

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 5:54pm

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Two new studies offer insight into how people get hooked on opioids. One critical way is taking prescription narcotics: The risk of transitioning from short-term to long-term opioid uses spikes after only eight days of taking narcotic pain pills, according to a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But there’s a second major risk for young people, too. According to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, keeping unsecured opioids in the home is a key point of opioid exposure for children and teenagers.

These findings shed light on what’s been a tension point in the medical community. Although patients require safe and effective pain treatments, some doctors overprescribe opioids, and given their highly addictive nature, they can wreak further havoc on the health of patients ― or that of their families.

It doesn’t take long to get hooked on pain pills 

The switch from acute to long-term opioid use can happen in a matter of days. According to a March 17 CDC report, people who use opioids for one day have a 6 percent chance of continuing to use them a year later. That risk for long-term use jumps to 13 percent after eight days of opioid use. And although very few patients receive month-long opioid prescriptions, those who do are at a 30 percent chance of continuing to use them a year later.

The initial prescription a clinician writes has a pretty profound impact on a person’s (likelihood) for being a long-term opioid user,” Bradley Martin, study author and head of the Division of Pharmaceutical Evaluation and Policy at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Pharmacy, told CNN.

Children of all ages are exposed to opioids 

Adults aren’t the only victims of the United States’ ongoing opioid crisis. Teenagers, preteens and children younger than age 5 are all at risk for opioid exposure, according to a study published March 20 in Pediatrics. 

“We’ve known for several years about the opioid epidemic affecting adults in this country,” Dr. Gary Smith, study author and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, told The Huffington Post. “When adults bring these medications into their homes, they can become a danger to the children that live there.”

The study examined 188, 468 prescription opioid exposure reports from poison control centers in the United States between 2000 and 2015. It found that the number of opioid exposures increased by 86 percent between 2000 and 2009, then fell by about 30 percent between 2009 and 2015.

There were also trends in how children and young adults of different ages were exposed to opioids.   

Children 5 years old and younger were most likely to accidentally encounter opioids through “exploratory exposure.” Six- to 12-year-olds were usually exposed because of medication errors, such as being given the wrong dose of a drug. Teenagers were mostly likely to come in contact with opioids intentionally, by misusing opioids recreationally or as a self-harm mechanism.

In fact, suspected opioid-related suicides among teenagers rose 53 percent between 2000 and 2015.

Teenage opioid use over time 

A long-term companion study also published in Pediatrics on March 20 found that 1 in 4 high school seniors reported medical or non-medical prescription opioid use, with peak use in both 1989 and 2002 and a decline in opioid use from 2013 through 2015.

The researchers also found a strong correlation between teens taking opioids for medical reasons before trying them recreationally. 

“One consistent finding we observed over the past two decades is that the majority of nonmedical users of prescription opioids also have a history of medical use of prescription opioids,” Sean McCabe, study author and research professor at the University of Michigan, told Live Science. 

And a population-level decline in teen opioid use doesn’t mean every community has experienced opioid use decline.  

“Opioid use disproportionately affects some urban and more rural areas,” Dr. David Rosen, professor of anesthesia and pediatrics at West Virginia University, noted in an accompanying editorial.

“Americans consume 80 percent of the world’s prescription opioids, and inappropriate use takes a high toll on society,” Rosen wrote. “We are heartened to see a recent decrease, but we see it as a measured improvement.” 

How to keep opioids out of the hands of kids 

The was one exception to the decline in calls between 2009 and 2015 to poison control centers for youth exposure to opioids. That was calls related to buprenorphine, an opioid addiction treatment. 

Buprenorphine-related calls rose during that time period, with 90 percent of those exposures in children under the age of 5, an indication that many adults fail to properly secure their medication.

Storing prescription opioids out of the reach of small children, and importantly, locked up, is paramount. Parents can also keep the number for poison control in their cell phones, in case of an emergency.

For teenagers, especially those who may be at risk for self-harm, the solution is more complex than keeping medication locked away or on a high shelf.

Teens need to be educated about the dangers of opioid use, according to Smith. Public health interventions, such as expanding access to naloxone (the opioid overdose reversal drug) and improving teenagers’ access to mental health services are similarly important. 

Doctors can also do their part by following Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s recommendation to prescribe pain patients the lowest possible opioid dose for the shortest amount of time. Proper prescribing practices help ensure that patients aren’t left with a surplus of pills, which have the potential to fall into the wrong hands.   

“While overall rates of exposure to opioids among children are going down, they are still too high,” Smith said. “We need to continue to examine our prescription practices and to increase education to parents about safe ways to store these medications at home to keep them out of the hands of children.”

This reporting is brought to you by HuffPost’s health and science platform, The Scope. Like us on Facebook and Twitter and tell us your story:

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Categories: Political News and Opinion

No Labels Jumps Into Health Care Debate With Its Trademark Idiocy

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 5:49pm

At some point in the next few days, the House of Representatives is allegedly going to hold a vote on the American Health Care Act, which was hastily being revised in the dead of night on Wednesday after it became clear that it wasn’t cruel enough to win the Republican votes it needed. This round of “repeal and replace” fury has had it all: wretched Congressional Budget Office scores, internecine fighting, packed town halls of angry constituents, and President Donald Trump trying to play dealmaker.

Really, what was it missing? How about: the idiotic input of one of Washington’s longest-running clown shows! Well, have no fear, because No Labels ― now in its seventh year of fleecing wealthy lackwits in the name of fuzzy-headed goals about which the group is not even sincere ― is back on the scene, tweeting complaints about the legislative process in its own inimitably clueless style.

Soon after this late-Wednesday tweet got bleated, it got deleted. Not fast enough, though. It really deserves to be remembered for all time, as the ne plus ultra of this organization’s particular brand of hackery.

Where to even start with this? Well, the big story, from the perspective of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) ― who’s attempting to will the AHCA into existence as the first step of a convoluted, high-wire process that’s ultimately supposed to yield a massive tax cut for the wealthy ― is that the so-called Freedom Caucus has been the hardest cohort of his GOP colleagues to win over.

’Twas ever thus. The group of right-wing ideologues that calls itself the Freedom Caucus thwarted the designs of Ryan’s predecessor, former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), just as steadfastly. And their numbers have been great enough that any Republican leader in the House who want to get anything done with the GOP’s congressional majority is going to have to make sure the Caucus is happy.

In this particular instance, Freedom Caucus members arrayed themselves against Ryan’s initial plan because, among other things, they felt that the refundable tax credits in the AHCA were still too generous ― a government “entitlement,” they said, that would add impurity to the free market. (In response, Ryan has tried to sweeten the pie by eliminating the essential benefits that the Affordable Care Act made mandatory to any insurance plan, turning what was already a breathtakingly harsh piece of legislation into something even more inhumane.)

It’s important to note here that what we call the ongoing “health care debate” is entirely an intra-party fracas among Republicans. (One that’s only likely to drag on if this bill ever manages to pass the House, because signs point to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ― who also has a whip count problem ― putting the bill to a quick death.) Democrats have absolutely nothing to do with any of this. They didn’t seek this fight, and they’ve contributed zero to the problems that have bedeviled Ryan. It’s beyond weird for No Labels to suggest that Democrats are somehow responsible for “getting off the sidelines” and resolving what amounts to an ideological standoff in the Republican caucus. 

Moreover, even if Democrats wanted to help Republicans overcome these fratricidal impulses, it’s not clear how they would go about doing this. Democrats have been entirely shut out of the debate. Some conservatives, like Christopher Ruddy and Peggy Noonan, have urged Republicans to reach across the aisle, but GOP legislators have treated their Democratic counterparts as personae non grata throughout this process.

So there’s no point of entry by which Democrats could insert themselves and bring peace unto Paul Ryan’s lands. And all of this simply looks past an even more essential question: Why in the name of chicken and grits would Democrats want to help worsen the health care of millions of Americans?

Bipartisanship: When two parties work together to take healthcare away from poor people.

— Zach Carter (@zachdcarter) March 23, 2017

No Labels’ contention, that Democrats have “missed their chance to shape healthcare,” manages to overlook the time when Democrats “shaped healthcare” by passing this thing called the Affordable Care Act. When that happened, enormous efforts were made to involve the GOP in the process ― beginning with the fact that Democrats borrowed a center-right template that at one point was the entire justification for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s entry into presidential politics.

If anyone at No Labels would be interested in learning who missed the chance to shape health care, the ur-text was written by David Frum in March 2010. Spoiler alert: It was Republicans, who made the strategic decision not to compromise or negotiate, despite the near-desperate overtures President Barack Obama was making at the time.

From start to end, the beliefs that No Labels expressed in this one tweet are truly bizarre. In order to hold them, you would have to literally not know anything about current events or contemporary politics. To call No Labels merely out of touch doesn’t really go far enough. Theirs is an ignorance so vast, and so total, that light cannot escape from it.

But we are not nearly done! Maybe the most important thing you need to understand about No Labels is that the group does not actually have a stance on health care reform. Its members haven’t the slightest idea what would constitute an effective health care policy. They don’t have any concept of or concern about outcomes, or how a massive health care overhaul would affect millions of Americans. They do not offer any values, or goals, or benchmarks of their own about what health care in America should look like, whom it should cover, how it should be paid for or whether it should be a fundamental right. They have no earthly idea about how ordinary people live or what they want.

This is literally the case! Right now, on the No Labels website, they are polling people about “What should Congress keep in or remove from health care reform?” This is not a survey that No Labels needs to conduct. That it exists demonstrates how intellectually uncurious this organization is. If the No Labels people wanted to, they could pick up a phone and call a group like the Kaiser Foundation, which is likely to have up-to-the-minute research about what people want. Kaiser’s Drew Altman, in fact, has shared research from Kaiser’s most recent focus groups right in the pages of The New York Times

So, remind me again, who is it that “missed the chance to shape healthcare,” exactly?

No Labels: How about y’all find the sidelines, grab some pine and stay put.


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.  



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Categories: Political News and Opinion

Donald, You Are Not In Manhattan Anymore

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 5:48pm

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WASHINGTON ― If this is The Art of the Deal, then Donald Trump needs to write a new book.

In his first, and therefore crucial foray into presidential negotiating, the prince of New York real estate has been introduced to a world he never faced when he was buying and building.

In Washington, legislating, and leading the country as president, require more than simply bullying people, or buying them off with borrowed cash.

You can’t even build your own design. You have to build what other people want. Your job is to find consensus, cajole others into thinking that your vision is theirs. Projects get “built” here more with rewards than threats. It is not a brutal game of “the last man standing.” It’s “we’re all in this together,” even when the “we” is just your own party.

Trump may yet get the House to approve the GOP-Paul Ryan (and by extension Donald Trump) heath care bill on Friday, or later.

But the first pratfall ― cancelling the vote on the bill after insisting it would go forward ― is not a good sign. Presidencies often are defined, for better or worse, by their first big legislative move. Like first impressions in everyday life, they count bigly, and they establish political dynamics that can last.

And with the rise and aging of the baby boomers, those defining initial moves often have tended in recent decades to focus on health care and pensions. The inter-generational battle is inferred, but explosive.

In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton got his new presidency off on the wrong foot on health care. His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and a small group of aides developed a sweeping plan behind closed doors and then sprung it on the Congress. It was a political disaster, and led directly to the GOP takeover of the House, and the rise of a proto-tea party led by Newt Gingrich.

President George W. Bush decided at the start of his second (and in some ways first domestic) term in 2005 to propose a fundamental change to Social Security: the creation of private accounts rather than government payments. Democrats hammered him for it, and won back the House and Senate the next year.

President Barack Obama followed the pattern. He placed his major bet early in his first term in 2009-2010 on what came to be known as Obamacare. He pushed it through Congress with only Democratic votes – and greatly expanded coverage – but it cost his party massively in the 2010 mid-term elections and, though he won re-election, it limited his reach from them on.

Clinton and Bush, both former governors, and Obama, essentially a novice in 2009, all learned the hard way that the presidency is indeed a powerful job, but that in oddly paradoxical ways, the occupant of the Oval Office has less power than everyone else in Washington when it comes to actually enacting legislation.

“Presidential power is the power to persuade,” the late Harvard professor Richard Neustadt wrote in what is still considered the classic study. To do so, Neustadt wrote, presidents must be careful, anticipatory, listen, adapt, and collegial not dictatorial. And they must carefully nurture and guard their public image of wisdom, probity, patience and smarts.

Whether he wants to or not, Trump has to learn how acquire those qualities if he is to succeed. He is getting the first on-the-job lesson this week, as he tries to herd Republican cats.

He has made numerous mistakes.

Like the Clintons, Trump (or rather Speaker Ryan) sprang the Obamcare “reform and replace” bill on Congress and his own party without notice and with little input. A law is not like a construction blueprint. The builders don’t work for you.

Second, his first meeting with recalcitrant House conservatives in the Freedom Caucus devolved into a bullying session, with the new president threatening to “come after” GOP members who defied him. Well, it’s hard enough for a president to bully members, even of his own party. It is even harder when he has the lowest job-approval rating on record for a new president, and when the bill itself isn’t popular with voters.

Last, and most important, Trump’s image as an enfant terrible – which he rightly thinks had a lot to do with his winning the election – is exactly the wrong role to play as a new (or any) president.

President Ronald Reagan, who as a candidate struck terror in the hearts of liberals, and with good reason, understood the need to play the new role he had won when he came to Washington in 1981.

Even before taking the oath of office, he reached out to the late publisher of The Washington Post, Katharine Graham, and set up a dinner party with longtime power players in the city. He would have to defeat them, he knew, but he wanted to both get to know them and reassure them that he would respect them.

It worked, and in later years, Reagan did deals not only with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, but with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Trump has roared into D.C. like the leader of a motorcycle gang, and that is fine – if you think that everyone else in town is afraid of you and that your supporters are all riding Harleys.

But that is the way for a new president to fail, and to set up a dynamic that will cost him for the rest of his term. Trump can listen to the nihilistic anarchism of, say, Steven Bannon, and “deconstruct” a good bit of the “administrative state” through lawlessness, administrative neglect and pure human fear.

Or he could actually build something.

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Categories: Political News and Opinion

Clueless Neo-Nazi Fears Black Man's Murder Makes White Supremacists Look Bad

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 5:36pm

A prominent neo-Nazi is condemning the recent fatal stabbing of a black man in New York, mainly because he fears it will compromise the public’s perception of white supremacists and increase discrimination against them. 

Andrew Anglin is the founder of the Daily Stormer, a website that the Southern Povery Law Center says is dedicated to spreading anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, and white nationalism.

His own writings include many offensive statements about African-Americans and how he believes they are “incompatible with whites” can’t help their “irrational outbursts of brutal violence are a part of their nature.”

So it was may have caught some off-guard when Anglin condemned the recent murder of Timothy Caughman, a black man fatally stabbed by a white man on Monday. Police arrested James Harris Jackson for the killing, and said the 28-year-old suspect told them he traveled from Baltimore specifically to kill black men and that he had plans to kill more

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In a blog post on Wednesday, Anglin denounced the slaying but for reasons that have nothing to do with an innocent man losing his life for hateful reasons. 

Instead, Anglin’s rationale for condemning the murder is more outlandish, clueless and unintentionally ironic reasons: He thinks it’s going to paint white supremacists in a bad light and lead to discrimination against them.

“Though we should acknowledge the tragedy of what Jackson did, the most important thing for us to remember is that he does not represent White Supremacy. White Supremacy is a religion of peace, and the overwhelming majority of White Supremacists are peaceful members of society who do not agree with stabbing random black people with swords.

“The attack has nothing at all to do with the religion of White Supremacy, and white supremacists are under no obligation to apologize for this attack.

In fact, White Supremacists are now going to be subject to unfair scrutiny and prejudice in light of this attack. There is a threat now that people with swastika tattoos, Screwdriver t-shirts, shaved heads or other cultural symbols of White Supremacy will be unfairly discriminated against after this attack.”

Of course, white supremacists are rarely prejudiced against because of their skin color (more because of their hateful views against everyone).

Anglin also worries white supremacists will be forced to cover-up their swastika tattoos, or risk being victimized by “bigots who would wrongly associate them with this attack.”

He adds: 

“It’s time for society to rally around White Supremacists, and show that we don’t blame them for the single act of someone who wrongly used their beliefs for evil.”

That passage is particularly striking considering that white supremacists have no problem blaming all black people or the Black Lives Matter movement every time a black person kills a white police officer like last summer in Dallas.

Anglin ends his post by proposing white supremacists and the people who inexplicably love them signal their support on Twitter with #IllRideWithYou.

He says it will be a way to connect neo-Nazis and other racists with people happy to accompany them to work to make sure they get there safe.

That hashtag was previously used by Australians fighting Islamophobia by reaching out to Muslims in their communities. And Anglin co-opting the hashtag wasn’t accidental ― he expressly linked to a Mic story about the hashtag in his post.

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Categories: Political News and Opinion

The NCAA Will Keep Events Out Of North Carolina Unless HB2 Is Repealed

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 5:35pm

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The NCAA will not hold any of its college sports championship events in North Carolina for at least the next five years if the state’s legislature fails to repeal an anti-transgender law it passed last year, the NCAA said Thursday.

Last year, the NCAA moved seven championship events ― including men’s NCAA Tournament games ― out of North Carolina after the passage of HB2, a law that prohibited localities from enacting laws to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and required that students at North Carolina schools use bathrooms matching their gender assignment at birth.

Next week, the NCAA will begin selecting the hosts of championship events that will be held between 2018 and 2022. North Carolina cities have submitted bids for many of those events. But if the state doesn’t repeal HB2 soon, it won’t win hosting rights for any of them.

“Absent any change in the law, our position remains the same regarding hosting current or future events in the state,” the NCAA said in a statement Thursday, citing the need to “assure a safe, healthy, discrimination free atmosphere for all those watching and participating in our events.”

NCAA reaffirms North Carolina championship stance.

— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) March 23, 2017

Lawmakers filed legislation to repeal HB2 in the state Senate earlier this week. The repeal bill passed its first procedural hurdle Wednesday. A previous attempt to repeal HB2 after the election of Gov. Roy Cooper (D) ― who ran on his opposition to the law ― failed after a compromise fell apart at the last minute.

Cooper renewed calls for the law’s repeal on Thursday, the one-year anniversary of HB2’s passage. His statement referenced sporting events the state had lost; in addition to NCAA events, the Atlantic Coast Conference relocated its championships from the state, and the NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans.

“Today marks a dark anniversary for our state. For one year now, HB 2 has harmed our reputation and cost our economy thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars,” Cooper said in a statement. “I have offered numerous compromises and remain open to any deal that will bring jobs and sports back to North Carolina and begin to repair our reputation.”

“North Carolinians have spoken clearly that HB 2 does not reflect our values and must be repealed,” he continued. “Legislative Republicans have been all too happy to use their supermajorities to pass damaging partisan laws. It’s time for them to step up, meet halfway, and repeal HB 2.”

North Carolina’s two most prominent college basketball coaches renewed their previous criticisms of the law during the NCAA Tournament last week, after Duke lost its second-round game to South Carolina. The game would have been played in Greensboro, but the NCAA moved it to Greenville, South Carolina, because of HB2.

“It would be nice if our state got as smart and also would host not just basketball tournaments but concerts and other NCAA events. But maybe we’ll get there in the next century,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the loss. “Look, it’s a stupid thing. That’s my political statement. If I was president or governor I’d get rid of it.”

“It shouldn’t just be about athletic events,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said this week. “It should be about what’s right and wrong. And what we have now is wrong.”

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Categories: Political News and Opinion

Trump In A Truck WHAT WHAT

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 5:28pm

President Donald Trump met with a group of truckers and CEOs at the White House on Thursday afternoon, ostensibly to discuss healthcare and the photos are... something.

Many of the photos feature Trump hanging out in the driver’s seat of a truck, making all sorts of whimsical faces.

So, naturally, Twitter did what Twitter does best and meme-ified Trump in a truck.

All of this was happening, by the way, while the House delayed and subsequently postponed the GOP health care bill vote and England grieved the aftermath of a terrorist attack... but NBD! Trucks!

Let’s take a look at the tweets, shall we?

When you missed the exit for Wendy's

— Tom Ganjamie (@tomgam) March 23, 2017

when you thought you wouldn't have to stop until the next rest area

— Big Sharia Jeb Malmö (@Mobute) March 23, 2017

2 Fat 2 Furious

— Brandy Jensen (@BrandyLJensen) March 23, 2017


— David A. Graham (@GrahamDavidA) March 23, 2017

Popular vote
Trump: 46.09%
Dukakis: 45.65%
(ht @jarrybarclay)

— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) March 23, 2017

Seriously, though, this feud between Trump and Arnold has gone too far now.

— Rob Wesley (@eastwes) March 23, 2017

Hi, Michelle? It's me. Can you and Barack make another public appearance soon? - world

— Carly Ledbetter (@ledbettercarly) March 23, 2017

AIDE: Sir you're driving a UPS truck

— Michael, still here (@Home_Halfway) March 23, 2017


— Kyle Conrad (@kyle_conrad) March 23, 2017

— Devan Coggan (@devancoggan) March 23, 2017

when you think about how much you <3 trucks

— Julia Reinstein (@juliareinstein) March 23, 2017

When the caffeine pills kick in

— Tom Kludt (@TomKludt) March 23, 2017

*plays GTA once*

— jeff in real life (@thecultureofme) March 23, 2017

"Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy."

— Jonathan Evans (@MrJonathanEvans) March 23, 2017

[unsettlingly loud fart]

— Simon Maloy (@SimonMaloy) March 23, 2017

Makin' his way
The only way he knows how
That's just a little bit more
Than the law will allow

— brian braiker (@slarkpope) March 23, 2017

Mad Max: Replace and Repeal

— Ziwe (@ziwe) March 23, 2017

when u find out the health care plan u just publicly bragged about getting voted on today on did not get voted on today

— darth™ (@darth) March 23, 2017

I contributed my own gem to the mix, adding in a photo of Trump wearing his “I❤️️ Trucks” button: 

dumps like a truck truck truck
country like what what what

— Jenna Amatulli (@ohheyjenna) March 23, 2017


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Categories: Political News and Opinion

Republican Senator Hails Goldman Sachs As A Champion Of 'The Little Guy'

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 5:21pm

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WASHINGTON ― Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) announced on Thursday that he is trapped in a Randian nightmare where members of Congress seek to “beat down” the virtuous organization Goldman Sachs ― a benevolent force in American democracy that goes to great lengths to “employ the little guy.”

“I feel like sometimes I’m living a reality TV version of Atlas Shrugged,” Tillis declared at a Senate hearing. “There are a lot of people in this Congress that wanna just beat down job creators and employers ... People want to demonize Goldman Sachs. That’s an easy thing to do, right? Just beat up on a financial services institution. An institution that’s committed to, let me look at the general numbers here ― they have 36,500 employees. There’s probably a lot of little guys in there. They’ve contributed billions of dollars to nonprofits.”

“Demonizing employers that employ the little guy isn’t looking out for the little guy,” Tillis concluded.

Tillis was speaking at the confirmation hearing for Jay Clayton, President Donald Trump’s nominee to chair the Securities and Exchange Commission. Clayton is a top Wall Street attorney who helped Goldman Sachs with its 2008 government bailout. Tillis’ outburst appeared to be a response to earlier questioning from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whom Tillis griped about in a previous hearing for highlighting a conflict of interest involving President Donald Trump and federal affordable housing programs.

Under government ethics rules, Warren noted, Clayton would have to recuse himself from any enforcement actions the SEC takes against companies that he represented, or companies that his law firm Sullivan & Cromwell represents in cases before the SEC. That creates a scenario in which the agency’s two Republican and two Democratic commissioners are likely to deadlock about enforcement ― a common occurrence during the tenure of SEC Chair Mary Jo White, who was also a prominent corporate attorney before going into government.

“Based on your personal client disclosures then, for half of your tenure as SEC chair, you would not be able to vote to enforce the law against several big banks, including Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Barclays and UBS,” Warren told Clayton at the hearing. “Those banks have repeatedly violated securities laws in the past few years. But if they violate securities laws again in your first two years as SEC chairman, you can’t vote to punish them. And I think that’s a problem.”

And indeed, Goldman Sachs has faced a long list of charges that it’s run afoul of the law. Last year, the bank agreed to pay $5 billion to settle charges that it defrauded its clients by selling them toxic mortgage-backed securities. It paid a $120 million penalty to settle charges that it manipulated foreign exchange markets. It paid a separate $36.3 million penalty to resolve charges that it accepted confidential regulatory information from the New York Fed and used it to get clients. In 2014, the company paid $3.15 billion to settle charges that it defrauded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2012, the bank paid $12 million to settle “pay-to-play” campaign contribution violations involving the Massachusetts state treasurer, paid $22 million to settle charges that its research and sales teams were holding meetings that allowed them to improperly share insider information, and paid $1.5 million and $7 million to settle two other supervision problems. A member of Goldman Sach’s board of directors was sentenced to prison the same year for illegally tipping off a hedge fund manager to the company’s boardroom secrets. In 2010, the bank paid $550 million to settle charges that it defrauded its own clients by selling them mortgage-linked securities that were designed to fail, and which Goldman Sachs itself bet against.

That just covers the years since the financial crisis. Prior to that, Goldman Sachs had settled charges that it had rigged the auction-rate securities market, cheated while managing initial public offerings, and illegally traded government bonds. 

Goldman Sachs did not respond to a request for comment for this article. 

“Any financial services executive or anybody in a financial services business that acts badly needs to suffer the consequences,” Tillis said Thursday. “But if we just make the American people think that they’re all bad, you are hurting the little guy.”

Still, Tillis’ most grievous error at the hearing was one of literary interpretation. Tillis simply does not understand the book he referenced during his tirade. Atlas Shrugged is a novel about a railroad tycoon who has an affair with a married steel magnate before joining a clan of very bright rich people who go on “strike,” letting society collapse without their talents while they enjoy the ubermensch lifestyle in a peaceful valley.

Atlas Shrugged is not a novel about all the charities supported by good-hearted corporations. Its heroes literally abandon society to chaos and destruction rather than deploy their talents for the public good. Ayn Rand, the author of Atlas Shrugged, would not have approved of Goldman’s philanthropic work, because she believed all charitable activity fostered weakness and opposed it on principle. She literally wrote a book called The Virtue of Selfishness, which celebrates people who act in their own interests at the expense of their communities.  

It’s not exactly an alien worldview on Wall Street.

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Categories: Political News and Opinion

Activists Arrested Protesting Obamacare Repeal Outside The White House

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 4:55pm

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WASHINGTON ― Twenty-four activists were arrested Thursday outside the White House at the conclusion of a march against repealing the Affordable Care Act.

The progressive organizations sponsoring the march, including the foundation-backed Center for Popular Democracy, chose to put forward 24 people for the act of civil disobedience to symbolically protest the 24 million people who are projected to lose their insurance under House Republicans’ bill.

Federal law prohibits political protests on the sidewalk directly in front of the White House. The U.S. Park Police warned demonstrators that they were violating the law, then arrested them one by one after they refused to move as instructed.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.



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Categories: Political News and Opinion

GOP Health Care Bill Is More Unpopular Than Obamacare Ever Was

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 4:46pm

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President Barack Obama’s health care law hasn’t always been beloved by the public. But it’s never been as unpopular as the Republican bill now intended to destroy it, according to the latest polling.

When the Affordable Care Act was signed in March 2010, after months of debate, about 42 percent of the public approved, according to HuffPost Pollster’s aggregate, with about 50 percent disapproving ― a level of discontent that proved to be bad news for Democrats and for Obama. At the law’s lowest ebb, in 2013, support fell to about 38 percent.

That level of support, however, seems downright robust in comparison with the pessimism that’s greeted the Republican bill, known as the American Health Care Act. Reactions to the proposal have been overwhelmingly negative, with most surveys finding less than one-third of the public in favor of the bill. Support reached a new nadir Thursday in a Quinnipiac poll, which found just 17 percent of voters expressing approval, and only 6 percent approving strongly.

Based on current polling, “it does look like it is significantly less popular than the ACA was in early 2010,” Liz Hamel, the director of public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in an email. She added that the public had been following the Obamacare “back-and-forth” for many months before that legislation passed, “which is different than the situation we’re in now with the AHCA, with things moving much more quickly.”

During the Obamacare debate, the strength of Republican opposition tended to outweigh the strength of Democratic support. A February 2010 Quinnipiac survey, for instance, found that two-thirds of Democratic voters approved of “the proposed changes to the health care system under consideration in Congress,” while 85 percent of Republican voters disapproved.

But the new GOP health care bill appears to be on the wrong end of an even wider intensity gap. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, 80 percent of Democratic voters disapprove, with 69 percent disapproving strongly. But offsetting support from the GOP isn’t there. Only 41 percent of Republicans approve, and just 20 percent approve strongly. In the most recent HuffPostYouGov poll, Clinton voters are 59 points more likely to strongly oppose the GOP bill than Trump voters are to strongly favor it.

“In a hyper-partisan political climate, it’s actually an accomplishment to write legislation this unpopular,” Ryan Enos, a Harvard political scientist, noted on Twitter.

Republican voters are fully aware the bill doesn’t have full-throated GOP support in Congress, and are unconvinced that passage would do much to benefit them. In a HuffPost/YouGov poll taken earlier this month, just 14 percent of GOP respondents believed that “Republicans are united in support of the new health care bill.” A separate survey found that less than one-fourth of voters who supported Donald Trump expected the GOP bill would make things better for them.

“Republican primary voters may be less likely to punish GOP members of Congress for not voting for the bill than President Trump would like,” FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten wrote Thursday. “Further, even if Republicans have tried to inoculate themselves in safe districts for the general election, the lack of support for the bill from Republican voters means that some of these members from typically safer districts could be vulnerable against Democrats if health care becomes a defining issue in the 2018 midterm elections.”

Obamacare, meanwhile, seems to have benefited from the uncertainty over its future. In the months since Trump was elected, public opinion of the law has shot up, turning positive for the first time since it was signed.

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Categories: Political News and Opinion

8-Year-Old Sends Heartfelt Message About Her Public School To Betsy DeVos

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 4:43pm

Fearing what might happen to the public school she attends, a second-grader wrote a note to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to tell her how much she loves her school. 

On March 18, journalist and current CNN commentator Sally Kohn posted a photo on Instagram of a postcard her daughter, 8-year-old Willa, wrote to DeVos.

Willa got the postcard while visiting a store owned by Kohn’s friend, Diana Kane, in Brooklyn, New York. The store was showcasing photographs from the Women’s March on Washington and offered postcard versions of the pics and stamps so customers could write to political leaders. Willa told her mom she wanted to write to “the woman in charge of education.” 

On the postcard, Willa wrote about how much she enjoys her public school. She then asked DeVos to not “tear it down.” 

“Please leave are [sic] public schools alone,” Willa wrote. “Do not tear it down ever.”

Though Kohn described the part where her daughter signed the postcard as “Willa, daughter of Sally Kohn” as “ridiculously embarrassing” and wants to make sure her daughter doesn’t think that her name “opens doors,” she was “so impressed” by the message. She said her family listens to NPR at home in the mornings, and she thinks Willa must have gotten the motivation to write to DeVos from hearing news reports.

Parents and educators across the country denounced DeVos’ nomination and her subsequent confirmation as education secretary, often citing her lack of experience with public schools. During her confirmation hearing, DeVos also made headlines with her confusion about the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and her suggestion that guns should be allowed in some schools to keep students safe from grizzly bears.

Kohn told HuffPost she was proud of her daughter for speaking up to protect her education. She praised the school Willa attends and hopes one day all schools will have the necessary resources to keep kids thriving.

“It’s a wonderful place with wonderful teachers and administrators and volunteers who do so very much for so very many kids with incredibly strapped resources,” she said. “It’s amazing what creative, supportive places of learning our public schools are, even with limited support from policy makers. Imagine if our public schools actually got what they need?”

The HuffPost Parents newsletter, So You Want To Raise A Feminist, offers the latest stories and news in progressive parenting.  

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Categories: Political News and Opinion

Daily Press Briefing by the Press Secretary -- #27

News from the White House - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 4:32pm

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 

1:38 P.M. EDT

MR. SPICER:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I want to start by acknowledging, as the President did a little while ago, that a great American, Kurt Cochran, was killed in the terror attack in London yesterday.

Our prayers are with his family and friends.  We’re aware of reports that another American citizen was injured, as well as the potential as this story continues to develop -- we stand ready to provide consular assistance, but considering some privacy concerns, I'm not going to further discuss the current state of any of those individuals at this time.

As I said yesterday, the President spoke with UK Prime Minister May to offer his condolences and pledge the full cooperation and support of the United States government in responding to this attack and bringing those responsible to justice.

Now, a little bit on today’s schedule.  This morning, after receiving his daily intelligence briefing, the President met with over 30 members of the House Freedom Caucus to discuss building momentum towards replacing and repealing Obamacare with the American Health Care Act.  

The members of the Freedom Caucus thanked the President for engaging with them throughout their negotiations, and the President, likewise, thanked the group for their willingness to work closely with the White House and their colleagues to craft the strongest possible bill.  The group agreed that their ultimate goal is to implement a system that will drive down costs and increase access to healthcare for millions of Americans, and this meeting was, I think, a very positive step towards achieving that goal.

This was just the latest in a series of discussions, in-person and on the phone, that the President, the Vice President and his team have had, holding with Republican House members on the American Health Care Act.  This afternoon, we expect the President to continue those meetings with members of the Tuesday Group from the House, coming up here later today.

Since the law was introduced, the legislative affairs team has been in constant contact with members the American people will be counting on to fulfill their promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare by supporting this bill later tonight.

In the past few days, the President has been on the phone with scores of Republican members, in addition to the in-persons meetings you’ve seen with the Republican Study Committee, the House Freedom Caucus and the Tuesday Group.  This bill has truly been a collaborative effort from the beginning.  Through an open and deliberative process, the President and his team have helped to negotiate a very, very strong bill.  He was on the phone last night well into the 11 o’clock hour with members on an individual basis, discussing their support for the bill.

The amendments that have been incorporated add important aspects to the bill, like removing costly “essential health benefit” insurance regulations; repealing Obamacare taxes immediately, starting in 2017; reforming Medicaid by allowing states to accept funding as a block grant to implement able-bodied work requirements; and blocking states from receiving enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentages if they expanded during the transition.

We’ve already seen the results, with many members coming out and saying they’re going to be a “yes” tonight.  As I’ve noted before, today is actually the 7th -- and we hope, the last -- anniversary of the day that President Obama signed Obamacare. 

The President is looking forward to seeing Republicans fulfill the pledge tonight that they’ve been making to their constituents for years that, with a Republican in the White House and with them in Congress, they would once and for all see the end of Obamacare.

The President -- I assume that President Obama must be feeling this time is up for his signature law, since today he came out with a rather lengthy statement about it.  But he can’t change the facts about where it stands.  President Obama stated that Americans received an “upgrade” in insurance.  But the mandates Obamacare placed on insurance forced millions off their insurance and away from their doctor, which broke the promise that they were given.

President Obama attempted to move the goal posts on costs, downplaying the skyrocketing premiums, some in the case of over 100 percent in some places, and unaffordable deductibles. Americans -- he seems to have forgotten that he pushed Obamacare on the promise of reducing costs, not making health care unaffordable. 

President Obama said Obamacare isn’t -- quote -- in a “death spiral.”  But enrollment is nowhere near expectations, and this year it's actually declining.  Insurers are fleeing the exchanges and one in three counties in America only has one insurer.

President Obama may not believe the Obamacare is a “job-killer” but the new law, including its job-killing taxes, mandates and regulations, speaks for itself.  With the passage of the American Health Care Act, we will begin the process of rolling back Obamacare’s many disastrous policies.

And, of course, it's not just a big day on the House side.  Over on the Senate, we begin the final and fourth day of Judge Gorsuch’s Senate Judiciary hearings.  Earlier today, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer announced that Senate Democrats would be mounting a filibuster against his nomination. 

From day one, we’ve said that the President made an inspired choice with the nomination of Judge Gorsuch.  The American Bar Association has given them their highest rating of “well qualified.”  This week, though, through all four days, he has showcased his sterling credentials and a brilliant legal mind.  

We find Senator Schumer’s announcement truly disappointing, because it breaks with the tradition of how the Senate has handled Supreme Court confirmation votes in modern time -- and represents the type of partisanship that Americans have grown tired of.

In the last half-century, only three Supreme Court justices have ever faced a filibuster.  The most recent -- Justice Alito -- was opposed by then-Senator Obama who voted to uphold his filibuster, and later admitted that his vote was a politically motivated act that he regretted.  In fact, Senate Republicans didn’t filibuster his Supreme Court nominees, Kagan and Sotomayor.

We call on Senator Schumer to follow Democrats to abandon this attempt to block Judge Gorsuch from receiving a fair up or down vote that he and the American people have voted for.

Back to the rest of the President’s schedule.  This afternoon, the President, as I mentioned, will meet with members of the Tuesday Group.  He had lunch with Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin and Nelson Peltz.

At 3 o’clock today we hope you’ll come out and join the President to welcome the truck drivers and truck company CEOs who he will be meeting with on the American Health Care Act as they arrive to the White House alongside two rather large big-rigs.  One in every 16 Americans work for the trucking industry.  It’s the backbone of our country’s domestic freight transportation and it moves over 70 percent of domestic freight tonnage.

But the trucking industry has suffered greatly under Obamacare.  Many truckers were forced to buy healthcare plans that weren’t necessarily right for them on the exchanges.  Like millions of Americans across the country, they saw their premiums rise and their options plummet.  And trucking companies, classified as large employers under the law, are mandated to provide insurance that we already know doesn’t work.

Instead of imposing senseless restrictions from Washington, the President’s three-pronged healthcare reform plan will lower premiums and increase choice by increasing competition.  The President looks forward to discussing how these policies, combined with forthcoming tax, regulatory and trade reforms, will provide much needed relief for the trucking industry.

Also today, the Vice President met with President Hernandez of Honduras.  A readout on that meeting is available from the Vice President’s office.

And a few notes before I get to your questions.  As the President noted during his first Cabinet meeting earlier this month, while many of his spectacularly qualified choices to lead his departments and agencies are already in place and taking action to fulfill the President’s ambitious agenda, there are still some important positions that have not been filled, in large part to to Senate Democrats’ obstruction.  I wanted to give you a quick update on still some of the outstanding confirmations.

Secretary of Labor-designate Alex Acosta had a very successful hearing yesterday, and we expect markup next week.

Secretary of Agriculture-designate, former governor Sonny Perdue is currently appearing before the Senate Ag Committee.  We expect Governor Perdue to continue to show why he’s the best choice to lead the USDA, and hopefully his markup to be scheduled in the coming days.

We also announced earlier this afternoon that Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark will be visiting the White House on March 30th.  We’ll have further details on the visit in the upcoming days.

Tomorrow, the President will hose Medal of Honor recipients and their guests in celebration of Medal of Honor Day, which falls on Saturday of this year.  We'll have some more details on that event coming forward.

The President intends to be here this weekend, so as we have updates on the President’s weekend plans we will let you know as well.  I'll also note that we've got -- coming up on a deadline related to the Keystone pipeline.  We'll have an update on that for you tomorrow.

And finally, I'm proud to announce that on April 19th, the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the New England Patriots will be visiting the White House to celebrate their latest -- and what will probably be a continuation of many more to come -- Super Bowl win. 

And with that, I will take your questions.

Jeff Mason.

Q    Sean --

Q    This is a Patriot question.  (Laughter.)  

Q    No, it's not.  (Laughter.)  

MR. SPICER:  Do you know anything about Tom Brady’s jersey?  Is this --

Q    I've got nothing on that.  But I have a healthcare question for you.  First, do you expect there to be a vote tonight?

MR. SPICER:  That's what I understand the House has scheduled, yes.  

Q    Any chance that that's going to be pushed back?

MR. SPICER:  That would be obviously up to Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy, but I have been -- nothing leads me to believe that that's the case.

Q    Is the President concerned at all that as he draws support for the bill from the Freedom Caucus that he may lose support from more moderate groups of the House?

MR. SPICER:  He’s meeting with members of the Tuesday Group today.  Obviously this is something that he understands -- there’s a little bit of a balancing act that goes on as you try to get 216 in this case.  But I think we continue to make progress every day.  We walked out with more members in support of the American Health Care Act today than we started the day with, and I continue to see that number climb hour by hour.  And I anticipate that we will get there.


Q    Sean, Patrick McHenry said “we have an offer that” -- speaking of the House Freedom Caucus -- “can accept it or reject it.”  Is that the way that you see it at this moment?  Are you just waiting on the House Freedom Caucus to come to your side?  Are you at their whims at this point?  What’s their status as far as you know?

MR. SPICER:  I think there are some members who, in the meeting, stood up and told the President, I’m with you now.  And I think member by member, that’s how they’re going to vote.  I think we’ve continued to see that number rise.  And the same thing with the Tuesday Group.  There are members that had not been with us that are expressing their willingness to want to be part of this.

The President went over several commitments and changes that had been made to assuage different folks that have continued to evolve, and I think that we continue to see the number rise.  But I think that we continue to see the number go up not down, and that’s a very positive sign.  

Q    Do you know how many came across and what it was that brought them across in that meeting?

MR. SPICER:  It depends.  Again, I don’t think there’s any singular issue in a lot of cases.  There’s a lot -- I think we talked a little bit about sections of the bill that there was an issue with.  And so I think there’s a couple areas that there is some common ground on.  But there was over 30 members there today, and some of them had specific aspects that they wanted to see improved, and some of them, frankly, came to say, hey, thank you, I think that what you guys have done already has been an improvement.  

Q    With them is it essential health benefits?  Is that their main sticking point as far as you know?

MR. SPICER:  In a lot of cases -- there were some members that that was their number-one thing.  But, again, it wasn’t universal across the board.  But, again, I think some of the measures that have been taken along the way have really -- and again, there’s also, beyond that, there’s a lot of discussion about phase two and phase three, and I think the President and the Vice President both committed to continuing working and improving and making commitments on the totality and the comprehensive nature of how we’re going to do this.

For a lot of these guys it really comes down to premium increases.  They’re very concerned about what they’re seeing their constituents face.  And I think the President and the Vice President, Secretary Price, Director Mulvaney, Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, the legislative affairs team -- we’re all continuing to work with them to talk about certain measures that have been put in place to drive down cost.  

And I think when you realize what we continue to talk about, that costs are too high, premiums are spiking, deductibles are going up, choices are going down -- these are real concerns for constituents of these members.  And I think that as they see an overall and total commitment of this, it’s making them feel a lot better about not just this bill, but phases two and three.


Q    Two questions, both on healthcare.  First one -- is the President open to removing protections for preexisting conditions from the bill?

MR. SPICER:  I think that’s been something that he’s been very clear needs to stay in there.

Q    Okay.  Secondly, about this essential benefits protection.  Obviously among those is maternity leave.  So how would removing that jive with the President’s promise during the campaign to expand maternity leave?  Obviously this would take it out and insurers would no longer have to provide that.

MR. SPICER:  Yeah, and again, I don’t want to get into a benefit-by-benefit discussion here, but I think that there’s a lot of concerns, as I just said to Blake, that part of the reason that premiums have spiked out of control is because under Obamacare there were these mandated services that had to be included.  And what happened was is that older men, older women who had gone past maternity age were buying benefits that weren’t necessary for them.  People who were at the younger end of the age scale were buying end-of-life benefits.

And I think this goes back to the nut of this discussion, Matt, which is we have now gone down to a system where in one-third of all counties there’s one choice, and it’s this potpourri of mandated benefits that everyone has to have.  We’ve lost consumer choice.  And so people are paying for benefits that neither they, their spouse, their family needs, which is driving up costs for everybody.

And so part of it isn’t about necessarily a benefit.  It’s about a series of benefits being mandated for everybody.  And so what has happened is that the costs of healthcare for every individual has gone up and the choice has gone down.  And I think there is a philosophical discussion that is going on about what we can do to make sure that people have actual coverage -- something that we’ve talked about before -- but doing so in a way that doesn’t drive up the cost for everybody.

Q    So one follow-up on that then.  Is the President concerned that without having those essential benefits in there, he’ll have a situation where women are just de factor paying higher for health insurance?  Obviously they’d be paying for maternity leave.

MR. SPICER:  No, you could have a family plan.  In other words, the point is, is that it’s not -- again, you’re picking one benefit and trying to extrapolate it.  It’s also saying should young people have to pay for end-of-life care. 

The idea is to instill choice back into the market so that it’s not just about one particular benefit, it’s allowing people to tailor a plan and a cost point that’s good for them or their family or them and their spouse.  But it’s not just about one particular benefit, it’s about looking at this and figuring out what are the cost drivers and how do we give people the choice that they need.


Q    Thanks, Sean.  The White House and House leadership initially defended the way this bill was written by saying it needed to be structured a certain way and exclude certain things to be able to proceed through the Senate through budget reconciliation.  So what’s changed to put now these pretty substantive policy changes on the table?  What’s given the White House and Republicans confidence that now it can survive through that same process in the Senate?

MR. SPICER:  I think there’s a lot of discussion that goes on.  Without getting too into it, the issue at hand is the Byrd Rule and whether or not it affects the budgetary -- you can’t have policymaking things that don’t have a budgetary impact.  There are certain things that are being phrased in certain ways and crafted in accordance with the rule.  But there’s a lot of smart people that are very familiar with the rules and are trying to do things in a way to make this bill conform in those ways.


Q    Thanks, Sean.  Two questions for you.  One on the healthcare bill first.  A question about the way this bill is now being modified to basically pick up votes.  On Monday night the amendment included that special carve-out for upstate New York -- had a bunch of good nicknames that I can’t do justice for -- but they also announced these latest (inaudible.)  Is the President concerned that this bill now looks a lot like -- procedurally, it looks a lot like what Obamacare looked like seven years ago that Republicans have spent seven years criticizing the way that bill was brought to the floor, and here they are seven years later on the same day about to do the exact same thing?

MR. SPICER:  No, not at all.  In fact, it's doing exactly what we intended to do.  I mean, the exchange that we had with Matt, it's actually going -- the two goals that it set out to do it's actually doing -- driving costs down, find ways to lower premiums, keep deductibles within reason, or at least giving people the option to choose a plan that fits their budget, and then, secondly, is doing things that instill competition, choice.
So the things that are being done actually achieve the goals that have been set forth.  

Q    Sean, just one for you on a different question.  Yesterday, Secretary Mattis and Chairman Dunford testified on Capitol Hill that they were willing to, before Congress, have a public debate around a new AUMF.  Is that something that -- traditionally, those have started in the executive branch.  Is the White House willing to put one forward and willing to begin that round of discussions?

MR. SPICER:  I'd refer you back to Secretary Mattis.  I think that that is one that's the Department of Defense is --

Q    So is that statement operative for the White House, that the White House now is calling --

MR. SPICER:  No, I think that that was brought up in the context of a conversation that he is willing to have with respect to overseas contingencies that are existing right now in the battle, especially with respect to ISIS, and the current tools that we have to combat them.  But I think that was a discussion about whether or not we should have a discussion on authorized use of force or not, and how to have that.


Q    Now that Chuck Schumer has announced a definite filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch, do you think it's time for the White House to take a stand on eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees?

MR. SPICER:  I am not going to -- I'll let -- Senator McConnell is a much more apt user and understanding of the Senate rules.  I'm not going to start to tell Senator McConnell what he should be doing from here. 

Q    He's your nominee, and --

MR. SPICER:  I understand that.  And it's his rules and his chamber that he leads.  So I'm going to let that --


Q    Sean, thank you.  Has anybody from the national security team or the homeland security folks been in touch with their counterparts in London in the last 24 hours or so?


Q    Can you expound on that at all?

MR. SPICER:  Only to the extent to say that they've been in touch to evaluate, offer assistance.  And again, I'm not going to get into a classified discussion about what we may or may not be discussing.

Q    A supportive effort needless to say.


Q    Thanks, Sean.  Chairman Nunes today refused to definitively rule out that he received the information he announced yesterday on surveillance, that he got that from the White House.  So will you rule out that the White House or anyone in the Trump administration gave Chairman Nunes that information?

MR. SPICER:  I don’t know what he actually briefed the President on, but I don’t know why he would come up to brief the President on something that we gave him.

Q    Well, that's why it was confusing to many of us, so I was wondering --

MR. SPICER:  I don’t know that that makes sense.  I did not sit in on that briefing.  I'm not -- it just doesn’t -- so I don’t know why he would brief the Speaker and then come down here to brief us on something that we would have briefed him on.  It doesn’t really seem to make a ton of sense.  So I'm not aware of it, but it doesn’t really pass the smell test.


Q    Thanks, Sean.  On healthcare, a couple for you.  Mark Meadows says -- came out of a meeting and said there is no deal. Does the President acknowledge that this bill appears to be in trouble right now?

MR. SPICER:  No, I think that we're going to continue -- I mean, it's not a question of trouble.  There was no deal.  We weren’t asking for a deal.  The President --

Q    You wouldn’t call the essential health benefits package a deal?

MR. SPICER:  No, I think for a lot of members it was.  And I think some of them stood up and said, Mr. President, we're with you.  I think a lot of them said, we're going to go back and think about it.  But there was no -- the meeting didn’t conclude by saying, "do we have a deal?"  That's not why we had it.  I think for some members this has been --

Q    No final offer before it is --

MR. SPICER:  No, I think this was a discussion that the President continues to have.  I think we have been very, very pleased with the direction it's going in and the number of members who have expressed their support for it.  We'll continue that discussion with the Tuesday Group.  But the number is growing, the number of members who have shared concerns, and I think that we have been very responsive, as well as Speaker Ryan, to the concerns and ideas that members have expressed from across the spectrum.

Q    Two quick clarifications.  You said that there's only plan A.  At this point, is there an acknowledgement that perhaps there does need to be a plan B if this vote doesn’t happen tonight?

MR. SPICER:  No.  Plan A.  

Q    Okay, then the next follow-up is just, has the President asked Speaker Ryan to delay this vote while he works with some of these members to try to convince them to come on board.

MR. SPICER:  I'm sorry, what's that?

Q    Did the President asked Speaker Ryan --


Q    -- to delay the vote?

MR. SPICER:  Steven.

Q    I was going to offer you the opportunity to respond to what Leader Pelosi said today.  She said that it's a "rookie mistake” to set a date for a bill before there's consensus from the Republican caucus.  What's your response to that?

MR. SPICER:  Thank you.  I appreciate that.  I think we have a pretty strong record on the Republican side of getting bills passed, getting things done.  And so -- I know that they have a pretty strong record of passing things and telling people that they can read the bill afterwards.  I think we have done this the right way, and I think -- we know that we've done it with the support that voters told members and the President that they wanted.  


Q    And related, if I might.  

MR. SPICER:  Yeah, of course.  

Q    There are some former White House lawyers who served in the prior administration who say that by tweeting from his official POTUS account this morning a video that was put out on official social media channels, that the President and the White House have violated the anti-lobbying law because they're using money that was appropriated by Congress.  Is that a concern you guys appreciate?  Is that something that's been talked about here?

MR. SPICER:  It is not.  The President -- that is not applicable to the President, no.  So there is no -- I believe you're referring to 18 U.S. Code 1913, if I'm correct.  (Laughter.)  I think we're pretty good on it.  


Q    Thanks, Sean.  The President wrote a book called "The Art of the Deal."  He's considered the ultimate closer when it comes to negotiations.  If this deal falls through, if this bill does not pass, would he accept the blame for its failure?  And if not, who would?

MR. SPICER:  Let's get to the vote tonight.  I'm not going to start -- I think the President has done a phenomenal job, there's no question.  And I think when you look at the effort that he's put in, the number of meetings that he's had, and the changes that have been made to the bill, there’s no question how hard the President and his team, the Vice President have worked to get this done.  And it's in response -- at the end of the day we can’t force somebody to vote, but I think, as I mentioned to Hallie and several other folks, I like the direction that this thing is going.  I think that we continue to see support go with us.

We’re not seeing people fall off, we’re seeing people come on board.  That’s a great trajectory to have, and so I like where we’re headed.

Q    Two very quick clarifications on previous answers and then I have a third question.  I think the issue was not what the President had done but what White House staffers were doing with their official Twitter accounts.  So while the law does not apply to the President it was a question about White House staff.

MR. SPICER:  Okay, so you want me to answer that one?

Q    Sure.

MR. SPICER:  Let me read for you from 18 U.S. Code 1913.  “The Department of Justice consistently has construed that the Anti-Lobbying Act as limiting the lobbying activities personally undertaken by the President, his aides and assistants with the Executive Office of the President, the Vice President, Cabinet members within their areas of responsibilities, and others confirmed officials appointed by the President responsibility.”  

So there’s clearly a carve-out for that.  Next.

Q    When you were talking about the Byrd Rule earlier, can we read from your answer that Vice President Pence does not at any point intend to overrule the Senate parliamentarian?

MR. SPICER:  It’s not a question of overrule.  You don’t overrule.  The Senate parliamentarian makes interpretations.  It’s up to the presiding officer.

Q    -- right?

MR. SPICER:  I do, but I also understand how the Senate works.  And the presiding officer determines -- the Senate parliamentarian has asked for guidance.

Q    Sure, and if the guidance from the Senate parliamentarian is that something would violate the Byrd Rule, would Vice President Pence --

MR. SPICER:  I’m not going to answer hypotheticals about what he may do, not on this bill or any other.  

Q    Just finally, CNN reported yesterday that U.S. officials believe that -- are investigating that associates of President Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  I’m wondering if you can respond to that or say definitely that they did not do so.

MR. SPICER:  So let’s actually look at what CNN reported.  They reported that anonymous U.S. officials have told them that information indicates that association of the campaign and suspected operatives coordinated, which they admit is not conclusive of anything, is bordering on collusion.  The last line of the thing said, “The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place.”

I think there’s probably more evidence that CNN colluded with the Clinton campaign to give her debate questions than the Trump campaign gave any kind of collusion.  So I think when it comes down to that reporting, it is filled with a bunch of subjective terms about this person may have done this, possibly could have done that.  And at the end of the story, if you wade to the very bottom it says, “The FBI cannot yet prove that collusion took place.”

So I’ve addressed this type of reporting in the past, and this fits right in.


Q    Without getting too deep in the weeds on exactly what this strategy is in the Senate to get this bill through the Byrd Rule, is the President confident that the strategy that’s being developed in the Senate will result in a bill that can pass muster?

MR. SPICER:  Yes.  

Q    And the President told us several weeks ago that if it looked like the Democrats were going to filibuster Judge Gorsuch, he would encourage Mitch McConnell to invoke the nuclear option. Has the President’s position on that changed at all?

MR. SPICER:  The President has not spoken to Senator McConnell yet.  I think Senator Schumer, as you know, within the last hour or so came out with his position.  I’m sure that after we get through tonight the President will have some kind of conversation with Senator McConnell and discuss Senate strategy. We’re not there yet.

Q    Thanks, Sean.  Following up on Jordan’s question and then I have a follow-up on Hallie’s question.  How did Chairman Nunes end up at the White House yesterday?  This morning he said he invited himself here, but that’s sort of an uncommon way to end up here.  Can you take us through sort of the tick-tock of what happened?

MR. SPICER:  No.  I don’t know how he got here.  I assume in a car.  (Laughter.)  But I also don’t track him.  I don’t keep his schedule either.

Q    You know who he spoke with at the White House?

MR. SPICER:  No, I don’t.  He literally gave a press conference as we were starting and saying I’m going to go down to the White House after we brief the press.

Q    Was this the first time that the White House was made aware of the surveillance that he brought to the President yesterday?

MR. SPICER:  I believe that the information that he shared with the President was new.

Q    And then the follow-up on healthcare.  Is there any sort of plan if the bill does not pass tonight?


Q    What is the plan B?

MR. SPICER:  No, it’s going to pass.  So that’s it.  


Q    Now that you’ve been briefed -- I know yesterday you hadn’t been on everything had just happened -- can you say if the information that Nunes had is the same information that the President said he had that would be revealed this week?

MR. SPICER:  We’re not going to -- my understanding, because I was not briefed on the contents of that, was that he spoke generally about what he had seen in these reports that he had been made privy to, but that there was further details he wanted the President to know what he had seen and that it wasn’t related to Russia.  But he’s continuing, as, again -- all of his public comments are that he is going to continue to pursue this and that he’ll have further updates later.  But I’m not aware of the specific nature of it.  


Q    Wait, one more question.  What will the President’s reaction be to Republicans who vote against the healthcare bill tonight?  And are they being encouraged the vote their conscience?

MR. SPICER:  Well, I think I’ve addressed this before, but I think the President has made very clear that Republicans in particular have made a commitment to constituents and to the American people that if given the opportunity to have a Republican President, a Republican Senate and a Republican House, that they would enact a repeal-and-replace and put into it a patient-centered healthcare.

He believes, as he mentioned during --when he met with the House conference, as he mentioned with the members of the Freedom Caucus today, and I think in several meetings, that this is something that we’ve talked about.  You’ve taken a bunch of these free votes when it didn’t matter because you didn’t have a Republican President.  And you got to vote for repeal and go back and tell your constituents something like 50 times -- well, this is a live ball now.  And this is for real, and we’re going to do what we pledged to the American people and keep our word.

And he’s made it very clear that part of the reason that he got elected is because he went out and made a series of bold pledges to the American people about what he would do if he were President, and he’s acting on those.  And he’s acting swiftly and boldly with respect to this in particular -- and that he believes that not just him, but that members of the House and the Senate have an obligation to fulfill the promise and the pledge that they made to the American people.  


Q    Regardless of what happens tonight, will we hear from the President?  Will he come out and make a statement?

MR. SPICER:  I think it’s going to depend on what time the vote is.  So I don’t want to commit -- I’m sure in some way, shape or form we’ll have some kind of comment.

Q    And similar to the question you were asked here, but is the President, no matter what happens, prepared to take responsibility for the outcome of this bill?

MR. SPICER:  In what way?  

Q    Whether it succeeds or fails?  His name is on it.  A lot of people think so.

MR. SPICER:  Well, I think that in the sense that we’ve been very clear about this is a priority of ours and we’ve worked with him.  But again, I go back to -- at the end of the day, we can’t make people vote.  We’ve done everything we can to listen to them, to incorporate their thoughts, to incorporate their ideas to make the bill as best we can.  But it’s a balancing act, make no mistake about it, that there’s a full spectrum of folks in the House that have disparate desires.

But I think we can all commit that this is the one vehicle that’s going to repeal something that almost every single Republican that I’m aware of has pledged to do if they were reelected or elected.  And I think that there’s a desire that -- we understand that not every member is going to find this perfect.  That’s what happens when you need to get, in this case, 216 votes.  

But it’s the best bill that takes into consideration all of the concerns and all of the goals and all the values -- and I understand that in a lot of cases, some of it isn’t a question of the policy, it’s a question of the timing and some of the things that people want that are happening in phase three and phase one.

But as we’ve addressed, the Byrd Rule, which is -- to most people, this arcane thing probably even in the House that don’t have to deal with it -- in the Senate that deals with whether or not -- and if there is a -- if it is loaded up with things that are stricken, then it doesn’t serve us any good.  

I think that we have put together a very comprehensive approach to addressing how to actually repeal and how to actually replace.  I think the President walked through with the House Freedom Caucus today several of the administrative acts that Secretary Price would be taking in accordance with the authority that was granted to him by the Obamacare legislation and by some of the actions that Secretary Sebelius took back in 2009.

There’s a lot of concern among members about some of the sequencing on things, and I think that we have continued to not  -- so this isn’t just about policy.  Some of it’s about sequencing and timing.  And I think the President and the Vice President and the rest of the team have done a lot to reassure them on the sequencing and how this thing is going to act.  So that discussion I think has continued to be very productive to reassure members how this thing is going to happen and take place.


Q    Thanks, Sean.  A moment ago you said that there was some members of the House Freedom Caucus in the meeting today who were “no’s” who stood up and said, Mr. President, I’m with you.  Can you tell us how many of those there were and what their names were?

MR. SPICER:  Not yet.  And I’m not trying to be cute about this. I think as we do this -- as we do the whip count, I think as you can imagine, that we’ve got to make sure that we don’t -- that this balancing act -- and you’ve got to now make sure that certain people don’t fall off the end as you pick up certain people.  And so we’re keeping that vote total rather tight right now.  But I feel very buoyed by the direction that we’re headed in.

Q    And can you give us a sense of what specific offer was made?  There’s been reporting that the final offer was put on the table for these guys.  What specific changes did the President offer them today that were new that we haven’t seen before?

MR. SPICER:  It’s not just changes.  As I mentioned to Cecilia, part of this is some of the administrative stuff and making sure that they have reassurances that certain things that Secretary Sebelius enacted when she enrolled the bill -- or, excuse me, enacted the bill that will be acted upon immediately.  

And so there was an enumeration of some of those things and a commitment on some of the other aspects of support that would be given for the phase three bill about buying across state lines, increasing HHS -- HSAs.  There was a lot of talk about that.  And that’s where I think a lot of this comes down to right now, especially among those members.  They feel very good about the changes that have been made in the manager’s amendment and they feel very good.  There is some question about the commitment and changes that might take place in the Senate, and so that -- there was a lot of can we count on this when this happens.  So I just want to -- some of this is working that way.


Q    Thank you very much, Sean.  Two questions please.  One, as far as 68 countries representing against terrorism or against ISIS at the State Department under the leadership of Secretary of State Tillerson -- there was an advisor to the President of Afghanistan coming here speaking at CSIS.  And also, the day before yesterday, at the (inaudible) he was addressing Mr. Rabbani, who is the foreign minister of Afghanistan.  What both were saying or addressing to the audience at these two think tanks that unless we control two countries who are financing and training -- Saudi Arabia is financing in the name of charities, and Pakistan is training.  So what is the presidential message to this group?  

At the same time, there is a Mr. Abdel Said, who is wanted by the U.S., $10 million -- there’s a bounty on him.  And he’s openly spewing hatred against the U.S. and India and Pakistan. So where do we go from here?

MR. SPICER:  So, look, Secretary Tillerson is the meeting of -- have been going through this meeting with 68 of those members that are committed to addressing Syria and ISIS.  I’m not going to get ahead of the internal discussions that Secretary Tillerson is having related to the administration’s review of Syria’s policy in particular.  But I would stay in touch with the State Department on that.  


Q    The second part of my question please.

MR. SPICER:  Okay.

Q    As far as President’s relation with the Indian American community is concerned, that 40 years it was 1976 when a spiritual leader came from -- all the way from India to New York City, and he wanted to have a parade, Festival of India in New York, but they didn’t have any resources or sources, but Mr. Trump that time, Donald Trump, came out and helped the group to go on this festival.  But now, candidate Trump was also among the Indian American community celebrating Diwali in New Jersey -- same group who has been now at the White House this weekend, a peaceful prayer and vigil.  They’re asking the President to come out or meet the Indian American community against hate crimes or somebody from the White House.

MR. SPICER:  Well, I think we’ve discussed the nature of hate crimes in the past and we’ve condemned the act that happened in Kansas earlier this year.  Obviously I’m sure that this is a very important issue for them.  The President is right now focused in particular on getting Obamacare repealed and replaced, the issue in London -- there’s a lot that’s occupying his time. And I’m sure that we will continue to monitor that situation as well.


Q    Will he come --

MR. SPICER:  Maybe someday.  We’ll see.

Q    I have a question about essential health benefits.  The President said to Tucker Carlson that he wasn’t going to -- if his people weren’t taken care of, he wasn’t going to sign anything.  And I’m wondering what he says to people who voted for him who relied on the provisions for opioid addiction -- things that were included in those essential health benefits, if they go away.

MR. SPICER:  But -- yeah, I -- respectfully, I think that’s a false choice.  Again, the problem with Obamacare is it took all of these benefits, mandated that they had to be offered, and what happened is it spiked insurance rates, it spiked deductibles, and choices went away.  And the point isn’t making a benefit go away or not.  And that’s why I think it’s, respectfully, a false choice.  It’s actually offering options to people.  It’s literally like any other service or product that we have here in this country where you can buy what you want.  Sometimes it’s at a lower price point because that’s what you can afford.  Sometimes you buy features on a product because you want those features.  Sometimes you determine that you don’t need -- but people should have choice in the healthcare market just the same way that they do in almost every other industry.

I mean, that’s the point.  It’s not about giving or taking, it’s about the point that they are being mandated in a way -- and that’s the point, is that people should buy what they want, and what is appropriate for themselves or their family.  I mean that --

Q    Right now, where do the essential health benefits stand?  That they’re going to be part of this bill, or still --

MR. SPICER:  I think my understanding is they’re part of the House bill.

Q    They’re going to be part of this bill?

MR. SPICER:  Yeah.


Q    Sean, just to follow up on Mara’s question.  I think part of the inherent question is, a lot of people buy insurance not knowing what they’re going to need. 

MR. SPICER:  Well, I think if you’re an older man, you can generally say that you’re not going to need maternity care.

Q    That’s possible.  But here is the question Mara was suggesting:  Opioi0d and drug addiction -- you don’t buy your insurance and say, I really need that back-up coverage because I think I’m going to get addicted to painkillers or opioid drugs.  So the question is, is the President confident that the kind of choice he has ambitions for would be offered by insurance companies on their own volition?

MR. SPICER:  I think several plans, I’m sure -- I mean, again, you’re asking -- I think there’s a market for things, but like anything else, I don’t think you buy insurance for anything, Alexis, guessing saying, hey, I assume that if my house burns down, I’m going to need to replace all these things.  You buy insurance -- that’s the whole point of insurance.  And I think when people look at it, they’re going to buy what they may not need.  But they’re going to evaluate it, and that’s the same thing when you look at a retirement plan, or a car insurance, or any else.  You evaluate what your needs are, and then make the decision what’s best for you and your family.


Q    Sean, can you say unequivocally that associates of President Trump did not collude with suspected Russian operatives and coordinate on the release --

MR. SPICER:  So say the first part of it again.

Q    Can you say unequivocally that associates of Donald Trump --

MR. SPICER:  See, I think this is -- with all due -- and this is -- the way that the term "associates" is flown around, I don’t understand what that means.  If you're talking about employees of the campaign, employees of the transition or in the White House, that's one thing.  But the way that this term "associates" gets thrown out -- and again, we talked about this yesterday -- you pull out a gentleman who was employed by someone for five months and talk about a client that he had 10 years ago? No, I can't unequivocally say that nobody ever in his past, who may or not have come in contact with him, sat next to him in a plane, who grew up with him in grade school -- because that's, a lot of times, this --

Q    This gentleman, Paul Manafort, you're referring to was a campaign chairman --

MR. SPICER:  No, I get it.  And you're -- I understand who he is.  Thank you.  I'm well aware of Paul, I read it out yesterday.  But the point that I'm making is, when you use a term like "associate," and you use all of these subjective terms, there's a reason that you're doing it, which is because you don’t have anything concrete.  If you do, come back to me and ask, "does anyone in the White House," "is anyone in the transition." But when you throw out a vague term like that, it's a catch-all. Can you be certain that no one who works for Time Life Turner has ever done anything illegal?  I think that's a pretty broad way of casting a net -- or who has visited the building.  I mean, that's what you're equivocally saying.

Q    And also on the question of anonymous sources.  I mean, you clearly have an issue with the way that they have been used among the intelligence officials.  But people in this White House are often on background, they are often appearing as anonymous sources.  Devin Nunes has used an anonymous source to present his intelligence.  So why is it acceptable in that case but not in this case?

MR. SPICER:  First of all, there's two issues here.  Number one is, what I have a problem with, and specific with the reporting that your networks did yesterday, is it was one subjective term after another.  It was associates that may or may not be there.  One subjective term after another, with no concrete proof that anything happened.  When you use a term like "associates," you don’t even put a time frame around it.  It's a little bit nebulous at best to suggest that somebody over and over again, making a claim the way you do and the narrative continues without any substantiation.  When you're talking about Nunes, there's a reason that someone who's dealing with classified information can't go out into public and reveal certain things, because --

Q    He said the information wasn’t classified.  

MR. SPICER:  No, that's not what he said.  I don’t think he ever said that anything wasn’t classified.  But there are certain things that the methods --

Q    He said he was able to talk about it because it was not classified.  

MR. SPICER:  No, no.  He's able to talk about the subject; he cannot talk about the specifics, would be my suggestion -- that you can't talk about specifics of a case in terms of the sources and methods and the individuals.  Because part of what's happened is a lot of the individuals who have been masked or unmasked are supposed to be classified.  So just because something has gone into the public domain doesn’t make it any less unclassified.  That's the problem.

Q    Sean, the nuclear posture review is commencing with this administration.  Can you assure us that everything is on the table, including a lifting of a moratorium on nuclear weapons testing, and also developing new nuclear warheads?

MR. SPICER:  I don’t have a full readout on that at this point.  I'll either get back to you or have someone from the NSC get back to you.


Q    Sean, you keep saying that there's not a plan B for healthcare.  President Trump has repeatedly said that Republicans should just allow Obamacare to collapse because Democrats will own that, and therefore maybe we shouldn’t do anything about it, but it's not fair to the American people to do that.  Is the reason there's not a plan B is because the President's plan is to allow Obamacare to collapse?

MR. SPICER:  No.  The President's plan is to pass the bill tonight, get it on to the Senate, and then sign a bill once it goes through conference.  That's the President's plan, and that's why the President has been fighting for it.  That's why the President has been trying to make it stronger and stronger every day.  

But I think he states a very clear reality, which is, if it doesn’t do this, then it is a false choice to compare what we're doing with Obamacare because Obamacare is collapsing -- the premiums are skyrocketing, the choices are going down, the deductibles are going up.  There is no equivalency.  Something is failing, and we're actually trying to get rid of it to help the American people.  

And the point the President is making is, the politically expedient answer is to do nothing, but I think for the sake of the American people and the needs that they have in terms of healthcare, I think we owe it to them to do the right thing.

Q    So a follow-up question:  Who is the President holding accountable for a split in the Republican Party not being able to get this bill done, the struggle that it's taking to get the bill to the last minute?  Is he holding Republican leadership, Paul Ryan, accountable for bringing a bill to the table without having consensus from the Freedom Caucus?  Or is he holding the Freedom Caucus accountable for opposing it?

MR. SPICER:  I think right now we're not focused on blaming, we're focused on getting it done and winning.

Q    Sean, you've criticized President Obama for the way he sold Obamacare, and there may be some validity to that.

MR. SPICER:  Thank you.

Q    But candidate Trump, President-elect Trump, and now President Trump have been selling this legislation as coverage for everybody, lower premiums, lower deductibles, and better healthcare.  Hasn’t he put Republicans on the spot with this legislation by selling it that way?

MR. SPICER:  But it is.  So, yes, thank you for the advertisement, I appreciate it.  I think --

Q    Can it do that?

MR. SPICER:  Of course, it can.  I will do that.  And that's what the point is.  But I think that there has been -- A, I think there is some concern, as I mentioned earlier, about the timing. And I think we have continued to allay a lot of those concerns because of the rule that they are.  And again, one of the things that is tough to explain to a lot -- or not tough to explain, but just the reality, is that if we don’t do it the way that we're going to do it, we need 60 votes.  And we're not going to get 60 votes in the Senate for this bill.  The Democrats are united in stopping any progress being made on this.

And so I think the point that we've had to make over and over again is, I get it.  In a perfect world, if we had 60 votes, we could do this in a very, very different way and have a much more comprehensive legislative strategy, but in the same way that the Democrats use reconciliation, as do we, to undo it.  And the reason that it is a three-pronged, three-phase approach is because of the nature that it has to get dealt with.  

And I think for a lot of folks, many of them are new to the process, many of them want to see it done in a different way.  And I think we are trying to do it in the most responsible way, so that when it gets sent over the Senate, we don’t have to have a huge parliamentary fight about what's “Byrd-able” or not.  

And that's -- while most people don’t want to fully appreciate the nuances of that, it's a reality that we have to face if we actually want to get it done.  And I think that makes a big, big difference. 


Q    Sean, yesterday when Chairman Nunes was here, we heard his comments.  Today, behind closed doors, he apologized to the committee for not coming to them before he came to the press.  And then he expressed regret for the way he handled this -- going public and going to the President before speaking to the members of his own committee.  So I guess my question is, why was it appropriate?  Why does the White House believe it was appropriate for Chairman Nunes to come and give this information to the President regarding an investigation about the President's own associates during the campaign?

MR. SPICER:  Well, two things.  One is, it wasn’t -- as has been asked before, to ask me why he did something -- he made a decision, he briefed -- hold on, you're getting there.  I've seen enough of you, Peter.  I know where you were going.  (Laughter.)  
But the reality is, is that he made a decision.  He briefed the press first.  No one had a problem, by the way, in the press corps getting briefed before anybody else.  He went down and he briefed your colleagues before he briefed anybody else.  I don’t hear too much crying about that.  The reality is -- and then he made a statement and said, I'm going to come down to the White House and share this information with the President, as has just been noted.  He didn’t give us a heads-up.  He told us he made an announcement, he said I'm coming down to the White House, asked for time to share this with the President.  

And I think part of the reason, to be clear and to your question, is specifically to say that there's a big difference between any discussion about what's going on in Russia and why this intelligence was picked up.  His comments yesterday were very clear the intelligence and the information that he picked up had nothing to do with Russia.  And I think he felt as though, according to his own words, that he had an obligation to make sure the President knew what he had discovered.  That's it, plain and simple.

Q    So to be clear, though, just because appearances matter on this, doesn’t the White House have a concern that it creates the appearance that there was potentially interference by the President that he was included in conversations about the investigation because it was completed?

MR. SPICER:  My concern, to be perfectly blunt with you, is that it's always -- you seem to have an obsession with the process and not the substance.  At some point, isn’t --

Q    Isn't the President --

MR. SPICER:  No, no, hold on, hold on.

Q    The President is the one who wants the conclusion.  He asked for it.  

MR. SPICER:  I understand that.

Q    So I'm asking, why didn’t he ask for details before it was completed?

MR. SPICER:  Because as Chairman Nunes said -- and again, I'm just going to make it clear -- because he said that he wanted to make it very clear that the discussion and the revelations that he had were not -- did not regard anything to do with Russia, and he wanted the President to understand that.  

But there seems to be this obsession with the process:  how did he get here, when did he go, what was the reaction.  At some point, there should be a concern about the substance.  That's a very serious revelation that he's made about what happened during the 2016 election with respect to our side and some of the things that happened. 

And at some point, I would implore, urge, beg some of you to use some of your investigative skills to look into what actually did happen, why did it happen, what was going on back there, who knew what when.  But I think that there should be a similar concern, as opposed to figuring out whether he took a skateboard or a car here to exactly what happened and why it happened.  And the reality is, is that whether he briefed us first or he briefed the Democratic members -- and that's up to him to decide -- the substance of what he shared should be troubling to everybody.  And that's what I think is the important thing.

Q    To follow on this thought, I want to ask you -- at CPAC, President Trump said, people “shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use someone’s name.”  He said, it does “tremendous disservice.”  This is following up on the conversation you started with Sarah earlier.  So, I guess, the simple question is -- Chairman Nunes came out; he noted sources that he couldn’t create and provide publicly.  So why, when it’s politically advantageous, is that use of sourcing okay, but when it’s politically damaging, it’s not okay?

MR. SPICER:  No, I think there’s a difference -- he came out and briefed people on what he knew at the time, and said he was literally going to get further briefs and would have further updates.  That’s a big difference than reporting and making a serious allegation.  In fact, he was doing quite the opposite.  He was vindicating the President and saying there is something that you need to know about the substance of the allegations that are being made against you.  And while that may or may not be the case, because some of what I’ve seen --

Q    But if he had not been vindicating him, wouldn’t it have been just as important for the President to learn?

MR. SPICER:  Sure.  And I think maybe he would have, and then you probably wouldn’t have any concern with that, would you?

Q    My question is to you.

MR. SPICER:  Margaret.

Q    Following on that, two questions.  You said again, the word “vindicated.”  The President said he felt somewhat vindicated.  Did he feel that having Chairman Nunes come down here helped his own credibility?

MR. SPICER:  I think it’s reassuring to know that what he discussed -- while, again, the Chairman made it very clear that he’s not final in any of his processes, that what he had seen so far gave him grave concern -- or whatever the exact phrase before I get -- but to use the phrase that Chairman Nunes needed to say -- that he said.  That it gave him concern and pause for what he had seen, and wanted the President to be aware of the activity that he had seen that occurred during the transition period.  

I think that’s an important -- so I think, yes, the President did -- it was helpful for the President to know that the investigation, as he had asked for, was starting to bear fruit.  And again, I think the equally important thing to note about yesterday was that part of what Chairman Nunes said was that it had nothing to do with these allegations and narrative about Russia.  And I think that is a very, very important narrative to be clear on.

Q    And are they going to meet again?  And after conversations, since they spoke directly, did the President accept Chairman Nunes’s finding that there was no wiretapping at Trump Tower, which he said yesterday?
MR. SPICER:  Well, one, I don’t think that -- the first one wasn’t planned.  There’s nothing planned for the Chairman to come down again.  But second of all, I think I have and the President has very clearly explained that the tweet wasn’t to be taken literally in the sense of the word “wiretap” -- that he was talking about surveillance in general.  And yes, I think that when -- yes, once what Chairman Nunes said is that there was evidence of surveillance that occurred during the election.  And I think that is important to note.  

Again, I think the obsession is with the process of how he got here, and what time he left, and who he briefed first, as opposed to the substance of this issue.  But I’m not going to -- all I’ll tell you is the public comments that he made to you and your colleagues both here and up on Capitol Hill was that he was very concerned with the surveillance that he had seen and reports of surveillance and individuals who had been masked and unmasked during especially the transition period.  I think that should express concern for a lot of individuals.

Q    Sot the President is confident that Chairman Nunes can continue to lead this investigation, and, in his view, be impartial?

MR. SPICER:  Absolutely.

Q    Because there have been some questions about that, including from Republicans.

MR. SPICER:  Yes.  

Thank you guys very much.  Have a great one.

2:35 P.M. EDT

Categories: White House News

Opportunities for victory in the Great Lakes

Daily Kos Michigan Feed - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 4:28pm

First of all, can we lose the expression Rust Belt? Please? Because I don't think that phrase is a vote getter.

This year there are municipal elections across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. How Democrats do in the elections of THIS year will set the stage for 2018. The ability of Democrats to recruit strong candidates for 2018 and raise money for them will very much be driven by the results of the 2017 elections.

If you are a Republican member of Congress and you find that the city councils and school boards have all turned Democratic in your district, you will have a harder time raising money and your challenger will have an easier time raising money. Likewise if you are a Democratic member of congress, and your party sweeps the municipal elections, well, chances are that the Republicans won't even bother to field a challenger.

Not only will elections THIS year set the stage for 2018, they will affect how our representatives in Washington act for the remainder of this congress. An anti-Trump tsunami (which is possible with sufficient grassroots campaigning) will put the fear of God into Republicans and spine into Democrats.

Truthfully, local government has more impact upon how we are actually governed than national. Our roads, schools, libraries, and so forth are built and maintained by state and local government. Local government can stop pipelines, fracking, factory farms, and other threats to the environment. Local government decides police procedures and a host of other policies that affects our everyday life. So we would do well to pay attention to it.

If would be nice if the Democratic National Committee would organize a series of precinct operations training for local committees across the Great Lakes, but frankly, I do not see that happening. And that is partly why I wrote my book, The precinct captain's guide to political victory. One reader described it as “clearly written, right to the point and will certainly drive political campaigns to victory.”

My book is for local Democrats everywhere eager to acquire the skills of victory but without local resources for the necessary training.

Categories: Local and Michigan Blogs

Interior Department Is All About Letting The Dogs Out -- At Work

Huffington Post News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 4:11pm

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WASHINGTON — Dog-loving Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is following through on his promise to make the federal agency dog-friendly.

In an email to staff on Thursday — National Puppy Day — Zinke declared “Doggy Days at Interior,” a pilot program aimed at boosting workplace morale. The Interior Department will be the first federal agency to adopt a dog-friendly policy, The Washington Post reports.

“Today is National Puppy Day, and I don’t know about you, but it makes me think of how much my family dog, Ragnar, makes my day better,” he wrote to the department’s 70,000 employees spread across the country. “Opening the door each evening and seeing him running at me is one of the highlights of my day.”

In celebration of #NationalPuppyDay I'm announcing Doggy Days at @Interior to boost staff morale and lower stress

— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) March 23, 2017

The program kicks off with “test days” on May 5 and Sept. 1 at the department’s Washington headquarters. Zinke noted that some employees may have concerns about the canine-friendly policy, and said he plans to issue rules for visiting dogs and flexibility for those who do not want to interact with them, including the ability to work outside the office.

“Scientific studies show having a dog around the office improves morale and productivity, and having dogs around the office has health benefits like reducing stress levels,” Zinke wrote. “Research suggests it might make you trust your coworker more and improve collaboration too. I’m willing to give it a shot and hope you’ll work with me in this new endeavor.”

Zinke, a former Montana congressman and Navy SEAL, arrived at his new post March 2 on horseback wearing a cowboy hat. He addressed his new staff a day later.

“I knew I was going to be a popular secretary because we’re going to make the building dog-friendly,” he said.

His dog, Ragnar, is a Havanese, a small, sturdy breed “of immense charm,” according to the American Kennel Club.

Zinke’s boss, Donald Trump is the first president in well over 100 years not to have a dog in the White House. 

“I can’t even count how many miles I’ve driven across Montana with Ragnar riding shotgun, or how many hikes and river floats Lola and I went on with the little guy,” Zinke wrote in his email. “But I can tell you it was always better to have him.”

Zinke’s email makes no mention of cats, rabbits or any other pet species.

The announcement about the morale-boosting initiative comes one week after the White House unveiled its “America First” budget proposal, which calls for cutting the Interior Department’s budget 12 percent to $11.6 billion. Unlike his promise to allow dogs, Zinke appears to have backed off a commitment to fight Trump’s proposed budget cuts. 

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Categories: Political News and Opinion