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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference Mar. 7 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Eric Thayer.

    U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news conference Mar. 7 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Photo by REUTERS/Eric Thayer.

    WASHINGTON — The top Senate Democrat said Thursday he will oppose President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee and lead a filibuster of the choice, setting up a politically charged showdown with Republicans with far-reaching implications for future judicial nominees.

    New York Sen. Chuck Schumer criticized Judge Neil Gorsuch, saying he “almost instinctively favors the powerful over the weak” and would not serve as a check on Trump or be a mainstream justice.

    “I have concluded that I cannot support Neil Gorsuch’s nomination,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “My vote will be no and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

    Shortly before Schumer’s announcement, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who faces re-election next year in a state Trump won, also announced his opposition. Casey said he had “serious concerns about Judge Gorsuch’s rigid and restrictive judicial philosophy, manifest in a number of opinions he has written on the 10th Circuit.” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also announced he would oppose Gorsuch.

    Video by PBS NewsHour

    Democrats are still furious that Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, and the seat on the high court has remained vacant for 13 months and counting. The GOP insisted that the next president make the nomination.

    Liberals have pressured Democrats to resist all things Trump, including his nominees, although Gorsuch emerged unscathed from two days of testifying.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., now must decide whether to take the same step his Democratic predecessor did and change Senate rules to confirm Gorsuch and other Supreme Court nominees with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes now required to move forward.

    “Gorsuch will be confirmed; I just can’t tell you exactly how that will happen, yet,” McConnell said in an interview with The Associated Press earlier this week.

    The Judiciary panel is expected to vote in the next two weeks to recommend Gorsuch favorably to the full Senate.

    White House spokesman Sean Spicer called Schumer’s announcement disappointing and said it breaks with the tradition of how the Senate has handled Supreme Court confirmation votes in modern times.

    Democrats Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ed Markey of Massachusetts have declared their opposition.

    No Democrat has yet pledged to support the judge, but Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Wednesday he is open to voting for him.

    Hearings for a Supreme Court nominee usually dominate Congress, but that’s not been the case over the four days of hearings. The Republican push to dismantle Obama’s Affordable Care Act and the controversy surrounding the investigation into contact between Trump associates and Russia overshadowed the hearings.

    On Thursday, lawyers, advocacy groups and former colleagues got their say on Gorsuch. Critics said he tended to rule for powerful interests and against workers, the disabled and environmental groups, but those who worked with him over the years sought to assure senators that he goes into each case committed to hearing and evaluating all points of view before making up his mind.

    The American Bar Association’s Nancy Scott Degan explained how a committee evaluating Gorsuch came up with its highest rating of well qualified. She said the committee contacted almost 5,000 people nationwide who might have knowledge of his qualifications. They examined his qualifications based on integrity, professional competence and temperament.

    “The scope of our investigation was deep and broad,” Degan said. “We do not give the well-qualified rating lightly.”

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also noted that Garland received the ABA’s well-qualified rating, but didn’t get a hearing. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said he agreed that Garland is a wonderful person and well qualified.

    Retired U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Deanell Reece Tacha served with Gorsuch and told senators he brings to the bench a powerful intellect and does not use his role as judge for anything other than deciding the case before him.

    Some witnesses who were critical of Gorsuch worried that he would not be a strong check on executive overreach. Elisa Massimino, president and CEO of Human Rights First, described him as someone “who wouldn’t stand up against a presidential power grab,” stemming from his service in the Justice Department during the Bush administration. And a Colorado man criticized Gorsuch for ruling against his autistic son in a case, saying Gorsuch’s opinion eviscerated the minimal education requirements schools must provide disabled children.

    Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

    The post Top Senate Democrat opposes Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s pick for Supreme Court appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer will field questions about the American Health Care Act during his Thursday news briefing.

    Spicer is expected to start his remarks around 1:30 p.m. Watch in the player above.

    Showdown day at hand, Republicans remained short of votes Thursday for their showcase health care overhaul, hoping for President Donald Trump to close the deal with balky conservatives at a White House meeting.

    Frenzied last-minute wheeling and dealing was underway at the Capitol, too, but if anything the number of dissidents seemed to be growing. Signaling that more work was needed, GOP leaders postponed a planned morning meeting of rank-and-file lawmakers, and House Speaker Paul Ryan delayed a scheduled news briefing.

    MORE: Vote looming, House health care bill hasn’t yet won pivotal GOP support

    Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state became the latest to declare her opposition. Concessions being offered to the conservatives — they want to limit requirements that health plans offer benefits including maternity and substance abuse care — appeared to be scaring off moderate Republicans.

    The House Freedom Caucus, whose conservative members comprise the bulk of GOP opponents, met at midday with Trump. A Trump aide tweeted a picture of caucus members giving the president a standing ovation at the start of the session.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Sean Spicer to address Republican health care bill in news briefing appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A police officer stands guard in the Westminster area of London on March 23. Photo by Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

    A police officer stands guard in the Westminster area of London on March 23. Photo by Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

    British police have identified the person responsible for Wednesday’s attack on Parliament as Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old native of England.

    Police believe Masood was the driver who plowed through pedestrians walking along Westminster Bridge before crashing in front of the houses of Parliament and stabbing a security guard. At least four people died and as many as 40 were injured in the attack.

    The Kent-born Masood was known to police and had been previously convicted of assault and possession of weapons, but was not the subject of any current investigations or convicted of any terrorism offenses.

    Here’s what else we know:

    The Attack:

    A police officer reaches out to floral tributes in Westminster the day after the attack in London. Photo by REUTERS/Hannah McKay - RTX32CM8

    A police officer reaches out to floral tributes in Westminster the day after the attack in London. Photo by REUTERS/Hannah McKay – RTX32CM8

    • On Wednesday, a driver, now identified by police as Masood, plowed a car through pedestrians walking along Westminster Bridge, leaving a trail of injuries and deaths. The car crashed in front of the houses of Parliament, which entered lockdown.
    • Masood then allegedly fatally stabbed a guard, Keith Palmer, before being shot dead by police. Palmer, a husband and father, was unarmed.
    • A media outlet associated with Islamic State militants said the attack was committed by one of its “soldiers.”
    • The Associated Press reported that the car used in the attack was rented from the car rental company Enterprise in Birmingham

    READ MORE: 4 dead, more than 2 dozen wounded in attack near UK Parliament

    The victims:

    • One of the dead was identified as American Kurt Cochran of Utah. His wife Melissa was seriously wounded on the bridge. President Donald Trump tweeted that Cochran was “a great American” and “my prayers and condolences are with his family and friends.”
    • A British teacher, Aysha Frade, also died on the bridge. She had two young daughters and a husband.
    • About 40 other people from 11 different countries were injured. Among them were 12 Britons, four South Koreans, three French high school students, two Romanians, two Greeks and one citizen each of China, Germany, Ireland, Italy and the United States, according to the New York Times.

    The reaction:

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    • Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted his condolences about the attack. His office told the Associated Press that he and UK Prime Minister Therea May “reasserted their “determination” to jointly combat terrorism and share intelligence.”
    • President Trump also offered his condolences to Prime Minister Theresa May and praise for British police and first responders.
    • In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the citizens of Britain and the entire civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism,” noting that “the citizens of Israel were among the first to face the challenge of vehicular ramming and stabbing attacks.”

    What’s next?

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    • Police have arrested eight additional people in raids around Britain.
    • Both the House of Commons and the House of Lords resumed their sessions today.
    • “We will all move forward together, never giving in to terror or allowing the voices of hate [and] evil to drive us apart,” May tweeted.
    • May said police believe the attacker acted alone and there was “no reason to believe” further attacks on the public were planned.

    The post Everything we know about the London attack appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The Republican-led Senate moved Thursday to undo Obama-era regulations that would have forced internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to ask customers' permission before they could use or sell much of their personal information. Photo by jamdesign/via Adobe

    The Republican-led Senate moved Thursday to undo Obama-era regulations that would have forced internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to ask customers’ permission before they could use or sell much of their personal information. Photo by jamdesign/via Adobe

    WASHINGTON — The Republican-led Senate moved Thursday to undo Obama-era regulations that would have forced internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to ask customers’ permission before they could use or sell much of their personal information.

    Senators voted along party lines, 50-48, to eliminate the rules. The Federal Communications Commission, then controlled by Democrats, put the regulations in place in October. They’re not in effect yet.

    Undoing the regulation means that a future FCC couldn’t pass the broadband privacy measure again.

    The regulations would have required a company like Verizon to get approval before telling an advertiser what websites customers visited, what apps they used, their health and financial information, or their physical location. Under the regulations, many more people likely would have chosen not to allow their data to be shared than if they had to take an extra step of asking a company to stop sharing or selling their information.

    Industry groups and Republicans protested the regulations. They said broadband providers would have to operate under tougher privacy requirements than digital-advertising behemoths like Google and Facebook.

    Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said undoing the rules won’t change existing consumer privacy protections. But Democrats and consumer advocates say it will be easier for phone and cable companies to use and sell customer data. Flake is chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on privacy and technology.

    The House and President Donald Trump must still approve rolling back the privacy rules.

    Cable companies, cellphone carriers and the advertising industry attacked the rules as an overreach. If the permissions requirements went into effect, it may have been more difficult for telecom companies to build advertising businesses that could serve as stiffer competition to Google and Facebook, as they want to do. Internet companies like Google doesn’t have to ask users’ permission before tracking what sites they visit.

    Republicans and industry groups have blasted that discrepancy.

    “The commission’s rules suffocate industry and harm consumers by creating two completely different sets of requirements for different parts of the internet,” Flake wrote in a recent opinion column.

    Undoing the regulation means that a future FCC couldn't pass the broadband privacy measure again. Photo by Dado Ruvic/Reuters

    The Senate voted to overturn the broadband privacy rules using the Congressional Review Act. Photo by Dado Ruvic/Reuters

    The cable companies’ trade group, the NCTA, had argued broadband providers should be allowed to use web browsing and app history data unless a customer specifically told them to stop. There is no evidence, NCTA said, that consumers are harmed by this “opt out” approach.

    The Senate voted to overturn the broadband privacy rules using the Congressional Review Act, which lets lawmakers undo regulations enacted in the last months of the Obama administration with a majority vote. It gets around the Democrats’ filibuster power.

    A similar resolution has been introduced in the House, which Republicans also control. And then it would go to President Trump, who has already signed three such measures overturning Obama-era regulations.

    Undoing the regulation means that a future FCC couldn’t pass the broadband privacy measure again.

    The Trump-appointed chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, a critic of the broadband privacy rules and other Obama-era policies meant to protect consumers and promote competition, has said that privacy standards should be consistent for internet providers and internet companies.

    He and the head of the Federal Trade Commission, Maureen Ohlhausen, said in a joint statement earlier this month that the FTC should oversee all internet privacy issues. The FTC monitors internet companies like Google and Facebook.

    But consumer advocates have said the FTC has less power to police privacy practices than the FCC.

    “At the FCC, consumers are much more protected with strong privacy rules that give (internet service providers) clear rules as to what’s fair and what’s foul,” Dallas Harris, a policy fellow with consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, said last month. “The FCC is a stronger entity with a bit more teeth to hold ISPs to the fire.”

    The post Senate votes to undo privacy rules that protect user data appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    This May 19, 2014 photo shows a  a sign in front of the Veterans Affairs building in Washington, DC. Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Image

    The Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington, DC. Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Image

    WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs is warning of a rapidly growing backlog for veterans who seek to appeal decisions involving disability benefits, saying it will need much more staff even as money remains in question due to a tightening Trump administration budget.

    The red flag is included in a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday. The VA says the wait time of as much as five years for veterans seeking resolution of their claims would continue to grow without a “hiring surge” in the next budget year beginning in October.

    Without the staff, the VA said, the backlog could exceed 1 million within a decade, and “veterans may have to wait an average of 8.5 years” to have their appeals resolved.

    The department currently provides $63.7 billion in disability compensation payments to about 4.1 million veterans with disabling conditions incurred during their military service.

    Setting a goal to decide most appeals within one year by 2021, the VA set aside additional money in 2017 to boost full-time staff by 36 percent, or 242. It also estimated that a hiring surge of up to 1,458 more staff would be necessary in 2018.

    But in comments to GAO, the VA acknowledged Thursday that its workforce plan was “highly dependent on VA’s annual budget appropriation,” and that it could not necessarily commit fully to the hiring.

    Trump’s budget blueprint calls for a 6 percent increase in VA funding, mostly to pay for rising health costs to treat veterans. The VA is one of three agencies slated for more money amid big-time cuts to other domestic programs.

    But the White House plan has yet to spell out specific funding for hiring of more VA staff to handle both disability claims and appeals, only saying it planned to continue “critical investments” to transform VA claims processing. In testimony to Congress this week, VA inspector general Michael Missal said the Trump administration was proposing to carry over 2017 funding levels to 2018 for most VA discretionary programs.

    Asked for additional detail, a spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget said, “stay tuned.”

    VA Secretary David Shulkin has pointed to reform of the VA’s disability appeals process as one of his top 10 priorities, calling the current system “broken.” He has backed legislation introduced last year aimed at streamlining the appeals process, but has been less clear about available money for hiring. Last week, after being prodded by members of Congress, Shulkin released a memorandum detailing a few hundred more exemptions to the federal hiring freeze, in part to allow for the hiring of claims processors authorized in 2017.

    “These workforce shortages are deeply troubling,” said Sen. Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “It’s time we get these folks hired.”

    In the GAO report, auditors as a whole found the VA’s staffing estimates sound but cautioned the government’s second largest agency needed a better plan to make sure additional staff are properly trained and have adequate office space.

    The post VA urges ‘hiring surge’ to reduce veterans’ appeals backlog appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images

    Plenty of classical composers have turned to nature for inspiration. Composer Stephen Lias does, too. But his focus is a little more specific.

    Composer Stephen Lias. Photo: Boulder Philharmonic

    Over the last two decades, Lias has written more than a dozen compositions inspired by national parks. The list includes pieces about Rocky Mountain and Mesa Verde national parks in Colorado, Yosemite National Park in California and Big Bend National Park in Texas.

    On Saturday, the Boulder Philharmonic debuted his newest piece, “All the Songs That Nature Sings.” The piece takes its title from the writing of Enos Mills, often called the father of Rocky Mountain National Park.

    On his website, Lias quotes the following lines from Ellis as having been inspiration for the piece: “The trail is the short Northwest passage to nature’s wonderland. With all its curves and windings it is essentially poetic… it is enlivened with the melody of the wild.”

    Next week, the Boulder Philharmonic will take the piece on the road, to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., as part of SHIFT, a festival honoring innovative American orchestras.

    Below, listen to Colorado Public Radio’s interview with Lias, in which he talks about his new composition, how he writes music about nature, and how a trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas inspired him to compose music around national parks:

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    And watch excerpts from “Gates of the Arctic,” a Lias piece about the Arctic National Park in Alaska, which the orchestra debuted in 2014:

    This report originally appeared on PBS member station Colorado Public Radio. Local Beat is an ongoing series on Art Beat that features arts and culture stories from PBS member stations around the nation.

    The post LISTEN: This composer makes music inspired by national parks appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A Google Street View car is driven in Sundsvall, northern Sweden September 13, 2011. Street View, which enables users of Google Maps to view photos of streets as well, has been around since 2007 -- sending its cars out to take photos of city streets -- and covers about 30 countries. Photo by Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

    A Google Street View car is driven in Sundsvall, northern Sweden September 13, 2011. Street View, which enables users of Google Maps to view photos of streets as well, has been around since 2007 — sending its cars out to take photos of city streets — and covers about 30 countries. Photo by Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

    We encounter natural gas every day. For many Americans, it lights oven fires to make breakfast in the morning and to provide heat at night. But this reliance comes with an invisible network of pipes under our feet, and those pipes come with invisible leaks in residential areas. These leaks, in addition to creating dangerous pockets of flammable gas, also release large amounts of methane, a major contributor to the greenhouse gas effect.

    Current methods of locating gas leaks take a lot of time and resources, but scientists may have devised a better way of pinpointing these trouble zones: Google Maps.

    Ecologists at Colorado State University outfitted Google’s fleet of Street View cars with special methane detectors. As the cars snapped pictures of cities, they also collected street by street data on the amount of methane in the vicinity.

    These electronic bloodhounds roamed the streets of five places in the country: Boston, Indianapolis, Syracuse, New York, Burlington, Vermont, and the Staten Island borough of New York City. Boston, Syracuse and Staten Island topped the charts due to antique pipe systems.

    “The cities that were leakier, their systems were comprised of older materials.” said Colorado State University ecologist Joe von Fischer, who led the project published Wednesday in Environmental Science & Technology. “Some of these pipelines were from the late-1800s!”

    The researchers did run into some trouble during the project’s development because many city buses run off of natural gas. Get too close to one, and the methane detectors get muddled. To bypass the problem, the team repeated the tests in locations where the readings were highest — to control for any tailgating that may have occurred.

    Google offers use of its digital cartography resources to nonprofits through the Google Earth Outreach program. Previous examples of this include the Jane Goodall Foundation using software to raise awareness of deforestation, and the Living Oceans Society to help monitor the coastline of British Columbia.

    Pipeline replacement programs could use this new method of locating gas leaks to target problem areas with extreme precision. By doing so, cities and customers could save money on utilities and remove a major source of greenhouse gas. The scientists estimated that if the largest 8 percent of leaks were repaired, than it could reduce methane emissions in these cities by 30 percent.

    “If you look at the total amounts of methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, you can see that the contribution of methane is about half that of CO2 [carbon dioxide],” said Steven Wofsy, a geologist at Harvard University, who was not involved in the study. “This is a wonderful tool to help improve the gas distribution system.”

    Full data of the cities surveyed can be found on the website of the Environmental Defense Fund.

    “We have the potential to really learn more about environmental quality in places where people really live and understand the air in these locations.” von Fischer said.

    The post Google Street View can now map invisible gas leaks in your city appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Members of the Republican Freedom Caucus are seen in a meeting after coming back from the White House where they met with US President Donald Trump to discuss their vote on the Health care bill on March 23, 2017 at Capitol Hill in Wasghington, DC. US President Donald Trump held last-minute negotiations with fellow Republicans to avoid a humiliating defeat Thursday in his biggest legislative test to date, as lawmakers vote on an Obamacare replacement plan which conservatives threaten to sink. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

    Members of the Republican Freedom Caucus are seen in a meeting after coming back from the White House where they met with US President Donald Trump to discuss their vote on the Health care bill. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    WASHINGTON — GOP House leaders delayed their planned vote Thursday on a long-promised bill to repeal and replace “Obamacare,” in a stinging setback for House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump in their first major legislative test.

    The decision came after Trump, who ran as a master dealmaker, failed to reach agreement with a bloc of rebellious conservatives. Moderate-leaning Republican lawmakers were also bailing on the legislation, leaving it short of votes.

    The bill could still come to a vote in coming days, but canceling Thursday’s vote was a significant defeat. It came on the seven-year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act, years that Republicans have devoted to promising repeal.

    Those promises helped them keep control of the House and Senate and win the White House, but now, at the moment of truth, they are falling short.

    “No deal,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said after he and his group of more than two dozen rebellious conservatives met with Trump to try to get more concessions to reduce requirements on insurance companies.

    The Republican legislation would halt Obama’s tax penalties against people who don’t buy coverage and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for low earners, which the Obama statute had expanded. It would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills, though generally skimpier than Obama’s statute provides. It also would allow insurers to charge older Americans more and repeal tax boosts the law imposed on high-income people and health industry companies.

    The measure would also block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, another stumbling block for GOP moderates.

    In a danger sign for Republicans, a Quinnipiac University poll found that people disapprove of the GOP legislation by 56 percent to 17 percent, with 26 percent undecided. Trump’s handling of health care was viewed unfavorably by 6 in 10.

    The survey was conducted March 16 to 21 with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

    GOP leaders had targeted Thursday for the climactic vote, in part because it marks the seventh anniversary of Obama’s signing the measure into law. With the House in recess awaiting the outcome of the White House meeting, C-SPAN aired video of that signing ceremony.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., couldn’t resist a dig.

    “You may be a great negotiator,” she said of Trump. “Rookie’s error for bringing this up on a day when clearly you’re not ready.”

    In a count by The Associated Press, at least 30 Republicans said they opposed the bill, enough to defeat the measure. But the number was in constant flux amid the eleventh-hour lobbying.

    Including vacancies and expected absentees, the bill would be defeated if 23 Republicans join all Democrats in voting “no.”

    Obama declared in a statement that “America is stronger” because of the current law and Democrats must make sure “any changes will make our health care system better, not worse for hardworking Americans.” Trump tweeted to supporters, “Go with our plan! Call your Rep & let them know.”

    Tension has been building in advance of the critical vote, and a late-night meeting of moderate-leaning members in Speaker Ryan’s office Wednesday broke up without resolution.

    A key moderate who had been in the meeting, Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, issued a statement saying he would be voting “no” on the health bill. “I believe this bill, in its current form, will lead to the loss of coverage and make insurance unaffordable for too many Americans,” said Dent, a leader of the Tuesday Group of moderate-leaning Republicans.

    Congressional leaders have increasingly put the onus on the president to close the deal, seemingly seeking to ensure that he takes ownership of the legislation — and with it, ownership of defeat if that is the outcome.

    Moderates were given pause by projections of 24 million Americans losing coverage in a decade and higher out-of-pocket costs for many low-income and older people, as predicted by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    The post In stinging setback for Trump and Ryan, House GOP leaders delay vote on health care repeal bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin makes a statement to the press in Washington, D.C. in February 2017. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    A new bill out of Kentucky protects the religious expression of students in public schools and universities, a move LGBTQ advocates and civil liberty organizations say could allow them to discriminate against fellow students based on their sexual orientation.

    Senate Bill 17, signed Monday by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, applies to public schools, colleges and universities. The bill permits students to express their religious views within their assignments, allows professors to include Biblical lessons in their teaching, and authorizes campus organizations to set their own rules regarding membership.

    The legislation, which passed 81-8 with bipartisan support, also states “religious and political organizations are allowed equal access to public forums on the same basis as nonreligious and nonpolitical organizations.”

    The bill is the latest in a wave of “religious freedom” bills — related to schools, as in Kentucky, or more broadly to religious groups — pursued by several states since 2015. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 21 states have enacted religious freedom restoration acts since 1993. Republicans in Congress said earlier this year that they planned to revive a 2015 bill — the First Amendment Defense Act — that would “limit the federal government’s ability to punish individuals and organizations who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.”

    President Donald Trump has sent mixed messages about his stance on LGBTQ issues since taking office. On Jan. 31, he signed an executive order pledging to protect the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender people in the workplace. But Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took heat last month for rolling back some Obama-era protections for transgender students.

    Amber Duke, communications director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, told the NewsHour that simply having equal access isn’t the issue. What’s at stake in Kentucky, Duke said, is the potential for discriminatory practices on the basis of race or gender to arise when it comes to membership rules.

    “If there is a student organization that does not want students of color or LGBT students,” Duke said, “this law says that school officials have to give student groups the same level of access as others even if a particular group is not in line with the school’s diversity and inclusion policies.”

    The bill’s language states that “no recognized religious or political student organization is hindered or discriminated against” regarding matters of internal affairs, determination of doctrines and principles, and selection of its members and leaders.

    “It usurps the school’s authority to say we are not going to endorse this group’s activities by giving them financial resources or access to our facilities,” Duke said, adding that this bill could lead to inadvertent endorsements of these groups at Kentucky schools.

    Read the bill below.

    Senate Bill 17 by PBS NewsHour on Scribd

    The bill, which has passed both the Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives, also states that student organizations have license to either admit or deny applicants “in the furtherance of its mission.”

    The law comes in the wake of a Kentucky elementary school’s decision in 2015 to ax certain Jesus references out of a student production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” fearing that Scripture citations could spark a lawsuit.

    Mat Staver, chairman and founder of the Liberty Counsel, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing religious freedoms, told the NewsHour he doesn’t perceive the law as discriminatory toward LGBTQ students. Instead, Staver said, the legislation provides clarity for parents, educators and students on religious freedoms.

    “I think it is a good bill that puts in writing what the law is,” Staver said, calling it a victory for the religious freedom of expression. “I think it’s a very positive development for religious groups and I think it could be a template for other states to follow.”

    Other states have been developing similar legislation..

    In Kansas, the “religious freedom bill” prevents universities from denying religious student organizations that require members to comply with their religious beliefs. Other ordinances are directly aimed at the LGBTQ community, such as North Carolina’s HB 2 bill, which bars transgender people from using restrooms that align with their gender identity.

    Some major public universities in Kentucky do, however, include LGBTQ inclusive nondiscrimination policies, said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, a broad-based community effort out of Kentucky dedicated to equal rights. Hartman said the “climate and atmosphere on our university campuses is very inclusive, by all reports.”

    Take, for example, Murray State University, which adopted preferred name policies for LGBTQ students. Seven cities in Kentucky have also passed local legislation that expands civil rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

    However, Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow said the state’s religious freedom bill undermines the implementation of these kinds of inclusive “all-comers” policies, guidelines imposed at universities and high schools to deter discriminatory practices on the basis of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Warbelow also said it is important to consider history.

    In 2010, the Supreme Court upheld in the Christian Legal Society v. Martinez case that the University of California would only offer funding and recognition to student groups that adopted “all-comers” policies.

    Members of the faith-based group Christian Legal Society, or CLS, filed suit against the university after being denied recognition as a registered student organization. CLS bylaws denied membership to anyone who engaged in “unrepentant homosexual conduct,” or who “holds religious convictions different from those in the statement of faith,” according to court documents.

    “The purpose behind the legislation in Kentucky is to undermine the Supreme Court case. It’s tying the hands of public institutions in that state from being able to adopt an ‘all-comers’ policy,” Duke said. “What is really sad about this is that it reinforces the false notion that being LGBTQ and being a person of faith are incompatible with each other.”

    For Warbelow, there is still work to be done.

    “What we know is that there are student groups, particularly those religiously affiliated groups that want to discriminate based on LGBTQ status or religious affiliation as well,” Warbelow said. “When you do away with ‘all comers,’ you send a message that LGBTQ students aren’t welcome to participate in the full scope of the educational experience.”

    The NewsHour reached out to the Kentucky governor’s office for comment, but did not receive a response.

    The post What Kentucky’s religious freedom bill could mean for LGBTQ students appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as his campaign manager Paul Manafort (C) and daughter Ivanka (R) look on during Trump's walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo - RTX2M1QK

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as his campaign manager Paul Manafort and daughter Ivanka look on during Trump’s walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, in July, 2016. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. government investigation of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, crossed the Atlantic earlier this year to the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, once known as a haven for money laundering by Russian billionaires.

    Treasury agents in recent months obtained information connected to Manafort’s transactions from Cypriot authorities, according to a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly. The request was part of a federal anti-corruption probe into Manafort’s work in Eastern Europe. The Cyprus attorney general, one of the country’s top law enforcement officers, was also aware of the American request.

    Manafort was Trump’s unpaid campaign chairman from March until August last year, during the critical run-up to the Republican National Convention. He’s been a leading focus of the U.S. investigation into whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Manafort, in a statement to the AP Thursday when asked about the Cyprus transactions, characterized them as a normal practice. “Like many companies doing business internationally, my company was paid via wire transfer, typically using clients’ preferred financial institutions and instructions,” he said.

    Federal prosecutors became interested in Manafort’s activities years ago as part of a broad investigation to recover stolen Ukrainian assets after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych there in early 2014. No U.S. criminal charges have been filed in the case.

    It was not immediately clear what time period of Manafort’s transactions was covered under the request from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Manafort was known to route financial transactions through Cyprus, according to records of international wire transfers obtained by the AP and public court documents filed in a 2014 legal dispute in the Cayman Islands with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

    As part of their investigation, U.S. officials were expected to look into millions of dollars’ worth of wire transfers to Manafort.
    As part of their investigation, U.S. officials were expected to look into millions of dollars’ worth of wire transfers to Manafort. In one case, the AP found that a Manafort-linked company received a $1 million payment in October 2009 from a mysterious firm through the Bank of Cyprus. The $1 million left the account the same day — split in two, roughly $500,000 disbursements to accounts with no obvious owner.

    There is nothing inherently illicit about using multiple companies as Manafort was doing. But it was unclear why he would have been involved with companies in Cyprus, known for its history of money laundering before joining the European Union, with unclear sources of the money flowing in to them and with such secrecy surrounding the firms’ connections to him.

    With Cyprus’ entry into the European Union in 2004, the island was forced to put in place a host of stringent anti-money laundering regulations to avoid running afoul with the bloc’s own rules and incurring the wrath of other EU members. Cypriot banks, sticking to EU rules, took on heightened importance when Cyprus started using the Euro currency in 2008.

    But the island’s allure as a friendly EU member brought a steady stream of Russian cash to fill Cypriot bank coffers, and rumors began to swirl again that it was fast becoming a major cash laundromat for Russian oligarchs, a charge that Cypriot authorities strenuously deny.

    A Treasury Department spokesman, Stephen Hudak, declined to answer the AP’s questions about Manafort’s records, citing a policy never to confirm or deny an investigation’s existence.

    Cypriot officials said further information would have to come to the agency through a formal request to the Cypriot Ministry of Justice and Public Order under a mutual legal assistance treaty. No request has been made, according to two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

    This week, the AP revealed Manafort’s secret work for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago. Manafort did not dispute working for Oleg Deripaska but said he had represented him only in personal and business matters. He called the focus on him a “smear campaign,” and said he was ready to defend his work if investigators wish to learn more about it.

    The White House said Trump had not been aware of Manafort’s work on behalf of Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort, who is 67, eventually signed a $10 million annual contract beginning in 2006. “The president was not aware of Paul’s clients from the last decade,” said spokesman Sean Spicer. “What else don’t we know? I mean, where he went to school, what grades he got, who he played with in the sandbox?”

    Spicer declined to comment Thursday on the information about the offshore financial transactions. On the topic of Manafort in general, he reiterated to reporters at the day’s press briefing: “You pull out a gentleman who was employed by someone for five months and talk about a client that he had 10 years ago.”

    The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN, was established in 1990 and became a Treasury Department bureau soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. It is part of an international network of so-called financial intelligence units that share information with each other in money laundering and terrorism financing investigations.

    ___

    Hadjicostis reported from Nicosia, Cyprus. Associated Press writers Jeff Horwitz and Chad Day contributed to this report from Washington, and Nataliya Vasilyeva contributed to this report from Moscow and Kyiv.

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    JUDY WOODRUFF: In a setback for President Trump and congressional Republicans, the plan to hold a vote in the House of Representatives this evening on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been delayed.

    We have reporters at both the White House and Capitol Hill on today’s frenzied efforts to win over GOP holdouts.

    Let’s start with Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol.

    LISA DESJARDINS: At the U.S. Capitol, the day began with empty space, the room where Republicans had hoped to hold a meeting of all their members, and an empty podium, where Speaker Paul Ryan’s usual lunchtime news conference was delayed.

    Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions explained in an unusually blunt update about the GOP leaders’ health care bill.

    REP. PETE SESSIONS, R-Texas: We think we have to make changes, but today we are here right now to say I don’t have all those answers.

    LISA DESJARDINS: And Republicans also didn’t have the votes. And so, yet again, members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus went to the White House to negotiate with President Trump. They had already won concessions over the weekend. The bill would cut Medicaid spending by at least $880 billion over the next decade, and now gives states the option of cutting Medicaid further, by possibly adding work requirements.

    It also gives a lump tax credit to recipients, based largely on age. and it would also end the taxes in the Affordable Care Act immediately. But conservatives pressed for additional changes today. Specifically, they want the bill to cut the so-called essential health benefits guaranteed by Obamacare. That would mean insurers would no longer have to provide coverage in areas like mental health, maternity and prescription drugs.

    But when the Freedom Caucus returned from the Capitol, swarmed by media…

    QUESTION: Are you a yes yet?

    MAN: No, I’m not going to address that.

    LISA DESJARDINS: There was no deal yet and the first indications that there wouldn’t be a vote either.

    Michigan’s Justin Amash:

    REP. JUSTIN AMASH, R-Mich.: We always try to get to yes, but I think it would be mistake to move forward today.

    QUESTION: Not today?

    LISA DESJARDINS: Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows:

    REP. MARK MEADOWS, R-N.C.: I am still a no at this time. I am desperately trying to get to yes. And I think the president knows that. I told him that personally.

    LISA DESJARDINS: But the White House was also negotiating with moderate Republicans, who openly oppose some of the changes for conservatives and the bill itself.

    As Republicans faced two internal fronts, Democrats stayed on the attack.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif., House Minority Leader: Donald Trump may be a great negotiator. Rookie’s error for bringing this up on a day you clearly were not ready.

    LISA DESJARDINS: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made Republicans a kind of offer.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI: If this bill were to fail today, rookie day, I would I — I stand ready to negotiate with them on how we can go forward, incorporating some of their ideas. This is a bad day for them. It’s bad if they win and it’s bad if they lose.

    LISA DESJARDINS: The view from the White House podium could not have been more different. The president’s spokesman, Sean Spicer:

    SEAN SPICER, White House Press Secretary: We have been very clear about this is a priority of ours and we worked with them. But, again, I go back to at the end of the day we can’t make people vote.

    LISA DESJARDINS: And at the end of the day, neither could Republican leadership, pushing off the vote until at least tomorrow.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And Lisa is with us now live from the Capitol. And she’s joined by John Yang, who is at the White House.

    So, Lisa, how certain are they that this vote will be tomorrow?

    LISA DESJARDINS: They’re not certain.

    In fact, the House, the man in charge of scheduling, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is only saying that he hopes this vote will happen tomorrow. Tonight, the full House Republican Conference will meet, Judy. We will have an idea after that roughly of where things stand.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, John, what are they saying at the White House? This afternoon, the press secretary, Sean Spicer, was sounding confident this vote was coming, that they had the votes. That didn’t work out.

    JOHN YANG: Well, Judy, they still say they are confident when the vote takes place, what whenever that may be, they will have the votes. But it’s clear behind the scenes that they don’t. They aren’t there yet. The president is working the phones, we’re told. He was working the phones until midnight last night.

    He had meetings today, as Lisa reported, with both conservatives and moderates. They are still working to get the votes to get it through the House. And, of course, after they do that, then they have got to work to get it through the Senate.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Lisa, pick up on that. I mean, talk about this, really a dilemma the Republican leadership is faced with. They are trying to appeal both to moderates and to conservatives at the same time, and each side wants something different.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right.

    Initially, House leaders thought they could offer something to conservatives that wouldn’t be a problem for moderates. But they have gone past that point. Now, for everything they offer conservatives, every essential health benefit, for example, that may come out of this bill in some form, that is something that moderates see as a loss for their constituents.

    Moderates are worried about coverage. Everyone is worried about coverage. Let’s say this. But, as a matter of priorities, moderates are worried about coverage and people covered. The conservatives are worried about how much government is involved, how much government is spending here.

    And so every dime that you take off the table, moderates see that as a coverage loss. And that’s a real dilemma for Republicans.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: So, if it is a dilemma for Republicans on the Hill, John, it’s certainly a problem for the White House. How are they approaching this divided set of needs or demands coming from Republican members?

    JOHN YANG: Well, you know, the president is not an ideological president. He’s less worried about the ideological issues here. He’s worried about getting to yes, getting to the votes they need to get this through Congress.

    The message that you are hearing from the White House is that the House Republicans, recalcitrant House Republicans , is, this is something you campaigned on, this is something you promised your voters, now is the time.

    Sean Spicer today had some pretty tough words, reminding House Republicans of all the — quote — “free votes” they took to repeal Obamacare, knowing that President Obama would veto those bills. But now he said it’s a live ball. In other words — and this is my interpretation of Sean’s words — it’s time to put up or shut up.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And now, Lisa, in the middle of all of this, late this afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office has come out with another calculation, if you will, of the fiscal impact of this bill as it was being modified, tweaked.

    And it’s interesting. The numbers have just as many people losing coverage, and yet a smaller decrease in the size of the deficit.

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. Essentially, the CBO is saying that Republicans with their changes are spending more money. They still ultimately would shave a little off the deficit, about $150 billion, but that’s less than they would have saved in their initial version.

    The CBO is saying, even though the price tag has gone up on this bill, there are not more people covered. Now, one reason for that, Judy — this gets a little wonky — is the way that the House did this, they offered a new tax deduction, but really that money is meant for the Senate to spend later to add coverage.

    So, it may not — it may be a bit of a false read. Either way, we know that many millions wouldn’t be covered under this Republican health care bill.

    And to pick up on something that John was saying, I talked to one Republican here. This is a test for the White House. But Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a deputy whip, told me, this is a test over whether Republicans can move from being an opposition party to being a governing party. He said, we still have to pass that test.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: And, finally, John, what do they say at the White House? What is your read on what is at stake for them?

    JOHN YANG: Well, there’s a lot at stake. Not only is this the first legislative initiative on the president’s part. Not only does he say this would clear the way for tax — the tax cut legislation and the infrastructure legislation to come that he promises this year, but also this is a president whose whole image is based on success and deal-making.

    And if he fails on his first time out, the question is whether that image is tarnished.

    JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, all eyes are on the places where the two of you are tonight. John Yang at the White House, Lisa Desjardins at the Capitol, thank you both.

    The post Failing to close deal on health care, House GOP delays vote appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    James Harris Jackson, 28, who is a suspect for the brutal stabbing in Manhattan, was walked out of the Midtown South Precinct in New York City on Wednesday. Photo by Anthony DelMundo/NY Daily News via Getty Images

    James Harris Jackson, 28, who is a suspect for the brutal stabbing in Manhattan, was walked out of the Midtown South Precinct in New York City on Wednesday. Photo by Anthony DelMundo/NY Daily News via Getty Images

    Authorities arrested and charged a white Baltimore resident on suspicion of murder after he admitted to killing Timothy Caughman, a 66-year-old black man, in New York, police officials said this week.

    James Harris Jackson, 28, an Army veteran, fatally stabbed Caughman with a 26-inch sword, said New York Police Department assistant chief William Aubry told reporters at a news conference Wednesday.

    Aubry said police believe that Jackson’s attack on Caughman was “racially motivated” and that the suspect had been harboring ill feelings toward black people for more than 10 years.

    Originally from Baltimore, Jackson traveled to New York because “it’s the media capital of the world, and he wanted to make a statement,” police said. As far as authorities know, he did not attack anyone else.

    Police received a report Monday around 11:15 p.m. ET that a male victim had been stabbed multiple times by an unknown assailant following a dispute. The victim, who was soon identified as Caughman, walked into a nearby police precinct in Manhattan with critical injuries.

    After being transferred to Bellevue Hospital where he later died from his injuries, NYPD spokesman Lt. John Grimpel told the NewsHour. Caughman had stab wounds to the back and chest, and prior to the attack, he was collecting bottles, he added.

    About two days after the attack, Jackson turned himself in at the Times Square police station on Wednesday, Grimpel said.

    Jackson can be seen via video surveillance days leading up to the incident wearing a black coat, brown shoes and dark colored pants prior to the attack.

    Video by DNAinfo New York

    T.J. Smith, a Baltimore Police Department spokesman, told the NewsHour that the city’s officers are assisting NYPD with the ongoing investigation by “holding the home of the suspect while the NYPD continues their investigation.”

    “At this time, there is no connection of any crime involving their suspect here in Baltimore,” Smith said. “The NYPD will be here in town conducting interviews as part of their investigation to learn more about the suspect and possibly develop information about his motive for going to New York,” he added.

    New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the attack.

    “More than an unspeakable human tragedy, this is an assault on what makes this the greatest city in the world: our inclusiveness and our diversity,” de Blasio said.

    From March 2009 to August 2012, Jackson served in the U.S. Army as a military intelligence analyst, the Associated Press reported. He was also deployed to Afghanistan from December 2010 to November 2011.

    AP also reported that Jackson was discharged, but it’s unclear why. The NewsHour reached out to the Army for comment, but they did not respond immediately.

    On what appears to be Caughman’s Twitter account, he posted about Autism Awareness Day and Chuck Berry. Caughman was a New York resident who lived in a transitional house. His Twitter bio describes him as a “bottle recycler, autograph collector” and a “good businessman.”

    The post Attacker’s fatal stabbing of New York black man was ‘racially motivated,’ police say appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) is surrounded by reporters and television cameras as he arrives at a caucus meeting after a trip to the White House to meet with President Donald Trump about the AHCA health care bill in Washington, U.S., March 23, 2017.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX32FNI

    House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) is surrounded by reporters and television cameras as he arrives at a caucus meeting after a meeting with President Donald Trump about the GOP health care bill on March 23, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    UPDATE 10:17 a.m. Mar. 24: The House is pressing ahead with its vote on the Republican health care bill, after the White House told GOP leadership late Thursday that he was done negotiating and would move on if a vote didn’t occur.

    Read more: How the showdown vote over health care came to be

    House Republicans unveiled their long-discussed health care bill 17 days ago. Since then, the House GOP’s plan to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature health care law has gone through a dramatic ebb and flow on Capitol Hill, gaining the full backing of a new president looking for wins but losing support from core moderates and conservatives in Congress.


    PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff gets updates on the vote on the AHCA from Lisa Desjardins on Capitol Hill and John Yang at the White House.

    House GOP leaders canceled a planned vote on the bill Thursday after it became clear they didn’t have enough votes to pass the measure. The delay made headlines, but it actually follows a familiar pattern as other major pieces of legislation in Congress: the bills often hit a wall immediately before finding their way.

    But the past two weeks have also been especially chaotic on the Hill. Throughout the process, there were several indications of potential problems for Republicans. Here are some of the reasons the bill has struggled to get to the finish line:

    • A Fast Timeline. Major bills do not move easily. Or quickly. The decision to try to pass a bill that revamps health care spending — which could soon account for one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product — in just three weeks was daring or risky (depending on your perspective) to begin with. Even before the bill hit the committees with jurisdiction over health issues, Republican members who are generally supportive of their leaders told me they were worried about the timeline.
    • Very large groups are unhappy. Congress has a love-hate relationship with special interest groups. But when large, sweeping stakeholders like the AARP, American Medical Association and scores of hospital and other medical groups come out against the bill, as they did in the first week, it’s not a good sign. Many of these groups are either bipartisan or like to support Republicans — but not this bill.
    • The White House says “we’re getting there.” As late as Wednesday, Republican leaders on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue signaled they were confident the bill would pass on Thursday, when a final vote was first scheduled. But if you listened closely to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, you could hear an indication of reality. “I mean, piece by piece, member by member, we’re getting there,” he said in his Wednesday briefing, “and we’re getting much closer.” That is different from “we have the votes.”
    • The Freedom Caucus is trending on Twitter — and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the group’s chairman, is on every cable channel. When the rebellious, committed conservatives of the House Freedom Caucus start dominating social media and cable news, that’s generally a sign that the House Republican conference is fractured and in trouble on a particular issue or bill. And that’s exactly what’s happened in the days since House GOP leaders introduced the health care bill.
    • Reporters and photographers are almost injuring each other waiting for news. This is an absolute sign of trouble. The intensity of pushing and shoving Thursday in a usually cooperative group of photojournalists and reporters was something I’ve only seen perhaps twice before. Both of those times involved either an impending debt limit collision or government shutdown. The fact that it’s happening again now is not a good sign for the bill, or the press.
    • The House Speaker is silent. This can be read two ways. Sometimes no news from the leaders’ offices means there are true negotiations happening. It can be, actually, a very good sign that there is real progress and no one wants to ruin it with unwise words to the press. But other times, as we saw Thursday, no news from the speaker’s office is bad news for the speaker’s office.

    The post Here’s why the vote on the Republican health care bill was delayed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump at the White House

    President Donald Trump attends a meeting with truckers and CEOs regarding health care at the White House. Photo by REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    WASHINGTON — Abandoning negotiations, President Donald Trump demanded a make-or-break vote on health care legislation in the House, threatening to leave “Obamacare” in place and move on to other issues if Friday’s vote fails.

    The risky move, part gamble and part threat, was presented to GOP lawmakers behind closed doors Thursday night after a long and intense day that saw a planned vote on the health care bill scrapped as the legislation remained short of votes amid cascading negotiations among conservative lawmakers, moderates and others.

    At the end of it the president had had enough and was ready to vote and move on, whatever the result, Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney told lawmakers.

    READ MORE: Here’s why the vote on the Republican health care bill is delayed

    “‘Negotiations are over, we’d like to vote tomorrow and let’s get this done for the American people.’ That was it,” Rep. Duncan Hunter of California said as he left the meeting, summarizing Mulvaney’s message to lawmakers.

    “Let’s vote,” White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said as he walked out.

    “For seven and a half years we have been promising the American people that we will repeal and replace this broken law because it’s collapsing and it’s failing families, and tomorrow we’re proceeding,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said, then walked off without answering as reporters demanded to know whether the bill had the votes to pass.

    The outcome of Friday’s vote was impossible to predict. Both conservative and moderate lawmakers had claimed the bill lacked votes after a long day of talks. But the White House appeared ready to gamble that the prospect of failing to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health law, after seven years of promising to do exactly that, would force lawmakers into the “yes” column.

    “It’s done tomorrow. Or ‘Obamacare’ stays,” said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a top Trump ally in the House.

    Collins was among those predicting success on Friday, but others didn’t hide their anxiety about the outcome.

    Asked whether Republicans would be unified on Friday’s vote, freshman Rep Matt Gaetz of Florida said, “I sure hope so, or we’ll have the opportunity to watch a unified Democratic caucus impeach Donald Trump in two years when we lose the majority.”

    Thursday’s maneuvers added up to high drama on Capitol Hill, but Friday promised even more suspense with the prospect of leadership putting a major bill on the floor uncertain about whether it would pass or fail.

    The Republican legislation would halt Obama’s tax penalties against people who don’t buy coverage and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for low earners, which the Obama statute had expanded. It would provide tax credits to help people pay medical bills, though generally skimpier than Obama’s statute provides. It also would allow insurers to charge older Americans more and repeal tax boosts the law imposed on high-income people and health industry companies.

    The measure would also block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, another stumbling block for GOP moderates.

    In a concession to the conservative House Freedom Caucus, many of whose members have withheld support, the legislation would repeal requirements for insurers to cover “essential health benefits” such as maternity care and substance abuse treatment.

    The drama unfolded seven years to the day after Obama signed his landmark law, an anniversary GOP leaders meant to celebrate with a vote to undo the divisive legislation. “Obamacare” gave birth to the tea party movement and helped Republicans win and keep control of Congress and then take the White House.

    Instead, as GOP leaders were forced to delay the vote Thursday, C-SPAN filled up the time playing footage of Obama signing the Affordable Care Act.

    “In the final analysis, this bill falls short,” GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state said in a statement Thursday as she became the latest rank-and-file Republican, normally loyal to leadership, to declare her opposition. “The difficulties this bill would create for millions of children were left unaddressed,” she said, citing the unraveling of Medicaid.

    In a danger sign for Republicans, a Quinnipiac University poll found that people disapprove of the GOP legislation by 56 percent to 17 percent, with 26 percent undecided. Trump’s handling of health care was viewed unfavorably by 6 in 10.

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who as speaker was Obama’s crucial lieutenant in passing the Democratic bill in the first place, couldn’t resist a dig at the GOP disarray.

    “You may be a great negotiator,” she said of Trump. “Rookie’s error for bringing this up on a day when clearly you’re not ready.”

    Obama declared in a statement that “America is stronger” because of the current law and said Democrats must make sure “any changes will make our health care system better, not worse for hardworking Americans.” Trump tweeted to supporters, “Go with our plan! Call your Rep & let them know.”

    Unlike Obama and Pelosi when they passed Obamacare, the Republicans had failed to build an outside constituency or coalition to support their bill. Instead, medical professionals, doctors and hospitals — major employers in some districts — as well as the AARP and other influential consumer groups were nearly unanimously opposed. So were outside conservative groups who argued the bill didn’t go far enough. The Chamber of Commerce was in favor.

    Moderates were given pause by projections of 24 million Americans losing coverage in a decade and higher out-of-pocket costs for many low-income and older people, as predicted by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In an updated analysis Thursday, the CBO said late changes to the bill meant to win over reluctant lawmakers would cut beneficial deficit reduction in half, while failing to cover more people.

    And, House members were mindful that the bill, even if passed by the House, faces a tough climb in the Senate.

    Associated Press reporters Alan Fram, Kevin Freking, Ken Thomas and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

    The post White House, in gamble, demands make-or-break health vote appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    File photo of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    File photo of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Republicans muscled their capstone health care overhaul past an initial barrier and toward a climactic roll call Friday, plunging ahead despite uncertainty over whether they had the votes to prevail in what loomed as a monumental gamble for President Donald Trump and his GOP allies in Congress.

    With Trump budget chief Mick Mulvaney and other White House officials heading toward the Capitol to lobby wavering lawmakers, Friday’s showdown was occurring after the president warned that he was through negotiating with holdouts. In a message delivered to rank-and-file Republicans at the Capitol late Thursday, top Trump aides said if the measure failed he would move on to the rest of his agenda.

    “We’ll see what happens,” Trump said at the White House Friday when asked his course should the measure fail.

    In a morning tweet, Trump targeted the House Freedom Caucus, whose hard-right members have been the core of opposition to the GOP legislation and have come under intense pressure from the White House and party leaders to fall into line. The bill would replace major parts of President Barack Obama’s health care law and would block federal payments for a year to Planned Parenthood.

    “The irony is that the Freedom Caucus, which is very pro-life and against Planned Parenthood, allows P.P. to continue if they stop this plan!” Trump wrote.

    In the day’s first meaningful roll call, the House used a near party-line 230-194 vote to insert changes into the measure that leaders hoped would win over unhappy Republicans. These included improving Medicaid benefits for some older and disabled people and abolishing coverage requirements that Obama’s 2010 law imposes on insurers.

    The GOP bill would eliminate the Obama statute’s unpopular fines on those who do not obtain coverage and the often generous subsidies for those who purchase insurance.

    Instead, consumers would face a 30 percent premium penalty if they let coverage lapse. Republican tax credits would be based on age, not income. The bill would also end Obama’s Medicaid expansion and trim future federal financing for the federal-state program and let states impose work requirements on some of its 70 million beneficiaries.

    GOP aides were privately saying conservative opposition was softening, yet another moderate announced he would oppose the legislation. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, of New Jersey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill “would place significant new costs and barriers to care on my constituents.”

    Friday’s votes stood as the biggest vote to date for Trump and for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., both aware that conservatives comprising the heart of their party’s constituency were demanding no less than an all-out assault on Obama’s law.

    For Trump, victory would clear an initial but crucial hurdle toward achieving the GOP’s lodestar quest to repeal “Obamacare,” the former president’s 2010 health care overhaul. Defeat could weaken Trump’s political potency by adding a legislative failure to a resume already saddled with inquiries into his campaign’s Russia connections and his unfounded wiretapping allegations against Obama.

    In an embarrassing setback Thursday, leaders abruptly postponed the vote because a rebellion by conservatives and moderates would have doomed the measure. They’d hoped for a roll call Thursday, which marked the seventh anniversary of Obama’s enactment of his landmark health care statute that Republicans have vowed ever since to annul.

    The leaders seem to be calculating that at crunch time enough dissidents will decide against sabotaging the bill, Trump’s young presidency and the House GOP leadership’s ability to set the agenda, with a single, crushing defeat.

    Even if they prevail, Republicans face an uphill climb in the Senate, where conservatives and moderates are also threatening to sink it the legislation.

    In a bid to coax support from conservatives, House leaders proposed a fresh amendment — to be voted on Friday — repealing Obama’s requirement that insurers cover 10 specified services like maternity and mental health care. Conservatives have demanded the removal of those and other conditions the law imposes on insurers, arguing they drive premiums skyward.

    Many moderates are opposed because they say the GOP bill would leave many voters uninsured. Medical associations, consumer groups and hospitals are opposed or voicing misgivings, and some Republican governors say the bill cuts Medicaid too deeply and would leave many low-income people uncovered.

    Republicans can lose only 22 votes in the face of united Democratic opposition. A tally by The Associated Press found at least 32 “no” votes, but the figure was subject to fluctuation amid frantic GOP lobbying.

    Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., head of the House Freedom Caucus, said he remained a “no” but didn’t answer when asked whether the group still had enough votes to kill the legislation. He’d long said caucus opposition alone would defeat it without changes.

    Other foes said they’d not flipped. These included moderate Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Dan Donovan of New York and Leonard Lance of New Jersey, plus conservative Walter Jones of North Carolina.

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said changes Republican leaders had proposed before Thursday to win votes had cut the legislation’s deficit reduction by more than half, to $150 billion over the next decade. But it would still result in 24 million more uninsured people in a decade.

    Obama’s law increased coverage through subsidized private insurance for people who don’t have access to workplace plans, and a state option to expand Medicaid for low-income residents. More than 20 million people have gained coverage since the law was passed in 2010.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Matt Daly, Kevin Freking, Mary Clare Jalonick, Richard Lardner, Stephen Ohlemacher, Vivian Salama, Ken Thomas and Erica Werner contributed to this report.

    The post House sets risky health care vote after Trump demands it appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Simba the lion (seen here) and Lula the bear were the only animals left at the Muntazah al-Morour Zoo in eastern Mosul, Iraq, after the Iraqi offensive to retake the city from Islamic State fighters. Photo by Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

    Simba the lion (seen here) and Lula the bear were the only animals left at the Muntazah al-Morour Zoo in eastern Mosul, Iraq, after the Iraqi offensive to retake the city from Islamic State fighters. Photo by Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

    In the beleaguered Iraqi city of Mosul, the mangled zoo that Islamic State fighters left behind had only two residents left: a female bear named Lula and a male lion, Simba.

    The two starving animals were stuck in small cages littered with feces and debris. When veterinary surgeon Amir Khalil of the animal rescue organization Four Paws International entered the zoo last month, he was overcome by the stench.

    “I smelled fear, hate, death,” he said this week from Four Paws’ office in Vienna. The Islamic State militants had used the parkland around the Muntazah al-Morour Zoo in eastern Mosul as a staging area for operations. There, they stashed weapons and bombs before Iraqi forces retook control of the eastern part of the city earlier this year.

    Amir Khalil, a veterinary surgeon from Four Paws International, visited the decrepit Mosul zoo, saying the smell of death was overwhelming. Photo by Khalid al Mousily/Reuters

    Amir Khalil, a veterinary surgeon from Four Paws International, visited the decrepit Mosul zoo, saying the smell of death was overwhelming. Photo by Khalid al Mousily/Reuters

    Many shops and homes around Mosul were destroyed in the battle. The difference was people could leave, but the animals could not, Khalil said.

    Neighbors of the zoo did their best to feed the animals, but they didn’t have much to eat themselves. When Khalil and his team arrived on Feb. 21, they saw the carcasses of dozens of zoo creatures that had starved to death.

    Only Lula and Simba were alive, but in bad shape. They suffered from malnutrition, cuts from their cages, and other problems including pneumonia and tooth decay.

    Veterinary team lead Amir Khalil divided the volunteers into two groups to clean Simba and Lula's grimy cages. Photo by Khalid al Mousily/Reuters

    Veterinary team lead Amir Khalil divided the volunteers into two groups to clean Simba and Lula’s grimy cages. Photo by Khalid al Mousily/Reuters

    The veterinary team cleaned the two animals’ cages, fed them and provided first aid, including treating their rotted teeth. Photo by Khalid al Mousily/Reuters

    The veterinary team cleaned the two animals’ cages, fed them and provided first aid, including treating their rotted teeth. Photo by Khalid al Mousily/Reuters

    Khalil and his team anesthetized the animals with darts, and gave them medical treatment and vaccinations.

    As the team worked, they heard a bomb explode nearby. The western part of Mosul is still under siege, and fighting still could break out on the eastern side. “It is a really risky place,” said Khalil.

    Khalil and Four Paws are hoping to move the lion and bear to a sanctuary in Jordan called Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife. The cost to move and readapt the two animals is approximately $50,000 and will require coordination with local and military authorities in Iraq.

    The cages housing Lula and Simba were too small and dirty for the team to work. Photo by Khalid al Mousily/Reuters

    The cages housing Lula and Simba were too small and dirty for the team to work. Photo by Khalid al Mousily/Reuters

    Dozens of other animals, including a lioness and bear cubs, were killed or died of starvation. Here, Lula gets an apple treat when a veterinary team arrived on Feb. 21. Photo by Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

    Dozens of other animals, including a lioness and bear cubs, were killed or died of starvation. Here, Lula gets an apple treat when a veterinary team arrived on Feb. 21. Photo by Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

    The sanctuary in Jordan, which is a partnership between the Princess Alia Foundation and Four Paws International, houses other lions and a Syrian brown bear, which could give Lula a chance to be socialized with a male bear, he added.

    People can show kindness to humans and animals, said Khalil. “We can’t divide humanity like what ISIS (the Islamic State) is trying to do.”

    Four Paws gave local residents four weeks’ worth of food and medicine to continue the animals’ care. At that point, the team hopes to return to provide the animals with more veterinary care.

    Founded in Austria in 1988, Four Paws has offices in 10 European countries, in addition to South Africa, Australia and the U.S. in Boston. The group works all over the world, helping farm and wild animals directly, and lobbying to improve animal welfare policies.

    Local residents, who alerted the animal charity Four Paws about the animals’ situation via Facebook, were helping keep them alive by giving them whatever food they could spare. Photo by Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

    Local residents, who alerted the animal charity Four Paws about the animals’ situation via Facebook, were helping keep them alive by giving them whatever food they could spare. Photo by Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

    Warning: The following image may be considered disturbing.

    The local residents buried a lioness, who died of starvation, in front of Simba’s cage. Photo by Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

    The local residents buried a lioness, who died of starvation, in front of Simba’s cage. Photo by Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

    The post Photos: Vets race to save the last two animals in the Mosul zoo appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Deer gather at a depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp's planned Keystone XL oil pipeline in Gascoyne, North Dakota, on Jan. 25. Photo by Terray Sylvester/Reuters

    Deer gather at a depot used to store pipes for Transcanada Corp’s planned Keystone XL oil pipeline in Gascoyne, North Dakota, on Jan. 25. Photo by Terray Sylvester/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared it a “great day for American jobs” on Friday as he formally green-lighted the Keystone XL pipeline, clearing the way for the $8 billion project to finally be completed.

    In a reversal of the Obama administration’s earlier decision, the Trump administration issued a presidential permit enabling Calgary-based TransCanada to build the pipeline. Appearing alongside TransCanada’s CEO in the Oval Office, Trump called it part of a “new era of American energy policy” that he said would lower costs, reduce reliance on foreign oil and create thousands of U.S. jobs.

    “It’s going to be an incredible pipeline,” Trump said. “Greatest technology known to man or woman and, frankly, we’re very proud of it.”

    He said TransCanada could now build Keystone “with efficiency and with speed” and said the federal government was working out final details “as we speak.”

    The decision caps a years-long fight between environmental groups and energy industry advocates over the pipeline’s fate that became a proxy battle over global warming. It marks one of the biggest steps taken to date by the Trump administration to prioritize economic development over environmental concerns.

    Two years ago, then-President Barack Obama rejected the pipeline after the State Department determined it was contrary to U.S. interests. Obama said building the pipeline would have undercut U.S. efforts to reach a global climate change deal that was later clinched in Paris.

    On Friday, the State Department said Keystone does advance U.S. interests, by improving access to a “dependable supply of crude oil.” In a lengthy report, the State Department alluded to the Paris deal and said now that many other countries have pledged to address climate change, Keystone can proceed without undermining action on global warming.

    TransCanada, which first applied for a presidential permit in 2008, called the decision a “significant milestone.”

    “We greatly appreciate President Trump’s administration for reviewing and approving this important initiative,” said TransCanada CEO Russ Girling. “We look forward to working with them as we continue to invest in and strengthen North America’s energy infrastructure.”

    But Greenpeace, one of the pipeline’s most vocal opponents, said it sent a signal to the world that the U.S. is “moving backwards” on climate and energy, and pledged to keep fighting it nonetheless.

    “Keystone was stopped once before, and it will be stopped again,” said Annie Leonard, the group’s U.S. director.

    The 1,700-mile (2,735 kilometers) pipeline, as envisioned, would carry oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast, passing through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. The pipeline would move roughly 800,000 barrels of oil per day, more than one-fifth of the oil Canada exports to the U.S.

    Portions of Keystone have already been built. Completing it required a permit to cross from Canada into the U.S.

    Yet even with a presidential permit, the pipeline still faces obstacles – most notably the route, which is still being heavily litigated in the states. Native American tribes and landowners have joined environmental groups in opposing the pipeline.

    TransCanada said Friday it would continue engaging with “neighbors throughout Nebraska, Montana and South Dakota to obtain the necessary permits and approvals to advance this project to construction.”

    In an unusual twist, the presidential permit was signed by Tom Shannon, a career diplomat serving in a senior State Department role, rather than by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The former CEO of oil company Exxon Mobil recused himself after protests from environmental groups who said it would be a conflict of interest for Tillerson to decide the pipeline’s fate.

    Canadian Natural Resource Minister Jim Carr said the Canadian government is pleased with the decision. Ninety-seven percent of Canada’s oil exports go to the U.S.

    “Nothing is more essential to the American economy than access to a secure and reliable source of energy. Canada is that source,” Carr said.

    Oil industry advocates say the pipeline will improve U.S. energy security and create jobs, although how many is widely disputed. Calgary-based TransCanada has promised as many as 13,000 construction jobs — 6,500 a year over two years — although the State Department previously estimated a far smaller number. The pipeline’s opponents contend the jobs will be minimal and short-lived, and say the pipeline won’t help the U.S. with energy needs because the oil is destined for export.

    A Trump presidential directive also required new or expanded pipelines to be built with American steel “to the maximum extent possible.” However, TransCanada has said Keystone won’t be built with U.S. steel. The company has already acquired the steel, much of it from Canada and Mexico, and the White House has acknowledged it’s too difficult to impose conditions on a pipeline already under construction.

    Environmental groups also say the pipeline will encourage the use of carbon-heavy tar sands oil which contributes more to global warming than cleaner sources of energy. President Barack Obama reached the same conclusion in 2015 after a negative recommendation from then-Secretary of State John Kerry.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Vivian Salama in Washington, Rob Gillies in Toronto and Grant Schulte in Lincoln, Nebraska, contributed to this report.

    The post Trump approves Keystone XL, calling it ‘great day’ for jobs appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 23: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivers very brief remarks and takes no questions following a meeting of the House Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol March 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Ryan and House GOP leaders postponed a vote on the American Health Care Act after it became apparent they did not have enough votes to pass the legislation that would repeal and replace Obamacare. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) delivers brief remarks after the vote on the American Heath Care Act was delayed on Thursday. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    Friday in Washington dawns on a face-off between President Donald Trump and a small but influential wing of his own party, the Freedom Caucus. Republicans had hoped to launch their repeal plan on the anniversary of President Obama’s landmark legislation, but the Affordable Care Act managed to survive its seventh birthday. How did the GOP find itself embroiled in an internal showdown?

    Republicans began Thursday with no compass, no schedule and too many no votes on their own health care bill. Twelve hours later, they emerged from a basement meeting room with cheers, backslaps and new changes to their plan. If not yet all the votes they needed.

    Here’s what happened:

    An ultimatum from the president

    “This our moment in time,” Rep. Chris Collins, R-NY, told reporters as he left the late evening meeting Thursday. “The president is insisting on a vote tomorrow… We are done negotiating.”

    Collins relayed a key moment in the Republicans’ closed-door meeting: Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told GOP members of Congress that this bill would be their only opportunity to tackle health care.

    “(The president) is moving on if for some reason it (fails),” Collins said. A reporter asked what that would mean for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. “Obamacare stays,” Collins replied.

    Rep. Matt Gaetz, a supporter of the bill, put the vote in stark political terms. “(If it fails), we will have the opportunity to watch a unified Democratic Caucus impeach President Trump in two years.”

    The tactic – a kind of final offer – is not uncommon at the Capitol. President Obama and congressional Republicans both threatened to end negotiations in the past.

    But it is a test of how the long-divided Republican conference reacts.

    “I think it’s effective,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-TX, who chairs the Rules Committee.

    A deal on the table

    To sway more members, House leaders are adding two changes to their bill.

    One would give states the power to determine what, if any, “essential benefits” go into health insurance plan. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers must cover a variety of basic benefits from maternity care to prescription drugs.

    Second, GOP leaders are now restoring a 0.9 percent Medicare tax on the wealthiest Americans (families earning over $250,000) for six years. The roughly $15 billion raised would go toward a State Stability Fund which aims to help those struggling for health care coverage.

    “(That amendment) has had a profoundly significant effect on me, in a positive direction” said Rep. Trent Franks, R-AZ, a conservative member of the Freedom Caucus who had not yet declared his vote.

    But they may not be there yet

    “We need to figure out how to say yes to ourselves,” said Rep. Joe Barton, R-TX, another Freedom Caucus member, who told NewsHour he was now a yes vote for the original bill. But he was frustrated with his conference.

    “We’re not real far apart… it’s just, democracy’s messy,” he surmised.

    This makes for the extraordinary situation where House leaders have scheduled one of the most significant votes in years without knowing if it has the support to pass.
    This makes for the extraordinary situation where House leaders have scheduled one of the most significant votes in years without knowing if it has the support to pass.

    It could lead to a great deal of last-minute horse-trading and arm-twisting Friday.

    “There’s always an opportunity for a trade, a promise, a calculation, an opportunity,” Rep. Dave Schweikert, R-AZ, a supporter of the bill told NewsHour. “So you just do it.”

    But at the same time, several prominent conservatives and moderates made it clear they are still no votes.

    The stakes

    While many point to the stakes for the White House and for House Speaker Paul Ryan, there is risk for each Republican on Capitol Hill.

    “We’re a hell of an opposition party but can we be a governing party?”

    “This is a team exercise and we can’t have a small group left or right dictating to everybody particularly when president and leadership have worked in good faith to try and address everyone’s concerns,” stated Rep. Tom Cole, R-OK.

    “It’s a test for us,” Cole said, “It’s not a test for anyone else. Can you govern? Or are you just an opposition party? We’re a hell of an opposition party but can we be a governing party? I think we can be but tomorrow is a hell of a decisive moment.”

    What next?

    Next, comes the roll of the dice. Republican leaders seem to believe they’ll get the votes, but speaking member to member, how is not yet clear.

    The post How the showdown vote over health care came to be appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed reporters Friday afternoon after Republicans decided to withdraw the American Health Care Act. PBS NewsHour will live stream.

    WASHINGTON — In a humiliating setback, President Donald Trump and GOP leaders pulled their “Obamacare” repeal bill off the House floor Friday after it became clear the measure would fail badly.

    It was a stunning defeat for the new president after he had demanded House Republicans vote on the legislation Friday, threatening to leave “Obamacare” in place and move on to other issues if the vote failed. The bill was withdrawn minutes before the vote was to occur.

    The president’s gamble failed. Instead Trump, who campaigned as a master deal-maker and claimed that he alone could fix the nation’s health care system, saw his ultimatum rejected by Republican lawmakers who made clear they answer to their own voters, not to the president.

    Republicans have spent seven years campaigning against former President Barack Obama’s health care law, and cast dozens of votes to repeal it in full or in part. But when they finally got the chance to pass a repeal bill that actually had a chance to get signed, they couldn’t pull it off.

    What happens next is unclear, but the path ahead on other priorities, such as overhauling the tax code, can only grow more daunting.

    And Trump is certain to be weakened politically, a big early congressional defeat adding to the continuing inquiries into his presidential campaign’s Russia connections and his unfounded wiretapping allegations against Obama.

    The development came on the afternoon of a day when the bill, which had been delayed a day earlier, was supposed to come to a vote, come what may. But instead of picking up support as Friday wore on, the bill went the other direction, with some key lawmakers coming out in opposition.

    Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, chairman of a major committee, Appropriations, said the bill would raise costs unacceptably on his constituents. Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia, a key moderate Republican, and GOP Rep. David Joyce of Ohio also announced “no” votes.

    The defections raised the possibility that the bill would not only lose on the floor, but lose big.

    In the face of that evidence, and despite insistences from White House officials and Ryan that Friday was the day to vote, leadership pulled back from the brink.

    The GOP bill would have eliminated the Obama statute’s unpopular fines on people who do not obtain coverage and would also have removed the often-generous subsidies for those who purchase insurance.

    Republican tax credits would have been based on age, not income like Obama’s, and the tax boosts Obama imposed on higher-earning people and health care companies would have been repealed. The bill would have ended Obama’s Medicaid expansion and trimmed future federal financing for the federal-state program, letting states impose work requirements on some of the 70 million beneficiaries.

    The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the Republican bill would have resulted in 24 million additional uninsured people in a decade and lead to higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many lower-income and people just shy of age 65 when they would become eligible for Medicare. The bill would have blocked federal payments for a year to Planned Parenthood.

    Democrats were uniformly opposed. “This bill is pure greed, and real people will suffer and die from it,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state.

    Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Alan Fram filed this report. AP writers Matthew Daly, Kevin Freking, Mary Clare Jalonick, Richard Lardner, Stephen Ohlemacher, Vivian Salama, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.

    READ MORE: White House, in gamble, demands make-or-break health vote

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH: Paul Ryan speaks after Republicans withdraw health care bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Delores Leonard walks her daughters Emmarie and Erin to school before heading to work at a McDonald's Restaurant in Chicago, on Sept. 25, 2014. Leonard, a single mother raising two daughters, has been working at McDonald's for seven years and has never made more than minimum wage. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    Delores Leonard walks her daughters Emmarie and Erin to school before heading to work at a McDonald’s Restaurant in Chicago, on Sept. 25, 2014. Leonard, a single mother raising two daughters, has been working at McDonald’s for seven years and has never made more than minimum wage. Photo by Jim Young/Reuters

    Policy research that analyzes data through a gender or racial lens is often seen as a niche field of study (with equally niche sources of funding). In reality, research on how policies and experiences affect women differently than men, and affect women of color differently than white women or men of color, has been a critical driver of progress and an effective way to reshape public debate in favor of better policies that improve the lives of everyone, not only women.

    With the budget proposal shaping up from the new administration, all of us who depend on data to understand the world we live in must be fiercely vigilant about the implications for data availability and data integrity.

    The data that makes this analysis possible are often provided to the public by the federal government, often working with local and state agencies, employers or others to collect data. With the budget proposal shaping up from the new administration, all of us who depend on data to understand the world we live in must be fiercely vigilant about the implications for data availability and data integrity. Cutting the budgets for such agencies as the National Institute of Health and the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and consolidating the Economics and Statistics Administration, as proposed in the Trump budget, will hurt these statistical agencies — and their ability provide reliable data. (An exception is the Census Bureau, which would see a budget increase by $100 million, although that’s actually far short of what is need to prep for the 2020 Census.)

    It’s hard to imagine implementing an effective public policy initiative without the data collected by federal agencies. In the early 1990s, when federal policymakers were considering a national parental and family leave policy, the prevailing assumption was that guaranteeing job-protected (unpaid) leave for new parents, caregivers or employees with a serious illness would be bad for business and, therefore, hurt the economy.

    gendered and race-based analysis conducted by myself and colleagues found that not guaranteeing unpaid family and medical leave would impose greater costs on taxpayers than actually guaranteeing such leave. Women and their families were suffering larger income losses from not having a job to go back to after the birth of a child than it would cost businesses to provide the leave and offer jobs back to returning mothers. Moreover, because African-American women suffered more unemployment while looking for a new job after child birth, they suffered disproportionately more than white women from the absence of job-guaranteed leave.

    Now, 24 years later, the Family and Medical Leave Act has become a cornerstone of U.S. employment law and human resource policy, ensuring that women and men have a job to return to if they or their family members have a serious illness or family care need.

    Just as climate scientists depend on access to critical data collected by the government to identify problems and possible solutions, so too do social scientists and policy researchers rely on access to government data on everything from workforce trends to rates of breastfeeding among new mothers.

    As the country grapples with big policy questions, this kind of research and analysis will be critical to evaluating how well policies work for different groups of Americans. The recent Congressional Budget Office report that estimates the changes in costs and coverage of health insurance if the nation switches from the current Obamacare to the proposed American Health Care Act is an excellent example of the value of our nation’s investment in data collection and analysis.

    CBO’s analysis of this major policy change facing the nation can project costs and coverage out 10 years, estimating the likely cost and enrollment changes of different parts of the proposed law and the likely changes in health insurance coverage on individuals of different age groups and income levels.  Their analysis is based on simulation models built over many years and using many different sources of data as well as findings from research studies on how individuals, insurers, employers and others are likely to respond to policy changes. The CBO’s conclusion that 24 million more adults under age 65 would become uninsured by 2026 has changed the terms of the debate.

    Crucially, the federal government often collects sufficient data from large enough sample sizes that researchers can tease out differences by gender, race and ethnicity, age, poverty status and other demographic and economic characteristics that allow us to see how different groups are affected by policies or the lack thereof. Access to these data has been critical to gender and racial progress — and will continue to be in the coming years.

    While the CBO report did not provide analysis by gender or race and ethnicity, we know that those with family incomes below 200 percent of the federal policy level, a dimension the CBO analyzed, are disproportionately single mothers of color. And to the extent that the proposed caps on federal Medicaid spending force the states to cut back on Medicaid benefits for the elderly in nursing homes, we know from these same data sets that the older people affected will be disproportionately single women, who have outlived their husbands or were never married — the very people who have few other sources of support.

    At various times in recent years, Republican members of Congress have proposed cutting the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which provides detail on which benefit programs Americans use, and the American Community Survey, which has a large sample that enables researchers to analyze data on smaller geographic places, such as small cities and counties, and it provides robust samples for state-based analysis.

    That is the value of intersectional analysis: Looking at differences between groups of women and men encourages policymakers, the general public and other researchers to ask new questions that may lead to better policy solutions — for everyone.

    The American Community Survey is how we can know that the gender wage gap for black women is widest in Louisiana and the gap for Latinas is widest in New Jersey, where both groups of women in these states make less than half of what white men in their state earn. Why the difference? That is the value of intersectional analysis: Looking at differences between groups of women and men encourages policymakers, the general public and other researchers to ask new questions that may lead to better policy solutions — for everyone.

    Rather than deriding this kind of research as too niche, it’s time to acknowledge its role as central to any policy discussion. For research to continue pushing progress forward, access to the critical data that make this analysis possible must be preserved.

    The post Column: How government data is crucial for everyone’s progress appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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