In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Despite warnings from one of their own that repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate will hike the insurance premiums of millions of middle class Americans, Senate Republicans are moving forward with a tax bill that includes a provision gutting the mandate.

When asked by TPM if the mandate’s repeal would be a “death blow” to the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) first answered “kind of,” then, chuckling, amended his answer to “I hope so.”

Asked if he was concerned that repealing the mandate would—as many experts have predicted—drain the market of young and healthy people, spiking the health care premiums for those who need insurance and remain in the individual market, Inhofe told TPM: “Let’s find out. I don’t know.”

new report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that repealing the individual mandate would increase premiums at least 10 percent every year for the next 10 years. Through a combination of people choosing to go uninsured and others being priced out of the market due to these rising premiums, the CBO estimates 13 million more people will be uninsured after 10 years if the mandate is repealed.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced earlier on Tuesday that her office had crunched the numbers and found that for many middle class Americans, this insurance price hike would more than cancel out any of the tax breaks they would get from the rest of the GOP’s bill.

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has crunched the numbers on repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate, and she does not like what she sees.

The morning after Senate Republican leaders gave their blessing for the tax bill to include a provision gutting the mandate, the Maine senator told reporters that her staff used data from the IRS, the Congressional Budget Office, and the Kaiser Family Foundation to calculate that the large increase in health insurance premiums that would result from the mandate’s repeal would more than cancel out the tax breaks many middle class Americans would get from the rest of the GOP tax bill.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) on Wednesday afternoon introduced legislation that would overhaul the way Congress handles sexual harassment complaints, in addition to requiring members and staffers to undergo sexual harassment training.

Both chambers in Congress will now mandate that all members and staffers receive sexual harassment training, but Speier, Gillibrand and other members argue that training is not enough. Speier testified in a House hearing on Tuesday that the current process for filing complaints is confusing, insufficient and biased against victims.

She said in a press conference Wednesday introducing the bill that the legislation is about “bringing light to a very dark corner of our society.” Speier said that training is not enough, even though Congress “is quick to pat itself on the back” for “modest” accomplishments.

“Zero tolerance is meaningless unless it is backed up with enforcement and transparency,” Speier said.

Gillibrand said that the current process is “tilted against victims” and that Congress must change the way it handles sexual harassment complaints.

“We should be held to the highest standards, not the lowest,” she said.

The bill introduced Wednesday, the Member and Employee Training and Oversight On (ME TOO) Congress Act, would change the reporting process. Gillibrand and Speier are the lead sponsors of the partner bills, and Speier is joined by Reps. Ryan Costello (R-PA), Ann McLane Kuster (D-NH), and Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) on the House bill.

The new legislation would do away with requirements that staffers undergo counseling and mediation before filing a sexual harassment complaint and that staffers sign non-disclosure agreements before starting mediation, Speier said. The bill would also give interns and fellows in Congress the same protections when it comes to sexual harassment as paid staffers, according to Speier.

The congresswoman said that the current process only provides taxpayer-funded in-house counsel for the accused harasser and that the ME TOO bill would provide counsel for the victims as well. The legislation would designate someone in the Office of Compliance to work with victims, Gillibrand said.

The bill aims to increase transparency by requiring the Office of Compliance to publish the amount paid out in any sexual harassment settlement, as well as the office in which it occurred, Speier said. If Congress pays a settlement on behalf of a member of Congress accused of sexual harassment, the official will be required to pay the government back under this bill, Speier said. However, staffers would not have to pay back the government for settlements under the legislation.

Speier revealed Tuesday on MSNBC that the House has paid out more than $15 million in settlements on behalf of accused harassers over the past 10 to 15 years.

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Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.

No matter how many times the full or partial repeal of Obamacare has died in Congress this year, it continues to claw its way back from the grave.

The latest incarnation, blessed on Tuesday by Senate GOP leadership, is an amendment to Republicans’ long-awaited tax overhaul bill that would repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate. Such a policy change would save the government more than $300 billion but cost about 13 million people their health insurance coverage, and drastically hike premiums for those who remain in the individual market, experts say.

Pursuing such a health policy in tandem with tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations is politically risky—and powerful medical organizations are already mobilizing in opposition to the bill.

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One of Alabama’s most powerful Republicans said Tuesday that the state GOP should pull its nomination of Senate candidate Roy Moore.

“If they pull him then they have another candidate. I said I’d like to see another candidate,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told TPM when pressed on whether the state party should un-endorse Moore and back a write-in candidate.

That’s a step farther than Shelby had previously been willing to go. On Monday he’d told TPM it was a decision for state steering committee, which plans to meet later this week to determine Moore’s fate.

The 21-member committee of local Republicans is the only group with any real power to kill Moore’s campaign. According to state law, it’s too late to pull Moore off the ballot, but if the state GOP withdraws its endorsement that disqualifies any votes for him and would let the party rally around a write-in.

Shelby isn’t beloved by many in the Alabama Republican Party’s conservative wing. He had to ward off a primary challenge last election cycle, and some Moore supporters were furious he backed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) over Moore in this year’s primary. But he’s one of the few left in the state party with major sway, and is by far the highest profile Alabama Republican to publicly say the party should cut Moore loose. His support for doing so could help nervous Republicans on the committee to stand up and fight to have him removed against the members on the committee who want to stick by Moore.

Shelby’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) publicly floated the idea that Attorney General Jeff Sessions might come back to run for his old seat as he talked up a write-in option. Sessions may be the only Republican in the state with enough goodwill on the right to cobble together a coalition for a write-in campaign, but sources close to him told TPM on Monday that he’s been telling Alabama Republicans he’s not interested in leaving the Department of Justice to return to the Senate.

For his part, Moore remains defiant:

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Cameron Joseph contributed reporting.

On Tuesday, after weeks of agitation from President Trump and hard-right lawmakers, Senate GOP leadership signaled for the first time that it is amenable to inserting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate into their tax overhaul bill.

“We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful, and that’s obviously the view of the Senate Finance Committee Republicans as well,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters, indicating that the policy could be inserted during the committee markup process as early as this week.

The office of Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of the Senate leadership team, confirmed to TPM that the final Senate tax bill would include the mandate’s repeal.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday afternoon that he and the White House have “looked at all the options” available for keeping Roy Moore out of the Senate in the wake of allegations from several women that Moore pursued them sexually or romantically when they were teenagers.

“There’s no question that there’s a deep concern here,” McConnell said at a brief press conference on Capitol Hill. “He’s obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate.”

McConnell has already unequivocally called for Moore to drop out of the race.

He told reporters Tuesday that he has spoken with President Donald Trump, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Vice President Mike Pence about Moore over the past few days. McConnell said that once Trump returns from his Asia trip on Wednesday, he will speak with the White House more about the possibilities.

McConnell’s comments on his discussions with the White House came when asked if he would support an effort in the Senate to expel Moore if he wins the December election. McConnell would not answer directly and instead told reporters that Republicans are looking at all options. He added later that backing a write-in candidate is among the options being discussed.

The Senate leader was also asked whether he believes the women who accused Trump of sexual harassment given that he has said the women voicing allegations against Moore are credible.

McConnell dodged, saying, “We’re talking about the situation in Alabama.”

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The sexual harassment reckoning that has this year descended upon Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the nation’s newsrooms has reached Capitol Hill, where stories about groping lawmakers and abusive senior staffers have simmered for decades. On Tuesday, a House committee held a hearing on a bill that would make sexual harassment training mandatory. Such training is currently voluntary and in the words of one committee member “under-utilized.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) confirmed late Thursday afternoon that the bill would become law. “Going forward, the House will adopt a policy of mandatory anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all Members and staff,” he said in a statement. “Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution.”

But Republicans and Democrats alike say this step is not enough, and are demanding reforms to Congress’ process for reporting sexual harassment and assault—a process lawmakers say is “broken,” “from the Dark Ages,” and discourages victims from coming forward.

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Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s Democratic opponent is taking to the airwaves to hit him for his burgeoning sex scandal.

Democrat Doug Jones has a new ad out featuring self-described Republicans who say they can’t vote for Moore, alluding throughout the ad to the on-record accusations from five women that Moore pursued sexual encounters with them, including one who was just 14 at the time.

The ad has voters  — four Republicans and three Democrats — alluding to the “awful” story before pledging to vote for Jones.

“You read the story and it just shakes you,” one Alabamian says in the ad.

“Don’t decency and integrity matter anymore?” another asks.

“I’m a Republican, but Roy Moore – no way,” a third says.

Moore has aggressively refused to drop out while accusing the women of lying and describing a conspiracy against him from establishment Republicans, Democrats and the media. That’s true even after a fifth woman stepped forward Monday to accuse him of sexually attacking her when she was just 16 years old.

Jones is looking to score what would be a huge upset win for a Democrat in Alabama by running against Moore’s temperament and fitness for office — an argument that has been given a huge boost by the burgeoning scandal.

Republicans still hold out hope they can force Moore from the race and back a write-in candidate, and the local Republicans in charge of whether they’ll cut Moore loose have scheduled a meeting for later this week to decide whether or not to stand by him.

Jones also released a web video featuring Republican Steve Duncan, who ran for local office a few years back and says he’s backing Jones.

“Look in the mirror, check your heart, check your soul,” Duncan says in the spot. Before you pull the lever, remember, do you want someone like Roy Moore? Who’s gonna continue the divisiveness — or how about Doug Jones — who just might bring unity to this country and to this state. I choose Doug Jones. Yep, I’m another Republican. I’m Steve Duncan, I want to be on the right side of history. That’s why I’m voting for Doug Jones.”

Here’s the TV ad’s full script:

Supporter 1: I’m a lifelong Republican, but I just can’t do it.

Supporter 2: I can’t vote for Roy Moore.

Supporter 3: He’s already been removed from office twice.

Supporter 4: This time it’s even worse.

Supporter 5: You read the story and it just shakes you.

Supporter 6: Just awful.

Supporter 7: I just don’t trust him.

Supporter 3: He’s too divisive.

Supporter 5: Don’t decency and integrity matter anymore.

Supporter 4: I’m a Republican, but Roy Moore – no way.

Supporter 1: I’m for Doug Jones.

Supporter 2: I’m another Republican for Doug Jones.

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