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Tierney Sneed

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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The bulk of the premium increases in the Affordable Care Act exchanges expected next year can be blamed on the political uncertainty driven by the Trump administration, a report by an actuarial firm found this week.

Experts at Oliver Wyman estimated that two-thirds of the rate increases in the 2018 plan year will be due to the White House’s refusal to say whether it will continue paying out key Obamacare subsidies to insurers, as well as the ambiguity as to whether the law’s individual mandate will be enforced next year.

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Senate Republicans do not appear to have backed down from their goal to vote on a yet-to-be-unveiled bill to repeal Obamacare by the July 4th recess, despite having just two full working weeks left before the deadline and no legislation to show to the rank-and-file yet.

Conventional wisdom holds that the Congressional Budget Office will need about two weeks to score the final piece of legislation, and GOP senators, unlike their colleagues in the House, say they will need to see that score before they vote.

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Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price couldn’t say whether the House Obamacare repeal bill was “mean” when confronted by Democrats with reports that President Trump claimed as such in a White House health care meeting with Senate Republicans.

“All I know is what I read in the paper on that,” Price said Thursday, adding that he wasn’t at the meeting, when Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) brought up the Trump comments at a hearing Thursday on the HHS budget in a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) was first to raise what Trump reportedly said Tuesday  about the House bill, the American Health Care Act, and asked if Price agreed. “It’s a yes or no answer,” she said, when Price at first try to dodge the question.

“No, it’s not a yes or no answer,” Price shot back.

According to congressional sources briefed on the meeting, as first reported by the AP and then confirmed by Politico and CNN, Trump said the House legislation was “mean, mean, mean” and a “son of a bitch.” He asked GOP senators to make their legislation, which is being crafted behind closed doors and outside the regular committee process, more “generous.”

The Congressional Budget Office said the House legislation would result in 23 million fewer people with health coverage and impose $834 in Medicaid cuts, while eliminating many of the Affordable Care Act’s taxes on the industry and high-earners.

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After hobbling with crutches onto a podium in the Capitol, Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) gave reporters his account of Wednesday’s shooting at a practice for the GOP’s congressional baseball team.

“We were sitting ducks,” Williams said. “You had 40 people on a baseball field at seven o’clock in the morning. He just decided to shoot.”

Williams injured his ankle while diving into the dugout on the practice field, where he was joined by one of his his aides, Zack Barth, who had been shot.

“We landed in each other’s arms. He held me, I held him,” Williams said.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), a Tyson Foods lobbyist and two Capitol Police officers were also shot before the assailant was taken down. All five victims of the shooting survived, while the man identified as the shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, died from injuries sustained in the shoot-out with law enforcement.

According to Williams’ account, he was on third base hitting ground balls with Reps. Trent Kelly (R-MS) and Ron DeSantis (R-FL) before the shots rang out and had just rounded the first base side to hit Scalise ground balls when the firing began.

“I heard the first shot, and wasn’t sure, I thought it was maybe the back firing of a car. But then the second and the third and everybody yelled, ‘He’s got a gun, run for cover.’

Williams ran towards the first base dugout, which he estimated was about seven feet deep in the ground, and dove into it like a “swimming pool with no water.”

His staffer, Barth, was also running into the dugout, having been shot in the leg, and once in the dugout, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) used his belt has a tourniquet on Barth’s leg, Williams said.

“Zach is probably 23 or 24. All the time he was bleeding and we were under fire, he was texting letting people know we were under fire and that we needed help,” Williams said.

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) called 911, Williams said, while the lawmakers also sought to take care one of the sons of Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who was at the practice and with the Republicans in the dug out.

“There were a lot of heroes today, among my friends,” Williams said.

Williams said that he heard that the Alexandra police arrived after a few minutes, but in the moment it felt like the shooting went on for “forever.”

Williams said he has not had an opportunity to personally thank the Capitol Police officers who were present and helped to take down Hodgkinson, but Williams said he plans to in the future.

“They saved all of us out there, there is no question about it,” Williams said. “We had no arms, all we had were bats.”

The shooting has prompted a discussion of whether security protocols for lawmakers needs to be changed. The Capitol Police were only present at Wednesday’s early morning practice because of Scalise, who gets a security detail because he is a member of congressional leadership. Williams said that “we probably ought to take a look at” what kinds of security measure are taken when groups of congressmen are gathering together.

Williams declined to weigh in on the politics of the shooter, whose social media pages showed him to be critical of Republicans and a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I don’t know this person, evidently he had an issue. I don’t think it was a Democratic or a Republican issue, he just had an issue,” Williams said. He added that the tone of general political rhetoric “could be turned down a little bit.”

Williams praised the decision to hold the congressional baseball game Thursday night, as planned, against the Democrats’ team.

“I’ll be the one coaching third on crutches,” Williams said.

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The lack of transparency around Senate Republicans’ efforts to repeal Obamacare—an effort that will affect millions of people’s health coverage and stands to remake one-sixth of the economy—has prompted intense, reporter-filled stakeouts outside their closed-door health care working group meetings, admissions from rank-and-file GOPers that they’re not sure what’s going into the repeal bill, and some dramatic confrontations with Democrats who’ve been shut out of the process.

“We have no idea what’s being proposed. There’s a group of guys in a back room somewhere that are making decisions,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) vented at an unrelated hearing last week.

The scrutiny over the extraordinarily secretive nature of the Senate repeal effort amped up this week with reports that they could send the draft bill they’re close to finishing to the CBO before posting it publicly, as some Republicans have indicated they could vote on it as early as this month. There are no intentions to hold any public hearings on the draft.

But if you asked Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), a member of the GOP Senate leadership team as well as the working group negotiating a health care deal, he would describe what the Senate GOP plans to do on health care as an “open process.”

“The House bill is what, 100 and some pages? People are able to read that in an amount of time, it doesn’t take too long,” he said, when asked how much time the public would get review their legislation. “How long does it take you to read 100 pages?”

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Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has taken the expedited, secretive process that the House Republicans used to pass their Affordable Care Act repeal legislation and put it on steroids.

The lack of details about the Senate’s version of the legislation, which stands to affect the insurance coverage of millions of Americans while remaking one-sixth of the economy, is a feature, not a bug, from McConnell’s perspective. Shielding his conference members from scrutiny, McConnell has set up a process that will bypass committee hearings, tamp down outside analysis, and bring a bill to floor for a vote soon after its text is first released publicly.

Senate Republicans said their bill would differ from the House’s repeal measure, but they haven’t elaborated much on how. The potential changes that have been reported don’t appear to alter much its basic outcomes. The House’s American Health Care Act, according to the CBO, would result in 23 million fewer people with health coverage, roll back Obamacare consumer protections, and slash $834 million in Medicaid funding.

GOP senators were told to keep quiet about the negotiations, though they have signaled that once they settle on a set of proposals that would garner support of most of their conference, they’d push it forward quickly.

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Those who were hoping that to see the Senate GOP Obamacare repeal bill before it was sent over to the Congressional Budget Office shouldn’t hold their breath.

Republican staffers are close to finishing a draft, perhaps even by Monday evening, Axios reported, but aren’t planning to release it once they complete it and send it to the CBO for a score. It’s unclear just at what point of the process between now and when the Senate votes on the legislation that the full text becomes public.

Ongoing discussions around the draft, which could be tweaked to get consensus, was cited in the Axios report as being a reason it won’t be posted once it was done.

“We aren’t stupid,” a senior GOP aide told Axios.

It’s not uncommon for draft proposals to be sent to the CBO privately as part of the larger legislative efforts, as a way of providing feedback to members negotiating a bill. But Senate Republican also intend to bypass the committee process in their repeal effort, an extraordinary move, given the scope and the potential impact of their health care legislation.

The CBO analysis of the House repeal legislation, the American Health Care Act, estimated that it would cost 23 million people their health care coverage.

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The Justice Department asked a court to dismiss the lawsuit brought by a watch dog group alleging that President Trump is in violation of the Constitution’s Emolument clause. The filing from the federal government on Friday argued that neither the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW), nor the businesses that have joined the lawsuit, have the standing to bring the legal challenge, while asserting that the Emoluments clause does not apply to the sort of profits Trump is benefiting from through his businesses while in office.

“As explained below, the Emoluments Clauses apply only to the receipt of compensation for personal services and to the receipt of honors and gifts based on official position. They do not prohibit any company in which the President has any financial interest from doing business with any foreign, federal, or state instrumentality,” the court doc said.

Soon after he took office, Trump was targeted with the lawsuit, which claimed he was in violation of a constitutional clause that bars office holders from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

The Justice Department on Friday said that CREW’s claims of harm, in the form to the legal resources they were devoting to the issue, were “abstract” and “insufficient,” while arguing that the businesses that have joined the lawsuit should not be considered competitors to Trump’s restaurants and hotels.

The Justice Department said that the plaintiffs were misrepresenting the meaning of “emoluments” in their lawsuit.

“It would be unnatural to describe a public official’s receipt of benefits from a business venture unrelated to his office as ‘accept[ing] of [a] present,’ and nothing indicates that the Framers would have intended the Clause to be applied in that way,” the court doc said.

“Nor can the term ‘present’ naturally be read to include benefits tendered to a U.S. official by operation of law, such as foreign trademarks, licenses, permits, and approvals granted to an official’s private business, as Plaintiffs allege,” the filing added.

The Justice Department pointed to the business ventures that past presidents dating back to George Washington, as well as other Cabinet officials, were involved in.

“Had the Framers intended the Emoluments Clauses to encompass benefits arising from a federal official’s private commercial transactions with a foreign state, or in case of a President, with a foreign, federal, or state instrumentality, surely someone would have raised concerns about whether foreign governments or government-owned corporations may have been among the customers of the farm and other products regularly exported by early Presidents,” the court doc said. “Yet, there is no evidence of these Presidents taking any steps to ensure that they were not transacting business with a foreign or domestic government instrumentality.”

Read the full filing below:

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Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) encouraged former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), who topped the ticked that rivaled Biden and President Obama in the 2012 campaign, to run for Senate in a closed-door event with donors, Politico reported.

Biden was appearing at Romney’s annual E2 Summit in Deer Valley, Utah, and the two were leading a discussion in front of the summit’s attendees Friday evening. Politico’s report is based on two unnamed sources who were at the event.

There has been speculation that Romney could run for the seat currently held by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. Hatch has suggested he has decided to run again, only to later walk back those remarks by saying “it’s just too early to make a decision.”

According to the Politico report, Romney responded to Biden’s recommendations with merely a smile. Biden’s spokesperson did not respond to Politico’s request for comment.

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After declining on multiple occasions to affirm the United States commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty – the mutual defense provision that treats an attack on one NATO country as an attack on all members of the alliance – President Trump explicitly made that commitment during a press conference in the Rose Garden Friday with Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis.

“I am committing the United States —and have committed—but I am committing the United States to Article 5,” Trump said, “and certainly we are there to protect and that’s one of the reasons that I want people to make sure we have a very, very strong force by paying the kind of money necessary to have that force. But yes, absolutely, I would be committed to Article 5.”

Trump’s remarks came in response to a question about Article 5 in the context of a Russia threat in the region around Romania. Trump did not address the Russia aspect of the question.

During his presidential campaign, Trump questioned the NATO alliance, and said that he would defend its allies from attacks if they “fulfill their obligations to us.” In an address to NATO countries during Trump’s oversees trip last month, an affirmation of Article 5 was conspicuously missing, reportedly to the surprise of his top national security advisers who had sought to have such a commitment included in Trump’s remarks in Brussels.

Correction: This story misstated the name of the Romanian president. He is President Klaus Werner Iohannis.

 

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