The Daily 202: After Senate bill falls apart, Republicans don’t have the votes to repeal Obamacare – Washington Post

Mitch McConnell walks yesterday around the Capitol. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

THE BIG IDEA: A last-gasp Hail Mary for full repeal of Obamacare appears certain to fail. There are not the votes in either chamber of Congress.

Mitch McConnell pulled the second draft of his health-care bill last night after two more Republican senators came out against even bringing it up for debate on the floor: Utah’s Mike Lee and Kansas’s Jerry Moran.

“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” the Senate majority leader said in a statement sent at 10:47 p.m.

He announced that he’ll bring the bill that already passed the House up for consideration “in the coming days,” and the first amendment the Senate would take up would be for the full repeal of Obamacare (with a two-year delay for implementation). But to get that vote on repeal, conservative critics must vote to allow debate on the broader bill.

If the clean vote for full repeal failed, as it almost certainly would, senators could continue making additional amendments that may make the measure even more unpalatable to conservatives.

GOP lawmakers have voted repeatedly to repeal Obamacare, and the Senate even passed a bill with this exact same language in 2015. But Barack Obama was president then, and it was a safe vote because everyone knew he’d veto it. This would no longer be a show vote.

— Sean Sullivan explains that the wily Kentuckian’s announcement amounts to a dare: “McConnell practically challenged conservative critics of the bill to vote against moving the process ahead. … If hard-right conservative senators vote no on proceeding with the bill and it collapses, McConnell can come back at them and say, ‘Well, you had your chance at the ‘clean repeal’ you demanded. And you decided not to take it.’ He will have shifted some of the blame onto others and given himself a new talking point to counter the ‘clean repeal’ crowd — which includes President Trump. If they vote yes — hey, they’re suddenly back on track, at the table debating legislation with at least some chance of passing.”

What’s less clear at this point is McConnell’s end game. “If this doesn’t work out,” Sean wonders, “will he move on to other matters? Follow through on his threats to work with Democrats and narrower reforms, which were seen as ways to try to pressure conservatives not to let this fail? … There are no longer any good outcomes for McConnell — politically speaking. There are bad ones and less bad ones. And putting the onus on other senators means there will be more blame to go around when this all ends.”

— The Republican conference remains deeply divided. While Lee announced that he’s against the bill because “it doesn’t go far enough,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) opposed the measure because it goes too far. There are several senators on each side of that divide.

“We must now start fresh with an open legislative process…,” Moran said in his statement announcing opposition to the latest version. “This closed-door process has yielded the BCRA, which fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act or address healthcare’s rising costs. For the same reasons I could not support the previous version of this bill, I cannot support this one. … We should not put our stamp of approval on bad policy.

Sen. John McCain, recovering from surgery in Arizona, called on Republicans to begin working with Democrats to fix the system in a statement sent at 10:16 p.m.: “One of the major problems with Obamacare was that it was written on a strict party-line basis and driven through Congress without a single Republican vote. As this law continues to crumble in Arizona and states across the country, we must not repeat the original mistakes that led to Obamacare’s failure. The Congress must now return to regular order, hold hearings, receive input from members of both parties, and heed the recommendations of our nation’s governors so that we can produce a bill that finally provides Americans with access to quality and affordable health care.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), likely to face a primary from his right in 2020, encouraged McConnell to take up an alternative plan he released last week with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.):

It’s time for a new approach when it comes to #RepealandReplace of Obamacare. (1/4) https://t.co/wOwJRzvJCi

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 18, 2017

Graham-Cassidy is the conservative approach to solving the problems Obamacare created.

READ MORE: https://t.co/2S2mVa80zn (4/4)

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 18, 2017

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) had hinted yesterday, before McConnell pulled the bill, that he might vote against advancing the measure to floor debate, as well. He publicly expressed frustration with comments by McConnell, intended to reassure senators like Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, that the bill’s deepest Medicaid cuts are far into the future and are unlikely to ever actually go into effect. Johnson said he read about these private comments in The Health 202 last Thursday and then confirmed them with other senators. “If our leader is basically saying don’t worry about it, we’ve designed it so that those reforms will never take effect, first of all, that’s a pretty significant breach of trust,” Johnson told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “And why support the bill then?”

— Reporters who are following the debate most closely don’t think McConnell’s gambit will work.

From our senior congressional correspondent:

Folks – there will be no vote on ’15 repeal-only. The only way that can happen is if Lee-Rand-RonJohn, others vote to begin BCRA debate 1/

— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) July 18, 2017

They have said they won’t vote to begin debate. Even if they change their mind, they get 1 vote on repeal-only & 200~ other amendments 2/

— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) July 18, 2017

Rand/Lee/RonJohn/others would likely lose that repeal-only amendment vote & then the underlying bill/vote-a-rama would go on and on. 3/

— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) July 18, 2017

So, why would Rand/Lee/RonJohn begin debate on a bill they hate with little guarantee of an outcome they like? Not likely to happen. 4/4

— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) July 18, 2017

From one of The Post’s political reporters:

Privately, several House mbrs and Sns told me for weeks they didn’t really want to pass it. Like groom w/ cold feet, after long engagement.

— Robert Costa (@costareports) July 18, 2017

What many Rs wanted was to check box without political cost. Passionless effort. Saw Dems salivating at what passage meant for ’18. Cringed.

— Robert Costa (@costareports) July 18, 2017

What this became at the end was a Medicaid debate that very few Rs wanted to have. Fighting “Obamacare” fine, fighting Medicaid complicated.

— Robert Costa (@costareports) July 18, 2017

From a New York Times reporter who covers health care:

A full repeal, that erased all of Obamacare from existence, can’t be passed with reconciliation and would need 60 votes.

— Margot Sanger-Katz (@sangerkatz) July 18, 2017

From a Washington Examiner reporter who covers Republicans:

Rest assured, @SenateMajLdr isn’t bringing full repeal bill to floor under any illusion that it will garner the GOP votes it needs to pass

— David M. Drucker (@DavidMDrucker) July 18, 2017

From a Politico reporter who covers Congress:

So is the point to show the nation that the Senate can’t pass a repeal-only bill either? I don’t see how that passes. Imagine THAT cbo score

— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) July 18, 2017

A Bloomberg News reporter who covers the Senate noted that the Congressional Budget Office has already scored straight repeal:

CBO/JCT on REPEAL bill without REPLACE:
32M uninsured
*100%* premiums pic.twitter.com/Brxhirl8m4

— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) June 30, 2017

A Democratic operative who has been focused on the health-care fight rounded up quotes from GOP senators saying that straight repeal wouldn’t work:

Here are quotes of 9 GOP Senators promising NOT to repeal w/o a replacement–> pic.twitter.com/p7pEnENKj7

— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) July 18, 2017

Donald Trump tries on a Stetson hat during a “Made in America” product showcase at the White House yesterday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

— But, but, but: Pressure from conservatives and the White House could still make the repeal vote very tough for some senators.

Trump re-endorsed straight repeal last night:

Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2017

So did the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus:

Time for full repeal of #Obamacare–let’s put the same thing on President Trump’s desk that we put on President Obama’s desk https://t.co/2ik567ayKR

— Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) July 18, 2017

— The mood on the Hill will continue to be tense in the coming days.

The person who broke into Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s Las Vegas office over the weekend left a threatening note related to the health-care bill. The person asserted that he would lose his health care and die if the bill passes and would take Heller with him, per the Nevada Independent’s Jon Ralston. (Amy B Wang and Ed O’Keefe)

Protests yesterday led to the arrests of 33 people at the Capitol. “The alliance between elected Democrats and protest groups, fragile just a few months ago, has strengthened even as protests have become more disruptive,” David Weigel and Perry Stein report.

HOW IT’S PLAYING:

— “Trump blindsided …” by Politico’s Josh Dawsey: “To Trump, the Obamacare fight has always been about scoring a win. He doesn’t care nearly as much about the specifics, people close to him say, and hasn’t understood why legislators just won’t make deals and bring something, anything to his desk.”

— “With Stand Against Health Bill, Republican Mike Lee Hews True to Form,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Hughes: “The Utah Republican has, in fact, built a career on taking such firm stands. … Mr. Lee isn’t known for seeking to bask in the spotlight. … This time, Mr. Lee played to form. In coming out against a ‘motion to proceed’ to debating the GOP plan, he announced that Mr. Moran would take the same position. The maneuver had the effect of ensuring that neither man would be cast as the single deciding vote in stopping the GOP plan from coming to the floor.”

— “Old Truth Trips Up G.O.P. on Health Law: A Benefit Is Hard to Retract,” by the New York Times’s Jennifer Steinhauer: “In the end, Republicans relearned a lesson that has bedeviled them since the New Deal: An American entitlement, once established, can almost never be retracted.”

— “Thank god. Now the bill can die,” one senior GOP Senate aide texted Axios’s Caitlin Owens.

— The Drudge Report goes with an all-red banner: “REPEAL DEAD. OBAMACARE REMAINS LAW OF LAND.”

— The headline on Breitbart’s homepage: “RIP: REPUBLICAN HEALTHCARE BILL FLATLINES.”

— PJ Media (another conservative site): “Healthcare Bill Flatlines …”

— “The Party of Bad Faith?” by National Review Editor Rich Lowry: “If the Republican attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare ultimately fails, it will be a lesson in the wages of political bad faith. … The effort also suffers from a mismatch between the longtime public posture of Republicans (Obamacare must and will be fully repealed) and their private misgivings (do we really have to do this, even partially?).”

— “McConnell Has Few Options Left on Health Care—and the Base Is Angry as Hell,” by the Daily Beast’s Sam Stein and Andrew Desiderio: “McConnell now faces one of the most difficult obstacles of his decades-long career. His close aides fret that failure to pass some legislation could depress the Republican base and leave the party incredibly vulnerable in 2018. But no amount of procedural maneuvering or policy reshuffling has allowed him to crack the health care reform code. His options are limited and none are particularly confidence-inducing.”

— New York Magazine: “Trumpcare as We Know It Is Dead.”

— The Financial Times:Trump suffers stinging defeat as Obamacare overhaul collapses. Republicans turn to high-risk strategy of scrapping system without an alternative.”

— “BCRA is dead, but Obamacare repeal is still alive,” by Vox’s Matthew Yglesias: “The problem, fundamentally, for people who care about health insurance coverage is that of the four Republican defectors only one — (Susan) Collins — objects to the bill on the grounds that it doesn’t cover enough people. The other three are complaining, fundamentally, that the bill isn’t ‘real’ Obamacare repeal or doesn’t go far enough. For people’s coverage to be safe, something else has to happen.”

— “Is Trumpcare finally dead?” by Right Turn’s Jennifer Rubin: “To be clear, the Better Care Reconciliation Act was already at death’s door before McCain took ill and before Lee and Moran’s announcements. … Initially, McConnell may have figured a ridiculously early deadline for a vote in July could have cleared the decks (win or lose), but now he has a ready-made excuse for ditching the whole exercise.”

— “Obamacare repeal could haunt Senate Republicans in 2020,” by Politico’s Kyle Cheney and Elana Schor: “Like the 2010 health care law, the GOP bill would not take effect all at once. Many of the most politically tricky provisions are staggered over the coming years and would hit right as a promising group of freshmen Republican senators come up for reelection in 2020.”

— “GOP health bill nears demise, but Democrats’ unity masks their own dangerous divide,” by McClatchy’s Lesley Clark: “Even as Republicans fight among themselves to dismantle the law, the liberal wing of the Democratic party is aggressively pushing Democrats to embrace a single payer system[.] … Yet some of those who support single payer urge caution at this point, even as Republicans continue to grapple with efforts to overturn Obamacare.”

— “Could GOP health-care bill’s implosion actually lead to bipartisan solution?” by MarketWatch’s Mike Murphy: “Republicans can only afford to lose two votes, and if a repeal vote fails, McConnell would be left with few options. One of those options would be something many hard-line Republicans seem loathe to consider: Working with Democrats. … As outlandish as that plan may seem in these bitterly partisan times, it may be one step closer to reality.”

Listen to James’s quick summary of today’s Big Idea and the headlines
you need to know to start your day:

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

— “House Republicans unveiled a 2018 budget plan Tuesday that would pave the way for ambitious tax reform legislation — but only alongside a package of politically sensitive spending cuts that threaten to derail the tax rewrite before it begins,” Mike DeBonis reports. “The House Budget Committee blueprint, which is set for a Thursday committee vote, sets out special procedures that could ultimately allow Republicans to pass legislation over the objections of Senate Democrats who can normally block bills they oppose. … The instructions in the draft budget, however, go well beyond tax policy and set the stage for a potential $203 billion rollback of financial industry regulations, federal employee benefits, welfare spending and more. … Under the House plan, defense spending would steadily increase over 10 years while nondefense discretionary spending would decline to $424 billion — 23 percent below the $554 billion the federal government is spending in that category this year. Unlike Trump’s budget, the House proposal cuts into Medicare and Social Security — entitlement programs that the president has pledged to preserve.”

“Both bills have little support among Democrats and would likely be blocked in the Senate under typical procedure. Reconciliation rules could allow Republicans to avoid that barrier. The more profound barrier could be Republican divisions over the budget proposal itself. The effort to write a budget has been stalled for months as defense hawks, deficit watchdogs and appropriators have sparred over where to set spending levels, and while there appears to be a working accord on the House Budget Committee, it remains unclear whether the blueprint can survive a floor vote. Members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus have been pushing for more aggressive long-term spending cuts in reconciliation. … Moderates, meanwhile, are staging a revolt of their own. Twenty members of the centrist Tuesday Group signed a letter last month objecting to even $200 billion in mandatory spending cuts.”

— The former managers of Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns will lead a new initiative, being announced later today, called “Defending Digital Democracy” in the hopes of preventing a repeat of Russia’s 2016 election interference. Ellen Nakashima reports: “Robby Mook, Clinton’s 2016 campaign chief, and Matt Rhoades, who managed the 2012 run of GOP nominee Romney, are heading up the project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in one of the first major efforts outside government to grapple with 21st century hacking and propaganda operations — and ways to deter them. … The bipartisan project aims to develop ways to share key threat information with political campaigns and state and local election offices; create ‘playbooks’ for election officials to improve cybersecurity; and forge strategies for the United States to deter adversaries from engaging in hacks and information operations, among other things. … Cyberhacks ‘affect people of all political stripes,’ Rhoades noted in the news release. In 2012, Chinese hackers targeted Romney’s campaign. ‘That means we all need to work together to address these vulnerabilities.’” 

— The Trump administration certified to Congress late Monday that Iran is meeting the terms of its nuclear deal. Karen DeYoung reports: “But senior administration officials made clear that the certification was grudging, and said that [Trump] intends to impose new sanctions on Iran for ongoing ‘malign activities’ in non-nuclear areas such as ballistic missile development and support for terrorism. ‘We judge that these Iranian activities severely undermine the intent’ of the agreement as a force for international stability, one official said. Iran is ‘unquestionably in default of the spirit of the JCPOA,’ or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, that took effect in January 2016 after years of negotiations, the official said. The last certification of Iranian compliance, in April, was also followed by new sanctions on Iranian individuals and companies the administration said played a role in ballistic missile tests that are not covered by the nuclear agreement.”

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump receive South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jeong-suk.. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

GET SMART FAST:

  1. South Korea proposed holding military and humanitarian talks with North Korea, breaking with the Trump administration as the country’s liberal new president, Moon Jae-in, seeks to implement a pro-dialogue approach to dealing with Pyongyang. If such talks take place, they will mark the first military-to-military dialogue between the two Koreas since 2014. (New York Times)
  2. U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan have returned to a level of intensity not seen since 2012. According to freshly released military data, U.S. and coalition aircraft have dropped or expended at least 1,634 munitions in Afghanistan this year, compared to just 298 and 545 in 2015 and 2016, respectively. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
  3. President Trump threatened to impose economic sanctions on Venezuela if the country’s president, Nicolás Maduro, moves forward with plans to create a so-called “super-legislature” in a vote later this month. “The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” Trump said. “If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions.” (Reuters)

  4. Up to $5 billion of student loan debts could be wiped away because creditors don’t have the proper paperwork. The massive clerical errors mirror the problems that arose during the mortgage crisis. (New York Times)

  5. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner hired and fired a new staffer in the same day after the staffer’s racially charged, homophobic and sexually explicit tweets came to light. Rauner has been going through some major staff shake-ups as he prepares for what will be a difficult reelection next year. (Politico)

  6. The top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is calling on the Education Department’s civil rights chief to resign. Candice Jackson said in a New York Times interview last week that “90 percent” of campus sexual-assault complaints “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’” (Emma Brown)

  7. A Saudi woman faced calls for her arrest after she posted a video of herself walking around in a crop top and miniskirt in public. State officials are reportedly looking into punishing the woman for violating the kingdom’s rules of dress. (CBS News)

  8. Twin Cities police once again came under fire, this time for shooting and killing a 40-year-old Australian woman who called the authorities to report a suspected sexual assault near her home. The death of Justine Damond, who was set to wed next month, comes on the heels of two other high-profile shootings in the area. (Emily Sohn, Kristine Phillips, Mark Berman and Katie Mettler)
  9. Subprime auto loans have exploded since the mortgage crisis. In 2009, new subprime auto bonds amounted to $2.5 billion. Seven years later, it was over 10 times that. (Bloomberg News)

  10. Scientists are warning that a boon in the number of white-footed mice in the United States this year could increase the spread of Lyme disease. The white-footed mice are primary tick carriers and hide out by the billions in forests, thickets, and wetlands across the country. (Lindsey Bever) 

  11. Lululemon launched a legal battle over a $52 sports bra. The athletic wear brand claims that Under Armour copied the design of its “Energy Bra.” (Abha Bhattarai)

  12. At the Hayden Planetarium, an emissary of the American Astronomical Society is trying to convince everyone to witness the solar eclipse. Mike Kentrianakis has seen 20 such eclipses in his life and is a self-described “crazy eclipse guy.” (Sarah Kaplan) 

  13. A roving “security robot” in Georgetown was found floating facedown in a public fountain. Online observers, who dubbed the incident “robot suicide,” had a field day. It’s not the first time these autonomous machines have made headlines. Last year, a unit near Silicon Valley allegedly ran over a toddler. (Todd C. Frankel)

Walter Shaub is stepping down as director of the United States Office of Government Ethics. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)

TRUMP MAKES HIS MARK ON WASHINGTON:

— Outgoing ethics chief Walter Shaub said that actions by Trump and other White House officials have created a “historic ethics crisis,” and he called for major changes to federal law to combat the threat. The New York Times’ Eric Lipton and Nicholas Fandos report: “’It’s hard for the United States to pursue international anticorruption and ethics initiatives when we’re not even keeping our own side of the street clean. It affects our credibility,’ Mr. Shaub said in a two-hour interview … ‘I think we are pretty close to a laughingstock at this point.’ Mr. Shaub, [who today will resign as the federal government’s top ethics chief], called for nearly a dozen legal changes to strengthen the federal ethics system: changes that, in many cases, he had not considered necessary before Mr. Trump’s election. There are signs that lawmakers are open to considering the ideas. [House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy] said he was preparing to meet with Mr. Shaub. The effort could be a test of what kind of appetite Mr. Gowdy has to challenge the Trump administration.”

— An ethics group said Monday that it has won access to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago visitor logs, which it plans to make public in early September. The Palm Beach Post reports: “Nonprofit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, announced Monday morning that [DHS] will release the logs to the organization by Sept. 8. CREW, which sued for the right to access the records, said it then plans to make public the lists of those who have visited Trump’s exclusive social club.”

— Citing security concerns, the Coast Guard said it wants to temporarily kick boats off the Potomac River when Trump is golfing at his Sterling, Va., golf club. Peter Jamison reports:“The restrictions would clear the water of canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, sailboats, jet-skis, motorboats and anglers when Trump or other senior officials of his government decide to spend a day on the back nine. The buffer zone is stoking intense concern and opposition among recreational users of the river, who range from Olympic athletes to injured soldiers. The proposed shore-to-shore security area includes Riley’s Lock, the embarkation point for a popular summer camp and a kayaking program for wounded and disabled veterans. It is not the first time that Trump National has been the scene of a river-related controversy. In 2010, the golf club cut down hundreds of trees along the shoreline — an action that, some paddlers rue, created the open sight-line to the course that now compromises the president’s security.”

— Speaking of golf … Trump’s political activity has negatively affected business at his L.A. golf course. David A. Fahrenthold and Rob Kuznia report: “Since Trump entered the presidential race in June 2015, revenues from greens fees at the L.A. club has dropped by 13 percent, according to figures from the city government. Charity golf-tournaments, another core piece of the club’s business, have moved away: ESPN relocated its celebrity tournament. The L.A. Galaxy soccer team withdrew. The L.A. Unified School District also moved, forfeiting a $7,500 deposit it had already paid Trump’s course. … The troubles at the L.A. club mirror those that have been reported at some other Trump properties. Together, they illustrate an unexpected side effect of the presidency: In some cases, it has proven a challenge to sell the president’s brand, without offering proximity to the presidency itself.”

— Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to issue a new directive aimed at increasing police seizures of cash and property from American citizens.Christopher Ingraham reports: “’We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture — especially for drug traffickers,’ Sessions said … ‘With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.’ Asset forfeiture is a disputed practice that allows law enforcement officials to permanently take money and goods from individuals suspected of crime. But in many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary — under forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level, mere suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to allow police to seize items permanently. Additionally, many states allow law enforcement agencies to keep cash that they seize, creating what critics characterize as a profit motive. The practice is widespread: in 2014, federal law enforcement officers took more property from citizens than burglars did.”

 Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is facing a potential financial crisis if he cannot convince Congress to raise the debt ceiling. Damian Paletta reports: “But Mnuchin’s push on the debt ceiling was undermined from the start within the White House by Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget. … Mulvaney publicly questioned Mnuchin’s call for a clean vote, saying that he would prefer spending cuts or other budget changes as part of any proposal to increase the debt ceiling. Some White House and Treasury officials were incensed to see Mulvaney break ranks, said several people involved in internal deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Treasury officials complained to the West Wing that Mnuchin’s credibility was being undermined, and Trump told a gathering of Senate Republicans that they should work with Mnuchin, and no one else, on the debt ceiling. But Mulvaney had sufficiently muddied the administration’s message.”

 “House Republicans are seeking to defund the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the sole federal agency that exclusively works to ensure the voting process is secure, as part of proposed federal budget cuts,” the Wall Street Journal’s Erica Orden and Byron Tau report. “The defunding move comes as the EAC is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to examine an attack late last year on the agency’s computer systems by a Russian-speaking hacker. House Republicans say the EAC no longer is necessary and that the Federal Election Commission could bear its responsibilities. … However, Democrats have said Russian meddling in the 2016 election has boosted the importance of the EAC.”

— The vice chairman of Trump’s voter fraud commission wants to change federal law to add stricter new voting requirements, according to an email Kris Kobach sent one day after Trump was elected president.Ingraham reports that Kobach’s team has been drafting amendments to the National Voter Registration Act to require more proof of citizenship. “Amending the NVRA in such a manner ‘will lead to a dramatic reduction in access to voting,’ said Wendy Weiser, director of the democracy program at NYU’s Brennan Center. … ‘Every time legal obstacles to restricting the vote have been lifted in recent years, we’ve seen substantial spikes in efforts to restrict the vote.’” (An analysis from the Brennan Center found that votes by noncitizens account for between 0.0003 and 0.001 percent of all votes cast.)

IT’S “MADE IN AMERICA” WEEK:

— “As the White House champions a ‘hire American’ agenda, the administration wants to slash funding for a small government office that many U.S. companies say they rely on to stay ahead of foreign rivals …Matea Gold and Drew Harwell report. “The Trump administration is seeking to nearly gut funding for a Labor Department bureau that monitors the treatment of foreign workers, a program that U.S. businesses and labor groups alike say helps American workers compete fairly in the global economy. But experts say bringing back manufacturing in a substantial way would require dramatic shifts in trade policy, corporate incentives and international business deals. Those challenges are underscored by the business practices of the apparel brand owned by the [Ivanka Trump]. The company relies exclusively on low-wage workers overseas, and executives say it is impossible to bring its production back to the United States on a large scale. …

“’There are certain things that we may not have the capacity to do here, in terms of having a plant or a factory that can do it,’ [Sean Spicer] conceded Monday when asked about companies such as the Ivanka Trump brand that say they cannot produce in the United States. Meanwhile, major U.S. food and apparel companies are warning in letters to Congress that the deep cuts the White House wants to make to the low-profile Bureau of International Labor Affairs would undermine American workers.”

— DHS announced it will allow up to 15,000 additional visas for seasonal workers for the remainder of this fiscal year, which comes after heavy lobbying efforts from industries that rely on temporary foreign workers. To be eligible, businesses must be able to prove they will be “severely hampered” without foreign workers. (Tracy Jan)

— “The Trump administration on Monday unveiled its goals for renegotiating [NAFTA], issuing a broad plan for how it hopes to rewrite the terms of trade and transform the U.S. economy for decades to come,”Ana Swanson reports: “In a 17-page document, the trade agency outlined a plan to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico, restrict the amount of imported material in goods that qualify under the agreement, and eliminate a controversial mechanism to review trade remedies. The document’s first provision contained the clear stamp of the Trump White House, as it called for the United States to reduce its trade deficit with NAFTA countries. But trade negotiators and lawyers said that many of the provisions — including measures to regulate treatment of workers, the environment and state-owned enterprises — appeared to be lifted from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that Trump heavily opposed.”

— Former diplomats and national security advisers urged Rex Tillerson to keep the office responsible for overseeing refugee inflows part of the State Department instead of moving it to DHS.Carol Morello reports: “Last month, a leaked memo showed the administration contemplating a relocation of the Bureau of Population Refugees and Migration. Such a change, says a letter signed by 58 former diplomats and national security advisers, would adversely shift the bureau’s focus from humanitarian and policy concerns to solely security issues. ‘We are convinced that the elimination of PRM’s assistance functions would have profound and negative implications for the Secretary of State’s capacity to influence policy issues of key concern to the United States,’ the letter states. ‘It would also be ironic, as this is one of the bureaus at State that has enjoyed strong bipartisan support over many years.’”

— Rex Tillerson is shuttering the State Department’s War Crimes office. Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch reports: “Tillerson’s office recently informed Todd Buchwald, the special coordinator of the Office of Global Criminal Justice, that he is being reassigned … The remaining staff in the office, Buchwald was told, may be reassigned to the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, the former official told Foreign Policy … ‘This is a very harsh signal to the rest of the world that the [U.S.] is essentially downgrading the importance of accountability for the commission of atrocity crimes,’ said David Scheffer … who served as the first U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues. ‘This sends a strong signal to perpetrators of mass atrocities that the United States is not watching you anymore.’”

— Trump said at a “Made in America” event Monday that he has signed more bills than any of his predecessors. (He hasn’t.) The New York Times’s Michael D. Shear and Karen Yourish report: “’We’ve signed more bills — and I’m talking about through the legislature — than any president, ever,’ Mr. Trump said … ‘For a while, Harry Truman had us. And now, I think, we have everybody.’ In fact, as he approaches six months in office on Thursday, Mr. Trump is slightly behind the lawmaking pace for the past six presidents, who as a group signed an average of 43 bills during the same period.”

Jared Kushner waits for his father-in-law to speak in the East Room. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

— “[Robert Mueller] is likely to be interested in Jared Kushner’s evolving disclosure of foreign contacts during the security clearance process, legal analysts said, and it is possible that the president’s son-in-law could be in legal jeopardy for not fully detailing the interactions from the start,”Matt Zapotosky reports: “[Kushner] has filed three updates to his national security questionnaire since submitting it in mid-January. … That is significant because the document — known as an SF-86 — warns that those who submit false information could be charged with a federal crime and face up to five years in prison. Prosecutions for filing erroneous SF-86 forms are rare — though the Justice Department has brought cases against those with intentional omissions, and people have been denied security clearance for incorrect forms, legal analysts said. Under the microscope of Mueller’s investigation, the analysts said, Kushner’s mistakes might be viewed as evidence that Kushner met with Russian officials, then tried to keep anyone from finding out.”

  • “Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer, said he believes that a disclosure of the meeting would not have been required, because Veselnitskaya is not now a government lawyer and Kushner does not have a close or continuing relationship with her. Still, Zaid said that Kushner’s earlier, flawed SF-86 form was ‘problematic,’ and that if ‘Jared Kushner were just Jared Simpson who was up for a job at the Defense Department, he would be in much hotter water with respect to an agency adjudicating his clearance based on his Russian contacts.’”

— Trump Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas, said Monday that he has spoken by phone to the eighth person who was in the room during the meeting with the Russian lawyer last June.CNN’s Pamela Brown reports: “Futerfas says the person, who he declined to name, was a US citizen and said he was not employed by the Russian government. But Futerfas acknowledged he didn’t know his entire history. … Futerfas says during his conversation the Agalarov representative corroborated what has already been reported about the meeting: that in the first couple of minutes there were pleasantries exchanged and then the Russian lawyer discussed the information she allegedly had about Russia donating to the [DNC] and Hillary Clinton before moving on to the topic of adoptions. … He also says no one to whom he has spoken, including his client, Trump Jr., has any recollection of the document that the Russian lawyer is reported to have left behind in the meeting. Futerfas said it is possible that the participants don’t remember.”

— “Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn plans to set up a fund to raise money to pay his legal bills stemming from multiple investigations into possible Trump campaign ties to Russia,” Bloomberg News’s Shannon Pettypiece reports. “Flynn may become the first associate of President Donald Trump to begin raising money for legal costs associated with the Russia investigation, though others also are weighing how to finance their legal defenses. So far, Trump’s campaign organization has only footed legal bills related to the investigation for the president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., according to records of expenses through the end of June. Even if Flynn is never charged with a crime, his legal costs could reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

— New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Monday that the White House has a legal obligation to disclose “any and all” contacts that its staffers have had with foreign nationals, adding that Trump Jr.’s meeting last summer with Russian lawyer “doesn’t help” assuage concerns. Politico’s Ryan Hutchins reports: “‘My understanding of this is there’s concern by some people of collusion,’ said Christie … ‘Even from what we’ve heard so far, I don’t see any evidence of that. So we need to get back to what the bottom line is here. If there’s collusion, that’s a major issue. If there isn’t, then I don’t think it is. But none of it’s positive and I’m sure that nobody in the administration thinks that was a good week.’”

— “[Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort] recently filed financial reports with the Justice Department showing that his lobbying firm earned nearly $17 million for two years of work for a Ukrainian political party with links to the Kremlin,”the New York Times’s Andrew E. Kramer reports: “Curiously, that was more than the party itself reported spending in the same period for its entire operation … The discrepancies show a lot about how Mr. Manafort’s clients — former President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine and his Party of Regions — operated. And in a broader sense, they underscore the dangers that lurk for foreigners who, tempted by potentially rich payoffs, cast their lot with politicians in countries that at best have different laws about money in politics, and at worst are, like Ukraine in those years, irredeemably corrupt. ‘It means either Manafort is lying, or the Party of Regions was lying,’ Serhiy Leshchenko, an investigative journalist and a member of Parliament who has been critical of Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine, said in an interview.”

— Classified testimony expected this week from former national security adviser Susan Rice has been delayed,CNN’s Manu Raju and Deirdre Walsh report. The delay comes as the House Intelligence Committee works to bring forward another former Obama official, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power. “Power, who like Rice also served as the US ambassador to the United Nations under Obama, has agreed to come before the committee, sources say. The panel is still finalizing a date, but her testimony could occur before the August recess. Republicans have pushed to bring Power and Rice before their committee in a bid to learn whether they improperly ‘unmasked’ — or revealed the identities typically blacked out in intelligence reports — of Trump associates.”

— Senior U.S. and Russian diplomats met Monday at the State Department to discuss ‘irritants’ between the two countries, as the Kremlin stepped up its demand that the White House return two diplomatic compounds seized last year …” Carol Morello reports: “[The mansions] were high on the agenda of Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov when he spent more than three hours in talks with under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon in Washington. In advance of Ryabkov’s arrival at Foggy Bottom along with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, angry Russian officials issued a litany of complaints about the property seizure in December … Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov characterized the move as ‘robbery in broad daylight,’ and opined that ‘Decent and well brought-up people do not behave in such a way.’”

— Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page — who was questioned by the FBI about his connections to the Kremlin, though denied wrongdoing — is shopping around a memoir, which he says will provide an “insider account” of the controversy surrounding Russia’s role in the U.S. presidential election. Page is pitching his book as a rival to ousted FBI director James Comey’s hotly anticipated memoir, saying it will “prove infinitely more accurate, exciting and insightful.” (BuzzFeed News)

— Trump’s campaign conceded in an internal memo that James Comey’s decision to reopen an inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s private email use helped “shift the results.” The Daily Beast’s Sam Stein and Asawin Suebsaeng report: “Reported in Joshua Green’s new book Devil’s Bargain, the memo gives credence to an argument long espoused by Clinton world that Comey’s announcement propelled Trump to victory. … The memo was authored by some of Trump’s pollsters and data gurus just five days before the vote. ‘The last few days have proven to be pivotal in the minds of voters with the recent revelations in reopening the investigation of Secretary Clinton,’ the memo read, according to Green. ‘Early polling numbers show declining support for Clinton, shifting in favor of Mr. Trump.’ It added: ‘This may have a fundamental impact on the results.’ Trump and his aides have long disputed that idea that Comey cost Clinton a win, calling those who insist otherwise sore losers.”

— McConnell hopes to confirm Christopher Wray as the new director of the FBI before the August recess. Politico’s Seung Min Kim reports: “Wray, who has been nominated to replace the fired James Comey, breezed through his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, and has since picked up support from several key Democratic senators. Republicans don’t need Democrats to confirm Wray, but they do need their cooperation to hold a speedy vote, and Democrats have recently been dragging out consideration of even noncontroversial nominees. … McConnell also has two additional weeks of session to try and confirm Wray, with the start of the annual August recess being pushed back until mid-August.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump floated this idea about his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer:

Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That’s politics!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2017

From a Yahoo news editor:

Confirmation from Trump that goal of meeting was to get oppo on Clinton. Not about adoption, per initial statement. https://t.co/dKm9RjXegd

— Garance Franke-Ruta (@thegarance) July 17, 2017

From a Wired contributor:

What’s most terrifying about this tweet is how it seems to presage the shift to “Yea, I colluded with Russia. It’s not that big of a deal.” https://t.co/HeMQKMFwCQ

— Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) July 17, 2017

And from the Weekly Standard editor:

Trump defenders:
Two weeks ago: Was no collusion.
Last week: Collusion not illegal.
Now: Collusion perfectly reasonable.

Trumpism corrupts.

— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) July 17, 2017

Sean Spicer returned to the claim that Don Jr. took the meeting to address adoption.

From a New York Times reporter:

Except for the part where DON JR. HIMSELF RELEASED EMAILS ADMITTING HE TOOK THE MEETING BECAUSE HE WAS PROMISED DIRT ON HILLARY CLINTON. https://t.co/H0QYViJS1p

— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) July 17, 2017

Meghan McCain traveled to Arizona to visit her father after surgery:

Thank you to everyone for all your well wishes to my father and family. I’m here in Arizona with him – he is doing very well, fiery as ever.

— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) July 16, 2017

Thank you again for all the kind thoughts – after a big mexican fiesta from @teepee last night, my Dad is feeling better than I am today ;-)

— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) July 17, 2017

From a former Obama and Clinton administration official:

In honor of “Made in America” Week, please RT this lovely photo of the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas that was BUILT WITH CHINESE STEEL. pic.twitter.com/NaBXmS0tuz

— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) July 17, 2017

The vice president prefers to observe fire trucks rather than drive them:

Trump in a fire truck, Pence looks on pic.twitter.com/eg6kdO80Np

— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) July 17, 2017

Kid Rock continued to stoke suspicions that he will run for Senate:

A Republican senator addressed a gap in Apple’s new emojis:

We can get a man zombie #emoji but still no redhead?! #whereisthelove#GingerProblems#WorldEmojiDay

— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) July 17, 2017

And political junkies had some fun with Tropical Storm Don:

Tropical Storm Don not expected to become a hurricane, will dissipate within 72 hours. Low energy. Sad! pic.twitter.com/tNECFsdmFI

— Jon Passantino (@passantino) July 17, 2017

That’s what so many of my Republican friends said in the late summer/early fall of 2015. https://t.co/WsLjh3It3J

— Steve Schale (@steveschale) July 17, 2017

Steve Bannon listens during a White House press conference. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— Vanity Fair, “Inside the Secret, Strange Origins of Steve Bannon’s Nationalist Fantasia,” by Joshua Green: “While Trump’s embrace of ‘America first’ nationalism was chiefly due to its resonance as a campaign slogan, Bannon’s attraction to it had a far deeper and more complicated lineage. When he was a naval officer in the late 1970s, Bannon, a voracious autodidact, embarked upon what he described as ‘a systematic study of the world’s religions’ that he carried on for more than a decade. … By exhuming the nationalist thinkers of an earlier age, Bannon was trying to build an intellectual basis for Trumpism, or what might more accurately be described as an American nationalist-­Traditionalism. Whatever the label, Trump proved to be an able messenger. … ‘He’s taken this nationalist movement and moved it up 20 years,’ Bannon said [of Trump]. ‘If France, Germany, England, or any of these places had the equivalent of a Donald Trump, they would be in power. They don’t.’”

— What would Abraham Lincoln think of Trump?Sidney Blumenthal, who has been writing a four-volume biography of the 16th president, recounts a telling episode in a piece for the Los Angeles Times: “Beyond pure speculation, we can find clues in Lincoln’s first formal speech, ‘The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions,’ in which he criticized attacks on the free press and warned against a future demagogue who would threaten the fragile American experiment. On Jan. 27, 1838 … the 29-year-old Lincoln, a member of the Illinois Legislature, described the ‘mobocratic spirit.’ Lincoln began by decrying a spate of recent crimes that reduced the rule of law to ‘the caprice of a mob,’ including the lynching of a black prisoner in St. Louis [and the shooting of an abolitionist newspaper editor]. … This is what he said about the possible rise of an American demagogue: ‘And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.’”

— LA Times, “An overdose, a young companion, drug-fueled parties: The secret life of USC med school dean,” by Paul Pringle, Harriet Ryan, Adam Elmahrek, Matt Hamilton and Sarah Parvini: “The dean of the Keck School of Medicine, [Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito], was a renowned eye surgeon whose skill in the operating room was matched by a gift for attracting money and talent to the university. There was another side to the Harvard-educated physician. During his tenure as dean, Puliafito kept company with a circle of criminals and drug users who said he used methamphetamine and other drugs with them … Puliafito, 66, and these much younger acquaintances captured their exploits in photos and videos. Shot in 2015 and 2016, they show Puliafito and the others partying in hotel rooms, cars, apartments and the dean’s office at USC. In one video, a tuxedo-clad Puliafito displays an orange pill on his tongue and says into the camera, ‘Thought I’d take an ecstasy before the ball.’ Then he swallows the pill. In another, Puliafito uses a butane torch to heat a large glass pipe outfitted for methamphetamine use … Three weeks earlier, a 21-year-old woman had overdosed in his presence in a Pasadena hotel room.”

— BuzzFeed News, “How Uber’s Hard-Charging Corporate Culture Left Employees Drained,” by Caroline O’Donovan and Priya Anand: “After a highly publicized corporate meltdown this spring, Uber is working to repair a culture that employees and observers say is aggressive, cutthroat, and demanding. But years of putting out fires 24/7, partying hard and working harder, and contending with volatile managers has taken a toll on the mental health of the white-collar workers who were instrumental to building the Uber empire.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“N-word used on Walmart website to describe product color,” from the New York Post: “The retailer was slammed early Monday after the color of a netting weave cap — used as a protective layer between a person’s hair and sewn-in hair extensions — on its site was described as the color ‘N— Brown.’ … Shortly after the controversy erupted, Walmart removed the racial slur and replaced the ‘Add To Cart’ button with a message stating that the item was no longer available. ‘While we aim to provide accurate product information, it is provided by manufacturers, suppliers and others, and has not been verified by us,’ a disclaimer provided below the product read.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“CNN’s Angela Rye refuses to say Trump is her president,” from The Hill: “CNN political commentator Angela Rye in a panel discussion on Monday refused to say that President Trump was her president, instead referring to him as ‘your president’ on two occasions. … Panelist Jack Kingston, a former GOP congressman who joined CNN earlier this year as a contributor, took issue with Rye referring to Trump as ‘your president.’ ‘Your president, too, Angela. Your president, too,’ Kingston said to Rye directly. ‘Well, he’s your president,’ Rye retorted.”

DAYBOOK:

Trump has a meeting with his national security adviser and a call with the sultan of Oman in the morning followed by a lunch with service members and a Cabinet meeting.

Pence will deliver a speech at the National Retail Federation’s annual summit before joining the president’s lunch with service members. After that, Pence will head to the Capitol to meet with Republican lawmakers and then return to the White House for a roundtable on life insurance. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Trump on his claim that he had “signed more bills … than any president ever”: “I better say ‘think,’ otherwise they’ll give you a Pinocchio. And I don’t like those — I don’t like Pinocchios.” (In fact, The Post’s Fact Checker Glenn Kessler refrained from giving the president any Pinocchios for his statement because, “We appreciate that he added a caveat. He certainly appeared to pause for a moment and wonder if he was right. For Trump, that’s a step in the right direction.”)

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

— Today’s weather will be much like yesterday’s in D.C. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Partly sunny, hazy, hot and humid with highs again in the upper 80s to low 90s[.] … Watch for pop-up showers and/or storms this afternoon into early evening with locally heavy downpours possible.  If you get a shower or storm, rainfall totals can range from a trace to a half-inch, locally even higher.”

— The Nationals finished a four-game sweep of the Reds with a 6-1 victory. (Jorge Castillo)

— “Several streets were closed for nearly four hours and a coffee house was evacuated on Monday after a vehicle struck a barrier and a police car near the U.S. Capitol, according to authorities,” Peter Hermann reports. “Police used explosives to open the vehicle’s trunk and, after a long investigation that disrupted traffic, determined that there was nothing suspicious inside.”

— Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate fought a tough primary that has diminished his war chest. Laura Vozzella reports: “[Ralph] Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, raised nearly $2 million in June, bringing the total amassed for his bid to $9.4 million. But his hard-fought primary that month against former congressman Tom Perriello consumed all but $1.75 million of the haul, according to campaign finance records. … [Ed] Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman and adviser to President George W. Bush, raised $1.8 million in June, bringing his total over the campaign cycle to about $6.7 million. Gillespie spent about $3.5 million through June 30, a period that includes the two weeks following the June 13 primary, while Northam spent $7.7 million.”

— “Maryland state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) formally launched his campaign for governor Monday,” Josh Hicks reports.Madaleno, who would be Maryland’s first openly gay governor, is one of two candidates trying to win over far-left voters and carry the progressive mantle in the 2018 gubernatorial race. Both he and [Ben] Jealous, who would be the state’s first African American governor, have strong social-justice records and support a $15 minimum wage.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert kicked off “Russia Week” on his late show:

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Seth Meyers dissected the Trump team’s excuses for Don Jr.’s meeting:

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Trump wished the Arizona senator a speedy recovery, affectionately calling McCain a “crusty voice” in Washington and saying that Republicans need him:

Vice President Pence told a group called Christians United for Israel that Trump has put Iran on notice:

A neurosurgeon explained what McCain’s recovery might look like following his craniotomy:

The Post’s David Fahrenthold detailed how business at Trump’s golf course in L.A. has been affected since he announced his presidential run:

The Post compiled a history of Ann Coulter’s controversial comments, given her recent spat with Delta Airlines:

Hundreds of cows shut down a road in Texas:

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

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