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10 things you need to know today: September 27, 2017

Harold Maass
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1.

Senate GOP scraps vote on replacing ObamaCare

Senate Republicans on Tuesday abandoned their latest effort to replace ObamaCare after a third member of the party vowed to vote against the bill, making it impossible to reach the necessary majority to pass it. "We don't have the votes," said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who wrote the bill with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Some Republicans worried they were heading for a backlash in the 2018 midterm elections over their failure to deliver on their campaign promise to repeal former President Barack Obama's signature health law. Democrats have been calling for fixing problems with ObamaCare, but Republicans are expressing little support for bills that do that ahead of the 2018 enrollment period. "Where we go from here is tax reform," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. [The Washington Post]

2.

Roy Moore defeats Sen. Luther Strange, a Trump ally

Roy Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice twice removed from the bench for defying federal courts, upset Sen. Luther Strange in Tuesday's Alabama GOP Senate primary runoff. Moore beat Strange by nine percentage points despite efforts by President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to rally support for the incumbent senator, who was appointed to the seat in January when Jeff Sessions left to become attorney general. Moore said he supports Trump's agenda despite the president's backing of his rival. Moore, known as the "Ten Commandments judge" for his refusal to remove a religious statue from a courthouse, will face Democrat Doug Jones in the December general election. [The New York Times, The Associated Press]

3.

Trump steps up aid to Puerto Rico after complaints

President Trump agreed Tuesday to increase federal disaster aid to Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of 3.4 million people that suffered a glancing blow from Hurricane Irma and was then hammered by Hurricane Maria. The last storm knocked out power to the whole Caribbean island. Critics have complained that federal aid to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands has been slower than aid sent to states, specifically Texas and Florida, after the hurricanes. Trump plans to visit the U.S. islands on Oct. 3. "We've gotten A-pluses on Texas and in Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico," Trump said. "The difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. It's a big ocean, it's a very big ocean. And we're doing a really good job." [Reuters]

4.

Georgetown students protest Sessions speech

Dozens of Georgetown University students protested an address by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday, joined by faculty who started out by taking a knee and linking arms, echoing protests during the national anthem by NFL players. Sessions spoke against schools that have infringed on students' free-speech rights. Some of the protesters took turns using a bullhorn to criticize Sessions, the process used to invite him, and their exclusion from the event. "We, the disinvited, find it extraordinarily hypocritical that AG Sessions would lecture future attorneys about free speech on campus while excluding the wider student body," third-year law student Ambur Smith said into the bullhorn. [The Washington Post]

5.

Saudi Arabia to allow women to drive

Saudi Arabia announced Tuesday that it would let women drive, lifting a longstanding ban that had become a focus of criticism over the treatment of women by the country's conservative Muslim monarchy. Rights groups have pushed for the lifting of the ban, and some women have been jailed for defying it. Supporters of the prohibition have come up with a variety of defenses, saying the prohibition was appropriate in a country under Shariah law, or that letting women drive would lead to promiscuity and the destruction of the family. Saudi leaders expressed hope that the new policy would help more women enter the workplace, since they will not have to spend much of their salaries paying a male driver. [The New York Times]

6.

Corker says he will not seek re-election

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) announced Tuesday that he would retire next year at the end of his second term and not run for re-election. Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor and businessman, said he told people he only planned to serve two terms when he first ran in 2006. He is now chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and once appeared on President Trump's short list to be vice president or secretary of state. "Understandably, as we have gained influence, that decision has become more difficult," he said in a statement. "But I have always been drawn to the citizen legislator model, and while I realize it is not for everyone, I believe with the kind of service I provide, it is the right one for me." [Reuters]

7.

Acting DEA chief tells staffers he will step down

Chuck Rosenberg, the acting head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, told staff members on Tuesday that he would step down within a week. Rosenberg is a holdover from the Obama administration who has clashed with members of the Trump administration. Last month, the differences were made public after Rosenberg sent an agency-wide memo in response to a speech in which President Trump said police were "too nice" to suspects when putting them into squad cars during arrests. Rosenberg said Trump had "condoned police misconduct." Rosenberg reportedly considered resigning at the time. His departure now is not entirely surprising, as Trump has been expected to nominate someone of his choosing eventually. [The Washington Post, Politico]

8.

College basketball coaches charged with corruption

FBI agents arrested four NCAA Division I assistant basketball coaches on Tuesday on federal corruption charges. Auburn's Chuck Person, Oklahoma State's Lamont Evans, Arizona's Emanuel "Book" Richardson, and USC's Tony Bland were among 10 people arrested on fraud and corruption charges stemming from a three-year investigation into alleged payments of tens of thousands of dollars for help steering NBA-bound players toward sports agents, financial advisers, and apparel companies. "For the 10 charged men, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March," said Joon H. Kim, acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. [ESPN]

9.

Construction starts on border wall prototypes

Contractors broke ground Tuesday on eight prototypes for President Trump's promised border wall that were developed over months of competition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced. The companies building the prototypes in San Diego will have roughly 30 days to complete them. Next, the Department of Homeland Security will put them through tests. A free speech area has been designated for anticipated protests in the area in San Diego's Otay Mesa region where the construction will occur, about 1.5 miles from the work sites. One activist said the project might not be worth protesting. "It's just political theater," Hiram Soto, spokesman for Alliance San Diego, told the Los Angeles Times. "There is no funding for it in Congress." [NPR, Los Angeles Times]

10.

Rockets hit Kabul airport after Mattis arrives

Insurgents fired multiple rockets at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport on Wednesday hours after Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Afghanistan on an unannounced visit. Both the Taliban and the Islamic State claimed responsibility. The Taliban said Mattis was the target. The attack occurred after Mattis and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg arrived in Kabul for talks with Afghan leaders. They also will meet with U.S. forces. Kabul's airport chief said two missiles damaged air force hangars, destroying one helicopter and damaging three others, although there were no casualties. [USA Today, CNN]