August 5, 2014

After serving two consecutive terms as the mayor of Dorset, Minnesota, 5-year-old Robert "Bobby" Tufts is back to civilian life.

On Sunday, 16-year-old Eric Mueller's name was pulled from a ballot box during the Taste of Dorset festival, and thus Bobby's tenure came to an end. "It was fun, but it's time to pass on the vote," he told The Associated Press.

Dorset has no formal city government and a population of less than 28. Every year, people pay $1 to vote in the election, with the proceeds paying for the festival. Bobby was first elected at age 3, and as mayor raised money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Red River Valley. He also decided to put ice cream at the very top of the food pyramid.

Even though Bobby's political career is over, he's hoping his brother will one day get elected, starting a Tufts dynasty. "I'm gonna let James do it," Bobby said. "He's 2." Catherine Garcia

7:49 a.m. ET
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Americans are overwhelmingly unhappy with the Senate Republicans' proposed health-care legislation, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll has found. Just 17 percent of people said they approved of the GOP's ObamaCare replacement, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, while 55 percent said they disapproved.

That number ought to be a warning sign for the GOP, as it signals many members of the party's own base are not happy with the proposed solution. Just 35 percent of Republicans support the bill, the poll found, and 21 percent oppose it. Another 68 percent of independents oppose the Better Care act.

Overall, more Americans want ObamaCare expanded than curbed: 46 percent of Americans said ObamaCare should do more, while just 7 percent believe the Republicans' plan to reduce ObamaCare is the better option.

"With numbers like these, it's not surprising the Republican leadership in Congress is having a difficult time building consensus," the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, Lee Miringoff, told NPR. The poll surveyed 1,205 adults between June 21 and June 25 over landline and mobile phones. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percent. Jeva Lange

7:25 a.m. ET

Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act stalled Tuesday, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delaying the vote until after the July 4 recess in hopes of rallying more support. President Trump expressed his frustration on Wednesday, in particular with a New York Times report that cited a Republican senator who believed, after a White House meeting, that "the president did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan."

The New York Times' Glenn Thrush replied to Trump's complaint. "Call your office, sir," he tweeted. "[The New York Times] spoke to many, many, many members of your staff yesterday — [and] ran everything by your team." Jeva Lange

7:14 a.m. ET
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Senate Republican leaders have not given up on their health-care bill, after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delayed a planned vote for this week until after the July 4 recess. McConnell and his lieutenants are trying to find changes that will bring at least 50 of the 52 Senate Republicans in line on the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), and one tool they are using is money. Monday's Congressional Budget Office score sent some Republicans running for cover, but it also gave McConnell $188 billion he could spend winning over members of his caucus.

Even before pulling the bill from an imminent floor vote, McConnell was considering channeling some of that pot of cash to health savings accounts, to win over conservative holdouts like Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Mike Lee (Utah), Politico reports, while more moderate Republicans from states that expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare lobbied for shallower cuts to Medicaid and more money to fight opioid addiction. Tuesday was supposed to be "all about side deals," a Senate aide told Politico, though McConnell clearly did not reach such deals with enough senators as of Tuesday night.

McConnell's other move on Tuesday was to gather his entire GOP caucus at the White House, where President Trump listened to the concerns of GOP senators, sitting between two key holdouts, Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Last week, senior political appointees at the Labor Department and Homeland Security Departments ordered staffers to write up a rule that would allow more H-2B temporary foreign work visas, "specifically mentioning innkeepers and fisheries in Maine and Alaska," Pro Publica reports, citing "three people with knowledge of the discussions." Collins and Murkowski have been pushing for more H-2B visas for their states for months, ahead of the peak summer season, to no avail.

No political officials directly tied the expedited visa rule to the BCRA, and a spokeswoman for Collins insisted, "There is no link — and there has been no attempt to link — this issue with the health-care bill." But staffers were concerned enough about the legal and ethical ramifications of tailoring the H-2B policy to fit two specific states that they pushed back. "It's not appropriate to pick and choose [which state or industry] should be winners and losers," said Laurie Flanagan at the H2-B Workforce Coalition. You can read more about foreign work visas and health-care politics at Pro Publica. Peter Weber

5:28 a.m. ET
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On Tuesday, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group officially disarmed, handing over the last of its 7,132 weapons to United Nations officials overseeing the peace deal FARC leaders signed with President Juan Manuel Santos last year, and giving the U.N. the coordinates to 900 weapons caches hidden around Colombia. Santos attended the demilitarization ceremony in the rural town of Mesetas, as did FARC commander Rodrigo Londono, or Timochenko, and 2,000 other former FARC guerrillas, local officials, and supporters of the controversial peace accord.

The FARC has "exchanged arms for words," and "peace is irreversible," Santos told the crowd. "Now we are just one people, just one nation. Long live peace." Londono focused on his movement's transition from paramilitary to political group, guaranteed 10 seats in Congress for two terms, starting in 2018. "Today doesn't end the existence of the FARC, it merely replaces the armed struggle with exclusively legal means," Londono said, explaining that the group's goal is the same — attaining power — even if its methods were different.

Such a disarmament by FARC rebels and beginning of a transition to civil society "once seemed unimaginable," the Los Angeles Times notes. Still, "although violence has decreased, Colombia is not yet tranquil." About 250 FARC guerrillas won't disarm, and the 1,000-member National Liberation Army (ELN) is still at war with Colombia, as are drug cartels. Also, Santos' political rivals are vowing to amend or undo the peace deal, and lots of things could still go awry. Tuesday's ceremony was a "day of joy" and a clear step toward a "more inclusive and peaceful Colombia," says Lisa Haugaar at the U.S. human rights group Latin America Working Group. "But everyone must play their part to have real peace, or this chance will be lost for another generation." Peter Weber

4:53 a.m. ET

If Republicans actually pass their health-care bill and more than 20 million people no longer have health care, "folks are going to have to look for alternative medical treatment like prayer, or being rich, or praying to become rich," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "Well, in these dark days of doubt, thank goodness for Gwyneth Paltrow and her lifestyle brand, Goop." The product he focused on is Body Vibes stickers, which Goop describes as "wearable stickers that promote healing," promising such benefits as curing hangovers, promoting mental focus, and even hydration. "Man, I'm so thirsty I need a big tall box of stickers," Colbert joked.

"Previously, if you wanted wearable stickers that promote healing, you had to buy a box of band-aids," Colbert deadpanned. But for a 10-pack of Body Vibes stickers, you'll have to fork over $60. "For that price, you're going to want to pick up their anti-anxiety sticker for the panic attack you'll get when you realize you spent your rent money on stuff they give children free at the dentist," he said. He entertained himself and his audience by digging into the claims, including that the stickers use a NASA technology that NASA scientists say doesn't exist and call "BS," and something about cells vibrating like forks. "Yes, Goop has apparently consulted with top fork scientists to create these stickers," Colbert said, "so what Goop is saying is, Buy these stickers and go fork yourself."

"Well, as you know, I, too, have a celebrity lifestyle brand, Covetton House," Colbert said, "and Goop has inspired us to expand our own product line." That's when the mockery really begins. Watch below. Peter Weber

4:17 a.m. ET

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had pledged that Republicans would pass a bill to repeal and replace much of ObamaCare before the July 4 break, "and they have got to, because McConnell knows if they do not pass it now, there's a serious danger that someone might read it," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. But on Tuesday, he abruptly delayed the vote. "There are a lot of good reasons not to have the vote this week," Colbert said, finding just one: "McConnell would have lost, and that's it."

Republican senators started running for the exit after the Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the bill on Monday, finding it would lead to 22 million fewer insured Americans. "Now to put that number into perspective, if you laid 22 million people end to end, it would reach Canada, where they could get health care," Colbert said. He played a clip of Kellyanne Conway arguing on Sunday that the bill's $800 billion in Medicaid cuts weren't actually cuts. "Yes, they're not cuts, it's just returning Medicaid to its original intention," he repeated. "It's like an arsonist saying, 'I didn't burn the house down, I just took the ground back to pre-house levels.'"

He went on to make an obvious joke about Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), poke fun at Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and explain to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) why not having health insurance isn't "freedom," using Oreos as an example.

Next, Colbert noted that while CNN was retracting a story about President Trump and Russia, and three reporters resigned, the network said the article wasn't necessarily wrong. "Yes, it's a fine story, they just forgot to call it 'Breaking News' and have a countdown clock," he joked. But while the subject of the retracted article, Anthony Scaramucci, has moved on, Trump has not, unloading on CNN in a series of "FAKE NEWS" tweets. Colbert read them gleefully. "There is one person who is guilty of fake news out there — it's Donald Trump," he said, noting the fake Time magazine cover of Trump that Trump has framed and put on the wall of at least five Trump resorts, including Mar-a-Lago. "Trump made his own Time magazine cover?" he asked in mock horror. "Oh my God, you know what that means? That can only mean he's acquired mall kiosk technology!" Watch below. Peter Weber

2:55 a.m. ET

At a Senate Republican meeting at the White House on Tuesday, President Trump got an earful about a brutal ad campaign an allied super PAC, America First Policies, has been running against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who is up for re-election next year in a state carried by Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reports, citing a senator and another person present at the meeting. Heller was one of the first Republicans to say he couldn't support the Senate GOP health-care bill as written. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had already complained about the ads, reportedly telling White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus they were "beyond stupid."

"The move against Mr. Heller had the blessing of the White House, according to an official with America First, because Mr. Trump's allies were furious that the senator would side with Nevada's governor, Brian Sandoval, a Republican who accepted the Medicaid expansion under the health law and opposes the Republican overhaul, in criticizing the bill," the Times reports. "According to the senator, the president laughed good-naturedly at the complaint and signaled that he had received the message." After the meeting, America First said it was pulling its promised seven-figure attack campaign against Heller, congratulating Heller for coming "back to the table."

On Tuesday evening, Heller held an event with constituents over the telephone. Jon Ralston, editor of The Nevada Independent, live-tweeted it. Heller praised Sandoval's decision to accept ObamaCare's expansion of Medicaid in the state, argued that former President Ronald Reagan wouldn't have supported the Senate GOP health-care bill, said McConnell couldn't count on his vote for the bill after the July 4 break, then dropped this reference to The Godfather, according to Ralston: "It's going to be very difficult to get me to a yes ... have to make us an offer we can't refuse, me and the governor."

If Trump comes after Heller again, maybe he can drop the talk of severed horse heads and draw inspiration from Michael Corleone's conversation with a fictional Nevada senator, Pat Geary, in The Godfather Part II, though presumably with a less bloody enforcement mechanism.

In Trump's Washington, that seems only slightly far-fetched. Peter Weber

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