Voters are heading to the polls today in North Carolina, with two key Republican primaries to especially look out for.
In the Senate race, where Republicans are hoping to defeat Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan this November, state House Speaker Thom Tillis must first go up against a feisty anti-establishment challenge from multiple contenders. Under North Carolina law, Tillis can win the nomination outright if he clears 40 percent of the vote, for which a recent poll showed him right on the cusp.
But if Tillis misses that, he could end up in a very lively runoff on July 15 against Tea Party activist Greg Brannon — who has said some of the darnedest things about democracy, socialism, public schools, local property taxes, and a whole host of other topics.
And further down the ticket, the incumbents vs. insurgents narrative is reversed for 20-year Rep. Walter Jones — himself an anti-war, populist renegade against the GOP leadership. His opponent is Taylor Griffin, a former Treasury Department official under President George W. Bush who has support ranging from banking interests all the way to Sarah Palin.
The polls will close tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET. Eric Kleefeld
Puerto Rico reports 'extremely dangerous situation' as failing dam threatens to flood towns after Hurricane Maria
The National Weather Service of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is reporting an "extremely dangerous situation" due to a dam failure that threatens Isabela Municipality and Quebradillas Municipality in the territory's northwest. "Busses [are] currently evacuating people from the area as quickly as they can," the agency reported, adding: "Move to higher ground now. Act quickly to protect your life."
— NWS San Juan (@NWSSanJuan) September 22, 2017
The flooding follows Hurricane Maria's thrashing of the Caribbean; Puerto Rico remains completely without power, and it's expected to get as much as 35 inches of rain in some areas by Friday. Now a Category 3, Maria was packing winds of up to 125 miles per hour as it slammed the southeastern Bahamas on Friday morning. Jeva Lange
Former President Bill Clinton's forthcoming political thriller, which he co-authored with bestselling author James Patterson, is headed to the small screen, Variety reported Friday. Showtime has acquired the television rights for The President Is Missing, which won't even be published until 2018.
"Bringing The President Is Missing to Showtime is a coup of the highest order," Showtime president and CEO David Nevins told Variety. "The pairing of President Clinton with fiction's most gripping storyteller promises a kinetic experience, one that the book world has salivated over for months and that now will dovetail perfectly into a politically relevant, character-based action series for our network."
The President Is Missing "will offer readers a unique amalgam of intrigue, suspense, and behind-the-scenes global drama from the highest corridors of power," according to the press release. "It will be informed by insider details that only a president can know." Learn more about the forthcoming TV show at Variety. Jeva Lange
Mere minutes after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced he was a "no" on the Graham-Cassidy bill, late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel was tweeting his thanks. Kimmel's rapid response solidified just how invested he is in stopping the GOP health-care bill, which he has been tenaciously criticizing all week.
Thank you @SenJohnMcCain for being a hero again and again and now AGAIN
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) September 22, 2017
Though McCain hasn't technically completely killed Republicans' latest attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare, as he did in July when he cast the deciding vote, his opposition nudges the Graham-Cassidy bill that much closer to its demise. Already, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has announced his opposition, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Friday she's "leaning against" voting in favor of the bill.
Three "no" votes would kill the bill, and make Kimmel's day. Becca Stanek
Tom Price took a $50,420 private flight to a conference where he ranted about wasteful government spending
In the words of one confused White House official to Politico, "no one is quite sure what [Tom Price] is doing." Trump's health and human services secretary has reportedly exceeded $300,000 in chartered flights since last May, including one befuddling charge of $25,000 for a 135-mile flight from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., on a private jet.
Notably, President Trump campaigned as an enemy of wasteful government spending, even signing an order in March that required "a thorough examination of every executive department and agency, to see where money is being wasted, how services can be improved, and whether programs are truly serving American citizens," in the words of one White House official to the Washington Examiner.
Even more bewildering, Price himself has been an outspoken opponent of wasteful spending, as Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) pointed out Friday:
Tom Price spent $50,420 in taxpayer funds on charter flights to get to a conference where he promised to cut wasteful government spending https://t.co/gDSXAFRxFj
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) September 21, 2017
HHS spokesperson Charmaine Yoest defended Price's flights as necessary. "He has used charter aircraft for official business in order to accommodate his demanding schedule," she told Politico, characterizing his flights on Learjets as evidence of his focus "on hearing from Americans across the country." Jeva Lange
32 million Americans would lose insurance by 2027 under the Graham-Cassidy bill, Brookings estimates
An estimated 21 million Americans would be uninsured by 2026 if the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill becomes law, the nonpartisan Brookings Institute said Friday. By 2027, 32 million Americans would be without insurance under the GOP's latest attempt to repeal and replace ObamaCare, as opposed to if ObamaCare were to remain law.
Brookings calculated a score in the absence of one from the Congressional Budget Office, which has announced it won't have its complete analysis ready until after Republicans' Sept. 30 deadline to pass the bill on a simple majority vote. Brookings noted its number "likely underestimates the reductions in insurance coverage," as it does not account for the challenges states may face as they set up their own health-care systems. "Some states might elect to begin the process of winding down their Medicaid expansion prior to 2020, which could also add to coverage losses during this period," the report said.
On Friday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) joined Sen. Rand Paul in opposing the bill. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) also revealed Friday that she's "leaning against" the bill. Three 'no' votes would kill the bill. Becca Stanek
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced Friday that he will not vote for the Republican health-care bill, effectively killing the GOP's last chance at passing legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare before their Sept. 30 deadline. McCain already stunned his colleagues in the Senate earlier this year when he torpedoed another Republican health-care bill with a tie-breaking no vote in July.
Named for sponsors Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the bill would convert ObamaCare's subsidies and Medicaid payments to block grants to states plus cut Medicaid sharply. "I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal," McCain said in a statement. "I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried."
!!! McCain is a NO on Cassidy-Graham pic.twitter.com/a9gC2Li7TZ
— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) September 22, 2017
The GOP can only lose three votes, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have also already come out against the bill. Jeva Lange
CVS Pharmacy announced Friday that it will be limiting opioid prescriptions to seven days for certain patients, including those who are new to prescription pain medications, CNN reports. The pharmacy's decision comes as opioid prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999 despite the fact that there has been no significant rise in conditions calling for such medications among American patients.
This is a big, big deal. States have done this thru legislation but the idea of a pharmacy placing restrictions on doctors is fascinating. https://t.co/Rz1DJC3LFc
— Evan Hughes (@evanhughes) September 22, 2017
An estimated 900,000 Americans overdosed in 2015, with over 30,000 of those overdoses fatal and stemming from opioid drugs. Opioids are the leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. STAT estimated earlier this year that opioids could kill nearly 500,000 Americans in the next decade.
CVS pharmacists also plan to teach patients about the risk of addiction that comes with the pain medications, and insist on the importance of keeping the drugs somewhere secure. "With a presence in nearly 10,000 communities across the country, we see firsthand the impact of the alarming and rapidly growing epidemic of opioid addiction and misuse," said CVS Health's president and CEO, Larry J. Merlo.
The pharmacy will roll out the changes beginning Feb. 1, 2018. Jeva Lange