Since the start of the year, Republican leaders have insisted their party would soon put forward a health care alternative to ObamaCare. That day may almost be here, as The Washington Post's Robert Costa reports the GOP leadership is finally unifying behind a conservative plan "in part to draw an election-year contrast" with Democrats and ObamaCare.
The plan includes an expansion of high-risk insurance pools, promotion of health savings accounts and inducements for small businesses to purchase coverage together.
The tenets of the plan — which could expand to include the ability to buy insurance across state lines, guaranteed renewability of policies and changes to medical-malpractice regulations — are ideas that various conservatives have for a long time backed as part of broader bills. [Washington Post]
Coming after years of GOP threats to repeal ObamaCare and revert to the old health care system, the mere fact that the party may soon offer a true, unified alternative underscores how far the policy debate has shifted since the health care exchanges went live in October. With more than 4.2 million people having now enrolled in new insurance plans via ObamaCare, calling for repeal alone would mean advocating for those millions of newly insured to lose their coverage. And polls have consistently shown that the public's general opposition to the law does not translate into support for repeal. As Jonathan Chait put it last week, Republicans "have won the public relations war over ObamaCare, and they have lost the public relations war over repealing ObamaCare." Jon Terbush
Thursday night's Late Show kicked off with the presidential heads on Mt. Rushmore discussing the executive order President Trump signed on Wednesday, instructing the Interior Department to review all national monuments designated since 1996. "He's trying to weaken my Antiquities Act!" said the head of Theodore Roosevelt. "Bully! He's a bully." The conversation got stranger from there.
Stephen Colbert returned to the order in his monologue, noting that the review could lead to drilling, mining, and logging on protected lands. "Guys, he's just trying to do the right thing," he said when the audience booed, "because it's important that we finally find out how much oil is in Lincoln's eyeball." The executive order is controversial, but "Trump really believes in it," Colbert said, playing a truncated clip of Trump saying he "sometimes" looks at some of the things he's signing. "Sometimes he looks at the things he's signing?" Colbert said. "Sometimes? Just randomly? Not all the time? Has anyone tried putting a resignation letter in front of him? It's worth a shot."
He played the rest of the clip, which included Trump patting himself on the back for his courage and pointing out that Gov. Paul LePage (R-Maine) has lost a lot of weight, but he liked him when he was fat, too. "He likes him both ways," Colbert repeated, making some... let's say guitar-playing motions. Colbert also quaked over the "unprecedented nuclear crisis" with North Korea, and noted that former President Barack Obama is back on the national stage — and giving a speech to investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald for a cool $400,000. "So, Hillary wasn't able to continue Obama's legacy, but at least Obama was able to continue hers," Colbert said. "$400,000? With that kind of money, you could join Mar-a-Lago." Peter Weber
To celebrate President Trump's first 100 days in office, The Simpsons gave the president its Halloween-special treatment, a short clip that shows a sinister White House on a dark and stormy night, Sean Spicer hanging in the press briefing room, to Kellyanne Conway's annoyance. Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner are strangling each other, and Trump is in bed, reprising his first 100 days: "So many accomplishments: lowered my golf handicap, my Twitter following increased by 700, and finally we can shoot hibernating bears — my boys will love that."
The entire clip is filled with detailed, pointed critiques of Trump, from wanting Fox News to summarize a bill for him on cutting only Republican taxes to Ivanka Trump shilling her Supreme Court robe as Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dragged from the bench. There is a lot going in the short cartoon, but maybe the most realistic part is Homer and Marge watching it all play out on TV. With 100 days gone, "we are 6.8 percent of the way home," the voiceover reminds viewers, assuming there's no second term. Watch below. Peter Weber
On Thursday, the House Government Oversight Committee released documents showing that the Defense Intelligence Agency told retired Gen. Michael Flynn, right after former President Barack Obama fired him as DIA director in 2014, that he was constitutionally prohibited from taking money from foreign governments without explicit permission. He went on to take money from at least Russia and Turkey, and there is no record that he sought or received permission, the DIA says.
That news is shocking enough in itself, Jake Tapper said on CNN Thursday night, but it was accompanied by "some astounding attempts as well at buck-passing by the Trump White House." Flynn's lawyer said he did give the Pentagon prior warning of a paid speech he gave at a gala for Russian state news agency RT in Moscow. "You'll notice that that statement from Flynn's attorney does not address the issues of permission or the issue of payment," Tapper said. "Now, all of this might seem embarrassing for the White House, which — I think it's clear to say — did not do an adequate job of vetting the national security adviser before giving him the position."
Tapper noted how big a voice Flynn was in the Trump campaign, transition, and early days of the Trump administration, them played a clip of Flynn chanting "Lock her up" at the Republican National Convention. "That didn't age well," he deadpanned. Next, he played White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly blaming Obama on Thursday for Trump's Flynn problems, because the Obama administration gave Flynn security clearance as late as last year.
Tapper wasn't having it. "To be fair to Sean, it is a legitimate question as to whether the Army and the Defense Department under Obama renewed Flynn's security clearance without sufficient diligence, especially given that Russian trip and the Russian money," he said. "But that is not the same thing as appointing and vetting Flynn to one of the top national security positions in the U.S. government — and remember, Obama fired Flynn from a lower position in the national security community." He explains why Obama fired him in the clip below. Peter Weber
If you ask President Trump, Canada has decided to stop being polite and start getting real, and is sticking it to America in the form of cheap softwood.
As Seth Meyers explained on Thursday's Late Night, a fight is potentially brewing between the U.S. and Canada over dairy farmers and lumberjacks, "which sounds like a Canadian romance novel." Canada is being accused of undercutting U.S. dairy farmers and lumber suppliers, and the U.S. retaliated by putting a tariff on Canadian softwood lumber exports. Trump claims that Canada has been "rough" with the U.S. for years, but as Meyers sees it, the worst thing the country has ever done isn't artificially lower the price of lumber, but rather attempt "to pass off ham as bacon." It sounds like maybe that bajillion dollar wall should go to the border up north instead. Catherine Garcia
Trump says he really wanted to 'terminate' NAFTA, threatens to end U.S.-South Korea trade pact instead
Spurred on by chief strategist Stephen Bannon and trade adviser Peter Navarro, President Trump was eager to announce he's triggering a U.S. exit from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at a rally on Saturday, his 100th day in office, Trump told reporters Thursday night. "I was all set to terminate," he told The Washington Post. "I looked forward to terminating. I was going to do it." He has said publicly that phone calls from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau changed his mind.
"They called me up, they said, 'Could we try negotiating?'" Trump explained. "I said, 'Absolutely, yes.' If we can't come to a satisfactory conclusion, we'll terminate NAFTA." He told The Wall Street Journal that he told Peña Nieto he'd have to "think about it," but after Trudeau called a half an hour later, he decided "they're serious about it and I will negotiate rather than terminate." Trump's senior advisers say the president had already decided not to pull the plug before he spoke with the Canadian and Mexican leaders, dissuaded by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue, adviser Jared Kushner, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce members.
Purdue made his case with a map of areas that would be affected by pulling out of NAFTA, many of them "Trump country" agricultural and manufacturing belts. "It shows that I do have a very big farmer base, which is good," Trump told The Washington Post. "They like Trump, but I like them, and I'm going to help them." He still took some persuading, Trump said, recounting that at one point he turned to Kushner and asked, "Was I ready to terminate NAFTA?" Kushner said yes.
With NAFTA safe for now, and Trump eager to reassure his nationalist-minded supporters before the 100 day mark, Trump took aim at another free trade deal Thursday night, calling the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (Korus) with South Korea "a horrible deal," adding, "We're getting destroyed in Korea." He called the deal, ratified in 2011, "a Hillary Clinton disaster" that "should've never been made," and noted that unlike NAFTA, if he withdraws from the deal, it will terminate immediately, not in six months. "We've told them that we'll either terminate or negotiate," Trump told The Washington Post. Trump also said he wanted to charge Seoul about $1 billion for using the U.S. THAAD missile-defense system, an idea South Korea rejected. Peter Weber
NRA members planning on attending President Trump's speech at the association's annual conference Friday in Atlanta are being asked to leave their guns at home.
Under federal law, the Secret Service can keep guns out of sites being visited by protected people, even in states with open carry laws, and such a restriction is extremely common for any event where the president is speaking. In a statement to CNN, the Secret Service said that "individuals determined to be carrying firearms will not be allowed past a predetermined outer perimeter checkpoint, regardless of whether they possess a ticket to the event." The NRA said that lawfully carried firearms will be permitted in every other area of the conference, being held this year at Georgia World Congress Center. Catherine Garcia
As he approaches his 100th day in office, President Trump is feeling nostalgic, fondly remembering his days before having the nuclear codes, when he spent his time firing people on television and eating well done steaks in Manhattan restaurants.
"I loved my previous life," he told Reuters in an interview Thursday. "This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier." When he was just a New York businessman with a penchant for gold furnishings, he was used to not having any privacy, but he told Reuters he still isn't quite used to having Secret Service agents with him at all times. "You're really into your own little cocoon," he said, "because you have such massive protection that you really can't go anywhere." That includes getting behind the wheel. "I like to drive," he said. "I can't drive any more." There are a few things from his past life he still gets to do — play golf, tweet at all hours of the day, and visit his private club in Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago, where he has spent half of his weekends as president.
Although Trump did take some time during the interview to rehash the election results — passing out a map to Reuters reporters that showed the areas he won in red — he also looked ahead. He's not going to attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner this weekend because he thinks the media has been treating him unfairly, but that won't stop him from attending it in 2018. "I would come next year," he said. "Absolutely." Catherine Garcia