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January 18, 2017

Donald Trump's nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, faced vocal skepticism from Democrats in her rare nighttime confirmation hearing before the Senate education committee on Tuesday, even as Republican senators hailed the advocate for taxpayer-funded vouchers and school choice as a needed reformer at the Education Department. DeVos, who conceded that her billionaire family had donated about $200 million to the Republican Party, parried questions about her family's prominent role in killing oversight of Michigan charter schools, her past disparaging remarks about public education and government, and her family's support for so-called gay conversion therapy, suggesting she herself never supported such therapy and believes every school should be "a safe and discrimination-free place to become educated."

DeVos declined to support Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) call for free college tuition, conceded to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) that nobody in her family has ever taken out a student loan and said she would "review" rules requiring career colleges (like Trump University) to offer salable skills to students, and would not commit to keeping in place rules that require colleges and universities to more actively crack down on sexual assaults.

When Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) asked her if she believed guns belong in school, DeVos noted a story from rural Wyoming, saying, "I would imagine there's probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies." When Murphy pressed her on if she supported Trump's proposal to ban gun-free zones around schools, DeVos said she would support "what the president-elect does," but assured him: "My heart bleeds and is broken for those families that have lost any individual due to gun violence." Murphy invited her to visit Sandy Hook Elementary School in his state, the site of an infamous mass shooting of young children in 2012.

DeVos also seemed unsure about some of the big discussions in public education — she and all her children attended only private schools. You can watch Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) explain to her the difference between proficiency testing and measuring student growth below. Peter Weber

9:50 p.m. ET
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The General Services Administration has decided there is no conflict in President Trump's hotel lease from the government, the federal agency announced in a letter released Thursday.

The GSA signed off on the deal after Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., and lawyers changed the lease so revenue from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., will stay with the hotel and not go to the president's personal trust company. While Trump turned over operation of the business to his adult sons, he still owns more than three-quarters of the project and his share of the revenues will be moved to a corporation set up for his ownership stake, the Los Angeles Times reports. "This doesn't make any sense to me, and it seems like GSA has leaned over backwards to accommodate the president here," Fred Wertheimer, president of the Democracy21 advocacy group, told the Times. "This is one more example of why President Trump should have divested his assets into a blind trust." Catherine Garcia

8:06 p.m. ET
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Hours after Thursday's scheduled vote on the American Health Care Act was postponed, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said President Trump is demanding a vote on Friday. Mulvaney also said that should the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act fail, Trump is ready to move forward and leave ObamaCare in place.

In order for the Republicans' plan to pass, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) can only lose 22 votes on the floor, and more than two dozen members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, as well as some moderate Republicans, have already said they will vote no. Catherine Garcia

7:43 p.m. ET
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The Toronto District School Board, the largest in Canada, announced Thursday it has made the "difficult decision" to indefinitely cancel all future trips to the United States, due to President Trump's temporarily blocked travel bans that keep people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

"It's about inclusion, equity, and fairness," school board spokesman Ryan Bird told BuzzFeed News. "We don't want some of our students stopped and not being let in at the border for no legitimate reason." The board serves 245,000 kids at 584 schools, and every year, students takes dozens of trips to performances, sporting events, and conferences all over the United States. Bird said 25 planned trips will move forward, but should one of the 900 students participating be detained at the border, they "will turn back." The school system is one of the most diverse in the world, Bird added, "and we're committed to promoting that." Catherine Garcia

6:59 p.m. ET
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In South Sudan, about 5.5 million people — almost half the population — face food shortages, and the U.S. is casting blame on the government.

"The famine is not a result of drought, it is the result of leaders more interested in political power and personal gain than in stopping violence and allowing humanitarian access," Deputy U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday. "The government's continued unconscionable impediments to humanitarians seeking access to famine-stricken populations may amount to deliberate starvation tactics." Recently, South Sudan increased the price of work permit fees for foreign aid workers to $10,000.

Joseph Mourn Majak Ngor Malok, South Sudan's deputy ambassador, said his government is not to blame for the famine and called on the "international community to assist in addressing this urgent matter." In 2013, two years after South Sudan gained independence from Sudan, civil ware broke out, following the firing of President Salva Kiir's deputy, Riek Machar; Kiir is an ethnic Dinka and Machar a Nuer. Over the past four years, the U.N. says at least one-quarter of the population has been displaced. Catherine Garcia

5:33 p.m. ET
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The Congressional Budget Office on Thursday released a revised report on the American Health Care Act, the Republican proposal to replace ObamaCare. The CBO's new estimate considers revisions made to the GOP health bill since the original report issued two weeks ago.

"This estimate shows smaller savings over the next 10 years than the estimate that CBO issued on March 13," the report reads, while "the estimated effects on health insurance coverage and on premiums for health insurance are similar to those estimated [originally]." The changes to the bill incorporate several manager's amendments, mostly pertaining to changes to Medicaid.

The CBO's original report estimated the American Health Care Act would leave 52 million uninsured by 2026, compared to just 28 million under ObamaCare. Thursday's report leaves that number unchanged, but says the revised bill would reduce the federal deficit by $150 billion, a decrease from the initially projected $337 billion in savings. Read the CBO's full revised report here. Kimberly Alters

4:01 p.m. ET
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The news that Republican leadership canceled a planned Thursday night health-care bill vote had already spread like wildfire across the internet and TV, but one important person was still left in the dark: President Trump.

"Today the House is voting to repeal and replace the disaster known as ObamaCare," Trump said, not realizing that his statement was already outdated. "It's going to be a very close vote."

To be fair, he's been busy. Jeva Lange

3:38 p.m. ET

A GOP aide told the media Thursday afternoon that there will no longer be a vote Thursday on the Republican health-care bill, after hours of desperate vote-rallying by House leadership and the White House appeared to have fallen flat.

Earlier Thursday, roughly two dozen members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus announced they would not support the American Health Care Act, which was drafted by House Speaker Paul Ryan. Several Republicans outside the conservative caucus also indicated they would not vote for the measure, narrowing its chances of passage considerably; GOP leadership could not lose more than 22 Republican votes and still pass the bill.

The White House has thrown its support behind the bill, with President Trump meeting with the House Freedom Caucus on Thursday morning to attempt to strike a deal on the bill. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted earlier Thursday that as far as he knew, the vote would not be delayed and the bill would pass. "We continue to see the number [of Freedom Caucus members who support the bill] go up, not down," he said. Jeva Lange

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