FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
March 10, 2017

Things can get pretty loopy when Congress debates a bill for more than 12 hours straight — Wednesday night, for example, the House Ways and Means Committee featured a debate about taxing ice cream and sunlight. Over at the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the other panel getting a first crack at the GOP's health-care bill, the debate lasted 27 hours, and while there was no discussion of solar taxation, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) did have a little debate about à la carte health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act, which Republicans are proposing to replace, requires health insurance plans to cover certain core benefits, like hospital care, prescription drugs, and pregnancy and childbirth. Republicans were complaining about ObamaCare's "mandates," and Doyle asked GOP committee members to name one mandate they take issue with. “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” Shimkus offered. "Is that not correct? And should they?"

This is not the first time House Republicans have asked about men having to buy maternity coverage, The Washington Post notes, and it isn't always men asking. Nancy Metcalf, an insurance expert and Consumer Reports columnist, answered the question in 2013:

Health insurance, like all insurance, works by pooling risks. The healthy subsidize the sick, who could be somebody else this year and you next year. Those risks include any kind of health care a person might need from birth to death — prenatal care through hospice. No individual is likely to need all of it, but we will all need some of it eventually.

So, as a middle-aged childless man you resent having to pay for maternity care or kids' dental care. Shouldn't turnabout be fair play? Shouldn't pregnant women and kids be able to say, "Fine, but in that case why should we have to pay for your Viagra, or prostate cancer tests, or the heart attack and high blood pressure you are many times more likely to suffer from than we are?" Once you start down that road, it's hard to know where to stop. If you slice and dice risks, eventually you don't have a risk pool at all, and the whole idea of insurance falls apart. [Consumer Reports]

Metcalf's answer also, incidentally, would have been helpful reading for House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said this about ObamaCare on Thursday.

Health care, as President Trump says, is an "unbelievably complex subject." Peter Weber

11:19 a.m. ET

Japan's first lady Akie Abe's silence at a recent G-20 summit dinner has left President Trump convinced that she can't speak English. In an interview with The New York Times published Wednesday night, Trump said he found Abe to be a "terrific woman," but noted the fact that she "doesn't speak English" made it "hard" to sit next to her at the dinner that lasted nearly two hours.

"Like, nothing, right? Like zero?" The New York Times' Maggie Haberman clarified. "Like, not 'hello,'" Trump said.

But this keynote address Abe gave in 2014 suggests not only can she say hello in English — she can deliver an entire speech:

Perhaps Abe just wanted to avoid nearly two hours of dinnertime conversation with Trump? Becca Stanek

10:58 a.m. ET
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Special Counsel Robert Mueller will investigate President Trump's business transactions as part of his probe into Russia's election interference, Bloomberg Politics reported Thursday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Mueller is specifically interested in a few developments, Bloomberg said: "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump's involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump's sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008." The probe will also investigate deals involving the Bank of Cyprus, of which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross previously served as vice chairman, and efforts undertaken by Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to secure financing for certain real estate ventures.

Mueller's expanded probe reflects the investigation's absorption of an earlier probe by former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Before being fired in March, Bharara was gathering information about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's financial dealings. "Altogether, the various financial examinations constitute one thread of Mueller's inquiry, which encompasses computer hacking and the dissemination of stolen campaign and voter information as well as the actions of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn," Bloomberg wrote.

In an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Trump said that any probing by Mueller into his or his family's finances would be a "violation." For more on Mueller's expanded probe, head to Bloomberg Politics. Kimberly Alters

10:53 a.m. ET

William Faulkner likely rolled over in his grave this morning. On Morning Joe, co-host Joe Scarborough compared President Trump's recent rambling responses to The New York Times to the writer's winding, stream-of-consciousness style. To be fair, Scarborough specifically likened Trump's comments to "William Faulkner on acid" — but still the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author can't be flattered.

In the interview, Trump said France's Bastille Day parade "was a super-duper — okay. I mean that was very more than normal"; claimed he thought the information on Hillary Clinton offered to his son by Russia "had something to do with the payment by Russia of the DNC ... Like, it was an illegal act done by the DNC"; and said this about North Korea: "You know, we have a big problem with North Korea. Big. Big, big. You look at all of the things, you look at the line in the sand. The red line in the sand in Syria. He didn't do the shot. I did the shot."

"I mean the sentences just keep going on," Scarborough said. "They're garbled and make absolutely no sense." Scarborough said he felt particularly sorry for Trump's attorneys, who have to deal with Trump's "brain dump."

Catch the Morning Joe segment below and read The New York Times interview here. Becca Stanek

10:50 a.m. ET
iStock

True to her nickname, Julia "Hurricane" Hawkins, 101, set a new national record for the 100-meter dash last week as she stormed across the finish line at the USA Track and Field Outdoors Masters Championships. The Louisiana great-grandmother was the oldest female athlete to compete in the championships, held in Baton Rouge, and shaved six seconds off the current record for women ages 100 or older — clocking in at 40.12 seconds. The former schoolteacher, who swears by her healthy diet, only took up running after her 100th birthday — and was pretty nonchalant about her accomplishment. "I missed my nap for this," said Hawkins after her heroic sprint. Christina Colizza

10:35 a.m. ET
iStock

A South Carolina woman has been reunited with her purse — 25 years after it first went missing near a lake. Local fishing enthusiast Brodie Brooks, 11, reeled in the waterlogged handbag during an afternoon at Lake Hartwell, near Anderson. In a stroke of luck, one of Brooks' relatives recognized the owner of the purse from an old ID and returned it to her. April Bolt, now 49, no longer needs the bright lipstick or hair-teasing comb that were also found inside — but was thrilled to have her now-adult son's baby photos back. "It's a serious time capsule," she says. "It meant the world to me." Christina Colizza

9:57 a.m. ET
Rich Fury/Getty Images

It's official: Ryan Seacrest is returning to host the American Idol revival. More than two months after ABC announced that it was bringing the singing competition back to the airwaves, Kelly Ripa finally confirmed Thursday on Live! With Kelly and Ryan that the show's longtime host will be coming back, too.

Seacrest hosted American Idol since its start in 2002, and he said it's "an honor, if not a bit surreal" to be returning to host Idol just a year after Fox canceled it last April following a 15-season run. "Very exciting," Seacrest said. "First of all, I don't know if you've ever been in a 15-year relationship and for a reason you really don't know you break up … I thought, 'Gosh, it'd be great to get back together at some point.'"

ABC, which announced in May it would be reviving the beloved show, is equally excited. "We are thrilled to be ushering in this new era of American Idol with Ryan at the helm," said ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey. “So much of American Idol's overwhelming success can be attributed to Ryan."

In-person auditions for American Idol start Aug. 17 in Orlando, Florida. The new season is slated to debut in 2018. Becca Stanek

9:54 a.m. ET

Precisely six months ago, President Trump was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice John Roberts. "We will face challenges," Trump said in his inaugural address, "but we will get the job done."

The "job" in question had been outlined in part by Trump himself in late October, when he released his "Contract with the American Voter" that outlined his promises for the first 100 days of his administration. Ever ambitious, Trump promised to introduce and pass 10 bills by his 100th day, including a major tax relief plan; a law to fully fund his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border; and, of course, a plan to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with "something terrific."

Trump's 100th day in office was April 29 — and by then, he'd accomplished almost none of his stated goals. But as the deadline loomed, the president was quick to dismiss the 100-day mark as a "ridiculous standard."

In fairness, even former President John F. Kennedy made sure to disavow the arbitrary date in his inaugural address in 1961. After all, 100 days isn't even a round measure of time! What else in life is measured by what you accomplish in 14.285 weeks, or 3.333 months? So let's give Trump a break. Let's look at what he's done in, say, six months' time, given Thursday marks his six-month anniversary in office.

There: half a year, nice round number, and total Republican control of Capitol Hill that whole time to boot. So, now how's it going?

Oh. Kimberly Alters

See More Speed Reads