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March 10, 2017
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The Republican Party's mad dash to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a new law, the American Health Care Act, is being driven by two big, related considerations: the calendar, and the Senate's budget "reconciliation" rules, which allow the Senate to pass certain pieces of legislation with a simple majority. The AHCA was written narrowly to fit within the constraints of the reconciliation rules, and whether it does will be partly determined by how much the Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will cost.

Without reconciliation, the already endangered bill won't clear the Senate. Without major changes to satisfy GOP conservatives, it may not pass the House. President Trump and some congressional Republicans have come up with a solution to this conundrum: Ignore the CBO and overrule the Senate parliamentarian, who determines which measures can be passed through the reconciliation maneuver, as long as 60 senators don't overrule her advice. This wouldn't be so much "working the refs" as ignoring them, and it would likely throw Congress into chaos.

The CBO — led by Republican appointee Keith Hall — is expected to estimate that the AHCA increases the budget deficit and cuts at least 15 million people off health insurance. The new GOP line is that CBO economists and statisticians can be ignored because their projections just aren't very good. Their main exhibit: The CBO score for ObamaCare. "If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) made a similar argument on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. (The CBO's ACA projections were actually "reasonably accurate," according to a 2015 Commonwealth Fund report.)

"I have no idea what the CBO report will say," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), "but I find it amusing that the right-wing Trump administration would try to cast doubt about the integrity of that report when it was the right-wing Republicans who handpicked its director."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and House conservatives, meanwhile, are arguing that Vice President Mike Pence, in his role as presiding officer of the Senate, can simply override any unfavorable reconciliation ruling by parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough. Cruz said he's been discussing that plan, which would allow the GOP to scrap things like ObamaCare's ban of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, with "a number of my colleagues." Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and vice chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) promoted the idea with Trump over lunch on Thursday.

It's not clear if either of these maneuvers will work, but that's where the fight is going. Peter Weber

9:51 a.m. ET
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After securing its first black Bachelorette — and all the positive press that came along with the poise and humor of Rachel Lindsay — the Bachelor franchise nonetheless found itself in the midst of controversy this month after allegations of sexual misconduct shuttered production on its summer spin-off show, Bachelor in Paradise.

On Wednesday, CNN Money offered a glimpse at the contract contestants of Bachelor in Paradise sign before appearing on the show, acquired from a "source close to production." The contract requires contestants to forfeit a breathtaking amount of control over their own likenesses:

After reviewing parts of the contract provided to her by CNN Money, Nicole Page, a New York-based entertainment attorney at Reavis Parent, said that it meant, from the producers' perspective, "I can basically take your image and do whatever I want with it and I own it and you have no recourse." [...]

If a news program twisted the facts about people in this way, they could be sued — and they would likely lose the case. But all of this kind of manipulation is fine on Bachelor in Paradise. The contract makes that clear: Contestants sign away to producers "the right to change, add to, take from, edit, translate, reformat or reprocess... in any manner Producer may determine in its sole discretion." And, once the producers have done all that editing, the contestants understand that their "actions and the actions of others displayed in the Series may be disparaging, defamatory, embarrassing or of an otherwise unfavorable nature and may expose me to public ridicule, humiliation, or condemnation." [CNN Money]

Contestants further cede their right to a jury trial should they sue the show for any reason, agreeing to subject their claims to the confidential arbitration process. Another lawyer told CNN Money that the contract is "clearly ... one-sided."

An investigation by parent company Warner Bros. into the alleged incident during filming of this season Bachelor in Paradise, in which consent between two intoxicated contestants during a sexual encounter was at issue, concluded there had been no wrongdoing. Production will resume, though the contestants involved will likely not return to the show. Read more about the rules of Bachelor in Paradise at CNN Money. Kimberly Alters

9:44 a.m. ET

President Trump appointed a registered foreign agent earning six figures from the Saudi government to the Commission on White House Fellowships, The Center for Public Integrity reports. The Saudi Arabian foreign ministry has reportedly paid Richard Hohlt some $430,000 for advice since January.

"Trump's decision to appoint a registered foreign agent to the President's Commission on White House Fellowships clashes with the president's vow to clean up Washington and limit the influence of special interests," The Center for Public Integrity notes.

Serving on the commission means Hohlt is one of 19 others responsible for making recommendations of candidates for the prestigious White House fellowships (past recipients include former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Trump's transportation secretary, Elaine Chaio). Hohlt confirmed he met this month to interview candidates, which is the commission's only annual responsibility.

"Appointing someone who is registered under FARA as doing work for Saudi Arabia does seem odd at a time when [Trump has] made a very big deal about not having people leave the [government] and then do work where they have to register under FARA," Larry Noble, the general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, told The Center for Public Integrity.

Read the full report at The Center for Public Integrity. Jeva Lange

8:52 a.m. ET
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An independent report found that the Church of England concealed a former bishop's sexual abuse of young men for two decades, prompting the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to call the church's behavior "inexcusable and shocking," The Guardian reports.

"The church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward. This is inexcusable and shocking behavior," Welby said. The bishop in question, Peter Ball, was jailed in 2015 for admitting to the abuse of 18 men between the ages of 17 and 25 who had sought his guidance over spiritual concerns. Neil Todd, one of Ball's victims, attempted suicide three times before killing himself in 2012.

Welby ordered the review of how the church handled the case, with investigators finding Ball "was seen by the church as the man in trouble who the church needed to help."

"The church appears to have been most interested in protecting itself," the report concluded. Dame Moira Gibb, who chaired the investigation, recommended the church "demonstrate the individual and collective accountability of bishops" and make efforts to improve the support of victims of clerical abuse.

"We can never be complacent," Welby said in response to the report. "We must learn lessons." Jeva Lange

8:23 a.m. ET

Ever since Donald Trump announced he was running for president in 2015, reporters have struggled to figure out how to address his exaggerations, insinuations, spins, misinformation, and outright lies. All of the above came to a head during his speech on Wednesday night in Iowa, and in her coverage of the event, The New York Times' Maggie Haberman refreshingly did not tip-toe around calling Trump out when he was wrong.

And he was wrong a fair bit:

Haberman added that Trump, in a moment of apparent self-awareness, "tried to catch himself at one point, saying, 'I have to be a little careful, because they'll say, 'He lied!'" Read Haberman's full coverage of the event here. Jeva Lange

8:00 a.m. ET

Trevor Noah described his reaction to the newly released dash cam footage of the shooting of Philando Castile in a heartbreakingly sober segment of Wednesday's The Daily Show. "I won't lie to you," Noah said. "When I watched this video, it broke me. It just, it broke me."

Last week, officer Jeronimo Yanez was ruled "not guilty" for the shooting of Castile, a point that Noah found particularly disturbing. "It’s one thing to have the system against you," he explained. "But when a jury of your peers, your community, sees this evidence and decides that even this is self-defense, that is truly depressing. Because what they're basically saying is: In America, it is officially reasonable to be afraid of a person just because they are black."

"Forget race," Noah added. "Are we all watching the same video?" Jeva Lange

7:23 a.m. ET
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National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers reportedly told the Senate and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigative team that President Trump had asked them to publicly announce there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia, CNN reports based on statements by multiple people familiar with the hearings.

The request from Trump was made in March, apparently just a few days after then-FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed a probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

A public hearing earlier this month did little to elucidate what unfolded in the intelligence directors' conversations with the president, in part because when the intel chiefs sought guidance from the White House on whether the talks were protected by executive privilege, they did not receive an answer. Both firmly stated they did not feel pressure from the president to interfere in the ongoing investigation, although they described their interactions with Trump as uncomfortable and strange, and did not ultimately act on his request.

Rather, the directors "recounted conversations that appeared to show the president's deep frustration that the Russia allegations have continued to cloud his administration," CNN reports. Read more details of Coats' and Rogers' conversations here. Jeva Lange

1:42 a.m. ET

When the deputy overseeing their work detail passed out last week, six Georgia inmates rushed to save his life, performing CPR and calling 911 from his phone.

They were outside doing lawn maintenance at a cemetery in hot weather — it was 76 degrees with 100 percent humidity — when the officer, who asked not to be identified, collapsed. The inmates immediately opened his shirt and took off his bulletproof vest, then began CPR. "When that happened, in my opinion, it wasn't about who is in jail and who wasn't," inmate Greg Williams told WXIA. "It was about a man going down and we had to help him."

The officer was unconscious for about a minute, and then started breathing again. "They really stepped up in a time of crisis and show that they care about my officers," Polk County Sheriff Johnny Moats told WXIA. "That really speaks a lot about my officers, too, how they treat these inmates. They treat them like people. Like family." To show their appreciation, the officer's family later treated the inmates to lunch and dessert. Catherine Garcia

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