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July 17, 2017
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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced Saturday that he is recovering at home from surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye, prompting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday to postpone a vote on the newest version of his health-care overhaul. Two of the 52 Republican senators — Susan Collins (Maine) and Rand Paul (Ky.) — have said they will vote no on the bill as currently written, meaning McConnell can't lose another Republican and pass the bill. Collins said Sunday on ABC's This Week that eight to 10 other GOP senators have "deep concerns" about the bill.

A key question for the bill's future, then, is when McCain will return to the Senate. The statement from McCain's office suggested he would be out only this week, but its explanation for the procedure — removal of a blood clot from "above his left eye" during a "minimally invasive craniotomy with an eyebrow incision" — prompted some medical experts contacted by The New York Times to suggest he could be out of longer than expected, depending on the specifics. A craniotomy is when surgeons open the skull, and the recovery time from such an operation "is usually a few weeks," said Dr. Nrupen Baxi, a neurosurgeon at New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The GOP push to replace the Affordable Care Act is getting increasingly unpopular and attracting more opposition from medical and insurance groups, a few key Republican governors, and liberal groups. "The McCain absence gives Mr. McConnell and the White House a chance to continue working on holdout senators without having to back down from a vote this week," The Wall Street Journal explains. "But it also creates a window for the 2010 health law's supporters to continue a fight they believe is more likely to be successful the longer they wage it." The bill's GOP proponents and outside analysts say they think the bill will be harder to pass the longer it is delayed, too.

"The longer the bill languishes, the less likely it will pass," Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments, tells The Wall Street Journal. "While McCain's absence complicates the health debate, it already was in deep trouble, even when he was healthy." The White House, which unsuccessfully lobbied skeptical GOP governors over the weekend, did not comment directly on the delay. "We wish Sen. McCain a speedy recovery," said spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré. Peter Weber

2:19 p.m. ET

At a United Nations lunch Wednesday with African leaders, President Trump marveled at Africa's "tremendous business potential." "I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich," he said. "I congratulate you, they're spending a lot of money."

Trump thinks the U.S. could benefit from teaming up with Africa, too. "In this room I see partners for promoting prosperity and peace on a range of economic, humanitarian, and security issues. We hope to extend our economic partnerships with countries who are committed to self-reliance and to fostering opportunities for job creation in both Africa and the United States," Trump said, noting that "six of the world's 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa."

At another point in the speech, Trump referenced the country of Nambia, which does not exist.

Catch a snippet of his praise for Africa's business opportunities for his "many friends" below. Becca Stanek

2:03 p.m. ET

President Trump announced that the nonexistent country of "Nambia" has an increasingly self-sufficient health-care system during a United Nations lunch with African leaders on Wednesday:

So far, Trump appears to have failed to impress African leaders — a photo of the Zimbabwean delegation listening to Trump's U.N. speech on Tuesday went viral and President Robert Mugabe appeared to sleep through the whole thing.

Watch Trump completely make up the nation of Nambia below. Jeva Lange

1:43 p.m. ET
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The Senate plans to vote on the latest iteration of the Republican health-care bill next week, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday. "It is the leader's intention to consider Graham-Cassidy on the floor next week," the spokesperson told Politico.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), would convert ObamaCare subsidies and Medicaid payments into block grants to states, allowing each state ample leeway to decide coverage rules and patient protections, plus cut Medicaid sharply. On Tuesday, a group of 11 governors, including five Republicans and independent Gov. Bill Walker (Alaska), urged the Senate to drop Graham-Cassidy, joining the AARP, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and other patient advocacy groups, plus Jimmy Kimmel.

Efforts to write an alternative, bipartisan health-care bill proved fruitless. Republicans have a Sept. 30 deadline for passing a health-care bill with only 50 votes. Three GOP defections would kill the bill. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are believed to be opposed to the bill; Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) remain undeclared swing votes. Jeva Lange

12:57 p.m. ET
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Sean Penn is slated to star in an upcoming Hulu original series about humanity's first mission to Mars. The series, called The First, was made by Beau Willimon, the creator of the Netflix original smash-hit series House of Cards.

This marks the two-time Oscar winner's "first regular role" on a television series, Variety noted. The show, set in the near future, "will depict the challenges a group of astronauts face while trying to achieve interplanetary colonization, while following the lives of their loved ones on Earth and the ground team overseeing the mission," Mashable reported. Penn's role has not yet been revealed.

The show is set to premiere next year. Becca Stanek

11:53 a.m. ET
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A stunningly large percentage of President Trump's supporters approve of his decision to compromise with Democrats on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. A new The Economist/YouGov poll released Wednesday revealed that 49 percent of Trump voters approve of Trump's decision to cut a deal over dinner with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to pass a law granting permanent legal status to DREAMers, immigrants protected under DACA who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children. Thirty-nine percent disapprove of the compromise Trump struck just days after rescinding DACA.

That wasn't all that Trump's supporters approved of him working on with the Democrats. The poll also revealed that 72 percent of Trump voters approve of the president working with Democrats on health care, 73 percent approve of across-the aisle work on tax reform, 66 percent approve of bipartisan efforts on immigration issues, and 62 percent approve of Trump teaming up with Democrats on the environment.

The poll surveyed 1,500 respondents from Sept. 17-19. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Becca Stanek

11:18 a.m. ET
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The first reviews of the new Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE are in, and people are ... less than dazzled. Apple announced the latest model of its wearable gadget earlier this month in a demonstration that involved phoning a person on a paddle board and testimonies from people whose lives have been saved by the heart rate-detecting technology. But when the $399 watch, which comes out on Friday, was put to use by real-world reviewers, many shared common complaints, particularly when it came to the built-in cellular capabilities actually working.

"On more than one occasion, I detached myself from the phone, traveled blocks away from my home or office, and watched the Watch struggle to connect to LTE," wrote Lauren Goode for The Verge. "It would appear to pick up a single bar of some random Wi-Fi signal, and hang on that, rather than switching to LTE."

CNET's Scott Stein shared Goode's frustrations. "If you're pushing the unique features of the Series 3 with cellular, you're going to wipe out your battery quickly," he wrote. "I made a half-hour call to my mom as I walked into town a half mile away to get an iced coffee. A walk there, a walk back, checking email, and listening to music (and using GPS with heart rate for the walks), I ended up at 50 percent battery by 3 p.m. Sure, I was using everything. But isn't that the point?"

"Apple's latest has all the ingredients of the future we were promised," wrote Joanna Stern for The Wall Street Journal, although she added: "Except, after I spent a week testing these new models … the future feels even further away. You're lucky if the battery allows you to roam on cellular for longer than half a day — especially if you're making calls. And only a limited number of third-party apps work without the phone close by. (No Instagram, Twitter, Uber.)"

Not everyone was disappointed. BuzzFeed News' Nicole Nguyen was a fan, although she admitted "the bar is low." Still, "the Apple Watch has gone from being a glorified pager to a decent fitness watch to, now, what a smartwatch is supposed to be: a phone on your wrist."

"I did manage to make one phone call from a surfboard," added Goode. "That was kind of wild." Jeva Lange

10:39 a.m. ET

On Tuesday, Vox interviewed nine Republican senators about the Graham-Cassidy bill, the GOP's last-ditch effort to repeal ObamaCare. Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass the bill with a simple majority vote, but 10 days out they seemed to be struggling to pin down exactly why the Graham-Cassidy bill should pass.

Though senators generally agreed that the bill would return power to the states, they had less to say on the finer points of how this could happen without millions of Americans losing insurance coverage and why the bill calls for such drastic cuts to federal spending.

Below, catch some particularly illustrative tidbits from Vox writer Jeff Stein's conversations with these lawmakers. And then head over to Vox to read the rest. Becca Stanek

  • Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) on why Graham-Cassidy makes "things better" for Americans:

Pat Roberts
"Look, we're in the back seat of a convertible being driven by Thelma and Louise, and we're headed toward the canyon. That's a movie that you've probably never seen — "

Jeff Stein
"I do know Thelma and Louise, sir."

Pat Roberts
"So we have to get out of the car, and you have to have a car to get into, and this is the only car there is." [Vox]

  • Sen. Richard Shelby, on the bill's proposed cuts to federal funding for states by 34 percent over the next decade: "But it wouldn't cut Alabama, though."
  • Roberts on why Republicans are pushing a bill that could cause millions to lose insurance: "If we do nothing, it has a tremendous impact on the 2018 elections."
  • Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) on what this bill does "right, policy-wise":

John Kennedy
"I think it's an improvement over ObamaCare."

Jeff Stein
"Why?"

John Kennedy
"My position has always been that, number one, I think ObamaCare has been a failure.

Number two: First chance I get to vote for repeal it, I'll do it.

And number three: If it's replacement, if replacement is better than ObamaCare, I will vote for it." [Vox]

  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) on how he knows the "savings" from federal funding cuts "will be close to enough to protect everyone": "Well, nothing protects everyone."
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