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August 16, 2017
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A White House spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the Trump administration will make this month's payment to insurers for ObamaCare subsidies for low-income customers.

A Congressional Budget Office analysis released Tuesday estimated that if the payments were stopped, the most popular ObamaCare plans' premiums would probably go up 20 percent in 2018. President Trump has threatened to cut off the subsidies — worth about $7 billion this year — and insurers would likely hike up premiums or leave ObamaCare markets altogether if they are eliminated, Politico reports. Insurers rely on those subsidies to keep costs down for millions of lower-income ObamaCare customers, and even if the payments stop, they will still have to provide discounted rates.

Some Republicans, like Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, criticized Trump's decision to continue the payments, but Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, appreciated it, and pushed for Congress in the future to appropriate money for the program. "These two actions will help make insurance policies available at affordable policies," he said in a statement. "Congress owes struggling Americans who buy their insurance in the individual market a breakthrough in the health-care stalemate." Catherine Garcia

7:19 p.m. ET
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On Monday, the nonprofit government watchdog group Common Cause filed two federal complaints, alleging that President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 in October 2016 to an adult film star who had an affair with Trump, and this may have been a violation of campaign finance laws.

In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Common Cause's campaign finance expert Paul S. Ryan wrote that "because the funds were paid for the purpose of influencing the 2016 presidential general election," this payment should have been considered a campaign expense, but was never reported.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 shortly before the election, around the same time she stopped speaking with different journalists about an affair she said she had with Trump. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, told In Touch and Slate about having consensual sexual encounters with Trump after she met him at a 2006 golf tournament. Cohen has denied paying Daniels, and told The Washington Post on Monday Common Cause's complaints are "baseless." Catherine Garcia

6:24 p.m. ET
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After the Senate passed a bipartisan bill to reopen the government, the House followed Monday evening, voting 266-150 in favor of the measure and sending the legislation to President Trump's desk.

This will fund the federal government through Feb. 8, and the Children's Health Insurance Program for six years. It will also ensure federal workers receive back pay. To get Democrats on board, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised that immigration legislation will be brought to a vote by Feb. 8 if it's not resolved earlier. The Senate passed the bill 81-18. Catherine Garcia

5:52 p.m. ET
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The Milwaukee Bucks have fired head coach Jason Kidd, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday. Kidd, a former NBA All-Star, had coached the team since 2014.

After stumbling to a 23-22 record, Bucks management apparently determined that the problem with their underperforming team was Kidd. Most observers expected the Bucks to be a top team in the NBA's Eastern Conference this season, after star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo became an early frontrunner for the league's Most Valuable Player award. But as the season wore on, the Bucks were frequently outplayed by inferior teams, and their opponents feasted on a diet of shots near the basket and from behind the three-point line — the two most profitable shots in basketball.

The Bucks' coaching gig, NBA writer Matt Moore noted on Twitter, is an intoxicating position, thanks to the 23-year-old phenom Antetokounmpo. The rest of the roster, meanwhile, is comprised of long and versatile players who, in theory, complement Antetokounmpo perfectly — alongside early-season trade acquisition Eric Bledsoe, a proven scorer.

Speculation is already swirling about who the Bucks' next head coach will be. The Ringer's Bill Simmons predicted that TV analyst and former head New York Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy would be interested, while USA Today's Sam Amick said that former New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams could become an early favorite for the job. In the interim, Bucks assistant coach Joe Prunty will take the reigns, starting with Monday's game against the Phoenix Suns. Kelly O'Meara Morales

4:18 p.m. ET
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The Bulgarian Orthodox Church on Monday announced its opposition to an EU treaty to reduce violence against women and promote gender equality, Reuters reports. The treaty, known as the Istanbul Convention, was introduced for EU-wide ratification by the Council of Europe in 2014 in response to previous EU findings on the prevalence of gender-based violence in Europe.

In a statement, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church's governing organization proclaimed that "no man of Christ" supports violence against women, but warned that the treaty "raises anxiety about the future of European Christian civilization" and "opens the doors to moral decay." The treaty's ratification is currently being considered in Bulgaria's National Assembly.

A particular point of contention for the church is the Istanbul Convention's use of the word "gender." The church says the treaty imposes "an ideology that denies that man exists as a man or a woman." An English version of the convention's text contains no explicit mentions of any such ideology, but does encourage "gender-sensitive policies," legal measures to help domestic violence victims, and the promotion of "non-stereotyped gender roles." The church claims that these "unfamiliar" gender roles "are directed against God's marital union of husband and wife."

The church's concerns are being taken seriously in Bulgaria's National Assembly, as Reuters reports that a significant part of the country's legislative body is now trying to prevent the Istanbul Convention's ratification. Kelly O'Meara Morales

2:52 p.m. ET

A leaked draft of the White House's infrastructure plan has surfaced over at Axios, and although specific funding numbers are not attached, the document offers the first details in what has so far been a fairly confusing process.

What we know: The $1 trillion infrastructure plan is one of President Trump's biggest campaign promises, and there is a lot at stake for his administration in how it gets executed. The leaked document breaks down spending into categories, where infrastructure incentives make up 50 percent of total appropriation and encourage "state, local, and private investment in core infrastructure by providing incentives in the form of grants." Transformative projects, which "must be exploratory and ground-breaking ideas," make up 10 percent, rural infrastructure makes up 25 percent, federal credit programs 7 percent, and the federal capital financing fund 5 percent.

A key detail of the plan is that it prioritizes "projects associated with new, non-federal revenue," transportation expert Yonah Freemark writes, with that accounting for 70 percent of the scoring criteria. "This makes sense as the whole framing of the Trump proposal has been that it is incentivizing '$1 trillion' in spending, "Freemark adds. "This is only possible if other, non-federal, sources of funding become available."

As both Freemark and others noted, grants would also decline from funding upwards of 50 percent of project costs to a ceiling of 20 percent:

Read the full document — which is a draft and subject to change — here, and read more of Freemark's analysis on Twitter. Jeva Lange

2:36 p.m. ET
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Vice President Mike Pence on Monday addressed reports that President Trump called African nations "shithole countries," more than a week after the comments were first reported by The Washington Post.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Pence defended the president from accusations of racism, telling AP that Trump does not support immigration policies that are based on race or nationality. "I know the president's heart," Pence said. Instead, what the president does support is a "merit-based" immigration policy "that puts the interests of America first," Pence said.

Pence similarly invoked the president's "heart" when defending Trump after he said in August that there were "very fine people on both sides" of a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. AP noted that Pence "did not directly answer a question about whether Trump's language was appropriate" in the Monday interview.

AP also asked Pence about Trump's alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels, which Daniels detailed in a tell-all interview with InTouch Weekly. The vice president called the story a "baseless [allegation] against the president." Kelly O'Meara Morales

2:19 p.m. ET

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered a redrawing of all 18 of the state's congressional districts for 2018 after finding gerrymandering that "plainly and palpably" benefited Republicans. "It's likely to cost the GOP a seat and undermine their position in others," wrote The New York Times' Nate Cohn.

The state legislature, which is Republican-controlled, has until Feb. 9 to approve a replacement map, which must also be approved by the Democratic-majority court and Democratic governor, The Associated Press writes. "Otherwise, the justices say they will adopt a plan in an effort to keep the May 15 primary election on track."

"Not only does a new, fair Pennsylvania map likely create 4-5 Dem leaning districts, it disrupts constituencies of Rep incumbents, erasing their incumbency advantage and making them more vulnerable in a Dem wave election," tweeted Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor specializing in American elections. Although the Supreme Court could theoretically intervene, many experts don't see it as likely: "This is a state court decision that rests on state, not federal, law," added McDonald. Jeva Lange

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