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September 19, 2017
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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is a hard no on Graham-Cassidy, the last-ditch Senate Republican plan to gut the Affordable Care Act, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is leaning no, but every other iffy Senate Republican appears on the fence, and GOP leaders emerged from a Monday night meeting cautiously optimistic. The 140-page bill, introduced by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), faces a Sept. 30 deadline if Republicans want to pass it with 50 votes, without Democrats.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it will have a preliminary analysis on the bill's fiscal impact next week, but won't have an estimate on how Graham-Cassidy would affect coverage numbers, premiums, or the federal deficit for "at least several weeks." Previous CBO scores of similar bills estimated that millions of Americans would lose coverage. "The odds are improving," Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said Monday night. "I told Bill Cassidy he's the grave robber. This thing was 6 feet under. And I think he's revived it to the point that there's a lot of positive buzz and forward momentum."

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who voted no when the last ObamaCare repeal vote fell short, said he wants to see a bipartisan bill debated in "a regular process rather than, 'Hey I've got an idea, let's run this through the Senate and give them an up-or-down vote.'" He's considered a maybe, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced that the Senate Finance Committee will hold one hearing on Graham-Cassidy on Monday, a move derided by the committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), as "a sham process that makes a mockery of regular order."  

Also opposing the bill is Louisiana Health Secretary Rebekah Gee‏, who reminded Cassidy that his namesake legislation "uniquely and disproportionately hurts Louisiana." The bill would end ObamaCare's Medicare expansion and subsidies, transferring much of those funds to states that did not expand Medicaid; Louisiana expanded Medicaid last year. The legislation would also give states wide latitude to end protections on people with pre-existing conditions and allow skimpier plans.

There's no guarantee the House would pass the bill, which it couldn't modify, but House Republicans would be under enormous pressure to do so. Meanwhile, a bipartisan health-care effort is being negotiated between Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Peter Weber

3:40 p.m. ET

Following the controversy surrounding President Trump's consolation call to the widow of a U.S. serviceman killed in Niger, Chief of Staff John Kelly criticized Rep. Frederica Wilson's (D-Fla.) public interpretation of the conversation, which she overheard in the car. "A member of Congress listened in on a phone call from the president of the United States to a young wife," Kelly said. "And in his own way, [Trump] tried to express that option, that [the late soldier, Army Sgt. La David Johnson, was] a brave man and a fallen hero."

Kelly's emotional speech was informed by personal experience: His son, 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, 29, was killed by a land mine in Afghanistan in 2010. "There's no perfect way to make that phone call," Kelly said. "My first recommendation was he not do it."

Kelly nevertheless commended Trump's bravery for speaking to the widow and said he was "stunned" and "broken-hearted" by Wilson's comments to the press. "That selfless devotion that brings a man or woman to die on that battlefield, I just thought that might be sacred," he said. Watch below. Jeva Lange

3:05 p.m. ET
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President Trump, set your DVR: The Hallmark Channel's around-the-clock Christmas programming begins … next week.

Despite the fact that Halloween hasn't even happened yet, Hallmark airs the first of its 34 (thirty-four!) new Christmas movies beginning on Oct. 28 with Marry Me at Christmas, KUSA reports. Other feel-good titles coming this season include The Sweetest Christmas, A Joyous Christmas, Christmas in Evergreen, Christmas at Holly Lodge, A Bramble House Christmas — you get the picture. There is going to be a lot of Christmas.

If you can't wait until Oct. 28, the Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Christmas Preview Show airs Oct. 22 — 64 days before Dec. 25. Jeva Lange

2:37 p.m. ET

Get your TV, laptop, cell phone, and tablet ready, because it will take all four to watch all the different sports happening Thursday. For only the 17th time in history, there are NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB games on the same day, FiveThirtyEight reports.

On Thursday night, fans can pick between Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, the Kansas City Chiefs facing off against the Oakland Raiders, or one of the three NBA games or nine NHL games. (There are two college football games today, too!)

Sports superfans have two more chances to experience a so-called "sports equinox" this year: On Oct. 22nd, if the Cubs manage to come back to force a Game 7 against the Dodgers, and Oct. 29th, if there is a Game 5 of the World Series. Take a look at all of the sports eclipses in history below via FiveThirtyEight — and remember to get to the bar early for a seat. Jeva Lange

1:51 p.m. ET
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About half of all Americans are in agreement: The U.S. hasn't done enough for gender equality. But there's a big difference between how Democrats and Republicans feel about the issue.

A new survey from Pew Research Center found that 69 percent of Democrats think the country hasn't gone far enough when it comes to giving women equal rights with men. Only 26 percent of Republicans feel the same. What's more, 18 percent of Republicans believe the country has gone too far to address gender inequality.

In the same survey, Pew found that 43 percent of women surveyed said they'd experienced gender discrimination. Less than half as many men — 18 percent — said the same thing.

The survey of 4,573 U.S. adults was conducted Aug. 8-21 and Sept. 14-28. It has a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points. You can read more on the study on Pew's website. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:48 p.m. ET

Speaking in New York City on Thursday, former President George W. Bush made sharply pointed comments about the state of America without referencing President Trump by name, Politico reports. "We've seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty," Bush told attendees of a Bush Institute forum entitled "The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, In the World."

"At times it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together," Bush said. "Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization."

"Bigotry seems emboldened," Bush went on. "Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication."

Bush "has said very little publicly about the current president, or about American politics at all," Politico observed. "Thursday's speech, in which he detailed what he sees as the causes for democratic collapse, the path forward, and what were obvious references to Trump … was a major departure in a speech that called on a renewal of American spirit and institutions."

A spokesman for Bush told The Hill the speech was "long-planned" and not a critique of Trump. "This was a long-planned speech on liberty and democracy as a part of the Bush Institute's Human Freedom Initiative. The themes President Bush spoke about today are really the same themes he has spoken about for the last two decades," the spokesman said.

Watch more of Bush's remarks below. Jeva Lange

1:25 p.m. ET

On Thursday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) introduced their bipartisan health-care bill, flanked by 11 more Democratic co-sponsors plus 11 more Republican co-sponsors. "I think I might want to get a bipartisan interim deal," Alexander quoted President Trump as saying last weekend; the president and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) had come out against the bill Wednesday.

The legislation seeks to stabilize health insurance markets by extending for two years government subsidy payments that insurance companies use to lower costs for poorer customers. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a co-sponsor of a previous GOP health-care bill, said Thursday that he thinks Trump can be convinced to come around, while Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) — who authored the previous bill with Graham — said he would be a co-sponsor on the bipartisan Alexander-Murray bill.

Axios writes that "the story of the Alexander-Murray bill likely won't be over until December, when Congress has to take care of several must-pass bills, in negotiations where Democrats have a lot of leverage." An initial tally on Thursday, assuming all Democrats would support the measure, indicated the bill could garner the 60 votes it needs to pass the Senate. Jeva Lange

12:10 p.m. ET

The old Christian Bale can't come to the phone right now:

Photos leaked Thursday show Bale's full body commitment to the character of Dick Cheney, whom Bale is portraying in Adam McKay's forthcoming (and yet untitled) biopic about the former vice president. The film will reportedly cover Cheney's "time serving as a Wyoming congressman up through his time in D.C. — with a few stops for hunting trips (and accidents) along the way," Vulture reports.

For reference, only a short time ago, Bale looked like this:

The film also stars Amy Adams as Dick Cheney's wife, Lynne Cheney:

Not too shabby! Jeva Lange

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