On Tuesday evening, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said that he was ending bipartisan negotiations for a bill to stabilize health insurance markets and make a few changes to the Affordable Care Act, because after four hearings and involved negotiations, his group had "not found the necessary consensus among Republicans and Democrats." The unexpected decision appears aimed at shoring up support for the Senate GOP's last-ditch plan to repeal ObamaCare, sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), by removing any alternative legislation.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the HELP Committee and Alexander's main negotiating partner, said she is "disappointed that Republican leaders have decided to freeze this bipartisan approach and are trying to jam through a partisan TrumpCare bill," adding that she is still committed to reaching a bipartisan deal. Alexander said that especially since Graham-Cassidy gained steam, appetite within his party for his bill was very low. "I know how to get bipartisan results, but I'm not a magician," he said.
Republicans expect to start voting on Graham-Cassidy next Wednesday, Axios reports, before a Sept. 30 deadline for passing a health-care bill with only 50 votes, with no Democrats. The Congressional Budget Office won't have its analysis on how much the bill would affect coverage or its costs for consumers until October. On Tuesday, a group of 11 governors, including five Republicans and independent Gov. Bill Walker (Alaska), urged the Senate to drop Graham-Cassidy, joining AARP, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and other patient advocacy groups, plus Jimmy Kimmel.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are believed to be opposed to the bill, and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are seen as the key votes on the measure — three GOP no votes, and it doesn't pass. Haley Bird at the Independent Journal Review notes:
McCain just told us he wants regular order bipartisan health bill and 10 minutes later Republicans killed the regular order bipartisan bill
— Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) September 19, 2017
Graham-Cassidy would convert ObamaCare's subsidies and Medicaid payments to block grants to states, allowing each state ample leeway to decide coverage rules and patient protections, plus cut Medicaid sharply and change its structure. Graham argues that it's the last barrier to "socialism." Peter Weber
If you follow White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Twitter and saw her Thursday afternoon post announcing the Trump administration has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to D.C. this fall, then you were briefly more informed about the matter than Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats informed on stage at Aspen Security Forum that the Trump administration has invited Vladimir Putin to the White House.
"Say that again," he responds. https://t.co/RBdhdILVas pic.twitter.com/TZal1Xb4Yi
— ABC News (@ABC) July 19, 2018
Coats found out about the invite during an interview with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell at the Aspen Security Forum. "Say that again?" he asked, laughing uncomfortably. Mitchell repeated herself and Coats chuckled again, exhaled, and said, "That's gonna be special." Coats later stated that "based on my reaction, I wasn't aware of that."
Coats also said he doesn't know what happened during President Trump's one-on-one meeting with Putin Monday in Helsinki, and had Trump asked him "how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that's not my role. That's not my job. So it is what it is." Catherine Garcia
Trump invited Putin to come visit him in Washington — during the midterm elections that Russia is attacking
There are discussions underway for Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit President Trump in Washington, D.C., in the fall, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday.
The White House has so far been short on details regarding any specific deals or commitments that were made when Trump met with Putin on Monday, but Sanders said that Trump had asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin to the U.S. in the coming months.
In Helsinki, @POTUS agreed to ongoing working level dialogue between the two security council staffs. President Trump asked @Ambjohnbolton to invite President Putin to Washington in the fall and those discussions are already underway.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) July 19, 2018
A visit in the fall would coincide with the midterm elections, which intelligence officials say Russia is attempting to manipulate with ongoing cyberattacks. While Sanders did not say whether Putin had accepted, she noted that Trump had agreed to "ongoing working level dialogue between the two security council staffs." Summer Meza
In the first official rebuke of President Trump's controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, the Senate on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a measure to prevent Russia from interrogating U.S. officials, reports Bloomberg.
The White House had revealed Wednesday that Trump was "working with his team" to consider whether to turn over American citizens, including former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, to the Kremlin for questioning, only to walk back the idea on Thursday. Trump originally called it an "incredible offer" because Putin had suggested allowing the U.S. to question Russians accused of interfering in the 2016 election in exchange.
The resolution against the "offer" was passed 98-0, with all Democrats and most Republicans voting to approve it. "Let this resolution be a warning to the administration that Congress will not allow this to happen," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Read more at Bloomberg. Summer Meza
Papa John's has had a tough time lately, but a few decades ago, when things were looking up, founder John Schnatter wanted employees to think of his thriving pizza empire when they literally looked up.
Forbes reported Thursday that Schnatter commissioned a ceiling fresco of his own face when he was building the company's new headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, in the late 1990s.
Immortalizing his mug onto a company ceiling wasn't Schnatter's only eccentric behavior at the time, employees told Forbes. He would also conduct company meetings while atop his exercise bike, and insisted on knowing what was going on at the headquarters even after he moved to an office 20 minutes away. Many of the other recollections of Schnatter's leadership isn't so pleasant — former employees allege that Schnatter was vindictive, controlling, and often made inappropriate comments toward women.
Even though the pizza mogul reportedly "bristled" at the idea of appearing in fewer advertisements now that he's embroiled in a couple of very-public scandals, the company is slowly moving on without him, taking him out of ads and possibly looking for a new John to crown as Papa. It's probably safe to guess that his fresco has been painted over by now, too. Read more at Forbes. Summer Meza
The world asked, and Egypt answered.
Archaeologists opened the creepy black sarcophagus they uncovered last week, the country's ministry of antiquities announced Thursday. There's no sign of a curse, but the contents are still revolting.
The sealed coffin was the largest ever found in Alexandria, Egypt, and looters somehow never cracked its lid during its 2,000 years in the ground. That job was left to archaeologists, who granted Twitter users' wishes and unsealed the tomb Thursday.
Inside, archaeologists found the remains of what appear to be three warriors, as one skeleton looks like it was struck with an arrow. There's also a lot of nasty red sewage that leaked in over the millenia. The sarcophagus, sans sewage, will be restored and transferred to an Alexandria museum, per the ministry.
Salsa is supposed to bring the heat to a chip-and-dip combination. But at a Texas factory, it's the tortilla chips that are on fire.
Earlier this month, firefighters responded to the "spontaneous combustion of tortilla chips" twice in three days at an Austin factory, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The factory was trying a new waste management method which "suffice it to say, didn't work out so well," the fire department said on Facebook. (The newspaper dryly notes that "officials were unclear about how the new process could have led to the fire.") When responding to the first blaze, firefighters watched as boxes of discarded chips kept lighting up. Three days later, it happened again.
Luckily, no chips were toasted inside the factory — this all happened outside. And fear not: Firefighters doused the remaining boxes to make sure the blaze didn't triple dip. Kathryn Krawczyk
President Trump is "not happy" with rising interest rates from the Federal Reserve.
"I'm not thrilled," he told CNBC in an interview that the network will air on Friday. "Because we go up and every time you go up they want to raise rates again. I am not happy about it. But at the same time I'm letting them do what they feel is best." Trump claimed that the rate hikes were damaging his administration's efforts, saying he doesn't "like all of this work that we're putting into the economy and then I see rates going up."
It's essentially unprecedented for a president to criticize the Fed this way, but Trump's comments are also unusual given his past views on interest rates. Previously, Trump said that low interest rates were creating a "false economy" under the Obama administration, but he also called the Fed's decisions part of a partisan plot to help Democrats look good.
Former Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said that "no president should interfere with the workings of the Fed," citing the "hallmark" independence of the central bank. Trump acknowledged that most officials wouldn't publicly criticize the Fed, but shrugged off any negativity. "So somebody would say, 'Oh, maybe you shouldn't say that as president,'" he said. "I couldn't care less what they say," he continued, because "I'm just saying the same thing that I would have said as a private citizen." Read more at CNBC. Summer Meza