10 things you need to know today: April 28, 2017

House Republicans drop push for health bill vote, Arkansas executes fourth inmate in lethal injection push, and more

Paul Ryan at the Capitol
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

1. GOP scraps plan for Friday vote on health bill

Republicans backed off from their push for a Friday vote on a revised proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare after House GOP leaders failed to muster enough votes to pass the legislation. The decision removes a potential obstacle toward getting Democrats to agree to a stopgap spending deal to avert a government shutdown at midnight, but thwarts President Trump's push to deliver on his campaign promise to replace the Affordable Care Act in his first 100 days in office, which wrap up on Saturday. Supporters of the bill won over the conservative Freedom Caucus with revisions that would have let states opt out of key ObamaCare requirements, but the changes drove away some moderates. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), who proposed the amendment, said despite the delay Republicans were "closer today than we've ever been" to passing the health bill. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Trump was "making fools" of allies in the House by pressuring them to vote for a bill that is unpopular with the public.

The New York Times

2. Arkansas executes fourth inmate in 11 days

Arkansas executed Kenneth Williams, 38, on Thursday night, marking the fourth of eight scheduled executions the state had scheduled over 11 days. Courts blocked the other four planned executions. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) scheduled the unprecedented flurry of executions to get them done before the state's supply of one of its three lethal injection drugs expires at the end of the month. Williams, 38, was sentenced to death for killing a college cheerleader, then killing a former deputy warden after escaping from prison less than three weeks into a life sentence. He also killed a driver in a wreck during his escape, and confessed to another 1998 murder. In his final statement, Williams offered his "sincerest apologies" to his victims' families. His lawyers said that Williams' body convulsed numerous times after the lethal injection was started, accusing the state of "torturing" him to death. Hutchinson said the movement was just "an involuntary muscular reaction." State officials declared the string of executions a success, saying they brought "closure" to victims' families.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette The Associated Press

3. Pentagon watchdog launches investigation into Michael Flynn's foreign payments

The Pentagon's acting attorney general's office confirmed Thursday that it had started an investigation into payments that Michael Flynn, President Trump's ousted national security adviser, received from a Russian state-sponsored TV network and other foreign sources. The Pentagon watchdog is looking into whether the money should be viewed as having come from a foreign government, and whether Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, followed rules on notifying military authorities. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, released documents he said showed that the Pentagon had informed Flynn when he retired in 2014 — in "terms that could not have been clearer" — that he had to notify authorities of any such work.

The Associated Press

4. Trump says 'major, major conflict' with North Korea is still possible

President Trump said Thursday that a "major, major conflict" is possible with North Korea over its missile and nuclear weapons programs, but he favors a diplomatic solution. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that China, under pressure from the U.S., had warned North Korea not to test another nuclear weapon, or it will face sanctions. President Trump has called on China, Pyongyang's most powerful ally, to increase pressure on the isolated communist nation to curb its missile and nuclear weapons sanctions. The Trump administration has said that all options are on the table, including military action, to keep North Korea from reaching its goal of developing a nuclear warhead it can fit on a missile to threaten the U.S. and its allies.

Reuters The Associated Press

5. Senate confirms Alexander Acosta as labor secretary

The Senate on Thursday confirmed former U.S. attorney Alexander Acosta as labor secretary. The 60-38 vote made Acosta, a Cuban American from Miami, the first Latino in President Trump's Cabinet. Acosta, 48, will be tasked with addressing policies that have gone unattended for the 100 days of Trump's administration, such as Trump's order to review and possibly undo rules finalized near the end of the Obama administration. One would more than double the income level determining whether workers are eligible for overtime pay. Another requires financial professionals put the interests of retirement savers they work with ahead of their own.

The Washington Post

6. Two U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Two American soldiers were killed in the eastern Afghanistan province of Nangarhar in an operation against an Islamic State affiliate, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said Thursday. The operation targeted the Afghanistan wing of the terrorist group, known as ISIS-K; another Special Operations Forces soldier was wounded but is expected to live. "The fight against ISIS-K is important for the world, but sadly, it is not without sacrifice," said Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. The Nangarhar region is a hotbed for ISIS, and has been the site of many U.S.-Afghan joint counterterrorism operations. It is also near where the U.S. dropped the so-called "mother of all bombs" earlier this month.


7. Trump threatens to pull out of 'horrible' South Korea trade pact

President Trump on Thursday threatened to pull out of the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement with South Korea, calling it a "Hillary Clinton disaster" and a "horrible" deal for the U.S. "We've told them that we'll either terminate or negotiate" the agreement, which was ratified in 2011, Trump told The Washington Post. Trump also said he wanted to charge Seoul for using the U.S. THAAD missile-defense system, an idea South Korea rejected. "I said, 'Why are we paying? Why are we paying a billion dollars? We're protecting. Why are we paying a billion dollars?'" Trump told Reuters. The U.S. is almost done installing THAAD to protect South Korea from a North Korean missile strike.

The Washington Post Reuters

8. Fewer visas issued to citizens from nations targeted in Trump travel ban

Temporary visas issued to citizens in the seven nations covered in President Trump's travel bans dropped by 40 percent in March, compared to the average month last year, Reuters reported, citing government data released Thursday. The number of non-immigrant visas issued from all countries was up by almost 5 percent. The U.S. provided about 3,200 non-immigrant visas to people from the Muslim-majority nations included in the bans — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen — although the measures have been blocked by courts. In 2016, 5,700 such visas were issued in the average month, and more than 6,000 were provided in the average month in the two previous years.


9. United Airlines reaches settlement with passenger dragged off plane

United Airlines has reached an amicable settlement with Dr. David Dao, the passenger who was forcibly removed from his seat and dragged bleeding off a flight in Chicago to make room for a crew member from a partner airline, Dao's lawyers said Thursday. The news came as United released the results of its investigation into the April 9 incident. The report said United employees had made several mistakes, including calling in Chicago aviation police when there was no safety or security threat. "This is a turning point for all of us at United and it signals a culture shift toward becoming a better, more customer-focused airline," CEO Oscar Munoz said. "Our customers should be at the center of everything we do and these changes are just the beginning of how we will earn back their trust."

The Washington Post

10. Cleveland grabs Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett as first pick in NFL draft

The Cleveland Browns picked Myles Garrett, a 6-foot-4, 272-pound Texas A&M defensive end, as the first overall selection in the 2017 NFL draft on Thursday night. Garrett is considered an impressive pass-rusher who runs the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.64 seconds and is expected to be a force in the NFL. The Chicago Bears chose second, surprising everyone by drafting North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who only started one season at the position in college. Leonard Fournette, who rushed for 3,830 yards and 40 touchdowns for LSU, was the first running back to go, selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars as the No. 4 overall pick.

The Denver Post The New York Times

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