Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: May 5, 2017

House narrowly approves GOP plan to replace ObamaCare, Senate passes spending deal to avoid shutdown, and more


House narrowly passes plan to replace ObamaCare

The House narrowly approved the revised Republican plan to repeal and replace major elements of the Affordable Care Act on Thursday. The 217-213 vote put President Trump and GOP lawmakers a step closer to delivering on their promise to scrap ObamaCare after House Republicans came up short six weeks ago in their first attempt to push through the legislation. The bill's future is still uncertain, however, as provisions and spending cuts made to win over House conservatives are certain to face opposition in the Senate, where the GOP holds a narrow majority and Republicans have already rejected the House plan. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the GOP bill would rescue Americans from higher premiums and the "chaos" of ObamaCare, while Democrats warned moderate Republicans that they were committing "political suicide" by backing a bill that is unpopular with the public, as well as doctors and hospitals, and that would strip health insurance coverage from millions of Americans.


Senate approves spending deal to avert shutdown

The Senate on Thursday approved the $1.1 trillion spending deal Republicans and Democrats struck to meet a looming deadline and avert a government shutdown. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation to keep federal agencies running after funding under a stopgap spending measure runs out on Friday. The Senate voted 79 to 18 in favor of the deal, despite having complained about concessions to Democrats, who declared victory in the negotiations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, said the deal was a win for everybody. "Because of the hard work from both chambers and both sides of the aisle, we have a funding bill before us that can make many important and positive impacts in the lives of the people we represent," McConnell said.


Trump and Australia's Turnbull put 'testy' first phone call behind them

After celebrating the House's approval of the GOP plan to replace ObamaCare, President Trump returned to his hometown, New York City, on Thursday for his first face-to-face meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Australia is a longstanding U.S. ally, but Trump unexpectedly had a heated phone call with Turnbull in January in which Trump complained about a refugee deal. The two leaders met on board the USS Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier now serving as a museum, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, and to smooth over their relationship after a bumpy start. Trump lauded the longstanding ties between the U.S. and Australia and said that reporters had exaggerated the phone call's significance. "It got a little bit testy. But that's okay," he said. Later he added, "I mean, we're not babies." Turnbull said: "We can put the refugee deal behind you and move on."


Trump says first foreign trip will include Vatican, Israel, and Saudi Arabia stops

President Trump said Thursday that he would visit the Vatican, Israel, and Saudi Arabia during his first foreign trip as president later this month. Aides said Trump would use the trip to start laying the foundation for a new Middle East peace effort, and turn around negative images of Trump abroad. "Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam, and it is there that we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism, and violence, and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries," Trump said. The visits will come before Trump goes to a NATO meeting in Brussels on May 25, and a G7 meeting in Italy the next day.


Trump deletes tweet saying it was 'an honor' to host Abbas

President Trump met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, tweeting that it was "an honor" to host Abbas at the White House. "Hopefully something terrific will come out of it between the Palestinians and Israel," Trump said in the tweet. In remarks later in the day, Trump said again that he was pleased to welcome Abbas and pledged to work toward peace between the Palestinians and Israel. Later, however, Trump deleted his tweet without offering an explanation, something he has done about a dozen times since taking office.


House approves new sanctions against North Korea

The House of Representatives voted nearly unanimously to impose new sanctions against North Korea to increase pressure on the Hermit Kingdom to curb its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The bipartisan legislation, which was approved in a 419-1 vote, bars ships from North Korea or from countries that refuse to comply with United Nations resolutions against it from operating in U.S. waters or docking at American ports. The bill also would bar goods made with North Korean forced labor from entering the U.S. The measure now goes to the Senate.


Hillary Clinton working on new group to resist Trump agenda

Hillary Clinton is working on launching a new political group to support organizations resisting President Trump's agenda, Politico reported Thursday, citing people familiar with the plans. The group is expected to be called Onward Together, a nod to the slogan Stronger Together that Clinton used as the Democratic presidential nominee in last year's election. The new organization is expected to be launched as soon as next week as Clinton emerges from a quiet stretch after her loss in the November election and begins to publicly back groups working toward policy goals she shares.


U.S. planes to be barred from Syria safe zones

The warplanes of the U.S.-led coalition will not be allowed to fly over "de-escalation zones" to be established in Syria under a new plan signed by Russia, Iran, and Turkey, a Russian negotiator said Friday. The safe zones are designed to provide relief for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by years of fighting. The deal bars all military aircraft, including those from Russia, Turkey, and the Syrian government, from four areas in the war-torn country. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "welcomes the commitments to ceasing the use of all weapons, particularly aerial assets," according to a U.N. statement. Russia plans later Friday to release details on the plan, which reportedly is scheduled to take effect on Saturday. Some members of the Syrian opposition walked out of the talks in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, to protest Iran's involvement.


Justice Department opens criminal investigation into Uber's 'Greyball' tool

The Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into Uber's use of secret software it developed, called Greyball, to help its drivers evade authorities in places where its ride-hailing service had not been approved, including Portland, Oregon. The company stopped using Greyball to identify transportation regulators posing as customers after The New York Times broke the story of the software tool's existence in March. The company said it used the tool for those purposes "exceedingly sparingly" in Portland before the service was approved there in 2015, and that it had created Greyball to prevent fraud and protect drivers. The federal investigation is in its early stages, but it could deepen the company's recent struggles with negative publicity about its aggressive tactics. Uber and the Justice Department declined to comment.


Trump praises Australia's universal health-care system

In an unexpected follow-up to the House vote to repeal and replace ObamaCare, President Trump on Thursday praised Australia's health-care system during a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Trump said the GOP plan, which still faces tough opposition in the Senate, is "going to be fantastic health care. I shouldn't say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia because you have better health care than we do." Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pounced on the remark. "Well Mr. President, you're right, in Australia and every other major country on Earth they guarantee health care to all people," Sanders said on CNN. "So maybe when we get to the Senate we should start off with looking at the Australian health-care system."


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