10 things you need to know today: July 16, 2017

Senate health bill just 1 GOP defection shy of defeat, McConnell delays health vote over McCain's surgery, and more

Sen. Mitch McConnell
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

1. Senate health bill just 1 GOP defection shy of defeat

Republicans control the Senate 52-48, which gives Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a narrow margin for passing the GOP health-care bill. Already, two GOP senators, Maine's Susan Collins and Kentucky's Rand Paul, have announced they plan to vote no, leaving McConnell as of Sunday just one defection shy of defeat. At least four other Republican senators are on the fence: moderates Rob Portman (Ohio), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and Dean Heller (Nev.), as well as Utah conservative Mike Lee, who is reportedly skeptical of an amendment added to the bill by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Reuters Politico

2. McConnell delays health vote over McCain's surgery

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Saturday night his intention to delay the coming week's planned vote on the Senate version the GOP health-care bill. McConnell cited as his reason that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will be at home, recuperating from a Friday surgery in Phoenix. "While John is recovering, the Senate will continue our work on legislative items and nominations, and will defer consideration of the Better Care Act," McConnell said. As the whip list currently stands, the health-care bill cannot pass without McCain's vote; McConnell has yet to set a new vote date.

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The New York Times The Washington Post

3. Trump Jr.'s lawyer paid $50,000 shortly before meeting news broke

President Trump's campaign, which is actively fundraising for 2020, spent $677,826 on "legal consulting" in April, May, and June of this year, new campaign finance disclosures revealed Saturday. That is a marked rise from the campaign's legal expenditures in the first quarter of 2017; for example, $538,265 of that figure went to the organization's primary law firm, which from January to March received just $190,306. Also included in the total is $50,000 for Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer, paid two weeks before the revelation of Trump Jr.'s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer and a former Soviet counterintelligence officer in hopes of acquiring incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

Politico The Hill

4. Trump hires new lawyer for Russia investigation

President Trump has added another attorney, Ty Cobb, to his legal team to help manage his response to ongoing federal investigations into allegations of collusion between ranking members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government to manipulate the 2016 election. Cobb is a veteran lawyer and former federal prosecutor. His hiring was first reported Friday by Bloomberg News, and confirmed by the White House Saturday. Cobb will "seek to play the role of crisis manager and disciplinarian," The Washington Post reports, guiding an administration struggling to handle a steady stream of new Russia-related revelations.

The New York Times Bloomberg

5. Trump's 6-month approval rating at historic low

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll released Sunday sees President Trump's approval rating at a historic low as he reaches the half-year mark in his presidency. Just 36 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing, which is 6 percent lower than his approval rating at the 100-day point. Trump's disapproval rating is 58 percent. Former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both had approval ratings of 59 percent at this stage of their presidencies; the only president to come close to Trump's unpopularity was Gerald Ford, at 39 percent at the six-month mark.

The Washington Post Politico

6. Venezuelan opposition holds unofficial protest vote

After more than 100 days of protests against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's plan to rewrite the country's constitution to consolidate his own power, opposition leaders have organized a symbolic referendum Sunday to undermine Maduro's legitimacy. Voters willing to participate in the national act of civil disobedience can head to one of 2,000 polling places set up for the occasion to weigh in on three questions: Do they reject the constitutional rewrite; should the military defend the existing government structure; and should an early election be called before 2018, the scheduled end of Maduro's current term?

The Associated Press Reuters

7. Turkey marks 1-year anniversary of failed coup

Saturday was the one-year anniversary of a failed military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a day millions of Turks marked with memorial rallies across the country. "Exactly a year ago today, around this hour, a treacherous attempt took place," Erdogan said at a large rally in Istanbul, vowing to "rip the heads off of these traitors" in a reference to subsequent terror attacks. In the last year, Erdogan has fired more than 100,000 government employees; about 50,000 people, including some journalists, are currently under arrest in connection to the coup attempt.

Los Angeles Times The Associated Press

8. U.S. journalist missing, 5 park rangers dead in Congo

An American journalist and three Congolese park rangers went missing in a wildlife reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo late Friday, and five Congolese rangers sent to find them were reported dead Sunday. "There are five dead. They are all park rangers who were involved in the operation," said Alfred Bongwalanga Efoloko, a regional administrator. No information has been released about how they died. Efoloko remains "optimistic" the journalist and other rangers will be found. The U.S. State Department is aware of the situation, but would not offer detailed comment for privacy reasons.

The Associated Press Reuters

9. Skydiver planned suicide by not using parachute

A skydiver named Capotorto Vitantonio left his wife, Costansa Litellini, a video message telling her he was "not going to pull the [parachute] cord and that he was going somewhere wonderful" before jumping to his death Tuesday, said police in DeLand, Florida. Litellini called the skydiving facility to stop Vitantonio's jump, but her warning arrived too late, as her husband had already exited the plane. Investigators initially believed the death was accidental, but the message indicated it was suicide. Vitantonio, an Italian national, was an experienced skydiver reportedly employed by a parachute company.

Orlando Sentinel The Washington Post

10. Disney previews coming Star Wars land attraction, Galaxy's Edge

Disney Parks on Saturday offered the first detailed look at its coming Star Wars attraction at California's Disneyland. The reveal at the D23 fan expo in Anaheim, California, included an announcement of the new park area's name, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The multi-acre expansion will "transport guests to a never-before-seen planet, a remote trading port and one of the last stops before Wild Space," the company said. Among the new rides is one that lets guests fly Han Solo's iconic ship, the Millennium Falcon. Disney is also working on new attractions featuring Marvel and Pixar characters.

Los Angeles Times Disney

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Bonnie Kristian

Bonnie Kristian was a deputy editor and acting editor-in-chief of TheWeek.com. She is a columnist at Christianity Today and author of Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community (forthcoming 2022) and A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (2018). Her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.