On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on legislation to "modernize" the Endangered Species Act, part of a push by Republicans to roll back environmental regulations and protections. The Republicans on the committee, led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and three of the five witnesses at the hearing argued that the 1973 law to keep animal species from extinction impedes oil drilling, mining, and farming, and infringes on the rights of states and private landowners. The proposed legislation would make it harder to list animals on the endangered species list and limit legal action under the 1973 law, among other changes.
Barrassso painted the bill as a way to cut "red tape," while Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the Endangered Species Act makes it too hard to take animals off the list, arguing that only 50 of the 1,600 species listed as endangered or threatened have been removed. Jamie Rappaport Clark, head of the conservation nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, testified that the Obama administration removed 29 species from the endangered list in eight years, in a sign that the law is working. "For more than 40 years, the ESA has been successful, bringing the bald eagle, the American alligator, the Stellar sea lion, the peregrine falcon, and numerous other species back from the brink of extinction," she said. "Based on data from the (Fish and Wildlife Service), the ESA has saved 99 percent of listed species from extinction."
There's a parallel push to scale back the Endangered Species Act in the House — House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wants to repeal it entirely, arguing that "it has never been used for the rehabilitation of species" but instead has "been used to control the land." On Wednesday night's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee was puzzled at the constituency for killing the Endangered Species Act. "The vast majority of Americans support wildlife protection," she said, citing a Defenders of Wildlife poll showing 84 percent support for the law (an American Farm Bureau Federation poll was more nuanced.) "'Animals are awesome' is the only safe topic of conversation most American families have left. Left-right, old-young, black-white, Americans agree: Four legs, good."
President Trump, who has already delayed adding an endangered bumblebee to the endangered species list, is expected to sign any legislation that comes to his desk. Peter Weber
Lindsey Graham admits his health-care bill has 'imperfections,' urges colleagues to vote for it anyway
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the co-sponsor of the Republican health-care bill, was overheard on his cell phone at Reagan National Airport calling on colleagues to vote for the legislation despite "all its imperfections," The Associated Press reports. AP learned that Fox News host Sean Hannity was on the other end of the line.
"We're going to vote," Graham added to Hannity in an interview. "Everybody will be held accountable."
Graham is not the only one to think that Republicans are moving forward on less-than-ideal legislation, though. On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Des Moines Register that "I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn't be considered." He explained, though, that "Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill."
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week. Jeva Lange
Late Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission said that it discovered last month that a 2016 hack of its computer filing system for publicly traded companies "may have provided the basis for illicit gain through trading." The "software vulnerability in the test filing component of the commission's EDGAR system" has been patched, and while the "intrusion" was discovered last year, the SEC said, it only learned about the possible use of pilfered information to trade stocks for illegal profit after SEC Chairman Jay Clayton ordered a cybersecurity review in May 2017.
The SEC statement did not say why the agency didn't disclose the breach last year, when the system was hacked, or whether specific companies were targeted. The SEC is the federal government's main Wall Street regulator. "Cybersecurity is critical to the operations of our markets and the risks are significant and, in many cases, systemic," Clayton said. "We must be vigilant. We also must recognize — in both the public and private sectors, including the SEC — that there will be intrusions, and that a key component of cyber risk management is resilience and recovery." Peter Weber
Sen. Jeff Flake tells Stephen Colbert why he's voting for Graham-Cassidy despite his bipartisan reputation
Senate Republicans are planning to vote next week on the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill, and they can only lose two Republican senators to squeak it through with the vice president's tie-breaking vote. One of the Republicans who says he's a yes on Graham-Cassidy, Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), came on Stephen Colbert's Late Show Wednesday night and explained his thinking. "Why not wait to know what you're voting on before you affect one-sixth of the American economy?" Colbert asked. "Let me say, I want a bipartisan solution," Flake replied. "Part of the problem with ObamaCare is that it was pushed through by one party, and we're going to have the same kind of problem if we just do this long-term," but right now, 200,000 Arizonans don't have viable insurance options.
Flake said he thinks health care is better managed at the state level, and that governors will do a better job than federal officials at enabling health care for less money. (The last GOP health-care bill in July was supported by just 6 percent of Arizona voters, according to one poll.) Colbert asked Flake if he thinks Republicans have the vote to pass it, and he said yes. "It's going to come down to the final few senators," he said. "I hope we can. Like I said, people in Arizona are hurting, and that's who I'm responding to. We've got to fix it in a bipartisan way going forward — obviously it is never good for one party to push something through on its own. In the meantime, we've got to make sure that everybody has insurance." Flake did not connect those two thoughts, exactly, but you can watch his full argument below. Peter Weber
Stephen Colbert's Late Show kicked off Wednesday night with an homage to the late horror director George A. Romero and the zombie genre he spawned, plus a dig at Zombie TrumpCare.
Yes, Republicans are trying once again to repeal and replace ObamaCare, Colbert said. "This is beyond beating a dead horse. This is getting damn close to beastiality." And they have until Sept. 30 to do it, minus three Jewish holidays, because that's when their filibuster-proof powers vanish for the fiscal year, and they've reserved next year for Democrat-free tax reform. "It's a race against the clock — they've got 10 days to overhaul the health-care system or everybody lives!" Colbert joked.
He explained how the bill works, roughtly, then noted that former President Barack Obama, who has gotten very gray — "That's how bad Donald Trump is," Colbert said. "Obama is aging faster watching someone else be president!" — weighed in on Wednesday, defending the law the colloquially bears his name. But Colbert used a quote from Trump adviser Stephen Moore about people only wanting insurance for their families, and a fake TV ad, to remind everyone what health insurance is actually about.
Colbert then found some bemused mirth in President Trump's invention on Wednesday of a new African country while meeting with African leaders. "Now, there is no such country as Nambia," Colbert said. "Despite that, they might soon have a better health-care system than we do." Peter Weber
An aid truck hired by the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver aid to Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh drove off a road and into a ditch Thursday morning, killing at least nine aid workers and injuring 10 others. More than 420,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh from their home in Myanmar since Aug. 25, when an attack by Rohingya insurgents sparked a harsh crackdown on the minority group in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. The Bangladeshi workers killed and injured were delivering food packages to 500 Rohingya families, ICRC spokeswoman Misada Saif said, and the Red Cross and Red Crescent are "very shocked and sad" at the deaths of workers "there to help the people who desperately need help."
Hours earlier, a Buddhist mob in the capital of Myanmar's Rakhine state tried to block a shipment of bottled water, food, blankets, mosquito nets, and other supplies for the Rohingya being loaded onto a ship. Some 300 protesters started throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at police trying to protect the loading of Red Cross supplies, and police fired in the air to ward them off, an officer tells The Associated Press. Peter Weber
Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-Calif.) believes the whole Russian election-meddling story is a farce, recently met with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange in London then reportedly tried to trade an Assange pardon for purported evidence exculpating Russia, and is so notably pro-Russia that his House GOP colleagues "joked" last year that he was probably on the take from Russian President Vladimir Putin. So, "who the hell is Dana Rohrabacher?" Seth Meyers asked on Wednesday's Late Night.
In his "check-in" on Rohrbacher, Meyers explained how "Putin's favorite congressman" came to admire the Russians, how he met and cavorted with Putin in the early '90s, and why Rohrbacher seems to turn up at meetings with many of the same Kremlin-linked figures tied to the Trump-Russia investigation. Oh, and he admitted to smoking marijuana. "So he's a weed-loving, pro-Russia guitar player," Meyers said. "He's basically the guy who ruined every party I went to in college." For the fuller picture, watch below. Peter Weber
Senate Republicans plan to vote next week on the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill, despite opposition from every major medical and patient health association, the insurance trade group AHIP, Blue Cross Blue Shield, every Democrat, Jimmy Kimmel, President Trump's ally Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), and a handful of other Republican governors, and no Congressional Budget Office analysis of its affects on consumers and coverage. The legislation is believed to have the support of at least 48 Republican senators, with Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Rand Paul (Ky.) voicing opposition — though Paul also opposed earlier versions of similar bills and voted for them anyway — and Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) are noncommittal. It needs 50 votes to pass. With so much at stake, CNN dabbled in a little bit of body-language analysis from video of the Senate floor on Wednesday evening. You can watch below. Peter Weber