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March 10, 2017

The Republican Party's mad dash to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a new law, the American Health Care Act, is being driven by two big, related considerations: the calendar, and the Senate's budget "reconciliation" rules, which allow the Senate to pass certain pieces of legislation with a simple majority. The AHCA was written narrowly to fit within the constraints of the reconciliation rules, and whether it does will be partly determined by how much the Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will cost.

Without reconciliation, the already endangered bill won't clear the Senate. Without major changes to satisfy GOP conservatives, it may not pass the House. President Trump and some congressional Republicans have come up with a solution to this conundrum: Ignore the CBO and overrule the Senate parliamentarian, who determines which measures can be passed through the reconciliation maneuver, as long as 60 senators don't overrule her advice. This wouldn't be so much "working the refs" as ignoring them, and it would likely throw Congress into chaos.

The CBO — led by Republican appointee Keith Hall — is expected to estimate that the AHCA increases the budget deficit and cuts at least 15 million people off health insurance. The new GOP line is that CBO economists and statisticians can be ignored because their projections just aren't very good. Their main exhibit: The CBO score for ObamaCare. "If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) made a similar argument on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. (The CBO's ACA projections were actually "reasonably accurate," according to a 2015 Commonwealth Fund report.)

"I have no idea what the CBO report will say," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), "but I find it amusing that the right-wing Trump administration would try to cast doubt about the integrity of that report when it was the right-wing Republicans who handpicked its director."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and House conservatives, meanwhile, are arguing that Vice President Mike Pence, in his role as presiding officer of the Senate, can simply override any unfavorable reconciliation ruling by parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough. Cruz said he's been discussing that plan, which would allow the GOP to scrap things like ObamaCare's ban of discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, with "a number of my colleagues." Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and vice chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) promoted the idea with Trump over lunch on Thursday.

It's not clear if either of these maneuvers will work, but that's where the fight is going. Peter Weber

9:59 p.m.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) revealed on Tuesday that U.S. fighter jets intercepted six Russian warplanes off the coast of Alaska on Monday.

The four bombers and two fighter planes were intercepted by F-22 jets after they entered an area known as the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone, NBC News reports. In a statement, NORAD said the Russian planes "remained in international airspace and at no time did the aircraft enter United States or Canadian sovereign airspace," and the U.S. jets kept an eye on the Russian planes until they left the region.

Russia's Ministry of Defense said the planes were conducting planned exercises, which took place "over the neutral waters of the Chukotka, Bering, and Okhotsk Seas, as well as along the western coast of Alaska and the northern coast of the Aleutian Islands." Catherine Garcia

9:10 p.m.

A confidential draft Internal Revenue Service memo directly contradicts Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's reason for not turning over to Congress President Trump's tax returns, The Washington Post reports.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) formally requested Trump's tax returns last month; under a 1924 law, he is one of a handful of top lawmakers with the authority to do so. Mnuchin has refused to give Neal the returns, claiming Congress does not have a "legitimate legislative purpose" to request the documents.

The memo, obtained by the Post, states otherwise, asserting that it is "mandatory" the returns are disclosed, as the law "does not allow the Secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met." The only way the IRS can refuse to comply with a Congressional subpoena "would be the invocation of the doctrine of executive privilege," the memo states, which has not happened.

The IRS told the Post the draft was prepared in the fall by a lawyer in the Office of Chief Counsel, and does not represent the "official position" of the agency. Trump has not released his tax returns on his own, first claiming that he can't do so because he is under audit, and later saying no one could understand his complex filings anyway. Catherine Garcia

7:41 p.m.

A new CBS News poll finds that two-thirds of Americans do not want Roe v. Wade overturned, with 48 percent saying they would be angry if it were reversed.

The poll was conducted via telephone May 17 to 20, after Alabama passed the nation's strictest abortion law; the goal of anti-abortion lawmakers is to get a case to the Supreme Court so the justices can revisit Roe v. Wade. The poll shows that 26 percent of Americans would be satisfied if Roe v. Wade were overturned, while 23 percent don't think it would matter very much. Split by gender, 69 percent of women and 65 percent of men think Roe v. Wade should be kept as is, and 38 percent of women said they would be angry if it were overturned, compared to 24 percent of men.

Among Republicans, 45 percent say Roe v. Wade should be kept as is, while 48 percent want it overturned; 87 percent of Democrats say keep it as is, compared to 11 percent who want to see it overturned. Of the Republicans polled, 48 percent think abortion should be available but limited, while 16 percent think abortion should be generally available and 34 percent think it should be prohibited. On the Democratic side, 66 percent think abortion should be generally available, 20 percent think it should be available but limited, and 12 percent think it should not be permitted.

Pollsters spoke with a random sample of 1,101 adults nationwide. The margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points. Catherine Garcia

6:33 p.m.

President Trump will nominate Barbara Barrett as Secretary of the Air Force, he announced on Tuesday.

"She will be an outstanding Secretary!" Trump tweeted. Barrett is the former chair of the Aerospace Corporation, and was the first civilian woman pilot to land an F-18 fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, The Arizona Republic reports. She is also a former ambassador to Finland and advised former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. In 1994, she became the first female Republican to run for governor in Arizona, but did not win the nomination.

Heather Wilson resigned as Secretary of the Air Force in March, in order to become the next president of the University of Texas at El Paso. Catherine Garcia

5:32 p.m.

In public, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó remains optimistic about his efforts to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his United Socialist Party from power. But, privately, The New York Times reports, Guaidó and his advisers are beginning to feel the pressure from Maduro's forces after the opposition's failed military uprising in April.

"The persecution has been savage," Guaidó, who is recognized by several countries, including the United States, as Venezuela's legitimate interim president, told the Times.

Nowadays, Guaidó is often stationed inside one of several safe houses, while his deputy chief of staff Rafael Del Rosario remains in exile, after escaping Venezuela with his family by foot, aided by soldiers sympathetic to Guaidó's cause. Several other soldiers and legislators who stood by Guaidó in April are reportedly either in jail or being harbored in foreign embassies.

The situation has the opposition seriously considering negotiating with Maduro, which Guaidó had previously rejected, the Times reports. Last week representatives from the opposition and Maduro's government traveled to Norway for preliminary talks, though Guaidó maintains that the goal is to remove Maduro. Even the United States, Guaidó's most fervent supporter, has taken a step back from the situation, as President Trump has turned his attention more heavily toward Iran in recent weeks, making it even more unlikely that the Venezuelan opposition could secure U.S. military support if the situation intensifies. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

4:41 p.m.

More subpoenas are on the way for former White House employees and Hope Hicks, once the Trump administration's communications director, is next in line.

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) issued subpoenas on Tuesday to Hicks and Annie Donaldson, the chief of staff to former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who failed to show up to his scheduled hearing before Nadler's committee earlier on Tuesday. The two new subpoenas are part of a sprawling congressional investigation into the actions of the Trump administration, which spun off from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into 2016 Russian election interference. Nadler wants Hicks and Donaldson to answer questions concerning possible obstruction of justice on behalf of President Trump during Mueller's investigation, Bloomberg reports.

Donaldson kept very detailed notes of her meetings with McGahn, which were frequently cited in Mueller's report on his investigation, The Hill writes, while Hicks was considered to have played a "pivotal role," in the White House, serving as one of the president's most trusted advisers.

Hicks' and Donaldson's subpoenas order both of them to turn over documents by June 4 and then testify later that month — Hicks is scheduled for June 19, Donaldson for June 24. Tim O'Donnell

4:26 p.m.

Two Hollywood productions have just scrapped plans to film in Georgia over the state's new abortion law.

Director Reed Morano told Time on Tuesday that she has called off plans to scout locations in Georgia for her new Amazon Studios series The Power following Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signing a law that effectively bans abortion after six weeks. "We had no problem stopping the entire process instantly,” Morano said. "There is no way we would ever bring our money to that state by shooting there." Location scouts had been working in Savannah for months, one of whom already bought a house there and told Time, "we're in panic mode."

Additionally, the upcoming Kristen Wiig comedy Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar has also pulled out of Georgia, a representative for Wiig confirmed to Time. Wiig will star in this film and co-wrote it along with Annie Mumolo, whom she previously collaborated with on the hit 2011 comedy Bridesmaids.

This comes after a number of producers had announced plans to boycott Georgia, which has become a popular filming location thanks to its generous tax incentives. The Wire creator David Simon was among those who said his company wouldn't film in the state over the law. The Motion Picture Association of America previously said amid these boycotts that "the outcome in Georgia will also be determined through the legal process" and that "we will continue to monitor developments."

Some have objected to the Georgia boycotts, arguing they will only unjustly hurt the thousands of members of the film industry there. Morano told Time that while "I'm sorry if the work moves away from where you live ... having this basic fundamental right for women is more important than anything in this moment in time." Brendan Morrow

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