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March 13, 2017

The White House and House Republicans had spent days preparing to cast doubt on the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's estimates about the costs and benefits of the American Health Care Act, their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, and when the CBO score came in worse than expected on Monday in terms of health insurance coverage, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price followed through. "We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out," Price said following a Cabinet meeting with President Trump. "It's just not believable is what we would suggest."

The CBO's projected 24 million fewer people covered under health insurance, though, is actually slightly rosier than an internal White House analysis of the GOP health-care plan, Politico reports. Under the Trump administration's analysis, 26 million people would lose coverage over the next decade under the AHCA, including 17 million people who would lose Medicaid coverage, 6 million leaving the individual market, and 3 million people losing their employer-sponsored plans. In all, 54 million Americans would be without health insurance by 2026, the White House estimates, almost double the number estimated under current law.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney have argued that the goal of the law is affordability rather than expanding coverage, even though Trump repeatedly promised both — affordable health coverage for everyone. Ryan has also been trying to sell wary conservatives on the plan's "de-federalizing an entitlement," by making states pay more for Medicaid coverage and sharply reducing federal support. Peter Weber

11:27a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence appeared at The Washington Post's "Transformers: Space" event on Tuesday to discuss the Trump administration's developing Space Force. But first, he had some of the administration's strongest words yet regarding Jamal Khashoggi's presumed murder.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed Tuesday that Saudi officials had been planning to kill Khashoggi inside Istanbul's Saudi consulate since September. U.S. intelligence is reportedly also skeptical of the Saudi claim that "rogue" operatives killed the U.S.-based Saudi journalist, who wrote for the Post. Still, President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been reluctant to decry Saudi Arabian officials for their alleged involvement in the murder.

Pence, meanwhile, didn't hesitate to call Khashoggi's death a "brutal murder" and a "tragedy" at Tuesday's Post event. "It was also an assault on a free and independent press," Pence said, additionally confirming that CIA Director Gina Haspel is currently in Turkey to investigate.

Pence acknowledged that Erdogan's statement "flies in the face" of Saudi Arabia's claims of innocence. But he went on to echo Trump and Pompeo, calling for a full investigation into the murder. Once that is complete, the U.S. will take retaliatory action "in the context of America's vital interests in the region," Pence said, pointing to the U.S.-Saudi "alliance" that he claimed has been "renewed" under Trump's leadership. Watch Pence's remarks below. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:34a.m.

The Trump administration wants a legally bulletproof policy to discourage Central Americans from crossing into the U.S. And it wants it now.

With "a series of intense closed-door meetings," White House officials are scrambling to craft a new immigration policy that could serve as a rallying cry ahead of the midterm elections, The New York Times writes. Planners are weighing three ways of replacing the current "catch and release" policy, with the most probable option being a "voluntary" reboot of family separation, officials tell the Times.

Rumblings of a family separation redux first emerged earlier this month, when The Washington Post reported that White House adviser Stephen Miller was pushing for a legally stronger version of the much derided "zero tolerance" policy. The new plan, known as "binary choice," would require parents to "choose between voluntarily relinquishing their children to foster care or remaining imprisoned together as a family," the Times reports. It aims to "maximize deterrence and consequences for families," and currently seems to be the administration's favorite option, a person familiar with the plan tells the Times.

Another proposed plan would process families on "a first-in, first-out basis" to hopefully clear out immigration courts' massive backlog, the Times reports. A third would again try to raise the standards for granting asylum.

As a migrant caravan makes its way to the U.S., President Trump has grown frustrated at how long it has taken to rebuild a legally solid migrant-deterrence policy, the Times reports. With the midterms drawing closer, Trump and the GOP will likely continue relying on anti-immigration rhetoric alone to drum up GOP votes. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:18a.m.

Conspiracy-monger Alex Jones was on hand for the campaign rally with President Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in Houston Monday night, and he had a full conversation with a pile of horse poop.

Addressing the pile as "Beto" — as in, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), Cruz's Democratic challenger — Jones screamed attacks at his silent foe, making sure to glance up at the Infowars camera every few seconds. The performance was caught by Reason editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown, who was covering the rally:

Jones' rant is difficult to decipher as he is at least 20 feet from Brown, but he seems to take issue with O'Rourke's nickname, which Cruz and his allies have suggested is an attempt to appeal to Hispanic voters. Beto is a childhood moniker based on O'Rourke's full name, Robert.

Unfortunately for Jones, his interviewee wasn't giving him the answers he wanted. "Talk to me!" he yelled at the poop. "Treat me like a human!" Bonnie Kristian

10:18a.m.

Two weeks ahead of a likely tight election, Democrats' lead over Republicans in battleground districts has narrowed slightly, but there's at least one area where they've retained a decisive advantage.

A new Washington Post-Schar School poll of likely voters in 69 battleground districts found that of the 10 percent who have an unfavorable view of both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, about 6 in 10 prefer the Democratic candidates in their area. This 15-point advantage for the Democrats is a shift from 2014, when the Republicans had a 17-point advantage among battleground district voters who dislike both parties. Republicans that year ended up with their largest House majority since 1928.

These voters could be key, as all signs are pointing to a close election. Democrats overall have a slim three-point advantage over Republicans in this poll of battleground districts, which falls within the margin of error. That lead is down slightly from a Washington Post poll conducted earlier this month, in which Democrats had a four-point advantage.

The Democratic Party is looking to gain 23 seats in order to take the majority in the House. At the moment, they are favored to do so, while Republicans are expected to maintain control of the Senate.

This poll was conducted by speaking to 1,545 registered voters, including 1,269 likely voters, in battleground districts online or over the phone from Oct. 15 through Oct. 21. The margin of error is 3 percentage points. See more results at The Washington Post. Brendan Morrow

10:01a.m.

A Florida man named Bruce Michael Alexander has been charged with abusive sexual contact after he allegedly groped a woman on a flight from Houston to Albuquerque Sunday. His defense, per court documents: President Trump approves.

Alexander was seated behind the woman, identified only as C.W., while she napped. She reports she awoke to find him lifting her sweater and touching her near her bra line. C.W. wrote the first touch off as an accident, but about half an hour later, she says she was groped again. This time, she confronted Alexander and asked flight attendants to move him to another seat.

"After being placed in handcuffs" following landing, the criminal complaint against Alexander says, he asked officers about the sentence associated with his charge. He then invoked the Trump defense, telling them "the president of the United States says it's okay to grab women by their private parts."

It won't fly in court, but he's not wrong. Bonnie Kristian

9:30a.m.

Game 1 of the 2018 World Series is just hours away.

The best-of-seven series between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers — two of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball — is sure to be compelling. Clayton Kershaw, arguably the best pitcher of his generation, will start for the Dodgers tonight, facing off against Red Sox ace Chris Sale. The game starts at 8:09 p.m. ET.

Here are a few compelling numbers to help get you excited for this historic series.

102 — Years since the Red Sox and the Dodgers last faced off in the World Series. At the time — 1916! — the Dodgers were known as the Brooklyn Robins.

30 — Years since the Dodgers last won the World Series.

3 — Times the Red Sox have won the World Series since 2004, last doing so in 2013. Prior to 2004, the Red Sox hadn't won since 1918.

8 - Years since the Dodgers last played at Fenway Park.

50 — Temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, expected at Fenway Park during Game 1, although temperatures could drop into the 40s.

108 — Wins the Red Sox racked up during the regular season, 16 more than the Dodgers. This was a franchise record for the Red Sox.

$29 million — How much more expensive the Red Sox's payroll is than the Dodgers'; the Red Sox lead the MLB with $228.4 million, while the Dodgers come in third with $199.6 million.

$74 — Money you'd win if you successfully bet $100 on the Red Sox to win the World Series.

$115 — Money you'd win if you successfully bet $100 on the Dodgers to win the World Series.

1 - Supposed belly-button ring infection that kept Chris Sale from his last start in the American League Championship Series.

1 - Throat-slashing gesture made by fiery Dodgers star Yasiel Puig after belting a three-run homer in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. He also engaged in multiple "crotch chops."

Should be a fun series. Let's play ball! Brendan Morrow

8:50a.m.

The Mega Millions lottery jackpot has reached a record $1.6 billion ahead of Tuesday night's drawing. The semi-weekly prize has been ballooning since July 24, and had reached $1 billion ahead of Friday night's drawing, when, again, nobody picked all six winning numbers. It is likely someone will win on Tuesday, as 75 percent of the 302 million possible combinations will be chosen by then, based on sales projections. Roughly 57 percent of the combinations had been chosen before Friday's drawing. "Mega Millions has already entered historic territory, but it's truly astounding to think that now the jackpot has reached an all-time world record," said Gordon Medenica, lead director of the Mega Millions Group and director of Maryland Lottery and Gaming. Harold Maass

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