July 24, 2017

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will ask the Senate as early as Tuesday to begin debate on a bill to gut the Affordable Care Act, but not even Senate Republicans know what bill they will be asked to vote on. It isn't entirely clear they will know before voting to open debate, either. Some senators said that McConnell has assured them they would be told before voting on the "motion to proceed" whether they would be proceeding to a vote on one of the versions of a bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare or just to repeal much of the law. The No. 2 Senate Republican, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), said late last week that letting senators know what bill they would be voting on is "a luxury we don't have."

McConnell's current strategy "is to lean heavily on lawmakers to at least vote to allow debate on the bill, in the hopes that amendments and other tweaks could yield an agreement," The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. That strategy carries some risk, as do all the others. McConnell put together his version of the bill with no public hearings or deliberation in committee. On Friday, the Senate parliamentarian issued a preliminary ruling that some two dozen provisions in the GOP bill would require 60, not 50, votes, throwing a new wrinkle in McConnell's plans to pass the bill using the budget reconciliation process.

On Saturday, President Trump urged Senate Republicans to "step up to the plate" and "vote to repeal and replace" ObamaCare.

When CBS News political director John Dickerson asked Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) what's going on with the legislation on Sunday's Face the Nation, she said that was a good question. "It appears that we will have a vote on Tuesday," she said. "But we don't know whether we're going to be voting on the House bill, the first version of the Senate bill, the second version of the Senate bill, a new version of the Senate bill, or a 2015 bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act now and then said that somehow we'll figure out a replacement over the next two years. I don't think that's a good approach to facing legislation that affects millions of people and one sixth of our economy." The part on health care begins at the 4-minute mark. Peter Weber

8:30 a.m.

Saturday Night Live is back on NBC after its winter hiatus, and the cast was joined by an old friend.

Jon Lovitz returned for Saturday evening's cold open during which he portrayed President Trump's attorney Alan Dershowitz, who was preparing to argue the president's case in the Senate impeachment trial. As Lovitz's Dershowitz began his remarks, he was suddenly transported to the show's version of the underworld, where he met with the podcast-hosting devil, played by Kate McKinnon, who appears to be a huge fan of the lawyer.

While down there, Lovitz's Dershowitz was also greeted by Jeffrey Epstein, who was portrayed by the episode's host Adam Driver, and an assortment of other characters, including Flo from the Progressive commercials and Mr. Peanut. Watch the full clip below. Tim O'Donnell

8:01 a.m.

Saturday turned out to be a pretty good day for three of the leading Democratic presidential candidates.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) both received big news out of Iowa, which is gearing up for the Democratic caucus in just over a week. Sanders led relatively comfortably in the latest state poll from The New York Times and Siena College, while Warren picked up a key endorsement from Iowa's most significant newspaper, The Des Moines Register, which praised her economic acumen and decried people who label her as a radical.

But beyond Iowa, former Vice President Joe Biden still looked the favorite, at least when it comes to a new national poll released late Saturday evening by The Washington Post and ABC News. Biden was holding on to a nine point lead over Sanders with Warren checking in at a distant third. The vice president was also seen as the most likely candidate to defeat President Trump head-to-head by a significant 20-point margin over Sanders.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted by telephone from Monday through Thursday among a random national sample of 388 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. The margin of error is 6 percentage points. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

January 25, 2020

With little more than a week to go until the Democratic Iowa caucus, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is in command in the state, a new poll from The New York Times and Siena College revealed Saturday.

Sanders picked up 25 percent support in the latest survey, ahead of former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), all of whom are huddled closely at 18, 17, and 15 percent, respectively. That's a fairly sizable lead for Sanders, but as the Times points out, Iowans are known to shake things up late in the game, so nothing's a given in what's been a topsy-turvy race all year. But, for the moment, it doesn't look like Sanders' absence from the campaign trail because of the Senate impeachment trial has hurt him — indeed, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) reportedly filled in for him to much fanfare Saturday.

The Times did highlight, however, that Sanders' lead is contradictory to another key element in the poll. The majority of Iowa Democrats prefer a candidate who is more moderate than most Democrats at 55 percent, compared to just 38 percent who want someone more liberal than the average party member. Sanders, it's safe to say, falls into the latter camp. With candidates like Biden and Buttigieg lumped together in second and third, along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) at 8 percent, it appears that those moderate voters are split. It remains to be seen if they'll coalesce in the lead up to the caucus, but if they don't they may cancel each other out in the process.

The New York Times/Siena College Research Institute survey of 1,689 registered voters in Iowa, including 584 Democratic caucusgoers, was conducted from Jan. 20 to Jan. 23. The margin of error for the Democratic caucus electorate is 4.8 percentage points. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

January 25, 2020

President Trump's defense team kept things brief Saturday, as they launched their presentation against impeachment.

The defense, including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, Deputy White House Counsel Mike Purpura, and Trump's personal attorney Jay Sekulow, wrapped up their arguments in about two hours. While there's more to come Monday, there was no doubt they wanted to move along much more quickly than the Democratic prosecutors earlier this week. But it likely wasn't just so they could have the rest of their weekend free; instead, it seems to be a part of their strategy to get in the good graces of their Senate audience.

It's worked already in some cases — Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said the lawyers "shredded" the Democrats' case and she's leaning against voting for witnesses. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) followed the lead of some of his GOP colleagues and complimented the other side, saying he thought the defense did a "good job" and that their presentation was "succinct," though he doesn't think they showed enough to move forward without additional witnesses like former National Security Adviser John Bolton or acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Of course, not everyone thought Cipollone and company were very impressive. Tim O'Donnell

January 25, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo apparently isn't ready for the story about his post-interview encounter with NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly to go away.

Kelly, who asked Pompeo on Friday's episode of Morning Edition about Iran and the ousting of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, said the secretary was angered by her line of questioning and "shouted" at her in a private room following the interview. Kelly also said Pompeo challenged her to point out Ukraine on an unmarked map, which she did.

Pompeo didn't deny that the exchange occurred in an official statement released Saturday, but he accused Kelly of lying about the meeting being off the record. Kelly said no request to keep the discussion off the record was made, adding that she wouldn't have agreed to do it anyway. The secretary said Kelly violated the "basic rules of journalism and decency," providing "another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump."

He finished the letter with what appears to be a shot at Kelly's geography skills, though several people pointed out that it's unlikely Kelly would have gotten Ukraine's location wrong, especially as wildly as Pompeo insinuated. Tim O'Donnell

January 25, 2020

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) isn't a fan of the whole impeachment saga, but he's not taking it personally.

Many GOP lawmakers were angered by a comment made by lead impeachment prosecutor Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) during his closing arguments Friday. "CBS News reported last night that a Trump confidant said that key senators were warned, 'Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.' I don't know if that's true," Schiff said.

But Graham wasn't among the affronted. He said the comment was "over the top," but he's been in Schiff's shoes, so he understands that things can get away from you every once in a while in a tense environment.

Overall, Graham was complimentary of the Democrats arguments, even if the chance that they swayed his opinion is negligible. Tim O'Donnell

January 25, 2020

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have evidence pointing to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' girlfriend Lauren Sanchez as the person who provided her brother, Michael Sanchez, with text messages that he later sold to The National Enquirer for its article about Bezos' extramarital affair with Sanchez, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. There are no reports, however, that Lauren Sanchez was aware of her brother's plans.

The sources said the prosecutors' evidence includes text messages Sanchez sent her brother containing flirtatious messages and photos from Bezos in 2018.

The revelation comes on the heels of speculation that Saudi Arabia may have played a role in the leak, which was enhanced by reports that Bezos' phone was hacked after a WhatsApp conversation with an account belonging to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. The Verge notes that it still seems likely that Michael Sanchez was the primary source behind the Enquirer's story, but it's still possible that Saudi Arabia hacked Bezos' phone for separate reasons. Saudi Arabia denied the allegations. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

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