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September 20, 2017

On Tuesday, Vox interviewed nine Republican senators about the Graham-Cassidy bill, the GOP's last-ditch effort to repeal ObamaCare. Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass the bill with a simple majority vote, but 10 days out they seemed to be struggling to pin down exactly why the Graham-Cassidy bill should pass.

Though senators generally agreed that the bill would return power to the states, they had less to say on the finer points of how this could happen without millions of Americans losing insurance coverage and why the bill calls for such drastic cuts to federal spending.

Below, catch some particularly illustrative tidbits from Vox writer Jeff Stein's conversations with these lawmakers. And then head over to Vox to read the rest. Becca Stanek

  • Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) on why Graham-Cassidy makes "things better" for Americans:

Pat Roberts
"Look, we're in the back seat of a convertible being driven by Thelma and Louise, and we're headed toward the canyon. That's a movie that you've probably never seen — "

Jeff Stein
"I do know Thelma and Louise, sir."

Pat Roberts
"So we have to get out of the car, and you have to have a car to get into, and this is the only car there is." [Vox]

  • Sen. Richard Shelby, on the bill's proposed cuts to federal funding for states by 34 percent over the next decade: "But it wouldn't cut Alabama, though."
  • Roberts on why Republicans are pushing a bill that could cause millions to lose insurance: "If we do nothing, it has a tremendous impact on the 2018 elections."
  • Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) on what this bill does "right, policy-wise":

John Kennedy
"I think it's an improvement over ObamaCare."

Jeff Stein
"Why?"

John Kennedy
"My position has always been that, number one, I think ObamaCare has been a failure.

Number two: First chance I get to vote for repeal it, I'll do it.

And number three: If it's replacement, if replacement is better than ObamaCare, I will vote for it." [Vox]

  • Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) on how he knows the "savings" from federal funding cuts "will be close to enough to protect everyone": "Well, nothing protects everyone."
10:45p.m.

David Hockney's "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" sold on Thursday for $90.3 million, setting a new auction record for a living artist.

Christie's in New York estimated that the 1972 oil painting would fetch $80 million. The bidding lasted nine minutes, with the two most active bidders calling in by telephone. The previous record was held by Jeff Koons, whose "Ballon Dog (Orange)" sold in 2013 for $58.4 million.

Hockney, 81, is considered one of the most influential British artists. Before the sale, Ana Maria Celis, vice president of postwar and contemporary art at Christie's, said auction houses can "rarely say, 'This is the one opportunity to buy the best painting from the artist.' This is it." Catherine Garcia

10:17p.m.

On Thursday, search teams in Northern California discovered seven more bodies in the Camp Fire burn area, bringing the blaze's death toll to 63.

Authorities say there are now 631 people missing, up from 130 on Wednesday evening. The fire, the deadliest in state history, has burned 141,000 acres, destroyed 11,862 structures, and is about 40 percent contained. Most of the deaths occurred in the town of Paradise, which was almost entirely wiped out by the fire. Officials said it could take several weeks to finish searching for victims. Catherine Garcia

9:27p.m.

Another red seat turned blue in Southern California on Thursday, with Democrat Katie Porter defeating incumbent Republican Rep. Mimi Walters in the 45th congressional district.

With the latest vote count, Porter, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, has a 6,203-vote lead over Walters. Walters is a Trump supporter, while Porter said she was running "to hold Donald Trump and the powerful special interests in Washington accountable."

Orange County has been a Republican stronghold for decades, and in 2016, while Hillary Clinton carried the district by five points, Walters was re-elected by 17 points. If Democrat Gil Cisneros defeats Republican Young Kim in the 39th congressional district — the county's last undecided race — Orange County won't have any Republican representatives in Congress. Catherine Garcia

8:56p.m.

After a year of discussions, Department of Justice officials are optimistic they will be able to get WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange into a U.S. courtroom, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

In 2012, Assange received political asylum from Ecuador, and has been living in the country's London embassy. Prosecutors do not yet know what charges they might file, but it could involve the Espionage Act, the Journal reports. Prosecutors are also reportedly considering publicly indicting Assange so the Ecuadorian government could see evidence against him and would have a reason to remove him from the embassy.

Last month, Assange sued Ecuador over his conditions in the embassy, and after a judge rejected his claims, he said he believes he'll soon be kicked out. In 2010, Chelsea Manning gave WikiLeaks documents related to the Iraq War, and ahead of the 2016 presidential election, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails hacked from Democrats, which Special Counsel Robert Mueller says were provided by Russian intelligence officers. Catherine Garcia

7:36p.m.

FBI agents are investigating the death of a 52-year-old woman while aboard a Princess Cruises ship on its way to Aruba.

Early Tuesday, the woman, whose name has not been released, fell from an upper deck onto a lifeboat, authorities in Aruba said. A local news outlet said witnesses saw the woman fighting with another passenger before she plunged to her death.

The Caribbean cruise left Port Everglades, Florida, on Nov. 9, and was traveling from Curacao to Aruba when the woman died. Her husband was on the ship with her, HuffPost reports, and has not been named as a suspect. A spokeswoman for the Aruba Public Prosecutor's Office told USA Today it is "obvious that she fell, but why did she fall? Was she pushed? Did she jump? That is what we are investigating, to find out exactly what happened." Catherine Garcia

6:42p.m.

Following the conclusion of a machine recount on Thursday afternoon, the state of Florida ordered a manual recount in the Senate race.

The incumbent, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, is about 12,600 votes behind his challenger, Republican Rick Scott, the state's current governor. At least three counties did not submit their machine recount results by the 3 p.m. deadline, and are going with the counts submitted last Saturday. About an hour before the deadline, Palm Beach County announced it was not going to finish in time, and Broward County was late by two minutes, because the person uploading the results didn't know how to use the website, The Miami Herald's Alex Harris said on MSNBC.

A hand recount was not ordered for the governor's race, where Republican Ron DeSantis has a .41 percent lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum, outside the .25 percent threshold for a manual recount. Catherine Garcia

5:08p.m.

It was always too good to be true.

The story of a homeless man using his last $20 to buy gas for a stranded New Jersey woman warmed hearts and brought in more than $400,000 in a GoFundMe campaign about a year ago. But now, the man, the woman, and her husband have been arrested on charges that the whole thing was a scam, BuzzFeed News reports.

Late last year, Kate McClure said she'd run out of gas while driving to Philadelphia. A homeless man named Johnny Bobbitt came to her rescue, she said, so she and her boyfriend Mike D'Amico launched a fundraising campaign to pay him back. Things started looking sketchy when Bobbitt said he didn't get much of the money, eventually winning $75,000 in an August lawsuit against McClure and D'Amico, Forbes notes. And now, prosecutors say the whole story was fake.

In text messages sent just an hour after she launched the fundraiser, McClure told a friend she'd made the "buying gas" part of the story up, a New Jersey prosecutor said Thursday. Bobbitt was homeless, McClure said, but they'd allegedly staged a photo together to craft a scheme to split the money. All the money raised by the campaign has since been spent, with more than $100,000 withdrawn at or near casinos, BuzzFeed News says. And D'Amico, McClure, and Bobbitt have all been arrested on second-degree theft charges. GoFundMe has pledged to refund the 14,000 people who donated to Bobbitt. Kathryn Krawczyk

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