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Wake Up To Politics - April 27, 2017




I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Thursday, April 27, 2017. 558 days until Election Day 2018. 1,286 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at gabe@wakeuptopolitics.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!

Need to know

Freedom Caucus Endorses Obamacare Repeal A compromise measure to repeal Obamacare, crafted by the leaders of the House Republican conservative and moderate wings, was given a huge boost on Wednesday as the hardline House Freedom Caucus voted to support the amendment.

“While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower health-care costs,” the Freedom Caucus said in a statement. The group was largely blamed inside the GOP, including by President Trump, for the failure of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), an initial attempt to repeal and replace the health care law.

According to press reports, House Republicans are hoping to schedule another vote on the AHCA (with the compromise amendment attached) for Friday, although the timeline could run into difficulty. The compromise allows states to apply for waivers to opt out of enforcing Obamacare's Essential Health Benefits and protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

While conservatives have gotten behind the plan, the moderate Tuesday Group remains skeptical. Politico Playbook counts at least ten Republicans who have already announced opposition to the compromise; many more of the Tuesday Group's 50 members are wavering. Opponents of the amendment include Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), one of the group's co-chairmen, despite the fact that co-chairman Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) helped pen the amendment. If 22 GOP members revolt, the bill cannot pass the House.

And even if it does manage to succeed in the House, the bill will run into hurdles in the Senate as well. Conservatives such as Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have signaled that they still oppose the AHCA, as have moderates from states that have expanded Medicaid (an Obamacare provision that will be repealed by the bill). The bill cannot pass the Senate if three Republican senators vote against it.

Shutdown Threat Minimized as GOP Introduces One-Week CR House Republicans introduced a stopgap spending bill on Wednesday night. The continuing resolution (CR) will keep the government open at current funding levels for one week, lasting through May 5, to ensure there is no shutdown this weekend (the current deadline is Friday at midnight) while lawmakers continue to negotiate a longer-term spending bill.

Both parties are nearing an agreement, with the two main issues already resolved: funding for President Trump's border wall and Obamacare subsidies. After threatening earlier in the week to stop paying the subsidies (which help low-income Americans afford health insurance), The White House told Democrats on Wednesday that they would be paid. Earlier in the week, Trump also backed off of a threat to shut down the government if funding for his border wall was not included in the bill.

“It is good that once again the president seems to be backing off his threat to hold health care and government funding hostage,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said. “Like the withdrawal of money for the wall, this decision brings us closer to a bipartisan agreement to fund the government and is good news for the American people.”

House Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), while introducing the stopgap bill, said in a statement that he is "optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon." However, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on CNN that "there are probably still 70 poison pills in the bill that we can't live with," referring to GOP amendments in the proposed spending package that Democrats are refusing to support. The objectionable amendments include "those that would restrict abortion access under the ACA and end Wall Street reforms passed under President Barack Obama," the Washington Post reports.

Negotiators also continue to hash out Republican requests for increased military and border spending, which are likely to make it into the final bill in some form, as well as Democratic asks to aid Puerto Rico and extend a health program for miners (which is set to expire on Friday, but will be extended as part of the CR).

What's in Trump's Tax Plan? Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn released a brief outline of President Trump's highly-awaited plan for tax reform. Here's some of the important points, via The New York Times:

  • "Slashing the tax rate paid by businesses large and small to 15 percent."
  • "The number of individual income tax brackets would shrink from seven to three — 10, 25, and 35 percent — easing the tax burden on most Americans, including the president, although aides did not offer the income ranges for each bracket."
  • "The president would eliminate the estate tax and alternative minimum tax, a parallel system that primarily hits wealthier people by effectively limiting the deductions and other benefits available to them — both moves that would richly benefit Mr. Trump."
  • "Mr. Trump wants to double the standard deduction for individuals, essentially eliminating taxes on around $24,000 of a couple's earnings...The proposal would scrap most itemized deductions, such as those for state and local tax payments, a valuable break for taxpayers in Democratic states like California and New York."

The rundown

Trump to Renegotiate NAFTA The White House announced on Wednesday that President Trump will not withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a deal he bashed on the campaign trail as part of his populist message.

According to a White House readout of Trump's calls to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique, the President "agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly...to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries."

The announcement came after reports that the Trump Administration was considering an executive order to withdraw from NAFTA, which immediately sparked criticism from both parties. "Scrapping NAFTA would be a disastrously bad idea," Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said in a statement Wednesday.

2018 Central: Controversial Alabama Judge Running for Senate Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore announced his resignation from the Court on Wednesday as he launched a bid for the U.S. Senate. Last week, Moore's colleagues upheld a decision to suspend him from acting as Chief Justice for the rest of his term due to his refusal to follow the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. Moore gained national attention for his attempts to stop Alabama clerks from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Moore will be running in the December special election to replace Jeff Sessions, who resigned to become Attorney General. He will face interim Sen. Luther Strange in the Republican primary; Strange was appointed to fill the seat until the special election by then-Gov. Robert Bentley, who has since resigned himself after a sex scandal.

Daily Data: 100-Day Polling Fox News and CNN/ORC released polls on Wednesday recording President Donald Trump's approval rating as he nears his 100th day in office, which is Saturday. Both surveys found Trump's numbers to be underwater, with Fox reporting a 45%/48% approval/disapproval rating and CNN/ORC reporting a 44%/54% approval/disapproval.

These numbers are consistent with other recent polls: NBC/WSJ had Trump's approval at 40%, while ABC/Washington Post had it at 42%, earlier this week. Gallup's daily tracking poll for Wednesday showed just 39% of Americans approving of the President's performance.

Another number of note, via the Fox News poll... when asked who they would vote for if the 2020 election was held today, 36% said Trump and 55% said "somebody else." Two caveats: the election is far away (I'm reminded of the Matt Santos quote in "The West Wing"... "If the election were held today, people would be surprised, because it's usually held on Election Day.") and there was no Democrat named (hypothetical polls like this are often faulty). But it is a striking contrast with where Barack Obama stood in 2009, when 52% of Americans told Fox News they would vote for his re-election and 31% said they would support somebody else.


The President's Schedule At 11:20am, President Trump will welcome President Mauricio Marci of Argentina and his wife Juliana Awada (¡Hola! magazine's 2016 Most Elegant First Lady in the World) to the White House. At 11:30am, Trump and Marci will meet in the Oval Office. At 11:45am, Trump and Marci will hold a working luncheon in the Cabinet Room. According to the White House, the two Presidents will discuss a number of issues, including "the expansion of trade, security sector collaboration, and the deteriorating situation in Venezuela."

At 2pm, President Trump will sign a memorandum in the Oval Office ordering a review of the threat to national security posed by aluminum Imports. According to CNN, "the investigation...could result in tariffs or other restrictions on foreign imports of aluminum, which could have a direct effect on China, one of the largest exporters of aluminum."

At 4:20pm, President Trump will travel to the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters. At 4:45pm, he will deliver remarks and sign an executive order "improving accountability and whistleblower protection." According to Politico, the order will establish an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection at the VA to ensure there is no retaliation against employees who come forward with information on waste, fraud, and abuse. At 5:05pm, Trump will return to the White House.

Also today... a number of Trump Administration figures are set to sit down together to discuss U.S. involvement in the Paris climate change deal, per Politico. The meeting will include supporters of the deal, including White House senior advisor Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, as well as opponents, including White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Other attendees are expected to include National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Today in the Senate The Senate will convene at 10am today. After Leader remarks, the chamber will continue consideration of the nomination of Alexander Acosta to be Secretary of Labor. The nomination was advanced in a 61-39 vote on Wednesday, with seven Democrats voting in favor (six of whom face re-election in 2018). Acosta, who is the final member of the Trump Cabinet yet to be confirmed, served under George W. Bush on the National Labor Relations Board, as a U.S. Attorney, and as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

Today in the House The House will also meet at 10am today. The chamber will consider two measures: a Senate-passed measure repealing the Obama Administration's Metropolitan Planning Organization rule and a bill applying the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

2020 Central: Kasich to New Hampshire One more thing to keep an eye on today... Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is visiting the first-in-the-nation primary state, New Hampshire, as part of a tour for his new book, "Two Paths: America Divided or United." Kasich has denied plans for another White House run in 2020, but his latest moves — writing a book, going to early primary states on a book tour, and appearing on a number of media outlets — have only fueled speculation.

Today's trivia

Today's Question Who was the only member of the Trump Cabinet to be confirmed unanimously by the Senate? (excluding Acosta, whose vote is TBD)

Email me at trivia@wakeuptopolitics.com if you have the answer; correct respondents get their name in tomorrow's newsletter!

Yesterday's Answer On Wednesday, First Lady Melania Trump, the WUTP trivia question was: who was the first First Lady to be born outside of the United States? (Trump is the second). The answer... Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, wife of President John Quincy Adams. First Lady Adams was born in London; she met John Quincy when he was helping negotiate the controversial Jay Treaty with Great Britain, along with her father, the U.S. consul in London.

A lot of readers got the correct answer, which was awesome to see. GREAT JOB... Rebecca Boester, Jordan Burger, Steve Gitnik, Jacob Bartlett, Christa Van Herreweghe, Janice Goodman, Joan Zucker, Jamie Wagner, Jim Wilbat, Thomas Alpert, Joe Bookman, Marlee Millman, Brad Chotiner, Matt Neufeld, Jackson Smith, Rick Isserman, Scott Bennett, Steve Sheffey, and Admirim Luboteni!!! Thanks for answering, everybody!

BY THE WAY... Matt notes that the White House website calls Adams "the only First Lady to have been born outside of the United States." That is, of course, now incorrect. The Trump Administration has come under fire recently for a string of similar mistakes in press releases and webpages.