Wake Up To Politics - May 25, 2017
I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Thursday, May 25, 2017. 530 days until Election Day 2018. 1,258 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at email@example.com. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!
GOP Candidate in Montana Election Today Charged with Assaulting Reporter A Montana special election took a violent turn on Wednesday after a reporter accused the Republican candidate of body-slamming him for asking a question about the CBO's new score of the Republican health care bill. The special election, to choose Montana's new at-large U.S. Representative after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke vacated the seat, will be held today. Republican businessman Greg Gianforte, who was charged with misdemeanor assault on Wednesday, is set to face off against Democratic musician Rob Quist.
According to an eyewitness account by a Fox News reporter who was interviewing Gianforte at the time, the incident occurred after the reporter, The Guardian's Ben Jacobs, interrupted their interview and put a recorder up to the candidate's face to ask his question. Gianforte then "grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him," the account said, adding that the candidate then "began punching the reporter" and yelling, "I'm sick and tired of this!" as he "moved on top of Jacobs."
A spokesman for the Republican candidate described the incident differently, saying that Jacobs "entered the office [where the Fox interview was taking place] without permission, aggressively shoved a recorded in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions." He continues: "After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground." He said the entire incident could be chalked up to "aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist."
The Gianforte campaign's response contradicts the Fox News reporter, who said that "at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte," and an audio recording posted by The Guardian.
The Gallatin County, Montana immediately launched an investigation of the body-slamming, and later on Wednesday night cited Gianforte for misdemeanor assault. The candidate must appear in court sometime in the next two weeks. If convicted, he could spend up to six months in jail or pay as much as $500 in fines. In response, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Gianforte to withdraw from the race, and three major newspapers in the state withdrew their endorsements of Gianforte: the Billings Gazette, the Missoulian, and the Helana Independent Record.
It remains unclear to what degree the incident with Jacobs will affect today's election. Donald Trump won Montana by 20% in 2016, yet the state also elected a Democratic governor last fall, whose opponent had been Gianforte. Quist, a political outsider allied with Bernie Sanders, could benefit off of that same populist streak. However, as of Wednesday, over 259,000 absentee ballots (more than half of the total number expected) had already been cast, which could limit the fallout from Wednesday's body-slamming.
Even before the altercation, the Montana race has been the focus of national attention, seen as a referendum on the young Trump Administration. Polling had been closer than expected, and Democrats had hoped to turn recent enthusiasm into an electoral victory. Outside groups have spent over $6 million on the race, more than any other election in Montana's history.
In addition, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence recorded robocalls for Gianforte in recent days. In the call, Trump appealed to Montanas to "vote for my friend Republican Greg Gianforte for Congress." The President added: "He's a wonderful guy."
CBO: 23 Million More Would Be Uninsured Under Republican Health Care Plan The Congressional Budget Office released an updated report on the House-passed American Health Care Act on Wednesday, finding that the GOP-backed bill would raise the number of uninsured Americans over the next decade by 23 million. An earlier report on the bill before key amendments were added had estimated 24 million more would be uninsured.
The report also found that the health care bill would reduce the deficit by $119 billion over 10 years, $32 billion less than the agency had said for the original bill. The CBO's new report included an estimate of the effects of the MacArthur Amendment, which was added to the bill before its passage to allow states to apply for waivers to avoid enforcement of key sections of Obamacare requiring insurance plans to include essential health benefits. The CBO said that "less healthy people would face extremely high premiums" in states that obtain the waivers, while healthier individuals would see their premiums drop. According to the agency's projections, one-sixth of the insurance market would become unstable due to the amendment.
The increase in uninsured would also be "disproportionately larger among older people with lower income," the report said. Premiums would also increase at a sharper rate: the CBO estimated that a low-income 64-year-old would pay $1,700 in premiums under Obamacare, compared to $16,1000 under the Republican plan. The CBO additionally forecasted that by 2026, 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured, compared to 28 million under Obamacare.
Democrats almost universally used the report to bash Republicans for the bill, which was drafted behind closed doors and voted on in the House without a CBO score. Most Republicans remained silent, while many in the Senate GOP reiterated their opposition to the plan in the current form. Defenders of the AHCA took different routes: House Speaker Paul Ryan focused on the deficit projections (saying that the report "confirms that the American Health Care Act acheives our mission" of lowering the deficit), while the White House dismissed the report entirely (calling the CBO "totally incapable of accurately predicting how health care legislation will impact health insurance coverage").
The President's Schedule President Donald Trump wakes up in Brussels, Belgium today, where he will participate in the annual North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Leaders Summit. Trump meets today with the leaders of the European Union and President Emmanual Macron of France. He also participates in the unveiling of the new NATO headquarters and nearby Article 5 and Berlin Wall memorials. Tonight, Trump has a working dinner with NATO leaders, before he and First Lady Melania Trump depart Brussels for Taormina, Italy.