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Wake Up To Politics - May 3, 2017




I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Wednesday, May 3, 2017. 552 days until Election Day 2018. 1,280 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!

In 1993, the United Nations proclaimed May 3 to be celebrated annually as World Press Freedom Day, an opportunity to: "celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom; assess the state of press freedom throughout the world; defend the media from attacks on their independence; and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty."

GOP Scramble for Obamacare Vote Continues House Republican leaders are holding out hope on passing their Obamacare repeal bill this week, despite rising opposition from members of the party. According to a New York Times tally of six news organizations' whip counts, 20 to 22 House Republicans have announced plans to vote "no" on the latest announced version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the GOP repeal-and-replace measure. The bill cannot pass if 23 Republicans vote "no."

Whip counts have shown the number of Republican "no's" hovering just 23 all week: with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and their top lieutenants all exerting pressure, no one wants to be the one to publicly push the AHCA off the cliff. However, around 28 members remain undecided, many of them moderates and/or representing districts won by Hillary Clinton, and none of them want to be the decisive vote in favor of the unpopular bill either.

The White House is still pushing for an AHCA vote on Thursday, before the House decamps for a week-and-a-half long recess, during which moderate members will have to go home to their districts for town halls. Most opposition to the bill stems from the MacArthur Amendment, a compromise between Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), a co-chair of the moderate Tuesday Group, and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus.

The provision would allow states to opt out of Obamacare protections for patients with pre-existing conditions; that was enough for most of the Freedom Caucus members who were set to vote "no" on the original AHCA when it was first set to be voted on in March, but MacArthur's Tuesday Group colleagues are still hesitating.

Politico reported on Tuesday night that the AHCA may be changing again, with a new amendment being drafted to appease moderate members' worries on pre-existing conditions. Politico's scoop said that the fix could include "adding additional money to high-risk pools aimed at subsidizing more expensive premiums for people with such medical conditions." According to Independent Journal Review, the additional funding being discussed is to the tune of $8 billion, which would add to the $130 billion already going to the high-risk pools.

The Associated Press adds that that the changes are being made to bring two high-level defections back into the fold, Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Billy Long (R-MO). Upton is a former chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the panels which wrote the AHCA, and is a leading voice in the party on health care and a longtime centrist lawmaker. Long, meanwhile, is a top Trump ally in a safe Republican district. Both announced plans to vote "no" on AHCA (in its current form) earlier this week due to the MacArthur Amendment.

“The MacArthur amendment strips away any guarantee that pre-existing conditions would be covered and affordable," Long said in a Tuesday statement. Upton added in a radio interview on Tuesday, "I cannot support this bill with this provision in it."

--- THE QUESTIONS: Will the changes be enough to bring over moderates? And will they be too much to keep conservatives on board? Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) told USA TODAY on Tuesday that the Freedom Caucus would abandon the bill if "they change it one iota."

--- RELATED: A Politico/Morning Consult poll finds just 38% of voters support allowing states to obtain exemptions from Obamacare's provisions on pre-existing conditions; 52% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans oppose the plan.

--- TRENDING: If you haven't seen it already, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel's emotional monologue from Monday has been receiving a lot of buzz. Kimmel tells the story of his son's birth last week with a heart condition and ends with a plea to lawmakers to oppose stripping protections for pre-existing conditions. The video has been shared by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and millions of others.

Quote of the Day

"I take absolute personal responsibility [for my loss in November] ... But I was on the way to winning until a combination of Jim Comey's letter on October 28 and Russian WikiLeaks raised doubts in the minds of people who were inclined to vote for me, but got scared off ... But, as Nate Silver, who I -- doesn't work for me, he's an independent analyst, but one considered to be very reliable -- has concluded, if the election had been on October 27, I would be your president. And it wasn't. It was on October 28." — 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton

After months of staying out of the public eye as the Trump Administration began, Hillary Clinton returned on Tuesday, answering questions from CNN's Christiane Amanpour at the women for Women International Luncheon in New York. She spoke about her 2016 loss, beginning by saying she took responsibility for her loss ("I was the candidate") but continuing on to blame a number of other factors, namely FBI director Jim Comey, Russian interference, sexism, and the media. "The reason why I believe we lost were the intervening events in the last 10 days," she said, pointing to Comey's October announcement that he had reopened an investigation of her private email server.

Clinton also trolled her onetime rival ("I did win more than 3 million votes than my opponent") about her popular vote victory and criticized decisions made in the first 100 days of Trump's presidency. "I'm back to being a private citizen, and part of the resistance," Clinton declared. Axios reports this morning that Clinton is about to get back into the game, and "soon will launch a PAC as a way of 'acting as a quiet catalyst' for organizations she cares about, and eventually will help 2018 congressional candidates." According to Axios, "She's not going to look for ways to comment on Trump's daily doings, but also won't shy away from it."

The President's Schedule At 10:30am, President Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.

At 11:50am, President Trump welcomes President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to the White House. At11:55am, Trump and Abbas will meet in the Oval Office. At 12:15pm, they will deliver a joint statement in the Roosevelt Room. At 12:30pm, the two presidents will hold a working luncheon in the Cabinet Room.

In announcing the visit last month, press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump and Abbas will "use the visit to reaffirm the commitment of both the United States and Palestinian leadership to pursuing and ultimately concluding a conflict-ending settlement between the Palestinians and Israel." President Trump has referred to Middle East peace as a top priority; according to Haaretz, he will formally ask Abbas today to rejoin peace talks with Israel that Trump hopes to launch in the coming months.

The President has directed a number of aides to help lead the talks, including U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (who Abbas will also sit down with during his three-day visit). Trump and Abbas have already spoken over the phone since the latter took office; the President has also met with leaders of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia in that time.

--- RELATED: At a White House ceremony marking Israeli Independence Day on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence said that Trump is "giving serious consideration" to his campaign promise of moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that would further complicate Israeli-Palestinian negotiation. At his briefing on Monday, Spicer said the embassy move "is still being discussed by staff."

Finally, at 6:30pm, President Trump has dinner with religious leaders in the Blue Room.

Today in the House The chamber will meet at 10am for morning hour, moving to legislative business at 12pm.

The House has two votes scheduled today, both on disaster-related measures originally set to be considered on Tuesday: the Disaster Declaration Improvement Act, regarding FEMA's considerations in issuing disaster declarations, and a bill setting a three-year statute of limitations for states or localities to recover FEMA grants after a disaster declaration.

In addition, the House will vote on passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, the omnibus spending bill. The $1.1 trillion, 1,665-page measure is a bipartisan compromise, which includes a lot more from the Democratic wish list than President Donald Trump's: the package boosts or maintains spending on a number of agencies Trump requested be heavily stripped of funding, such as the National Institutes of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, foreign aid, and Planned Parenthood. While Republicans received $12.5 billion in new military spending and a $1.5 billion increase in border security funds, no money is allocated for Trump's proposed border wall.

After Republicans spent the day insisting the spending bill was a GOP victory— "this is what winning looks like," Speaker Ryan said; "this bill is a clear win for the American people," President Trump himself declared — the President sang a different tune on Twitter. Here's what Trump tweeted on Tuesday, seemingly criticizing the measure he is likely to sign later this week: "The reason for the plan negotiated between the Republicans and Democrats is that we need 60 votes in the Senate which are not there! We...either elect more Republican Senators in 2018 or change the rules now to 51%. Our country needs a good "shutdown" in September to fix mess!"

Trump's call for a government shutdown after the omnibus bill expires on September 30, and for an end to the legislative filibuster (a Senate rule that requires 60 votes for passage of a bill, instead of 51), were largely dismissed by Republicans. "There is an overwhelming majority on a bipartisan basis not interested in changing the way the Senate operates on the legislative calendar," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said. "And that will not happen."

"I don't think the American people elected President Trump and Republican majorities in both houses to shut down the government," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said. "I think they expected us to govern." Asked about Trump's push to end the filibuster, Cornyn added: "I don't agree."

Today in the Senate The upper chamber will convene at 9:30am today. Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will move to morning business, when members can speak for up to 10 minutes each.

At around 11am, the Senate is expected to begin debate on another House-passed resolution using the Congressional Review Act to repeal an Obama Administration regulation, this one to strike down a Labor Department rule allowing state-sponsored retirement plans for private sector employees.

Also today: the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing titled "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation," with FBI director James Comey set to testify. Members of the panel are expected to grill Comey on his involvement in the 2016 election, asking questions about the Clinton email investigation and his probe into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.

--- BACKDROP: The President tweeted about Comey last night after Clinton's public remarks: "FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds! The phony...Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?"