I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Wednesday, September 13, 2017. 419 days until Election Day 2018. 1,147 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell your friends to sign up to receive the newsletter in their inbox at wakeuptopolitics.com/subscribe!
Health Care Fight Returns to Capitol Hill
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) are set to unveil dueling proposals to overhaul the U.S. health care system today, as the rank-and-file — but not leadership — of both parties return their attention to the issue.
- Sanders will introduce his bill, the Medicare for All Act of 2017, at a 3pm rally on Capitol Hill. Joined by 15 Democratic co-sponsors, the former presidential candidate will put forth his single-payer legislation, which would create a national insurance system modeled after Medicare, adjusting premiums based on income, so deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses would be eliminated for the poorest individuals.
- The progressive Vermont senator has been pushing this idea for decades, but suddenly finds himself with support from mainstream Democrats. His co-sponsors include many potential presidential contenders, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Al Franken (D-MN). The list of influential Democratic co-sponsors represents a shift in the party, from Hillary Clinton's rejection of the proposal in 2016 as an "idea that will never, ever come to pass" to the now-likelihood that the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee will campaign on the program.
- Meanwhile, at 11:30am, Graham and Cassidy will introduce an Obamacare replacement bill, widely seen as the Republican Party's last chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Their plan would return authority over health care to the states, converting Obamacare's Medicaid expansion and tax credits to a lump sum that will be distributed equally to each state to decide for themselves what their health care system will be.
- This approach has gained support from Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), and will be unveiled today with former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), a key architect of the plan. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a close friend of Graham's and the decisive vote against the Republican health care plan in July, said in a statement last week that he "support[s] the concept of the Graham-Cassidy proposal," although he declined to formally come behind the bill.
- Both legislative pushes have something in common: they are gaining attention without the support of their party's leadership. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) met with Graham and Cassidy on Tuesday; "He just says we need 50 votes," the latter said afterward. McConnell has refused to throw his weight behind the plan, simply saying he will get behind any legislation that can scrape together a majority of senators.
- Similarly, on the Democratic side, congressional leaders are distancing themselves from the "Medicare for All" effort. " Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) both declined to endorse the Sanders bill on Tuesday. Schumer answered a question on the bill by noting the large number of Democratic health care bills. "We're looking at all of them he said," even as many of the best-known members of his caucus announced their support.
- Both efforts will be uphill fights. "Medicare for All" has little chance of advancement in the Republican-controlled Congress, although the intraparty shift towards "single-payer" is noteworthy. Meanwhile, Republicans are staring down a September 30 deadline to repeal and replace Obamacare; when the month ends, procedure allowing them to fast-track a health care bill — known as "reconciliation" will expire.
- Ryan, Pelosi to Meet on DACA Solution House Speaker Paul Ryan will meet with House Minority Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Democrats on Wednesday to discuss the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an Obama-era action to protect so-called "DREAMers", immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally at a young age. The Trump Administration announced plans to end DACA last week, setting a six-month timetable before the program would expire; many in Congress are calling for a legislative solution to continue protection for the "DREAMers."
- Pelosi told reporters on Tuesday that President Trump said to her last week that he would sign a "DREAM Act" if it landed on his desk. The White House is likely to insist on border security funding to pass alongside the legislation, although both Pelosi and White House legislative director Marc Short dismissed calls to attach the legislation to funding for the President's proposed border wall.
- Trump tweeted last week that he would "revisit the issue" if Congress does not send him a bill on DACA in the next six months.
- Flynn Back in the Crosshairs of Russia Probe Congressional Democrats penned a letter to the attorneys of retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn, who briefly served as National Security Advisor at the outset of the Trump Administration, alleging that Flynn "violated federal law" by concealing more than a dozen foreign contacts and a trip to the Middle East from his application for security clearance. Flynn resigned from the White House in February due to failure to disclose his contacts with Russian diplomats.
- The letter, written by House Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel (D-NY), was reported on this morning by ABC News. The newly-discovered contacts center around a joint venture with Russia to construct nuclear reactors across the Middle East, which Flynn did consulting work for; Politico reported last night that Flynn advocated for the plan within the Trump transition team, without disclosing the payments he was receiving from backers of the venture.
- The new information was collected by congressional inquiries into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia from three companies Flynn advised just before joining the Trump presidential campaign as an adviser. "[Flynn] has, over and over again, omitted information that he should have disclosed,” Cummings told ABC. “It's not an aberration, and that's clear." Democrats forwarded their letter to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading a similar probe at the Justice Department.
- The information release also comes a day after a CNN report that Flynn refused a request to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Trump-Russia ties. Flynn declined to comply with a subpoena from the panel in May.
The President's Schedule: Malaysia PM, Bipartisan senators dinner
- At 10am, President Trump will receive his daily intelligence briefing. At 11am, he will meet with his Domestic Policy Council, which is led by director Andrew Bremberg and made up of much of the President's Cabinet.
- At 11:30am, Trump meets with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the only African-American Republican currently serving in the U.S. Senate. Scott was very critical of the President's Charlottesville response, telling VICE News last month that Trump's "moral authority is compromised." According to Axios, Scott plans to tell Trump the story of his impoverished upbringing, hoping to get across to him in personal terms, and "underscore how seriously he took what Trump said, and didn't say, after Charlottesville."
- The report also said that the South Carolina lawmaker "hopes that exposing Trump to new views" will result in a "broader White House conversation on issues affecting minority communities, including historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), poverty, and the overall direction of the country on race."
- Finally, at 2pm, President Trump will meet with a bipartisan group of lawmakers. According to Politico, thirteen moderate members of Congress will participate in the meeting, including Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), the co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus formed earlier this year; Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, which is made up of conservative Democrats; and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (R-AZ), a potential challenger to Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
- Tax reform and the DREAM Act are among the expected topics for the meeting, Trump's second time this week sitting down with lawmakers from across the aisle. The President had dinner on Tuesday with Senators of both parties to discuss tax reform. One of the attendees of today's meeting, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) said Tuesday, "I'm hoping this is part of a new era of bipartisanship," echoing language from White House aides and in news stories recently about a presidential pivot towards working across the aisle on taxes, immigration, and other issues in the wake of positive coverage over his fiscal deal with Democrats last week.
Today in Congress: Defense bill, CEA nomination
- Both houses of Congress convene at 10am today. The House will continue consideration of the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, the "minibus" spending package combining eight of the twelve annual appropriations bill. The lower chamber is currently working through the hundreds of amendments offered to the legislation; among those being voted on today include proposals cutting off federal funding to "sanctuary cities," localities offering protection for undocumented immigrants facing deportation, and an amendment to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Meanwhile, the Senate will continue debate over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense policy bill managed by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). According to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the chamber will vote today on his amendment to end a pair of Authorizations for Use of Military Force (AUMFs) passed in 2001 and 2002, originally used to approve wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and later used by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to rationalize dozens of military actions elsewhere. The Senate has not held a vote on an AUMF since 2002, declining to touch the post-9/11 resolutions (or pass a new one) as the Executive Branch continued to rely on them. Repealing both of them would force Congress to pass new authorizations for future military action.
- Paul told Bloomberg's Steven Dennis that he expects to receive 30-40 votes in favor of his amendment, with lawmakers from both parties calling for a new AUMF to be passed. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who are both likely to back the Paul amendment, are currently in the process of drafting a new war authorization for U.S. operations countering ISIS.