I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It's Tuesday, September 26, 2017. 406 days until Election Day 2018. 1,134 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!
Collins Announces Opposition to Graham-Cassidy, Dooming Repeal Effort
- A last-ditch Republican effort to repeal Obamacare has seemingly failed, as a third GOP senator announced opposition to the Graham-Cassidy legislation on Monday. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) released a statement declaring plans to oppose the bill, which would have funneled Obamacare funds into block grants to each state to allow state governments to control their own health care system.
- “Health care is a deeply personal, complex issue that affects every single one of us and one-sixth of the American economy," Collins said. "Sweeping reforms to our health care system and to Medicaid can’t be done well in a compressed time frame, especially when the actual bill is a moving target," calling the Graham-Cassidy bill "deeply flawed" and criticising the release of a new version of the legislation (intended to attract support from her and other undecided senators) on the week of a planned vote.
- The Maine Republican said she had three "major concerns" with the bill: "sweeping changes and cuts in the Medicaid program," provisions "open[ing] the door for states to weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions" and analyses that projected "higher premiums and reduced coverage for tens of millions of Americans."
- Collins' announcement came just after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its preliminary analysis of the first version of Graham-Cassidy, finding that the bill would "reduce the on-budget deficit by at least $133 billion and result in millions fewer people with comprehensive health insurance that covers high-cost medical events."
- Other Republicans had previously announced plans to oppose Graham-Cassidy; the party could only afford to lose two GOP senators to pass the bill without Democratic support. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced on Friday that he "cannot in good conscience" vote for the bill, decrying his party's failure to follow "regular order" in rushing through the legislation.
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has been criticizing Graham-Cassidy for days, tweeting last week: "I won't vote for Obamacare Lite that keeps 90% of the taxes & spending just so some people can claim credit for something that didn't happen." Paul also confirmed that a new version of the bill had not brought him over, telling CNN's Jake Tapper on Monday that "voting to keep [Obamacare] and block granting it is not repeal: it's fake repeal." He was joined by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in labeling the repeal effort as too close to Obamacare, although Cruz did not make a formal announcement of opposition.
- With Collins' opposition, failure for the Graham-Cassidy bill is all but assured. The "reconciliation" process on health care will expire on Saturday, ending the GOP's ability to fast-track a bill and pass it with 51 votes, instead of 60. Unless the procedural ploy is renewed (which the party may attempt to do in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget resolution, Politico reported Monday), Republicans' only option is to continue bipartisan negotiations to reform Obamacare. Talks between Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) were ended as hopes over Graham-Cassidy rose, but Democrats are now urging they restart.
- Meanwhile, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) signaled plans to continue fighting for repeal-and-replace at a CNN town hall on Monday. "W're going to press on," Graham said. "It's OK to vote...[and] fall short." Republicans are expected to decide at their weekly caucus lunch today if they plan to hold a vote on the proposal.
Happening Today: Alabama Senate Primary
- Voters in Alabama head to the polls today to cast ballots in a closely-watched special primary election between Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) and former state Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore. Strange and Moore are competing to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Strange has been serving in the seat on an interim basis by gubernatorial appointment.
- The race has become a battleground between pro-Trump Republicans, who mainly support Moore, and more establishment Republicans, who are lining up behind Strange. But there's one exception: President Trump himself, who has joined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in endorsing the incumbent. Moore has received support from many top supporters of the President, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson; former Govs. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) and Sarah Palin (R-AK); conservative commentators Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham; "Brexit" leader Nigel Farage; and former Trump aides Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Roger Stone.
- Trump campaigned for Strange on Friday, calling the senator "our man," but acknowledging, "I might have made a mistake." He said if Moore wins the primary, he will still be "campaigning like h--- for him." However, the President did warn that the controversial ex-judge would have a "very good chance of not winning in the general election," seizing on an argument employed by Strange in the campaign's final days. In an interview with the Washington Examiner on Monday, Strange compared his opponent to Todd Akin, the 2012 Republican Senate nominee in Missouri who lost an assured victory for the GOP due to his controversial views.
- Vice President Mike Pence campaigned for Strange on Monday, as Bannon and Farage headlined a rally for Moore on the eve of the election. "A vote for Roy Moore is a vote for Donald J. Trump," Bannon declared. The former White House chief strategist added that a Moore victory would show the world "that this populist, nationalist, conservative movement is on the rise." Bannon also attacked McConnell and the GOP establishment writ large, repeating themes he previewed at a St. Louis rally on Sunday.
- Moore won the first round of the Republican primary last month, 38.9% to Strange's 32.8%. He has consistently led in polling ahead of the runoff; the RealClearPolitics polling average shows a Moore advantage of 11%, 52.5% to 41.5%. The winner of today's runoff will face former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee, in the December 12 general election.
What has President Trump been tweeting about in the last 24 hours?
- The NFL, mostly Trump has already tweeted about the National Football League this morning, continuing his feud with athletes kneeling during the National Anthem. "Ratings for NFL football are way down except before game starts, when people tune in to see whether or not our country will be disrespected!" the President tweeted this morning, one of the three tweets he sent on the subject. This is the fifth consecutive day Trump has tweeted about the NFL.
- On Monday, he also took aim at CNN, calling the network "#FakeNews" over a report that White House chief of staff John Kelly "was not pleased" with the President's fight with NFL players. In an interview for the story, Kelly made clear that he is "appalled" by the athletes' decision to kneel, while declining to discuss Trump's comments on the issue. "General John Kelly totally agrees w/ my stance on NFL players and the fact that they should not be disrespecting our FLAG or GREAT COUNTRY!" the President said on Twitter, adding in another tweet that the report was a "total lie!"
- Puerto Rico President Trump also addressed Puerto Rico on Monday, as the island suffered damages wrought by Hurricane Maria. Trump has previously been criticized for his lack of tweets on the subject. The President tweeted that Puerto Rico, "which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble," adding that "[its] old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated" and "much of the island was destroyed."
- Alabama Trump has also weighed in on the Senate primary runoff in Alabama, tweeting on Monday that Luther Strange "will never let you down," calling him "tough on crime & border," adding this morning that Strange "has been shooting up in the Alabama polls since my endorsement."
Today in Washington
- The President A busy day for President Donald Trump... at 10am, he receives his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office. At 10:30am, he meets with bipartisan members of the House Ways and Means Committee, the tax-writing panel, in the Roosevelt Room. The summit will likely focus on the tax reform plan Republicans hope to release on Wednesday.
- At 12:20pm, he meets with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain in the Oval Office. At 12:35pm, the two Presidents will hold a working luncheon in the Cabinet Room, followed by a joint press conference in the Rose Garden at 1:45pm. The Spanish Prime Minister's visit to the United States comes ahead of a challenge to his authority on October 1, when the regional government of Catalonia is planning an illegal referendum on independence.
- At 2:45pm, President Trump departs the White House for New York City, where he arrives at 4pm. At 5pm, Trump participates in a greeting at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
- At 6:10pm, the President meets with Republican National Committee (RNC) chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel at Le Cirque, a French restaurant in Manhattan. Trump will headline two RNC events at the restaurant: a 6:25pm roundtable with donors and a 7:35pm finance dinner. According to Bloomberg, the roundtable will be attended by about 150 people, donating $35,000 to $250,000; the report also said that Trump's sons Eric and Donald, Jr., who are now running his business, will be in attendance.
- At 8:45pm, Trump departs New York, arriving back at the White House at 10:30pm.
- The First Daughter Ivanka Trump, the President's eldest daughter and a top White House adviser, will travel to Detroit today to highlight a new initiative expanding access to STEM and computer science education in schools. According to CNN, she will announce a "substantial pledge" from the private sector accompanying the $200 million which President Trump directed the Education Department to invest annually in the program on Monday.
- The Attorney General Jeff Sessions will speak at Georgetown University Law School today; according to Axios, he is expected to address free speech on college campuses. "Whereas the American university was once the center of academic freedom — a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas — it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos," Sessions will declare, according to the report.
- The Senate The upper chamber convenes today at 10am. Following leader remarks, consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense policy bill, will resume. Both chambers have passed versions of the legislation: the Senate approved its $700 billion bill last week, while the House passed a $696 billion version in July.
- The House The lower chamber also meets at 10am; the body is scheduled to debate a measure extending the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, which "gives pregnant women and families, particularly those considered at-risk, necessary resources and skills to raise children who are physically, socially, and emotionally healthy and ready to learn," according to the Health Resources & Services Administration.
- The Committees Two congressional panels will hold hearings related to the Russia investigation today. Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed hearing today on links between Russia and the Trump campaign. According to the Associated Press, he will defend himself in a lengthy opening statement, telling the committee that there is "not one shred of evidence" implicating him in Russian interference in the election. Stone will disclose his communications with Guccifer 2.0, who has taken responsibility for hacking the Democratic National Committee (DNC), releasing Twitter direct messages that he describes as "innocuous."
- The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on two bills proposed to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is also investigating ties between Russia and the Trump orbit, from being removed by the President.