TrumpWatch, Day 91: Trump Trying Again to Repeal ObamaCare

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Trump: “The plan gets better and better and better, and it’s gotten really good, and a lot of people are liking it a lot.”


Developments on Day 91 of the Trump Administration:


White House Renews Attempt to Repeal ObamaCare

Trying to rebound from a stinging defeat last month, the Trump Administration is trying again to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

But the effort is already being met with skepticism by some Capitol Hill Republicans and their aides, after the humiliation when the GOP healthcare bill was withdrawn, hours before a vote in the House of Representatives.

The American Health Care Act was blocked by opposition within the GOP, both from conservative groups such as the Freedom Caucus and moderates concerned about the loss of coverage for an estimated 18 million Americans in the next year.

Sceptical legislators are questioning the White House’s priorities, noting that Congress faces an April 28 deadline for authorization of emergency funds to keep the Government running.

But Trump, who has failed to put through a single major piece of legislation since his inauguration, is seeking a high-profile victory amid a series of controversies besetting the Administration.

“The plan gets better and better and better, and it’s gotten really good, and a lot of people are liking it a lot,” Trump said at a news conference Thursday. “We have a good chance of getting it soon. I’d like to say next week, but we will get it.”

Several congressional GOP aides dampened expectations, worrying about a rushed process amid a schedule making it nearly impossible for a clear estimate of the cost and scope of coverage of the revised legislation.

White House officials said language would be circulated among members in the next few days, and modifications will be discussed Saturday in a conference call as Republicans prepare to return to Washington.

The effort is linked to an amendment by Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, the head of the moderate Tuesday Group, which would allow states to obtain permission from the federal government to write their own list of essential health benefits, as well as setting federal requirements for those benefits. It also makes a concession to conservatives by allowing insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums, as long as they also make a high-risk pool available to those patients.

Representative Mark Meadows, the head of the Freedom Caucus who has been consulting with MacArthur, would not say Thursday whether he supports the proposed changes.

Asked whether a health-care bill or funding the government should be Congress’s top priority next week, Trump said Thursday that he believes both could get done.

“I think we want to keep the government open, don’t you agree?” Trump said. “So I think we’ll get both.”


Attorney General Sneers at Hawaii as “An Island in the Pacific”

Defending Donald Trump’s blocked “Muslim Ban”, Attorney General Jeff Sessions belittles both a federal judge and the state of Hawaii.

Appearing on the radio show of right-wing polemicist Mark Levin, Session derided Judge Derrick Watson — who ruled against both the original ban on refugees and citizens of seven mainly-Muslim countries from entering the US, and a revised version — as “a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific”.

Sessions insisted the 120-day ban on all refugees and 90-day ban on visa holders was “clearly” in Trump’s “statutory and Constitutional power”, despite the findings of both Watson and an appellate court that the ban violated Constitutional rights, discriminated on the basis of religion, and was not justified by Executive authority for “national security”.

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas Chin responded, “Our federal courts, established under article III of the Constitution, are co-equal partners with Congress and the President. It is disappointing AG Sessions does not acknowledge that.”

Senator Mazie Hirono replied via Twitter:

Senator Brian Schatz said:


Trump Orders Expedited Review of Steel Imports

Donald Trump orders the quick completion of a just-launched investigation over whether steel imports are jeopardizing U.S. national security, saying, “This is not an area where we can afford to become dependent on other countries.”

Executives from US steelmakers stood behind Trump as he signed the order directing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to return recommendations in the “very, very near” future. Trump said that could be as soon as 30 to 50 days.

US-made steel once accounted for about 20% of global production, but was less than 5 percent by 2015.

“From now on, we’re going to stand up for American jobs, workers and their security, and for American steel companies and companies in general,” Trump said. “Today’s action is the next vital step toward making America strong and prosperous once again.”

In 2001, the Commerce Department found no evidence of a threat ot national security. Since then, China’s share of global production has risen to about 50%, so excess output by Chinese factories can lower prices for US steelmakers.

But Trump — who indicated earlier this week that he was stepping back from economic conflict with Beijing because of the need for China to help defuse a showdown with North Korea — said, “This has nothing to do with China. This has to do with worldwide, what’s happening. The dumping problem is a worldwide problem.”


Trump: “No US Role” in Libya

Effectively rebuffing the visiting Italian Prime Minister, Donald Trump says he does not believe the US should be involved in stabilizing Libya, amid ongoing turmoil after the overthrow of Moammar Qaddafi in 2011.

“I do not see a role in Libya. I think the United States has right now enough roles,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni — just after the Prime Minister called the American involvement “critical”.

Trump was not wearing an earpiece that would have provided him with English translation of Gentiloni’s comments.

The Prime Minister said, “I believe that one clear goal should be this: We need the region and we need countries like Egypt and Tunisia that are close to Libya, we need a stable and unified Libya. A divided country in conflict would make stability worse. The US role in this is critical.”

Trump also challenged Gentiloni over Italy’s contribution to NATO, following a reporter’s query that Rome is spending less than 1% of GDP on defense, compared to the NATO standard of 2%.

“I love the question you asked the Prime Minister, I look forward to his answer,” Trump said as he smiled and turned towards Gentiloni. “I’m going to be asking him that same question very soon.”

Gentiloni later responded that Italy’s “commitment to common defense is very clear”.


CIA Liaison with National Security Council Broken After Argument With Bannon Ally

The CIA’s interaction with the National Security Council has been broken, following the departure of its liaison after a dispute with a NSC official close to White House strategist Steve Bannon and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

The liaison, a former marine officer who is still in the CIA, clashed with the NSC’s intelligence director Ezra Cohen-Watnick. He was abruptly informed in mid-March that his services were no longer needed and he ought not to come to work the next day.

Flynn’s successor H.R. McMaster has tried to remove Cohen-Watnick, but the intelligence director still has the backing of Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has links with Cohen-Watnick’s parents.

The CIA liaison position has not been restored.

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