The Note: Health care disconnect

We're at the halfway point of President Trump’s first 100 days.

March 10, 2017, 8:32 AM


Day No. 50

The big story: Here at the halfway point of President Trump’s first 100 days, a question looms: Which version of reality to believe? The one where the House is marching toward passing the big new health care plan, with Professor Paul Ryan outlining the way? Or the one where the united force of virtually every conservative policy shop and the House Freedom Caucus kill the bill faster than you can say “CBO”? There’s another big disconnect: The White House says it’s still in listening mode, publicly and privately. “We're welcoming ideas and thoughts,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. “I didn’t hear anything that said it’s a binary choice at the White House today,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus. But that’s not the message from Ryan and company: “This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare,” the speaker said Thursday. For now, there’s disagreement on whether this is a real negotiation, not to mention what a compromise from here would even look like.

The sleeper story: Michael Flynn is gone from the Trump administration, but he’s not forgotten – and with good reason. The disclosure that Flynn was paid more than half a million dollars to lobby on behalf of the government of Turkey – work he performed in the run-up and immediate aftermath of the election – is a stunner. As his ties to Russian officials continue to be scrutinized, what other foreign lobbying work was he being paid for – directly or indirectly – as he was about to be tapped to serve as President Trump’s national security adviser? Did he disclose any such contracts to the president’s team when his name was under public and private consideration? Moreover, Vice President Mike Pence’s icy response – “It is an affirmation of the president's decision to ask Gen. Flynn to resign,” he told Fox News’ Bret Baier on Thursday – raises questions about what other aspects of Flynn’s behavior led to his dismissal. Recall that, after he asked him to go for misleading Pence about his contacts with Russia, the president himself called Flynn a “wonderful man” who was treated unfairly by “the fake media.”

The shiny story: EPA chief Scott Pruitt is now on record contradicting his own agency, and surely the vast majority of his employees, in questioning whether carbon dioxide is contributing to global warming. “I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said, falling back on the need to “continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.” That may not align fully with what he told Congress at his confirmation hearings. But it should not be the least bit surprising. Pruitt has spent much of his career trying to undermine the core of what he has called the “activist agenda” of the agency he now leads. The question for career EPA officials – as at other agencies that now have radically different leadership – is whether they would feel more comfortable staying or going, given the current direction. But no one should truly be shocked by any of this – elections, as they say, have consequences.

TLDR: The GOP health care plan has moved through two House panels, but there is a disconnect in the Republican Party of whether it’ll pass or be killed. And after remaining relatively quiet about the health care bill (except for a tweet yesterday), Trump will be meeting with House Committee chairmen to discuss health care today.

Photo of the day: With rolled-up sleeves and a PowerPoint slideshow, Paul Ryan took on the role of professor instead of House Speaker to explain the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare step-by-step. But what Ryan probably didn’t plan for was to fall victim to Photoshop and become a viral meme. (Credit: Dan Amira)


--FBI Director James Comey meets Congressional leaders on wiretapping, leaks, Russia: FBI Director James Comey traveled to Capitol Hill Thursday to meet with congressional leaders on a number of national security issues, according to senior officials familiar with the situation. Comey was anticipating questions on a range of topics, including the recent WikiLeaks release of purported CIA files, Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and President Donald Trump's assertion that former President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower last year. ABC's PIERRE THOMAS, JACK DATE and BENJAMIN SIEGEL have more:

--Inside the Senate GOP resistance to Trumpcare: Just as House Speaker Paul Ryan was rolling up his sleeves to give a presentation on the House Republican Obamacare replacement plan, on the other side of the Capitol, senators offering a full-throated defense of the bill were scarce. The House blueprint, which Ryan referred to as a "three-pronged approach" Thursday, includes some provisions that various Republican factions oppose; most notably, a plan to provide tax credits to individuals, which some critics have said amounts to a new entitlement, and an eventual cap on the amount of Medicaid funding states can receive, which worries some Republicans whose states accepted an Obama-era Medicaid expansion. ABC’s ALI ROGIN has more:

--The road to repealing and replacing Obamacare: After the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means Committee approved the GOP’s health care plan yesterday, ABC's JOHN PARKINSON explains what happens next in the House. While Democrats have worked overtime to frustrate the legislation’s progress, they appear powerless so far to block its advancement. That privilege will fall to conservatives.

This Week on ‘This Week’: George Stephanopoulos goes one-on-one with White House Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney, Sunday on “This Week.” Plus, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., come to “This Week.” And the Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, with National Review editor Rich Lowry, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, Republican pollster and ABC News contributor Kristen Soltis Anderson, and editor and publisher of The Nation Katrina vanden Heuvel.

Speed read with ABC's ABC’s ADAM KELSEY

The 3 key provisions in the GOP health care bill that cause experts concern. Several health care industry experts have expressed serious concerns about three key areas of the Republican health care bill unveiled this week, proposed as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as "Obamacare." Some doctors and hospital groups worry that people with lower incomes or who are closer to retirement age would be likely to receive fewer tax credits from the government to help them buy their own insurance than they do through current ACA subsidies, writes ABC's MARYALICE PARKS.

Spicer's rebuke puts spotlight on Congressional budget office amid GOP health care battle. White House press secretary Sean Spicer leveled stinging criticism against the nonpartisan Congressional Budget office Wednesday, assailing its accuracy amid Democratic complaints that the agency would not have an opportunity to review the new health care legislation before a vote. "If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place," said Spicer. "They were way, way off last time in every aspect of how they scored and projected Obamacare." ABC's ADAM KELSEY has more:

What the 400 additional US troops in Syria are up to. The addition of 400 Marines and Army Rangers to Syria will increase the number of American troops inside the country to 900, according to U.S. officials. Several hundred Marines have arrived in Syria to provide artillery support to U.S.-backed Syrian rebels preparing to retake Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital in Syria, a U.S. official said Wednesday. Last weekend, a contingent of Army Rangers arrived in Manbij to essentially act as a visible presence to prevent the Turkish military and Kurdish forces from fighting each other in the city retaken from ISIS months ago, explain ABC's LUIS MARTINEZ and ELIZABETH MCLAUGHLIN.

Government ethics office 'concerned' over White House decision not to discipline Kellyanne Conway. The director of the Office of Government Ethics said he is "concerned" over the White House's decision not to discipline Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump's brand in a television appearance. In a letter to White House deputy counsel Stefan Passantino, OGE director Walter Shaub said the White House failed to discipline Conway despite conduct that may have violated a federal ethics rule prohibiting "using one's official position to endorse any product or service," ABC's ALEXANDER MALLIN notes.

ACLU files complaint against Jeff Sessions. The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday filed an ethics complaint with the Alabama State Bar against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for testimony he made about Russian officials during his confirmation hearing, ABC’s TOM KUTSCH reports. “Mr. Sessions made false statements during sworn testimony on January 10, 2017, and in a subsequent written response to questions on January 17, 2017,” the complaint reads.

Sessions: Guantanamo Bay 'a very fine place' for terror suspects. During an interview Thursday with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was asked if either he or President Trump intend to shut down the facility. "Well, I have not favored that," Sessions said. "I've been there a number of times as a Senator, and it's just a very fine place for holding these kind of dangerous criminals. We've spent a lot of money fixing it up. And I'm inclined to the view that it remains a perfectly acceptable place. And I think the fact that a lot of the criticisms have just been totally exaggerated." ABC’s DAVID CAPLAN has more:

Tillerson steps away from possible pipeline decisions. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who previously served as the CEO of oil and gas giant ExxonMobil, has recused himself from any decisions regarding the Keystone XL oil pipeline, according to ABC’s CONOR FINNEGAN. In a letter sent to the environmental group Greenpeace Thursday, a State Department deputy legal adviser writes that Tillerson decided to recuse himself in “early February...from working on issues related to TransCanada's application for a presidential permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline."

Pence: Turkey lobbying 'an affirmation' of decision to fire flynn. Vice President Mike Pence called revelations that former national security adviser Michael Flynn's lobbying efforts may have benefited Turkey an "affirmation" that President Trump was right in firing him. Flynn's lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, did lobbying work in the months leading up to his White House appointment that may have benefited the Turkish government, according to a filing made on Tuesday, ABC’s KATHERINE FAULDERS and JORDYN PHELPS report.


@markknoller: It's Day 50 of his presidency. He last responded to a few questions from reporters 8 days ago; last interview 11 days ago.

@oliverdarcy: The Marine Corps' nude photo-sharing scandal is even worse than first realized, @PaulSzoldra reports

@mj_lee: Nobody wants this GOP Obamacare bill named after them. Just asked Kevin Brady what he thinks of the names "Trumpcare" and "Ryancare."

@GlennKesslerWP: @realDonaldTrump has been president for 50 days. In that time, he has made 219 false or misleading statements.

@bgittleson: Trump is holding a CAMPAIGN rally in Nashville next Wednesday:

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