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The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Old McConnell Has a Plan

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

Senate Republicans released a 142-page proposal that would dismantle parts of the Affordable Care Act. Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Ron Johnson, and Mike Lee said in a joint statement that they are “not ready” to vote for the GOP health-care bill, but are open to negotiations. Former President Barack Obama also weighed in, calling the bill a “massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.” Trump said on Twitter that he did not record his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, despite having suggested “tapes” exist of their talks. Edgar Maddison Welch, the North Carolina man who fired an assault rifle inside a restaurant in Washington, D.C. in response to an internet conspiracy theory, was sentenced to four years in prison.


Today on The Atlantic

  • Medicaid on the Line: Vann R. Newkirk II explains how the new Republican health-care plan will shift benefits from the poor and sick to the healthy and affluent.

  • What Gives?: Immigration restrictionist groups thought they had an ally in Donald Trump, but after the president fell short on several key campaign promises, those groups are losing faith in him. (Priscilla Alvarez)

  • ‘A Big Dem HOAX!’: A recent tweet from President Trump suggests that he no longer believes Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election, putting him at odds with the intelligence community and most congressional Republicans. (David A. Graham)

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Obama: ‘This Bill Will Do You Harm’

By Vann R. Newkirk II

On Thursday, Senate Republicans released a draft version of their Obamacare replacement, the American Health Care Act. The bill looks similar to the version passed by the House in May, and would accomplish much of the same: a large increase in the number of uninsured people and drastic cuts to the Medicaid program that is critical for poor people, pregnant women, children, and people with chronic health conditions.

In the aftermath of the release of that bill, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes will pass the Senate in the next two weeks, former President Barack Obama issued a rare full-throated post-presidential statement criticizing the AHCA and the political process by which it came to be. The statement, posted to Facebook, comes on the heels of another statement in March defending Obamacare, and is also one of the most thorough defenses of his signature policy, even dating back to his time in office.

-Vann Newkirk


Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain—we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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The Supreme Court Defends the Integrity of U.S. Citizenship

By Matt Ford

The U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the scope under which the federal government can strip naturalized Americans of their citizenship on Thursday, ruling that false statements made during the naturalization process had to be relevant to gaining citizenship in order to justify revoking it later.

Justice Elena Kagan, writing for a unanimous Court in Maslenjuk v. United States, said that using small omissions or minor lies to denaturalize immigrants went beyond what Congress authorized. “The statute it passed, most naturally read, strips a person of citizenship not when she committed any illegal act during the naturalization process, but only when that act played some role in her naturalization,” she wrote.

The Obama and Trump administrations had tried to convince the justices otherwise. The case hinged on a provision of federal immigration law, Section 1425(a). If a jury finds a naturalized American guilty of an offense under 1425(a), he or she is automatically stripped of their citizenship. In 2013, federal prosecutors charged Diana Maslenjuk, the plaintiff in the case, with making false statements about her husband’s membership in Bosnian Serb militias in the 1990s.

Since the Supreme Court’s landmark Afroyim v. Rusk decision in 1967, American citizenship is generally irrevocable unless its bearer explicitly chooses to forsake it. No lawful method exists to involuntarily strip a native-born American of citizenship; naturalized citizens can lose it against their will only if they lied during the naturalization process. Maslenjuk qualified under that exception, according to federal prosecutors, when she misled a State Department official in 1998 during her application for refugee status.

The United States granted her that status in 1999 and she and her children emigrated to Ohio; her husband soon followed. After the U.S. government discovered the truth and arrested her husband in 2006 for lying about his service, Maslenjuk applied for citizenship. On the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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The Lasting Damage of Trump’s ‘Tapes’ Bluff

By David Frum

This is a first for the Trump presidency: the first formal presidential retraction of a presidential untruth.

President Trump tweeted a warning to James Comey: The fired FBI director had better hope that no “tapes” existed that could contradict his account of what happened between the two men. Trump has now confessed that he had no basis for this warning. There were no such tapes, and the president knew it all along.

The tweet was intended to intimidate. It failed, spectacularly: Instead of silencing Comey, it set in motion the special counsel investigation that now haunts Donald Trump’s waking imagination.

But the failed intimidation does have important real world consequences.

First, it confirms America’s adversaries in their intensifying suspicion that the president’s tough words are hollow talk. The rulers of North Korea will remember the menacing April 4 statement from the Department of State that the United States had spoken enough about missile tests, implying that decisive actions lay ahead—and the lack of actions and deluge of further statements that actually followed.

The Chinese will remember Trump’s retreat from his “two China” messaging during the transition. They will have noted that Trump has entirely retreated from his insistence that they restrain North Korea or pay some price—seeing instead his “At least I know China tried!” tweet of June 20.

The Russians have buzzed American aircraft and severed the deconfliction hot line over Syria. They have paid no real price for their attack on the integrity of the 2016 election—indeed, the president continues to exonerate them and to argue for relaxed sanctions.

And while the administration continues on a collision course with Iran, even they must wonder whether there is really very much to fear from a president who has alienated the big European countries—notably Germany—who once joined U.S. sanctions but who are now increasing their …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Trump: There Are (Probably) No Tapes

By David A. Graham

President Trump said on Thursday that, despite his repeated teases about the existence of recordings of his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey, he did not make any tapes. But he added a paranoid flourish, nodding toward frequent leaks from the government and his claims of persecution by the intelligence community, by suggesting that recordings might have been made without his knowledge.

In keeping with the increasing sidelining of his communications staff, Trump made the statement via Twitter.

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It seemed highly likely that Trump was blowing smoke about the tapes all along. He has, as the AP noted, repeatedly promised to deliver big surprises—such as information proving Barack Obama was not an American citizen—and then failed to do so. Multiple reporters recalled incidents in which Trump claimed to be recording conversations but never produced the tapes, even when claiming he’d been misquoted. Common sense also suggests that no president would be so foolish as to record Oval Office conversations, especially if they involved potential obstruction of justice, given the role of tapes in bringing down President Richard Nixon. Then again, common sense suggests not obstructing justice, and often does not apply to this administration.

Trump’s acknowledgement that there are no tapes was telegraphed earlier in the day. In an Associated Press story Thursday morning, Trump ally Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, was dubious there were any recordings.

“I think he was in his way …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Finding Mentorship Outside of Your Industry

By Elisha Brown

Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams wants to be her state’s first Democratic governor in over a decade. Thus far, the gubernatorial candidate, who moonlights as a romance novelist, has dedicated her time in political office to increasing voter turnout in the state. Abrams created the voter-registration nonprofit New Georgia Project. (In 2014, the organization faced allegations of voter fraud leveled by Abrams’ opponent. The investigation technically remains open but has not resulted in any finding of wrongdoing.) She also leads the B.L.U.E. Institute, an organization that aims to increase diversity on campaign staffs.

Despite her storied political career, the leaders who inspired Abrams along the way were often from outside of the political realm. For The Atlantic’s series on mentorship, “On the Shoulders of Giants,” I spoke with Abrams about unconventional mentors, writers she looks up to, and what makes a good mentee.


Elisha Brown: Who was the first person to give you advice about your political aspirations?

Stacey Abrams: I rarely actually asked for advice about politics writ large. I came of age before formal conversations about mentorship used to happen. Instead, what I carved for myself were people who had different skills that I thought would be important for me to have. When I was in college the first time I actually ran for office, I ran for student government. That came about in part because of Dr. Johnnetta Cole, who was the president of Spelman College. That’s the first time I had the formal set of experiences that would lead to my effectiveness in running for office. Working with Dr. Cole, I learned how to fundraise. She would let me watch and attend events. I also learned to be fearless in asking for money. She was extraordinary at Spelman and helped raised more …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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The Senate Puts Medicaid on the Chopping Block

By Vann R. Newkirk II

The new AHCA is a lot like the old AHCA.

After weeks of secret gestation in back rooms, the Senate released a discussion draft of the chamber’s version of the American Health Care Act. Like the version passed through the House to cheers in May, it is likely to make health care less affordable for low-income, sick, and near-elderly people; it makes Obamacare tax credits for exchange coverage less generous; it restricts and slashes Medicaid funding deeply over the next decade; and it attempts to smooth euphemistically-named “market disruptions” from all those reforms by injecting billions into state funds and reinsurance.

There are some substantial changes in the specifics, though. For starters, the Senate bill would tweak the House bill’s tax subsidy for private insurance purchased on the exchanges. The final version of the House bill provided a tax credit to people making up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line that would be less generous than the existing ACA credits. It would also reduce the amount of expenses covered as recipients get older and have more expenses.

The Senate’s version would cut the eligibility for premium tax credits to those earning up to 350 percent of the poverty line. It would be slightly more generous for poor and near-poor people, although credit percentages would taper off more sharply as recipients grow older, and they would be severely restricted for people as their income approaches that 350 percent threshold. Unlike the House plan, however, the Senate plan would fund Obamacare exchange cost-sharing subsidies through 2019, which would soften some of the immediate impacts of a less generous tax credit.

The House’s bill would allow private insurers to charge people more as they grow older, and permit plans in certain states to cover fewer services. It also would have made exchange …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Trump Is a Russian-Interference Truther Once More

By David A. Graham

On Tuesday, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer what should have been an easy question: Does the president believe that Russia interfered in the 2016 election?

Spicer demurred: “I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing.” That answer was incredible, in both the literal and figurative senses. It was hard to believe that Spicer hadn’t discussed that topic with President Trump, and hard to believe that Trump would still be denying the now-universal view of intelligence agencies and lawmakers in both parties. In fact, Trump had acknowledged as much on January 11, at his first and only post-election press conference.

But in a series of tweets Thursday morning, Trump validated Spicer’s reluctance, indicating that he has changed his mind, no longer believes there was Russian interference, and sees the whole thing as a “a big Dem HOAX!”

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What’s In the Senate Republican Health-Care Bill

By Russell Berman

The Senate Republican health-care bill is finally out in the open.

After weeks of secretive deliberations, party leaders on Thursday released a 142-page proposal that would slash taxes on the wealthy and businesses; reduce federal funding for Medicaid and phase out its expansion under the Affordable Care Act; and limit the tax credits available to help people purchase insurance on the individual market. The legislation, titled the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, is officially labeled a “discussion draft,” but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants Republican to debate and vote on the bill by the end of next week.

Like the American Health Care Act that passed the House in May, the Senate bill is a substantial revision to Obamacare but not a wholesale repeal. And while Senate Republicans had vowed to start over rather than work off the unpopular House proposal, their version is structured the same way. The Senate measure mirrors the House bill in eliminating the ACA’s employer and individual insurance mandates and most of the tax increases it imposed to pay for new programs. Both proposals call for an overhaul of Medicaid funding that would allow states to institute work requirements and end the program’s status as an open-ended entitlement. The Senate bill would go further than the House’s $800 billion in cuts by reducing its growth rate beginning in 2025, but unlike the House version, it would begin a three-year phase-out of the program’s expansion in 2020. The AHCA would cut off the expansion entirely that year.

The Senate bill targets abortion coverage by prohibiting the use of tax credits to buy insurance plans that cover the procedure, and it would ban funds from going to Planned Parenthood. Those provisions could jeopardize the support of two moderate Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Immigration Hardliners Grow Frustrated with Trump

By Priscilla Alvarez

Twenty-one days after Election Day last November, Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that supports reduced immigration, introduced a transition document to provide the newly elected president with guidance on immigration policy.

It was their moment. FAIR had condemned the Obama administration’s immigration policy, and pushed for heightened border security and the removal of undocumented immigrants. And Trump, whose campaign had begun with a promise to crack down on illegal immigration, appeared to be the champion they needed.

Within the first few weeks of his administration, Trump expanded the number of undocumented immigrants considered a priority for deportation, threatened jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal immigration agents, and called for more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and Customs and Border Protection agents. But he also fell short on other promises—including a central plank of his presidential campaign, a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. In the interim, the high expectations of immigration restriction groups like FAIR have turned to frustration and disappointment.

“We can only assume that President Trump has struck a secret deal with Mexico to get them to pay for the border fence he promised, because funding for the project sure isn’t in the budget proposal he sent to Congress,” Stein said in a statement following the release of Trump’s budget proposal in May. The proposal included $2.6 billion for border security, a fraction of which was marked for the construction of a wall. That figure paled in comparison to estimates by the Department of Homeland Security, which found in a report that a wall along the southern border would cost as much as $21.6 billion. It also went back on a campaign pledge that Trump would make Mexico pay for the barrier. But the sarcastic tone of …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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