When members of Congress return to Washington next week after their long spring recess, both parties plan to focus on passing a spending bill to keep the federal government running past April 28. When Congress returns next week, President Trump wants House Republicans to take up the American Health Care Act again, with a new amendment, so he will be able to point to a concrete accomplishment in his first 100 days in office; his 100th day is April 29.
"Congress usually cannot take on two big things at once," The New York Times says. Five days to pass a spending bill, The Washington Post adds, is "a tight timeline under the most generous of circumstance that would be nearly impossible to meet if House leaders also try to force a vote on the repeal legislation." In theory, Democrats and Republicans could pass a very short-term stopgap spending bill, but a new GOP push to pass the AHCA, which repeals large parts of the Affordable Care Act, would not put Democrats in a very cooperative mood.
The first attempt to pass the AHCA failed very publicly last month. But at a news conference on Thursday, Trump said "the plan gets better and better and better, and it's gotten really, really good, and a lot of people are liking it a lot," adding he thinks the House can pass that as well as a spending bill. "We have a good chance of getting it soon," Trump said of the AHCA. "I'd like to say next week, but it will be — I believe we will get it."
Hopes of passing the health-care bill rest on an amendment negotiated by relative moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) and Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). The draft plan would allow states to seek waivers to requirements that insurers offer essential health benefits and not charge more to people with pre-existing conditions, if the state maintained a high-risk pool. (Jeff Spross has more details at The Week.)
Even if House Republicans get the plan translated into legislative language and get it scored by the Congressional Budget Office, there's no guarantee it would pass. The amendment "really doesn't address the concerns that I had," Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) told The New York Times. Fellow moderate Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) agreed it "does nothing to change my views," criticizing any focus "on an arbitrary 100-day deadline." Peter Weber
ESPN President John Skipper resigned from the network Monday, citing a substance abuse problem. "I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction. I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem," Skipper said in a statement. "I come to this public disclosure with embarrassment, trepidation, and a feeling of having let others I care about down."
Skipper said the decision for him to resign was made in tandem with the company. In a separate statement, Bob Iger, the chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company, the majority owner of ESPN, said: "I respect [Skipper's] candor and support his decision to focus on his health and his family."
Skipper joined ESPN in 1997 and became the company's president in 2012. Former ESPN President George Bodenheimer will oversee a 90-day transition period for the company as it searches for a replacement. Kimberly Alters
Venezuela has long been in chaos. The South American country is plagued by a disastrous, multi-year recession and political instability, mismanagement, and corruption. There isn't enough bread, so the government has arrested bakers. There isn't enough food, so the military is trafficking limited supplies for personal profit. Pets are starving, as their owners can no longer spare them food, and, as The New York Times reported in a lengthy story Sunday, children are starving to death, too.
Times reporters conducted a five-month investigation, interviewing medical staff at hospitals across Venezuela. The doctors they spoke with reported a heart-rending increase in malnutrition cases among their youngest patients:
Parents ... go days without eating, shriveling to the weight of children themselves. Women line up at sterilization clinics to avoid having children they can't feed. Young boys leave home and join street gangs to scavenge for scraps, their bodies bearing the scars of knife fights with competitors. Crowds of adults storm dumpsters after restaurants close. Babies die because it is hard to find or afford infant formula, even in emergency rooms. [The New York Times]
Statistical information about the scale of the malnutrition crisis is difficult to find, as the Venezuelan government has attempted to suppress such damaging data. One 2015 report from the Venezuelan Ministry of Health offers a grim hint: It said the mortality rate for children younger than four weeks increased by 100 percent — from 0.02 percent to just over 2 percent — between 2012 and 2015.
A small group of Senate Democrats want Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to walk back his resignation, Politico reported Monday. Franken announced from the Senate floor on Dec. 7 that he would leave Congress "in the coming weeks" after more than three dozen of his Democratic colleagues called for his resignation following allegations of sexual harassment.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was one of Franken's biggest defenders, telling Politico that the Democrats' cornering of Franken was "atrocious." Even if Franken doesn't reverse his decision, Manchin said, "I hope [Senate Democrats] have enough guts ... and enough conscience and enough heart to say, 'Al, we made a mistake asking prematurely for you to leave.'"
Franken was accused of sexual harassment by eight women and said that he would "fully gladly cooperate" with an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee into his behavior, but instead announced he would resign after his party colleagues spoke out against him. Manchin was absent from the Democratic chorus calling for Franken's resignation, but apparently some of the senators who did speak out are also questioning their decision; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) apparently told Franken "privately" that he "regrets" calling for the senator to step down, Politico reports.
A third senator, who declined to be named because of "political sensitivity," lamented: "I think we acted prematurely, before we had all the facts. In retrospect, I think we acted too fast." Read more at Politico. Kelly O'Meara Morales
There is a persistent, if evolving, rumor on Capitol Hill, Politico reports, which has captured the conversations and stoked the speculation of members of Congress and their staff: More than 20 lawmakers from both major parties will be credibly accused of sexual harassment and other misconduct before the fervor of #MeToo dies down.
So far, five members of Congress — Al Franken (D-Minn.) in the Senate and John Conyers (D-Mich.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), and Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) in the House — have resigned or announced they will not seek re-election after allegations were leveled against them. That tally means three times as many accusations are yet to come if the rumor is true, a calculation that reportedly has Hill staff grilling their bosses about past misconduct to get ahead of potential exposure stories.
Also raising alarm is the possibility of false accusations, such as the ones that recently surfaced against Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). "Members who have high-profile elections coming up or just are really out front on a particular issue are now feeling like they may be targets," Kristin Nicholson, a long-time Democratic staffer, told Politico. "The idea that [false allegations] could potentially get through and cause some harm before it's discounted is causing some fear." Bonnie Kristian
"Millennials, you just had $1.5 trillion stolen from you," MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said on Morning Joe on Monday, referring to the $1.5 trillion the Republican tax plan is predicted to add to the federal deficit, and thus the national debt, in the next decade. "Past Congresses have stolen $20 trillion from you," he continued, citing the current national debt total, "and over the next ten years, they're going to steal another $10 trillion from you. And they're going to die, and then you're going to be left holding the bill."
Scarborough went on to level charges of irresponsibility at both parties, criticizing both for their role in growing the national debt to its present size. Particularly if the GOP tax bill weakens the economy, he mused, it will "turn a lot of people into socialists." Watch his comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian
Last week, Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch brushed off the sexual misconduct cases that ended the careers of the network's top star, Bill O'Reilly, and its top executive, Roger Ailes, telling Britain's Sky News that "it's all nonsense" and "isolated incidents," suggesting the sexual abuse claims were "largely political because we are conservative." CNN's Brian Stelter played Murdoch's comments on Sunday, then gave the floor to former Fox News contributor Tamara Holder, who said Murdoch's statements freed her of the silence imposed under her $2.5 million settlement with Fox News.
Fox News will probably sue her, but "I legally have a right to respond if I am disparaged or defamed," Holder said. "What Mr. Murdoch said, in my opinion as a lawyer, not as a victim or a survivor, is that this gives me a legal right to respond," both for herself and the other victims who can't come forward. "If this is political, then let's take these cases to trial," she added. "Let's open it up. You're the ones who wanted to settle. You're the ones who wanted us to be quiet."
Part of the settlement was a lifetime ban from even applying to work for a 21st Century Fox company, Holder said. "Fox News ruined people's lives," she said. Murdoch "ruined my life. I don't have a job in TV anymore because the place he has secured down like Fort Knox allowed abusive predators to prey on women who just wanted to work." Without naming names, she gave some details of her sexual assault, and criticized Murdoch's characterization of what went on at his company. "He said there were cases that amounted to flirting. Let me be clear. I had a man pull out his penis in his office and shove my head on it — that was not flirting, that was criminal."
"It's just pain on top of pain on top of pain," Holder said. Peter Weber
President Trump plans to unveil a new national security strategy on Monday presenting China and Russia as rivals seeking to realign global power in a potential threat to U.S. interests, Trump administration officials said Sunday. Trump's policy statement is expected to reflect the America First themes of his campaign, reversing Obama-era warnings about climate change and emphasizing the economic implications of U.S. foreign policy. "This strategy advances what I would call a principled realism," one official said. "In some ways, the global balance of power has shifted in unfavorable manners to American interests. This new strategy presents a plan of how America can regain momentum to reverse many of these trends." Harold Maass