Healthcare consensus, Trump Jr. & Manafort testimony

Your panelists this week include Bob Price - associate editor for Breitbart Texas, Houston attorney and progressive commentator Nyanza Moore, Chicano educator and activist Tony Diaz, Majic 102.1 Sunday Morning Live radio show host Marcus Davis, longtime Super Neighborhood leader Tomaro Bell and Republican strategist Jessica Colon join host Greg Groogan for a lively discussion about the ongoing healthcare debate on Capitol Hill and the scheduled testimonies of Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort before Senate committees.

By ALAN FRAM
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate parliamentarian added a new complication to Republican hopes for their floundering health care bill, ruling the GOP would need to win an all-but-impossible 60 votes to retain anti-abortion provisions in the measure, Democrats said late Friday.

Democrats said the parliamentarian decided another provision providing Medicaid savings for upstate New York counties would also need 60 votes to survive. Democrats said they believed that means other bill language benefiting Alaska and other states - which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put into the legislation to try winning support from those states' senators - is in jeopardy.

Republicans contested Democrats' description, saying the parliamentarian's views were guidance only. They said the legislation's wording was subject to change as leaders work behind the scenes to win over GOP senators, and said efforts would continue to craft the provisions in ways that would pass parliamentary muster.

Republicans have a 52-48 Senate majority, and at least one Republican said late Friday that the GOP is short of the votes to move ahead with Sen. John McCain in Arizona dealing with brain cancer.

"Without John McCain, we don't have 50 people to take that vote," Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver.

Democrats have been unified in opposing the GOP repeal effort. Few Democrats would be expected to join them to retain anti-abortion provisions, and none would likely side with the GOP to retain the state-specific language. That means it seems certain Republicans would fall short of reaching 60 votes.

Republicans have said they plan to begin voting on their health care legislation Tuesday. That might be delayed if McConnell, R-Ky., is still hunting GOP votes.

"The parliamentarian's guidance helps inform us as we write legislation before going to the floor," said Eric Ueland, Republican staff director of the Senate Budget Committee. "We look forward to continued preparations for votes next week."

One abortion provision in jeopardy would block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year. Another would forbid individuals and small businesses from using the bill's health care tax credits to buy policies that cover abortion.

The abortion provisions are important for conservatives. It is unclear what they would do if that language was removed from the bill.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the ruling on the New York language "will greatly tie the majority leader's hands as he tries to win over reluctant Republicans with state-specific provisions. We will challenge every one of them."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said the way Republicans wrote the bill is "a disaster," adding, "It is time for the Republican leadership to junk this bill."

Republicans are using special procedures for the health care bill that bar Democrats from using a filibuster to kill it. Filibusters require 60 votes to end.

But under those rules, provisions must have a budget-related impact and cannot be driven primarily by making a policy change.

When a bill is being debated on the Senate floor, any senator can claim that a provision violates that rule.

The parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, tells the chamber's presiding senator her advice on that challenge and it is generally announced by the presiding senator. If another senator challenges that ruling, it takes 60 votes to override her ruling.

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Associated Press writer Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed to this report.


By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump said Saturday that he has "complete power" to issue pardons, an assertion that comes amid investigations into Russian interference in last year's presidential election. It was one of many topics that appeared to occupy the president's mind as the day broke.

On a day when most people are ready to forget about the issues that nagged them during the week, Trump revved up. In an early morning flurry of 10 tweets, he commented about pardons, former presidential rival Hillary Clinton, son Don Jr., health care, the USS Gerald Ford, the attorney general and other issues.

Trump said in one of his 10 messages: "While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS."

The Washington Post recently reported that Trump has inquired about the authority he has as president to pardon aides, relatives or even himself in connection with the widening investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether any Trump associates were involved.

The president has long criticized leaks of information about the investigation, and has urged authorities to prosecute leakers.

Trump maintains that no crimes have been committed.

One of Trump's attorneys, Jay Sekulow, said the president has not discussed the issue of pardons with his outside legal team.

Sekulow reiterated that point Saturday evening. Speaking to reporters at the site of the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, he said that Trump's private legal team is "not researching it because it's not an issue."

"I don't know where this came from. There is nothing to pardon," said Sekulow, who added that "what's going on in Washington is an attack on the president."

Next week, Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.; his son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner; and Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, are scheduled to appear before Senate committees investigating Russian meddling.

Trump defended his son in one of the tweets, saying he "openly gave his e-mails to the media & authorities whereas Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 e-mails!" Trump's namesake has become a focus of the investigation after it was revealed that he, Kushner and Manafort met with Russian representatives at Trump Tower in June 2016. Trump Jr. later released email exchanges concerning the meeting on Twitter, after learning that The New York Times was about to publish them.

The FBI investigated Clinton for using a private email server as secretary of state. She turned over thousands of pages of emails to the government, but deleted thousands of others that she said were personal or unrelated to her work as the nation's top diplomat.

Trump also complained Saturday about a Washington Post report that the Russian ambassador to the U.S. said he discussed election-related issues with Jeff Sessions when the men met during the 2016 presidential race. Sessions, now the attorney general, at the time was a U.S. senator and foreign policy adviser to Trump.

Trump tweeted: "A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey's, must stop!"

The Post on Friday cited anonymous U.S. officials who described U.S. intelligence intercepts of Ambassador Sergey Kislyak's descriptions of his meetings with Sessions.

The Justice Department said Sessions stands by his previous assertion that he never had conversations with Russian officials about any type of interference with the election.

Trump also said "Republican Senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace" the Obama-era health care law. An effort to advance legislation collapsed in the Senate earlier this week after several Republicans said they wouldn't vote for the bill.

Trump ended the tweet with "Tax Reform and Infrastructure. WIN!"

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AP Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace contributed to this report.

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Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

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