Talk of unity wanes as Republicans, Democrats blame each other for shooting

WASHINGTON (AP) — It didn’t take long for Washington’s post-shooting talk of unity to begin fraying.

As a top Republican, Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, lay in critical condition at a local hospital Thursday, some Republicans on the far right suggested that vitriolic rhetoric on the left could be to blame for the attack that put him there.

“How dare they say such a thing? How dare they?” retorted Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, pointing to a year of venomous attacks by Republicans including President Donald Trump.

A day earlier, a man with a rifle and a handgun wounded Scalise and others at a baseball practice in a park in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. The attacker, who was shot by Scalise’s security detail and later died, was an Illinois man whose social media postings showed anger at Trump and the Republicans.

US Congressman Steve Scalise at a press conference in Washington, DC, June 13, 2017. (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

Trump and others in both parties called for unity — or at least a drastic cooling of rhetorical attacks. But barbed comments weren’t long in coming.

“The center of America is disappearing, and the violence is incited by the leading cultural voices of the Left,” Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa said over Twitter.

The center of America is disappearing, and the violence is incited by the leading cultural voices of the Left. 

Photo published for Rep. King ties baseball shooting to violence ‘from the left’

Rep. King ties baseball shooting to violence ‘from the left’

Lawmakers reacting to the shooting on Wednesday assailed the anger simmering in the country, and one Republican congressman tied the shooting to what he said was anger from the political left.

Republican Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania rose on the House floor to issue a call to “replace the hateful rhetoric and resistance with respect,” a comment seemingly aimed at an anti-Trump “Resist” movement.

“The comments made by my Republican colleagues are outrageous,” declared Pelosi, the Democratic leader from California.

Pelosi pointed out that she herself has faced verbal attacks and threats aplenty, including phone calls to her home she blamed on ads critical of her that are airing now in a Georgia House district where a hard-fought special election will take place next week. She accused Republicans of “sanctimony” for suggesting Democrats are the ones to blame.

Pelosi and other Democrats charged that Trump himself bears responsibility for the virulent state of political discourse — and some said for Wednesday’s attack as well, given his embrace of aggressive rhetoric on the campaign trail and the outbreaks of violence at some of his rallies.

“I think that the president contributed to this significantly,” said South Carolina Democratic Congressman James Clyburn. Clyburn charged that Trump “is allowed to hide behind political correctness to say all kinds of things about people, and I’m a little bit sick and tired of people saying anything they want to say about anyone they want to say it about.”

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally at the National Western Complex in Denver, Colorado, November 5, 2016. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

At least one Republican shared the view that Trump bore some responsibility for the shootings.

“I would argue that the president is at least — is partially — again, not in any way totally but partially to blame for demons that have been unleashed,” said South Carolina Republican Congressman. Mark Sanford in an interview on MSNBC.

The finger-pointing came even as lawmakers on both sides called for unity, comity and a more civil political discourse. And the exchanges seemed to encapsulate some realities about the state of the nation’s politics.

Democrats remain deeply upset about Trump’s win and by his presidency, and frustrated over how to channel the energies of a restive and angry base. Convinced that Trump and his Republican allies are largely to blame for the nation’s acrimonious political discourse, many bridle over any suggestion to the contrary.

For their part, some Republicans seem taken aback by an intensity on the left that threatens to overwhelm them in the 2018 midterm elections. Tired of being in a defensive crouch as Trump comes under attack from Democrats and the media for breeching political norms, some jumped at the opportunity to turn the tables and contend that Democrats, too, are part of the problem.

“I can show you messages and stuff that were much worse than this guy’s Facebook posts,” said Republican Congressman Kenny Marchant, referring to the assailant in Wednesday’s shooting. “Oh my gosh, mild compared to what they put on TV yesterday.”

His colleage Kevin Cramer said he was physically attacked at a town hall event several weeks back. But unlike some other Republicans he was reluctant to assign blame for what happened on Wednesday.

“I’ve obviously noticed a very different tone, but I don’t think it’s helpful” to blame one side or the other, Cramer said. “I’m trying to focus at least myself on internalizing, what can I do better.”

US Congressman Roger Williams is wheeled away by emergency medical service personnel from the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park June 14, 2017 in Alexandria, Virginia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP)

Cramer’s comments echoed others by House members of both parties Thursday. For even as they blamed one another, a large number gave lip service, at least, to a need to assume personal responsibility to try to reduce acrimony on Capitol Hill and around the country. Many seemed genuinely saddened to have reached a point where partisanship has overwhelmed politics, bringing routine legislating to a virtual standstill and all but eliminating any hope for significant bipartisan accomplishments.

As they prepared for a bipartisan baseball game Thursday night that promised at least a brief lull in the political mud fight, some said they hoped the good feeling would last past the final inning.

“I would quote the late, great Michael Jackson,” said Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond, a close friend of Scalise’s and the pitcher on the Democrats’ team. “If you want to make a change, start with the man in the mirror.”


Suspect in shooting at Republicans baseball practice was Bernie Sanders backer

WASHINGTON (JTA) — James T. Hodgkinson, the suspect in the shooting at a Republican team’s baseball practice for a charity game against congressional Democrats, backed Bernie Sanders, according to his social media account.

Police say it is too early to determine a motive in the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, that wounded Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., the third-ranked Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, and others. The media scrambled to provide biographical details about Hodgkinson, reporting that he owned a home inspection business and was described by a friend as “really progressive” in his politics.

A portrait of Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont and the first Jewish candidate to win major nominating contests in a presidential primary season when he vied last year for the Democratic presidential nod, is the background photo on Hodgkinson’s Facebook page. The Washington Post quoted an acquaintance of Hodgkinson as saying they met campaigning for Sanders.

Hodgkinson, who reportedly opened fire with an automatic weapon, was shot in return fire by Capitol Police officers who were present at the practice for Thursday’s game against the Democrats. President Donald Trump said Hodgkinson died of the injuries he sustained during the shooting.

Sanders in a statement said that he was praying for the recovery of Scalise, who is in stable condition. Two Capitol Police officers and at least two others present were wounded.

“Our prayers go out for a full recovery of Rep. Scalise, the congressional aides and police officers who were injured,” said Sanders. “We’ve got to stop the violence.”

Later, after learning that Hodgkinson had apparently backed his candidacy, Sanders added to his statement.

“I am sickened by this despicable act,” he said. “Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.”

Hodgkinson, 66, a resident of Belleville, Illinois, filled his Facebook page with screeds against Trump and last year against Hillary Clinton, the Democrat who won the nomination but lost the general election to Trump. He signed a petition urging the Senate to remove Trump from office for treason.

In an impromptu news conference, Trump sent best wishes to Scalise and the others wounded.

“Please take a moment today to cherish those you love and always remember those who serve and keep us safe,” he said.

The Democratic team was practicing nearby. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed their grief and well wishes.

Gabrielle Giffords, a former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona who is Jewish and was seriously wounded in a deadly January 2011 attack by a gunman, was among the well-wishers.

“My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police – public servants and heroes today and every day,” Giffords, who has since become a leading advocate for gun ownership reform, said on Twitter.

My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police- public servants and heroes today and every day.

As Trump lashes out, Republicans grow uneasy


President Trump, after days of lashing out angrily at the London mayor and federal courts in the wake of the London Bridge terrorist attack, faces a convergence of challenges this week that threatens to exacerbate the fury that has gripped him — and that could further hobble a Republican agenda that has slowed to a crawl on Capitol Hill.

Instead of hunkering down and delicately navigating the legal and political thicket — as some White House aides have suggested — Trump spent much of Monday launching volleys on Twitter, unable to resist continuing, in effect, as his own lawyer, spokesman, cheerleader and media watchdog.

Trump escalated his criticism of London Mayor Sadiq Khan, incorrectly stating that Khan had told Londoners to not be “alarmed” about terrorism. He vented about the Justice Department, which he said pushed a “politically correct” version of his policy to block immigration from six predominantly Muslim countries, which Trump signed before it was halted in court. He also complained that Senate Democrats are “taking forever to approve” his appointees and ambassadors.

Inside the White House, top officials have in various ways gently suggested to Trump over the past week that he should leave the feuding to surrogates, according to two people who were not authorized to speak publicly. But Trump has repeatedly shrugged off that advice, these people said.

“Not that I’m aware of,” White House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday at a news conference when asked if the president’s tweets were being vetted by lawyers or aides.

President Trump’s travel ban is facing multiple court battles, and his tendency to tweet about it isn’t helping his lawyers. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

“Social media for the president is extremely important,” Sanders said. “It gives him the ability to speak directly to the people without the bias of the media filtering those types of communication.”

Trump’s refusal to disengage from the daily storm of news — coming ahead of former FBI director James B. Comey’s highly anticipated public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday — is both unsurprising and unsettling to many Republicans, who are already skittish about the questions they may confront in the aftermath of the hearing. In particular, they foresee Democratic accusations that Trump’s exchanges with Comey about the FBI probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign were an effort to obstruct justice.


Some Republicans fear that Trump’s reactions will only worsen the potential damage.

“It’s a distraction, and he needs to focus,” said former Trump campaign adviser Barry Bennett. “Every day and moment he spends on anything other than a rising economy is a waste that disrupts everything.”

Rick Tyler, a veteran Republican consultant, said Trump’s refusal to stop using Twitter poses a serious obstacle for the White House.

“I can’t imagine internally they’re happy with his performance,” Tyler said. “The president is undermining his presidency whenever his staff says one thing and then he does another. They’ll say something you’d expect, and then he’ll go off and bring in the gun debate to a terror attack.”

Some Trump supporters also fear that his extemporaneous rebukes are upending the priorities he is trying to implement.

George Conway, a well-known GOP lawyer who recently took himself out of the running to lead the Justice Department’s civil division and is the husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, wrote on Twitter on Monday that Trump’s fulminations on the travel ban could damage its chances.

“These tweets may make some ppl feel better, but they certainly won’t help OSG get 5 votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad,” he wrote, using abbreviations for the Office of Solicitor General and the Supreme Court.

Trump’s friends say he’s just being himself.

“He’s rightly frustrated, and he isn’t always checking with his lawyers about each tweet. But he’s getting his message out there,” said Christopher Ruddy, a close associate of Trump and president of Newsmax Media, a conservative news organization. “He is relying on himself to be the messenger.”

It is an increasingly lonely endeavor. Trump’s poll numbers have sagged, with Gallup’s daily tracking number showing him at 37 percent approval Monday, nearing the nadir of his presidency so far, while the RealClearPolitics polling average shows his approval rating just under 40 percent.

Yet even among party leadership and senior advisers in the West Wing, many remain supportive of Trump’s combative posture, unable or unwilling to usher him toward a less incendiary approach.

“It’s all infighting and leaks to the point where Trump is diluting his own proposals,” Bennett said. “I don’t get it. Rather than getting him to talk about jobs, they stand by as he goes on about Mayor Khan.”

The few who have spoken up have been careful to not provoke Trump. “Unfortunately, the president has, I think, created problems for himself by his Twitter habit,” Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the No. 2 ranking Senate Republican, said with a tight smile during a Sunday interview on Dallas TV station WFAA.

Comey’s testimony is one of a number of items on the White House radar this week that risk stoking Trump’s rage.

A week after Trump declared his trip to the Middle East a success, the region was swept into turmoil Monday after four Arab nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — broke diplomatic relations with another U.S. ally, Qatar, which they have accused of supporting terrorism.

Several U.S. allies in Europe also have grown weary with Trump after he decided to withdraw the country last week from the Paris climate accord. One of his closer allies there, British Prime Minister Theresa May, responded uncomfortably Monday to Trump’s outbursts about Khan, who is Muslim, as the United Kingdom was coping with the aftermath of the London Bridge attack, which killed seven.

“I think Sadiq Khan is doing a good job, and it’s wrong to say anything else,” May tersely told reporters.

In Congress, Trump’s ambitions to pass a health-care overhaul and tax changes have been stymied by party infighting and growing nervousness about the potential political cost, especially in the more moderate Senate. The only major legislative accomplishment so far has been the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, which came in April after bypassing a Democratic blockade.

David Winston, a Republican pollster who works closely with congressional GOP leaders, said lawmakers are eager to avoid discussions on issues that do not have to do with their agenda — including Trump’s tweets — and said an extended delay on big-ticket legislation would pose a problem.

“Anytime they’re not talking about the economy or jobs, they know that’s not what the electorate is looking for,” Winston said. “It’s going to be the responsibility of the White House to provide that context” when the news cycle and media has their attention elsewhere, he added.

Ongoing turmoil in the White House only exacerbates the problems. Talk of possible staff changes has fueled a rush of stories that irritate Trump, who disdains news coverage of his advisers and their many rivalries. Former campaign loyalists, such as Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, have been spotted heading to the Oval Office for meetings.

Meanwhile, the Russia-related questions are ubiquitous. Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel delving into potential ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, is busy at work, and Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is a focus of the investigation, according to people familiar with the probe.

Trump allies have for weeks discussed the possible formation of a Russia-focused “war room” either inside or outside the administration, but any such operation has yet to be formally announced. The president has retained an outside legal team, however, while Bossie and Lewandowski have been mentioned as possible leaders of an advocacy group that would defend Trump after Comey’s testimony.

The White House has gamely attempted to ignore the fallout from Trump’s latest tweets, pressing forward Monday with a conventional rollout of parts of a promised infrastructure program.

Standing in a dark suit and red-striped tie at the White House in front of Cabinet officials and Vice President Pence, Trump endorsed a plan to spin off more than 30,000 federal workers, including thousands of air traffic controllers, into a private nonprofit corporation — and he railed against the Obama administration’s previous work to improve the Federal Aviation Administration.

“The current [aviation] system cannot keep up, has not been able to keep up for many years,” Trump said. “We’re still stuck with an ancient, broken, antiquated, horrible system that doesn’t work.”

It was a brief respite from rancor. A few hours later, this time on Facebook, Trump was back at it, posting a video and fervent note to his millions of followers.

“We need the Travel Ban — not the watered down, politically correct version the Justice Department submitted to the Supreme Court, but a MUCH TOUGHER version!” Trump wrote. “We cannot rely on the MSM to get the facts to the people. Spread this message. SHARE NOW.”

Republicans, Pushing Aside Trump’s Budget, Find Few Alternatives

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans greeted President Trump’s first full budget on Tuesday with open hesitation or outright hostility. But it was not clear that they could come up with an alternative that could win over conservatives and moderates while clearing a path for the tax cuts and policies they have promised for years.

The budget battle ahead mirrors the continuing health care fight, in which concessions to Republican moderates alienate conservatives, while overtures to conservatives lose moderate votes. But with Republicans in full charge of the government, the onus is on their leaders to reach a budget agreement in a matter of weeks that would ease passage of the president’s promised tax cuts as well as a new spending plan that would reshape the government in a Republican mold.

“It is now up to the Congress to act,” Mr. Trump said in his Budget Message. “I pledge my full cooperation in ending the economic malaise that has, for too long, crippled the dreams of our people. The time for small thinking is over.”

Mr. Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget, with its deep cuts to poverty programs, biomedical research, student loans and foreign aid, will not pass, as Republicans on Capitol Hill have freely acknowledged and even the White House is aware. Republicans on Capitol Hill parted ways with the president not only on many of his deepest cuts but also on some of his smaller proposals, like resurrecting a national nuclear waste repository in Nevada and ending the Great Lakes cleanup program.

Representative Harold Rogers, Republican of Kentucky and a former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, called the cuts “very harmful.” Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, perhaps the most endangered Senate Republican up for re-election next year, labeled the budget “anti-Nevada.”

But the drastic reordering of government that Mr. Trump has embraced includes many measures long sought by conservatives on Capitol Hill, including adding work requirements for food-stamp eligibility and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. It would also eliminate whole programs, including AmeriCorps, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The budget would increase military spending by 10 percent and calls for spending $2.6 billion on border security, including $1.6 billion to begin funding a wall on the border with Mexico.

Some of the president’s proposals are likely to survive.

For Republicans, the stakes of the coming budget season go beyond the intricacies of budgetary minutiae: Republicans want to use their budget to pave the way for an overhaul of the tax code that could skirt a Senate filibuster. If they cannot agree on a budget, Mr. Trump’s promised “biggest tax cut” in history will be doomed. A protracted fight over the budget would also further delay the orderly appropriations process that Republicans have promised to follow after years of neglect.

If congressional Republicans fail to pass spending bills this summer, they again run the risk of funding the government through stopgap resolutions that keep programs on autopilot — and in the shape that President Barack Obama left them in.

“It’ll be very difficult in both bodies to pass a budget proposal,” Mr. Rogers said.

The next step for Republicans in Congress is to agree on a budget blueprint, which sets spending levels and provides a road map for spending and revenue in the coming years. But first, they must find a way to overcome their diverse views on fiscal policy.

Mr. Trump’s budget, drafted by a budget director, Mick Mulvaney, who came from the most conservative corners of the House, starts the conversation on friendly House Republican turf.

Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said that was the right starting point. The budget negotiation “goes from conservative to moderate, and that’s the way that it should go,” Mr. Meadows said. “If you start in the middle, you make everybody mad when you move one way or another.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, was noncommittal about the president’s budget. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who was the lead Democrat on the House Budget Committee for years, was not so sanguine.

“There’s always been a divide between the House and Senate Republicans on a lot of these issues, but this looks like it was written by House Republicans on steroids, and I think it will be difficult for them to get it through the Senate,” he said.

Republican lawmakers already face a time crunch, given that Mr. Trump offered his budget three months past the statutory deadline in February.

While new presidents routinely take more time to submit their inaugural budgets, Mr. Trump unveiled his unusually late, and in an uncommonly low-key fashion, dispatching his budget director to unveil the plan while he was overseas. That raised questions about whether he would take a leadership role in the coming spending debates.

The House and Senate budget committees both expect to introduce their proposals in June, according to congressional aides. The House plan is expected to incorporate the significant changes that Speaker Paul D. Ryan, a former budget committee chairman, has long championed for Medicare, a major break with Mr. Trump, who has promised to leave Medicare alone.

For years, Mr. Ryan has tried to shift Medicare away from its open-ended commitment to pay for medical services and toward a fixed government contribution for each beneficiary — a change he has said would inject market forces and competition into the program.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Republicans “dislike this budget almost as much as we do,” he said. CreditAl Drago/The New York Times

Mr. Ryan told reporters on Tuesday that Congress would take the president’s budget “and then work on our own budget, which is the case every single year.”

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, was equally noncommittal.

“Every president since I’ve been here, and that covers a good period of time, has made a recommendation, and then we decide what we’re going to do with those recommendations,” Mr. McConnell said.

Mr. Mulvaney conceded that the plan would not be embraced in its entirety, but said it was a signal from the president to Congress about his priorities and goals.

“If Congress has a different way to get to that endpoint, God bless them — that’s great,” Mr. Mulvaney said Monday as he previewed the plan. “Do I expect them to adopt this 100 percent, wholeheartedly, without any change? Absolutely not. Do I expect them to work with the administration on trying to figure out places where we’re on the same page? Absolutely.”

Democrats came out strongly against the budget, saying it would hurt the poor and the working class. They are hoping that Republicans will brush off the White House’s requests, much as they did when Mr. Trump sought funding for his border wall as well as billions of dollars in cuts to domestic programs as lawmakers hammered out an agreement to fund the government through September.

The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said Republicans “dislike this budget almost as much as we do.”

“And so the likelihood is what happened with the 2017 budget will happen here,” Mr. Schumer said. “Democrats and Republicans will tell President Trump and his minions to stay at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Let us work out a budget together that will make America a better place.”

Republicans misstate, again and again on TV and at town halls, what’s in their health-care bill


The American Health Care Act that narrowly passed out of the House earlier this month cuts $880 billion from Medicaid — but that won’t affect anyone’s coverage.

It keeps the GOP’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act — but doesn’t really repeal the Affordable Care Act.

It passed after conservatives demanded that it allow states to nix some mandated benefits — but states aren’t actually going to do that.

Such pronouncements from Republicans in the days since they passed the AHCA and celebrated in the Rose Garden reflect a deep struggle to sell the bill at home. The bill falls short of the GOP’s long-standing promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But most Americans now oppose the “full” repeal that so many Republicans have pledged to make happen year after year.

That means these lawmakers face two potential backlashes: one if opponents of Obamacare perceive the bill does not go far enough, and another from Americans worried that the bill would eliminate their coverage.

The result has been a confused sales effort — and a series of flat misstatements and contradictions about what’s actually in the bill.

It’s a risky strategy — especially in front of the skeptical crowds and interviewers Republicans have been speaking to in recent days. On Wednesday, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) spent nearly five hours answering questions from a disgruntled audience of constituents, some of whom spoke at length about what Medicaid meant in their communities. MacArthur was blown back by laughter when he argued, as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has, that caps on per capita Medicaid funding would leave the system stronger.

“I am trying to save a system so it continues to help you,” he said. “I am trying to make sure Medicaid is strong enough to continue.”

Later, MacArthur argued that the tax cuts in the bill were “for everybody” — but when a constituent calculated that MacArthur’s own savings would amount to $37,000 if the bill was passed, the congressman agreed that the bill’s large investment tax cut was not going to benefit everyone equally.

Many lawmakers have admitted that they didn’t read the whole document before voting on it last Friday. Some concede that the bill is flawed. Some have assured voters that the Senate will fix it now that the upper chamber’s turn has come to grapple with what increasingly looks like the impossible promise they began making to voters soon after Obamacare passed in 2010.

The optimistic spin, shaped by polling but often concocted on the spot, reveals how a process that President Trump once pledged to get done “very quickly” has become a roiling political problem. Republicans are being advised to lead with attacks on Obamacare’s implementation, then pledge that the final passage of their bill will alleviate those problems by November 2018.

In a memo circulated this week by the conservative firm WPA Intelligence, Republicans were advised that “full repeal,” the campaign promise since 2010, is neither popular nor possible. In Georgia’s solidly Republican 6th District, where Democrat Jon Ossoff is trying to win Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s former congressional seat, supporters of keeping the ACA outnumbered opponents by a narrow 10-to-9 margin.

The current bill would allow states to jettison two of the ACA’s consumer protections: a rule forbidding insurers to charge customers with preexisting medical conditions more than other individuals, and a rule that requires insurers to include specific “essential health benefits” in all plans sold to individuals and small businesses.

The final House version also would increase new pots of money the bill would give states to try to control insurance prices. At the last minute, $8 billion also was added to help people with preexisting medical problems who live in states that revert to letting insurers charge such customers higher rates. Health policy experts have said it is not nearly enough money to cover increased costs for those people.

In framing the bill, many Republicans are following the cheerleader-in-chief, a former supporter of single-payer health care who continues to talk as if the AHCA provides universal coverage. “You’re going to have absolute guaranteed coverage,” Trump told the Economist in an interview published this week.

Democrats — with many memories of being hammered over the ACA and blamed for every lost or altered private insurance plan — don’t think Republicans can pull it off. Two hundred and seventeen House Republicans voted for the bill, but less than 20 are using the week-long recess to hold town hall meetings.

“The president has amazing reality-bending powers for the 30-something percent of people who support him,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Ca.), who’s helping the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruit challengers to the seven pro-AHCA California Republicans who represent districts that rejected Trump. “He doesn’t bend reality for the majority of Americans. In a year from now, people will know if they have health coverage. It doesn’t matter what any of us say.”

What many Republicans say is sometimes hard to square with the facts. The Congressional Budget Office will not produce a cost estimate for the AHCA until May 22, but over the weekend, Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong argued on Twitter that the bill had been “scored twice” — referring to analyses of the bill before amendments.

At some town halls, Republicans have awkwardly argued that even the process of passing the bill was more transparent than voters had thought. During a Tuesday event in Riverbank, a small town in his central California district, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) assured constituents that he knew what was in the legislation.

“I don’t commit to things unless I read the final version of the bill and what the amendments are,” said Denham.

“You read the entire bill?” asked one constituent, referring to the American Health Care Act.

“It was read in committee; it was read a couple of times,” said Denham. “Bipartisan. Both parties. Working together.”

A cameraman from the Modesto Bee captured the exchange, and the groans, which quickly went viral. No Democrat had voted for the legislation. Senate Republicans, who are working on their own bill on a separate timeline, have occasionally been confused by the Houses’s spin attempts.

“They didn’t score the more recent version right?” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who is working on language to make the bill’s tax credits more generous. “We don’t know how much is available to modify the tax credit from the house bill. We know what they were proposing to have in there but we haven’t seen an official CBO score.”

Ever since the first score, which foresaw 24 million more people without coverage if the AHCA was implemented, the bill has been a tough sell of New Coke proportions. In polls taken since the House moved the bill, voters with a strong negative opinion have vastly outnumbered voters with a positive opinion. A study released Wednesday by YouGov found 50 percent of voters opposed to the bill, and 33 percent in favor. Just 11 percent of voters had a “strong” positive opinion — 34 percent stood on the other side.

“This is truly an unforced error of the first order, politically and economically,” tax-cut advocate and frequent Republican candidate Steve Forbes wrote in his family’s namesake magazine this week. “If the Republican Senate doesn’t fix the RyanCare error. . .Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2019.”

In interviews with conservatives, Ryan has described the bill’s biggest win as the block granting and cutting of Medicaid. But Republicans have frequently downplayed its importance.

“We believe the Medicaid population will be cared for in a better way under our program because it will be more responsive to them,” Price said on CNN last weekend.

“If you’re currently getting your health insurance through Medicaid, nothing’s going to change,” said Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) at a town hall meeting on Monday.

The bill would substantially alter care for millions of people on Medicaid, both by ending the expansion of the program to people slightly over the poverty line, and by tying federal Medicaid spending to the consumer price index.

Some messaging may assume that voters are less concerned with Medicaid spending, and overall coverage numbers, than Democrats are. In the WPA Intelligence study, Republicans in tough races were advised to frame the election as a choice between “Obamacare” and something that would keep the parts of the ACA that they liked while making coverage cheaper.

“While the typical sources focus on coverage, voters care a lot more about their health insurance costs than they do about the total number of people covered by health insurance,” the firm advised. “If Republicans succeed in lowering health insurance costs by reducing regulations, increasing competition, and giving Americans more choices, then they are more likely to benefit than to suffer from an Obamacare repeal.”

While headlines back home said that the House had “repealed” the ACA, Republicans have admitted that the AHCA would not pull that off.

“It’s important that we’re clear with them, that it’s not a full repeal,” said Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) in a roundtable with reporters before the vote. “I think they’ll give us a bit of latitude, working under the rules of reconciliation. When they see their premiums go down, I hope they’ll give us the time to finish this and actually repeal the bill.”

Firing Fuels Calls for Independent Investigator, Even From Republicans

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s decision on Tuesday to fire the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, immediately fueled calls for an independent investigator or commission to look into Russia’s efforts to disrupt the election and any connections between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government.

Calls to appoint an independent prosecutor have simmered for months, but until now, they had been voiced almost entirely by Democrats. Mr. Comey’s insistence that he was pressing ahead with the Russia investigation, and would go wherever the facts took him, had deflected those calls — especially because he was in such open defiance of a president who said the charges were “fake.”

Mr. Comey’s firing upended the politics of the investigation, and even Republicans were joining the call for independent inquiries.

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who is among the most hawkish members of Congress on Russia, said that he was “disappointed in the president’s decision” and that it bolstered the case “for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”

“I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Jim Comey’s termination,” Mr. Burr said in a statement. It “further confuses an already difficult investigation by our committee,” he said, adding that Mr. Comey had been “more forthcoming with information” than any of his predecessors.

The Democratic vice chairman of the Senate panel, Mark Warner of Virginia, said in a brief interview that Mr. Comey’s firing “means the Senate Intelligence investigation has to redouble its efforts, has to speed up its timeline, because we’ve got real questions about the rule of law.”

Even before Mr. Comey was fired, the committee was pressing forward with its investigation. Late last month, it asked a number of high-profile Trump campaign associates to hand over emails and other records of dealings with Russians. Mr. Warner said the committee planned to announce on Wednesday who had complied and who had not.

Senate Intelligence Committee members in March. The chairman, Richard M. Burr, second from right, called the timing of Mr. Comey’s firing troubling. CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

Officials familiar with the investigation say the committee is prepared to issue subpoenas to get the records. Mr. Warner would not say when, or if, those might come.

Earlier in the evening, he told CNN the committee had sent the Treasury Department a request for financial records of Mr. Trump and a number of associates.

The Justice Department insisted the dismissal had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. Rather, it said, it was a response to how Mr. Comey handled the investigation of Hillary Clinton, and his decision to declare last summer that there was no reason to prosecute her for using a private email server. Yet Mr. Trump’s letter to Mr. Comey made an oblique reference to the Russia investigation that has consumed the early months of his presidency.

“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump wrote.

The letter “doesn’t pass any legitimate smell test,” Mr. Warner said.

For weeks, Mr. Trump has turned to his Twitter account to denounce the investigations as a waste of taxpayer money, including in the hours before Mr. Comey testified to Congress last week. His Twitter posts appeared to be direct challenges to an open F.B.I. investigation, a subject presidents have traditionally tried to avoid commenting on publicly.

Whether Mr. Trump was seeking to affect the Russia investigation will now become a subject of argument and a new partisan battle. Some in the White House feared that Mr. Comey’s inquiry, first publicly acknowledged nearly two months ago, could harm the president even if no charges were brought.

At the core of the concern about Mr. Trump’s motive for firing Mr. Comey is whether the White House is trying to delay or derail the F.B.I.’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s associates. Among the former advisers to the president now under investigation are his campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, a longtime confidant.

Mr. Stone predicted last year that there would be major, embarrassing revelations about Democratic officials, which proved prescient when WikiLeaks published emails from John D. Podesta, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman. The emails had been stolen by Russian hackers months earlier.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Moscow on Tuesday. The F.B.I. is investigating whether Trump associates have links to Russia. CreditPool photo by Yuri Kochetkov

Appearing before Congress in March, Mr. Comey described the F.B.I. inquiry as a counterintelligence investigation, indicating that one question was whether Russia’s government had tried to recruit Mr. Trump’s associates. He said explicitly that one focus was possible collusion between Trump associates and the Russian officials behind interference in the election.

Investigations of this type can go on for years, and some Republicans were increasingly concerned that it was creating a cloud over the president and the party that they could not dispel.

Democrats said they had little doubt of what had motivated Mr. Trump to fire his F.B.I. director. Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the firing “raises profound questions about whether the White House is brazenly interfering in a criminal matter.”

When Mr. Trump was preparing for the presidency after his election, there was no immediate sign that he would seek to oust Mr. Comey. The F.B.I. director came to brief him at Trump Tower with other intelligence officials, carrying a detailed intelligence report, ordered by President Barack Obama, on Russia’s actions and the intelligence supporting the conclusion that President Vladimir V. Putin was behind them.

Afterward, Mr. Trump said briefly in public that he was persuaded by the evidence.

During that same session, Mr. Comey briefed Mr. Trump on a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence officer that alleged a broad conspiracy between Mr. Trump and Russian officials. None of those charges have been proven, but the briefing immediately associated Mr. Comey with an investigation Mr. Trump has dismissed as a politically motivated witch hunt.

The firing also raised questions about the role of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a former senator from Alabama and one of Mr. Trump’s earliest supporters. Mr. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation in March, after it was revealed that he had provided inaccurate information to Congress about his meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak.

On Tuesday, however, he wrote a letter to Mr. Trump endorsing a memorandum by his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, and making the case for Mr. Comey’s immediate ouster. In that letter, Mr. Sessions did not describe his specific concerns but said, “A fresh start is needed at the leadership of the F.B.I.”

Idaho town hall erupts after GOP lawmaker says ‘no one dies’ from lack of health care (LOL….)


Voters attending a packed town hall in Idaho booed and shouted down their Republican congressman after he attempted to defend the House passing a replacement for Obamacare by telling the crowd “no one’ in the US dies from lack of health care.

Appearing less than 24 hours after the GOP-dominated House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) was on the receiving end of complaints from the audience and at one time admonished them to stop being rude, reports the Idaho Statesman.

At the town hall at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, Labrador was confronted by a woman who told the lawmaker that she feared the loss of health care protection under Medicaid would result in deaths.

“That line is so indefensible,” Labrador said. “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”

Labrador’s comment was immediately shouted down by the crowd.

Being booed at town halls is not something new for Labrador who received similar treatment in April when he told a town hall audience that he doesn’t believe health care is a “basic human right.”

Trump’s in Trouble: Republicans May Face a Massive Wave During the 2018 Midterms

In the last four midterm elections that ended with the party that controls the White House losing one or both houses of Congress, the president had an approval rating below 85 percent among members of his own party and approval ratings among independents that were no higher than in the low 40s percentage range, according to The Cook Political Report. It then pointed out that, according to a recent Gallup survey, Trump’s approval rating among Republicans is at 85 percent, but he is has a treacherous 33 percent rating among independents.

“If he drops a few points among GOPers, Trump’s ratings today would look exactly like those of President George W. Bush right before his party was routed in 2006,” Cook wrote.

Democrats seem to be more galvanized in their dislike of Trump than Republicans are in supporting him, with 81 percent of Democrats “strongly disapproving” of the president’s performance and only 54 percent of Republicans “strongly approving” of it Cook stated, citing a SurveyMonkey survey.  Forty-five percent of independents strongly disapprove of Trump, compared with 18 percent who strongly approve.

As Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight explained in February, however, Trump’s low approval ratings do not necessarily doom Republican legislators’ chances: Democrats will still have to nominate strong candidates in key House races, they will still be at a disadvantage due to gerrymandering, and there’s often a wide gulf between the public perception of a president and how that affects local congressional races. As Enten wrote, “Trump’s low approval rating is good news for Democrats. But they’ll have to work to capitalize on the national environment, or they might fall victim to the same structural forces that hurt [Hillary] Clinton and fail to take advantage of Trump’s unpopularity.”


Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and his work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

Dealt a Defeat, Republicans Set Their Sights on Major Tax Cuts

WASHINGTON — Picking themselves up after the bruising collapse of their health care plan, President Trump and Republicans in Congress will start this week on a legislative obstacle course that will be even more arduous: the first overhaul of the tax code in three decades.

Mr. Trump’s inability to make good on his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act has made the already daunting challenge of tax reform even more difficult. Not only has Mr. Trump’s aura of political invincibility been shattered, but without killing the Affordable Care Act, Republicans will be unable to rewrite the tax code in the sweeping fashion that the president has called for.

The grand plans of lower rates, fewer loopholes and a tax on imports may have to be scaled back to a big corporate tax cut and possibly an individual tax cut.

A lot of people think Mr. Trump might go for this to get an easy win.

“They have to have a victory here,” said Stephen Moore, a Heritage Foundation economist who advised Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign. “But it is going to have to be a bit less ambitious rather than going for the big bang.”

Because of the arcane rules of lawmaking in Congress, there may be little choice. If Republicans intend to act again without the help of Democrats, they will need to use a procedure called budget reconciliation to have the Senate pass tax legislation with a simple majority. To make their changes to the tax code permanent, their plans cannot add to deficits over a period of 10 years.

Eliminating the $1 trillion of Affordable Care Act taxes and the federal spending associated with that law would have made this easier. Because they failed, Republicans will struggle to reach their goal of cutting corporate tax rates without piling on debt. Speaker Paul D. Ryan acknowledged on Friday, “This does make tax reform more difficult.”

Under pressure to get something done, some Republican deficit hawks appear ready to abandon the fiscal rectitude that they embraced during the Obama administration to help salvage Mr. Trump’s agenda.

In a rare shift, Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, whose House Freedom Caucus effectively torpedoed the health legislation, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that he would not protest if tax cuts were not offset by new spending cuts or new streams of revenue, such as an import tax.

“I think there’s a lot of flexibility in terms of some of my contacts and conservatives in terms of not making it totally offset,” he said. “Does it have to be fully offset? My personal response is no.”

The health care failure also makes the tax overhaul more politically complex as the fissures within the Republican Party have been laid bare. Mr. Trump followed Mr. Ryan’s lead and lost, making it more likely that the White House will try to steer the direction of tax legislation.

“I would be surprised given the health law debacle if the Trump administration sits back and lets Congress fashion the legislation without weighing in on the substance,” said Michael J. Graetz, a tax law professor at Columbia University. “That is one of the lessons that the administration will take from the failure of the health bill.”

It remains unclear whether Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan are in agreement on taxes.

Since last summer, Mr. Ryan and Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, have been aggressively pitching a reform blueprint that includes a “border adjustment tax.” It would be a 20 percent tax on imports that, by making imports more expensive, would spur domestic production, they say. They think the plan would raise $1 trillion to compensate for the lower revenue that much lower tax rates would probably bring in.

Mr. Ryan and Mr. Brady are unlikely to simply hand over tax policy to the White House. Mr. Brady said on Sunday that getting rid of the contentious border tax provision would have “severe consequences” and that he hoped to produce a bill based on the House plan this spring that would be passed later this year.

Mr. Brady’s tax-writing committee is expected to convene a meeting about an overhaul on Tuesday.

“We have so much in common with the Trump administration, it wouldn’t make sense to have a separate tax bill from Secretary Mnuchin, a separate one from Gary Cohn, a third from whomever,” Mr. Brady said on Fox News, referring to the Treasury secretary, Steven T. Mnuchin, and to one of Mr. Trump’s top economic advisers. “Why not take the basis of the House plan?”

Changing the tax code affects every person and industry. Lobbyists are already hoping to shape tax legislation. As plans become more concrete, business groups will be ready to pick them apart.

Mr. Trump has at times expressed admiration for some form of border tax as a way to give an advantage to American producers. However, facing a backlash from retailers, energy companies and conservative think tanks that warn that consumer prices will soar under the House Republican plan, Mr. Trump and Mr. Mnuchin have sounded cool to the idea.

Many Senate Republicans are also skeptical, raising the prospect that Mr. Ryan’s tax vision could suffer the same fate as his health plan, toppling under the weight of divisions within his party.

If Mr. Trump does try to go his own way, he could propose a tax cut plan that disregards deficits and assumes that robust economic growth will make up for lost revenue. Another idea would be reforming taxes in pieces, with a focus on reducing business tax rates first and then addressing tax rates for individuals later. Or, as Mr. Moore advises, he could try to make a grand bargain with Democrats that combines a tax overhaul with a plan for more infrastructure spending.

Mr. Trump is under added pressure not to again fail supporters who he promised would “get sick of all the winning.”

“They need to cut taxes, cut spending, and build the wall,” said Judson Phillips, the founder of the conservative group Tea Party Nation. “If they will do that, the base will be forever in love with them.” He said he did not want Mr. Trump to get bogged down in Mr. Ryan’s complicated tax agenda.

But after consuming the first two months of his presidency focused on health care, it is unclear how prepared Mr. Trump and his administration are to tackle taxes. The administration said last month that its tax plan was just weeks away, but nothing materialized. And the Treasury Department, which will take a leading role in crafting a plan, remains understaffed, with crucial policy positions unfilled and most of its leadership still awaiting Senate confirmation.

Mr. Mnuchin said last week that he was ready to get going, predicting that a tax overhaul would be simpler than health care. The fact that no one has seriously tackled tax reform since 1986 suggests otherwise.

“It’s like asking whether climbing Kilimanjaro or another mountain of equal height is harder,” said Mr. Graetz, who was a Treasury Department official in the early 1990s. “They are both very hard, very exhausting and seem to occur once in a generation.”

Trump Tells G.O.P. It’s Now or Never, Demanding House Vote on Health Bill

WASHINGTON — President Trump issued an ultimatum on Thursday to recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line behind a broad health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act vanish, demanding a Friday vote on a bill that appeared to lack a majority to pass.

The demand, issued by his budget director, Mick Mulvaney, in an evening meeting with House Republicans, came after a marathon day of negotiating at the White House and in the Capitol in which Mr. Trump — who has boasted of his deal-making prowess — fell short of selling members of his own party on the health plan.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan emerged from the session and announced curtly that Mr. Trump would get his wish for a vote on Friday. Mr. Ryan refused to answer reporters’ questions about whether he expected the measure to pass.

Although the House Republicans’ closed-door meeting became a cheerleading session for the bill, their leaders braced for a showdown on the floor, knowing they were likely to be at least a handful of votes short of a majority for the health insurance bill and would need to muscle their colleagues to the last to prevail.

Some conservatives were still concerned that the bill was too costly and did not do enough to roll back federal health insurance mandates. Moderates and others, meanwhile, were grappling with worries of their states’ governors and fretted that the loss of benefits would be too much for their constituents to bear.

Mr. Ryan had earlier postponed the initial House vote that was scheduled for Thursday to coincide with the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s signing. Mr. Trump confronted the possibility of a humiliating loss on the first significant legislative push of his presidency.

At a White House meeting with members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus earlier on Thursday, Mr. Trump had agreed to the conservatives’ demands to strip federal health insurance requirements for basic benefits such as maternity care, emergency services, mental health and wellness visits from the bill. But that was not enough to placate the faction, part of the reason that Thursday’s vote was placed on hold.

As House leaders struggled to negotiate with holdouts in the hopes of rescheduling the vote, Mr. Trump sent senior officials to the Capitol with a blunt message: He would agree to no additional changes, and Republicans must either support the bill or resign themselves to leaving President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement in place.

“We have a great bill, and I think we have a good chance, but it’s only politics,” Mr. Trump said earlier Thursday, as it was becoming clear that his negotiating efforts had failed to persuade enough members of his party to back the plan — which was years in the making — to repeal and replace the health law.

Privately, White House officials conceded that competing Republican factions were each demanding changes that could doom the effort, placing the measure in peril and Mr. Trump’s chances of succeeding at a high-stakes legislative deal in jeopardy. With some of its demands in place, the Freedom Caucus ratcheted up its requests, insisting on a repeal of all regulatory mandates in the Affordable Care Act, including the prohibition on excluding coverage for pre-existing medical conditions and lifetime coverage caps.

Mr. Trump, who has touted his negotiating skills and invited the label “the closer” as the vote approached, was receiving a painful reality check about the difficulty of governing, even with his own party in power on Capitol Hill.

“Guys, we’ve got one shot here,” he told members of the Freedom Caucus at a meeting in the Cabinet Room, according to a person present in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the meeting was private. “This is it — we’re voting now.”

The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, spoke to reporters on Wednesday. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“The choice is yes or no,” Representative Joe Barton, Republican of Texas and a member of the Freedom Caucus, said on Thursday night. “I’m not going to vote no to keep Obamacare. That’d be a stupid damn vote.”

Others were unconvinced.

Having secured Mr. Trump’s acquiescence to eliminate the requirement that insurers offer “essential health benefits,” members of the Freedom Caucus pressed their advantage. While they did not specify precisely which regulations they wanted to eliminate, the section they wanted to gut requires coverage for pre-existing health conditions, allows individuals to remain on their parents’ health care plans up to age 26, bars insurers from setting different rates for men and women, prohibits annual or lifetime limits on benefits, and requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premium revenue on medical care.

“We’re committed to stay here until we get it done,” said Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the Freedom Caucus. “So whether the vote is tonight, tomorrow or five days from here, the president will get a victory.”

He said 30 to 40 Republicans planned to vote “no”; House leaders can afford to lose only 22 in order to pass the bill.

But for every concession Mr. Trump made to appease critics on the right, he lost potential rank-and-file supporters in the middle, including members of the centrist Tuesday Group who had balked at the bill’s Medicaid cuts and slashed insurance benefits. Moderate Republicans in that group went to the White House on Thursday but emerged unmoved in their opposition.

“There’s a little bit of a balancing act,” conceded Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.

Representative Leonard Lance, Republican of New Jersey, said he still opposed the bill because he did not believe it would give people “complete and affordable access” to health insurance.

At the same time, a new estimate of the bill’s cost and its impact on health coverage further soured the picture for wavering lawmakers. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Thursday issued a report on the revised version of the health care bill showing that it would cost more than the original version but would not cover more people. The report said the bill, like the original version, would result in 24 million fewer Americans having health insurance in 2026 than under current law.

But recent changes to the bill, made through a series of amendments introduced on Monday, would cut its deficit savings in half. Instead of reducing the deficit by $337 billion, the new version of the bill would save only $150 billion over the decade.

The budget office did not consider the effects of various additional changes that remain under negotiation, including eliminating benefit requirements and other health insurance regulations.

A Quinnipiac University national poll found that voters disapproved of the Republican plan by lopsided margins, with 56 percent opposed, 17 percent supportive and 26 percent undecided. The measure did not even draw support among a majority of Republicans; 41 percent approved, while 24 percent were opposed.

President Trump appealed to supporters to weigh in, assuring them in a video on Twitter, “Go with our plan. It’s going to be terrific.”

The chaotic process that unfolded on Thursday exposed Republicans to criticism that they were moving recklessly in a desperate bid to get their plan passed. Representative Raúl Labrador, Republican of Idaho and a Freedom Caucus member, said the party’s leaders had tried to ram through the measure over their members’ objections. He panned what he described as a “brute force” strategy that resembled the approach of former Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio.

“It’s better to get it right than to get it fast,” Mr. Labrador said.

It was not clear that the changes that Mr. Trump has agreed to and those being demanded could survive. Under the strict budget rules being used to advance the bill, changes to the Affordable Care Act must affect federal spending or revenues. Regulatory measures that affect private health policies, not government programs like Medicaid, are highly likely to be challenged by Senate Democrats. If the Senate parliamentarian rules in the Democrats’ favor, those changes in the House would be stripped from the bill.

The emerging power of the Freedom Caucus, a group that has been historically marginalized in policy making but a thorn in the side of leadership, is one of the surprises of the rushed health care debate. The group has been empowered by the addition of Mr. Mulvaney to the senior White House staff, and Mr. Trump’s disengagement from policy details, coupled with his intense desire to score a win after a rocky start to his presidency.

Mr. Obama stepped into the fray on Thursday with a lengthy defense of his law on the seventh anniversary of its signing, and a call for bipartisan improvements.

“I’ve always said we should build on this law, just as Americans of both parties worked to improve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the years,” he wrote in a mass email to followers. “So if Republicans are serious about lowering costs while expanding coverage to those who need it, and if they’re prepared to work with Democrats and objective evaluators in finding solutions that accomplish those goals — that’s something we all should welcome.”

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to provide “essential health benefits” in 10 broad categories, including maternity care, mental health care, addiction treatment, preventive services, emergency services and rehabilitative services.

Mr. Spicer defended the removal of the “essential health benefits” regulations, saying that it would accomplish Mr. Trump’s stated goal of reducing health care costs. “Part of the reason that premiums have spiked out of control is because under Obamacare there were these mandated services that had to be included,” Mr. Spicer said.

Family planning groups and advocates for women’s rights criticized Republican plans to roll back these requirements.

“Paul Ryan and his House members are willing to sell out the moms of America to pass this bill,” said Dawn Laguens, an executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Conservatives say the mandates, as interpreted in rules issued by the Obama administration, add to the costs of health insurance and make it difficult for insurers to offer lower-cost options to meet consumers’ needs.

Democrats say that the purpose of insurance is to share risk, and that without federal requirements, insurers would once again offer bare-bones policies. Before the Affordable Care Act took effect, maternity coverage was frequently offered as an optional benefit, or rider, for a hefty additional premium.