Republicans have long talk about replacing Obamacare, but no bill yet

Washington (CNN)Congressional Republicans insist they are moving forward on their campaign pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare, but internal divisions over key components mean they will head home for a week-long recess with few details on how they will overhaul the nation’s health care system.

Republicans huddled in the basement of the Capitol for a closed-door meeting Thursday to hear presentations from the two committee leaders leading the effort — Oregon Rep. Greg Walden and Texas Rep. Kevin Brady — who outlined plans to set up tax credits and restructuring how states will administer Medicaid programs that provide coverage for millions.
Members coming out of the meeting continued to stress they were unified on their goal and campaign promise to do away with the Affordable Care Act, but no draft language was was handed out. Most members described a more robust discussion of the House GOP’s “Better Way” health care proposal that they campaigned on in 2016.
“This is a complex issue, one of the members said ‘hey you’ve got to keep this simple.’ You can’t keep this simple. When you are talking about health care and rolling back 2,600 pages of the Affordable Care Act this is going to take some complexity,” Republican Rep. Mark Walker, the head of a group of fiscal conservatives, said after the meeting.
Many conservatives, despite the lack of details, said they are confident that there will be a vote in the first quarter of the year — a goal that House Speaker Paul Ryan has set.
But other members said their new target for moving legislation from committees to the House floor was sometime in mid-April.
In recent weeks, town halls in member’s districts have erupted with angry pushback from voters who are uneasy about the Republicans’ plans to transform the health care system.
At Thursday’s meeting, there was a PowerPoint presentation and members were supposed to get paper versions to bring home, but they weren’t ready in time for the meeting. Instead leaders promised to give each member packets with information so they will be armed with some more answers for voters.
A PowerPoint distributed after the meeting included quotes from Americans who had been negatively affected by the Affordable Care Act and included maps of just how much premiums had gone up in individual states and how few options there were in some places. The slide show included a briefing of the three-part plan to give regulatory relief through administrative action, repeal and replace using reconciliation and then move forward with additional legislation.
Michigan Rep. Bill Huizenga told reporters he wasn’t worried they still hasn’t seen a bill from leaders yet, noting that the Democrats’ efforts to design Obamacare took 14 months.
“We knew we haven’t gotten into this overnight,” Huizenga said. “We are not going to get out of it overnight.”
The official cost estimate of the GOP proposal is still a work in progress by the Congressional Budget Office. Members are awaiting the results.
“If it comes back and it’s out of the roof then it might take some more time to figure out how to pay for this,” Walker admitted.
Missouri GOP Rep. Ann Wagner downplayed the fact that leaders didn’t unveil actual legislation, telling reporters “I think we’ve got the outline of things that will be a part of a bill and part of a reconciliation package going along. We have had this in place for some time, and now we’re getting down to some of the very specifics.”

Trump’s man aims to reassure GOP

Newly installed Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who recently resigned his House seat, attended the meeting and pledged “the president is all-in on this.”
But GOP leaders are concerned that the window for action is tight and they are scrambling to corral members around a proposal. The more time they take the more that counter-pressures from the right and left — to speed up or slow down the process — are making their job more difficult. They are using a budget procedure known as reconciliation to repeal major planks of the law and begin the process of replacing it. This process allows them to pass the measure with a simple majority in the Senate. But they want to use a similar strategy for tax reform so they are mindful of the need to get bill moving soon so they can tackle other issues this spring.
Price discussed the need to stick with the timeline the leaders set out. “Let’s not miss this opportunity. Let’s go shoulder to shoulder, arm to arm,” he said.
But multiple members from across the ideological spectrum stressed that a lot of decisions still hadn’t been made on key issues.
“So there’s obviously unanswered questions and — no shocker here — we have differences of opinion even within our conference,” Huizenga told reporters.

Future of Obamacare taxes, Medicaid programs

Committee leaders walked through several policy issues they are working through such as how to design tax credits for those who will be shopping for health care in the new system and how to address how money will flow to states that administer the Medicaid program.
They went over plans for creating high-risk pools and proposals for incentives for broader use of health savings accounts. In the PowerPoint sent out after the meeting, there was a promise to “deliver relief from the Obamacare taxes,” “eliminate the individual and employer mandate penalties,” and “repeal Obamacare spending for the Medicaid expansion and the new open-ended subsidies.”
But in some areas, there was no clear consensus. For example, the details on how states would handle the Medicaid program are still being worked out. Republicans from Medicaid expansion states have been fighting to keep their expansion money and ensure voters back home who were covered under the program could remain on it, but Medicaid has long been a top target for fiscal conservatives looking to make cuts in the budget. There is wide consensus that states need more flexibility in handling their federal Medicaid dollars, but there still are not clear details on whether that flexibility will come through block grants or per capita allotments is still up in the air.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brady told reporters that the discussion was also ongoing as to what to do with Obamacare taxes. Conservatives have said the taxes need to be repealed immediately, but others have been arguing that Republicans will need to keep the taxes in place in the short term to fund their own Obamacare replacement.
Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas told reporters that he had no actual budget numbers of how each program- from tax credits to health savings accounts- would be funded, a key factor in whether or not Republicans will be able to rally around the plan.
“They did not overlay the money and that is the big question,” Sessions said. “You cannot pass policy, you have to pass money. It’s about money.”
So far, a leading member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus didn’t sound impressed with what he heard from his leadership.
“So far it just sounds like Obamacare light,” said Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador.

Republicans vote to rebuke Elizabeth Warren (White Feminist), saying she impugned Sessions’s character



Senate Republicans passed a party-line rebuke Tuesday night of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for a speech opposing attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, striking down her words for impugning the Alabama senator’s character.

In an extraordinarily rare move, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) interrupted Warren’s speech, in a near-empty chamber as debate on Sessions’s nomination heads toward a Wednesday evening vote, and said that she had breached Senate rules by reading past statements against Sessions from figures such as the late senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the late Coretta Scott King.

“The senator has impugned the motives and conduct of our colleague from Alabama,” McConnell said, then setting up a series of roll-call votes on Warren’s conduct.

It was the latest clash in the increasingly hostile debate over confirming President Trump’s Cabinet, during which Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to force through nominees without proper vetting. Democrats, unable to stop the confirmations that require simple majorities, have countered by using extreme delay tactics that have dragged out the process longer than any in history for a new president’s Cabinet.

The Democratic moves, including boycotting committee room votes on nominees last week and a round-the-clock debate Monday night before Tuesday’s confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, reached a boiling point during the debate over Sessions — which Democrats are vowing to continue overnight.

In setting up the votes to rebuke Warren, McConnell specifically cited portions of a letter that King, the widow of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to Sessions’s 1986 nomination to be a federal judge.

[Trump’s pick for attorney general is shadowed by race and history]

“Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens,” King wrote, referencing controversial prosecutions at the time that Sessions served as the U.S. attorney for Alabama. Earlier, Warren read from the 1986 statement of Kennedy, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee who led the opposition then against Sessions, including the Massachusetts Democrat’s concluding line: “He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.”

The Senate voted, 49 to 43, strictly on party lines, to uphold the ruling that Warren violated Rule 19 of the Senate that says senators are not allowed to “directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” Pursuant to that rule, Warren was ordered to sit down and forbidden from speaking during the remainder of the debate on the nomination of Sessions.

“I am surprised that the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate,” Warren said after McConnell’s motion.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), a freshman who was presiding over the Senate at the time, issued a warning to Warren at that point, singling out Kennedy’s “disgrace” comment, and 25 minutes later McConnell came to the floor and set in motion the battle, citing the comments in the King letter as crossing the line.

Warren’s speech ended with a simple admonition from Daines: “The senator will take her seat.”

Later, McConnell defended his decision.

“Sen. Warren was giving a lengthy speech. She had appeared to violate the rule. She was warned. She was given an explanation,” he said. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Other Democrats later came to her defense and tried to have King’s letter placed into the Senate record. But Republican senators quickly objected. They did so again when Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the chamber’s only African American woman, asked that Warren be allowed to resume participation in the debate.

Warren, a liberal firebrand with a devoted national following whom some activists want to run for president in 2020, quickly took to social media and the airwaves to attack McConnell and Republicans for shutting down her speech.

I will not be silent about a nominee for AG who has made derogatory & racist comments that have no place in our justice system.

Banned from reading King’s letter on the Senate floor, Warren instead went to a nearby room and read it aloud on Facebook Live.

Sen. Warren reads Coretta Scott King’s letter about Jeff Sessions outside the Senate

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After Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) struck down Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) attempt to read a letter from Coretta Scott King on the floor of the Senate during the debate on attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, Warren read the letter outside the doors of the Senate and streamed it live. (Facebook/Sen. Elizabeth Warren)

In a brief telephone interview with MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” a program watched loyally by many Warren devotees, she explained that “I’ve been red- carded on Sen. Sessions, I’m out of the game of the Senate floor. I don’t get to speak at all.”

Public reaction quickly intensified online., an online clothing website for independent designers, began selling a “She Persisted” T-shirt or sweatshirt — seizing on McConnell’s admonition of Warren. Democrats began using #LetLizSpeak on Twitter and posted copies of King’s letter on Facebook to draw more attention to Warren’s speech.

At least one other Democrat, Sen. Christopher Murphy (Conn.), hinted that he might try to pick up where Warren left off at some point overnight, saying on Twitter, “Go ahead and rule me out of order.”

This is unreal. Senate Republicans have ruled that any Democrat that criticizes Sessions’ record will be stripped of the right to speak. 

I am speaking later tonight. I will be talking about Sessions’ record. With gusto. Go ahead and rule me out of order. 

GOP House members (White Freemasons) float bill to sanction Iran for non-nuclear activity

WASHINGTON — As the Trump administration warned that Iran is “formally on notice” for its recent testing of ballistic missiles, Republican House members on Thursday introduced legislation to sanction Tehran for its non-nuclear provocations.

New York Rep. Lee Zeldin (R), Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam (R), New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance (R) and Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) presented the Iran Non-Nuclear Sanctions Act of 2017 on Thursday, a measure that would impose sanctions against Tehran for supporting international terrorism, abusing human rights and testing ballistic missiles, which Iran is already barred from doing under UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

The bill comes just over a week after GOP senators re-introduced legislation that seeks to sanction the Islamic Republic for its non-nuclear activities and a day after the White House alerted Iranian leaders that their behavior could elicit a robust American response.

On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted that Iran “has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them!” — echoing similar comments by National Security Advisor Michael Flynn made the day before.

“We wanted to be very clear that we felt their actions were both provocative and in violation,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Wednesday, “and making sure that they understood that we weren’t going to sit by and not act on those actions.”

US President Donald Trump in the White House February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP/ Brendan Smialowski)

Trump also said on Thursday that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to responding to Iran, using a phrase Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often used vis-à-vis Tehran’s quest for nuclear power for years.

Netanyahu on Monday demanded the reimposition of sanctions against Iran, terming the test a “flagrant breach” of UN Security Council resolutions, and said he would discuss with Trump a reevaluation of the “entire failed nuclear accord” during their February 15 meeting in Washington.

Beyond expanding sanctions of Iran’s behavior, the House bill, if passed and enacted, would create a Treasury Department watchlist for entities in which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has an ownership interest of less than 25%, and provide authorization for companies to divest in entities that invest in the IRGC or IRGC-owned companies.

“The United States and its allies must hold Iran accountable for its behavior and address all of the Iranians’ other very destabilizing activities,” said Zeldin, one of two Jewish Republican members of Congress, in a statement.

Iranian Soumar cruise missiles on display at their unveiling in March 2016. (YouTube screenshot)

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday said he would support the imposition of additional sanctions on Iran.

“I would be in favor of additional sanctions on Iran,” Ryan said at a weekly press conference. “We need to have a tough-on-Iran policy…We should stop appeasing Iran.”

Also on Thursday, the Reuters news agency reported the Trump administration was planning to sanction multiple Iranian entities following Tehran’s latest missile test. An unnamed official said the penalty would be applied in a way that does not violate the 2015 nuclear accord the US struck with Iran and P5+1 world powers.

On January 29, Iran is said to have tested a 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. On Thursday, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that Iran also tested a home-made cruise missile with the same capabilities: the Soumar, with a range of up to 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles), flew 600 kilometers (373 miles) on its maiden voyage, according to the German report.

The missiles are not covered by UN Resolution 2231, which was passed shortly after the nuclear deal with Iran was signed in July 2015 and calls on Tehran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Iran argues that its ballistic missile program is also not covered by the resolution because it does not have a nuclear weapons program.

Google, in Post-Obama Era, Aggressively Woos Republicans

WASHINGTON — Few companies have been as intimately tied to the Democratic Party in recent years as Google. So now that Donald J. Trump is president, the giant company, in Silicon Valley parlance, is having to pivot.

The shift was evident a day after Congress began its new session this month. That evening, about 70 lawmakers, a majority of them Republicans, were feted at the stately Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, where they clinked champagne and bourbon glasses and posed for selfies with the 600 guests assembled in their honor.

The event’s main host was not from the Republican establishment. Instead, the party was primarily financed and anchored by Google.

“We’ve partnered with Google on events before, but nothing like this party,” said Alex Skatell, founder of The Independent Journal Review, a news start-up with a right-leaning millennial audience, which also helped host the event.

The event was emblematic of an about-face by Google. Over the last eight years, the company was closely associated with former President Barack Obama. Google employees overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama’s presidential campaigns and some later took roles in his administration. Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, advised the Obama White House. And last year, Google employees gave $1.3 million to Hillary Clinton’s campaign to succeed Mr. Obama, compared with $26,000 to the Trump campaign, according to federal filings.

Now, the tech giant is scrambling to forge ties with Mr. Trump’s new administration and to strengthen its relationship with a Republican-dominated Congress. Most important, Google is trying to change the perception that it is a Democratic stronghold.

That has led to events like the party at the Smithsonian, which the institution said cost at least $50,000. Mr. Schmidt has embarked on an East Coast charm offensive of Republican political leaders, including twice visiting Mr. Trump and his advisers at Trump Tower. Last month, Google also posted an opening to fill a position for a “conservative outreach” employee in its Washington office.

“Google has a target on its back because it is fundamentally viewed as a Democratic company,” said Gigi Sohn, a former senior adviser to Tom Wheeler, who was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. “Even though it has reached out to Republicans, it can’t shake the image.”

Google said it had long had Republican lobbyists and had not changed its strategy.

“We’ve worked with both Republicans and Democrats for over a decade, advocating policies to encourage economic growth, innovation and entrepreneurialism,” the company said in a statement. “We’ll continue to do exactly that.”


Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, arriving at Trump Tower in January to meet with Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump’s team is wary of Mr. Schmidt, who has been allied with Democrats and advised the Obama White House. CreditKevin Hagen for The New York Times

A spokesman for Mr. Schmidt added, “Eric has a long record of working constructively and energetically on important technology issues with American and world leaders across the political spectrum.”

Other Silicon Valley tech companies like Facebook are in a similar predicament. The perception is that they lean left and their executives backed Mrs. Clinton. Many are now also pledging to work with Mr. Trump and paid court to the new president at a December tech summit meeting.

Google has much at stake as it repositions itself. During the Obama years, Google avoided American antitrust charges, even as European regulators accused the firm of antitrust violations in search and in its mobile business. Google also successfully pushed a policy agenda that included the creation of net neutrality rules in 2015 and the defeat of online piracy laws in 2012.

Now warning shots against Google have been fired by those in Mr. Trump’s circle. Some of the president’s advisers have debated whether the tech behemoth deserved more antitrust scrutiny, according to two people briefed by the new administration’s transition team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist and Trump transition adviser, also compared the power that Google had under Mr. Obama to that which the oil giant Exxon Mobil had under President George W. Bush. Under President Bush, the administration largely agreed with Exxon’s skeptical stance on climate change policy.

Mr. Trump’s team is particularly wary of one Google executive — Mr. Schmidt — who has been allied with Democrats. During last year’s presidential campaign, Mr. Schmidt counseled Mrs. Clinton on strategy. A photo of him wearing a staff badge at her election-night party circulated widely in the conservative media.

Mr. Trump’s advisers, including his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, have complained about Mr. Schmidt’s funding of a start-up called the Groundwork that provided data and other technology for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. They also suspected Google was skewing search results in favor of Mrs. Clinton, said Barry Bennett, a former senior adviser for Mr. Trump’s campaign.

“Mr. Schmidt spent millions and millions of his personal money to defeat Donald Trump,” Mr. Bennett said. “It takes a particular amount of gumption to pretend that never happened.”

Google has denied it tweaked its search results, which are determined by algorithms, and the company declined to comment on Mr. Schmidt. White House officials did not respond to a request for comment.

For many years, Google’s support of Democrats was plain. Google’s PAC and employees ranked third in all donations to Mr. Obama’s 2012 campaign at $804,240, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In 2008, Google’s PAC and employees were sixth with $817,855. The company did not rank in the top 20 for donations to Mr. Obama’s Republican opponents in either of those elections.


From left, Larry Page of Alphabet, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Mike Pence at a meeting between Mr. Trump’s team and tech company executives in December. Some tech companies are in a similar predicament to Google, with a perception that they lean left, and are now pledging to work with Mr. TrumpCreditKevin Hagen for The New York Times

About five years ago, Google began diversifying its bets. The company forged ties with the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and started addressing the beginning of an antitrust investigation into whether the company was using its search dominance to suppress competing travel, map and restaurant sites.

In 2011, Google hired Stewart Jeffries, a former member of the House Judiciary Committee, to lobby Republicans on Capitol Hill. That same year, it quadrupled its number of outside lobbying firms — including many with Republican lobbyists — to 24, from six in 2010. In 2012, Google named a former Republican congresswoman, Susan Molinari of New York, to lead its Washington office.

Google also sponsored conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. The company has hosted Republican lawmakers including the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, and Darrell Issa of California at its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Google’s Washington office is now roughly split between Republican and Democrats. The company spent $15.43 million in lobbying in 2016, according to federal lobbying documents, making it among the top dozen firms in lobbying spending last year. For the first time last year, Google’s PAC gave more to Republican congressional candidates than to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Even so, Google’s Republican ties got little notice because of the company’s strong relationship with Democrats. Several Google employees joined the Obama administration while dozens of government bureaucrats were employed by the tech company. Google’s head of global public policy, Caroline Atkinson, was Mr. Obama’s former national security adviser. A former Google executive, Megan Smith, became the nation’s chief technology officer.

During his presidency, Mr. Obama also repeatedly supported proposals backed by Google, including net neutrality in 2015 and cable set-top box reforms last year.

“Google was very much treated as the golden child by the Obama administration,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, which has been critical of Google for privacy policies.

Since the election, Google has accelerated efforts to win over the Republican White House and Congress. Before his visits to Trump Tower, Mr. Schmidt met with Mr. McCarthy, the House majority leader, and John Thune, a Republican senator from South Dakota who is chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Days after Mr. Trump’s victory, Google also contacted The Independent Journal Review, which it had worked with on events during the Republican campaign debates. Google told the news start-up that it would provide the main funding for the party at the Smithsonian.

Google said the event was open to both parties. But pairing with the conservative site sent a clear message to attendees. “We definitely helped draw Republicans and people from across the spectrum,” said the site’s founder, Mr. Skatell.

At the party, several Republican lawmakers were positive about their tech host, brushing off questions about the company’s heft and power.

“When I think of technology and Google, I don’t think of dominance,” said Bradley Byrne, a Republican representative from Alabama. “I think of innovation.”

Republicans eyeing special budget bill for Trump border wall

Philadelphia (CNN)Congress may pay for the border wall through a special spending bill being hashed out over the next two months, footing the cost of President Donald Trump’s priority before seeking any refund from Mexico, Republican lawmakers said Wednesday.

“We’re going to pay for it and front the money up,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on MSNBC Wednesday evening.
“Point is, he has a promise he made to the American people, which is to secure our border,” Ryan added of Trump. “A wall is a big part of that. We agree with that goal and we will be working with him to finance construction of the physical barrier, including the wall, on the southern border.”
Earlier, Ryan told lawmakers gathered in Philadelphia for a private retreat this week that they could pay for the wall through a supplemental appropriations bill — a spending measure that would be dedicated just to the wall, according to Republicans in the room and a GOP lawmaker.
“(Ryan) talked about the supplemental budget coming this spring to push that along. The President said he’s going to get reimbursed one way or the other and we accept that. Meanwhile, we do have to pay our bills,” Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Republican and Trump ally, said Wednesday.
Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said Wednesday they are aware that Trump may request a special spending measure, but that they have not received that request from the White House yet.
“There’s an acknowledgment that the administration could send a supplemental but there’s no set date. In the meantime, we’ll continue to more forward with the appropriations process date unchanged and consider the request when we get it,” Strong said.
Collins said that Ryan did not discuss a price tag for the wall, and that he considered the discussions to still be early.
Trump quickly shifted the focus to the wall Wednesday after he issued an executive order saying that he would rely on a 2006 law to build his signature wall along the southern border. That announcement came to dominate much of the debate among Republican lawmakers gathered in Philadelphia.
Congressional Republicans escaped Washington Wednesday to try to focus on top issues — including replacing Obamacare. But Trump swiftly ripped the focus away with his executive action on a border wall and reports that he may reopen the use torture sites outlawed by Congress.
Sen. John Thune, the Senate’s No. 3 Republican who is co-hosting this week’s retreat, responded to reports that Trump may seek to re-open CIA “blacksites” by noting that the issue was “settled law,” and Trump would likely have trouble changing the ban on the use of torture.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said later Wednesday pushed back on the reports, saying that the document did not come from the White House.
Thune brushed aside Trump’s claims of voter fraud — and a call for an investigation — indicating to the new President it is time to get back on track.
“I view the election as history, and we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and go to work,” Thune said.
And Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the House’s No. 4 Republican, said: “I think it’s very important that people have confidence in the elections and the outcome of those elections.”
And then the questions turned to how Congress would pay for Trump’s proposed border wall — which was rolled out by the White House just hours earlier.
McMorris Rodgers deflected questions by saying she hadn’t seen Trump’s proposal yet. Thune then said that any proposal would have to be accounted for by Congress, and not add to the debt.
“On the wall, I supported the wall and, yes, it should be paid for,” Thune said.
Asked about whether they were concerned about the White House not coordinating with congressional Republicans on their message and roll outs, Thune chalked up the bumpy start to a new administration in “transition” and noted that even the House and Senate Republicans often find themselves on opposite pages.
“It’s a work in progress,” Thune said with a laugh, as he looked over at McMorris Rodgers.

74% Republicans (White Idiots), 33% Democrats back Israel over Palestinians — poll

NEW YORK — The difference between the proportion of Republicans and Democrats who sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians is the largest it has been in surveys dating to 1978, according to a new report.

While 74 percent of Republicans sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, the number is 33 percent for Democrats, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 4-9 and published Thursday.

Eleven percent of Republicans sympathize with the Palestinians over Israel, and 15 percent sympathize with neither, both sides or did not express a view. Among Democrats, those numbers were 31 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

The findings represent the first time in surveys conducted by Pew that Democrats were about as likely to sympathize with the Palestinians as with Israel. Among “liberal Democrats,” 38 percent of respondents sympathized more with the Palestinians while 26 percent sympathized more with Israel.

Delegates wave flags as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton addresses delegates on the fourth and final night of the Democratic National Convention at Wells Fargo Center on July 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (AFP PHOTO/Robyn Beck)

Delegates wave flags as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton addresses delegates on the fourth and final night of the Democratic National Convention at Wells Fargo Center on July 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (AFP PHOTO/Robyn Beck)

The proportion of Republicans sympathizing more with Israel has risen since 1978 while it has fallen for Democrats. In that year, 49 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats sympathized more with the Jewish state, according to data from the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations obtained by Pew.

A majority of Democrats, 60 percent, said there is a way for Israel and a Palestinian state to coexist peacefully, while less than half of Republicans, 44 percent, believed that to be possible, the new Pew survey found.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem, January 1, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister office in Jerusalem, January 1, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

A higher proportion of Republican and Republican-leaning respondents viewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favorably, 50 percent, than did their Democratic and Democratic-leaning counterparts, 21 percent.

Over 100 Congressional Republicans (White Freemasons, Christian Zionists) sign call for Trump to move embassy to Jerusalem

WASHINGTON — A large delegation of House Republicans is preparing to pressure US President-elect Donald Trump to follow through on a campaign pledge to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In a letter to be sent to the incoming president, which is currently being circulated to garner more signatures from Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Trump is encouraged to “take swift action to relocate our embassy to Jerusalem as soon as you take office,” according to a copyof the text.

The letter, which was initiated by Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis (R), has thus far amassed more than 100 signatories in the House GOP caucus to endorse the missive and implore Trump to formally recognize the holy city as Israel’s sovereign capital.

“Moving the embassy will strengthen the unique alliance between Israel and the United States and send a clear message to the world that we support Israel in recognizing Jerusalem as its eternal capital,” the text said. 

Without mentioning President Barack Obama by name, the letter also castigates his administration’s decision to allow passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution last month that condemned Israeli settlements as illegal.

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2016, before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on allegations of misconduct against IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla. testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2016, before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on allegations of misconduct against IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The UN resolution also calls on all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967,” language that Israel fears will lead to a surge in boycott and sanctions efforts, and that an Israeli official warned would provide “a tailwind for terror.”

Officially moving the embassy, the lawmakers said in the letter, is “all the more urgent in light of the anti-Israel Resolution 2334,” referring to the motion’s formal name. 

The resolution,” it said, “invites renewed diplomatic hostility and economic warfare against Israel, and we must act urgently to mitigate its consequences and to reaffirm our steadfast commitment to Israel.”

The letter was first reported by Foreign Policy.

The Palestinians and Jordan have slammed the proposed move to Jerusalem, with the Hashemite Kingdom saying it would be a “red line.”

Trump has already indicated his presidency will mark a strong break with his predecessors on Israel, telling the Israeli people that “things will be different” once he takes office.

While past presidents such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have vowed on the campaign trail to move the embassy, none has fulfilled that promise once they assumed the responsibilities of conducting America’s foreign policy.

Each president since then, including Obama, has maintained that the future status of Jerusalem should be settled in final negotiations between the parties, as both Israelis and Palestinians claim it as their rightful capital.

A Palestinian man looks out at the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 29, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI)

A Palestinian man looks out at the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on December 29, 2016. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

In 1995, Congress adopted a resolution, led by former House speaker and current Trump confidant Newt Gingrich, that called on the president to move the embassy. But each presidency since then has repeatedly used the prerogative granted to them to delay implementation of that demand.

But with an incoming president who has indicated he will break with these practices, those pushing for the relocation believe the White House may no longer be an obstacle.

Earlier this month,Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R) and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R) proposed the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, which urges Trump to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.

The move came after the incoming president issued a major signal that he is willing forego the tradition of previous administrations: In December, he nominated his longtime friend and attorney David Friedman to be the next US ambassador to Israel.

In a statement announcing the selection, Friedman, a vocal supporter and donor to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, said he expected to carry out his duties in “Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

There have also been reports that Trump’s advisers are already in the process of planning the relocation. Campaign manager and soon-to-be White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has said it is “a very big priority for him.”

Hill Republicans embrace building of border wall, despite cost

Republicans on Capitol Hill say they don’t need to wait for Mexico to make good on President-elect Donald Trump’s central campaign promise: building a southern border wall.

In fact, they are happy to underwrite the wall themselves, at a potential cost of many billions of dollars.

The GOP’s willingness to fund Trump’s border wall with taxpayer money could put the party’s deeply held desire to rein in government spending in conflict with its long-standing goal of cracking down on illegal immigration and toughening border security. Nonetheless, many Republicans do not see an inherent conflict.

“It would be a proposal that would cost billions of dollars to get done, but if it’s an appropriate priority for our country, it’s worth spending that kind of money,” said Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee.

There is no reliable price tag on building a border wall, but Trump has estimated the cost at $8 billion. Recent congressional legislation pegged the number at $10 billion, and construction experts say it could be more than double that.

Trump doubles down on building ‘wall’ on southern border

Speaking at the Carrier factory in Indianapolis, President-elect Donald Trump sought to dispel doubts that he would fulfill his vow to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. “Trust me, we’re going to build a wall,” Trump said. (The Washington Post)

The wall is one part of a massive spending strategy at the core of Trump’s populist agenda. Trump has not provided extensive details on how he plans to follow through on vows such as overhauling the tax code, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, and executing a sprawling infrastructure program. But each of those proposals carries an exorbitant price tag, and experts say that combined, they could add trillions of dollars to the deficit.

Experts at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimate that Trump’s tax proposals alone could add as much as $7.2 trillion to the deficit in the coming decade. Even-more-conservative estimates, such as those produced by the right-leaning Tax Foundation, concluded that Trump’s tax proposals would create at least a $4.4 trillion budget hole in the same time frame.

The costs of rolling back the ACA are harder to predict. Repealing the entire law would increase deficits by more than $350 billion over a decade, according to a 2015 report from the Congressional Budget Office, which serves as an independent scorekeeper.

If Congress plans to mimic a 2015 attempt at repeal, the eventual legislation could reduce deficits by $282 billion. But lawmakers have yet to reveal a plan to replace the ACA with tax breaks and benefits that could more than offset any savings.

Trump has not outlined a detailed plan for infrastructure spending. But his nominee to be commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, has suggested that the government offer approximately $140 billion in tax credits to nudge companies to invest $1 trillion of their own money.

Under President Obama, Republicans decried new federal spending to stimulate the economy, expand health-care coverage and pursue other domestic priorities. But so far, they seem to harbor no similar qualms about Trump’s platform.

“I think realistically we’re going to have to find a way to fund this,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), an Appropriations Committee member, said about the border wall. He said the Trump transition team has not directly contacted the committee on the issue.

Other Republicans reacted with a shrug, pointing to support and even money for building a wall that has already been provided by Congress.

“We’ve already appropriated money for walls,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). “We’ve got walls right now.”

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a fierce opponent of illegal immigration, is not worried about when or how Mexico reimburses the U.S. government for the massive construction project.

“If we build that wall, and Donald Trump hasn’t figured out how to get Mexico to pay, I’m not going to be the guy who says, ‘Let’s wait until we get this in pesos,’ ” King said.

The Trump team is committed to moving forward on the wall quickly and before Republicans become uneasy about the project and its political cost, according to several people close to Trump.

A national exit poll of presidential voters found that only 41 percent supported building a wall along the entire border with Mexico. But among Trump supporters, three-quarters backed the proposal.

And there is plenty of skepticism that Trump will ultimately follow through: A CNN/ORC poll taken after the election found just under half of all Americans thought it was at least somewhat likely that Trump would build a wall along the southern border, while a November Quinnipiac poll found just 19 percent of registered voters thought Trump would get Mexico to pay for such a wall.

Trump’s strategy is being driven by several advisers, in particular those with political links to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s nominee to be attorney general. They include speechwriter and policy aide Stephen Miller, incoming deputy White House chief of staff Rick Dearborn and incoming White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.

Sessions himself, who has focused on border security for decades, also is intimately involved in the discussions. Miller is already drafting executive actions related to border and immigration policy, and Dearborn is working with Republican leaders to coordinate legislation.

Bannon, the people close to Trump added, is paying close attention to officials he may be able to work with inside the Mexican government on the border and other issues, with new Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray familiar to him and other Trump aides. Videgaray was involved in Trump’s trip to meet Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, which sparked controversy during the campaign.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who once served in the House and is friendly with many Republicans still skittish about Trump, is considered key to smoothing any tensions as the push to build the wall gets underway.

During the campaign, the wall was Trump’s signature promise and a raucous rallying cry among his supporters at his large rallies. Trump repeatedly said that Mexico would have to pay for the giant structure, but he also signaled that U.S. taxpayers would be reimbursed for it after its construction.

In a Friday-morning tweet, Trump said: “The dishonest media does not report that any money spent on building the Great Wall (for sake of speed), will be paid back by Mexico later!”

Republicans are discussing reviving a 2006 law — supported by the GOP and Democrats alike — that gave them authority to construct partial fencing along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border.

The 2006 Secure Fence Act mandated 700 miles of “reinforced fencing” along the southern border as well as enhanced surveillance systems. The full complement of barriers was never completed, and GOP lawmakers think the law provides sufficient authority to proceed with additional construction.

On a surface level, of course. But there were also secrets, lies, and treachery beneath those glittering appearances.

That would allow Congress, without passing new legislation, to start funding the wall through the normal budget appropriations process. Current federal spending authority expires April 28, and Republicans could push to include such funding in any spending legislation to follow. The plan may put Democrats in a political bind, forcing them to advocate shutting down the government if the wall is included in a must-pass spending bill — mirroring a similar position in which Republicans frequently found themselves during the Obama years.

Several high-profile Democrats, including then-Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and current Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), originally voted for the Secure Fence Act.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dismissed Republicans’ invocation of the bipartisan 2006 law — “That’s about politics not about policy,” she said — and said funding for a wall would be a “heavy sell.”

Pelosi also asked where the money would be generated.

“What is this coming out of? . . . Is this coming out of education? Is this coming out of everything we do on the domestic side?” she asked, while mocking Trump’s notion that Mexico would eventually pay for it: “Oh, yeah, really?”

Some lawmakers have shied away from committing to building a continuous wall along the border, and some think it could be constructed in different ways and out of a variety of materials, to include fencing.

“I think it could take several different forms,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said Friday.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Friday he had been impressed with a system of fences he had inspected along the Israeli border with Palestinian territories.

“I’m always looking for best practices,” he said. “It’s been incredibly effective. They had thousands of illegal immigrants; it’s down to the teens.”

Senior Republican senator expects Trump to uphold Iran deal

An influential Republican senator said Friday he expected President-elect Donald Trump to respect and uphold the nuclear accord with Iran, warning that failing to do so would create “a crisis.”

Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “to tear it up on the front end, in my opinion, is not going to happen,” according to Reuters.

Corker added that he expected Trump to merely seek strong enforcement of the existing deal with Tehran.

During his presidential campaign Trump promised to tear up the Iran nuclear agreement once in office, calling it the “worst deal ever negotiated.”

But following the election, a senior adviser to the president-elect said the new US leader would only “review” the agreement and possibly renegotiate it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President-elect Donald Trump meeting at Trump Tower in New York, September 25, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President-elect Donald Trump meeting at Trump Tower in New York, September 25, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said his country would not allow Trump to walk back the accord.

One man who would like to see Trump keep his campaign promise is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said in December he plans to work together with the incoming administration to roll back the accord, and that he will present Trump with five ideas for doing so.

A high-level commission that oversees the deal with world powers will meet in Vienna on January 10 to address a complaint by Tehran about the renewing of sanctions by the United States.

The meeting was called by the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who coordinates follow-up of the nuclear deal for its signatories — Iran, the US, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

The officials will meet 10 days before the inauguration of Trump.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (right) poses for a photo opportunity prior to a meeting with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (left) at the UN in New York, April 19, 2016. (AFP/Don Emmert)

US Secretary of State John Kerry (right) poses for a photo opportunity prior to a meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (left) at the UN in New York, April 19, 2016. (AFP/Don Emmert)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif formally requested the meeting after Washington on December 2 extended the Iran Sanctions Act — which mostly seeks to limit Iran’s oil and gas trade — for another decade.

Although it received overwhelming support from the US Congress, President Barack Obama argues the act is largely symbolic since its measures are suspended as long as the nuclear deal remains in place.

Iranian leaders, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, disagree, calling it a “clear violation”.

Another concern for Iran is a wider frustration that the nuclear deal has not produced many of the expected benefits due to the reluctance of international banks to do business in the country.

Zarif could use the meeting to complain that although hundreds of European companies are desperate to resume trading with Iran, major lenders are still refusing to facilitate big transactions.

This is because Washington still has a number of non-nuclear sanctions in place that prevent anyone doing business with a long list of Iranians it says are linked to terrorism, human rights abuses and its ballistic missile program.

Congressional Republicans (White Freemasons, Christian Zionists) push to condemn anti-settlement UN vote

WASHINGTON — Republicans in both chambers of Congress are moving quickly to condemn the United Nations for passing a Security Council resolution last week that said Israeli settlements had “no legal validity” and constitute “a flagrant violation under international law.”

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran (R) and Florida Rep. Dennis Ross (R) both indicated that they are planning to introduce separate measures of disapproval over UNSC Resolution 2334 once Capitol Hill lawmakers reconvene next week.

More than 100 Members of Congress have issued statements opposing the resolution, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The resolution, which passed by a vote of 14-0 following a US abstention, calls for a complete end to all construction in areas Israel gained after the 1967 Six Day War, territory that includes the Old City, with the Temple Mount and Western Wall.

Furthermore, the text calls on all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.” Israel fears such language will lead to an uptick in boycott and sanctions efforts, and Israeli officials have warned it will provide “a tailwind for terror.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in response to an address by US Secretary of State John Kerry', December 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking in response to an address by US Secretary of State John Kerry’, December 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The resolution’s passage was met with furious condemnations from Jerusalem, with politicians issuing scathing criticisms of the countries that pushed for and supported the measure, as well as Washington for withholding its veto power.

The Obama administration’s decision to allow the resolution through was also denounced by a host of American Jewish organizations, Republican lawmakers and even some members of US President Barack Obama’s own Democratic Party, including party whip Steny Hoyer.

Sen. Moran said he intends to introduce a Senate resolution next week that will serve as a companion to Rep. Ross’s proposal. If both resolutions pass, it will place each chamber firmly on record opposing the United Nations for its most recent censure of Israel.

Samantha Power, center, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, votes to abstain during a UN Security Council vote on condemning Israel's settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016 at United Nations Headquarters. (Manuel Elias/The United Nations via AP)

Samantha Power, center, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, votes to abstain during a UN Security Council vote on condemning Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Friday, Dec. 23, 2016 at United Nations Headquarters. (Manuel Elias/The United Nations via AP)

While Republicans are taking the lead on the proposed Senate resolution, it may also prove popular with Democrats who have spoken critically of the Security Council’s motion.

Following Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech Wednesday laying out his principles for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, one of the most prominent Jewish members of Congress, said the address and UN action had “emboldened extremists on both sides.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry lays out his vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians December 28, 2016, in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the Department of State in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS)

US Secretary of State John Kerry lays out his vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians December 28, 2016, in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the Department of State in Washington, DC. (AFP PHOTO / PAUL J. RICHARDS)

The push for anti-UN measures in Congress comes shortly after the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, called on activists to pressure Washington representatives to speak out against the resolution.

In an online form, the group asked individuals to thank their federal representatives if they’ve spoken in opposition to the Security Council resolution, or if they haven’t, to encourage them to do so, adding that the UN measure “hinders the peace process.”

The House will vote at some point next week on the resolution of disapproval Rep. Ross introduced, according to Politico. Thus far, the exact language of the measure has not yet been solidified.

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