“The Trump administration has lost another Obamacare legal battle — its second this week — just as the president has revived his drive to destroy and replace the 2010 health law,” Politico reports.
“A federal judge ruled late Thursday in Washington that the administration’s efforts to expand the availability of health plans that don’t meet the coverage rules of the Affordable Care Act is a deliberate and illegal ‘end-run’ around the federal health care law. The ruling addressed insurance known as ‘Association Health Plans,’ which cost less than many Obamacare plans but can also provide fewer health benefits.”
“President Trump’s surprise escalation of his legal attack on Obamacare dropped a political grenade in the laps of congressional Republicans, who are now stuck with devising a viable alternative if the courts invalidate the 2010 healthcare law,” Bloomberg reports.
“The problem for GOP lawmakers is the paucity of free-market policy ideas for health care that are politically popular. Obamacare’s expanded protections are now baked into voters’ expectations for insurance and patient care, and any Republican replacement would likely draw from the same proposals that ultimately led to a walloping in the 2018 midterm elections.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has no intention of leading President Trump’s campaign to transform the GOP into the “party of health care.,” Politico reports. Said McConnell: “I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing and what he can work out with the speaker.”
President Trump’s flip-flop on Special Olympics funding is “a reminder of why his team can never feel safe: He loves to put aides in their place,” Axios reports. “And it’s why at home and abroad, no one is really sure that anyone besides Trump — even a Cabinet member — is speaking for the administration.”
“Administration officials past and present have told us that Trump savors news coverage that shows him acting unilaterally. Even — one source said especially — when it involved like overriding members of his own administration.”
Josh Marshall: “Our situation now seems pretty clear. The administration plan is this: Release the Barr Letter and use it as a cudgel to claim bogus exoneration and threaten revenge against the President’s perceived enemies while Bill Barr tries to run down the clock until January 2021.
So where’s the report? There’s zero reason it can’t be released today. To the degree there is some classified information that must remain secret it can be released today either to the full Congress or the so-called Gang of Eight. If there’s a purported issue with Grand Jury secrecy, a judge can rule to release it. (There’s also a Watergate precedent in this case) In other words, there’s zero reason it can’t be released to Congress today and a very lightly redacted version to the public a short time later.
Now here’s the thing: just a couple weeks ago the House voted unanimously to demand the report be released with no Barr-ite funny-business. The resolution called for a full un-redacted release to Congress and a full public release “except to the extent the public disclosure of any portion thereof is expressly prohibited by law.”
Josh says it is time to call your reps every hour of every day.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailing his investigation of President Trump and Russia’s election interference will be delivered to Congress by mid-April, Attorney General William Barr said in a letter to lawmakers offering important new details about how the document will be edited before its public release, the Washington Post reports.
Wrote Barr: “Everyone will soon be able to read it on their own.”
“Barr’s new letter lays out a timeline for the next steps of the hotly-debated process by which Justice Department officials are sharing the nearly 400-page report.”
“President Trump’s effort to rework a major trade deal with Canada and Mexico is showing signs of faltering on Capitol Hill, straining under a variety of angry complaints from lawmakers of both parties who won’t commit to backing the plan,” the Washington Post reports.
“Trump reached agreement with Canada and Mexico last year to update the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. But Congress must approve the deal, and the White House has been unable to mollify the growing complaints.”
“The administration’s goal is to get the pact approved ahead of Congress’ annual August recess. It’s not clear if that timeline is realistic. But delaying action past Labor Day could greatly increase political risk because of the accelerating presidential campaign.”
“British lawmakers on Friday rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for withdrawing from the European Union for the third time, leaving her policy in ruins and the casting the nation’s politics into further confusion, with the scheduled departure date looming two weeks away,” the New York Times reports.
“The defeat appears to leave the increasingly weakened prime minister with two unpalatable options in the short run: Britain can leave the bloc on April 12 without an agreement in place, a chaotic and potentially economically damaging withdrawal; or Mrs. May can ask European leaders – who have ruled out a short delay if her plan failed – for what could be a long postponement.”
The Guardian: “Donald Tusk, the European council president, has called an emergency EU summit for Wednesday 10 April in light of this vote.”
Just Security: “If the report delivered by Mueller to Barr didn’t include the counterintelligence piece of Mueller’s investigation (or included only pieces of intelligence directly relevant to the potential criminal conspiracy), where is that body of counterintelligence analysis? How else might it get shared with Congress or the public?”
“One possibility emerged within 24 hours of Barr’s letter going to Congress. ‘Senior officials’ told news outlets that the FBI anticipates briefing congressional leaders on Mueller’s counterintelligence findings. Oral briefings, rather than written findings, provided in closed session may have been deemed by Mueller more appropriate given genuine classification concerns—especially if aspects of the investigation remain ongoing and transferred to a different part of the Justice Department with Mueller’s office winding down.”
“Linda McMahon, the head of the Small Business Administration, is planning to announce as soon as Friday that she’s stepping down,” Politicoreports.
“McMahon is expected to rejoin the private sector. Her exact plans are unclear, but one of the people said the wealthy business mogul intends to play a fundraising role for President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign. She was expected to join the president at Mar-a-Lago, his private Florida club, this weekend.”
Washington Post: “Senate Republicans had drafted a rules change that would significantly cut the time allotted for floor debate on numerous non-Cabinet agency officials and dozens of district court judges who have stalled on Capitol Hill.”
“Five years ago under Obama, the Democratic-led Senate adopted these pending changes with overwhelming support, but only temporarily. Frustrated Senate Republicans want to adopt these changes permanently, but have encountered resistance from Democrats who want the new rules to go into effect in January 2021.”
New York Times: “Ideologically, Mr. Buttigieg is a progressive — sometimes an adventurous one, calling to expand the Supreme Court and abolish the Electoral College. But his main themes are generational change and winning back Rust Belt voters who supported Mr. Trump.”
Pete Buttigieg told Vox that President Trump is “radicalizing” Americans. Buttigieg noted that “when people are economically or socially dislocated, they are always more vulnerable to being radicalized.” He added: “And I think a lot of Americans are being radicalized by this administration. The experience of disruption that’s gone on, especially in the interior, has obviously made it more fertile to being taken advantage of by people like this president.”
When President Trump was surveying hurricane damage in Puerto Rico in 2017, he “was distracted by other matters — including his then-devolving war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,” CNN reports.
At one point, Trump pointed to the “nuclear football” — a briefcase always in the President’s vicinity that can be used to authorize a nuclear attack — and claimed he could use it on Kim whenever he felt.
Said Trump: “This is what I have for Kim.”