Jul 19, 2017

Death stalks the Senate's health care bill

Carolyn Kaster / AP

It ain't over until it's over, and there's still some chatter bouncing around Capitol Hill about last-minute shenanigans or a Hail Mary on the Senate floor. And President Trump is sure to put some serious pressure on the moderates this afternoon when all of the Republican senators lunch with him at the White House.

But unless something dramatic changes, Washington appears to be about done with the repeal-and-replace phase of the debate over the Affordable Care Act. The next phase, though, could be just as hard.

  • The Trump administration — including the president himself as well as the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services — has some tough decisions to make about whether to torpedo the ACA (and, in the process, people's health care), or suck it up and try to make the law work.
  • Trump clearly prefers the former, but the career staff at HHS and the IRS have been doing this work for years now. It's not realistic to expect everything to grind to a halt.
  • Congress, too, will turn to a smaller-scale but still critically important debate over piecemeal efforts to stabilize states' insurance markets.
  • A handful of GOP senators sincerely want to offer some help — including Sen, Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the HELP Committee, who said yesterday he'll begin holding hearings on the health of the individual market, no matter how the Senate vote shakes out.

In the meantime:

  • The Senate will vote early next week on a procedural motion to begin debate on the health care bill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday.
  • At least three Republicans — Shelley Moore Capito, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski — have said they'd oppose the latest vehicle, a 2015 bill that would repeal most of the law but delay the effects of repeal for two years.
  • That means the vote — either on a procedural motion or the proposal itself — would fail even with Sen. John McCain in town.
  • It didn't take long for moderates to back away from the 2015 bill. Even though they voted for it before, it's now pretty clear that the Senate would have a hard time coming up with a replacement plan, even with another two years to think about it.

Flashback: Right after the election, Axios' Caitlin Owens talked to one senior GOP Senate aide who said, re: the 2015 repeal bill: "We're not going to use that package. We're not dumb."

Twitter remembered this quote better than we did, but we followed up on Tuesday to ask the same aide about Senate Republicans deciding to, in fact, vote on the 2015 repeal bill: "Repeal and 2015 are pathologically stupid and it's criminal for Trump and conservatives to put us in that position."

Go deeper

Updates: Cities move to end curfews for George Floyd protests

Text reading "Demilitarize the police" is projected on an army vehicle during a protest over the death of George Floyd in Washington, D.C.. early on Thursday. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Several cities are ending curfews after the protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people led to fewer arrests and less violence Wednesday night.

The latest: Los Angeles and Washington D.C. are the latest to end nightly curfews. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan tweeted Wednesday night that "peaceful protests can continue without a curfew, while San Francisco Mayor London Breed tweeted that the city's curfew would end at 5 a.m. Thursday.

Murkowski calls Mattis' Trump criticism "true and honest and necessary and overdue"

Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said Thursday that she agreed with former Defense Secretary James Mattis' criticism of President Trump, calling it "true and honest and necessary and overdue."

Why it matters: Murkowski, who has signaled her discomfort with the president in the past, also said that she's "struggling" with her support for him in November — a rare full-on rebuke of Trump from a Senate Republican.

Facebook to block ads from state-controlled media entities in the U.S.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Facebook said Thursday it will begin blocking state-controlled media outlets from buying advertising in the U.S. this summer. It's also rolling out a new set of labels to provide users with transparency around ads and posts from state-controlled outlets. Outlets that feel wrongly labeled can appeal the process.

Why it matters: Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of security policy, says the company hasn't seen many examples yet of foreign governments using advertising to promote manipulative content to U.S. users, but that the platform is taking this action out of an abundance of caution ahead of the 2020 election.