The conservative tax and health care strategy that might blow up Obamacare repeal - Axios
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The conservative tax and health care strategy that might blow up Obamacare repeal

AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke

The House Freedom Caucus voted Monday night to oppose anything less than the aggressive 2015 Obamacare repeal bill, formalizing the deep division among Republicans about what to do with the health care law. Earlier Monday, Chairman Mark Meadows sat down with me to talk about what he does want, for both health care and tax reform. While he wants Obamacare repeal to happen fast, he eventually wants to combine its replacement with tax reform in the same package.

What's next: Figuring out whether moderates can stomach a straight repeal for now, with the assurance of a replacement to come in tax reform later this year, or whether this is just an opening bid from conservatives and they'll eventually submit to leadership's plan. If it's the former, Obamacare repeal might die.

Meadows wants as much of Obamacare as possible repealed in the next 30 days. When that's over, the House can get to work on passing the replacement and its tax reform agenda. That likely means combining the two efforts.

This is not exactly what leadership has in mind. It's trying to add as much of an Obamacare replacement as possible to the repeal bill, a strategy first advocated by moderates afraid of repealing the law without immediately replacing it. Meadows also has different ideas about tax reform, preferring to leave out a border adjustment tax — a key part of House leadership's plan.

He admits the danger in lumping the two huge policy efforts together. "When you put two very difficult concepts together, tax reform and Affordable Care Act, it lowers your thresholds in terms of the number of votes that you can or cannot get in terms of the Senate, whether it's 50 or 51," he told me.

"I think it would be very difficult" to combine the two efforts, Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch told reporters Monday.

But some of the moderates pushing for passing a repeal and replacement at the same time might be open to the idea. "I think you could probably all do it in the second," Sen. Bill Cassidy told me in a hallway interview Monday.

The situation: Republicans have two different opportunities to pass major legislation without Democrats through a process called budget reconciliation. The plan has been to use the first reconciliation bill on Obamacare repeal and replace and the second on tax reform. But while leadership has been exploring how much of a replacement it can fit into the repeal bill, Meadows — along with a growing number of conservatives — are saying they want repeal and replacement done in separate bills voted on at the same time. He then wants to use the second reconciliation to replace Obamacare, along with tax reform.

Here's what he wants:

  1. Within the next 30 days, a vote on full repeal of Obamacare. This includes the individual mandate, the employer mandate and the law's insurance regulations. While these laws weren't included in a 2015 repeal bill because of reconciliation rules, Meadows thinks there are ways around that.
  2. Immediately vote on a replacement plan, also within the next 30 days. The replacement must include a way of dealing with pre-existing conditions. Assume it doesn't pass the Senate filibuster.
  3. Potentially vote on a tax reform package under normal procedure, without the border adjustment tax. Meadows thinks this would have a chance of passing with some Democratic support in the Senate.
  4. Include Obamacare replacement in the second reconciliation bill "that is, quote, being used for tax reform, but it doesn't have to be just used for tax reform."
House conservatives are generally united in their Obamacare strategy.

Ok, but: Putting an Obamacare replacement and tax cuts in the second reconciliation bill — without a border adjustment tax — will cost a ton of money. It's unclear where that money will come from, but it could very well require the bill to need 60 votes in the Senate if it's not paid for. Democrats are very unlikely to help pass anything Republicans put forward after an Obamacare repeal, especially if they also don't like the tax components. Republicans know this and could be very unwilling to jeopardize tax reform in this way.

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WhatsApp adds Snapchat-like features

WhatsaApp

WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service that dominates the messaging app market globally, is adding a photo and video sharing capability within their status feature that mimics that of Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Users will have the ability to annotate photos and videos with emojis, text, etc. and photos and videos will expire from users' statuses after 24 hours.

Why it matters: This is just the latest of steps Facebook has taken to mimic Snapchat-like features on its apps. They've already introduced similar features for Facebook Messenger and Instagram. While Facebook has spent the past year adding Snapchat-like product features, Snapchat has spent the past year adding Facebook-like measurement and audience targeting-features.

What we're watching: Mark Zuckerberg's $19 billion bet on WhatsApp in 2014 was based largely on WhatsApp's incredible reach in emerging markets. But in addition to the growth opportunity, the acquisition also gives Facebook the opportunity to experiment with unique new features with lots of users, before potentially integrating them into other Facebook-owned apps. In January WhatsApp announced it was testing the ability to temporarily track friends' locations and the ability to recall sent messages that haven't been viewed yet.

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Trump picks McMaster to replace Flynn

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Trump told reporters today that Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster will be taking over as national security advisor. He's replacing Michael Flynn who stepped down after controversy surrounding Russia ties. Trump called McMaster "a man of tremendous talent and tremendous experience."

Who is McMaster? Tom Ricks of Foreign Policy, who says he's known McMaster since he was a major, wrote before the announcement that he's "smart, energetic, and tough" and has good combat experience. Ricks also identifies the key challenge facing McMaster: "To do the job right, McMaster needs to bring in his own people. And it remains unclear if he can get that." Ricks says most people he talked to who have worked for McMaster would follow him into the Trump White House.

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Snapchat sells Spectacles online

Snap Inc.

Snapchat spectacles now available for purchase online.

Spectacles are smartphone-connected glasses that take Snapchats — up-to 10-second videos or stills — with the click of a button. Previously, the glasses were only available for purchase at pop-up vending machines in New York and California, where lines were long and the allure was strong. Now, Snap Inc. is making their glasses available to all consumers for $130 USD.

Why it matters: In its S-1 filing with the New York Stock Exchange, Snapchat calls itself a "camera company" instead of a social media app or a messaging service. This is critical in understanding how Snapchat plans to monetize its reach and technology, which investors are monitoring closely ahead of its IPO. In its S-1 filing, Snapchat noted that Spectacles have not initially generated any revenue. While Snapchat makes the majority of its money from advertising now, opening up sales for its new camera now signals that Snap Inc. sees camera technology and sales as a lucrative business model in the future.

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Russia's UN ambassador dies in NYC

John Minchillo / AP

The Russian foreign ministry says Vitaly Churkin, its ambassador to the United Nations, has died in New York City. He was 64. Russia did not offer details on his death, but said in a statement:

A prominent Russian diplomat has passed away while at work. We'd like to express our sincere condolences to Vitaly Churkin's family — Russian Foreign Ministry
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Not invited to administration Obamacare meeting: Treasury

(Carolyn Kaster / AP)

Members of the Trump administration got together on Sunday to talk about President Trump's plan to repeal and replace Obamacare — but a photo tweeted by White House chief of staff Reince Priebus doesn't show any Treasury Department officials at the table, despite the likelihood that the plan will involve big tax changes.

At the table were many members of the president's health care and policy teams, including Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, yet-to-be confirmed Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services head Seema Verma, and White House aide Stephen Miller.

But no one from the Treasury Department was there, and a source who heard about the snub from a White House economic adviser said the department feels shut out of the process. A White House spokesperson responded that while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "wasn't in attendance at this particular meeting, he is absolutely involved in the discussion of how best to repeal and replace Obamacare."

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The growing fight to save local newsrooms

Non-profits and media distribution companies are stepping in to support local newsrooms as they navigate the chaotic news cycle of the new administration and the rapidly-changing digital news environment.

The non-profits

Poynter is dedicating a reporter to cover the transformation of local and regional journalism full-time, in addition to launching a weekly newsletter. The Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative made a $5 million investment to continue a program that helps local papers transform their newsrooms to support digital storytelling. Local News Lab relaunched its site to include updated guidebooks to help local newsrooms survive the transition into the digital age. MuckRock started a Slack channel in January to help journalists all over the country, including 50% local news reporters, better cover the Trump Administration.

The platforms

Facebook finally took its initiative to reach out to local journalists to the road, hosting around 70 print and broadcast reporters — mostly from Texas — for a Dallas forum about best practices and the future of news. The move is part of the Facebook Journalism Project. Google introduced a local news source tag in May that algorithmically favors local sources in users' feeds. The tag labels stories that are reported first-hand by local sources.
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10 Axios stories to get you caught up on last week

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Use the holiday to get caught up on last week.
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Yes, your commute is really that awful

Julie Jacobson / AP

Reuters flags the latest Global Traffic Scorecard from INRIX Inc, a traffic data company based in Washington state. It found that 5 of the 10 most congested cities globally are in the U.S., and that drivers waste an average of $1,200 a year in lost fuel and time sitting in traffic jams.

The five worst U.S. offenders: Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami.

The worst road: The Cross Bronx Expressway in New York City.

But at least you're not in Bogota or Moscow: Drivers in those two cities deal with the worst traffic in the world, when you break it down by the percentage of time spent in traffic jams compared to total drive time.