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Rand Paul, who has become a do-or-die vote for the Republicans' last-ditch effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, is sending a list to the White House of what it would take to get him from no to yes.
We've obtained the list and, if the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accept Paul's demands, it's hard to see how they'd stop at least half a dozen moderate Republican senators dropping their support for the Graham-Cassidy health care bill.
Why this matters: This could definitively kill Graham-Cassidy. President Trump, who has a warm personal relationship with Paul, hasn't given up winning his support for the bill, even though the Kentucky senator has relentlessly and publicly attacked the legislation. Trump continues to personally lobby Paul and administration officials believe they've got a better chance of flipping him than they do to convince the moderate Sen. Susan Collins to vote for the bill.
Here's what Paul is asking the White House to do:
Bottom line: Republicans have already lost John McCain; they can only afford to lose one more senator. Nobody I've spoken to thinks Collins is gettable. Therefore Paul and Murkowski become the decisive votes. Paul's list of demands suggest he's not an absolute no, but his conditions may be impossible to meet.
Trump isn't the only member of his administration fighting a culture war this week; his Attorney General Jeff Sessions will make a "free speech on campus address" on Tuesday at Georgetown University law school in D.C. It's going to get testy.
A source close to Sessions tells me the AG will tell the students:
"Whereas the American university was once the center of academic freedom — a place of robust debate, a forum for the competition of ideas — it is transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogenous thought, a shelter for fragile egos."
Here's how top sources in the White House and on Capitol Hill expect this week's major legislative items to play out:
1. Health care: Over the past 48 hours, I've spoken to more than half a dozen senior administration officials and Republican leadership sources about health care. Not one of them said they were optimistic about the chances of passing the GOP's last-ditch Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
It's telling — and not in a good way — that President Trump is pinning a good deal of his hopes on his last-ditch attempt to flip Rand Paul, who is perennially the toughest vote in the conference, from a hard no to a reluctant yes.
The political chessboard, per sources close to the process:
2. Tax reform: Republican leaders were frustrated when Axios and the Washington Post reported leaked details of the "Big Six" tax plan that's been hashed out for months in immense secrecy among Republican leaders and administration officials Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin. These leaks, which began circulating around Capitol Hill on Friday night, put GOP leaders under pressure from their members, who are anxious for the details.
Overall, however, leaders and administration officials feel far more optimistic about tax reform than they have about health care:
The data analytics firm 0ptimus has been running surveys in the lead up to Tuesday's Alabama special election. Their latest poll — taken on Friday and Saturday — has anti-establishment candidate Roy Moore at 55.4 percent and the Trump/McConnell-backed candidate Luther Strange at 44.6 percent.
0ptimus partner Scott Tranter says he was struck by this statistic: "80% of those surveyed and 86% of primary voters know Trump endorsed Strange, which is up 5% since Tuesday and 15% since last week. Moore has maintained similar leads throughout this period."The RealClearPolitics average of recent polls for the Alabama Senate race has Moore ahead by 8.6 percentage points, which is within the margin of error of the 0ptimus survey.
(Methodology: Tranter says they've been running automated telephone surveys for two weeks in Alabama. This latest sample of 1,035 modeled likely voters has a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points, according to Tranter.)
Sunday highlight reel, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin passing Trump's loyalty test with flying colors, and White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short making a last-ditch pitch to Republican holdouts on the health care repeal bill.
Mnuchin showed, on ABC's "This Week," why he'll always be one of Trump's favorites.
Marc Short appeared on three shows today and on "Fox News Sunday" he laid out the argument the administration will be making to persuade Rand Paul to vote for the GOP health care bill.
After a day of whacking NFL players on Twitter for their protests, and urging supporters to boycott the league until players stand during the national anthem, Trump kept feeding the furnace Sunday afternoon in a conversation with reporters at Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey:
"There was great solidarity — I watched a little bit. I was not watching the games today, believe me — I'm doing other things. But I watched a little bit, and I will say that there was tremendous solidarity for our flag and for our country."