Mar 29, 2017

Price defends NIH cuts, leaves door open to Obamacare changes

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price told a House subcommittee this morning that he's OK with President Trump's proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health, because they might help the federal government get "a bigger bang for our buck." And he promised to "uphold the law" on Obamacare, but insisted that "the current law has harmed many individuals" and said he'll look for ways to let insurers provide cheaper coverage.

Read on for the highlights of his testimony on the administration's HHS budget proposal.

  • Defended Trump's proposed 19 percent cut to NIH: "I think what the budget is trying to do … is bring focus to the kinds of things we need to do to get a bigger bang for our buck."
  • Said he wants to support young medical scientists, but was "struck by the need for efficiencies and decreasing duplication" at NIH."The American people need to know that their tax dollars are being spent wisely."
  • His approach to Obamacare: "What we believe is important is for every American to be able to choose the kind of coverage they want" — but he will "carry out the law of the land."
  • On enforcing Obamacare's individual mandate: "So long as the law is on the books, we at the department are obliged to uphold the law."But wouldn't commit to making Obamacare's cost-sharing payments to insurers while a lawsuit is in progress: "I'm a party to that lawsuit, and I'm not able to comment."Wouldn't commit to advertising Obamacare during the next enrollment season.
  • Suggested he's looking for ways to allow insurers to provide cheaper coverage: "The administration is committed to making sure the American people have access to affordable coverage."Says the insurers he has met with "aren't certain … how they're going to be able to continue to provide coverage, and that's what we're concerned about."But indicated to Rep. Barbara Lee that he'll still enforce the "essential benefit" requirements: "If your question is what's the law, we're committed to carrying out the law of the land."

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George Zimmerman sues Buttigieg and Warren for $265M

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George Zimmerman filed a lawsuit in Polk County, Fla. seeking $265 million in damages from Democratic presidential candidates Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, accusing them of defaming him to "garner votes in the black community."

Context: Neither the Massachusetts senator nor the former Southbend mayor tweeted his name in the Feb. 5 posts on what would've been the 25th birthday of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen Zimmerman fatally shot in 2012. But Zimmerman alleges they "acted with actual malice" to defame him.

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Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The relative civility of the last eight Democratic debates was thrown by the wayside Wednesday night, the first debate to feature the billionaire "boogeyman," Michael Bloomberg, whose massive advertising buys and polling surge have drawn the ire of the entire field.

The big picture: Pete Buttigieg captured the state of the race early on, noting that after Super Tuesday, the "two most polarizing figures on this stage" — Bloomberg and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders — could be the only ones left competing for the nomination. The rest of candidates fought to stop that momentum.

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Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg went after Sen. Amy Klobuchar on the debate stage Wednesday for voting to confirm Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and voting in 2007 to make English the national language.

What she's saying: "I wish everyone was as perfect as you, Pete, but let me tell you what it's like to be in the arena. ... I did not one bit agree with these draconian policies to separate kids from their parents, and in my first 100 days, I would immediately change that."