Republicans may means test healthcare tax credits - Axios
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Republicans may means test healthcare tax credits

Some Republicans in Congress want to means test tax credits used to help buy coverage on the individual market. All Obamacare replacement proposals to come out of the House thus far only peg the credit to a person's age.

There are some strong arguments for means testing: It would help lower-income people afford coverage and, if the credit phases out the more someone makes, it would bring down the overall cost of the replacement plan.

"The age adjustment thing I think is an important one, because obviously it costs more to get coverage as you get older and your health needs increase," Sen. John Thune, a member of the GOP leadership, said. "But I think that the income issue to me is one too that needs to be further looked at, and that would certainly I think free up some additional dollars that would probably make that assistance a little more helpful to people at the lower end."

Oh, the irony: Obamacare currently bases subsidy size on income, and since subsidies are tied to premium costs they vary with age (as premiums are higher the older a person is).

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady told me no final decision has been made, but "I would think" means testing would save money overall. "We're looking at the tax credit, how it's targeted, looking at how to deliver it best. That whole range of issues," he said. "So all those elements are under consideration."

Conservatives — who have not been thrilled by the idea of a refundable tax credit — also like the idea of adjusting it by income. Mark Walker, the Republican Study Committee chairman, said he supports means testing "even though that creates another component that we've got to figure out.

"I believe the consensus of the RSC, as well as potentially, maybe HHS, would be willing to do something that's means-tested," he said.

The argument against: Republicans have historically argued for giving people of all incomes the same amount of financial help, increasing that amount the older they get. This is partially to equalize the tax treatment of health insurance, as people who get coverage through their employer aren't taxed on those benefits.

Sen. Bill Cassidy brought up this argument, telling me that while offering a credit to everyone on the individual market would actually create a system more expensive than Obamacare, "through employer-sponsored insurance, people are getting a credit. Conservatives have said, 'equalize the credit between those who get it and those who don't.'"

Details matter: Cassidy also said he thinks there needs to be more variation by age. In a leaked version of the House GOP plan, people in their 20s were to receive $2,000 a year, doubling to $4,000 annually by the time someone was in their 60s.

"I do think there's a chance to kind of squeeze the tube of toothpaste and make it more adjusted," he told me. "There's obviously a pool of money they're looking at. So I think when you end up using that pool of money and maybe distributing it a little bit differently, you can get some folks some richer benefits."

Sen. Richard Burr put it bluntly to me: "Everything should be means tested. I mean, you have to have a cutoff – or a transition – between subsidy and non-subsidy."

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Police discover trailer with 8 dead in San Antonio

Eric Gay / AP

AP/San Antonio: "Eight people were found dead in a tractor-trailer loaded with at least 30 others outside a Walmart store in Texas' stifling summer heat in what police are calling a horrific human trafficking case. The driver was arrested."
  • "Twenty other people in extremely critical or serious condition and eight more with lesser injuries including heat stroke and dehydration were found inside the truck, which didn't have a working air conditioning system despite blistering temperatures that topped 100 degrees."
  • "A person from the truck initially approached a Walmart employee in a parking lot and asked for water late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, said police in San Antonio, where temperatures on Saturday reached 101 degrees. The employee gave the person the water and then called police, and when officers arrived they found the eight people dead in the back of the trailer and 30 other survivors inside."
  • "Investigators checked store surveillance video, which showed vehicles had arrived and picked up other people from the tractor-trailer. ... [M]any of those inside the truck appeared to be adults in their 20s and 30s but also apparently two school-age children."
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Scaramucci's fiesty exchange with Jake Tapper over deleted tweets

New White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci has been deleteting some of his old tweets, including comments on topics like climate change and guns.

Below is his Sunday exchange with CNN host Jake Tapper on the topic:

A sampling:

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Trump's mini-me

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Look for Anthony Scaramucci, the incoming White House communications director, to take the White House podium more often than his predecessors. In past administrations, it has been a largely behind-the-scenes position, with the press secretary doing the daily on-camera talking.

  • "He's good at it and he's competitive," one friend said. "He's going to want to be out there on the days with the biggest sh--storms. He likes the game. He likes to spar, but he's not nasty about it. And he likes the controversy — he's a typical Wall Street guy."
  • Nevertheless, Mooch plans to elevate the cachet of the new press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Expect her to do the vast bulk of on-camera briefings.
  • He's been deleting lots of old tweets, but here they are.

Talker column by Maureen Dowd on "The Mooch And the Mogul":

"A wealthy mini-me Manhattan bro with wolfy smile and slick coif who will say anything and flip any position. A self-promoter extraordinaire and master salesman who doesn't mind pushing a bad product — and probably sees it as more fun. ... The Mogul and the Mooch is a tender love story with dramatic implications for the imploding White House.
"Both enjoy stirring the pot ... They savor counterpunching ... But a change in communications personnel will not solve the central problem for President Trump. He doesn't understand that Robert Mueller is not a contractor he's in a civil litigation dispute with, someone he can intimidate and wear down and threaten and bleed out."
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Scaramucci promises "dramatic action" to stop the leaks

New White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is making the Sunday Show rounds today.

  • From Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: "[W]e have to get the leaks stopped. If we don't get them stopped. I'm a businessperson so I will take dramatic action to stop those leaks. ... If the leaks don't stop I'm going to pare down the staff because it's just not right.... Something is going on inside the White House that the president does not like. We will fix it."
  • From an interview with John Dickerson of CBS News, when asked how he'll treat leakers on his watch: "They're going to get fired. I'm just going to make it very, very clear, okay? Tomorrow I'm going to have a staff meeting. And it's going to be a very binary thing. I'm not going to make any prejudgments about anybody on that staff. If they want to stay on the staff, they're going to stop leaking."
  • Bonus: Scaramucci told Wallace that while he thinks some members of the press are stretching or making up stories, he wants to "engage" the mainstream media, adding that he wants to "de-escalate" tensions between the press and the White House.
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Newfound Clinton-era memo: presidents can be indicted

Susan Walsh / AP

"Can Presidents Be Indicted? A Long-Hidden Legal Memo Says Yes," by N.Y. Times' Charlie Savage:

  • "A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr's independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton ... raises the possibility that Mr. Mueller may have more options than most commentators have assumed."
  • The 56-page memo was written for Starr by constitutional scholar Ronald Rotunda, "locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act."
  • The memo concludes: 'It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president's official duties ... In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.'"
  • "In 1974, the Watergate special counsel, Leon Jaworski, had also received a memo from his staff saying he could indict the president."
  • See the Starr memo, posted by The Times.
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Report: U.K. wants Trump test trip before full State visit

President Trump has been asked to visit the U.K. for low-key talks with Theresa May this year, according to a report by the Daily Mail, which says the trip will be a test run for whether to hold a full State visit.

The British tabloid claims U.K. leadership is concerned about Trump potentially violating protocol while visiting the Queen, in addition to fears of a falling out with British PM Theresa May that could risk a bad post-Brexit U.S. trade deal for the U.K., while the White House wants to avoid the embarrassment of major anti-Trump rallies during a visit with an ally.

Then-president Barack Obama's first U.K. state visit in 2011 included meetings with the Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and PM David Cameron and opposition leader Ed Miliband.

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General: "unimaginable" to allow North Korea capability to nuke U.S.

Wong Maye-E / AP

Comments yesterday at the Aspen Security Forum from Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, via Politico's Nahal Toosi:

"Many people have talked about military options with words like 'unimaginable'... I would probably shift that slightly and say it would be horrific... [A]nyone who's been alive since World War II has never seen the loss of life that could occur if there's a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
"[I]t is not unimaginable to have military options to respond to North Korean nuclear capability. What's unimaginable to me is allowing a capability that would allow a nuclear weapon to land in Denver, Colorado. That's unimaginable to me. So my job will be to develop military options to make sure that doesn't happen."

Go deeper: We asked experts how to deal with North Korea.

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Lawmakers agree on Russia sanctions for election-meddling

Evan Vucci / AP

A group of bipartisan lawmakers agreed today to move forward with legislation that would impose sanctions against Russia for their meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, NYT reports. Congress will vote on Tuesday. The expansive sanctions are also for continuing to deploy military forces in Ukraine, annexing Crimea, and abusing human rights.

  • The White House has argued that Congress should allow Trump to have flexibility in his ability to adjust these sanctions as a way to handle Russia how he sees fit. Trump has tried to manage the U.S.' relationship with Russia on his own terms, and these sanctions would make that more difficult.
  • Why it matters: Congress will force Trump into a difficult decision: veto the bill, or move forward and risk his efforts to improve our relationship with Russia. The legislation includes sanctions on North Korea and Iran.
  • Paul Ryan's spokeswoman AshLee Strong told Axios: "This a tough sanctions package that includes measures overwhelmingly supported on a bipartisan basis that would hold three bad actors to account: Iran, Russia, and North Korea. We look forward to moving these sanctions next week before the August work period."
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Major problems plague start of Pokemon Go Fest

Credit: Niantic

The creators of Pokemon Go held their first major in-person event in Chicago on Saturday but things got off to a rough start. Many of those who paid to attend the event reported being stuck in line or unable to log into the app. Attendees would have a chance to catch rare Pokemon — including a Pokemon "monster" if certain goals were met, per Chicago Tribune.
CEO John Hanke was booed as he took the stage in Grant Park, and festival attendees reportedly started chanting "fix the game" at him when they realized they were unable to log on. Niantic is currently working on the issue and the company will reportedly refund participants for their tickets and give them $100 in virtual currency for the game.
Why it matters: Live events are seen as a big part of the company's strategy to keep the game's most active players engaged, so technical issues during a highly-anticipated event do not bode well for the company.
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Scaramucci goes full Breitbart

Breitbart / YouTube

Anthony Scaramucci gave his first interview as White House communications director to Breitbart's Matt Boyle. The two sounded like old friends, with Scaramucci kicking off the early-morning SiriusXM's "Breitbart News Saturday" interview by jokingly asking Boyle, "Did you send your job application form in yet, Matt?...Do you need my email so I can get your resume over here?"

Boyle laughed and replied: "Anthony, I'm honored, maybe we can talk about that later." Scaramucci praised Breitbart for capturing "the spirit of what is actually going on in the country, where there's a large group of people...who've been disaffected from the economic franchise." (FWIW: I asked Boyle whether he'd seriously consider a job in the White House press shop and he declined to comment.)

Between the lines: Sean Spicer had a terrible relationship with Breitbart, the right-wing outlet whose alumni, including Steve Bannon, now work in the White House. Scaramucci now appears to want to elevate the outlet in general, and Boyle in particular. By giving Boyle (Breitbart's most unrestrained attack dog) such prominence from the outset, Scaramucci is signaling that the President wants to make better use of conservative/friendly media outlets to transmit his messages without a critical filter.

Interview highlights:

  • Breitbart First: Scaramucci told Boyle that he and the President talked Friday about the fact that there are "enough outlets, whether it's Breitbart, the President's social media feed, all of the different apparatus that we have where people will allow us to deliver our message to the American people unfiltered."
  • Fresh start: Scaramucci also called his appointment a "fresh start" and said he wanted to see if he could "de-escalate" tensions with mainstream media outlets.
  • Bonding over "fake news": At the end of the interview Boyle asked Scaramucci how he planned to "combat" the "fake news" given he was a "victim of fake news" recently on CNN. Boyle was referring to CNN's recent retraction of a story about Scaramucci, which resulted in CNN management firing three employees. Boyle wrote more than a dozen pieces bashing CNN during that period. Scaramucci said to Boyle: "You've also been a great help in terms of exposure and I do appreciate what you did for me during that incident...I want to thank you publicly in front of your listeners."