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Photo illustration Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The White House is casting President Trump's speech tonight as "an optimistic vision for all Americans."

Here's the reality: The Obamacare repeal and replace process is buckling under enormous strain. Tax reform is a mess, too. But let's stick with healthcare as it's the first priority for Republicans. House GOP leaders need much more from Trump than a gauzy vision speech. They need a specific, forceful declaration of support for the House's Obamacare repeal and replace plan.

Here's what the White House wants you to hear tonight (per an administration background briefing with reporters last night):

  • The speech is inclusive, optimistic and uplifting — a "renewal of the American spirit."
  • It's big on promises made and kept. Trump will spend the early part of his speech running through these fulfilled promises — mostly executive orders and unilateral actions like withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
  • Core themes of the speech: Economic opportunity plus protecting the American people.
  • When asked whether Trump would be attacking his "enemies" (aka the "fake news" media), a senior official responded: "it's fair to say this is a look forward."
  • Trump didn't just rely on his top speechwriter Stephen Miller for the speech. Agencies were consulted. And Trump got lots of info from "listening sessions" with folks from the healthcare industry, business community, coal miners, union officials, and other frontline workers.

Here are two things that have happened in the past 24 hours that have raised the stakes for the President's speech:

  1. Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus, told CNN yesterday that he'd vote against the leaked Obamacare repeal bill drafted by House Republicans. He said that refundable tax credits included in the draft "are nothing short of an entitlement program."
  2. Rep. Mark Walker, chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee — which represents some 170 members — also said he'd also vote against the House Obamacare repeal draft. He's opposing it for the same reason as Meadows: the refundable tax credits.

Why this matters: Meadows and Walker represent crucial conservative factions in the House. They can command substantial numbers of votes and potentially make leadership's plan dead on arrival. The only way their members will bend is if Trump bullies them into submission. Tonight Trump has a chance.

Go deeper

Reports: CIA finds "Havana Syndrome" unlikely caused by foreign campaign

CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill last April. Photo: Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

A preliminary CIA report rules out a foreign global campaign as the cause of American and Canadian diplomats affected by a mysterious illness known as "Havana syndrome," per multiple reports.

Why it matters: Some lawmakers had suggested the sometimes debilitating illness was due to directed energy attacks. But CIA officials told the New York Times that most of the 1,000 cases reported to the government could be "explained by environmental causes, undiagnosed medical conditions or stress." This finding has angered some victims, per the NYT.

Jan. 6 panel subpoenas 2 far-right "America First" activists

The House panel investigating the Capitol riot, from left; Reps. Bennie Thompson, Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Jamie Raskin on Capitol Hill in December. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The House select committee investigating the Capitol riot issued subpoenas Wednesday for far-right leaders Nick Fuentes and Patrick Casey, who allegedly encouraged followers to go to D.C. and challenge the 2020 election results.

Why it matters: The action underscores the panel's increasing focus on rallies held ahead of the Capitol attack and how extremists were drawn to former President Trump's baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, per the New York Times.

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.