Jun 6, 2017

White House wants health care done before summer recess

Alex Brandon / AP

White House Legislative Affairs director Marc Short laid out the administration's legislative timeline Monday night, saying he expects Republicans to pass healthcare and the 2018 budget this summer so the fall can be focused on tax reform. Short said the administration still wants an infrastructure bill this year, but seemed wary about putting a firm timeline on that given the crowded agenda ahead.

Key takeaways:

  • Short acknowledged healthcare had become a purely partisan issue but said the administration was still hopeful of getting Democrats to support tax reform, and said the President has always believed infrastructure must be bipartisan.
  • He said the White House wants tax reform to be revenue neutral.
  • He did not answer the question of where the White House stands on the debt ceiling — indicating it was still a live debate. (Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has pushed for a "clean" debt ceiling bill, meaning it's not tied to other demands, whereas Budget Director Mick Mulvaney wants to tie spending cuts to the bill to force changes.)

Healthcare by the August recess:

  • Short was especially aggressive on healthcare reform. Asked about the timeline for passage he said "we're looking for before they [Congress] adjourn for August recess."
  • He said Obamacare was in a state of crisis with insurers dropping out and skyrocketing premiums — citing 176% premium increases on average in North Carolina — and said both of those factors would intensify the activity in June and July.
  • Asked how close he thought the Senate was to getting its own healthcare bill, Short said "there's been a lot of discussions with staff...significant progress over the recess...I think that written text is actually pretty far along."

The other side: Republican Senators have been openly saying that they doubt healthcare can get done this year. My colleague David Nather wrote an item this morning (headline: "Pessimism Update") with quotes from Senators Jeff Flake and Richard Burr in particular voicing their doubts about the White House's timetable. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham have also expressed skepticism about healthcare's prospects in the Senate.

Up next: President Trump will host a meeting Tuesday with Republican House and Senate members to his agenda, with a focus on healthcare and tax reform.

Go deeper

Coronavirus updates: New global case numbers surpass China's

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. As Denmark and Estonia reported their first cases Thursday, Scott Morrison, prime minister of Australia — which has 23 confirmed infections — told a news conference, "The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us."

Go deeperArrowUpdated 55 mins ago - Health

Mass shooting in Milwaukee: What we know so far

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012. Photo: John Gress/Corbis via Getty Images

Six people died in a shooting at the Molson Coors Brewing Company in Milwaukee Molson Coors on Wednesday, including the 51-year-old gunman, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters at an evening press conference with local police.

Details: All of the victims worked at the brewery complex, as did the shooter who died of "an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, police confirmed in a statement late Wednesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

WHO official leads criticism of Trump's coronavirus response

President Trump with members of the new coronavirus task force, including Vice President Mike Pence at the White House on Wednesday. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, special advisor to the director general of the World Health Organization, told MSNBC Wednesday he found "most" of what President Trump said at his briefing on the novel coronavirus "incoherent."

The big picture: As the number of confirmed cases reaches 60 in the U.S., the top health professional — who was a health policy adviser in the Obama administration — is among several leading figures, in particular, Democrats, to criticize the president for his response to the outbreak.

Go deeperArrow4 hours ago - Health