In the news this last week, ACA Repeal is defeated (again), increased tensions with Russia as Congress passes sanctions bill, and Dems put together a new agenda.
- After a dramatic week in the Senate, Republicans’ plan to repeal Obamacare suffered a major blow early Friday, when Senator John McCain cast the “decisive vote”* against the Senate’s so-called “skinny repeal.” This last ditch effort by Senate Republicans would have rolled back only a few – but critical – provisions of the Affordable Care Act. (The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the skinny repeal would have resulted in 20-percent increases in insurance premiums beginning next year, and 16 million fewer Americans having insurance by 2026.) Governor Larry Hogan joined a bipartisan group of governors urging Congress to reject the skinny repeal.
- Senator McCain cast a critical vote earlier in the week, when he joined the majority of Republicans in voting to allow debate on the various GOP proposals, culminating in the “vote-a-rama” late Thursday and into Friday morning.
- Before the narrow vote to defeat the “skinny repeal,” the Senate voted 55-45 against “repeal and delay,” Senator Rand Paul’s proposal to simply repeal Obamacare and give lawmakers two years to come up with a replacement.
- Following the dramatic final vote on the skinny repeal early Friday, Senator Cardin said the Senate was able to “stop this train going in the wrong direction.”
- Senator Van Hollen said “the country breathe[d] a sigh of relief,” but the fight continues.
*Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski were also decisive in defeating the skinny repeal. And unlike Senator McCain, Senators Collins and Murkowski voted against the procedural vote to allow debate in the first place.
- The Senate approved a final bill imposing sweeping sanctions against Russia, forcing President Trump to decide whether to veto the measure that passed 98-2. (The House voted 419-3 in support of the measure.)
- Meanwhile, in response to the proposed sanctions, Russia demanded that the United States cut the number of diplomatic staff it has in Russia, and said it would seize two U.S. diplomatic properties.
- In other Russia news, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner spent two hours on Monday answering questions in a closed-door hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Afterward, Kushner told reporters that he did not collude with Russia and he was not aware of any collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russia.
Transgender Americans in the military
- In a series of tweets on Wednesday, President Trump purported to announce a new federal policy not “to accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”
- Senator Cardin blasted the announcement, saying “[t]he thousands of transgender Americans currently serving in our military are patriots” who “deserve better than this from their Commander in Chief.”
- The military’s highest-ranking officer told senior leaders Thursday that there would be “no modifications” to the current policy on transgender service members until further direction was received from the president.
Democratic Party leaders on Monday rolled out a new agenda featuring proposals on jobs, prescription drugs prices, and more. Senator Van Hollen said, “People need to know not only what we’re fighting against, they need to know what we’re fighting for.”
House Democrats are trying to hitch a slate of amendments to the appropriations minibus, all targeting the business, family members and scandals of President Donald Trump. “Democrats need to use whatever tools are at their disposal,” said Representative John Sarbanes (MD-3), his party’s point man on ethics. Using the appropriations process, he added, is “fair game.”
Senator Cardin penned this op-ed about the need for legislation benefitting the Chesapeake Bay.
Following media reports throughout the week that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was considering jettisoning the State Department’s cybersecurity office, 24 House Democrats sent a letter Friday imploring him not to, including Representative Ruppersberger (MD-2).
Conflicts of interest/Corruption “generally”
Representative Cummings (MD-7), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), are seeking documents related to President Donald Trump’s interest in the nation’s largest government-subsidized residential property, Starrett City.
Democrats warn of ‘constitutional crisis’ as Trump publicly humiliates own attorney general. “Given all that the President has said and done to date, the Senate must not allow anyone to assume the position of attorney general without its advice and consent, and it should take the appropriate steps procedurally to stay in session to block such a move,” Cummings said.
Reps. Cummings (Md.) and John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the top Democrats on the House Oversight and Judiciary committees, respectively, wrote in an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun on Friday that their Republican colleagues had all but abdicated their congressional oversight duties. “[The] failure of congressional Republicans to sufficiently keep tabs on the actions and authority of President Trump “represents a clear and present danger to the Republic.”