The Ailing Senator, Who Lost the Presidency to Obama, Votes to Save Obamacare; Senate Rejects Repeal 51-49
Profiles in courage. The Senate in the early hours of Friday morning rejected a new, scaled-down Republican plan to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, derailing the Republicans’ seven-year campaign to dismantle President Barack Obama’s signature health- care law and dealing a huge political setback to Trump. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who just this week returned to the Senate after receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer, cast the decisive vote to defeat the proposal, joining two other Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, in opposing it. In a last-minute rescue bid, Vice President Pence—there to be the tie-breaking vote if needed—stood at McCain’s desk for 21 minutes cajoling the senator to no avail. The 49-to-51 vote was also a humiliating setback for the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who has nurtured his reputation as a master tactician and spent the last three months trying to devise a repeal bill that could win support from members of his caucus.
War on women senators. Republican female senators whose disapproval of the GOP health-care effort has at times endangered its progress are facing an increasingly pointed backlash from men in their party, including a handful of comments that invoked physical retaliation. In the past week, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) has been challenged by a male lawmaker to a duel. She and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) were told that they and others deserve a physical reprimand for their decisions not to support Republican health-care proposals. Murkowski, who voted with Collins against starting the health-care debate this week, was specifically called out by President Trump on Twitter and told by a Cabinet official that Alaska could suffer for her choice, according to a colleague. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) to let them know that her vote could put Alaska’s future with the Trump administration in jeopardy. That could include Zinke approving the building of a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge and drilling for oil.
Sanctions. Russia announced Friday it would seize U.S. diplomatic properties and demand that the State Department reduce its staff in Russia, a tit-for-tat punishment that the Russian Foreign Ministry said was spurred by a financial sanctions bill now awaiting a signature from President Trump.
Potty mouth. Trump’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, called New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza to complain and then just kept talking. Among other things, Scaramucci threatened to fire the entire White House communications staff and called nemesis Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, a “fucking paranoid schizophrenic.” Scaramucci said he had called the FBI about a Politico report on his financial disclosure form and insulted White House strategist Steve Bannon. “What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers, and I want to get the president’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people,” Scaramucci said. Scaramucci now says he used “colorful language” and “made a mistake in trusting in a reporter.”
Overtime pay cuts. The Trump administration is taking the first steps to try to undo making more people eligible for overtime pay. The overtime rule finalized under former President Barack Obama raised the annual wage threshold for qualifying for overtime from $23,660 to $47,476. The Labor Department is asking for public feedback on the salary level. The overtime rule was blocked from going into effect by a federal judge.
Cheap and cruel politics. Trump’s generals are for now not going along with his latest attempt to divert attention from his various political woes by attacking our nation’s transgender soldiers. America’s top military officer, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said transgender people can serve openly until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis receives Trump’s direction to change policy and figures out how to implement it. “We will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Dunford wrote.
Gay bias. The Justice Department says in federal court filings that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which bans sex discrimination does not cover sexual orientation. Skydiving instructor Donald Zarda sued his employer in federal court in 2010 in New York, saying the company terminated him for his sexual orientation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which supported Zarda, has said for several years that Title VII bans anti-gay discrimination.