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Democrats stuck with Nunes in Russia-Trump probe

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Rep. Devin Nunes did not apologize for taking the information to the White House — something Democrats have decried as inappropriate. | Getty

Democrats are plotting their next move after questioning House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ fitness to lead the panel’s investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.

One step they almost certainly won’t take: a boycott.

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Even as they ramp up calls for an outside investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow, Democrats say it would not make sense for them to walk away from the House probe led by Nunes, the California Republican many now view as a lackey for Trump.

If Democrats boycotted the investigation, they say, they would risk losing access to the evidence being turned over to the intelligence panel — giving Republicans complete control over how that evidence is presented to the public.

“Democrats feel that if we're not engaged in this investigation, no one will be,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, said Friday. “In the minority, the only power we have is the power of public persuasion.”

Democrats on the committee huddled Friday morning to discuss how to respond to recent actions by Nunes, including his decision to cancel a planned public hearing next week with former members of the Obama administration.

As they entered and exited the meeting, they expressed a determination to trudge on.

“If we're not here shining a light on this, the light goes out,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), a member of the intelligence panel. “Our plan is to use pressure to make this the most credible investigation possible.”

Added Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), also a committee member: “We want to illuminate the obstruction. We want to preserve our access.”

For Democrats, the episode is the latest example of how little power the minority is afforded in the House of Representatives, which isn’t subject to the Senate filibuster that gives them more leverage in the upper chamber.

Rep. Jackie Speier of California, another Intelligence Committee Democrat, said that while she has lost confidence in Nunes’ leadership of the investigation, she is not ready to commit to a boycott.

“It’s very important for us to recognize that if we are not part of the process then it is only the Senate that is doing an investigation,” Speier said. Nunes, she added, “knows full well that there is grave question about his objectivity, and I think over the next few days we're going to assess whether or not we feel confident that he can continue in that role.”

The latest dust-up with Nunes began Wednesday when the intelligence chairman -- without any notice to the committee’s Democrats -- held a press conference and then briefed the White House on what he called new evidence, provided to him by an unnamed source, that members of the Trump transition might have been improperly monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies following the November election.

Nunes, who himself was a member of

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Live updates: Will Obamacare be repealed under Trump?

Donald Trump. | AP Photo

Getty

It's make-or-break for the GOP's troubled health care plan.

By Brianna Ehley

03/20/17 01:19 PM EDT

Updated 03/24/17 12:55 PM EDT

House lawmakers are preparing a vote on the Republicans’ contentious Obamacare repeal bill after President Donald Trump adopted a take-it-or-leave-it approach to bring the measure to the floor. Despite late concessions to both conservative and moderate Republicans, it's still not clear whether House leaders can unite enough lawmakers who have vastly different visions for the health care system.

House leaders are planning to hold on final passage of the bill between 3:45 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.

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Here's a live rundown of today's action:

Ryan heads to White House, 12:40 p.m. House Speaker Paul Ryan made an unexpected visit to the White House to brief President Donald Trump on the status of the GOP’s contentious Obamacare repeal bill just hours before the House is expected to vote on the measure.

Ryan’s meeting with Trump at the eleventh hour raises serious concerns about the fate of the bill. A wave of other centrists have come out against the bill, citing concerns that it more barriers to coverage and care. Many members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus also remain opposed to the bill and demand full repeal of Obamacare.

House tees up repeal vote, 11:30 a.m. The House took a procedural step to set up final vote on Obamacare repeal. The chamber voted 230-194 to let debate move forward on the bill. Six Republicans voted no, but that doesn’t indicate how the vote on final passage will turn out.

New amendments can’t be offered on the floor, and debate will last four hours. That sets up a late afternoon vote on final passage.

Veep clears his schedule. Vice President Mike Pence has canceled plans to travel to the NCAA basketball tournament today to help corral support for the bill.

House chairman will vote against bill, 11:05 a.m. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who leads the powerful Appropriations Committee, announced he’ll oppose the bill, citing major cuts to Medicaid in a state that expanded the program under Obamacare. He also said stripping out the law’s benefit requirements would “raise serious coverage and cost issues.”

Potential problems for the GOP bill, 10:50 a.m. Over at the Incidental Economist blog, law professor Nicholas Bagley points out a slew of potential problems with the GOP plan to eliminate Obamacare’s coverage requirements (i.e. “essential health benefits”) next year. The most fundamental issue: Insurers are already well into the process of crafting 2018 health plans.

The GOP bill, in a late revision yesterday, would instruct states to determine their own benefit requirements. This would potentially create a logistical and administrative nightmare if health plans have to wait on states to make this determination.

So what might lead Republicans to propose such an unwieldy approach? One plausible theory: It’s all about appeasing the Senate parliamentarian.

The language pertaining to coverage requirements isn’t entirely new. It was part of the very first draft of the American Health

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Trump slams House Freedom Caucus ahead of repeal vote

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President Donald Trump also said Friday morning that the proposal “is finally your chance for a great plan!” | Getty

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Schumer confident Democrats have votes to block Gorsuch

Chuck Schumer is prepared to push the Senate into a nuclear confrontation over the Supreme Court.

In an extensive interview with POLITICO Thursday, the Senate minority leader made his most definitive statement to date that Democrats will deny Neil Gorsuch the 60 votes he needs to clear a Senate filibuster and ascend to the Supreme Court. Dismissing the notion of a deal to confirm Gorsuch floated by some members of his caucus this week, Schumer all but declared that Donald Trump's nominee will not receive the requisite eight Democratic votes — and that it will be up to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as to whether to try to blow up the filibuster to get Gorsuch through.

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“There’s been an almost seismic shift in the caucus [against Gorsuch]," Schumer said as the Senate Judiciary confirmation hearings wrapped up Thursday. "He did not win anybody over with his testimony.”

If Schumer stops Gorsuch during a filibuster vote in early April — and the New Yorker was brimming with confidence that he will — it will almost certainly force McConnell’s hand on the so-called nuclear option. Schumer is betting McConnell does not have the votes to do away with the 60-vote requirement for Supreme Court nominees.

“I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Mitch McConnell changes the rules,” Schumer said. “There are people in his caucus who really don't want to change the rules, OK?”

Blocking Gorsuch would be a major win for the left. Liberal activists have been urging Schumer to do everything in his power to stop Trump's pick, even as Senate Democrats have struggled to mount a case against him.

But a battle that potentially brings about the end of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees would further erode the Senate's character as the more deliberative chamber of the legislative branch. And it would have dramatic consequences for both political parties.

Supreme Court selections would no longer need bipartisan buy-in, possibly resulting in more ideologically extreme justices. And in general, the two parties in the Senate would have one less occasion to cooperate. The partisan food fight over Trump's Cabinet nominees — facilitated by Democrats' move to eliminate the filibuster for those votes in 2013 — offered a possible preview.

While longtime Republicans hope to avoid a rules change, they're ready to respond to Schumer by gutting the filibuster if that's what it takes. McConnell himself has guaranteed Gorsuch’s confirmation. He has explicitly declined to rule out changing the rules via a party-line vote, also known as the "nuclear option."

Schumer said the “onus” will be on McConnell if the filibuster is further diluted. The majority leader's office declined to comment for this story.

McConnell can lose only two members on a vote to alter Senate rules. Some of the Republicans long thought to be most resistant to such a move sound increasingly likely to back their leader in such a showdown.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has vowed to do “whatever it takes” to get Gorsuch

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Live updates: Trump wants Friday vote on repeal

Kevin McCarthy is pictured. | AP Photo

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy hopes to bring the GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill up for a vote in the chamber on Friday. | AP Photo

House leaders are now telling members to expect Friday votes.

By Brianna Ehley

03/20/17 01:19 PM EDT

Updated 03/23/17 10:00 PM EDT

The House will hold a Friday vote on the GOP health plan as President Donald Trump is threatening to drop the Obamacare repeal effort entirely if the vote fails.

With this take-it-or-leave-it approach, Trump is trying to strong-arm dozens of Republicans who've expressed reservations over the repeal bill into advancing a key piece of his legislative agenda. The White House is offering new concessions Thursday night, but it's still not clear whether House leaders can unite enough conservative and moderate Republican who have vastly different visions for the health care system.

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House invokes “martial law” to speed up repeal vote. The House Thursday night approved expediting a vote on the Republican Obamacare repeal bill via a procedural maneuver known as "martial law."

The chamber adopted the rule granting same-day authority to take up the repeal bill on a party line vote of 227-189. The House will now be able to vote on the bill the same day the committee approves the rule.

Republican leaders set up the mechanism for a Friday vote on final passage shortly after President Donald Trump demanded swift action on repeal.

The House Rules committee will convene at 7 a.m. on Friday in order to ready a vote on an amended bill. The amendments expected to get filed in the Rules Committee tonight include repealing Obamacare’s coverage requirements for benefits like mental health coverage and maternity care.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said the House will vote on the revised bill without a score from the Congressional Budget Office.

CBO score no better for GOP. The Congressional Budget Office on Thursday released an updated cost estimate for the House GOP health care plan. It saves less money — and still would leave 24 million more people without insurance in a decade.

The House GOP’s latest changes to its health care bill would reduce the deficit by $150 billion over 10 years — a decrease from the $337 billion initially projected.

Those changes are part of the “manager’s amendment” offered by GOP leaders on Monday, which was intended to win over more House Republicans. GOP leaders canceled a scheduled vote on that bill Thursday, still lacking the votes. The bill could undergo further revisions, which could affect the CBO score.

'Buffalo Bribe' provision could spark lawsuit. New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he is “seriously considering” a lawsuit against the federal government if an Obamacare repeal amendment to shift the cost of Medicaid from the counties to the state is approved.

The fate of the amendment is uncertain now that a vote on the Republican plan has been postponed.

In a conference call with reporters, Cuomo said a lawsuit would "prove what a scam

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