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Schatz: Sessions quip 'an insult to the people of the state of Hawaii'

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Sen. Brian Schatz slammed Jeff Sessions for treating Hawaii as if it were "less legitimate than the rest of the country." | AP Photo

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Conservative groups open to new Obamacare repeal push

Deep-pocketed conservative groups that helped fuel the downfall of the House GOP’s Obamacare alternative are now quietly signaling they won’t oppose the White House’s renewed push to pass the bill.

Some of the most influential — and usually loudest — groups have privately told conservatives they want to see a deal go through, according to several people familiar with the conversations.

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Two large and influential groups backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have signaled to Freedom Caucus members that they hope to be able to support the bill and want to see the tide turned after an embarrassment for the Republican Party.

While The Heritage Foundation hasn’t taken a position, its president, Jim DeMint, has told House members he would be more open to compromise this time around — so long as the compromise looks like ideas floated to conservatives over the past few days. The Club for Growth has also stepped in, running ads attacking moderates who might oppose a new White House deal.

The shift marks a sea change for President Donald Trump and Republican leaders, who had to contend with the same outside groups calling the earlier bill “Obamacare lite” — a label that made it all but impossible for the most conservative House members, many of whom campaigned on Obamacare repeal, to support a deal.

When Speaker Paul Ryan first introduced the earlier bill in March, the Koch groups, Heritage and others cheered on Freedom Caucus members who opposed it, encouraging them to kill the legislation. Within days of the rollout, the groups staged protests. They complained to the White House that Ryan hadn’t brought them in. And, to make it easier for members to publicly break with the president and House leadership, they created a seven-figure fund to support Republicans who voted no.

Leaders of these groups now say they’re willing to go along with a potential agreement struck by the White House, Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Tuesday Group co-chairman Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), so long as the legislative text reflects ideas offered to them by the White House. The changes include waivers for states that wish to opt out of major Obamacare regulations. Those promises appear to be on the brink of winning over some of the most vocal opponents of the previous bill.

"We are encouraged by continuing discussions to repeal Obamacare and replace it with common-sense solutions," said DeMint.

Legislative text was still being finalized on Friday afternoon. Meadows has privately told people he expects to reach a deal on which most of the House Freedom Caucus can vote yes.

But winning the support of conservative outside groups and members of the Freedom Caucus might cause new problems this time around.

Republican moderates are unhappy with many of the proposed changes, fearful that they would undermine protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. Losing more of those votes could sink the bill, which the White House is pushing the House to send to a

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Schumer jabs White House over offer to fund Obamacare subsidies in exchange for border wall

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“If the administration would drop their eleventh-hour demand for a wall that Democrats, and a good number of Republicans, oppose, congressional leaders could quickly reach a deal," said Matt House, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Schumer. | Getty

The White House is offering Democrats a dollar-for-dollar deal to fund Obamacare subsidies and the border wall in the upcoming spending bill, according to budget director Mick Mulvaney, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shot it down, with snark.

Mulvaney told Bloomberg Live on Friday that White House officials have told Democrats they're willing to fund $1 in Obamacare subsidies for every $1 that’s provided for the border wall as both parties look to avert a government shutdown next Friday.

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“That’s the offer we’ve given to our Democratic colleagues. That should form the fundamental understanding that gets us to an agreement," Mulvaney said.

Schumer’s office quickly threw cold water on the proposal, with spokesman Matt House saying Democrats thought Mexico was supposed to pay for the wall.

“The White House gambit to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, in order to force American taxpayers to foot the bill for a wall that the president said would be paid for by Mexico is a complete nonstarter,” he said. “If the administration would drop their eleventh-hour demand for a wall that Democrats, and a good number of Republicans, oppose, congressional leaders could quickly reach a deal.”

Trump campaigned on a platform that was largely defined by his staunch opposition to illegal immigration, and one of his more controversial pledges was to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that Mexico, not the U.S., would pay for. Mexico has repeatedly made clear that it has no intention of paying for such a project, and Trump has since suggested that the Latin American nation will pay back the U.S. after the wall's construction.

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An Office of Management and Budget spokesman on Friday declined to comment on how or when the White House specifically made the offer. Democrats say they have been in talks only with Republican leadership and not directly with the White House.


“We’ve finally boiled this negotiation down to something that we want very badly that the Democrats really don't like, and that’s the border wall,” Mulvaney said. “At the same time, there's something they want very badly, that we don’t want very much, which are these cost-sharing reductions, Obamacare payments.”

The Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies cost about $7 billion per year, while Trump initially asked for about $1.4 billion to begin construction of the border wall.

The former conservative lawmaker also acknowledged that Congress is more likely to pass a short-term spending bill next week than face a shutdown.

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Schumer jabs White House over offer to fund Obamacare subsidies in exchange for border wall

170421-chuck-schumer-getty-1160.jpg

“If the administration would drop their eleventh-hour demand for a wall that Democrats, and a good number of Republicans, oppose, congressional leaders could quickly reach a deal," said Matt House, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Schumer. | Getty

The White House is offering Democrats a dollar-for-dollar deal to fund Obamacare subsidies and the border wall in the upcoming spending bill, according to budget director Mick Mulvaney, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shot it down, with snark.

Mulvaney told Bloomberg Live on Friday that White House officials have told Democrats they're willing to fund $1 in Obamacare subsidies for every $1 that’s provided for the border wall as both parties look to avert a government shutdown next Friday.

Story Continued Below

“That’s the offer we’ve given to our Democratic colleagues. That should form the fundamental understanding that gets us to an agreement," Mulvaney said.

Schumer’s office quickly threw cold water on the proposal, with spokesman Matt House saying Democrats thought Mexico was supposed to pay for the wall.

“The White House gambit to hold hostage health care for millions of Americans, in order to force American taxpayers to foot the bill for a wall that the president said would be paid for by Mexico is a complete nonstarter,” he said. “If the administration would drop their eleventh-hour demand for a wall that Democrats, and a good number of Republicans, oppose, congressional leaders could quickly reach a deal.”

Trump campaigned on a platform that was largely defined by his staunch opposition to illegal immigration, and one of his more controversial pledges was to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border that Mexico, not the U.S., would pay for. Mexico has repeatedly made clear that it has no intention of paying for such a project, and Trump has since suggested that the Latin American nation will pay back the U.S. after the wall's construction.

Sign up for POLITICO Huddle. A daily play-by-play of congressional news in your inbox.

By signing up you agree to receive email newsletters or alerts from POLITICO. You can unsubscribe at any time.

An Office of Management and Budget spokesman on Friday declined to comment on how or when the White House specifically made the offer. Democrats say they have been in talks only with Republican leadership and not directly with the White House.


“We’ve finally boiled this negotiation down to something that we want very badly that the Democrats really don't like, and that’s the border wall,” Mulvaney said. “At the same time, there's something they want very badly, that we don’t want very much, which are these cost-sharing reductions, Obamacare payments.”

The Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies cost about $7 billion per year, while Trump initially asked for about $1.4 billion to begin construction of the border wall.

The former conservative lawmaker also acknowledged that Congress is more likely to pass a short-term spending bill next week than face a shutdown.

Missing out on the latest scoops? Sign up for POLITICO Playbook and get the latest news,

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State Dept. official reassigned amid conservative media attacks

The Trump administration has moved a second career government employee out of a top advisory role amid pressure from conservative media outlets that have publicly targeted individual staffers, questioning their loyalty to the new administration.

Some State Department officials believe the individual, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, was shifted because of the media attacks and are alarmed at the message such a move sends to Civil and Foreign Service employees, who are supposed to be protected by law from political retaliation.

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“It puts people on edge,” said a State Department official familiar with Nowrouzzadeh’s situation.

Nowrouzzadeh, a Civil Service officer who helped shape the controversial Iran nuclear deal, had been detailed since last July to the secretary of state’s policy planning team, where she handled ongoing issues related to Iran and Gulf Arab countries. Her yearlong assignment was cut short earlier this month, after critical stories about her and others appeared in the Conservative Review and Breitbart News, according to the State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter. Nowrouzzadeh did not want to be reassigned, according to the official.

The State Department said in a statement that Nowrouzzadeh has returned to the Office of Iranian Affairs, but it would not specify her new role or address questions about why she was shifted. The department's statement noted that Nowrouzzadeh “has an outstanding reputation in the department and we expect her to continue to do valuable work in furtherance of U.S. national security. We’ll decline additional comment on the internal [human resources] matters of career employees.”

Nowrouzzadeh declined to comment for this story.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A second person familiar with the situation confirmed that the conservative media attacks on Nowrouzzadeh had rattled people in the upper ranks of the Trump administration.

Nowrouzzadeh is an American-born U.S. citizen of Iranian descent who joined government in 2005, during the George W. Bush administration. Stories published recently on conservative websites have questioned whether she should remain in her position, calling her a loyalist to former President Barack Obama and mentioning her past links to the National Iranian American Council, an advocacy group that has come under criticism from the right.

Nowrouzzadeh is at least the second career staffer to be shifted following conservative media criticism.

Earlier this month, administration officials said Andrew Quinn, who had been appointed to the National Economic Council, was being sent back to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. No reason for the reassignment was given, but Quinn’s appointment to the NEC had drawn fire from Breitbart News and other conservative corners that noted the career government employee had helped the Obama administration negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal from which President Donald Trump has withdrawn.

Conservative media outlets first wrote about Nowrouzzadeh during the Obama years, when she served on the National Security Council and helped usher through the Iran nuclear deal, which was heavily criticized by many Republicans.

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