The Health Care Albatross

Rich Lowry: “Republicans should get used to it. Their agony on health care is just beginning. For the past seven years, the party benefited from its powerlessness, which usefully maximized its ability to criticize Obamacare and minimized its responsibility to do anything about it. Now, with unified control of government, the party will pay the piper. Nothing good will come of the Obamacare repeal-and-replace debate. If anything resembling the current bill passes and is signed into law, Republicans will spend years trying to fix it and live it down. If the bill fails, the rest of President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda may sink with it.”

For members: What Is the Republican Endgame?

Democrats Mull Deal to Let Gorsuch Through

Politico: “A group of Senate Democrats is beginning to explore trying to extract concessions from Republicans in return for allowing Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed… The lawmakers worry that Gorsuch could be confirmed whether Democrats try to block him or not — and Democrats will be left with nothing to show for it. That would be a bitter pill after the GOP blocked Merrick Garland for nearly a year.”

“The deal Democrats would be most likely to pursue, the sources said, would be to allow confirmation of Gorsuch in exchange for a commitment from Republicans not to kill the filibuster for a subsequent vacancy during President Donald Trump’s term.”

Rick Hasen: “Triggering a fight over the filibuster will gain attention, but Democrats can only do it once. The Gorsuch nomination restores the balance of power on the Court to the position it was in before Justice Scalia’s death.”

Nunes Undermines His Own Investigation

Rick Klein and Shushannah Walshe: “Since when does the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee provide updates to the president of the United States on surveillance conducted on his associates? Especially when that committee is investigating contacts involving the president’s associates?”

“Chairman Devin Nunes’ bizarre day left the California Republican looking more like the campaign surrogate and adviser he once was than the independent oversight committee chairman that he now is… Indeed, Nunes’ main accomplishment appears likely to be the undermining of the investigation he has been leading.”

“His ‘new’ information about surveillance of Trump associates reveals little new, nothing illegal and nothing that contradicts FBI Director James Comey’s statement that there’s no evidence to support the president’s tweets about wiretapping ordered by President Obama. What else is new? More prominent voices in both parties are now saying only an independent investigator or a special ‘select’ committee can handle this inquiry.”

No One Knows If the GOP Health Care Bill Will Pass

Playbook: “The health-care bill is really down to a coin flip. The mood in the Capitol yesterday was tense — not because people were worried about failure, but because the situation was so fluid it was difficult to get a real read on what was transpiring. Even the smartest and savviest vote counters had no idea whether they will be able to pass this bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. As of publishing time this morning, House Republicans planned to bring this bill to the floor Thursday no matter what the whip count looked like. We wouldn’t be surprised if the vote came after the market closed.”

“The dramatic changes to this bill throw the whip count in serious flux. House Republican leaders have now lost the support of moderates…”

“Republicans are doing exactly what they accused Democrats of doing in 2010. They are rewriting this bill behind closed doors in the dead of night. They are using the powerful Rules Committee to give themselves remarkable authority to bring up and vote on any bill in the same day — known, quite ominously, as ‘martial law.'”

Russia Story Morphing Into a Big Problem for Trump

Mike Allen says the Russia story “is going from fishy, to career-ending (Manafort, Flynn), to investigation-worthy, to FBI criminal probe, to a wide, Watergate-like scandal that could bring all of government to a halt.”

“Watergate was a coverup of a burglary. This could be the coverup of a nuclear-armed U.S. nemesis that infiltrated our politics with the specific aim of disrupting the very foundation of our democracy — a presidential election — and did so, possibly, in a manner that elected its preferred candidate and locked in all party control that could decimate the opposition party for years.”

Trump Goes All Out In Effort to Save GOP Health Bill

Politico: “With one day to go until the biggest vote of his brief presidency, Trump is using all the trappings of his office to try to clinch the needed 215 votes. It’s unclear whether it will be enough to save the legislation. But late Wednesday, the White House floated a major change to the bill in a bid to win over roughly three dozen House conservatives.”

“Trump is trying to overawe opponents of the bill with the prestige of White House, calling them into his gold-painted Oval Office for private conversations. He is leaning on Ryan to promise them votes on their pet measures. And Trump is showing he’s quite open to horse-trading, if that’s what it takes.”

David Nather: “Looks like the White House and GOP leaders are willing to meet some of the conservatives’ demands to knock out Obamacare’s insurance regulations — even though there’s no guarantee those changes would comply with the budget rules, and they could just get stripped out in the Senate. So why go through the exercise? Because President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan need their votes, and right now, the goal is just to get something through the House.”

For members: A Make-or-Break Moment for the House Freedom Caucus

Manafort Associate Still Within Trump Inner Circle

Washington Post: “But even as Trump officials downplay Manafort’s role, his ­decade-long business associate Rick Gates remains entrenched in the president’s operation. Gates is one of four people leading a Trump-blessed group that defends the president’s agenda. As recently as last week, he was at the White House to meet with officials as part of that work.”

“Through Manafort, Gates is tied to many of the same business titans from Ukraine and Russia, including Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with strong ties to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.”

Koch Network Promises Millions to Block Health Bill

“The conservative Koch network is promising to spend millions of dollars to defeat the health care overhaul backed by President Donald Trump and top House Republicans,” the AP reports.

“The announcement, which comes on the eve of the House vote, marks the influential conservative network’s most aggressive move against the health care proposal, which is under attack from the right and the left.”

Republicans Quickly Rewriting Much of Health Bill

“Just hours before an expected Thursday vote in the House, congressional Republicans are considering massive changes to insurance coverage without even a basic idea of what those changes would mean,” the Huffington Post reports.

“According to House Freedom Caucus members, the conservative group is negotiating directly with President Donald Trump and the White House on an amendment to the Republican health care bill, seemingly cutting out GOP leadership from the conversation as Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his deputies work to corral votes for a bill that is, in these latest provisions, a mystery even to them.”

“The re-opening of negotiations is an admission of what has been clear all along ― that the bill as constructed by Ryan does not have the votes to pass on Thursday.”

FBI Has Information on Trump Coordination with Russia

“The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” US officials told CNN.

“The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings… The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.”