First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
The fight begins to destroy — or save — Obamacare
On Wednesday morning, President Obama heads to Capitol Hill to rally Democrats to fight the GOP efforts to repeal his signature health-care law, while Vice President-elect Mike Pence meets with congressional Republicans to give his own side a pep talk. Today's activity all signals the opening cannon shot in the fight to destroy — or save — Obamacare. It's a fight that's personal to millions of Americans (approximately 20 million have gained insurance under the law, and those who have pre-existing conditions can't be denied coverage). It represents Republicans biggest promise to their conservative constituents (that they will repeal the law), but it also carries a real political risk (if you break Obamacare, you will own the health-care system, including its inevitable premium increases). And for Democrats, it's their signature policy achievement, but one that's come at a huge political price (see the 2010 and 2014 midterms). It's a story about people, policy, and politics.
Why repeal won't be easy for the GOP
Yes, Republicans — via the reconciliation process — can repeal parts of the health-care law without needing a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. But what comes next won't be easy and could complicate the entire repeal effort, NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell writes.
- Some Republicans are opposed to delaying a replacement: "Members of the House Freedom Caucus, including its leader, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, are insistent on the timeline, threatening to vote against any replacement if it is not guaranteed before the midterm elections in 2018," Caldwell notes. "[I]f the 40 members of the conservative Freedom Caucus voted against a repeal, Republican leadership would fall far short of the majority they need to pass it. And Meadows and conservative members know their strength lies in their numbers… Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she has 'a number of reservations' and that she'd prefer a replacement be passed along side repeal - a notion that many Republicans have said isn't possible."
- What do you do about all of Obamacare's taxes -- including those that might help pay for a replacement? "Republicans, who generally dislike any tax increase, are finding that the increase in taxes used to pay for the ACA, including the Medicaid expansion and the subsidies for lower-income people to buy insurance, has raised a significant amount of money to pay for health care. A complete repeal of all tax increases would leave little money to pay for a GOP alternative."
- Repeal just part of Obamacare? Or the whole thing? "Republicans in the House, backed by the conservative Heritage Foundation, say that repeal can include more than just the financial components that pay for the Affordable Care Act, bucking Senate Republicans who say that Senate rules will block any effort that goes beyond taxes and revenues. It's a delicate line that can't be crossed."
Trump appears to side with Julian Assange, not with the U.S. intelligence community
Last night, President-elect Donald Trump once again mocked the U.S. intelligence community for its conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. "The 'Intelligence' briefing on so-called 'Russian hacking' was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!" he tweeted. (In fact, a senior U.S. intelligence official with direct knowledge of the situation told NBC News last night that the heads of the NSA, CIA, FBI and the director of national intelligence were always scheduled to meet with Trump on Friday.) Then this morning, he followed up with this tweet: "Julian Assange said 'a 14 year old could have hacked Podesta' - why was DNC so careless? Also said Russians did not give him the info!" As RealClearPolitics' Rebecca Berg notes, Trump here is taking Assange at his word, but not the U.S. intelligence community.
Schumer: "We are not going to make it easy for them to pick a Supreme Court justice"
Yesterday, we said one of our questions for 2017 was whether Democrats will follow the GOP opposition playbook now that they're in the minority. Here was the answer from Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow — at least on the Supreme Court vacancy. NBC News: "'The consequences are going to be down the road,' Schumer said of Republicans not even considering Merrick Garland's nomination. 'If they don't appoint somebody good, we're going to oppose them tooth and nail." More: "Asked by Maddow whether he would seek to simply keep the seat open rather than confirm a nominee outside the mainstream, Schumer replied: 'Absolutely.' 'We are not going to make it easy for them to pick a Supreme Court justice,' he said. Suggesting that could be any nominee, he said: 'It's hard for me to imagine a nominee that Donald Trump would choose that would get Republican support that we [Democrats] could support.'"
Trump Cabinet Watch
Liberal group goes after Mnuchin: A liberal group called Allied Progress is up with a six figure ad buy in Arizona and Nevada calling on Sens. Jeff Flake and Dean Heller to oppose Steven Mnuchin as Trump's Treasury pick. "Former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin raised millions to elect Trump," the ad goes. "Now Trump picked him to be America's top economic official -- even though Mnuchin made millions after his bank foreclosed on homeowners and discriminated against Latinos."
- Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson OFFERED
- Attorney General: Jeff Sessions OFFERED
- Treasury: Steve Mnuchin OFFERED
- Defense: JamesMattis OFFERED
- Homeland: John Kelly OFFERED
- Interior: Ryan Zinke OFFERED
- HHS: Tom Price OFFERED
- HUD: Ben Carson OFFERED
- Education: Betsy DeVos OFFERED
- Commerce: Wilbur Ross OFFERED
- Transportation: Elaine Chao OFFERED
- Labor: Andy Puzder OFFERED
- Agriculture: Sid Miller, Heidi Heitkamp, Elsa Murano, Abel Maldonado
- Energy: Rick Perry OFFERED
- Veterans Affairs: Scott Brown, Jeff Miller, Adm. Michelle Howard
- OMB Director: Mick Mulvaney OFFERED
- U.S Trade Representative: Robert Lighthizer
- CIA Director: Mike Pompeo OFFERED
- UN Ambassador: Nikki Haley OFFERED
- Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt OFFERED
- National Security Adviser: Michael Flynn OFFERED
- Director of National Intelligence: Fran Townsend, Carly Fiorina
- Small Business Administration: Linda McMahon OFFERED
- RNC Chair: Ronna Romney McDaniel OFFERED