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Are Democrats Really Ready to Negotiate on Health Care?

by Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann /
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi speak following a meeting with U.S.President Barack Obama on congressional Republicans' effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 4, 2017.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

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First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

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Are Democrats really ready to negotiate on health care?

OK, Democrats — say Senate Republicans are willing to extend a hand to find bipartisan solutions to health care. Are you ready to negotiate?

NBC’s Benjy Sarlin, Alex Seitz-Wald, and Adam Edelman write that Democrats are divided when it comes to joining Republican efforts to fix health care. “Once-unified Democrats are splintering into competing factions over how to best move forward, with progressive lawmakers and activists aligned with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., telling NBC News Wednesday they see the problems in the GOP as an opportunity to double down on their preferred health care reforms, like single-payer health insurance… On the other hand, several Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., have said they have in mind a variety of modest changes to Obamacare that they’d love to sit down and discuss with Republicans. Schumer even invited President Donald Trump to a bipartisan meeting with all senators.” The difference here with Republicans: It’s Democratic leaders who are up for compromise; it’s rank-and-file progressives who aren’t.

Here’s where some Democrats could find common ground with Republicans

More from Sarlin, Seitz-Wald, and Edelman: Several members, including [Sen. Joe] Manchin, have co-sponsored a bill that would add a cheaper catastrophic plan to the insurance exchanges, among other tweaks. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., recently introduced legislation that would allow people in counties with no insurers to buy from the same exchanges members of Congress use. Other Democrats have talked about restoring Obamacare provisions that cushion insurers against unexpected high costs that were removed in a prior bipartisan spending deal. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., for his part, has suggested allowing insurers to sell across state lines, a proposal that has also gotten support from Trump. Warner acknowledged that ‘folks on both ends of the extreme’ could torpedo efforts to work across the aisle, but said he would still try.”

How unpopular is the GOP health-care effort?

Just look at these four national polls from yesterday:

Senate Republicans work to bring recalcitrant lawmakers back into the fold

“Senate Republicans and the White House have agreed to add at least $45 billion to their Obamacare repeal bill to address the opioid crisis and are near agreement on allowing consumers to use Health Savings Account money to pay for their premium,” Politico writes. “Sens. Rob Portman and Shelley Moore Capito — both of whom said they would have opposed the original Senate bill — have asked for $45 billion in opioid funding. The opioid crisis has flared in both of their states. The opioid figure could rise.” On the other hand, there’s this separate Politico story: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rob Portman, close allies and typically mild-mannered men, got into a heated exchange over Medicaid at a meeting earlier this week. McConnell sided with conservatives eager to dramatically slow the program’s growth, and laid into Portman for opposing it.”

NBC’s Whip Count: Eight Senate Republican oppose current Senate bill

Per NBC’s Capitol Hill team, eight Senate GOPers oppose the Senate health-care bill — down from yesterday’s nine. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., was removed because his objection was more time, and Senate Republicans now have more time.

  1. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
  2. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
  3. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah
  4. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.
  5. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine
  6. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio
  7. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V.
  8. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

What Trump said behind closed doors at last night’s fundraiser

“Speaking for around 30 minutes at the closed-door event, according to two people present, the president continued to bash a favorite target – the media, and in particular CNN,” Politico says. “Trump derided the network for errors and presented himself as a victim of their reporting, which he described as deeply unfair. At one point, the president turned his fire on one of the network’s liberal commentators, Van Jones.” Also: “The president poked fun at the unsuccessful Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff for not residing in the suburban Atlanta district he was running for. Ossoff, the president joked, raised over $20 million yet couldn’t get an apartment in Atlanta.” And: “Republicans, Trump joked, needed Pelosi to stay atop her caucus.”

Trump’s travel ban to take effect Thursday

NBC News: “The Trump administration's travel restrictions blocking foreigners from six Muslim-majority countries and refugees fleeing persecution will take effect Thursday, following the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week to temporarily uphold portions of the ban. David Lapan, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson, confirmed to NBC News Wednesday evening that the order ‘will begin to be implemented tomorrow and detailed guidance will be provided to DHS professionals.’ A senior administration official told NBC News that it's likely the ban won't go into effect until the evening.”

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