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First Read's Morning Clips: Questions Remain on Health Care Vote

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: Deadline Approaches To Signup For Health Insurance Under Affordable Care Act
Pedro Rojas holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, before the February 15th deadline on February 5, 2015 in Miami, Florida.Joe Raedle / Getty Images, file

TRUMP AGENDA: You’re all clear, kid. Now let’s blow this thing and go home

From Leigh Ann Caldwell and Alex Moe: “House Republican leaders announced Wednesday that there will be a vote on their health care bill Thursday, sending the strongest signal yet that leadership has corralled enough votes to pass it. Asked whether they had the votes needed to pass the bill, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said, "Yes, we do… I feel great about the count.’” More: “Vice President Mike Pence was on Capitol Hill every day this week, speaking to members individually to persuade them to vote for the bill. President Donald Trump has been making phone calls to skeptical Republicans, as well. Those efforts must have proven fruitful, because leaders had said they wouldn't hold a vote until they had enough votes to pass the measure.”

And from the Washington Post: “The flagging Republican effort to reshape the nation’s health-care system picked up steam Wednesday as GOP leaders tried to address concerns about people with preexisting medical conditions. But independent analysts remained skeptical that the new proposal would fully address the needs of at-risk patients who receive coverage guarantees under the Affordable Care Act, underscoring the contentious nature of the Republican effort.”

There are plenty of questions remaining even if the bill passes, the New York Times notes.

The Wall Street Journal picks up on a provision that could affect employer plans: “Many people who obtain health insurance through their employers—about half of the country—could be at risk of losing protections that limit out-of-pocket costs for catastrophic illnesses, due to a little-noticed provision of the House Republican health-care bill to be considered Thursday, health-policy experts say.”

Susan Rice has declined a request to testify before a Senate subcommittee next week.

Happening at the White House today, via the New York Times: “President Trump on Thursday will ease restrictions on political activity by churches and charities, White House officials said, but has backed away from a broader religious liberty order that would have allowed faith-based organizations and companies to avoid serving or hiring gay people. Conservative religious leaders who were fierce supporters of Mr. Trump’s candidacy had pushed the president to provide faith organizations with much more sweeping relief from Obama-era regulations that protect gay men, lesbians and others from discrimination. Instead, in an executive order, Mr. Trump will offer a vague promise to “protect and vigorously promote religious liberty.” He will also direct federal agencies to exempt some religious organizations from Affordable Care Act requirements that provide employees with health coverage for contraception.”

How it’s playing on the Christian Broadcasting Network: “It's a much watered down version of the first draft of the order leaked early in the president's term. This order does three things: 1) Declares that it's a policy of the executive branch to protect and promote religious liberty. 2) Directs the IRS to use maximum enforcement discretion when investigating tax-exempt organizations (this addresses the Johnson Amendment). 3) Offers regulatory relief to religious groups that have a moral objection to the contraception mandate in Obamacare. The order is short on the details that were included in the original draft circulated over the winter.”

Andrew Rafferty sums up FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill.

POLITICO notes that most of the Senate GOP leadership team will be upended next year due to term limits.

OFF TO THE RACES: Obama stars in Perriello’s first TV ad

GA-06: From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Democrat Jon Ossoff and his supporters will be closely watching a hearing Thursday over a federal lawsuit that accuses the state of illegally restricting newly-registered voters from casting ballots in the June 20 runoff against Republican Karen Handel. A Washington-based advocacy group filed a federal lawsuit in April contending that Georgia law cuts off voter registration for federal runoff elections two months earlier than federal law requires. It seeks to allow prospective voters to register until May 22 – one month before the runoff.”

Karen Handel’s husband shared an image on Twitter Tuesday that suggested that a vote for his wife would “free the black slaves from the Democratic plantation.” Ossoff’s response? “Sometimes, social media can be dangerous.”

MT-AL: In the Billings Gazette: “International software giant Oracle Corp. has debunked U.S. House candidate Rob Quist’s claim that 22 tax liens were filled against his Republican opponent and Bozeman-based RightNow Technologies from 2012 to 2015.”

The DCCC is putting about $400,000 more into its efforts to back Rob Quist.

NJ-GOV: has a good primer on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy, the favorite for the nod.

A new Quinnipiac poll shows that 57 percent of voters don’t know enough about either Murphy or Republican Kim Guadagno to form an opinion.

SC-05: The State, on the stakes in the GOP runoff between Ralph Norman and Tommy Pope:“As they mine for votes, Pope and Norman will have their eyes on supporters of Tom Mullikin and Chad Connelly, who finished third and fourth, respectively. Mullikin, a Camden businessman making his first run for public office, was the biggest surprise in Tuesday’s voting, taking 20 percent of the vote. Mullikin dominated the southeastern portion of the district: winning 54 percent of the vote in his home county of Kershaw, a majority in nearby Sumter County and a plurality in Lee County. Connelly probably was the biggest underperformer Tuesday. The former S.C. GOP chairman took only 14 percent of the vote, finishing fourth. However, he won his home county — Newberry — with 64 percent and was runner up in five other counties.”

VA-GOV: Barack Obama is the star of Tom Perriello’s first campaign ad.