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Republicans Could Still Get Their Health Care Bill Passed. Here's How.

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
Image: Press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC, USA
epa05835144 An aide places the GOP healthcare alternative legislation, on the left, and the current Affordable Care Act, on the right, before a press briefing the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 07 March 2017. EPA/ERIK S. LESSERERIK S. LESSER / EPA

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

Here’s how Republicans can still get health care through Congress

This week’s health-care rollout couldn’t have gone worse for Republicans. Conservative and moderate GOPers have their own problems with the House legislation. Major pillars of industry (hospitals, doctors, nurses) are in opposition. Not a single Democratic lawmaker supports it. And there are already projections that as many as 15 million Americans will lose their health-insurance coverage over 10 years — all before the Congressional Budget Office weighs in.

As conservative wonk Yuval Levin writes, “The House Republicans have managed to propose an approach to health reform that almost no one really likes.” All that said, there’s still a chance that Republicans can send President Trump a health-care overhaul that he can sign into law, although that chance doesn’t look as strong as it might have before this week. Here’s how they can get it done:

  • Step 1: Make the House bill more conservative to shore up the right flank: That effort is already underway, per CNN: “The White House is privately lining up behind conservative calls to roll back Obamacare's Medicaid expansion sooner than the health care reform bill currently calls for, two senior administration officials and a senior House conservative aide told CNN on Thursday.”
  • Step 2: Mitch McConnell and GOP Senate appease the moderates: If the legislation passes the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offers revisions to placate the moderate voices (like Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Shelley Moore Capito, Cory Gardner, and even now Tom Cotton) by making Medicaid fixes and restoring funding for Planned Parenthood. To get 51 votes, Republicans can afford to lose two GOP votes (say Rand Paul, Ted Cruz -- but not more than that (Collins, Murkowski, Capito, Gardner, Cotton).
  • Step 3: Senate Republicans dare the House to oppose their more moderate bill: And if that passes, the Senate side dares House conservatives to oppose the bill -- which they would say is the last best chance to repeal and replace Obamacare. Of course, that approach is perilous: Will House Republicans really accept more/expanded Medicaid funding? Can they swallow not defunding Planned Parenthood?

So this is all quite a tightrope for Republicans to walk. Can it still pass? Absolutely. Will it be easy? No way. And keep in mind: The real Democratic attacks haven’t even begun.

Comey comes to Capitol Hill to talking Russian meddling, Trump Tower

What also will be challenging for the GOP health-care effort is unwelcome Trump news that has NOTHING to do with health care. NBC News: “FBI Director James Comey met with key Senate lawmakers Thursday, where he discussed matters relating to the alleged wire-tapping of Trump Tower, a congressional source familiar with the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election told NBC News. Comey met with Sens. Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, Richard Burr and Mark Warner, followed by a meeting with Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, along with Reps. Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes. Comey declined to answer a question as he went into the House meeting about whether there was ever a legal wiretap at Trump Tower.” More: “Last weekend, President Donald Trump accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping in Trump Tower during the presidential election. Neither Trump nor White House has offered any evidence to back up the charge. Obama and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper responded that it never happened.”

Trump’s ousted national security adviser registered as a foreign agent helping Turkey

Here’s another problematic story for the Trump administration: “Michael Flynn, who was President Donald Trump's former national security adviser until being fired last month, has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for $530,000 worth of lobbying work before Election Day that may have aided the Turkish government,” per the AP. “Paperwork filed Tuesday with the Justice Department's Foreign Agent Registration Unit said Flynn and his firm were voluntarily registering for lobbying from August through November that ‘could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.’ It was filed by a lawyer on behalf of the former U.S. Army lieutenant general and intelligence chief. After his firm's work on behalf of a Turkish company was done, Flynn agreed not to lobby for five years after leaving government service and never to represent foreign governments.”

How out of the loop is the State Department?

Yesterday, the U.S. State Department’s spokesman admitted that he didn’t know Mexico’s foreign minister was in Washington, D.C.

QUESTION: Hi. Yes, thank you. Hi, Mark. I see that the foreign minister of Mexico is in town, Luis Videgaray, meeting with – according to the Mexicans – Kushner, Gary Cohn, and McMaster. Is there no State Department meeting with him? And if not, why not?MR TONER: Tracy, good question. We’ll take that and get back to you. I was unaware that he was – the foreign minister was in town. And I’m not sure – I can’t speak to whether there’s going to be any meetings at the State Department at any level. I’ll take the question.

A State Department official tells NBC’s Abigail Williams, "The Foreign Minister knows he has an open invitation to visit or call anytime he needs to. [Secretary of State Rex Tillerson] believes they have had some very productive exchanges over the past few weeks and is looking forward to more in the near future." But as the Washington Post's David Ignatius writes, "Rex Tillerson is off to an agonizingly slow start as secretary of state. That matters, because if Tillerson doesn’t develop a stronger voice, control of foreign policy is likely to move increasingly toward Stephen K. Bannon, the insurgent populist who is chief White House strategist."

Emoluments Watch

Have ethics watchdogs who want a court to consider whether President Trump has violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause found a case with standing? “A Washington restaurant filed an unfair competition lawsuit Thursday against President Donald Trump and the company that runs his D.C. hotel, claiming he's siphoning away customers who hope to ‘curry favor’ with his administration,” NBC’s Rich Gardella and Tracy Connor write. “Cork Wine Bar, a well-reviewed eatery about 1.5 miles from the $200 million Trump International Hotel, is suing Trump as a private businessman and not as president, but suggests that he could remedy the problem by resigning. Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, called it ‘a wild publicity stunt completely lacking in legal merit.’” More: “Cork Wine Bar's owners — progressive activist Khalid Pitts and his wife, Diane Gross — argue that because Trump is president, his hotel and its bars and restaurants have become the top destination for lobbyists, foreign dignitaries and others hoping to influence the White House.”

Analyzing Trump’s tweets put together a series of in-depth data visualizations of Trump’s tweets, 50 days into his presidency. Check out his average tweet times, the much-discussed Android/iPhone divide, how the frequency of his tweets maps against his approval rating, and much more here.

Trump’s Day

The president holds a health-care discussion with GOP House committee chairmen at 11:30 am ET… Trump has lunch with Secretary of State Tillerson at 12:45 pm ET… And he meets with HUD Secretary Carson at 3:30 pm ET.

What were other presidents doing on March 10?

Heading to SXSW? So is Chuck!

Hear from him this Tuesday, March 14th at 5 p.m. CT as he explores if big data is destroying the U.S. political system along with Cornell Belcher and Sara Fagen: