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.
Republicans Face Climactic Week for Health Care
For Republicans, it’s a make-or-break week on health care — either they pass their Senate legislation (which then would be on easy street to become law), or they don’t (which likely would stop their reform efforts for good). It’s that simple, with Senate Republicans hoping to hold a vote by the end of this week before lawmakers go on their July 4 recess. To succeed, they will have to overcome four challenges. Call them the Four Ps:
- The Politics: While our colleague Hugh Hewitt writes that repealing and replacing Obamacare is a “core promise” that Republicans made to their voters, it’s also true that the GOP replacement proposals are extremely unpopular. Our recent NBC/WSJ poll found Americans, by a 3-to-1 margin, disapproving of the House legislation, with just 16% calling it a good idea. (And given that the Senate legislation largely mirrors the House version, we won’t be surprised if future polls show similar numbers for that Senate bill.)
- The Policy: NBC’s Benjy Sarlin points out that President Trump promised that GOP reform efforts “will lower premiums and deductibles.” Yet as Sarlin notes, “[T]he Senate bill released last week and the House bill passed last month take the opposite approach: They include policies that encourage higher deductibles and dramatically raise out-of-pocket costs, in some cases by thousands of dollars per person. The president has embraced both efforts even though they violate his repeated promises.” By the way, the Congressional Budget Office’s score on the Senate bill is expected as early as today.
- The Process: The Senate legislation was crafted behind closed doors, without public hearings and testimony, and it was unveiled only last Thursday. And that has even some Republicans crying foul. “[W]ithout a good process, you're not going to end up with a good product,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said on “Meet the Press” yesterday. “I don't have the feedback from constituencies who will not have had enough time to review the Senate bill. We should not be voting on this next week. But we should have started the process, reaching out to the Democrats.”
- The Period of Time: If this week is now-or-never time for Senate Republicans, sometimes that hard and fast deadline is what’s needed to press wavering lawmakers. On the other hand, an ultimatum that health care has to happen by the end of the week — because Republicans need to move to other things if it doesn’t pass — might not provide enough time to make the deals needed to satisfy conservatives and moderates. “It's hard for me to see the bill passing this week,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told ABC yesterday. Remember, House Republicans didn’t pass their health-care legislation on their first attempt. But the view from Senate GOP leaders is that more time doesn’t make this easier.
NBC’s Whip Count
Five Senate Republicans oppose the current bill: To pass the Senate, Republicans can afford only two defections, assuming that no Democrats support the legislation. And according to NBC’s whip count, five GOPers oppose the current legislation:
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)
- Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
- Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)
- Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)
And there are other undecided/unannounced GOP senators beyond these five, including Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Rob Portman (R-OH). Do remember: Because someone says they oppose the “current” legislation doesn’t mean they won’t support it after some changes. So we will update this list as things change.
Trump criticizes Obama on Russia’s intervention in ’16 election. Left unsaid are all the times Trump used Russia’s information in the campaign
As NBC’s Kristen Welker reported on “Today,” President Trump has criticized Barack Obama for not acting more decisively to stop Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — a significant change from Trump’s previous indifference on the issue. “Well, I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it. But nobody wants to talk about that,” Trump told Fox News. The president also tweeted, “Obama Administration official said they ‘choked’ when it came to acting on Russian meddling of election. They didn't want to hurt Hillary?” But with Trump blasting Obama on Russia, it’s worth pointing out all of the times on the campaign trail that Trump USED Russia’s information to help him defeat Clinton.
- Oct. 31 from Warren, MI: “Did you see where, on WikiLeaks, it was announced that they were paying protestors to be violent, $1,500?... Did you see another one, another one came in today? This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.”
- Nov. 2 from Orlando, FL: “Out today, WikiLeaks just came out with a new one, just a little a while ago, it's just been shown that a rigged system with more collusion, possibly illegal, between the Department of Justice, the Clinton campaign and the State Department.”
- Nov. 2 from Pensacola, FL: “They said about Hillary, she's got bad instincts right. You know who said that, Podesta. I would fire Podesta so fast. I mean the way he talks about her, whether true, not true, who cares. He speaks so badly about her. Of course he didn't know there was a thing called WikiLeaks right.”
- Nov. 4 from Wilmington, OH: “Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks.”
- Nov. 7 from Manchester, NH: “Hillary has shown contempt for the working people of this country. Her campaign in WikiLeaks has spoken horribly about Catholics and evangelicals and so many others. They got it all down folks, WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks. And what Podesta said about her, bad instincts. He said she's got bad instincts.”
“Trump has shown no interest in the question of how to prevent future election interference by Russia or another foreign power”
In addition, don’t miss this piece from NBC’s Ken Dilanian, Hallie Jackson, and others: “The Trump administration has taken little meaningful action to prevent Russian hacking, leaking and disruption in the next national election in 2018, despite warnings from intelligence officials that it will happen again, officials and experts told NBC News ... According to recent Congressional testimony, Trump has shown no interest in the question of how to prevent future election interference by Russia or another foreign power. Former FBI Director James Comey told senators that Trump never asked him about how to stop a future Russian election cyber attack, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who sits on the National Security Council, testified that he has not received a classified briefing on Russian election interference. Dozens of state officials told NBC News they have received little direction from Washington about election security.”
Drama on the Supreme Court’s final day
“The U.S. Supreme Court heads into Monday, its last day of the current term, with two important questions so far unanswered: What's to become of President Donald Trump's travel ban and will 80-year-old Justice Anthony Kennedy retire?” NBC’s Pete Williams reports. Politico’s Eliana Johnson tweets, “No Kennedy retirement announcement at clerk reunion, I'm told, leading to dimming WH hopes he'll step down this year.”