IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Republicans Face a Daunting Summer Agenda

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.
Image: Mitch McConnell leaves a Republican meeting on healthcare
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, followed by Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, leaves a Republican meeting on healthcare, on June 22, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.Jacquelyn Martin / AP

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.

Trump, Congress have heavy lifting to do over the next month

It’s not just health care that Senate Republicans are hoping to get back on track after they return from their July 4 vacation. President Trump and Congress have a lot on their plate before their summer recess in August — raising the debt limit, passing a budget, moving on tax reform. It’s a daunting agenda during the best of times. And it’s much, much harder with a distracted president, a commander-in-chief whose approval rating is in the 30s and 40s, and a GOP Senate that remains divided over health care. And as the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza points out, Republicans stalling on health care imperils the rest of their agenda. “They planned to use one reconciliation bill for health care and a separate one for the beast of tax reform. But one of the many arcane rules about the reconciliation process is that any new reconciliation bill cancels out the old one… If the Senate health-care bill dies and Republicans move on to tax reform, they will have an interesting choice to make: do they give up on health care and propose only a tax-reform bill?”

Senate Republicans try to strike a deal to get health care back on track

Trump tweeted this earlier this morning: “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” This is something that Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have advocated. The question: Would the Susan Collinses/Lisa Murkowskis/Dean Hellers/Shelley Moore Capitos/Rob Portmans go along. (We have our doubts.) What’s more, can the House of Representatives go back to the drawing board after barely passing their repeal AND replace measure? (That would be another tough vote for some vulnerable House Republicans.) And as our colleague Beth Fouhy reminds us, can Senate Republicans repeal all of Obamacare via reconciliation? (Unlikely.) Bottom line: Trump’s trial balloon here suggests Senate Republicans are further apart than ever on health care.

And here’s why it undermines the concessions Mitch McConnell is trying to make

Indeed, before Trump’s tweet this morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was trying to make concessions to woo recalcitrant conservatives and moderates. “McConnell is rewriting his proposal to provide tens of billions more for opioid addiction treatment and assistance to low- and ­moderate-income Americans, in part with a major policy shift that has already alarmed conservatives who oppose it — potentially preserving a 3.8 percent tax on investment income provided under the ACA that the current draft of the Senate bill would repeal,” the Washington Post says. “At the same time, the Republican leader hopes to placate the right by further easing the existing law’s insurance mandates and allowing higher tax deductions through expanded health savings accounts , several Republicans said.” Does Trump’s tweet undermine these concessions?

NBC’s Whip Count

Eight Republicans say they are opposed to the current Senate health-care legislation. Remember, they can afford to lose just Republicans, assuming all Democrats are opposed.

  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.

The Wall Street Journal on a GOP operative, Russian hackers, and Michael Flynn

This is quite the story from the Wall Street Journal: “Before the 2016 presidential election, a longtime Republican opposition researcher mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers. In conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him, the GOP operative, Peter W. Smith, implied he was working with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, at the time a senior adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump... What role, if any, Mr. Flynn may have played in Mr. Smith’s project is unclear. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Smith said he knew Mr. Flynn, but he never stated that Mr. Flynn was involved. Mr. Flynn didn’t respond to requests for comment. A Trump campaign official said that Mr. Smith didn’t work for the campaign, and that if Mr. Flynn coordinated with him in any way, it would have been in his capacity as a private individual. The White House declined to comment.” More from the WSJ: “Mr. Smith died at age 81 on May 14, which was about 10 days after the Journal interviewed him. His account of the email search is believed to be his only public comment on it.”

Happy Fourth of July!

Have a safe and happy holiday weekend. Our morning column will return Thursday, July 6.