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The latest political news and analysis from the campaign trail:

What's in, and out, of Biden's health care plan

DES MOINES, Iowa — Call Vice President Joe Biden’s healthcare plan Affordable Care Act 2.0.

In his new plan released on Monday, Biden proposes adding a “Medicare-like” public option that would serve as an option for consumers to receive health insurance. Americans would also be able to choose their own private insurance and would now only spend a lower income rate to obtain it.  

Biden campaign officials say the health care plan serves as a transitional piece of legislation that could pave the path to a Medicare-for-All single payer system in the future. 

Here's a quick look at some of what is in — and not in — Biden's plan: 

What's in: The individual mandate

President Donald Trump got rid of the individual mandate when he signed the GOP tax bill into law in 2017. Biden would bring back the penalty for not being covered under health insurance under his plan.

Since the individual mandate currently is not federal law, a Biden campaign official said that he would use a combination of executive orders to undo the changes and use his “longstanding history of getting stuff done in Congress to get legislation to build on the Affordable Care Act.”

What's out: Spending rate

Biden’s plan allows for consumers to buy into the individual marketplace and choose their health care provider of choice. In an effort to expand access even on that front, the plan will only allow consumers to spend 8.5 percent of their income on insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, consumers could spend almost 10 percent of their income when paying for insurance.

What's in: Lowering prescription drug pricing

In an effort to lower the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs, Biden’s plan would repeal existing law that currently bans Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug manufacturers. He would also limit price increases “for all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs” and launch prices for drugs that do not have competition, according to a Biden campaign official.

Consumers would also be able to buy cheaper priced prescription drugs from other countries, which could help mobilize competition. And Biden would terminate their advertising tax break in an effort to also help lower costs.

What's in: Undocumented immigrants can buy in

Biden’s plan would also allow undocumented immigrants to buy into the public option, but it would not be subsidized. Considering undocumented immigrants in his health care plan shows just how progressive the Democratic Party has come on the issue in just a decade. The Affordable Care Act, for example, did not allow undocumented immigrants from buying into the system.

Study finds 19 percent of U.S. adult Twitter users follow @realDonaldTrump

WASHINGTON —The president of the United States regularly uses his Twitter feed to single out political foes, amplify existing controversies, and muse on everything from cable news ratings to the performance of professional athletes.  

But how many people are actually following along?

A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that only about one in five adult Twitter users in the U.S. follow the president’s personal account— but those who do are far more likely to approve of his job performance than those who don’t.

The analysis finds that about 19 percent of adult Twitter users follow @realDonaldTrump. But of those who follow Trump on the platform, 54 percent approved of the job he’s doing as president as of late 2018. That’s compared with an approval rating of just 24 percent among adult Twitter users who DON’T follow the president.

While Trump is perhaps the most prolific Tweeter among high-profile American politicians, a higher percentage of Twitter users — 26 percent —follow Trump’s predecessor, former president Barack Obama.

But just 14 percent follow one or more of the 20 Democratic presidential candidates who participated in the first set of primary debates last month.

Pew found in an earlier study that Twitter users tend to be younger and more Democratic-leaning than the general public. And, overall, only about 22 percent of Americans use the platform at all.

Biden health care plan would build on Obamacare

DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Vice President Joe Biden unveiled his anticipated health care plan on Monday, framing it as a more achievable way to expand coverage than those proposed by some of his progressive rivals by building on what he has called the “crown jewel” of the Obama administration —  the Affordable Care Act.

Americans would have the option of buying into a “Medicare-like” plan or keeping their private insurance under the Biden plan, which would also aim to reverse the Trump administration’s efforts to undercut the law. People living in Republican-led states that failed to expand Medicaid would be given premium free access to Medicaid.

The Biden plan would change provisions in the Affordable Care Act to improve access to health care by eliminating the 400 percent income cap on tax credit eligibility, base tax credits on gold plans rather than silver ones and ensure that those buying insurance in the individual marketplace spend 8.5 percent of their income on insurance, which is down from the previous 9.86 percent cap.

The total cost of the Biden plan is estimated to be $750 billion over the next 10 years, which would mostly be paid for by repealing President Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy and returning the top tax rate to 39.6 percent. 

A Biden campaign official added that as president, Biden would use a combination of executive orders to undo the changes the Trump administration has done to weaken existing health care law.

Biden’s plan also calls for the end of the Hyde Amendment, a provision that prevents federal funding for abortions unless a child is conceived through rape or incest or the mother’s health is in jeopardy. 

Biden’s health care plan rollout coincides with the increase of critiques he has recently launched against his Democratic opponents who support scraping the Affordable Care Act and transitioning to a primarily government-run system like Medicare-for-All. 

“On health care, I admire the rest of the field from Bernie to Elizabeth to Kamala who want Medicare-for-All. But let me tell you, I think one of the most significant things we've done is pass the Affordable Care Act,” Biden told supporters at a house party in Atkinson, NH Saturday.

Biden has repeatedly said since the Democratic debate that he would oppose any Republican or Democrat who wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.

Biden plans to unveil his health care plan publicly at several stops in Iowa this week, starting at the AARP forum on Monday and holding a billed “rural health care event” Tuesday. 

Rapinoe: The U.S. women’s soccer team ‘has managed to make people proud again’

WASHINGTON — U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team co-captain Megan Rapinoe said Sunday that the national pride for the team after its recent World Cup championship is giving players like her an opportunity to channel that enthusiasm toward activism.

“The opportunity is in everyone’s exhaustion with the fighting and the negative. Our team has managed to make people proud again, to capture people’s interest, to make them want to do something,” she said during an exclusive interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“People are asking the question: how can we rally around this team? And in that really, (is) what the team stands for, whether it’s equal pay, or racial equality, or LGBTQ rights. I think we’ve just managed to give people hope, and with that, now we need to do the next step.”

Players have pointed to the pay disparity between the national men’s and women’s soccer teams as both a real issue in the sport, considering the women’s team’s historic success, as well as indicative of the larger debate over equal pay in the country. Rapinoe said Sunday that her team’s sponsors could “do a lot more” to help narrow the pay gap that exists in the sport and called on companies to “get comfortable” throwing their “weight” around to promote equal pay.

Rapinoe has also been openly critical of President Trump and has said she would not visit the White House as a World Cup champion.

When asked Sunday what she would say to fans who support Trump and want the team to join the president at the White House in a show of unity, Rapinoe said she would try to “share our message” with those fans.

“Do you believe all people are created equal? Do you believe that equal pay should be mandated? Do you believe that everyone should have health care? Do you believe we should treat everyone with respect? I think those are the basics of what we are talking about.”

“I understand people feel upset or uncomfortable, there are some feelings of disrespect about the anthem protest or things I’ve said in the past. But ultimately, I am here, open and honest. I’ve admitted mistakes, I will continue to do that. I will continue to be vulnerable and be honest and be open and want to have that conversation because I think Trump‘s message excludes people that look like me and are me, of course, but it excludes a lot of people in his base as well. I think he’s trying to divide so he can conquer, not unite so we can all conquer.”

Progress Iowa's Corn Feed preview: #ReadySetCorn

DES MOINES, Iowa — An Iowa summer wouldn’t be complete without presidential candidates and corn in an election year. Progress Iowa’s Corn Feed event in Cedar Rapids this weekend, the fifth annual event hosted by the Democratic issue-based advocacy group, will feature twelve presidential hopefuls.

“We imagine this is one of the bigger events with presidential candidates that’s free and open to the public,” Progress Iowa executive director Matt Sinovic told NBC News, “We want it to be as accessible as possible, and don’t want to price anyone out.”

The lineup: Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former HUD Sec. Julián Castro; New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Rep. John Delaney; former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Reps. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio and author Marianne Williamson.

Candidates will be given ten-minutes on stage to address the crowd. Sinovic calls the event a “good opportunity for grassroots activism” and told NBC News he hopes candidates will emphasize what they each stand for, encourage voters to get involved in issues that they may care about, and inspire attendees to “fight for the things that they believe in.”

The contenders will also have access to more than 1,000 voters who will mingle with candidates among photo booths, corn hole and other carnival games - Gov. Hickenlooper’s booth will reportedly have a giant Jenga game. Live music will supplement the outdoor ambiance as attendees mingle and visit informational booths set-up by community organizations as well as local and national campaigns.

Several campaigns that do not have candidates present to speak, like Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., will have booths on-site that are staffed by organizers.

Tickets are available for any of the seven vendors at the Newbo City Market, where each menu will feature at least one corn item. Sinovic estimates the event will bring in anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 in fundraising for Progress Iowa.

Klobuchar introduces senior care plan

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., unveiled a plan Friday for senior citizens aimed at tackling Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, enhancing health care and retirement security, and reducing prescription drug costs. 

She is the first 2020 presidential candidate to roll out a policy specifically targeting the elderly population. This proposal is personal for the Minnesota senator, whose 91-year-old father resides in an assisted living facility for memory care.

"Everywhere I go, I meet seniors who tell me about their struggles to afford everyday costs like prescription drugs or health care," Klobuchar said. "I meet family members who face challenges caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and urgent action is needed to take on these problems. I believe we owe it to our seniors to make sure they have the care and support they need as they get older, and as President I will prioritize tackling Alzheimer’s, strengthening health care and retirement security, and reducing prescription drug costs.”

Key highlights of her campaign’s senior plan include:

  1. Tackling Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions by supporting caregivers, strengthening the  National Institutes of Health and investing in research for chronic conditions, improving mental health care for seniors, expanding dementia training and implementing a law to help locate missing people with dementia or developmental disabilities.
  2. Ensuring a secure retirement by protecting social security and making it fair by lifting the payroll cap, expanding retirement savings by creating “Up Accounts” with minimum employer contributions, and defending pensions.
  3. Improving health care for seniors and lowering prescription drug costs by taking immediate and aggressive action to negotiate better drug prices, allow personal importation from countries like Canada, crack down on “Pay-for-Delay” agreements, expand tele-health and rural health services, and strengthen Medicare and expand its coverage to dental, vision, and hearing.
  4. Investing in long-term care by working with Congress to create a refundable tax credit to offset long-term care costs, reducing costs of long-term care insurance and increase access, providing financial relief to caregivers through a tax credit of up to $6,000 per year, ensuring paid family leave for all Americans, and supporting a world class long-term care workforce.
  5. Reducing costs and preventing fraud by fighting elder abuse, helping seniors afford energy costs, and improving seniors’ access to affordable housing, transit, nutrition and workforce opportunities. 

In order to pay for the policies outlined in her senior-focused proposal, Klobuchar would “close the trust fund loopholes that allow the wealthy to avoid paying taxes on inherited wealth.” 

Her campaign’s plan is modeled after the Saving for the Future Act, which Klobuchar and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced in Congress in April. 

Biden warns of international damage if Trump is given a second term

Former Vice President Joe Biden laid out his “forward looking” foreign policy vision to warn Americans about the colossal and irreversible damage that will be done if President Donald Trump is reelected next year.

“If we give Donald Trump four more years, we will have a great deal of difficulty of ever being able to recover America's standing in the world and our capacity to bring nations together, which is desperately needed,” he said. 

Biden contrasted his decades-long career in foreign policy to that of the presidents, who he says genuinely does not understand the intricacies of maintaining relationships with allies given his fascination with authoritarian dictators. 

“As President of the United States, I would remind the world that we are the United States of America and we do not coddle dictators. United States of America gives hate no safe harbor,” he said at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York Thursday. “There will be no more Charlottesvilles, no more Helsinkis.”

Biden offered some specific policy proposals — many about returning to Obama administration priorities like the Iran deal and bringing back daily press briefings at the White House.

He did not address his 2002 vote to authorize military action in Iraq, but promised to end “forever wars” in the Middle East including the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. But his larger message without necessarily cataloging his own resume was to tell Democrats that no other candidate was as prepared as him to act on the world stage more quickly and effectively as him, and that there was only “one opportunity” to reset the U.S. democracy.

Tom Steyer proposes national referendum, term limits on Congress

WASHINGTON — Liberal billionaire and newly declared Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer on Thursday said that as president he would let voters make laws directly through regular national referenda. 

It's part of Steyer's new structural reform plan, which also proposes fairly novel ideas like 12-year term limits on members of Congress, a national vote-by-mail system, public campaign financing, giving the Federal Elections Commission more teeth and different composition, and imposing independent redistricting commissions to tackle gerrymandering.

It also includes more standard Democratic fare like overturning the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and the ethics and elections reform package House Democrats put forward this year in their bill dubbed H.R. 1. 

A national referendum, where voters can change laws at the ballot box, would tip the U.S. more towards direct democracy and away from the representative government envisioned by the Founders.

That and other of Steyer's ideas would likely face constitutional and legal challenges, let alone political ones in Congress, since the Constitution gives states, not the federal government, most of the power to govern elections. 

National referenda would make the U.S. look more like Steyer's California, which has a robust history and culture of citizen-initiated ballot measures. Critics say California ballot measure campaigns are often pushed by wealthy individuals or special interests in the guise of populism, while proponents say they restore power to the people.

In a video touting his new plan, Steyer touts his work in California — and the millions he spent there — to advance ballot measures that led to higher taxes on cigarettes to fund health care, an oil extraction tax, and the closing of "corporate loopholes" in the tax code. 

"Here's the difference between me and the other candidates: I don't think we can fix our democracy from the inside," Steyer says in the video. "I trust the people. And as president, I will give you tools we need to fix our democracy." 

Elizabeth Warren releases new immigration plan

MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has released a new plan on immigration ahead of her speech at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin Thursday. Here are some of the key aspects of her plan include:

  • Decriminalize immigration and focus enforcement on serious criminal offenses and make it a civil offense.
  • Stop cops from serving as immigration enforcement agents.
  • Promises to investigate Trump admin for abuses “perpetrated during the Trump era.”
  • End detention unless necessary and private detention facilities, expand use of parole.
  • Establish independent immigration courts.
  • Cancel Trump admin travel ban, raise refugee allowances, strengthen asylum protections.
  • Expand legal immigration, ease the naturalization process, reinstate DACA program and provide pathway to citizenship.
  • Create an “Office of New Americans” to help immigrants transition and assimilate.
  • Commits $1.5B annually for foreign aid to Western hemisphere.

Warren's proposals come amid growing reports of the mistreatment of migrants being detained at the border, congressional investigations into the administration's policies and reports that previously planned ICE deportation raids that were postponed three weeks ago are now scheduled to begin on Sunday. President Donald Trump is also expected to announce plans to use executive action to add a citizenship question to the U.S. census during a news conference Thursday afternoon. 

Buttigieg: Citizenship question is racially motivated census manipulation

WASHINGTON — Mayor Pete Buttigieg is accusing President Donald Trump of “racially and politically motivated manipulation of the census” as the president works to add a citizenship question to the census despite being rebuked by the courts.

In an interview with NBC News’ Craig Melvin, Buttigieg predicts that asking about citizenship will lead to under-representation on the 2020 census, making “the whole country worse off.” 

“There’s a reason why the courts ruled that this is wrong,” Buttigieg say. “I’ll let other scholars talk about why the president’s actions may be unconstitutional, but it’s very clear that it’s wrong.”

Buttigieg spoke hours before Trump was expected to use an afternoon news conference to announce he’s attempting to add the citizenship question to the census using executive action after the Supreme Court blocked the administration from including the question based on the rationale initially put forward.

Buttigieg’s remarks come as he puts a laser focus on increasing his appeal to African Americans and Hispanics who have been slow to warm to his campaign. His struggles in appealing to a broad cross-section of the Democratic primary electorate have raised growing questions about his continued viability in the primary. 

The South Bend mayor also rebuked Trump over his administration’s planned immigration raids across the country, saying they are designed to “strike fear into people at a moment when fear is something we have got way too much of in this country.” 

“If rumors start going around about raids — let alone if it starts actually happening — it immediately makes the community less safe, it makes people  less likely to participate in the economy, less likely to talk to law enforcement when they need help dealing with something that really is a matter of danger,” Buttigieg said.

As he works to show black voters in particular that he’s the best candidate to improve their lives, Buttigieg earlier Thursday released an 18-page proposal dubbed the “Douglass Plan” that his campaign hopes will stand out as the most comprehensive of any put forward by a 2020 Democratic candidate.

Buttigieg said he’s been working on the plan “for months” as way to better answer black voters’ inquiries on the campaign trail about how he is best positioned to improve their lives.

“But this isn’t just aimed at black voters,” Buttigieg says. “Frankly, there needs to be a conversation with white America, with white audiences about how none of us can or should be willing to live in a system where these kinds of systemic racist dimensions persist.”

Amy McGrath repeatedly changes mind on Kavanaugh question

WASHINGTON — Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath, the party's top candidate in the race to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, changed her tune about whether she would have voted for Justice Brett Kavanaugh twice in a matter of hours — just a day after she launched her candidacy. 

In an interview with Louisville's The Courier-Journal, McGrath said that she was "very concerned" about Kavanaugh's "far-right stances" and that she believed Christine Blasey Ford's allegation that he sexually-assaulted her while both were teenagers was "credible." 

But she told the paper that "there was nothing in his record that I think would disqualify him in any way" and that "with Judge Kavanaugh, yeah, I probably would have voted for him." 

That answer surprised some Democrats following the bitter fight over Kavanaugh's confirmation last year. 

Later Wednesday evening, McGrath tweeted that "upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no," adding that "I know I disappointed many today with my initial answer on how I would have voted on Brett Kavanaugh." 

The reversal put McGrath closer to how she addressed Kavanaugh's confirmation during her 2018 run for the House. Last July, she posted unconditional criticism on Facebook about the judge and accused him of being "against women's reproductive rights, workers' rights [and] consumer protections."

McGrath made a big splash when she jumped into the race this week against the Republican leader, raising $2.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign. But McConnell's team has been aggressive in trying to tar McGrath as too liberal for the state, and has taken particular joy in her reversal on Kavanaugh.