U.N. Rebuffs Trump

Friday, December 22, 2017Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 10.16.46 AM

Good Friday morning. 
Here are some of the stories making news in Washington and politics today:
  • By a vote of 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly demanded that the United States rescind its decree recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. While largely symbolic, the nonbinding resolution was an act of defiance against the Trump administration on the world’s biggest diplomatic stage.

  • The sweeping tax overhaul hands Republicans a long-sought achievement that they believe will bolster their defenses in next year’s midterm campaigns. But they still have to contend with an unpopular president.

  • In Columbia, Md., a planned community where the word “equality” has special resonanceresidents worry that the tax law’s ripple effects will widen the income gap.
  • President Trump said Obamacare is imploding, but sign-ups are nearly at last year’s levels, even with the enrollment period cut in half.

  • The House and Senate approved a plan that extends funding for the government through Jan. 19 while punting into next year the fights over immigration and children’s health care.
— The First Draft Team
Note to readers: First Draft will not be published on Monday, Dec. 25. Merry Christmas to all!

Requiem for the Individual Mandate

The individual mandate, eliminated from the Affordable Care Act by the tax bill, was a crucial feature of Mitt Romney's Massachusetts bipartisan health bill, signed in 2006.

The individual mandate, eliminated from the Affordable Care Act by the tax bill, was a crucial feature of Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts bipartisan health bill, signed in 2006. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The individual mandate, an idea inspired by conservative intellectuals but ultimately embraced by Democratic lawmakers as an essential part of the Affordable Care Act, will soon be dead. The provision would be eliminated under the tax bill passed on Wednesday.
Left behind would be a policy structure that relied on the mandate to push the young and healthy to buy health insurance and thus strengthen the marketplace for millions of Americans. The Affordable Care Act, which adopted the mandate as a central provision, will remain the law, and President Trump far overstated matters when he said that “we have essentially repealed Obamacare.” But the loss of the mandate — the best-known and least liked part of the health care law — will cause substantial changes.
The magnitude of the consequences is uncertain, but most experts believe the mandate’s elimination will usher in an era of higher insurance prices and lower health coverage rates. The economists at the Congressional Budget Office estimatethat as many as 13 million more Americans could become uninsured in 10 yearsand that insurance premiums will rise by an additional 10 percent each year. The impact won’t start to become clear until 2019, when the provision’s penalties for remaining uninsured officially expire.
Read more »
Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to the Middle East has been postponed by at least one month.

Pence’s Christmas Pilgrimage Is Canceled. His Next Mideast Move Is Complicated.


Vice President Mike Pence had planned to meet with Christian leaders in the Middle East, but several canceled after President Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A heated exchange at the White House came during a discussion about the midterm elections next year, in which Republicans face a daunting landscape.

Dispute Over Political Strategy Erupts in White House


A meeting involving President Trump and his top advisers devolved into a heated exchange between his former campaign adviser and the White House political director.

When Will the New Tax Plan Kick In?


Most of the Republican tax overhaul will take effect in January, but taxpayers will not see every change immediately.

José Fuentes fled El Salvador with his 1-year-old son Mateo. After they were detained at the border, Mr. Fuentes was transferred to a facility in San Diego while Mateo has been held in Texas.

Administration Considers Splitting Families to Combat Illegal Immigration


To address rising numbers of border crossings, officials may begin detaining parents apart from their children, a change in practice that immigrant advocates criticized as cruel.

A statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest was removed from a park in Memphis late Wednesday. A statue of Jefferson Davis was also taken down.

‘Sense of Relief’ as Memphis Skirts Law and Ditches Confederate Statues


While much of Memphis welcomed the removal of park statues, city leaders’ creative solution for getting rid of them incited anger and legal threats.

A group of Rohingya refugees walked to the mainland of Bangladesh earlier this year. Maj. Gen. Maung Maung Soe is the first high-level Burmese military official to be named in sanctions for the continuing deadly crackdown on the Rohingya.

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on 52 People and Entities for Abuse and Graft


The list included Maung Maung Soe, a top Burmese general cited for a continuing deadly crackdown on the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group.

From left, the Nevada rancher Cliven D. Bundy, his sons Ammon and Ryan, and Ryan W. Payne.

Attorney General Orders Investigation After Bundy Mistrial


After a judge declared a mistrial in the high-profile prosecution of Cliven D. Bundy and other antigovernment ranchers in Nevada, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for an inquiry.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that guidance letters are meant only to explain current law, not to create new legal obligations.

Justice Dept. Revokes 25 Legal Guidance Documents Dating to 1975


Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the documents, which interpreted a wide range of federal laws, circumvented the regulatory rule-making process.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at the White House on Wednesday. Thousands of students who say they have been swindled by predatory for-profit universities will soon learn whether their loans will be forgiven by the department.

For Students Swindled by Predatory Colleges, Relief May Be Only Partial


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said her department would start granting loan forgiveness for students bilked by for-profit colleges.

The Benjamin Bar at Trump International Hotel in Washington. The lawsuit accused President Trump of violating the Constitution by continuing to own and profit from his businesses.

Judge Dismisses Suit Against Trump Over Business Dealings


The complaint accused the president of violating the Constitution by continuing to own and profit from his business empire.

A video demonstrating bump stocks was played during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington earlier this month on regulating firearm accessories and enforcing federal and state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Despite Internal Review, Justice Officials Say Congress Needs to Act on Bump Stocks


The department is still examining whether the firearm accessories should be banned, despite the misgivings of its own officials about regulating them.

Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, reached an agreement to allow government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to keep some of their profits as a buffer against future losses.

Mortgage Giants Cut Deal With Treasury to Cover Expected Losses


Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be allowed to keep $3 billion as a capital cushion against losses activated by the Republican tax bill.

A biometric system being tested by the Department of Homeland Security can be used either with a small portable hand-held device or a kiosk equipped with a camera.

Facial Scans at U.S. Airports Violate Americans’ Privacy, Report Says


The Homeland Security Department is grappling with trying to catch foreigners who are illegally in the United States without trampling privacy rights.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will propose legislation next year to close legal loopholes in New York regarding political ads on the internet.

Cuomo Proposes More Disclosure for Online Political Ads in New York


The proposal by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, which closely hews to a federal bill, would require internet companies to reveal who is paying and to show where content comes from.

Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss
Read about how the other side thinks. We have collected political writing from around the web and across ideologies.
From the Right
Michael Graham at CBS News:
“#Resist means no cooperation, no cutting deals, none of the usual give-and-take of democracy.”
Democrats may soon regret that the tax bill was passed along strictly partisan lines, Mr. Graham argues. He contrasts the tax bill with the passage of Obamacare, which he writes “was a fundamental shift in how our government treated health care,” not a dispute over details. Had Democrats not been so loath to cooperate with the party led by President Trump, he writes, perhaps the two sides could have settled on a compromise to “split the corporate tax rate at 25 percent, get rid of the alternative minimum tax (AMT) Republicans hate, but keep the full deductibility of state and local taxes paid by rich liberals in blue states.” Read more »
From the Left
Richard Kim in The Nation:
“What the party-line vote revealed is that the Republican caucus is entirely insulated from the normal populist considerations that ought to prevail in a functioning democracy.”
Mr. Kim points out how unpopular the tax bill was among American citizens before it passed. The procedural and partisan gamesmanship that allowed its enactment, he argues, signals that Republicans in Congress are more compelled by personal and political interest than by representing the will of the people. Read more »
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