Republican push ahead with plans to hinder insurance coverage for abortions

A proposed bill would enforce a far-reaching prohibit on private insurance coverage for abortions under Obamacare, and could see tens of thousands lose out

Republicans in Congress are advancing a bill that imposes a far-reaching prohibition on private insurance coverage for abortion services for as long as the Affordable Care Act remains in effect and would induce permanent a longtime forbidding on the use of Medicaid to cover abortions.

The bill, H R7, would allow Donald Trump to fulfill a promise that helped his volatile presidential campaign procure the support of major anti-abortion rights activists. In an open letter published in September, he vowed to sign the Hyde amendment, a perennial budget rider that Congress has approved every year for 40 years, into permanent law. Since 1976, the Hyde amendment has prevented millions of women who rely on Medicaid, the government-funded insurance for low-income individuals, from utilizing it to cover their abortions.

But if the bill passes, the most immediate changes will be feel on insurance policies exchanges where millions of women buy healthcare coverage.

HR7 prohibits insurance carriers from offering policies that contain abortion coverage on the exchanges set up under Obamacare to sell insurance coverage to people. It proscribes low-income women who qualify for a healthcare subsidy from receiving it if they purchase a healthcare plan that covers abortion. And it would withhold the small business taxation credit from employers who offer policies with abortion coverage.

Critics of HR7 fear it could enforce a widespread forbid on private insurance coverage of abortion by banning abortion coverage in the small subset of private insurance policies that are sold on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

Because many insurance carriers offer policies to individuals on the exchanges that are similar to the group policies they sell to companies, encompassing abortion in one case but not the other requires an extra layer of administration.

Health experts said they could not be certain that would be the outcome.

What that would do to other schemes, we dont actually know, said Laurie Sobel, the associate director for womens health policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, a healthcare think tank. But she noted that after Obamacare began involving health care policies to offer contraceptive coverage, insurance carriers enforced the coverage in the same way across the market for group and individual policies alike.

With very limited exceptions, health insurance companies essentially did the same thing with everybody, Sobel said. That is worrisome in terms of, if abortion coverage was restricted in the marketplace, insurance companies might just adopt that policy across the board.

The ban on using subsidies or taxation credits toward policies with abortion coverage could also consequence significant changes, because carriers could be reluctant to design plans that so many women or small business owners would be ineligible to purchase. In 2016, there were 871,000 uninsured women eligible to buy policies containing abortion coverage use subsidies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Under the bill, tens of thousands more who have already utilized their subsidies to purchase insurance would lose abortion coverage.

The bills restrictions on the health insurance exchanges would cease to apply if and when legislation passed by Republican in Congress repeals the Affordable Care Act. But the bill is almost certainly a preview of the lengths to which Republican will go to restrict abortion when they come to replace Obamacare.

Its a pretty sweeping bill, said Destiny Lopez, a director of All Above All, a alliance of abortion rights groups that opposes the Hyde amendment. Its an attempt to withhold abortion from nearly all women in the US through burdensome regulation intended to stop insurers from covering abortions. It could restrict abortion for nearly every woman in this country in some manner, and do significant damage in particular to low-income women.

Insurance coverage for abortion is already limited in a way that forces thousands of women to pay for abortions out of pocket. Twenty-five nations limit the sale of insurance policies encompassing abortion on their country exchanges. And exchanges in six other states dont offer any plans that encompass abortions, perhaps because Congress imposed extra administrative hurdles under the ACA for abortion coverage.

A 2013 study found that only about a quarter of abortion patients who had insurance used it to cover their procedure. Those who didnt use their insurance overwhelmingly said their insurance did not cover abortion or they werent sure.

The bill would also convert a slew of existing, provisional bans on abortion coverage into permanent law. These include bannings on abortion coverage for women on federal insurance, such as many Native American girls, women in the Peace Corps, in federal prisons, or those enrolled in Medicare or the Youngster Health Insurance Program, and prohibit the towns of Washington DC fromusing its own local funds to subsidize abortion services.

The House of Representatives approved a version of the bill on Tuesday, and the Senate will consider similar legislation next week. But Republicans in that chamber will need to peel off eight Democratic or independent votes for the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. Unless Republican leaders change the Senates regulations to eliminate the filibuster, the fate of the bill may lie with Democrats facing re-election in 2018 in states that voted for Trump.

Were confident that the Senate will continue to be a firewall on this matter, said Lopez.

Also on Tuesday, Republicans introduced a federal heartbeat bill that they say would effectively eliminate abortion, but is less likely to pass even the House.

Despite Hydes longevity, progressive lawmakers in recent years have adopted efforts to see it overturned. Even Hillary Clinton, in her 2016 bid for the presidency, promised to attempt to remove Hyde from future budget bills. HR7, although it does not change the fact that women on Medicaid have long been forced to pay for any abortion services out of pocket, would make it harder for a future Democratic Congress or president to do so.

HR7 is titled the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017. Republican congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey introduced the bill in early January, as he has for several years running.

At an event to announce the bill, Smith said he supports repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, but that it is necessary to restrict the ways in which the law facilitates abortion coverage until that time.

No one knows how quickly the replace proportion will actually occur, Smith said. In the meantime, the unborn child is about to be killed with public funding. We need to enact a ordinance that takes abortion out of[ Obamacare ].

Such articles has been amended on 25 January, 2017, to correct an assertion that the contraception mandate did not apply, initially, to all insurance schemes.

Is Trump moving to the centre on handguns? Don’t hold your breath

The president seemed ready to take on the NRA but experience should construct us wary of his inconsistency and inability to master detail

Donald Trump stunned Washington this week by espousing a series of gun control measures long opposed by the National Rifle Association and most Republicans on Capitol Hill. The predominating question remained how long it would last.

Senate Democrats breathed a sigh of relief on Thursday when they awoke to find Trump had not backtracked on gun control in an early morning tweet. (” Background Checks a big part of the conversation ,” he said .)

But on Thursday night, an NRA executive left the White House with a quite different impression of where the president stood on gun control legislation.

” I had a great fulfilling tonight with @realDonaldTrump& @VP ,” Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, tweeted.” We all want safe schools, mental health reform and to keep handguns away from dangerous people. POTUS& VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, subsistence strong due process and don’t want gun control .”

An hour afterward, Trump tweeted:” Good( Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA !”

The president has been under pressure to reform America’s firearm statutes in the wake of the 14 February high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead. On Wednesday, Trump convened a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators to identify various legislative proposals on what ranks among the most politically contentious issues in Washington.

The discussion was televised for full impact, casting Trump once more as a deal-making chairman willing to buck members of his own party. But to skeptics, the display was reminiscent of Trump’s approach to immigration earlier this year- when he similarly adopted a softer tone before veering back to the right.

” It was just this January where the president held a bipartisan session on a thorny issue, immigration, and seemed interested in find common ground ,” the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, said here on Thursday.” He said he was willing to buck the extremes, and encouraged lawmakers to act .”

” Unfortunately the president was pulled back by the hard right, and avoided a bipartisan proposal from emerging ,” Schumer added.

” That happened several times. That cannot happen on guns .”

For Trump, vacillating constantly between vying policy positions is far from new. As a candidate, Trump repeatedly contracted himself while also doing away with the views he previously held as a Manhattan real estate mogul who donated to Democrats.

Since taking office, Trump has maintained a reliably conservative record and largely acted on the protectionist agenda that defined his presidential campaign.

So when Trump stated his support on Wednesday for universal background checks, taking away handguns from the mentally ill, new age restrictions for purchasing certain handguns, and even flirted with banning certain assault weapons, Republican balked.

” We have the second amendment and due process of law for a reason ,” said Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska.

” Strong leaders do not automatically agree with the last thing that was said to them .”

In one particularly striking exchange, Trump castigated Pat Toomey, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, for resisting a proposal that would raise the age limit for buying certain guns from 18 to 21.

” You know why? Because you’re afraid of the NRA ,” Trump said.

The White House was left doing damage control. Trump’s aides reportedly told Republican on Capitol Hill to recall the immigration debate, when the president appeared to side with Democrat on a pathway to citizenship for young, undocumented immigrants before returning to a decidedly hard-right framework.

Trump’s allies weren’t the only ones describing parallels to the president’s handled with immigration.

Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat who was deeply to participate in immigration talks at the White House, expressed skepticism that Trump’s newfound positions on firearm safety would stick.

” I wouldn’t bet the farm on it ,” Durbin said.

Others gun control advocates were more hopeful.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who has led the fight for stricter firearm laws, said he is anticipated to” take the president at his term “.

” Republicans are feeling the hot even more than ever ,” Murphy said.” This debate is different after[ Wednesday’s] session .”

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I spent two days ingesting news exclusively from the rightwing website and observed its genius lies in the clever packaging of far-right narratives

When Donald Trump hired Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon to lead his presidential campaign, many immediately wondered: what can we expect from the new Bannon-led campaign? And what is Breitbart News?

Bannon has been described variously as the most dangerous political spy in America and the Leni Riefenstahl[ a Nazi propagandist] of the Tea Party motion.

To gain clarity following yet another Trump campaign shakeup, I read Breitbart exclusively for two days, eschewing all other news sources.( The Guardian included. Apart from its soccer coverage .)

It offered an insight into not only the popularity of Breitbart the site boasted 31 million unique visitors in July but also how it appeals to its readers. And its not as simple as you might imagine.

The first thing you notice when visiting Breitbart is its idiosyncratic presentation. Every headline is in capitals. It implies a sense of significance and dire importance.


The last of those phases is an example of how well Breitbart knows its audience.

This doomsday approach makes it seem like Breitbart readers want to feel that everything is rotten. They want to feel irate. They want to feel that catastrophe is impending unless their guys can fix it.

But compared to the caps-lock screaming, the actual articles are quite benign. They could have been published on a liberal news site. Seem at this one from Wednesday, to provide information on the response of Clintons campaign manager, Robby Mook, to Bannon being hired by the Trump campaign.

Mook: Only Fitting For a Bully Like Trump To Hire a Bully To Run His Campaign, it reads.

Mook told us that. Its true. The article itself is opinion-free. It could appear on the Guardian. It simply quotes Mook directly. A later article on the same subject quoted Mook more extensively, then included a replies from Breitbart at the bottom. Thats essentially what any news site would have done.

Thats not to tell Breitbart is objective. It merely pushes its rightwing message with a surprising subtlety.

An extensive profile of Bannon by Bloomberg Politics discloses some of that reasoning. Facts get shares, opinions get shrugs, Bannon tells. And thats largely how it works.

On the front page, at least, Breitbart presents readers with articles it knows will make them angry. The Mook article is a prime example it gives readers an outlet to rip into liberal politicians and liberal media.

If Breitbarts success is from publishing articles that it knows will upset its readers, the key is to publish the tales that present the perfect combination of facts to fuel rightwing fury. For example, a story about homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson, who visited Louisiana following the recent floods, telling Obama could not also attend because he has a very busy schedule. It is true he did say that. But the article is illustrated with a picture of a smiling Obama on a golf course, and the text notes the president is on vacation.

For all the veneer of objectivity, readers are merely presented with stories that further rightwing narrations. Reading it for two days, I learned a number of things I never knew. Many of them about Hillary Clinton.

I discovered that a number of recent tales have focused on questions about Clintons health.

According to articles presented by Breitbart, Clinton is tired and ailing. In a piece about inundating in Louisiana, I learned that Clinton requires extensive rest over the weekends.

From one headline, I learned that Dr Drew VH1s resident celebrity doctor is gravely concerned about her health care.

The message is clear: Clinton is the elderly grandmother who comes round for tea and biscuits and then has to be driven home when she falls asleep in front of Jeopardy.

Apart from Clintons troubling health, I learned that there was a new gun control notion. The notion, according to the Breitbart headline, is to take away guns from senior citizens.

The narrative is actually presented straight. After an examination of the quotes, however, which came from an academic at Johns Hopkins University, the article didnt match the bluster of the headline.

We dont exactly know what to expect yet from the Bannon-led Trump campaign. But its a fair bet that it will be cleverly packaged, well liked by Trump supporters and not very nice.

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Sally Yates firing and Trump cabinet cause partisan ‘bad blood’ to boil over

Republicans hurry-up to defend chairwomen travel forbidding and decision to fire acting attorney general as Democrats boycott Tom Price and Steve Mnuchin votes

A dirty political battle roiled Washington on Tuesday as allies and officials rallied around Donald Trump and his controversial travelling outlaw, while opponents intensified their tactics to thwart his administration at every turn.

Republicans defended the presidents forbid on entry for people from seven Muslim-majority countries and his decision to fire the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, on Monday night for refusing to enforce it. Democrats boycotted referendums on two of Trumps cabinet nominees and braced for a long combat over his imminent pick for the supreme court.

With both sides digging in, there seemed little prospect of an objective to what former chairman Barack Obama once described as the rancour and distrust of hyper-partisan politics in Washington. Trump campaigned on a pledge to fix a broken system.

A Reuters/ Ipsos poll published on Tuesday found that 49% either strongly or somewhat agreed with the executive order, with 41% strongly or somewhat against. However, 41% felt the US was setting a bad instance in how to combat terrorism, versus 38% who said the opposite. And 56% disagreed that the country should welcome Christian refugees, but not Muslim ones.

On Tuesday morning Senate Democrat delayed the consideration of Tom Price, Trumps pick for health secretary, and Steven Mnuchin, his selection for treasury secretary. Democrats refused to attend referendums on the committees tasked with reviewing the two nominees, who rank among Trumps more controversial selections, telling Price and Mnuchin had misinformed them in their verification hearings.

Democrats demanded that Price, a congressman from Georgia, and Mnuchin, a former partner of Goldman Sachs, appear before the committees for further questioning. The theatrics amounted to the only options at the Democrats disposal to block Trumps cabinet appointees from their position in the Senate minority.
Republicans, who in 2013 boycotted a vote on Obamas nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, lashed out at Democrat.
Im very disappointed in this kind of crap, said Orrin Hatch, the Utah senator who chairs the Senate finance committee. This is the most pathetic thing Ive seen in my whole time in the United States Senate I think they ought to stop posturing and acting like idiots.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, branded the Democrat actions embarrassing. He told reporters at his daily briefing: The mere idea that theyre not showing up to hearings is outrageous.

Sixteen of Trumps nominees for government agencies are still awaiting verification, Spicer said, whereas at the same stage in 2009, Obama only had nine yet to be approved.

It remained unclear when the votes might be rescheduled. Democrat could continue to stall indefinitely under regulations requiring that at least one of them be participating for the relevant committees to hold a vote.

Elaine Chao received verification from the Senate to become transportation secretary on Tuesday, however. The Senate energy and national resources committee speedily approved former Texas governor Rick Perry as energy secretary by 16 -7, and Representative Ryan Zinke to head the interior department by 16 -6. They too await verification by the full Senate.

Also on Tuesday New York joined a lawsuit against Trumps executive order brought by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, the Urban Justice Center and others.

Eric Schneiderman, the New York state attorney general, described the order as unconstitutional, unlawful, and fundamentally un-American.

Later on Tuesday the state of Virginia became a plaintiff in a federal suit filed over an incident on Saturday where two Yemeni friends arrived at Dulles airport from east Africa with residency green cards, planning to join their father in Michigan, but were blocked by agents enforcing the travel prohibit and put on a flight back the style they had come. The lawsuit seeks to restore the immigration rights of the brothers and up to 60 others whom lawyers say suffered a similar fate at Dulles at the weekend.

Washington became the first nation to sue the White House on Monday. Amazon, which is headquartered in Washington, pledged support.

At 8p m ET prime time on US television Trump is due to announce his nominee for the supreme court to fill a vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia almost a year ago.

Still bitter over Republicans refusal to consider Obamas judicial nominee, Merrick Garland, last year, Democrats are now in a position to use the same tactics against Trumps choice for the countrys highest court.

Since the death of Scalia, the eight-member court has steered clear of some major issues. Split between conservatives and liberals, it would sway back to the right if as expected Trump makes a conservative choice. Environmental regulation, union rights and healthcare could all be in the balance.

Jeff Hauser, director of Revolving Door Project, described comparings with the controversial 1991 hearing which insured the nominee accused of sexual harassment. “Its going to be” the biggest nomination battle since Clarence Thomas and thats if the nominee comes through the door scrubbed and clean as is practicable, he said

Given the bad blood between the parties, the protests , the growing resistance to Trump, were going to see more activism, more money spent around this nomination. Records are going to be to be prepared by every metric.

The Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, has vowed to fight tooth and nail to keep the vacancy open if Trump nominates a justice who is considered outside the mainstream.

Polarisation has intensified since Trumps executive order, signed on Friday, that denies refugees, immigrants and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries entry to the US, indefinitely shuts US perimeters to refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and prioritises refugee claims on the basis of religious-based persecution, a rule widely interpreted as being intended to favour Christians.

Paul Ryan, the House speaker, defended the move but conceded that it could have been better enforced. The chairwoman has a responsibility to the security of this country, he told reporters. Its regrettable that there was embarrassment on the rollout of this. No one wanted to see people with green cards or special immigrant visas, like translators, get caught up in all of this.

The Republican said he spoke at length with US homeland security secretary, John Kelly, and was confident that he is, on a going forward basis, going to make sure that things are done correctly.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Kelly also devoted full backing to Trump, insisting this is a temporary pause to allow a better review the refugee vetting system. This is not, I recur , not a ban on Muslims, he said.

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Republican senators return to work on healthcare bill amid resistance

At least one Republican senator predicted a consensus was still several more weeks away, and few senators have been willing to defend the bill publicly

Republican senators left Washington more than a week ago without voting time a long-promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act or their unpopular plan to replace it. The GOP lawmakers return on Monday with the daunting task of crafting a bill still very much in front of them, amid swirling doubts concerning the prospect of finding a solution any time soon.

My view is its probably going to be dead, Arizona senator John McCain told CBS on Sunday. I fear that its going to fail.

A vote is unlikely to take place this week, with at the least one Republican senator predicting that his colleagues are still several more weeks away from reaching a consensus on a healthcare replacement. Last week at a town hall, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell compared the process of negotiating healthcare reform with intransigent Republican senators to solving a Rubiks cube.

Im in the position of a guy with a Rubiks cube, trying to spin the dial in such a way to get at least 50 each member of my conference who can agree to a version of repealing and replacing Obamacare, McConnell said. That is a very timely subject that Im grappling with as we speak.

Republicans were not meant to still be grappling with healthcare over the Fourth of July recess. When Trump took office and the GOP kept control of Congress, they laid out an ambitious agenda that included repealing Obamacare as early as January and then moving on to taxation reform and infrastructure.

But intransigent Republican opposition and a groundswell of political activism following the completion of Trumps election derailed that timeline. Now its summertime and with merely a handful of running weeks left before the August recess, the Senate Republican leadership is still searching furiously for 50 votes, a tally that would only push them over the finishing line with a casting vote from the vicepresident, Mike Pence.

The clearest sign of Republican resistance to the bill was how few senators were willing to defend the bill publicly. During the Fourth of July recess politicians typically relish the opportunity to march in patriotic parades and clasp hands with constituents. But this year those appearances were scarce.

And the few Republican senators who made public appearances were met with protests and pleas from constituents concerned about the Republican healthcare plan.

Susan Collins. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/ AP

At a parade in Eastport, Maine, Susan Collins, whose opposition to an initial draft of the healthcare law helped delay the vote, said her constituents were singularly focused on healthcare.

There was only one issue. Thats unusual. Its usually a wide range of issues, Collins told the Washington Post. I heard, over and over again, encouragement for my stand against the present version of the Senate and House healthcare bills. People were thanking me, over and over again. Thank you, Susan! Stay strong, Susan!

Where a Republican senator refused to hold a town hall, voters stimulated their views known. Tens of thousands of liberal activists and concerned constituents turned out for dozens of rallies across the country to recommend their senators to vote no on the healthcare bill. Some groups coordinated protests and staged sit-ins at senators offices, and in Columbus, Rob Portmans constituents held a cookout.

As initially drafted, the Republican healthcare plan would repeal major pieces of the ACA, including the mandate that all Americans buy health insurance or face a penalty. It would also build deep cuts to Medicaid, a joint state-federal public health program for low-income Americans, compared with spending under the current law.

An analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office( CBO) estimated that 22 million people would lose healthcare over the next decade for the purposes of the Republican healthcare plan. In a new report that assessed the plans impact over two decades, the agency estimated that spending on Medicaid under the replacement scheme would be 35% lower by 2036 than under current law.

McConnell has introduced a number of changes, including adding $45 bn to combat the opioid outbreak. Also under consideration is a compromise amendment by Ted Cruz, the conservative Texas senator who opposed the bill because it did not go far enough in repealing Obamacare.

Under the Cruz proposal, insurance companies could sell non-AC-Acompliant healthcare plans as long as they also offered at least one that fulfilled the laws mandates, including coverage for maternity care, mental health treatment and prescription drugs. Though the proposal is gaining traction among conservatives, healthcare experts on both sides of the political debate believe the measure would likely result in prohibitively high costs for comprehensive schemes, which sicker Americans would need.

McConnell sent an update, including the Cruz amendment, of the healthcare plan to the agency, and a new report is expected this week. The CBO is expected to release another analysis sometime next week, a likely indicator that Senate Republican will not vote on the scheme until later this month.

I think we are making steady progress, Cruz told ABC on Sunday. The conversations have been coordinated and in good faith.

If Republicans fail to reach an agreement on a replacing scheme, McConnell said he would work with Democrats to stabilize the insurance markets.

No action is not an alternative, McConnell told constituents at a Rotary Club lunch on Thursday, in agreement with the Associated Press. Weve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.

But Cruz said he agreed with a proposal by Trump seen as unhelpful and unrealistic by many Republican that the GOP should try to repeal Obamacare without concurring a replacing if the Senate bill fails.

If we cant get this done right now, I agree with the president, then lets honor the promise on repeal and expend more time to get it done, Cruz said on Sunday.

I believe we can get it done.

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Republicans for Hillary? Clinton campaign woo those lost by Trump

Prominent GOP figures have forged an array of groups to support the Democrat but some experts doubt the Republican rank and file will follow suit

Hours before Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic presidential nomination at the partys convention in Philadelphia, Doug Elmets strolled on to the stage. Simply 18 months ago, his speech would have been unthinkable.

Its an honor to be here, and candidly, its also a shock, told Elmets, a former spokesman and speechwriter for Ronald Reagan.

The existence of Republicans who support Clinton, such as Elmets, is one of many plot spins in an extraordinary presidential election cycle. Conservative men and women have rejected their natural nominee in favor of a candidate their party has expended two decades tearing down.

With less than 100 days left before election day, the Clinton campaign is accelerating its drive to recruit GOP donors, business leaders and foreign policy experts. According to people familiar with the effort, a visible alliance of independents and Republican backing Clinton will make it easier for conservatives dismayed by Donald Trump to cast their votes for a Democrat.

The Clinton campaign has been preparing for its Republican outreach attempt for months. Around the start of the conventions, it went into gear. Since then , notable Republican, military leaders and one GOP congressman have abandoned Trump and cast their lot with Clinton. Framing their defections as a moral imperative, the converts are advising fellow Republican and independents to set country over party and join them on 8 November.

Donald Trumps demagoguery has undermined the fabric of our national character, Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett Packard and a prominent Republican donor, said in a statement. America needs the kind of stable and aspirational leadership Secretary Clinton can provide.

Whitman was joined this week by billionaire hedge fund director Seth Klarman, who donated to Jeb Bushs primary campaign; GOP representative Richard Hanna of New York; and Sally Bradshaw, a top consultant to Bush who said she would vote for Clinton if the race is close in Florida.

On Friday, Clinton was endorsed by Michael Morell, the former acting director of the CIA, who used a New York Times op-ed to call Trump a threat to our national security and an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.

The Trump campaign did not return a request for comment.

The former Reagan official Doug Elmets and the founder of Republican Women for Hillary Clinton, Jennifer Pierotti Lim, walk offstage after dealing with the DNC. Photo: Scott Audette/ Reuters

Ever since Trump claimed his partys nomination, Republican-backed groups for Clinton have cropped up. Among them are Republicans for Her 2016, founded by the lobbyist Craig Snyder; Republican Women for Hillary, led by Jennifer Pierotti Lim, director of health policy for the US Chamber of Commerce; and a grassroots group, R4C16, led by John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes, former officials in the George W Bush administration.

This year, the threat posed by Mr Trump compels us to consider what many of us never have: supporting the Democratic nominee for President, R4C16 wrote on its website. The group has also documented the backlash its received without converting. If youre a Republican and you vote for Hillary do us all a favor, go straight to Hell! one poster wrote.

It is not just by design that a commotion of Republican are abandoning their party. Trump has had an extraordinarily bad week, beginning where reference is belittled the Gold Star family of a fallen American soldier.

Trump was also described by Barack Obama as unfit and woefully unprepared to become president; initially refused to endorse House speaker Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain in their primaries; falsely claimed to have watched a video presenting $400 m being unloaded from a plane in Iran; expelled a weeping newborn from a rally in Virginia; accepted a purple heart from a veteran though he did not serve himself; indicated his daughter would find another career if she were harassed at work; and seemed unaware of that Russia had invaded Ukraine two years ago. Questions is likewise raised about whether his wife, Melania, had worked illegally in the US before 1996. The work in question was a collecting of nude photos, republished by the New York Post.

This all came after a week in which the Republican nominee for chairwoman called for Russia to hack and release the missing emails from the private server Clinton use while secretary of state, and asserted that Nato member countries should pay their fair share if America was to contribute fully to the alliance.

The noise arising from Trumps self-inflicted disputes virtually drowned out criticism of Clinton for her claim that FBI director James Comey said her past statements about her email use were consistent and truthful. Republican have employed the controversy to raise doubts about her fitness for office and to indicate she operates above the law. Clinton said on Friday she may have short-circuited the characterization of Comeys comments.

Paul Manafort, Trumps campaign chair, has deflected criticism, insisting that the campaign is in good shape. In July, the campaign told, Trump took his largest fundraising haul yet $80 m but his campaign still fights to match Clintons fundraising apparatus.

One veteran Republican consultant, Reed Galen, doubts Clintons campaign can overcome 25 years of mistrust among Republican voters, especially those who remember her husbands administration.

The trend of traversing party lines is happening among GOP elites the establishment kinds and GOP elected officials who are in safe districts or retired, Galen told. I cant consider there being a whole lot of crossover from rank-and-file Republicans.

According to the latest McClatchy-Marist poll, if the election were held today, only 6 % of voters for Clinton would identify as Republican. That number is unchanged from last month, ahead of the conventions. Galen said, however, that this could change dramatically depending on what Trump does in the three months and as many presidential debates remaining before Election Day.

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Hope and change are all but gone. Obama’s got nothing to lose any more | Gary Younge

In his final State of the Union speech, the president was downed swaying against the likes of Donald Trump but he maintained his cautious reputation

The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose, wrote James Baldwin. You do not require 10 such humen, only one will do.

Barack Obama had nothing to lose on Tuesday. It was his final State of the Union address, the last major set piece of presidential theatre for which he would command centre stage. No more presidential elections, midterms or protracted combats with the Republican Congress. The rest of the United States is already seeming over his shoulder to watch his successors slug it out.

For the first time in that role, Obama could speak over the heads of his immediate audience Congress and the American people to address a nation, but also his legacy.

There were brief moments when he sounded like Obama the community organiser from Chicagos south side, speaking up there behind the dais in Washington one last period. He framed his message in terms of the powerless and the powerful, flipping the script on who, precisely, bears responsibility for hard time 😛 TAGEND

Food stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants arent the reason wages havent gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often set quarterly earnings over long-term returns. Its sure not the average household watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts.

But, characteristically, Obama was not dangerous.

He was thoughtful at times, ponderously so. He picked his foes carefully, and with precious little subtlety. The balanced speech “ve had enough” elements of rhetoric around equality and uplift to be worthy of a liberal chairperson, combined with enough braggadocio about American military domination to be worthy of the United States commander-in-chief. He described the kinds of regular people he had helped and named the mean foreign people he had killed. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth, he told. Period.

Obama had nothing to lose but his reputation as a careful, cautious, consensual presence in a fractious, reckless, divided political class. And he wasnt going to give that up easily.

Republicans in general and Donald Trump in particular provided foils for this presidents final calls for unity and cohesion, if not exactly hope and change. His conservative opposition have thrived for so long on anxiety and fiction, it was possible for Obama to seem simultaneously above the fray while scolding Republican for languishing in a rhetorical gutter. Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the social sciences around climate change, have at it, he told, knowing full well that so many sane people stand firm on the evidence while Republican flounder in half-baked theology.

Obama condemns anti-Muslim rhetoric: It betrays who we are

When legislators insult Muslims, he told, knowing that for every person out there who loves Trump, several more detest him, that doesnt stimulate us safer. Thats not telling it like it is. Its just wrong.

You only had to look over Obamas left shoulder at the poker face of the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, to see that this presidents appeals to common citizenship could barely make it out of the conservative-dominated chamber. They wouldnt clap or stand for love( not gay love, anyway ), or peace or economic recovery , nor health care or optimism.

If the state of the union is strong , nobody told the Republicans.

But for all of Obamas swagger, there were moments that revealed his weakness all the same. If American politics are broken after seven years with him at the helm, then that is in no small component, as the man himself pointed out, because he has been unable to fix them. If Guantanamo is still open, as the progressive chairman lamented, its because he was unable to close it. And if hes still explaining the benefits of Obamacare six years later, then something has gone severely awry.

Theres no doubt a chairman with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, he said.

When youve got regrets like that, youve got nothing to lose. Here was a chairperson who was not dangerous, with a speech that was not memorable, that made no new foes nor made any new friends.

And yet Obama attained history because Obamas presence itself is historical. There ran the last State of the Union speech by Americas first black chairwoman. For that reason alone, its not obvious when, exactly, we may hear another one quite like it.

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Rubio launches dubious attack against Schemed Parenthood after indictments

Republican on the defensive after Texas grand jury investigating Planned Parenthood decided to indict anti-abortion activists who prompted the inquiry

Republican presidential nominee Marco Rubio sought to raise questions on Tuesday about the indictment of two anti-abortion activists by drawing a dubious connection between a is part of the public prosecutor office and Planned Parenthood.

I think its fairly outrageous that Planned Parenthood was investigated by some lawyer or district attorney who apparently, according to some news reports, have in fact been a board member of Planned Parenthood and donated to them, Rubio told, responding to a voter question about abortion at an Iowa town hall.

They investigated Planned Parenthood and they said: We determined they did nothing incorrect, he added. But were going to indict the people who filmed them talking about these things. Thats outrageous.

Rubios remarks referred to a Texas grand jury that concluded its investigation of Planned Parenthood by indicting not the womens healthcare provider, but two of the anti-abortion activists who prompted the criminal investigation. The activists, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, use false identities to movie secret videos that accused Planned Parenthood employees of selling fetal tissue in violation of the law. Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast was cleared of any wrongdoing.

The indictments, which the Harris County district attorney announced Monday, set abortion foes like Rubio on the defensive after months of touting the videos in fightings over Planned Parenthoods government funding. But Planned Parenthood was quick to point out on Tuesday that the district attorney in fact has no known connections to their organization.

Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthoods executive vice-president, said that the indictment is a sign political attacks on different groups have largely failed.

I think that is an accurate thing to tell, given the three years of investment they made and the tremendous criminal durations they went to try to harm Planned Parenthood, she said on Tuesday. The breathless reporting for weeks and months around these videotapes rendered an amazing amount of material to refute the charges The Center for Medical Progress has really unravelled.

Rubios attack was likely referring to a Harris County prosecutor in the criminal family statute division, Lauren Reeder. Reeder was a member of the Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast board of directors at the time of the district investigation, a connection that the anti-abortion website has sought to highlight.

But Reeder was not, as Rubio stated, the district attorney who handed down Mondays indictments , nor was she involved in the broader investigation. According to news reports from the time, Reeder disclosed that she was a Planned Parenthood board member shortly after Harris County began its investigation in August. The district attorney, Devon Anderson, constructed Reeders affiliation public and stated that Reeder would not have any involvement in the investigation.

The investigation was requested by Texass Republican lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick. Anderson was appointed to her office by Republican governor Rick Perry in 2013. She won election as a Republican in 2014.

Josh Schaffer, an attorney who represented Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast in the Harris County investigation, said on Tuesday that it was his understanding the district attorneys office created a firewall around Reeder.

Last summer, a group known as the Center for Medical Progress filmed and released a series of sting videos edited so they appeared to show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal tissue in violation of federal law.

In Harris County, the videos inspired an investigation into Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast. Anderson convened a grand jury that wrapped up a two-month investigation on Monday when it indicted Daleiden and Merritt for tampering with a governmental record, a charge that carries between two and 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 penalty. Daleiden received a second indictment under a law proscribe the purchase and sale of human organs, which carries possible incarcerate hour and a fine up to $4,000. The indictment stems from an email he sent to Planned Parenthood offering to buy fetal specimens at $1,600 apiece. Planned Parenthood never responded to his email.

Schaffer, the Planned Parenthood lawyer, said the grand jury did not find enough proof to even vote on indictments for Planned Parenthood.

On Capitol Hill, it is not clear if Congress this year will match the intensity of Planned Parenthood investigators in 2015.

As of October, five separate committees had kicked off their own investigations, and several staged heated hearings with Planned Parenthood executives. But commentaries by Paul Ryan, the new Republican speaker of the House, suggest that those committees may take a backseat as he strives to restore regular order. Ryan said in December that efforts to strip Planned Parenthood of its millions in federal funding will remain a top priority in 2016. Yet he has signaled that he is not willing to allow the House to keep with its pattern of voting repeatedly to defund while Obama is in office.

Abortion foes have made as little headway with investigations in the states. Eleven states have concluded inquiries into Planned Parenthoods fetal tissue donation program without find any evidence of wrongdoing: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Washington. Officials in another eight states California, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia have declined to investigate Planned Parenthood, quoting a lack of evidence of illegal activity.

Undeterred, nearly two-dozen Republican governors and statehouses have taken action to relieve Planned Parenthood clinics that offer contraception and STI and cancer screenings of Medicaid and family planning funds.An executive with Americans United for Life, a legal advocacy group that provides model anti-abortion legislation to country lawmakers, told the Guardian Tuesday that the group would continue to push measures to defund abortion providers. So far, North Carolina and New Hampshire permanently cut off monies.

But Planned Parenthood is opposing most other defund efforts in court. And it has repeatedly won temporary injunctions against nations attempting to kick its clinics out of state Medicaid programs.( States are largely prohibited under restriction a womans option of Medicaid provider .)

Some investigations are still ongoing. On Monday, after the Harris County grand jury declined to indict Planned Parenthood, Texas governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, revealed that two country offices are involved in investigating Planned Parenthood: labour inspectors general of the Texas health department, and the state attorney general.( In October, without publicly acknowledging an inquiry, researchers from the health department ordered Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas to turn over thousands of pages of patient records .)

But at least one state, California, is analyse the Center for Medical Progress. In response to calls by Democratic each member of Congress, attorney general Kamala Harris agreed in July to investigate whether the center violated laws when it registered the fake corporation that activists used as their cover.

It was not the first bad outcome Daleiden and his group have faced in court.

In California, an ongoing suit has set the stage for the identities of the key architects and financiers behind the centers sting to become public knowledge. The names of the centers key bankrollers are still a mystery, although Troy Newman, an extreme abortion opponent who are in favour of violence against providers and clinics, has been identified as a cofounder.

That lawsuit stems from video taken at an annual session of the National Abortion Federation in 2014 and 2015. Activists with the Center for Medical Progress posed as members of a biomedical research firm to obtained undercover footage.

NAF sued Daleiden, Newman, the center, and BioMax Procurement Service, the fake company that served as the activists cover, to prevent the release of any video. It also attempted the identities of the activists who infiltrated the two NAF conferences, as well as the identities of anyone who received a report on the NAF sessions that Daleiden and the center circulated.

Court records indicate that the report went out to key donors and designers of the centers undercover activities. In December, over the centers objections that it was protected by the first amendment, US district judge William Orrick ruled that the center must turn over a list of those names and identities. The US supreme court repudiated different groups appeal.

The list remains confidential to NAFs attorneys. But a NAF spokeswoman said Judge Orrick could make the list public, or it could become public as part of a jury trial.

NAF is now asking the court to take action against Daleiden and his group for disclosing video footage of its annual meeting containing confidential information to Congressman Jason Chaffetz. Chaffetz, a Republican, leads the House oversight and government reform committee, one of several committees investigating Planned Parenthood.

In a separate lawsuit, StemExpress, a biotech firm conducting tissue research, won a restraining order against the center in Los Angeles superior court and has vowed to sue the group over invasion of privacy. The firm had ties to Planned Parenthood, and the sting videos caused the companys CEO to receive online death threats. The restraining order avoids the center from releasing any video footage it took of StemExpress employees.

The Thomas More Society, a conservative legal group representing Daleiden in civil suits, did not respond to requests for comment.

Its been telling that while the defendants have been very vocal in the media saying that they have nothing to hide, in all regions of the suit, they have invoked the Fifth Amendment, and not cooperated with court orders to turn over information, Vicki Saporta, the president of NAF, told the Guardian. Thankfully, these efforts to hide their fraud and dodge discovery have not been successful We hope that the grand jury indictment will be a wakeup call and that legislators will want to distance themselves from this indicted offender and his discredited campaign.

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The Guardian view on Trump and Obamacare: a welcome failure for a damaging scheme | Editorial

Editorial: In spite of controlling the White House and both wings of Congress, the Republicans let ideological obsessions to derail a scheme they have been trumpeting for years

President Donald Trumps failure to repeal Barack Obamas Affordable Care Act is a huge event. It may even eventually be an epochal one. It is huge for the United States, which expends much more on healthcare than most advanced nations( 17.1% of US GDP, compared with 9.1% for the UK ), but where healthcare was profoundly expensive and unequal until the occur of Obamacare seven years ago brought more than 22 million of Americas poorer citizens under its umbrella. It is huge for Americas politics, because Mr Trump had staked his blowhard presidency on his supposedly exceptional ability to do deals my art sort, as he sets it. One of the first and most important of these would be a replacement of Obamacare by a Republican party that controls both houses of Congress and the White House, a scheme now in tatters. It also has implications for Mr Trumps America and its standing in the world, as if Mr Trump becomes a wounded chairwoman domestically which is still not the case, in spite of Fridays failure it will shape the style that the president and other countries decide to play international relations too.

Ever since Mr Obamas Affordable Care Act was signed into statute in 2010, the Republican party has remained obsessed with its supposedly evil repercussions. Unlike the Conservative party in Britain, which chose after the creation of this countrys very differently constructed NHS that it would work with the new state system , not seek to undo it, the Republicans have constructed no endeavour whatever to create a historic compromise with Obamacare. Driven in big portion by their extreme rightwing anti-government activist base and conservative funders who loathe the federal governments involvement in almost anything except military spending, Republicans have instead vied with one another to pledge to kill the ACA and replace it with a cost-cutting alternative. Repeal and replace was Mr Trumps motto on the campaign trail. It was to be the new administrations domestic priority. It would show that Mr Trump can get things done.

Yet on Friday, Mr Trump and the congressional Republican had to admit that their scheme had comprehensively made the wall. It is dead and will not be quickly revived in any form. The failure casts a shadow over the administrations future tax and spending programs too. This is the most serious shame yet for Mr Trumps battered nine-week-old presidency. At this stage it outranks even the courts rejection of his migration forbidding, the resignation of national security adviser General Mike Flynn, the spiralling arguments over campaign links to Russia, the allegations about wiretapping against Mr Obama, and members of the general air of administrative chaos that has now descended over a US government in which only 21 out of 553 key administration postures have yet gone through the confirmation process.

The most important practical reason that the bill failed was because the Republican could not get the scheme that had been cobbled together between the Trump White House and House speaker Paul Ryan through the Congress. That is a striking enough failing. But the deeper reasons for it also matter. Mr Trump had not set enough supposed into the bill. He had also put Tom Price, a Georgia congressman who opposed not just the ACA but also the federal Medicare insurance programme for over-6 5s, in charge of federal health policy, sending a reckless signal. Mr Trump also absence the political skill to build the inevitable political trades that would give him a majority.

But the fundamental reason why the Trump-Ryan package failed was simply that it was a bad scheme about a key programme that would have stimulated things worse for a lot of voters. Repeal and replace was a mottoes , not a policy. If it had become the policy, which hardline Republicans wanted, it would in fact have injury their constituents, many of whom have benefited from the ACA and depend upon its provisions. Many budget hawks in the Republican party, of whom Mr Ryan is often the spokesman, dont care too much about that. They care more about a small country and low taxes for business than about decent healthcare for the poor. Yet they are also clearly happier in opposition than with the responsibilities of government. Even Mr Ryan was not able to persuade some conservative hardliners, while what remains of the moderate wing of the party excavate its heels in too, particularly in those districts that voted for Hillary Clinton last November. Both Mr Ryan and Mr Trump look like damaged goods right now and a good thing too.

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The Resistance Now: big, angry crowd to fight back against Trumpcare

Activists opposing Trumps healthcare bill take the fight to town hall; liberals raise$ 1m for Democratic challengers in 2018; and the GOP loves Bud Light

Republicans duck town hall after voting for Trumpcare…

After working hard to pass a bill that would strip millions of Americans of their health insurance, Congress is taking a well-earned recess for the coming week. The notion is that politicians return to their home districts to satisfy their constituents. But if your representative is a Republican, youll have a hard time receiving them.

According to the Town Hall project, which tracks face-to-face meetings held by members of Congress, merely nine out of the 217 Republican who voted for Thursdays healthcare bill have plans to hold town halls during recess week.

People let Utah representative Jason Chaffetz know how they feel at a town hall in February. Chaffetz has not scheduled any town halls this week, which people may also disagree with. Photograph: Rick Bowmer/ AP

In lieu of the great Republican no-show, Indivisible, a progressive group which aims to use Tea Party tactics to influence politicians, has posted the names and office telephone numbers of every Republican who voted for the bill. Indivisible is encouraging people to call those representatives.

but not all of them

A big, angry crowd is expected at a Tom MacArthur town hall in Willingboro, New Jersey, on Wednesday.

MacArthur, who is a moderate, is being credited with helping to pass the American Health Care Act. He worked with the hardcore conservative Freedom Caucus to get the bill passed. Specifically, MacArthur drafted suggested amendment that would allow states to waive rules that protect individuals with pre-existing conditions being charged more for healthcare coverage.

MacArthur represents New Jerseys third congressional district which voted for Obama twice and only narrowly swung for Trump in 2016. He told the Guardians Lauren Gambino he expects to encounter angry residents, but said he would relish talking to them.

Tom MacArthur. Whats the opposite of healthcare advocate? Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/ Reuters

Liberals raise over$ 1m for Democratic challengers

The passing of the Republican bill has inspired thousands and thousands of people to contribute to Democratic congressional nominees in countries where Republicans are particularly vulnerable ahead of the 2018 midterms.

ActBlue, a Democratic supporting political action committee, has identified 24 Republican congressmen and women who voted for the bill and represent districts where Trump won less than 50% of the vote in 2016. It has set up two fundraising pages and had raised more than $1.3 m by Friday morning

In many districts Democrat have not even proclaimed yet, but ActBlue said the money will be reserved for the eventual candidates.

Theres no accounting for taste

Republicans reportedly celebrated their healthcare #win with cases and cases of beer. In particular, the Bud Light was flowing, according to Vices Alexandra Jaffe. users do not appear to be fans of Bud Light.

Alexandra Jaffe (@ ajjaffe)

Cases upon cases of brew merely rolled into the Capitol on a cart covered in a sheet. Spotted Bud Light peeking out from the sheet

May 4, 2017

This is a generic pint of brew. We would have had to pay to use a picture of a Bud Light. Photograph: Fairfax Media/ Fairfax Media via Getty Images

What were reading

Were sorry for a healthcare-heavy email the coming week, but needs must. Adam Gaffney , writing for us here at the Guardian , describes the Republican healthcare bill as homicidal. Gaffney says that in passing the bill, moderate Republicans proved to be a cheap date as they kowtowed to the hard right Freedom Caucus.

The New York Times editorial board said the way Republican rushed through the bill indicated breathtaking hypocrisy after they had, for years, falsely accused Democrats of rushing the Affordable Care Act through Congress.

Teaching time at Trump Tower

The environmental group 350. org is holding a teach-in at Trump Tower in New York City on Tuesday.

The organization is fostering New York Citys government to divest pension funds from fossil fuel companies, and thereby lead on opposing climate change.

Trump is expected to decide whether to stay in the Paris climate agreement in which 195 nations, including to US, committed to limit global warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels as early as next week.

Activists plan to head to the public terrace in Trump Tower as the name indicates, the terrace is open to the public and the event will feature music, speeches, chanting, teach, merry-making and colorful signs.

Despite visiting New York City on Thursday, Trump is yet to visit his home since the inauguration. He is not expected to attend the teach-in.

Trump Tower on Thursday. The sanitation department trucks are filled with sand and are there to protect the presidents home. Photo: Drew Angerer/ Getty Images

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