GOP’s Message On ObamaCare Is Us Versus Them

Do you want to be known as the Republican who killed the repeal of ObamaCare? That’s the question every GOP senator will weigh over the next week, and it’s an integral part of the Republican leadership’s strategy to get the prized legislation a step closer to President Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to force a vote this week, despite complaints from conservatives that his draft bill doesn’t really repeal ObamaCare —  and deep reservations from centrist Republicans that it goes too far.

Trump badly needs a legislative win and will be pressing hard for Republican senators to toe the line. So will McConnell, as the vote could be a legacy-defining moment for the longtime GOP leader.

Skeptical GOP senators can expect to hear the argument that they need to advance this legislation, with the promise that it will be fixed later in the House.

Such is the nature of the game, says GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

“All of this may seem like a ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ for some Senate Republicans, but this is what they signed up for,” he said. “Some will certainly have to man up and walk the plank, but that is the nature of the beast.”

Read more from Bob Cusack and Ian Swanson at The Hill 

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Pelosi Sings Her Own Praises As Questions Mount About Leadership

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., launched into an aggressive defense of her performance in the job Thursday as pressure grows from within her party to explain a string of special election losses and map out a strategy for the future—a future that some say should not include her.

“I feel very confident in the support that I have in my caucus,” Pelosi said at her weekly Capitol Hill press conference.

The 77-year-old has represented San Francisco in Congress for 30 years, and she has served as either minority leader or speaker since 2003. In that time, she has come to represent pretty much everything Republicans hate.

According to Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, Pelosi provides the GOP with an effective coastal elite bogeywoman now that Hillary Clinton is off the stage.

“Most Republicans are rooting for Pelosi’s political survival…. We’d be a fool to jump in front of a runaway train when it’s benefiting us,” he said.

“Trump is not as toxic to the rest of the country as Nancy Pelosi and ‘San Francisco values,’” O’Connell said.

O’Connell conceded that Pelosi is a prolific fundraiser, but he warned money and hatred of Trump will not be enough for Democrats to retake the House in 2018.

“They have the money,” he said. “What they don’t have is the message to mobilize people.”

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at WJLA

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Senate Dems: GOP Health Bill Secretive, In Contrast To Obamacare

The secretive way in which Republicans are drafting the current health care bill bears no resemblance to how Democrats put together Obamacare seven years ago, Senate Democrats argue. 

With only a few weeks remaining before the make-or-break August recess deadline, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have bemoaned the back-room crafting of Senate Republicans’ American Health Care Act, a draft of which could come as early as Thursday.

Most Senate Democrats agree with that sentiment. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the difference between Republican and Democratic handling of health care “night and day.” Perhaps the primary voice of Democratic resistance, Schumer recently called for a full meeting of the Senate to discuss the bill. Not only was that request denied, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also questioned what, exactly, all the fuss is about.

Conservative strategist Ford O’Connell lent credibility to McConnell’s original point, noting the primary Democratic goal was to gum up the works.

“There is no question that Republicans could be more open on this,” he said, “but we also know that, when it comes to something as complicated as health care, nobody can have their negotiations in public because you’re never going to get to a ‘yes.’” O’Connell went on to call the closed-door Democratic process of seven years ago “the same thing” happening today.

One difference O’Connell noted between the two scenarios, however, is the majority numbers in both the House and Senate. In 2010, Democratic majorities in the House and Senate were 76 and 18, respectively; in 2017, Republicans control those respective chambers by only 45 and four. The AHCA, which passed by a razor-thin 217-213 House vote on May 4, faces an even slimmer margin of error in the Senate, especially with moderate Republican senators like Susan Collins.

“[Democrats] will get primaried if they vote for health care reform, at least as it is understood right now,” said O’Connell, in his explanation of why there is limited interest in supporting a measure that has President Trump’s approval. “What they’re hoping to do is to run out the clock before the 2018 midterms and fire up their base.” 

Read more from Ford Carson at RealClearHealth.com

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Lawyer Says Donald Trump Will Address Mystery Of The Tapes By Friday

This week could bring an end to the ongoing mystery of whether tapes of President Trump’s White House conversations with former FBI Director James B. Comey actually exist — or it could lead to the White House being hit with a congressional subpoena.

Trump for weeks has teased the issue in a reality show-style cliffhanger despite requests from multiple congressional committees for copies of any such recordings or transcripts. But he may end the suspense this week, according to his attorney.

It all stems from the president’s May 12 tweet: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

During Comey’s June 8 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he testified that Trump pressed him to drop the FBI investigation into former White House aide Michael Flynn, Comey said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

Friday is the deadline set by the House Intelligence Committee for the White House to produce “any White House recordings or memoranda of Comey’s conversations with President Trump (that) now exist or have in the past.”

If Trump’s answer is a signal that no such recordings exist, despite the intrigue created around the prospect of recorded conversations, Trump is unlikely to face legal or political consequences for dragging out the matter, GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said.

Legally, “the only thing that matters is, will he be charged with obstruction? Nothing else matters” O’Connell said.

“Politically, the people who don’t like him still won’t like him, and the people who support him will still support him.”

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at the Boston Herald

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U.S. Supreme Court Mulls Trump's Travel Ban, But Decision Remains Unknown

The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing the fate of President Donald Trump's travel ban. But it remains unknown what the outcome will be.

Just six weeks after coming into office, Trump signed an executive order in March that would ban citizens of six Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States for a period of 90 days. The Trump administration says it needs the 90-day window to better ascertain the supposed terror threat coming from these nations. The countries in question are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - countries that were initially cited by the former Obama administration as "countries of concern."

Critics of the ban call it unconstitutional, while supporters say the White House and Congress should be, by law, deciding national security policy, not the courts.

On Monday Trump's ban lost a battle in the 9th circuit court, and the executive order is now being weighed by the Supreme Court, which has the final say on whether Trump's ban is constitutional.

Some experts said that, based on history, there's a high likelihood that the lower court ruling will be overturned, and that the Supreme Court will rule in Trump's favor.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua the Supreme Court's decision will be very close, and will rest on the most moderate judge in the court, Anthony Kennedy.

"The question you have to ask yourself is, if this executive order went through under (former) President Obama...would it pass muster? A lot of people in the legal community think it might," O'Connell said, speaking of former President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

O'Connell said what's been frustrating for the Trump administration is that "they want to use all tools necessary to stop a threat that appears to be metastasizing around the world, and essentially what the Democrats are saying is 'well, we should just continue with our course of action.'"

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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Insurer Exits Bolster GOP Case For ObamaCare Repeal

The departure of insurers from ObamaCare is emboldening Republicans, helping them make the case to the public and to each other that the time has come to repeal the law.

In recent weeks, insurers in many states have grown skittish about offering ObamaCare plans in 2018, raising the possibility that large swaths of the country will be left without a coverage option on their exchanges next year.

Insurers are blaming the Trump administration for their proposed premium increases and their reluctance to offer plans. They say White House officials are wreaking havoc on the market by refusing to state whether they will continue to make cost-sharing payments meant to offset the cost of enrolling lower-
income enrollees. 

Amid the blame game, bad headlines for ObamaCare have been piling up.

“For the past four to five years, ObamaCare has had bad approval ratings,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. Now that the law has become popular, members are searching for a way to jolt their fellow Republicans into action.

“A lot of Republicans want to deliver,” but they want to make sure the public is on their side, O’Connell said.

Read more from Nathaniel Weixel at The Hill

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‘Trump Is The Last Best Chance To Get Things Done’

Despite calculated Democratic distractions and media attacks, President Trump has signed more bills into law at this point in office than four of his predecessorsbesting former Presidents Barack ObamaGeorge W. BushBill Clintonand George H.W. Bush. So says House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy himself.

“Considering that President Trump is getting hit with slings and arrows from all sides including from within his own White House, he is counterpunching and deflecting far better than the press and Democrats think. Trump’s chief concern now is to get congressional Republicans to stop being scared of their own shadow and pass his pro-growth agenda,” Ford O’Connell, adjunct professor at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, tells Inside the Beltway.

“That said, President Trump could make his life easier by expanding and bolstering his communications shop so that his message is more streamlined and consistent. As for Twitter, Trump needs to start tweeting with a message-specific purpose and cease the stream-of-consciousness tweets, particularly when they relate to ongoing investigations and matters before the courts. In politics, there are a lot of things you can’t control, but to be successful you should control what’s in your grasp. If you do that, the rest will take care of itself,” Mr. O’Connell continues.

“Contrary to media reports, a good number of Trump’s core supporters recognize the president’s mistakes and shortcomings. Most previously voted for Bush 43 or Mitt Romney, some voted for Obama. But what unites them is a belief that Trump is the last best chance to get things done in a Washington that no longer represents them,” says Mr. O’Connell. “What fuels these folks is a press corps obsessed with Russia, a Democratic Party kowtowing to an inflamed left-leaning base and smug Republican elites who are all hell-bent on taking down Trump. In other words, it is the venom of this motley consortium that keeps Trump’s grass roots support thriving. As strange as this may seem, welcome to the new normal in politics.”

Read more from Jennifer Harper at The Washington Times

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James Comey Cloud Hindering Trump's Agenda

President Trump worked this week to revive his legislative agenda and kick off his administration's pursuit of an infrastructure overhaul, but the attention devoted to former FBI Director James Comey's congressional testimony demonstrated how difficult it will be to get back on track.

Trump's efforts to expedite legislative priorities that had stalled amid controversy included a meeting with House and Senate leaders on Tuesday, which was followed by a private dinner with a handful of national-security-focused Republican lawmakers that evening.

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, said the GOP could be running out of time to notch any legislative accomplishments before the midterm elections sweep some Republican House members out of office.

"Congressional Republicans have to grow a backbone. They have to realize that, in terms of numbers, it's not going to get any better than it is right now," O'Connell said of the House majority. "You've got to produce some deliverables, basically."

Trump's top two legislative priorities — an Obamacare overhaul and tax reform — have hit roadblocks in the House and Senate thanks to dissent within Republican ranks about the direction of those policies. And this week, administration officials piled on a third policy initiative by announcing its renewed push for an infrastructure package before the end of the year.

"When we talk about Obamacare and we talk about tax reform or tax cuts, these are not just Trump items that are just separate from the GOP agenda like, say, the wall might be," O'Connell noted. "These are items that [Republicans] promised no matter who the president is."

Read more from Sarah Westwood at the Washington Examiner

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THE MEMO: Washington Braces For Comey Hearing Impact

James Comey’s appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday will be the most dramatic congressional testimony in decades. 

Comey, who was fired as FBI director last month, could inflict real damage on President Trump with his testimony — and for a few hours, he’ll have the nation’s full attention. 

Broadcast TV networks, as well as their cable counterparts, have cleared their schedules to provide wall-to-wall live coverage of the hearing, which is set to begin at 10 a.m. CNN has even started a countdown clock.

Comey has said it will be the only public testimony he will give on recent events, according to the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr (R-N.C.).

The feverish atmosphere ahead of the former FBI director’s appearance is unlike anything seen in Washington in decades.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell suggested Democrats could be overestimating the effects of Comey’s testimony.

“There is only one question that matters for the president, and that is, ‘Is James Comey going to say he obstructed justice?’ ” he said. “According to ABC News, he is not going to do that.”

But with all eyes in Washington on the hearing on Thursday, the stakes could hardly be higher.

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill

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Republican Lawmakers Wonder When It's Time To Ditch Trump

Republican lawmakers face a big decision: Should they continue to ride with President Trump in hope that his poll numbers improve or abandon him to save themselves in the 2018 elections?

Trump's presidency is off to a rocky start. His job approval rating is flailing below 40 percent in the latest RealClearPolitics national polling average. The White House looks chaotic. The Republican legislative agenda is mired in Congress. The Russia investigation has started heating up with the appointment of a special counsel and ominous headlines every day.

Congressional Republicans publicly criticized Trump's handling of the firing of FBI Director James Comey and are growing impatient with the outrage du jour, though most GOP politicos still request anonymity to discuss the president candidly. "[Y]ou have this White House that is lurching from crisis to crisis, image of disarray," said a Republican pollster. "They can't get their hands around the basic day-to-day agenda."

Next year, all 435 House members and a third of senators are up for re-election. The Senate map favors the Republicans, but the GOP controls just 52 of 100 seats. Its position in the House could be more precarious. Republicans have a 24-seat majority, which includes 23 members representing districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Some of them are already starting to panic.

"You can watch how closely you hug him, but I wouldn't run away from him," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist. "Trump may not be everyone's cup of tea, but he is the cup of tea."

"These aren't lifetime appointments," O'Connell said. "If you can't get it done now, with a Republican House, Senate and White House, when are you ever going to be able to get it done?" He says Republicans suffer from "paralysis by analysis" but will pay a bigger price if they do nothing.

Read more from W. James Antle III, David M. Drucker at the Washington Examiner

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