GOP Warms Up Obamacare Repeal Before Trump Sworn In

Republicans used the first two weeks of the new Congress to pry open the door to Obamacare’s repeal, even before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in.

But now the hard part begins, with GOP-led committees racing to draft legislation that dismantles President Obama’s politically maligned law, while following the famous doctors creed: Do no harm.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan has assured skittish rank-and-file Republicans that GOP leaders and the incoming Trumpadministration are “in sync” on plans to shift from the Affordable Care Act to a plan that replaces heavy federal mandates with market-oriented reforms, though the party hasn’t put a replacement bill on paper.

The risky strategy has emboldened Democrats, who say their political rivals are jumping off a cliff without a safety net for 20 million people who gained coverage under Obamacare, which expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor in 31 states and doles out taxpayer-funded subsidies to qualified persons seeking private plans on web-based exchanges.

“They’re going to pull up every single person who lost insurance and put them on the nightly news, and be able to manipulate public opinion,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist.

So far Republicans leaders appear undeterred. They’re using a fast-track budget process to repeal and replace as much of the law as they can in the first several weeks of Mr. Trump’s administration. And they’re counting on the incoming president to issue administrative actions that smooth the transition away from Obamacare.

Read more from Tom Howell Jr. at The Washington Times

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‘Hard’ Talk Brings Backlash For John Lewis

The weekend’s bitter feuding between Georgia U.S. Rep. John Lewis and Donald Trump has deepened Washington’s partisan divide as the president-elect prepares to take office, with Republicans defending Trump while Bay State Democrats and others doubled down for the civil rights legend.

The latest political storm — highlighting Democrats’ questions about the legitimacy of Trump’s election — began Friday when Lewis said he was skipping an inauguration for the first time since joining Congress three decades ago.

Republican commentators attacked Lewis for questioning the legitimacy of Bush as well. Democrats meanwhile voiced outrage, given Lewis’ stature as a civil rights advocate who marched at Selma, Ala., with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — whose legacy is being honored this weekend.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, said, “This is as low as I have seen Democrats stoop in quite some time. Basically they are trying to push this narrative that Trump is not a legit president and they can’t get traction with it, so they are trying to shroud themselves in the race card and civil rights by trotting out John Lewis to make the case, hoping that Trump explodes.”

Read more form Chris Villani and Kathleen McKiernan at The Boston Herald

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Stars Snub Fans With Donald Trump Snits

Hollywood’s shots at President-elect Donald Trump during the Golden Globes last night demonstrate a smug myopia among stars whose ratings and box office success are reliant on millions of middle Americans who voted Trump into office, commentators said.

Among the quipsters were Meryl Streep, host Jimmy Fallon — who was skewered on Twitter for a softball interview with Trump during the election — and Hugh Laurie, who won best supporting actor for his role in “The Night Manager,” in which he plays a billionaire arms dealer.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, who’s provided political commentary for entertainment outlets such as E! and People Magazine, said such politicizing is bad business.

“What La-La Land hasn’t grasped is that when they break into these petulant temper tantrums, they insult half of America, which is pretty stupid for Hollywood’s bottom line,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell cited underwhelming returns for projects by entertainers critical of Trump, such as Jennifer Lawrence’s film “Passenger,” which did only $130 million of the $300 million needed to turn a profit. Lawrence penned an angry online screed after Trump’s election.

“At the end of the day, you might not like Trump, but half of America does,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Jack Encarnacao at The Boston Herald

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Trump Blasts Away From New Bully Pulpit

Donald Trump’s unprecedented use of Twitter is giving him a bully pulpit like no other — and that’s something that is already causing trouble for his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill, as well as Democrats. 

This week, Trump criticized the House GOP's priorities for attempting to gut an independent ethics body before the new Congress was even sworn in. Trump’s tweets, combined with angry calls from constituents, forced the Republican conference into a U-turn only hours later.

On Wednesday, the president-elect implored Republicans to “be careful” in their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump said the law was so flawed that it would “fall of its own weight.”

Another Republican strategist, Ford O’Connell, cited Trump’s criticism of House Republicans on the ethics office as emblematic of his approach.

Trump’s tweeting is so effective “because his own voice comes through,” O’Connell said. “It is a direct line to his supporters, a direct line to the media and a direct line to his party members. When it comes to telling Republicans to slow down” — as was the case on the ethics issue — “they are heeding him with a tweet, versus him having to call up 300 members of Congress.” 

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill

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Obama, Trump Clash Over Who Is Calling The Shots

What began as a surprisingly cordial rapport between President-elect Trump and his Democratic predecessor has devolved into an occasionally bitter public feud over who should be calling the shots as President Obama prepares to cede his power to someone with a fundamentally different plan for the country.

Although he has just three weeks left in office, Obama has pursued an aggressive slate of foreign policy moves, environmental rules and executive orders in an attempt to tie up the loose ends of his policy agenda before Trump can begin to dismantle it.

Meanwhile, Trump has already begun to pursue his own agenda — a course that has repeatedly brought him into direct conflict with the sitting president.

"There's no question that Trump is a unique animal, but what Obama is doing is unprecedented," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist.

"You'd have to go back to 2008 and sort of see the transfer of power between Bush and Obama," O'Connell said. "Obama was grabbing headlines left and right…and in a lot of ways, Bush kept quiet and went off into the sunset."

O'Connell said the incoming and outgoing presidents seem locked in a struggle for control of the media narrative with their escalating political moves and rhetoric.

"I do think that part of it is a battle for attention, which is unprecedented," he said.

Read more from Sarah Westwood at The Washington Examiner

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Confirmation Battles Brewing For Trump's Key Cabinet Picks

Determined Democrats are digging in for tough confirmation battles against President-elect Donald Trump’s picks for attorney general, secretaries of state and treasury, and head of the EPA, even as the brash billionaire is putting together a “war room” to fight back.

“Some of these could get downright nasty,” Republican operative Ford O’Connell told the Herald. “The Democrats are hoping it’s made for TV and obviously the Trump guys are going to have to be very strategic about the order in which they send these folks up to the plate.”

Democrats have been quick to slam many on the Trump nominee list.

With a majority of 52 Republicans controlling the Senate, Democrats will face tough odds, barring a yet-undiscovered smoking gun scandal, experts said.

But Democrats can still use the televised inquisitions to rally their base, define policy priorities for the new year and, of course, raise their profiles.

But Trump and Senate Republicans have another advantage: They’ll control the timing and sequence of the nomination hearings.

That’s important, O’Connell said, because it’s unlikely Democrats will be able to whip up outrage and protest for every single Trump nominee. That may mean Trump will put his strongest nominees up first, hoping Democratic opposition will eventually peter out.

Read more from Chris Cassidy at The Boston Herald

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Confidence In Victory Hastened Clinton’s Defeat, Experts Say

Speaking to a gathering of Democratic donors on Thursday night, Hillary Clinton placed blame for her election loss on two people, FBI Director James Comey and Russian President Vladimir Putin, but her critics say Democrats should spend more time looking inward, as well.

Campaign headquarters was reportedly so fixated on data showing a healthy 5-point lead in Michigan that warnings from officials and volunteers in the state that more needed to be done were not heeded. At one point, union volunteers heading from Iowa to Michigan were sent back because the campaign was more concerned with putting Trump on defense in Iowa than playing offense in Michigan.

Chasing the prospect of an electoral landslide, Clinton expended resources in longshot states while campaign workers in Michigan were struggling to get any attention from headquarters at all.

“They were just an over-confident bunch in every way,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

O’Connell saw signs of trouble for Clinton, though.

“What the Clinton campaign missed, one of the biggest weaknesses, was overall, particularly with the Rust Belt, she didn’t have a strong message, and essentially she was nearly tone deaf with those folks,” he said.

Democrats scoffed at Trump’s promises to bring jobs back, but his message on trade resonated while Clinton’s support for free trade landed with a thud.

“At least he was selling those voters something.”

O’Connell also questioned Clinton’s confidence, given how strong of a showing Sen. Bernie Sanders had in the Rust Belt state primaries.

“Sanders was the one who told you… He was connecting with the very people in the Democratic Party who were pissed off,” he said.

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at Sinclair Broadcast Group

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Donald Trump Hosts Silicon Valley Titans In Latest Bid To Turn Antagonists Into Allies

A powwow with Silicon Valley titans Wednesday was the latest maneuver by President-elect Donald Trump to heal wounds inflicted during the rough-and-tumble campaign on players he likely will need on his side once he takes office.

The meeting at Trump Tower with high-tech business leaders who backed Hillary Clinton and actively opposed the Republican candidate followed Mr. Trump’s pattern of turning antagonists into allies. He also has repaired relationships with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The banter was a 180-degree turn from some of the heated rhetoric on the campaign trail.

The “tech roundtable” included Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, a newspaper Mr. Trump regularly tangled with during the campaign, and Apple CEO Tim Cook, whose company Mr. Trump denounced for not helping the FBI unlock an iPhone used in a terrorist attack on an office Christmas party last year in San Bernardino, California.

Mr. Trump also pressed Apple to make more iPhones in the U.S., and he worried executives across Silicon Valley with his talk about cracking down on visas for foreign workers, upon which many high-tech firms rely.

“I see it as a smart move to bury the hatchet as early as possible. It is a very necessary move,” said Republican Party political strategist Ford O’Connell. “You’ve got to bring them to the table because if you are going to boost economic growth and put people back to work, the tech industry is one of the places where you’re going to do it.”

“Things do change,” Mr. O’Connell said. “People who were enemies become friends or people you need to work with.”

Read more from S.A. Miller at The Washington Times

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Is Donald Trump Already The President?

President-elect Trump has spent the month since his election victory engaging in some distinctly presidential-style behavior, including engaging with businesses on behalf of the American people, conducting a bit of foreign policy, and delivering sweeping public addresses — all before he holds the authority of the presidency.

With weeks to go until he takes office, Trump's moves have tested the limits of his unofficial powers as the president-in-waiting. And although his activism has drawn scrutiny from detractors, his favorability ratings have hit new heights on the heels of several high-profile successes.

"I don't think it's normal for a president-elect to be out and about like this, but this is the era of Trump, and he is literally rewriting the rules," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist.

"Things always change when you actually are sworn in, but at the same time, he is taking advantage of this and throwing his weight around while he's got the momentum," O'Connell added.

O'Connell argued Trump is simply fulfilling his promise to shake up Washington by conducting his transition differently than previous presidents-elect.

"I think that a lot of Trump's critics are suffering from Obsessive Trump Disorder," he said. "There's a fear out there that he might actually be successful."

Read more from Sarah Westwood at The Washington Examiner

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Confirmation Politics Boost Mitt Romney’s Cabinet Bid

Mitt Romney remains a top contender for secretary of state after his glowing praise of Donald Trump and offers a potentially drama-free ride to confirmation for a president-elect still looking to fill his most important Cabinet post, political strategists said.

“Here’s what Mitt has over the other candidates — how much political capital does Donald Trump want to spend on a confirmation hearing?” asked GOP operative Ford O’Connell.

“Mitt Romney would be able to sail through a confirmation hearing. ... The rest of the Republicans — even the ones who don’t like Romney — at least see him as a pragmatic statesman.”

A Trump spokesman said yesterday that the position of secretary of state had been narrowed down to four candidates with no timetable for an announcement. The short list includes Romney, former CIA Director David Petraeus, Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Read more from Chris Cassidy at The Boston Herald

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