When members of Congress return to Washington next week after their long spring recess, both parties plan to focus on passing a spending bill to keep the federal government running past April 28. When Congress returns next week, President Trump wants House Republicans to take up the American Health Care Act again, with a new amendment, so he will be able to point to a concrete accomplishment in his first 100 days in office; his 100th day is April 29.
"Congress usually cannot take on two big things at once," The New York Times says. Five days to pass a spending bill, The Washington Post adds, is "a tight timeline under the most generous of circumstance that would be nearly impossible to meet if House leaders also try to force a vote on the repeal legislation." In theory, Democrats and Republicans could pass a very short-term stopgap spending bill, but a new GOP push to pass the AHCA, which repeals large parts of the Affordable Care Act, would not put Democrats in a very cooperative mood.
The first attempt to pass the AHCA failed very publicly last month. But at a news conference on Thursday, Trump said "the plan gets better and better and better, and it's gotten really, really good, and a lot of people are liking it a lot," adding he thinks the House can pass that as well as a spending bill. "We have a good chance of getting it soon," Trump said of the AHCA. "I'd like to say next week, but it will be — I believe we will get it."
Hopes of passing the health-care bill rest on an amendment negotiated by relative moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) and Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). The draft plan would allow states to seek waivers to requirements that insurers offer essential health benefits and not charge more to people with pre-existing conditions, if the state maintained a high-risk pool. (Jeff Spross has more details at The Week.)
Even if House Republicans get the plan translated into legislative language and get it scored by the Congressional Budget Office, there's no guarantee it would pass. The amendment "really doesn't address the concerns that I had," Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) told The New York Times. Fellow moderate Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) agreed it "does nothing to change my views," criticizing any focus "on an arbitrary 100-day deadline." Peter Weber
President Trump returned Saturday night from his trip abroad to a White House mulling serious changes to contain escalating federal investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Among the changes reportedly under consideration: a reduced role for Press Secretary Sean Spicer; the re-hiring of fired Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski; advance legal vetting of Trump's tweets; and a heftier schedule of press conferences, live social media appearances, and campaign-style rallies permitting the president to speak directly to the media and public.
While Trump was traveling, credible allegations surfaced that his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, attempted to set up a secret communication channel with Russia in December. So far, there is no suggestion of Kushner stepping down. Bonnie Kristian
North Korean state media on Sunday reported the isolated regime has tested "a new type of anti-aircraft guided weapon" under the observation of leader Kim Jong Un.
"This weapon system, whose operation capability has been thoroughly verified, should be mass-produced to deploy all over the country," said the KCNA news agency story, "so as to completely spoil the enemy's wild dream to command the air, boasting of air supremacy and weapon almighty."
This is Pyongyang's third Sunday test in a row; the tests performed one and two weeks ago both used mid-range ballistic missiles. Next week, the U.S. military will test a system for shooting down an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, which is North Korea's stated development goal. Bonnie Kristian
Beekeepers in the United States saw a third of their honeybee colonies die between April 2016 and April 2017, an annual survey finds. That sounds grim, but it's actually a slight improvement over similar assessments in the last decade, in which an average of 40 percent of the colonies died off annually.
"I would stop short of calling this 'good' news," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a University of Maryland professor who is also a project director at the Bee Informed Partnership. "Colony loss of more than 30 percent over the entire year is high. It's hard to imagine any other agricultural sector being able to stay in business with such consistently high losses."
Some of the dead colonies may be salvaged, but the process isn't easy. One bumblebee species was added to the federal Endangered Species List earlier this year, and steady decline of bee populations is a serious and widespread problem that is believed to be linked to pesticide use.
"Bees are good indicators of the landscape as a whole," said Nathalie Steinhauer, who worked on the new survey. "To keep healthy bees, you need a good environment and you need your neighbors to keep healthy bees. Honeybee health is a community matter." Bonnie Kristian
President Trump may be asked to subject his tweets to legal scrutiny before posting them, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday night in a story covering changes to White House procedure Trump will entertain upon his return home from his tour abroad Saturday evening. The tweet vetting would be designed to avoid unforced errors as the Trump campaign and administration undergo scrutiny in federal investigations concerning Russian interference in the 2016 election:
One major change under consideration would see the president’s social media posts vetted by a team of lawyers, who would decide if any needed to be adjusted or curtailed. The idea, said one of Mr. Trump's advisers, is to create a system so that tweets "don't go from the president's mind out to the universe."
Some of Mr. Trump's tweets — from hinting that he may have taped conversations with Mr. Comey to suggesting without any evidence that former President Barack Obama wire-tapped Trump Tower — have opened him to criticism and at times confounded his communications team. Trump aides have long attempted to rein in his tweeting, and some saw any type of legal vetting as difficult to implement. [WSJ]
Many of Trump's critics and supporters alike have repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) urged the president to curtail his tweeting habits, as his posts often come back to bite him politically. Bonnie Kristian
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Saturday said he "would not be concerned" by backchannel communications with Russia, though he declined to specifically comment on allegations that President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner unsuccessfully attempted to arrange a secret communication channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin shortly after the election.
National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Press Secretary Sean Spicer also refused to discuss Kushner at Saturday's media briefing. "We're not going to comment on Jared," said Cohn. "We're just not going to comment."
McMaster did note the U.S. has "backchannel communications with a number of countries," though Kushner was a private citizen and not an authorized representative of Washington at the time when he allegedly spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Kushner's legal team said Friday night he has "no recollection" of the alleged conversation with Kislyak, and he is happy to speak with federal investigators about his role in the Trump campaign. Bonnie Kristian
After an introduction from First Lady Melania Trump, the president began by pointing to a helicopter he could see landing in the distance, wondering if the craft contained Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — or perhaps "Justin from Canada," which is probably a reference to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and not Canadian pop star Justin Bieber.
— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) May 27, 2017
Trump's speech quickly turned to more serious matters, with a lengthy section about "eradicating the terrorism that plagues our planet." He condemned this week's terrorist attacks on concert attendees in England and Coptic Christians in Egypt, vowing cooperation with allies to "confront the shared threat of terrorism."
Toward the end of his speech, the president spoke of honoring fallen American forces on Memorial Day. "There is no peace without those willing to bear the scars and wounds of war," he said. "There is no strength without those brave enough to protect the weak and the people that need protection. And there is no prosperity at home without those willing to shoulder our burdens overseas."
"You are the warriors of freedom," Trump told the assembled troops. "You are the ones who protect the God-given freedoms that are the birthright of every single American child." Watch the entire speech below. Bonnie Kristian
Police evacuated London's Old Vic theater, located near Waterloo Station, during a performance on Saturday in response to an unspecified security threat. The area was isolated as "specialist officers" investigated the scene, but ultimately nothing suspicious was found.
— Rachel Griffin (@Carryonsmiling) May 27, 2017
The false alarm comes less than a week after a suicide bombing in Manchester, England, during an Ariana Grande concert left 22 people dead and dozens more injured. The play that was interrupted is a showing of Woyzeck featuring Star Wars actor John Boyega.
This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout. Bonnie Kristian