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 signed a directive Monday aimed at refocusing "America's space program on human exploration and discovery." The directive signals the administration's intention to send "American astronauts back to the Moon, and eventually Mars," spokesman Hogan Gidley clarified earlier in the day to Reuters.
Despite America having already checked the moon off its to-do list in 1969, Trump said "this time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond." Watch Trump's full comments below, and read James Poulos explain why the most important thing Trump can do is take us to Mars at The Week. Jeva Lange
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) December 11, 2017
White House says 'the American people knew' about Trump being accused of sexual harassment and 'voted for the president' anyway
The White House responded to several of President Trump's accusers coming forward on Monday for a "round two" of sexual harassment allegations by saying that the "American people knew this and voted for the president" anyway.
The White House has firmly and continually denied that Trump sexually harassed women even though U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told CBS on Sunday that Trump's accusers "should be heard." In a statement Monday, the White House added: "These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year's campaign, and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory."
In response to a question on the same topic Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "In this case the president has denied any of these allegations, as have eyewitnesses and several reports have shown those eyewitnesses also back up the president's claim in this process. And again, the American people knew this and voted for the president and we feel like we're ready to move forward in that process."
Despite denying the women's accusations, Sanders also said: "This took place long before [Trump] was elected president. People of this country had a decisive election, supported president Trump, and we feel like these allegations have been answered through that process." Watch below. Jeva Lange
Sarah Sanders addresses allegations of sexual assault and harassment against President Trump: “The American people knew this and voted for the President” https://t.co/QVQSoaIjrr
— CNN (@CNN) December 11, 2017
The America First Project, a self-described super PAC of attack dogs for President Trump's agenda, sent a 12-year-old girl from Virginia to interview Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore in a move described by Bustle as "somewhat questionable." Moore is accused of having pursued, and in one case assaulted, teenage girls as young as 14.
The America First Project's Jennifer Lawrence says in the video that "after everything that's happened in this Alabama Senate race up until this point, we thought it was important … to bring Millie [March] here to show that there's a wide range of people who support Judge Roy Moore." It's not the first time the young interviewer, Millie March, has appeared in an America First Project video — her rave review of Trump's agenda at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) went viral last February.
March wanted to know if Moore would help Trump build the wall, what issues are important to Alabama voters, and what characteristics make a good senator. Some parts went better than others:
This part of this ad definitely has potential to get taken out of context....
Millie March: "Which age groups are supporting Roy Moore right now?"
Moore campaign manager: "I wish I could say it was the 11 - 12 year olds right now..."https://t.co/TUaMswAhov
— Alana Abramson (@aabramson) December 10, 2017
Watch the full interview below. Jeva Lange
A Nebraska Republican National Committee member submitted her resignation Monday in protest of the RNC's support of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Politico reports. Moore is accused by a number of women of having pursued — and in one case assaulted — them while they were teenagers.
"I strongly disagree with the recent RNC financial support directed to the Alabama Republican Party for use in the Roy Moore race," said the committeewoman, Joyce Simmons. "There is much I could say about this situation, but I will defer to this weekend's comments by Sen. Shelby."
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said this weekend that while he'd "rather see the Republican win … I couldn't vote for Roy Moore."
Simmons submitted her resignation to RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on Friday. "I will miss so many of you that I knew well," Simmons said in her email to colleagues Monday, "and wish I could have continued my service to the national Republican Party that I used to know well." Jeva Lange
Watch out, windmills.
A new report published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience warns that wind farming could be seriously affected by climate change, as high rates of carbon emissions lead to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thus trapping more heat on the Earth's surface. The resulting increased temperatures would reduce wind output in the global north while likely increasing it in the south, the scientists explain.
Using climate models and projections employed by the U.N., the researchers predicted that Japan, the central United States, and the U.K.'s wind energy industry would see significant losses in wind output if carbon emissions continued at high rates. The central U.S. would lose nearly 20 percent of its power alone, while Japan and the U.K. would lose 10 and 5 percent respectively.
The study did note "substantial regional variations" in its calculations, explaining that the "northern mid-latitudes" experienced more "robust responses" to carbon emissions, while wind power in the southern hemisphere was less distorted by climate change. The Guardian notes that wind in the northern hemisphere is fueled by severe temperature differences between the cold Arctic region and the warmer tropics, which means that a warmer Arctic would reduce wind output.
In the southern hemisphere, however, climate change could actually lead to more wind in regions like eastern Australia, eastern Brazil, and West Africa because of the temperature increase of coastal lands in comparison to ocean waters.
"We found some substantial changes in wind energy, but it does not mean we should not invest in wind power," said Kristopher Karnauskas, an assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Read the full study at Nature Geoscience. Kelly O'Meara Morales
A 32-year-old private investigator in Louisiana has pleaded guilty to attempting to use President Trump's Social Security number to access Trump's tax returns through a U.S. Department of Education financial aid website, The Associated Press reports. Jordan Hamlett was indicted in November 2016, arguing in court that he had no "intent to deceive" when he made an effort to access then-candidate Trump's tax records several weeks earlier. Hamlett claimed that his attempts to obtain the returns had been motivated "out of sheer curiosity."
Federal agents initially questioned Hamlett two weeks before the presidential election and were unaware at the time if his attempts to access Trump's tax returns had been successful or not. The agents "feared a public release of Trump's tax returns could influence the election," AP writes.
Trump's tax returns have remained a tantalizing mystery for many opponents of the president, as Trump is the first commander in chief in decades to refuse to release the forms. Hamlett's lawyer, though, argues that his client was operating as a "white hat" hacker, and that Hamlett had tried to notify the IRS about the vulnerabilities in the system. Hamlett faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Jeva Lange
Kim Jong Un is building an arsenal to rain missiles from the sky — and apparently those aren't his only celestial ambitions. USA Today reported Monday that North Korean state media claims Kim has the ability to manipulate the weather.
After the supreme leader made his way up to the peak of Paektu Mountain, an active volcano on the border of China and North Korea, a blizzard apparently stopped in its tracks. North Korea's state newspaper Rodung Simun said that the "fine weather" atop the volcano was so paradisal as to be "unprecedented" — proof that the "peerlessly illustrious commander" could bend the weather to his will. Perhaps even more impressive was that Kim's black leather shoes apparently remained unscuffed after his arduous climb.
The Kim family has a special connection with Paektu Mountain. It is said that when Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, was born, so too was a new star, while a double rainbow appeared in the sky over the volcano. In 2009, snow apparently melted on the mountain's peak during Kim Jong Il's birthday, prompting observers to claim "that even the nature and the sky unfolded such mysterious ecstasy in celebration of the birthday of leader Kim Jong Il."
The younger Kim, then, has apparently inherited some of the superhuman abilities of his father, who was supposedly the author of more than 1,500 books and six of the world's superior operas. Kelly O'Meara Morales