Everything You Need To Know About The GOP Senate Health Care Bill

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On Thursday, Senate Republicans released their discussion draft health care bill after weeks of secret meetings.

The bill, which was marketed as different from the health care legislation passed by the House in May, looks remarkably similar to its predecessor. It’s also complex and hard to understand.

For the less than fluent in health care policy, we’ve compiled a hand guide: everything you need know in one place. The big takeaways: The new bill will negatively affect key demographics, like Americans with substance use disorders, womenseniors and people with mental illness. It includes tax breaks for the rich and for businesses, eliminates the mandate requiring large employers to offer employees coverage, slashes the Medicaid budget, allows states to waive essential health benefits and defunds Planned Parenthood for one year.  

Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know before the bill comes to a vote, as soon as next week: 

The Basic Primer: The Senate Health Care Bill Is An Assault On The Safety Net

As expected, the bill released Thursday amounts to a massive rollback of the federal commitment to promote health care access and would instead pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

Side-By-Side: How The Senate And House Bills Stack Up

The Senate bill does not include some of the particularly harsh aspects of the House legislation, including a provision that would let states end protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Funding For The Opioid Epidemic Would Plummet  

A one time fund of $2 billion for addiction and mental health treatment “is pocket change” said Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.

Deep Medicaid Cuts Would Hurt The 65 Percent Of Nursing Home Residents Who Rely On It

The Senate bill also slows the introduction of these Medicaid cuts, pushing the deepest wounds to the elderly into the future. The changes won’t fully kick in for seven years, which of course is long after the next Senate election. But make no mistake, said advocates for the elderly: When these changes to Medicaid fully kick in, they will pack a wallop.

Access To Preventative Health Care Would Be Blocked For 1.5 Million Women Who Rely On Medicaid And Planned Parenthood

Slashing Medicaid and blocking millions of women from getting preventive care at Planned Parenthood is beyond heartless. One in five women in this country rely on Planned Parenthood for care, said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood.

The Senate Health Bill Is Cruel To Women

Reproductive rights advocacy groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood have pounced on a section of the bill that they say makes it possible for states to basically force some women to go back to work two months after they give birth, at which point many moms are still healing and all parents are very much in the thick of caring for a needy, helpless newborn. 

People With Mental Illness Risk Paying More Or Losing Coverage  

Medicaid is the single largest payer of mental health services in the country. This could potentially leave millions of Americans without coverage that could help them get the care they need, like therapy, for mental health issues.

The Proposed Bill Won’t Attract The Health Consumers It Needs To Pay For Itself 

This is what’s known in the insurance business as a “death spiral”: more and more expensive customers with fewer and fewer healthy ones in any given year to cover the costs. Republicans are fond of falsely saying the Obamacare markets are in this state ― and, however troubled they are, there’s no death spiral ― but their bill is designed to create the exact conditions that cause one.

Without insurance, insulin refills alone costs one diabetic patient $225 every three weeks. The father rationed his medication, choosing to buy diapers, food, and milk for his son first. He ended up in the emergency room over and over again, racking up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills he had no way to pay on his salary.  

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CNN Draws Sean Spicer Like One Of Your French Girls

CNN brought in a courtroom sketch artist to illustrate Sean Spicer’s camera-free briefing — the press secretary will let the illustrator’s craftsmanship speak for itself. Joe Biden called activist investor Bill Ackman an “asshole,” so you can pretty much expect Carl Icahn to bankroll his 2020 presidential campaign. And Donald Trump can’t stop incriminating himself. We swear, if you gave the guy a Cessna with a skywriting smoke dispenser attached to it, vacationers on the Eastern Shore would soon know that he is trying to obstruct a federal investigation. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, June 23rd, 2017:

DEAN HELLER HAS NOTHING NICE TO SAY ABOUT THE HEALTH CARE BILL – He sounded like he’s been reading HuffPost’s health care coverage, tbh. Jeffrey Young: “Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) on Friday offered a harsh assessment of Senate Republicans’ health care bill and vowed to withhold his support for it unless it is altered significantly…. Speaking at a joint press conference with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) in Las Vegas, Heller said the Senate bill must protect states, like his, that expanded Medicaid and preserve gains in coverage that resulted from the Affordable Care Act. ‘In this form, I will not support it,’ Heller said. ‘It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes. They have a lot of work to do.’″ [HuffPost]

PRO-TRUMP GROUP TARGETING HELLER – Matthew Nussbaum: “America First Policies, a group started by some of President Donald Trump’s campaign advisers, is set to launch an advertising blitz against Nevada’s Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who on Friday came out against the Senate’s Obamacare repeal bill without significant changes. Heller is up for re-election in 2018 and is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans in that cycle. The ad blitz is backed by more than a million dollars, according to a source familiar with the planning, and the digital component is set to launch this weekend. The television and radio component will launch next week. Heller, according to the official, has also indicated privately to the White House that he is unlikely to get to ‘yes’ on the current Senate version of the bill.” [Politico]

INSIDE THE OBAMA ADMIN’S ATTEMPTS TO PUNISH RUSSIA – Instead, it turned into a pseudo-apology tour. Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Adam Entous: “Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried ‘eyes only’ instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides…. Obama also approved a previously undisclosed covert measure that authorized planting cyber weapons in Russia’s infrastructure, the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the United States found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow. The project, which Obama approved in a covert-action finding, was still in its planning stages when Obama left office. It would be up to President Trump to decide whether to use the capability.” [WaPo]

 The health care bill is bad, Part I. “You’ve heard consumers say this about their health insurance policies, particularly in the last few years since Obamacare became law. And if you’ve been paying attention to politics, then you’ve heard Republicans promise to bring those deductibles down…. If the GOP proposal becomes law, then it’s likely out-of-pocket costs for people buying coverage through healthcare.gov or one of the state exchanges would tend to be higher, not lower ― unless these people were able and willing to pay even more in premiums.” [HuffPost’s Jonathan Cohn]

The health care bill is bad, Part II. “The legislation unveiled Thursday, which Republicans dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act, aims to preserve the Affordable Care Act’s popular rule forbidding health insurance companies from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions. But the bill also would repeal that law’s unpopular individual mandate that most Americans obtain health coverage or face tax penalties and would significantly scale back financial assistance that helps make health insurance premiums affordable…. In their attempt to appease public sentiment by keeping a widely liked thing, getting rid of a widely loathed thing and scaling back a poorly understood thing, Senate Republicans may have set up their own system to fail.” [HuffPost’s Jeffrey Young]

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DONALD TRUMP IS THE LEBRON JAMES OF SELF-INCRIMINATION – It’s like he has Fifth Amendment Tourette’s. Willa Frej: “President Donald Trump admitted this week that he did not tape his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey despite his earlier tweets suggesting he had. When asked why he did this in an interview that aired Friday, he offered the following perplexing explanation: ′When he found out that there may be tapes out there, whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else, I think his story may have changed,′ Trump said in an interview alongside first lady Melania. ‘I mean, you’ll have to take a look at that, because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events.’ While we didn’t exactly follow his logic, ‘Fox & Friends’ co-host Ainsley Earhardt ate it up. ‘It was a smart way to make sure [Comey] stayed honest in those hearings,’ she said. ‘It wasn’t stupid, I can tell you that,’ he replied, adding, ‘You never know what’s out there but I didn’t tape and I don’t have any tapes.’” [HuffPost]

TRUMP NOT SAVING YOUR JERB – Dominique Mosbergen: “President Donald Trump proclaimed while visiting a Boeing plant in South Carolina in February that he was there ‘to celebrate jobs.’ Jobs is one of the primary reasons I’m standing here today as your president and I will never, ever disappoint you” he told the crowd in North Charleston that day. ‘Believe me, I will not disappoint you.’ On Thursday, Boeing confirmed that it would be laying off workers at the very plant where Trump had spoken so reassuringly five months ago. The aerospace company told CNNMoney that about 200 jobs at its facilities in South Carolina would be cut.” [HuffPost]

WHAT IS REALITY, ANYWAY? KELLYANNE CONWAY REFLECTS – The White House advisor definitely playing into the commander-in-chief’s strong belief that he is living in a simulation. Sam Levine: “Kellyanne Conway, a top adviser to President Donald Trump, attempted to spin a question about Russian interference in the 2016 election by saying people who questioned whether Trump could win had actually meddled with the campaign. ‘The president has said previously, and he stands by that, particularly as president-elect, that he would be concerned about anyone interfering in our democracy,’ she told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Friday. ‘We saw a lot of people interfering with our democracy by saying he couldn’t win here at home.’” [HuffPost]

TRUMP A GIFT TO INTELLIGENCE – Not the kind you’re thinking about, though. Nada Bakos: ”Trump’s Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency. Usually, intelligence officers’ efforts to collect information on world leaders are methodical, painstaking and often covert. CIA operatives have risked their lives to learn about foreign leaders so the United States could devise strategies to counter our adversaries. With Trump, though, secret operations are not necessary to understand what’s on his mind: The president’s unfiltered thoughts are available night and day, broadcast to his 32.7 million Twitter followers immediately and without much obvious mediation by diplomats, strategists or handlers.” [WaPo]

JUDGES FINES KOBACH Sam Levine: “A federal magistrate judge fined Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) $1,000 on Friday for misrepresenting the content of documents he was photographed holding while meeting with President Donald Trump, but will allow Kobach to continue to shield the documents from the public. The ruling came in connection with a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union over a Kansas law requiring people to prove their citizenship when they register to vote. As part of the lawsuit, the ACLU sought documents Kobach was photographed holding when he met with Trump in November that contained proposed changes to the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. Kobach argued the documents were not relevant to the lawsuit, but the ACLU argued they were because Kobach’s proposal of amendments to federal voter registration law signaled he did not have the authority to implement a proof of citizenship requirement.” [HuffPost]

BILL ACKMAN’S BAD BET ON VERBAL-STRIFE – Bill Ackman is definitely the guy who responds to “a-dollar-a-day” charity infomercials by wondering why the children don’t just invest in a solid emerging market fund. Charlie Gasparino and Brian Schwartz: “Some say former Vice President Joe Biden is too old to run for president in 2020, but he still knows how to throw a verbal punch — just ask financier Bill Ackman…. [D]uring a private VIP dinner…the question of why Biden didn’t run for president in 2016 was raised once again…. Biden explained that part of the decision stemmed from the death of his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015. The room grew quiet as Biden became emotional, and said: ‘I’m sorry…I’ve said enough.’ That’s when Ackman blurted out ‘Why? That’s never stopped you before.’ The formal, and understated dinner conversation suddenly turned tense, according three people who were present and confirmed both the substance and the wording of Biden’s responses. Biden, these people say, turned to someone seated near him, and asked, ‘who is this asshole?,’ a reference to Ackman.” [Fox Business]

Joe Scarborough has a new music video. Please don’t ask us why.

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR – Here’s a gorilla splashing about in a tub of water.

COMFORT FOOD

– A trip inside a World War Two B-17 Flying Fortress.

– The richest person in each state.

– Acquaint yourself with Justin Trudeau’s socks.

TWITTERAMA

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Despite More Losses, Democrats Say They Can Win The House In 2018

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WASHINGTON ― House Democrats lost two special elections this week, meaning they’ve lost four consecutive special elections since Donald Trump became president. But they’re still feeling good about taking control of the House in 2018.

“Momentum is real. We can win back the House in the fall,” said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “History is on our side.”

He told reporters during a call Thursday that Democrats are primed for victory in 2018 despite this week’s defeats, which included Democrat Jon Ossoff’s high-profile race against Republican Karen Handel for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. For starters, he said, Trump’s favorability is below 50 percent ― and, in some areas, even 40 percent.

“No president that’s been below 50 percent has ever picked up seats in their first midterm,” Lujan said. “We know the president’s approval rating will drag down Republicans going into 2018.”

It doesn’t help Trump that he appears to have admitted he’s under federal investigation for possible obstruction of justice. And he’s currently trying to usher an extremely unpopular bill through Congress that would strip health benefits from millions of people while cutting taxes for rich people.

Beyond that, Democrats expect a surge in pick-up opportunities in the midterms. There are 71 Republican-held districts that have fewer GOP-leaning electorates than Georgia’s 6th District, which has long been a conservative stronghold, according to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter IndexThe fact that Ossoff lost by 3.8 percentage points when, per historical trends, he should have lost by more than 20 points, is a victory of sorts for Democrats.

DCCC executive director Dan Sena conceded that “a loss is a loss” in Georgia, but pointed out that all four special elections this year ― the others being in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina ― were in solidly GOP districts that never should have been in play for Democrats. And in each case, Democrats exceeded expectations. 

“Republicans are spending more money than they have ever had to spend to defend special election seats,” Sena said. “We are going to make Republicans fight for every single inch next year. We have already shown our ability to do that.”

It’s a rather rosy picture given that Democrats just keep losing. And beyond polling and data, Democrats will have to resolve some internal fighting if they plan to present a unified front. This week’s losses spurred a fresh round of finger-pointing on Capitol Hill, with some Democrats saying they signal that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) needs to step aside.

“We need a winning strategy, and I think the first step to getting to a winning strategy is a change in leadership,” Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) said Thursday on CNN.

“We have to look at this very soberly and seriously now, because we are coming off just loss after loss after loss,” she said. “I don’t want to sit in a room and hear the conversation that, ‘Guess what? We’re not losing as badly as we did a year ago! Isn’t that great?!’ No.”

Pelosi has weathered calls for new leadership in the past ― and in the handful of cases where someone in her caucus has gone up against her, they have lost. Her respond to critics this time around is basically the same: Bring it on.

“My decision about how long I stay is not up to them,” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill, adding that she welcomed the prospect of a fight. “I love the arena. I thrive on competition, and I welcome the discussion.”

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This Couple Is Having A Republican Health Care Bill Reveal Party!

This expecting couple is having a reveal party! Not to discover the sex of their child, but rather to find out what’s inside the GOP’s health care bill that no one has read.

Everyone has been beside themselves with anticipation, awaiting the revelation of the Republicans’ very secretive health care bill. What is it??

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Donald Trump's Comey 'Tapes' Flop Is Just His Latest Self-Inflicted Controversy

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President Donald Trump admitted Thursday he actually doesn’t have recordings of his private conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, putting to rest a weeks-long controversy entirely of his own making.

Trump kicked off the frenzy in May, just a few days after he abruptly fired Comey. Anticipating the ousted official would soon share his side of the story, Trump hinted he had “tapes” of their meetings that should make Comey think twice about what he says publicly. 

Despite calls from both sides of the aisle to release any such recordings, Trump and his staff played coy. White House press secretary Sean Spicer repeatedly refused to say whether recordings existed, while deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn’t say if a recording system even exists in the White House. 

Trump himself teased the matter as something he would reveal to the public “in the very near future.” 

But as pressure grew for Trump to release recordings if they exist — including from the House intelligence committee, which is investigating potential collusion between Trump’s campaign associates and Russian officials to influence the 2016 election  — the president finally admitted Thursday that he doesn’t have any tapes.

“I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” he tweeted.

Beyond hurting his credibility, the May tweet undeniably made the Russia investigation worse for himself — it directly contributed to the appointment of a special prosecutor, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to oversee the case. 

As Comey revealed while testifying before the Senate intelligence committee earlier this month, Trump’s tweet prompted him to leak details of his meetings with the president to the New York Times.

“My judgment was, I needed to get that out into the public square, and so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter,” Comey explained.

Comey also said he had a specific goal in mind when leaking his detailed memos about their conversations.

“I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel,” he said. 

That’s exactly what happened, one day after the New York Times reported on Comey’s memos. 

It’s just the latest example of Trump finding himself in a mess of his own making. In just five months as president, he’s also tweeted his way into courts blocking his executive orders, raised credibility-damaging theories about voter fraud and whether Trump Tower was wiretapped by the previous administration and prompted questions of whether he obstructed justice. 

Here’s a look at some other self-inflicted Trump controversies. 

His first days in office were overshadowed by his boasts over his inauguration crowd size.

As photos at the time clearly showed, there simply weren’t as many people at Trump’s inauguration as there had been at previous ceremonies on the National Mall. Nevertheless, Trump boasted of his “record” crowd size, claiming his was the best-attended in history. While this was a flagrant lie, Spicer spent his first press briefing room appearance defending the claim and accusing the press of misrepresenting the truth. 

The whole matter overshadowed the president’s first week in office, as the White House scrambled to defend the claim, regardless of the facts. (White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s now-infamous claim of “alternative facts” was born during this controversy.) 

His own tweets and comments helped lead courts to block his travel ban.

Multiple courts considering Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel to the U.S. from six Muslim-majority countries cited the president’s tweets while arguing that the ban is unconstitutional. 

“[T]he President recently confirmed his assessment that it is the ‘countries’ that are inherently dangerous, rather than the 180 million individual nationals of those countries who are barred from entry under the President’s ‘travel ban,’” read a ruling the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit handed down earlier this month, citing a Trump tweet. 

Trump’s words also helped lead a court to block his order attempting to cut off federal funding for so-called “sanctuary” cities. In that ruling, handed down in April, a federal judge cited past Trump comments to illustrate the true intent of the order.

He fired Comey in part because of the Russia probe, which in turn added fuel to the investigation. 

Firing Comey arguably made the Russia investigation much worse for Trump. The move prompted calls from both sides of the aisle for an independent investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. And as Trump himself told NBC News’ Lester Holt, he considered “this Russia thing” when deciding to terminate the FBI director, further raising questions about whether Trump was interfering with the investigation by firing the man leading it. 

Trump also made the investigation worse for himself in several ways. According to Comey, he suggested the FBI end its investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, asked Comey to pledge his loyalty to the president and urged him to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation. All of those allegations, which Comey laid out in his Senate testimony, have raised the possibility that Trump attempted to obstruct justice. 

He made unfounded claims about voter fraud and whether former President Barack Obama surveilled his Manhattan residence — both of which hurt his credibility. 

While Trump’s short tenure has so far been marked by hundreds of falsehoods, there are two unsupported claims that have stood out as the most potentially damaging to his credibility.

The first is his assertion that millions of non-citizens voted in the 2016 election.

While there is no evidence to support that claim, there’s now a White House commission investigating it. That audit was recently scaled back due to a lack of funding.

The second is his unsubstantiated claim that Obama’s administration wiretapped Trump Tower.

While intelligence agencies and congressional investigators said no such wiretapping happened, Trump repeatedly stood by the claim until abruptly distancing himself from it in May.

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Police Chief Urges 1-Day Suspension For White Cop Who Kicked Handcuffed Black Man's Head

An Ohio police chief has recommended a 24-hour suspension for a white officer accused of kicking a handcuffed black man in the head ― a burst of violence an internal review called “unreasonable.”

Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs wrote in a June 14 memo to the city public safety director that Officer Zachary Rosen should serve the disciplinary period over the course of three work days, The Columbus Dispatch reported Wednesday.

The police department wouldn’t elaborate on Jacobs’ recommendation.

“It’s an ongoing discipline case and we won’t be able to comment,” Sgt. Rich Weiner told HuffPost.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said no decision on discipline for the officer has been made. 

“While the Chief of Police has made a recommendation for discipline in the use of force case involving Officer Rosen, the Director of Public Safety will make the final decision under the current FOP contract,” Ginther said in a Wednesday Facebook post. “I have every expectation the Public Safety Director will discipline Officer Rosen in a manner that holds him accountable for his actions, and I expect the final decision to be made as quickly as possible.”

Rosen became a lightning rod of controversy after witnesses shared cellphone video of the April 8 incident on social media. The video shows an officer restraining 26-year-old Demarko Anderson when Rosen walks up and kicks the suspect in the head.

Anderson, who appeared to be complying with the officers, was found in possession of drugs and a firearm, police said.

The video garnered national attention and drew protesters to the city. Rosen was taken off patrol.

Columbus police in May said an internal review showed Rosen’s actions appeared to be “outside of policy” and “unreasonable.”

“If the fear of a weapon and the threat of death were real, it makes no sense that Officer Rosen stood around after the apprehension and did not search Mr. Anderson for weapons,” Deputy Chief Thomas Quinlan wrote in an investigative report, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

“If the fear of a weapon and the threat of death were real, it makes no sense that Officer Rosen stood around after the apprehension and did not search Mr. Anderson for weapons.”
Deputy Chief Thomas Quinlan

The incident happened less than a month after a grand jury declined to indict Rosen and another officer in the unrelated shooting death of 23-year-old Henry Green.

Authorities said Rosen and the other officer spotted Green, who was black, walking down the street with a firearm last summer. Green ignored commands to drop the gun and fired on the officers, police said. The cops shot Green seven times, killing him.

WOSU Radio reported the police department’s firearms review board is still reviewing the shooting of Green. That probe could take up to eight months.

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David Lohr covers crime and missing persons. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow him on Twitter. 

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Democratic Chatter Grows About Ousting Nancy Pelosi

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Recriminations have begun flying among Democrats in the wake of stinging special election defeats in Georgia and South Carolina on Tuesday, which may not bode well for the party’s efforts to win back the House in 2018.

Democratic lawmakers and political operatives are venting at just about everything. But the latest target of their frustration over failing to wrest a seemingly winnable district in Georgia appears to be House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

“This is something that we certainly have to discuss,” Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said during a Wednesday interview on CNN, when asked whether Pelosi should step down as minority leader and make room for fresh voices.

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) also told CNN it was “time for Nancy Pelosi to go.”

Both Moulton and Rice opposed Pelosi in last year’s House Democratic leadership election, casting their ballots instead for Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan as minority leader. While Pelosi won, 44-year-old Ryan received a significant amount of support ― 64 votes to Pelosi’s 134 votes.

But it isn’t only previous Democratic critics of Pelosi who are calling for a change. Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), who supported Pelosi in the leadership election, argued the minority leader had contributed to Democrats’ loss in Georgia.

“I think you’d have to be an idiot to think we could win the House with Pelosi at the top,” he told Politico on Wednesday. “Nancy Pelosi is not the only reason that Ossoff lost. But she certainly is one of the reasons.”

Republicans aired numerous ads against Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the Georgia race, that cast him as beholden to Pelosi and what the GOP characterized as her big spending liberal values from San Francisco. National Democrats and Ossoff’s campaign, however, refrained from reciprocating with equally unpopular GOP leaders like President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Democrats gambled on peeling affluent, educated GOP voters in the suburban Atlanta district away from Karen Handel, the GOP candidate. They came close ― the historically conservative district swung heavily away from Republicans, but they lost anyway.

Neera Tanden, a Hillary Clinton confidante and the president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, expressed her frustration with the Democrats’ strategy in the race Tuesday night on Twitter.

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Let's Break Our Current Political Intolerance

The shooting in Alexandria, Va., that nearly killed Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) could have been a horrifying massacre. That it wasn’t was a miracle, a combination of good fortune and valiant heroism, and frankly, pure luck.

We have seen much too much carnage resulting from wanton gun violence in our country. All too often, the shooter is mentally unstable. Yet not only was this shooter estranged from his family and society, he was also riled up by the hate and reckless language of our current political discourse.

This shooting should be a wakeup call for all of us concerned about today’s nasty political rhetoric.

But instead of tamping down the political rhetoric as House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have called for, there are those who are seeking to politicize this tragedy by compounding the blame and hate. For instance, there is now an argument being made that the “left” is prone to political violence, driven by criticism of President Donald Trump. And we all know that the “right” is often vilified in generalized terms whenever an attack against vulnerable groups, such as Muslims or LGBTQ individuals, takes place.

The ‘left’ is prone to political violence, driven by criticism of Trump, and the “right” is often vilified in generalized terms whenever an attack against vulnerable groups takes place.

So who’s right? Are the attacks being perpetrated by individuals incited by dangerous political rhetoric, or are they just deranged individuals? The answer is probably somewhere in between. Prudence would therefore dictate that stopping the use of reckless language in our politics would play a role in reducing the chances for political violence.

When I ran for Congress this past election cycle, I knew that every time I stood up in front of a crowd or posted a message on social media, it would be viewed by thousands of people. I knew that my words would have an impact way beyond that of just an individual expressing an opinion. As someone seeking elected office, my words had the power to influence the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of voters.

There is a core responsibility that comes with that power. It is the responsibility to choose words carefully in order to ensure that one is bringing out the best in our fellow citizens, not the worst.

But our current political culture doesn’t seem to value this behavior, and we are at a low point, casting generalized blame against entire groups — ethnic, religious, political — for the behavior of individuals. The moment we are now living in therefore requires a different type of political discourse. We need leaders who are willing to speak truth to power, and to do so in a manner that engages rather than offends.

We need leaders who are willing to speak truth to power, and to do so in a manner that engages rather than offends.

The sad tragedy of our current moment is that rather than being motivated by the possibility of what we can do together as a society, our politicians are articulating a vision of what we can’t do and what we’ll stop the other side from doing. The concept of “we” is rapidly disappearing.

The result is that Americans are more skeptical about what we can do collectively now than ever before.

Or are they?

In a collective act of peaceful defiance against the Alexandria shooting, a record number of Americans attended the congressional baseball game the next night, raising more than a million dollars — also a record. The fans sat mixed in purple, red and blue clothes to demonstrate that we are all one, united against violence, particularly when it’s justified in the name of politics.

I’m a Democrat and my wife is a Republican. While we have political differences, those are just some of our life’s views; they are not the entirety of who we are as people. And on that night, our daughters got to see their mommy and daddy both rooting for opposite teams while enjoying the night together. That type of acceptance is the kind of example we want our girls to see.

We need a political environment where debates are intense but where the love of country and respect for each other is sacrosanct. 

We all have a responsibility to reject the politics of hate and the media environment of inflammation.

When we complain about the devolution of our political culture and how the media and partisans are making our politics toxic, what we really have to be asking is: What role do we as individuals have in this outcome?

Apparently there’s quite a market for outrage and finger pointing. If there wasn’t, such rhetoric wouldn’t pervade the airwaves.

We can therefore either choose to reward finger pointing and outrage by voting for politicians who traffic in this toxicity, or we can reject them. We can choose to either boost the ratings of broadcasters who call for anger rather than education, or we can turn them off.

We all have a responsibility to reject the politics of hate and the media environment of inflammation. Sadly, and despite the Alexandria shooting, we are not doing enough.

Joel Rubin is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and is a Member of the Town Council of Chevy Chase. This piece originally appeared in the Washington Jewish Week. Click here for more information about Joel.

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NASA Has Found Hundreds Of Potential New Planets

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Scientists are now one step closer to answering whether life exists on other planets.

NASA released a list of 219 new “planet candidates” discovered by the Kepler space telescope, 10 of which are similar to Earth’s size and may be habitable by other life forms. The announcement Monday marks the end of Kepler’s search for planets orbiting other stars in the constellation Cygnus, bringing the telescope’s tally to 4,034 planet candidate discoveries.

Of those discoveries, scientists have verified 2,335 as planets. More than 30 of those confirmed planets are similar in size to Earth and in their star’s “habitable zone” ― the range of distance from a star where liquid water could pool ― while around 20 others that fit that description remain unverified, according to NASA. 

Most of the planets they discovered are smaller than Neptune, which is about four times the diameter of Earth, Kepler research scientist Susan Thompson said at a press briefing Monday in Mountain View, California.

This survey catalog will be the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy’s most compelling questions: How many planets like our Earth are actually in the galaxy?
Susan Thompson, Kepler research scientist

Monday’s findings inch closer to solving one of humanity’s great cosmic mysteries, she said. 

“This survey catalog will be the foundation for directly answering one of astronomy’s most compelling questions: How many planets like our Earth are actually in the galaxy?”

Beyond the additions to the Kepler catalog, scientists working on the mission revealed Monday that they’ve identified two distinct groupings of small planets, which range in size from Earth to Neptune. 

About half are similar to Neptune in size and composition in that they have thick atmospheres and are mostly gas with “no surface to speak of,” Benjamin Fulton, a doctoral candidate who analyzed Kepler’s findings, said Monday. The other half are similar to Earth in size and are rocky with little to no atmosphere. 

Discovering that distinction “sharpens up the dividing line between potentially habitable planets and those that are inhospitable to life as we know it,” Fulton explained, likening it to “the discovery that mammals and lizards are separate branches on the tree of life.”

It also revealed the likelihood that those rocky, potentially habitable planets are usually no bigger than 75 percent larger than Earth, he said. 

Monday’s NASA announcement marks Kepler’s eighth release of data after a four-year mission and years of analyzing the findings. Since 2014, Kepler has been on a second mission to find more exoplanets in different areas of the cosmos.

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U.S. Distaste For Turkish Leader Erdogan May Have Reached 'Tipping Point'

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WASHINGTON ― Rising American criticism of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spurred hopes that the U.S. will take a tougher line against his repression, according to a top opposition Turkish lawmaker.

“They can do more,” Hişyar Özsoy, a parliamentarian associated with Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, known as HDP, told HuffPost recently during a stateside visit to meet with members of Congress and Trump administration officials.

Powerful Republicans and Democrats criticized an attack by Erdogan’s security personnel on protesters during his visit to the U.S. in May. U.S. authorities have since taken the unusual step of announcing criminal charges against the foreign officials. This month, the House passed a unanimous resolution condemning the guards’ behavior. 

“Every single one of them voted for it,” Özsoy said of the House resolution. (More than 30 members of the House did not vote; no lawmakers voted against the resolution.)

“For quite some time, the U.S. administration as well as politicians have been trying to somehow manage Erdogan, to ease his anxiety,” Özsoy continued. “But it seems that they are fed up, I think, and this was, they’re angry not simply because of this attack, but this was kind of a tipping point, and it seems that they are saying enough is enough, we are not going to tolerate you and manage your anxieties anymore, and you need to behave.”

Some Turkish officials believe the U.S., their ally in the NATO alliance, has underestimated their concerns about an attempted coup against Erdogan last year, and the growing power of a Kurdish militant group called the YPG, which is working with the U.S. against the Islamic State in Syria.

Erdogan sees the YPG as an extension of a movement called the PKK ― a Kurdish organization responsible for hundreds of deaths within Turkey and still engaged in conflict with the government. Both Turkey and the U.S. list the PKK as a terror group.

But U.S. officials say they’re confident the YPG will not threaten Turkey with its new American weaponry. And compassion regarding the coup has waned because of Erdogan’s response ― fresh attacks on the press (Turkey is the world’s most prodigious jailer of journalists) the firing of tens of thousands of ordinary people, and assaults on opposition politicians.

Erdogan’s post-coup state of emergency seems to “target criticism, not terrorism,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said in March. Humanitarian groups say the government overreach exacerbates problems caused by a brutal years-long crackdown in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeastern regions.

Erdogan has responded to international criticism with anger. “What kind of a rule, what kind of a law is this?” he said in reaction to the charges against his bodyguards. The Turkish leader has also grown closer to Russia, a move analysts say is meant to signal that he does not necessarily need Washington’s support.

American decision-makers should see that there is now no value in compromising to soothe Erdogan, Özsoy said. He wants U.S. officials to step up criticism of heavy-handed Turkish government actions, like the imprisonment of his party’s leaders, and challenge talking points from Turkey’s lobbyists, like the claim that Erdogan is open to peace with the PKK after having consolidated his power as president in a controversial recent referendum.

“At best, they can be forced to have some kind of negotiations,” the lawmaker said, referring to Erdogan and the ultra-nationalist, anti-Kurdish factions in Turkey’s military and politics, with whom the president has aligned in recent years. 

The harsh rhetoric about Erdogan and broad support for the Kurds on both sides of the aisle suggests that more Capitol Hill pressure may well be possible. 

Asked whether he believes President Donald Trump’s stated admiration for Erdogan will make it hard for the U.S. to challenge Turkey, Özsoy said he believes the president’s domestic troubles over Russia will make it hard for him to truly shape U.S. foreign policy.

“Even in the U.S. where the president is so powerful, foreign policy decisions are not based on whether the presidents like each other personally or not,” he added. “If Erdogan is investing in the Trump administration, I can say that he will be disappointed.”

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Source: Huff Politics