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President Donald Trump on Friday tweeted he believed Facebook’s intent to turn Kremlin-linked ads over to congressional committees investigating influence over the 2016 presidential election to be part of what he considered the “Russia hoax.”

The social media site’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday it would turn over 3,000 Russia-linked ads after two weeks on the defensive amid growing pressure from Congress for it to expose Russian propaganda in which fictional people posed as American activists, The New York Times reported.

“The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook,” Trump tweeted before turning his attention to his Democratic rival. “What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?”

The president went on to lambaste what he often calls the “Fake News Media,” which he believed had “the greatest influence over our election.”

The greatest influence over our election was the Fake News Media "screaming" for Crooked Hillary Clinton. Next, she was a bad candidate!

Trump also spent the morning taking swipes at other rivals — namely North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who the president called “a madman” the same week he referred to Kim as “Rocket Man” during an address to the United Nations.

Trump and Kim have repeatedly exchanged heated threats in recent months but Trump’s tweet came after Kim, in a rare statement, called the president a “deranged” individual who was “a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire,” The Associated Press reported.

The president also had words Friday morning for Sen. Rand Paul, who has indicated he could cast a “no” vote on the latest iteration of a bill that would repeal and replace the 2010 health care law.

Trump said any GOP member who did not support the bill would be known on the campaign trail as “the Republican who saved ObamaCare.”

Rand Paul, or whoever votes against Hcare Bill, will forever (future political campaigns) be known as "the Republican who saved ObamaCare."

About an hour later, Paul, a Kentucky Republican, took to his own Twitter account to defend his stance.

“No one is more opposed to Obamacare than I am, and I’ve voted multiple times for repeal,” Paul said. “The current bill isn’t repeal.”

I won't vote for Obamacare Lite that keeps 90% of the taxes & spending just so some people can claim credit for something that didn't happen

The Senate intends to bring to the floor next week another iteration of a health care bill, this time sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

The measure would provide block grant funding to states and repeal parts of the law, but keep in place most of the taxes that were created with it.

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A federal health exchange the government spent over $1 billion to create would likely be made obsolete by the recent GOP proposal to gut the 2010 health law.

Policy experts say the Department of Health and Human Services would still be required to maintain healthcare.gov under the proposal from Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Dean Heller of Nevada.

But the bill would axe a provision in the current law that addresses the website’s role in determining eligibility for insurance subsidies. The removal of that provision, experts say, would likely prevent any state from utilizing it for the purposes of operating their own insurance exchange.

It is unclear though exactly what impact the bill have on healthcare.gov specifically. Several aides and policy analysts said there is still confusion over several provisions of the overall proposal.

Spokespersons for Cassidy and Graham did not respond to questions about the bill’s impact on the federal platform.

The health law required HHS to create what is now known as healthcare.gov, an online platform to allow most consumers to purchase insurance in states that did not opt to create their own exchange marketplace.

The website plays a critical role in administering the law. It is the portal that many consumers use to purchase insurance plans and calculate the amount of subsidies he or she would qualify for.

The office of inspector general at HHS previously estimated that the federal government has issued grants totaling $1.7 billion to develop and operate the marketplace. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has spent $500 million so far, the report said.

In 2014, former HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell told senators the agency had spent nearly $1 billion on the website that year alone.

While the recent proposal from the GOP quartet would drastically upend much of the current law, health policy experts say states could still utilize the healthcare.gov platform under the bill.

“The requirement on HHS to maintain healthcare.gov would remain, and presumably if a state wanted to funnel their block grant/subsidy funds through the exchanges … they could do so,” Chris Jacobs, founder and chief executive officer of Juniper Research Group, said over email on Thursday.

But Tim Jost, emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, said the legislation would repeal the measures in the current law that address healthcare.gov’s role in determining eligibility for tax credits, effectively preventing states from routing consumers to the platform.

That verification system is vital to the current law, and the federal government spent upwards of $73 million developing it, according to the HHS report.

There are several other important features of healthcare.gov the government has spent millions of dollars developing — like mechanisms to secure Social Security numbers and other personal information provided by users.

The onus could now be transferred to the states to create those systems themselves should they choose to create their own insurance exchange. It is considered unlikely that every state would choose to create their own online marketplace and some are expected to instead spend the money on programs like high-risk pools.

But there have been concerns raised over whether there would ample time or resources necessary for states to build their own exchange from scratch if they so choose in the two years allotted before the legislation kicks in in 2020.

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Word on the Hill: Ayotte Joins Bono’s Board

By Alex Gangitano
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Republican senators face the prospect of retreating from their previous public stances in order to support fast-moving legislation that would significantly overhaul the U.S. health care system.

Concerns about the impact on people suffering from opioid addiction, drastic cuts to Medicaid and the lack of robust analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office appear to have vanished as the GOP hopes to advance a bill to repeal the 2010 health law before the fast-track budget reconciliation mechanism they are using expires on Sept. 30.

Lawmakers say any concerns are addressed by the state flexibility included in the proposal from Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Dean Heller of Nevada.

“We have a real problem with [opioid abuse] in our state, obviously, which is why I’ve talked a lot about it,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said. “What our state would find in a Graham-Cassidy situation would be the flexibility to put an emphasis on that and the dollars behind it as well.”

Capito is one of several lawmakers who expressed serious concerns about prior GOP repeal proposals that would have gutted federal Medicaid funding. Under the Graham-Cassidy model, federal money for the entitlement program would drop by billions of dollars over the next 10 years, according to an analysis by consulting firm Avalere Health.

Capito also worked alongside Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and others to add billions more in funding for opioid treatment into previous versions of the repeal legislation. No similar measure is currently included in the Graham-Cassidy bill.

Portman, whose state has been one of the hardest hit by the opioid problem, struck a tone similar to Capito’s.

“Giving the states more flexibility is something I generally have been supportive of,” he told USA Today.

Ohio’s governor appears to disagree.

Graham/Cassidy/Heller/Johnson eliminates the guardrails that protect some of the most vulnerable among us. 2/

While the bill would give states significant leeway to spend federal health care money, many would have to grapple with notable funding cuts over the next 10 years, according to several outside analyses.

By the same token, other states — namely Republican-run states that did not expand Medicaid under the 2010 health care law — would see a partial influx in money from the government. But experts have questioned whether some would be able to effectively manage the increased funding.

Democrats argue that Republicans are asking most states to do more with less, and say the legislation would lead to a significant loss of insurance coverage and increased health care costs for the most vulnerable.

That claim will not be verified or refuted by the CBO before a vote. The office said earlier this week that a full analysis of the proposal would not be available for several weeks.

Voting without that report is something the bill’s sponsor previously criticized.

A bill -- finalized yesterday, has not been scored, amendments not allowed, and 3 hours final debate -- should be viewed with caution.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this article.

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Republican hopes for moving an ambitious tax package in a closely divided Senate may hinge on a number of incumbents on the ballot, including Luther Strange of Alabama, who faces a tough primary runoff on Sept. 26.

The vulnerability of Republican incumbents like Strange underscores the challenges facing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as he tries to hold together at least 50 votes in his 52-member conference to pass a partisan tax plan under a filibuster-proof reconciliation bill.

Senior Republicans praise Strange, appointed in February to the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became attorney general, as a team player. They voice doubts about his primary rival Roy Moore, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, in potentially crucial floor showdowns on taxes and other issues.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn pointed to Moore’s record of being twice removed by a judicial ethics panel in Alabama for defying federal court orders: once in 2003 for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a state building and again last year for urging probate judges to deny marriage licenses to gay couples.

“Getting thrown off the Supreme Court of your state twice I don’t think is a credential that commends you for membership in the United States Senate,” said Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court justice.

Of the prospect for more GOP primary challengers like Moore during the 2018 midterm elections, Cornyn said, “We’ve seen that sort of thing happen before. And it’s not a pretty picture.”

Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University, said a tough political environment would ensure an uphill slog for a GOP tax package.

“I would put the probability of their completing a tax bill at about 30 percent. It is arguably the most complex public policy area, and touches the largest number of interest groups of any issue,” Baker said.

President Donald Trump plans to campaign for Strange in Alabama on Friday, and has recorded a robocall telling voters that Strange is “going to get the tax cuts for us.” On the other side, Moore has criticized McConnell as a creature of the “Washington swamp” and accused the top Republican of running a “slime machine” that fails to reach conservative goals.

The stalled push to uproot the 2010 health care law has angered Republican conservatives and energized primary challengers such as Moore, who are urging GOP voters to hold incumbents like Strange accountable for not delivering legislative victories.

Since Alabama is a GOP stronghold, the winner of the runoff will be the favorite in the special general election against Democrat Doug Jones on Dec. 12 and will serve the remainder of Sessions’ term. The Alabama Senate seat would be up again in 2020.

Steven L. Taylor, a political scientist at Troy University, said Moore or Strange would be likely to weigh home-state concerns first in deciding on components of a GOP tax package.

“The reality is that any tax vote is going to affect different constituencies in different ways. If you have a revenue-neutral bill, that by definition will make the vote difficult. For example, if there’s a reduction in the mortgage interest deduction to pay for a lower corporate rate, that would be difficult,” Taylor said.

Baker believes the GOP base will play a role in the tax debate.

“I would be very astonished if they came up with something heavily in favor of the top 1 percent,” he said about Republicans crafting a tax package. “The party base is really riled up by populists. I don’t think that would be acceptable.”

The Alabama runoff could provide a preview of what lies ahead next year for the eight Senate Republicans up for re-election. Some Trump allies, including former White House strategist Steve Bannon, are considering whether to recruit or assist GOP candidates to the right of incumbents such as Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Dean Heller of Nevada and Roger Wicker of Mississippi next year.

Corker, who has questioned Trump’s competence for the presidency, has said he is undecided about running for another term.

Earlier this summer, Corker helped lead an effort to remove a proposal that would have repealed the 3.8 percent net investment tax for wealthy taxpayers from the Republican bill to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law. Now, the Budget Committee member is making the case for a revenue-neutral tax package, instead of pursuing one that would add to the deficit.

“I’m willing to give them some headroom here on the way things are scored and some of the things that we go through here. But, at the end, I want to make sure myself that it’s going to generate growth, we have broadened the base and, importantly to me, we are not going to do something that is going to increase our deficit,” Corker said Tuesday about a tax bill.

Heller, a Finance Committee member, has voiced support for exploring a bipartisan tax accord, but made clear he would work with party leaders if they opt to move a GOP-only tax plan.

“I’m going to guess that at the end of the day, it’s going to be a partisan exercise,” the Nevada Republican said.

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Politics

McConnell Opens Door to Health Care Vote Next Week

By Mary Ellen McIntire
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