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The House of Representatives on Thursday voted narrowly to do away with the Affordable Care Act, replacing it with a healthcare bill that would dramatically roll back Medicaid, provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy, gut protections for patients with pre-existing conditions and add tens of millions of Americans to the ranks of the uninsured. The legislation passed by a 217-213 vote, with 20 Republicans and every Democrat opposed. House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed the vote at the request of President Trump, before the Congressional Budget Office had a chance to “score” the bill, meaning Republicans voted in favor of legislation whose full impact remains unknown. Speaker Ryan hailed the vote as an historic achievement.
Speaker Paul Ryan: “A lot of us have been waiting seven years to cast this vote. Many of us are here because we pledged to cast this very vote.”
President Trump celebrated passage of the bill in a Rose Garden ceremony with Republican congressmembers, saying the legislation would lower healthcare premiums. But a Center for American Progress analysis found that surcharges on premiums for patients with pre-existing conditions could rise by over $140,000 for some cancer patients, while some women could see a 450 percent rise in the cost of insuring a pregnancy. The legislation would also block Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for one year unless the women’s health group agrees to stop offering abortions.
After the bill’s passage, members of the Democratic caucus led a protest against Republicans outside the Capitol, chanting “Vote them out!” This is Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “President Trump, you do not stand with the working class of this country when you throw 24 million people off of health insurance, when you raise premiums for older workers, when you defund Planned Parenthood and when you cut Medicaid by $800 billion. And then, on top of all of that, you give $300 billion in tax breaks to the top 2 percent. That is not standing with the working class of this country. That is going to war against the working class of this country.”
The healthcare bill faces a steep climb in the Senate, where Republicans control just 52 out of 100 seats. We’ll have more on the House healthcare bill after headlines.
In New York City, thousands of protesters marched Thursday to the USS Intrepid, a decommissioned aircraft carrier on the Hudson River, where President Trump later met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. It was Trump’s first return to his hometown since the inauguration. Protesters banged pots and pans and chanted anti-Trump slogans as police cordoned off streets near the site of Trump’s visit. This is Jennifer Epps-Addison of the Center for Popular Democracy.
Jennifer Epps-Addison: “This is the most hateful president our country has ever seen. His work is targeting immigrants and young people and poor people and the elderly. And we’re here to build a country that really stands for every single person who lives within its borders. So we’re here to say we resist this regime, we resist the politics of hate, and, instead, we’re here to build a country that’s based upon opportunity and freedom and equity for everyone.”
President Trump arrived at his meeting with Prime Minister Turnbull more than three hours late, after Trump lingered in Washington to celebrate the House’s passage of healthcare legislation. At a joint appearance, Trump praised Australia’s healthcare system.
President Donald Trump: “We have a failing healthcare—I shouldn’t say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia, because you have better healthcare than we do.”
Australia has “universal healthcare,” with a government-run healthcare system known as Medicare, which is funded in part by a tax on wealthy Australians.
President Trump Thursday signed an executive order relaxing rules on tax-exempt religious groups that could expand the role of churches and religious leaders in U.S. politics. In a statement, American Civil Liberties Union Director Anthony Romero promised a lawsuit, saying, “The actions taken today are a broadside to our country’s long-standing commitment to the separation of church and state. … It’s clear that the Trump administration and Congressional leadership are using religion as a wedge to further divide the country and permit discrimination.”
In Georgia, a federal judge has ordered elections officials to reopen early voter registration ahead of a June 20 special election for the state’s 6th Congressional District. The election pits Democrat Jon Ossoff against Republican Karen Handel in a race that’s surprisingly close for a conservative district—and which could be a bellwether for the 2018 midterm elections. Georgia shut down voter registration on March 20, but with Thursday’s order, residents will have until May 21 to register.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s Republican Governor Nathan Deal on Thursday signed a bill allowing students and others to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. The law was strongly opposed by police chiefs and university presidents, who will now be required to implement the law before it goes into effect on July 1.
In France, voters head to the polls Sunday in a presidential election that pits former investment banker Emmanuel Macron against far-right politician Marine Le Pen. Macron on Thursday won the support of former U.S. President Barack Obama, who urged French voters to reject the politics of fear. Le Pen, who has campaigned on an openly xenophobic and racist platform, faced protests Thursday as she visited a trucking company in Brittany. Protesters shouted, “Out you fascists!” and threw eggs at her, hitting her once in the head. Meanwhile, activists with Greenpeace unfurled a giant banner on the Eiffel Tower in Paris Friday emblazoned with France’s national motto, “Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” and the hashtag #RESIST, calling on voters to reject Le Pen and her party. We’ll have more on the French elections after headlines.
In Mexico, the Committee to Protect Journalists blasted President Enrique Peña Nieto for failing to shield media workers, saying criminal gangs and corrupt officials kidnap and murder with impunity to silence critics. This is CPJ coordinator Carlos Lauría.
Carlos Lauría: “The reality is that violence against journalists is a problem that goes beyond journalism. It’s affecting fundamental human rights of all Mexicans, including journalists and reporters. It’s inhibiting the possibility that Mexicans openly debate the problems that afflict society. And indirectly, it is also affecting the stability of the country’s democracy.”
More than 100 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, and last March was the worst month on record, with at least seven journalists shot across Mexico.
In Argentina, human rights groups are condemning a Supreme Court ruling that could bring an early release to hundreds of people convicted for human rights abuses during the U.S.-backed dirty wars of the 1970s and ’80s. This is Estela de Carlotto, president of the association of Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.
Estela de Carlotto: “For the people, the clear message is: This does not affect those of us who have already been affected for 40 years; it affects the children of the people, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the people. What is not judged and condemned will be repeated. And those who disagree that history will be repeated will face what our children suffered: the 30,000 disappeared.”
An estimated 30,000 activists were tortured and “disappeared” in the late 1970s and early 1980s by Argentina’s right-wing dictatorship.
Back in the United States, thousands of homeowners in Flint, Michigan, could face foreclosure over unpaid water bills—even though the water from their taps is poisoned with lead. This week, the city sent some 8,000 Flint residents letters warning them they’ll have tax liens placed on their homes if they don’t pay outstanding water bills by May 19. Those who can’t pay by the end of next February could lose their homes. Flint’s water crisis began in 2014, after the unelected, state-appointed emergency manager for the city of Flint changed the source of the drinking water to the Flint River in order to try to save money. The river water corroded Flint’s pipes, causing toxic lead to leach into the city’s drinking water. Officials say Flint’s water is still unsafe to drink without a filter.
In Chicago, a union representing nursing home workers struck an 11th hour deal Thursday to avert a strike that would have seen as many as 5,000 certified nursing assistants, janitors and laundry workers walk off the job. Members of SEIU Healthcare Illinois will see raises of 40 percent or more over the life of their new three-year contract.
And in New Haven, Connecticut, eight unionized graduate students at Yale have entered their second week without food, in a hunger strike aimed at forcing their university to the bargaining table. Graduate students in eight different departments voted in February to join UNITE HERE Local 33, but Yale administrators are contesting the results. The hunger-striking students fear they could be stripped of their union membership if Yale delays long enough for President Trump to appoint conservative members to the National Labor Relations Board. The appointments could mean the NLRB will overturn a ruling last year that classified graduate student teachers as employees eligible to join unions.