👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ The Department of Justice is arguing that the Civil Rights Act does not protect gay employees from discrimination. The DOJ filed an amicus brief (meaning the government isn’t a party in the case) weighing in on a private employment lawsuit. They argue that while Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bars the discrimination in the workplace based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin,” it does not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation despite “notable changes in societal and cultural attitudes.” The brief claimed that the federal government has a “substantial and unique interest” in the proper interpretation of Title VII because it’s the largest employer in the country. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News)
2/ The Joint Chiefs said there will be “no modifications” to the military’s transgender policy until Trump clarifies what he meant. “I know there are questions about yesterday’s announcement on the transgender policy by the President,” Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a memo to military leaders. “There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.” (NBC News / Politico)
3/ Trump has discussed a recess appointment to replace Jeff Sessions if he leaves the job, in an effort to sidestep Senate oversight. Democrats have said they’ll use parliamentary stalling tactics to prevent the Senate from formally adjourning throughout the upcoming August break — in part to prevent Trump from being able to unilaterally install a new attorney general. (Washington Post)
- Sessions called Trump’s criticism over his recusal in the Russia investigation “kind of hurtful.” (Fox News)
4/ Lindsey Graham will introduce a bill next week that curtails Trump’s power to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller without first getting approval from a federal judge. “We need a check and balance here,” Graham said. “A special counsel cannot be fired when they were impaneled to investigate the president or his team unless you have judicial review of the firing.” Trump could veto the legislation, which could be overturned by two-thirds of the House and Senate. (Wall Street Journal)
5/ The Trump administration threatened retribution against Alaska over Lisa Murkowski’s no vote on health care. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Alaska’s other GOP senator, Dan Sullivan, to deliver a “troubling message” that left him worried “that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs, and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop.” (Alaska Dispatch News)
6/ Mitch McConnell is expected to unveil the GOP’s “skinny repeal” bill during today’s “vote-a-rama.” The bill will rollback the individual mandate, partially repeal the employer mandate, defund Planned Parenthood for one year, and provide more money for community health centers. The skinny repeal isn’t really that skinny at all. The CBO estimated 15 million to 16 million Americans would lose coverage while premiums to rise 20% in the individual market. (Politico / Axios / Vox)
- State health care waivers violate Senate budget rules. Republicans want to expand the ACA’s waivers that allow states to opt out of ACA rules, including the “essential health benefit” requirements. But, the Senate Budget Committee Democrats said parts of the proposal can’t be passed under Senate budget rules and would require 60 votes in order to pass. (Axios)
7/ Four Republicans said they would not vote for a slimmed-down partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act without guarantees that the House will negotiate a comprehensive measure. Read a different way: Senate Republicans hope the skinny repeal won’t become law. Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Bill Cassidy, and Ron Johnson want a guarantee from Paul Ryan that the bill will go to conference committee and not simply passed by the House and sent to Trump. Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is warning lawmakers to hold off on leaving for the August recess this weekend in case the Senate passes a bill and they’re under pressure to act. “The skinny bill as policy is a disaster,” Graham said. (New York Times / Politico / The Hill)
- House conservatives say the skinny repeal is untenable. Even if Senate Republicans can pass their minimalist plan to alter the ACA, uniting with their House colleagues to enact a bill would be far more challenging. Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said a skinny repeal would be “dead on arrival” in the House. (Washington Post)
8/ Scaramucci blamed Reince Priebus for leaking his publicly available financial disclosure form, which showed that he still stands to profit from an ownership stake in his investment firm SkyBridge Capital. Scaramucci tweeted that “In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony I will be contacting FBI and the TheJusticeDept.” He tagged Priebus in the tweet, which he later deleted after the internet pointed out that it was called a public disclosure for a reason. In a CNN interview, Scaramucci said that “if Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that.” Later in the interview, he added that foreign policy leaks “are the types of leaks that are so treasonous that 150 years ago, people would have actually been hung for those types of leaks.”
In a separate interview, Scaramucci continued: “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac.” He then turned his sights on Steve Bannon while denying that he craves the media’s attention: “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (New York Times / Politico / The New Yorker / CNN / Wall Street Journal)
- Scaramucci said his split with Priebus may not be reparable. Scaramucci joined the White House last week and reports directly to the president, rather than to the chief of staff as is customary. (Wall Street Journal)
9/ Trump gave Scaramucci the “green light” to go after Priebus, a White House adviser said. Additionally, Scaramucci himself claimed that he had secured Trump’s “blessing” for his words and actions. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to publicly express Trump’s confidence in the chief of staff during today’s press briefing. Privately, Kellyanne Conway has told people that Priebus is “gone” and that he is trying to figure out his next steps. (The Daily Beast / BuzzFeed News)
10/ The Senate approved sanctions against Russia, forcing Trump to decide whether to veto the bill or accept the tougher line against Moscow. The administration has said that Trump may veto the bill, despite there being veto-proof majorities in both the Senate and House. The Senate voted 98-2 to pass the bill two days after the House passed it 419-3. (Washington Post / New York Times / Reuters)
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