👋 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/ Trump signed an executive order eliminating some Affordable Care Act insurance rules for small businesses that band together to buy health insurance as an association. The order will also lift limits on limited coverage, short-term insurance, and expand ways workers could use employer-funded accounts to buy their own insurance policies. Critics say that by relaxing standards, Trump would be creating low-cost insurance options for healthier, younger consumers, which would result in higher costs for the sick and potentially destabilize and undermine the ACA insurance marketplace. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)
- How Trump’s executive order undermines the Affordable Care Act. Trump is asking federal agencies to look for ways to expand the use of association health plans, groups of small businesses that pool together to buy health insurance, and to broaden the definition of short-term insurance, which is exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s rules. (Vox)
2/ Trump on NAFTA: “We’ll see what happens.” Justin Trudeau visited the White House yesterday in hopes of seeking a “fairer trade” deal between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The US Chamber of Commerce president said that abandoning the agreement would pose an “existential threat” to the continent’s national and economic security. Trudeau told members of the House Ways and Means Committee that he was worried about “poison pills,” proposals the US might make that were designed to kill, not repair, the NAFTA agreement. Trump has called NAFTA a “disaster” and that “NAFTA will have to be terminated if we’re going to make it good. Otherwise, I believe you can’t negotiate a good deal.” (Washington Post)
3/ European allies and Republicans are pressuring Trump to preserve the Iran nuclear deal. Trump is expected to decertify the nuclear deal tomorrow, despite his own cabinet saying that Iran has abided by the deal. Lawmakers have remained largely in the dark about what Trump’s ultimate plan is. Congress, however, will have 60 days to pass legislation to reimpose sanctions on Iran if Trump decertifies the deal. Trump was reportedly “incensed” by the arguments Rex Tillerson and Jim Mattis made when he certified Iran’s compliance in July. “He threw a fit,” said one person familiar with the meeting. “. . . He was furious. Really furious. It’s clear he felt jammed.” (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)
4/ The US withdrew from UNESCO, citing anti-Israeli bias from the United Nations cultural organization. The US hasn’t paid its roughly $70 million yearly dues to UNESCO since 2011, due to a 1990s-era amendment mandating a cutoff of American money to any UN organization accepting Palestine as a full member. Previously, the US withdrew from the organization in 1984 over Cold War concerns, but rejoined in 2003 in a show of international cooperation leading up to the Iraq War. (Bloomberg / Politico) / New York Times)
5/ Trump tweeted that “we cannot keep” federal relief workers in Puerto Rico “forever.” As of earlier this week, 84% of the island remained without electricity, two-thirds of cellphone towers were down, and about 6,000 people were still in shelters. Trump tweeted the situation represents a “total lack of accountability” and that the “electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post)
6/ The House passed $36.5 billion in emergency relief for Puerto Rico and other communities affected by recent hurricanes and wildfires. The package includes $18.7 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief fund, $16 billion to address national flood insurance program debt, and $576.5 million for wildfire recovery efforts. It also provided $1.27 billion for disaster food assistance for Puerto Rico. The bipartisan bill passed the Republican-controlled House in a 353-to-69 vote. (Reuters / The Hill)
7/ John Kelly told reporters “I’m not quitting today… I don’t think I’m being fired today,” either. The statement comes as Trump and Kelly have reportedly engaged in “shouting matches” recently. Kelly added that “I’m not so frustrated in this job that I’m thinking of leaving.” On Tuesday, Trump tweeted praise for Kelly, saying his chief of staff “is doing a FANTASTIC job.” (Politico / ABC News)
8/ The phrase “climate change” does not appear in the EPA’s draft four-year strategic plan. Scott Pruitt outlines his agency’s prioritizes as a focus on the “core mission” of clean air, land, and water, “rebalance” the federal role in environmental regulation, and enforce laws “as Congress intended.” The plan does not mention carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions. (CNN)
9/ Trump’s lawyers are open to having the president sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller in an effort to speed up the Russia probe and dispel suspicions surrounding Trump. Trump told reporters this spring that he was “100 percent” willing to testify under oath about alleged Russian ties to his campaign. Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, called the report that they were willing to cooperation with the special counsel “Totally false!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (Politico)
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