The Daily 202: Senate Republicans want to get to yes on the health care bill – Washington Post
THE BIG IDEA: Much of the concern that Republican senators expressed yesterday about the draft health-care bill felt more like political posturing than genuine threats to torpedo the effort.
There are not currently the 50 votes necessary to advance the legislation that Mitch McConnell unveiled Thursday. There will need to be concessions and compromises, and there are several ways the push could still fall apart in the coming days.
But pretty much every Republican, including the current holdouts, wants to pass something. And no GOP senator wants to bear the brunt of the blame from the base for inaction. That factor must not be discounted.
— President Trump, who endorsed the Senate bill last night, also badly wants to get something done, and he’s made clear that he’ll sign whatever makes it through Congress.
I am very supportive of the Senate #HealthcareBill. Look forward to making it really special! Remember, ObamaCare is dead.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017
— Ted Cruz carried around a “path to yes” memo in his suit coat pocket yesterday that contained a list of his asks. “This current draft doesn’t get the job done, but I believe we can get to yes,” said the Texan, who is up for reelection next year and has been trying to rebrand himself as an effective legislator. “We continue to have positive, productive conversations.”
Cruz issued a joint statement with three other conservatives — Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Mike Lee of Utah — saying that they cannot support the legislation as it stands. Parse their words carefully, and it’s notable how many outs they gave themselves.
Here is the statement in full (I’ve added italics on the wiggle words): “Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor. There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs.”
Many believe Cruz is bluffing and will come around, even with small concessions that let him save face. As Republican strategist John Weaver, who played top roles on the presidential campaigns of John McCain and John Kasich, put it:
If anyone actually believes Ted Cruz isn’t going to vote for final passage of this bill, well, I have some rainforest in Arizona to sell you
— John Weaver (@JWGOP) June 22, 2017
— An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which was in the field earlier this week and published yesterday, helps explain the balancing act we’re seeing from so many Republicans: Only 16 percent of Americans believe that the House health care bill is good, down from 23 percent last month. Even among Republicans, just one in three view the measure positively. But the public is basically split down the middle over Obamacare, with 41 percent saying the 2010 law is a good idea and 38 percent saying it’s a bad idea. Asked if Congress and the president should continue their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the split is similar: 38 percent say yes, 39 percent say no, and 20 percent have no opinion. But here’s the rub: 71 percent of Republicans want Congress to continue its effort to repeal the ACA, and only 12 percent of GOP voters want to move on. Independents also slightly favor forging ahead with repeal, 38 percent to 32 percent.
Those numbers demonstrate why lawmakers are eager to be perceived as extracting concessions (so they can say they made improvements), but the partisan breakdown also shows why most GOP senators are willing to get behind what remains an unpopular piece of legislation. Even as they do so, however, they are carefully positioning themselves. A bunch of Republicans who will vote yes next week released noncommittal statements yesterday suggesting that they are keeping an open mind. Marco Rubio, for example, said that he’s studying the bill and will “decide how to vote … on the basis of how it impacts Florida.”
— McConnell can only afford two defections, and he’s facing objections from the right and the middle. But if anyone can thread this needle, it’s the Senate majority leader. “McConnell unveiled his proposal knowing full well that — as currently written — it lacks the votes to win approval,” congressional correspondent Paul Kane writes. “But using a time-honored tactic of congressional leadership, the Kentucky Republican decided it was time to call the bluff of his GOP colleagues. … Republicans now head into five or six days of intense negotiations … Many GOP senators complained bitterly about the secretive process, while privately breathing a sigh of relief that they didn’t yet have to take a position on the emerging legislation.”
There are some obvious “gives” that could get a few of the wavering moderates on board: “Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters Thursday that she and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) would try to amend the Planned Parenthood restrictions during next week’s ‘vote-a-rama,’ a period when senators can offer unlimited amendments to the health-care measure,” Kane reports. “GOP insiders expect Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who oppose the bill’s deep cuts to Medicaid, to be mollified by more cash to combat the opioid epidemic.” That might leave Rand Paul as the biggest hurdle, but McConnell could afford to lose the junior senator from his state. (We’re keeping a running whip count here.)
— McConnell explicitly urged GOP senators to withhold statements announcing outright opposition to his proposal yesterday so that everyone can retain flexibility, Politico’s Burgess Everett reports. “McConnell’s strategy has been a slow burn, allowing his members to vent in private party discussions while gradually writing a bill that takes in their considerations over the past six weeks. He’s had more than 30 meetings with his members (about the proposal).”
John Thune, No. 3 in GOP leadership, is warning the conservative holdouts that Republicans will be stuck with a single-payer system if they don’t pass this bill. “If you get 80 percent of what you want in a circumstance like this, it’s going to have to be a victory because we’re not going to get 100 percent,” he told Burgess. “If we don’t get this done and we end up with Democratic majorities in ‘18, we’ll have single payer. … (McConnell) believes that, given the amount of input we’ve had from everybody, we’ll get to 50.”
Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) freely acknowledged problems with the Senate bill, but he also said that he’s “likely” to vote for it because it will be better than the status quo. “I don’t have a list of things at this point I must change,” Toomey said on a conference call with reporters, making a statement that reflects the mindset of most Senate Republicans. “Everything I want is not going to happen in one bill.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SENATE BILL—
— The Congressional Budget Office said it expects to release a score for the Senate bill “early next week.”
— Despite grumbling from some members of his conference, McConnell still plans on holding a final vote next week. (Sean Sullivan, Kelsey Snell and Juliet Eilperin)
— Democrats have little power to stop the vote from occurring, though 20 senators filed procedural motions designed to throw sand in the gears. Republicans will have to address each individually. This will slightly delay holding a vote and could mean some late nights next week, but it won’t stop passage if Republicans have 50 votes. (Kelsey Snell and Elise Viebeck)
— House Democrats, including Steny Hoyer, say they are on guard for a quick vote if the bill passes the Senate next week. But, again, there’s very little they can do to stop it if Republicans have the votes. (Mike DeBonis)
— Vice President Pence expressed hope last night that the bill will be signed into law before the end of the summer. (John Wagner)
THE HOUSE VS. THE SENATE:
— Overall, the Senate bill does not go as far as the House bill in rolling back the Affordable Care Act. (Our graphics team visualized the similarities and differences between the plans. Read the full text of the Senate’s 142-page bill here.)
— The Senate version says insurers could not deny coverage based on preexisting conditions.
— Like the bill that passed the House last month, the Senate measure phases out expanded Medicaid funding for states, but it does so more gradually between 2020 and 2024.
— But because of an accounting gimmick, the Senate bill guts Medicaid much more drastically over the long-term than the House bill. Max Ehrenfreund reports: “Through 2025, both bills would adjust the cap based on a measure of how rapidly medical costs are expanding — a measure known as the CPI-M. Starting in 2025, however, the Senate bill would change the formula, instead funding Medicaid based on a measure of how rapidly all costs are rising, … General costs, however, typically rise more slowly than medical costs … After a decade or two, that discrepancy would add up to of hundreds of billions of dollars.”
— The Medicaid cuts in the Senate proposal could disproportionately hurt rural hospitals, 700 of which across the country already teeter on the brink of closure. (NPR’s Bram Sable-Smith)
— The Senate bill would cut almost $1 billion in funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides 12 percent of the CDC’s budget, starting this October. Lena H. Sun reports: “The money supports programs to prevent bioterrorism and disease outbreaks, as well as to provide immunizations and screenings for cancer and heart disease … About $625 million goes directly to states and communities to address their most pressing health needs, including drug misuse, infectious diseases, lead poisoning, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and tobacco use.”
— The bill appropriates only $2 billion in fiscal year 2018 to address the opioid drug epidemic, Vox’s Ella Nilsen reports. This is less than the $45 billion over 10 years that Republican Sens. Rob Portman and Shelley Moore Capito requested and far less than $190 billion over 10 years, which is what a Harvard health economics professor estimated this week was needed to truly address the problem.
— Both House leaders, Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi, argued that the Senate bill is not radically different from what their chamber passed last month. The Speaker is saying this so that it’s easier to get his members on board. The Minority Leader is saying it to make the point that the Senate version is not a meaningful improvement on the toxically unpopular House bill. (Mike DeBonis)
WHAT THE BILL DOES TO PREMIUMS:
— Republican promises to stabilize individual health insurance markets could prove hollow. Amy Goldstein explains why: “Republicans have vowed for months to … stave off the collapse of the nation’s most fragile health insurance markets, which serve people who buy coverage on their own. In the Senate, that turns out to be a short-term goal. (The Senate bill) would keep billions of dollars flowing — but only for two years — to health plans that have been begging for continued help with the expense of millions of lower-income customers in ACA insurance marketplaces. After 2019, the payments would stop…
“The cutoff of those payments would coincide with the end of subsidies that help the vast majority of people with ACA health plans afford their premiums. The subsidies would be replaced with smaller tax credits … The new credits would not reach as many middle-income Americans, and although they would be available for the first time to people below the poverty line, the amounts could be too small to be useful…
“Taken together, these and other features of the Better Care Reconciliation Act could drive prices up after a few years for people who buy individual insurance — a core group the ACA is designed to help. After the next three years, it also would begin a sharp downward path in federal support for Medicaid, the cornerstone of the nation’s health-care safety net for the past half-century.”
— Laurie McGinley, Lenny Bernstein and Lena H. Sun provide a few illustrative examples of Americans who could be significantly impacted if the Senate bill becomes law, including a 44-year-old breast cancer survivor, a 27-year-old man receiving drug treatment through Medicaid and a 59-year-old man who works as an independent contractor.
— One way to think about all of this: Obamacare cut the uninsured rate almost in half by redistributing resources from the wealthy to the poor. This bill seeks to undo that redistribution, The New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz explains.
Sarah Kliff summarizes it this way on Vox: “The bill asks low- and middle-income Americans to spend significantly more for less coverage.”
STAKEHOLDERS PANNED THE BILL:
— Hospitals decried the cuts to Medicaid, with the chief executive of the American Hospital Association calling them “unsustainable.” (Juliet Eilperin)
— The AARP said the Senate bill allows insurance companies to charge the elderly up to five times more than young people. The senior’s lobby is mobilizing its membership against what it calls an “age tax.” (The Hill)
— A chorus of providers warned that the Senate bill would “turn back the clock on women’s health.” “This legislation deliberately strips the landmark women’s health gains made by the Affordable Care Act and would severely limit access to care,” the president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote in a statement.
— One exception: Insurance executives are happy because the Senate bill reverses a provision in Obamacare that penalized their companies for excessively paying top staff. (Ehrenfreund)
BARACK OBAMA EMERGES FROM COCOON TO DEFEND SIGNATURE ACHIEVEMENT:
— The former president made a rare public statement to denounce the Senate proposal. “Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family — this bill will do you harm,” he wrote. “And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.”
— “The 44th president did not mention his successor … but his scathing criticism and urgent tone … set up a direct public fight with the current White House occupant over the future of the nation’s health care system,” David Nakamura writes.
— On a related note, Obama will soon hit the campaign trail again. He plans to stump with Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate in the Virginia governor’s race. (Fenit Nirappil)
— Obama didn’t go as far as many Democrats on the Hill: Chuck Schumer called the draft “a step to eradicating Medicaid.” “People will die,” Elizabeth Warren said in a floor speech. “These cuts are blood money.”
BIG PROTESTS CREATED BAD VISUALS ON THE NIGHTLY NEWS:
— Forty-three disability advocates protesting the Senate draft were arrested outside of McConnell’s office. “The protesters staged a ‘die-in’ in front of the office, with many of the protesters in wheelchairs removing themselves from the chairs then lying on the floor,” Perry Stein reports.
— “Parents of sick kids try to remind Congress what the health-care debate should be about,” by Petula Dvorak: “These kids smiled, giggled and then their tubes gurgled to show what’s at stake here. It was real-life lobbying done by a brigade of 12 intrepid families who pushed their way through Capitol Hill’s offices. … ‘We heard from a lot of families that it’s really, really difficult to get in touch with any of their representatives,’ [one of the parents, Elena Hung] said. ‘They say, ‘Call your representatives,’ but most of these offices aren’t even taking calls.’ So they showed up in person.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— If you read one story today: The Post just published a detailed, inside look at how the Obama administration sought to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 elections. Here are a few of the most interesting nuggets from the story by national security correspondents 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.” The envelope contained allegations that Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly and personally trying to influence the U.S. elections, but went even further: “The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.”
“The material was so sensitive that CIA Director John Brennan kept it out of the President’s Daily Brief, concerned that even that restricted report’s distribution was too broad. The CIA package came with instructions that it be returned immediately after it was read. To guard against leaks, subsequent meetings in the Situation Room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid.”
“The Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could ‘crater’ the Russian economy … in late December, Obama approved a modest package combining measures that had been drawn up to punish Russia for other issues.”
Some former Obama officials don’t think they did enough to stop Putin’s meddling. “It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,” said a former senior Obama administration official involved in White House deliberations on Russia. “I feel like we sort of choked.”
Brennan “convened a secret task force at CIA headquarters composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI. The unit functioned as a sealed compartment, its work hidden from the rest of the intelligence community … They worked exclusively for two groups of “customers,” officials said. The first was Obama and fewer than 14 senior officials in government. The second was a team of operations specialists at the CIA, NSA and FBI who took direction from the task force on where to aim their subsequent efforts to collect more intelligence on Russia.”
It was not until after Labor Day that Brennan had reached all members of the “Gang of Eight” in Congress. In September, Jeh Johnson, Jim Comey and White House Homeland Security adviser Lisa Monaco briefed congressional leaders, but it quickly “devolved into a partisan squabble” in which Democrats wanted to make the threats public while McConnell was “skeptical.”
The Obama administration sent two other warnings to the Kremlin: On Oct. 7, Susan Rice summoned Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and handed him a message for Putin; and on Oct. 31, there was a final pre-election message sent “via a secure channel to Moscow originally created to avert a nuclear exchange.”
Following Trump’s surprising win, the administration crafted a plan to form a commission headed by then-Secretary of State John Kerry to create a bipartisan commission and make recommendations about how to prevent future election meddling. Denis McDonough planned to “tabledrop” the plan at the next National Security Council meeting but then began criticizing it as weak. It didn’t happen.
Obama appears to have taken serious and secretive cyber countermeasures against Russia post-election by “authorizing a new covert program involving the NSA, CIA and U.S. Cyber Command”: “The cyber operation is still in its early stages and involves deploying ‘implants’ in Russian networks deemed ‘important to the adversary and that would cause them pain and discomfort if they were disrupted,’ a former U.S. official said.” (Read the whole story here.)
GET SMART FAST:
- The Army demoted the former commander of the 1st Infantry Division for having an “inappropriate relationship” with a junior officer. Investigators said Wayne W. Grigsby Jr. called and texted a female captain “more than 850 times” and was found to be spending time at her home. (Craig Whitlock)
- The “Pizzagate” gunman was sentenced to four years in prison. (Spencer S. Hsu)
- Canada revealed that one of its Special Operations snipers shot an ISIS fighter from over two miles away in Iraq. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
- The government may not strip someone’s U.S. citizenship for lying during the naturalization process without “proving the falsehood is relevant,” the Supreme Court ruled, siding with a Bosnian immigrant who faced criminal charges for lying on her application about her husband’s military service. (Robert Barnes)
- A federal appeals court panel upheld all but one conviction of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, who in 2015 was found guilty of giving information to a journalist about a highly classified operation in Iran. But Sterling has steadfastly denied he was the source, and evidence against him is largely circumstantial. (Matt Zapotosky)
- A federal appeals court in Chicago upheld a lower court’s decision to overturn the conviction of “Making a Murderer” subject Brendan Dassey, affirming that his 2005 confession to the murder of Teresa Halbach was coerced. (WBAY)
- Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt has been given his own Saturday-morning show on MSNBC, joining Greta Van Susteren and Nicole Wallace as the network seeks to broaden its lineup. (The Hollywood Reporter)
- The Census Bureau reported that every racial and ethnic minority grew faster than whites between 2015 and 2016. Mixed-raced and Asian Americans were the fastest growing groups at 3 percent. (NPR)
- The Federal Communications Commission recommended a Florida man pay a $120 million fine after he allegedly used robo-calls to trick people into fraudulent travel deals. Adrian Abramovich is said to have made almost 100 million such calls in three months. (Reuters)
- Uber employees are circulating a petition in support of ousted CEO Travis Kalanick returning in an active role. Over 1,000 employees clicked to support the petition. (The New York Times)
- The British government has ordered tests on the exterior of around 600 high-rise apartment buildings in England, seeking to avoid another catastrophic fire after a 24-story apartment tower in London burned down last week. (Karla Adam)
- A French fitness blogger and Instagram model died after a pressurized whipped-cream can hit her in the chest. Rebecca Burger suffered cardiac arrest from the impact and died in the hospital the following day. (Amber Ferguson)
- Johnny Depp invoked John Wilkes Booth to make an assassination joke about President Trump. He asked a crowd at the U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival, “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” (CNN)
- It’s so hot in England that schoolboys are wearing skirts. Dozens of teenage males at a school in Exeter began sporting the new look this week after their headmaster refused to relax dress codes during a massive heat wave. (Lindsey Bever)
— Trump’s days now begin with a morning call to his lawyers about the ongoing Russia investigations. Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker report: “The calls — detailed by three senior White House officials — are part strategy consultation and part presidential venting session, during which Trump’s lawyers and public-relations gurus take turns reviewing the latest headlines with him … His advisers have encouraged the calls … in hopes that he can compartmentalize the widening Russia investigation. By the time the president arrives for work in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, he will no longer be consumed by the Russia probe that he complains hangs over his presidency like a darkening cloud. It rarely works, however. Asked whether the tactic was effective, one top White House adviser paused for several seconds and then just laughed.”
— The latest lawyer to join Trump’s team is an ex-Marine who likens some cases to war. “I fight hard,” John Dowd told Reuters in an interview. “I believe that’s what I’m supposed to do. I am not a snowflake, I can tell you that.” The 76-year-old Washington lawyer, who retired from the firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in 2014, brings criminal defense and government investigation experience that has been missing from Trump’s outside legal team.
TRUMP SAYS THERE ARE NO TAPES:
— “How Trump’s dubious claims make the entire government react,” by Abby Phillip: “The words leapt from the president’s mind to Twitter at 8:26 a.m. on the Friday after he fired the FBI director, setting off a cascade of activity inside and outside of the federal government. ‘James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!’ Trump wrote. With that tweet, Trump immediately deepened his own legal and political quagmire, evoking comparisons to former [Nixon] and prompting Comey to release previously undisclosed memos of his conversations with the president, which ultimately led to the appointment of a special counsel … Far from knocking down the assertion that Trump had recorded conversations in the White House, his aides refused to give a definitive answer for weeks. On Thursday, 42 days later, [Trump] finally did. As most in Washington had anticipated, Trump said he did not have any such tapes. The incident highlights a new reality for Washington, which now must spring into action to bolster or refute presidential assertions of dubious origin and with no evidence to back them up. In many cases, the claims have had the opposite effect than what the president presumably intended — feeding into doubts about his credibility, deepening his legal woes and generating unflattering accounts that dominate the news for weeks at a time.”
Even when Trump has walked back a questionable comment, he has sometimes planted a new and similarly unsubstantiated claim: Yesterday, for example, in denying that he created tapes, Trump suggested that he may have been surveilled. “With all the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey,” he wrote.
— The language of Trump’s tweets refuting the existence of tapes was reviewed by multiple lawyers before publication, the New York Times’ Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman report: “The White House counsel’s office reviewed the language in the tweet … and Mr. Trump’s personal legal team was aware of it. The wording did not change significantly over the past few days. But by giving the president some room to claim he might have been referring to someone other than himself doing the taping, his wording could diminish the possibility that his original tweet could have been interpreted as pressure on Mr. Comey before his testimony to the Senate.”
— Trump ally Roger Stone said this of the tweets’ careful phrasing: “Perhaps (Marc) Kasowitz [Trump’s personal lawyer] wants to get this off the table because he’s got bigger fish to fry. I think they’re just trying to clear the deck.”
— Newt Gingrich said in an interview that, by alluding to possible tapes, the president was trying to get inside Comey’s head. He told the Associated Press: “I think he was, in his way, instinctively trying to rattle Comey … He’s not a professional politician. He doesn’t come back and think about Nixon and Watergate. His instinct is: ‘I’ll outbluff you.’”
— Unleashing on Twitter, Trump also called the idea of Russia’s election meddling a “big Dem HOAX” and accused Obama and his administration of not doing enough to “stop” Russian interference. Philip Rucker reports: “The president appeared to be referring to Wednesday’s congressional testimony by Jeh Johnson, Obama’s former homeland security secretary, who said that after the [DNC’s] email servers were hacked, the DNC declined an offer by the [DHS] to help the party committee, which also had been in touch with the FBI, identify intruders and patch vulnerabilities. DNC officials said it did not hear from DHS until months after the hack had been made public and after the FBI had worked to close the intrusion, and that the DNC provided the DHS a detailed report on the incident. In another Thursday tweet, Trump wrote, ‘If Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn’t they stop them?’ In a third tweet … Trump sought to use Johnson’s testimony as proof of his vindication in the Russia investigation … Yet Johnson is not involved in Mueller’s expanding federal investigation into Russian interference and therefore would not have the knowledge or authority to exonerate Trump.”
— The search for Sean Spicer’s replacement as press secretary continues as the White House faces a near-daily barrage of complaints about its treatment of the press. CNN’s Dylan Byers reports: “So far, all that search has revealed is that the people the White House wants aren’t interested in the job and the people who are interested in the job aren’t wanted by the White House. Amid this chaos, the White House press office has opted for an ad-hoc strategy intended to screw with the media … and make them look ridiculous. It will go several days without a briefing; then, when media frustration over the lack of access reaches a fever pitch, it will hold a conventional briefing. The next day, it may hold the briefing off camera, starting the process over again. The result is a toxic relationship between the White House, which thinks the press should be less adversarial, and the media, which believes its job is to be adversarial.” (The White House barred cameras and live-audio broadcasts from yesterday’s briefing for the second time in four days. Spicer also once again dispatched his deputy, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to field reporters’ questions.)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
— “The hacking of state and local election databases in 2016 was more extensive than previously reported, including at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers,” Time Magazine’s Massimo Calabresi reports: “In one case, investigators found there had been a manipulation of voter data in a county database but the alterations were discovered and rectified … Investigators have not identified whether the hackers in that case were Russian agents. The fact that private data was stolen from states is separately providing investigators a previously unreported line of inquiry in the probes into Russian attempts to influence the election. In Illinois, more than 90% of the nearly 90,000 records stolen by Russian state actors contained drivers license numbers, and a quarter contained the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers [and] Congressional investigators are probing whether any of this stolen private information made its way to the Trump campaign.”
— A group of 19 Democratic senators urged the Energy Department to investigate Russia’s capability to hack and disrupt the U.S. electric grid, re-upping the request after the Trump administration refused to respond to an earlier letter in March. Dino Grandoni reports: “In April, [Rick Perry] directed his department to conduct a wide-ranging study of U.S. electricity use. But that forthcoming analysis will focus on the degree to which tax and subsidy policies, including those that benefit wind and solar power, ‘are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants; such as coal-fired or nuclear plants.’ … In their letter, [lawmakers] asked the president to shift priorities. Recent research from the cybersecurity firm Dragos revealed that Russian-allied hackers have created a cyberweapon … capable of disrupting electric systems. That malware, researchers said, was used against Ukraine in December.”
— The House and Senate appear to have resolved a procedural issue on a measure to implement new sanctions against Russia and Iran. Mike DeBonis reports: “The House objected to the Senate’s Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act that was passed earlier this week, arguing that it flouted the constitutional provision requiring revenue-raising bills to originate in the House. That prompted accusations from Democrats that the House Republican leaders were trying to stall the bill at Trump’s request … House aides said Thursday a solution was being crafted in coordination with the Senate … What remains to be seen is how swiftly the matter will come to the House floor.”