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On the roster: Can speed kill dissent on TrumpCare? – Flynn discloses Turkey ties – Nerd Bracket: Last chance for the Flourishing Four – Isn’t there some kind of saying about that?
CAN SPEED KILL DISSENT ON TRUMPCARE?
By Congressional standards, law makers are working at a furious pace.
They worked a five-day week once in February and haven’t had a full week off in a fortnight.
All of this high-energy effort is now arranged around the idea of pushing the replacement for ObamaCare through the House in a six-week sprint.
And they might just be able to do it. President Trump is not just standing by his first signature legislative proposal, but also schmoozing lawmakers and reaching out to old enemies.
And while it is not Trump, as it was initially reported, but rather Vice President Mike Pence who is heading to Kentucky to sell the plan this weekend, administrative outreach is intense.
In short, Trump is doing the things that former President Barack Obama initially failed to do to speed passage of his health law. To be fair, Obama had some additional difficulties on the economy that Trump does not currently face. But even so, Obama’s decision to remain aloof from the process until it was almost too late cost him many months and much momentum.
With sweeteners and cajoling, Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan might just be able to steamroll enough conservative Republican critics to send the bill out of the House before Easter.
But is it too much, too soon?
One of Trump’s most ardent supporters in Congress, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., thinks so. He’s urging his counterparts in the House to, “Pause, start over. Get it right, don’t get it fast.”
But that’s not what’s happening. After 18 hours of debate, Republicans crammed through major changes to the tax code in a series of pre-dawn votes. The thinking is that since the House version is simply a starting point and will be changed enormously, if in fact, it’s going to get through the Senate, the particulars don’t matter too much.
In Washington parlance, Republicans are just looking for a “vehicle.” The expectation is that the bill will be stripped down and rebuilt at least twice before there is the chance of final passage.
The final model that rolls off the assembly line might be more conservative, but probably not. The Senate is bound to find even what has been called “ObamaCare lite” too lite as it is.
But that can all come later. Right now, the goal is to goad enough anxious House Republicans off the precipice.
That strategy depends, however, on the ability of Trump and Ryan to keep up what is, for Congress at least, a blistering pace.
[Watch Fox: Vice President Mike Pence joins “Special Report with Bret Baier” at 6 p.m. ET tonight.]
THE RULEBOOK: GREEN-EYED INDEED
“As far as an army may be considered as a dangerous weapon of power, it had better be in those hands of which the people are most likely to be jealous than in those of which they are least likely to be jealous.” –Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25
TIME OUT: EVERYONE IS A CRITIC
Your computer might be the next great literary critic…or at least be able to tell the difference between famous literary works. Economist: ‘With this mutual influence muddying the picture, how can computers tell the difference between [Christopher] Marlowe, [William] Shakespeare, and Marlowe and Shakespeare drawing on one another? According to the editors of the ‘New Oxford,’ the answer lies in ‘function words”. These are words like ‘to’ or ‘a’ that supply the grammatical mechanics of a sentence. The theory goes that all writers unconsciously use these words in distinctive ways. Shakespeare, for example, often put ‘and’ next to ‘with Claudius marries Gertrude ’ With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,’ Old Hamlet’s ghost ‘Appears before them, and with solemn march / Goes slow and stately.’ As a result, function words supposedly betray a writer’s identity, even when they’re trying to write like someone else. By analysing how a writer uses function words, computers can ostensibly identify their unique linguistic fingerprint.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with
your tips, comments or questions.
FLYNN DISCLOSES TURKEY TIES
The Hill: “Michael Flynn, who was fired from President Donald Trump’s national security team last month, has retroactively registered with the Justice Department for work he did that may have benefited the government of Turkey. His now-defunct firm, the Flynn Intel Group, notified the government on Wednesday that it had done work for Inovo BV, a privately owned consulting firm in the Netherlands run by Turkish businessman Kamil Alptekin, beginning in August 2016. From August through mid-November, the Flynn Intel Group received $530,000 from Inovo, according to the forms filed with the Justice Department. Flynn shut down his firm in November. The firm then sub-contracted with S.G.R. LLC Government Relations and Lobbying — who also retroactively registered with the Justice Department this week — paying it $40,000. Disclosures also list Flynn’s firm paying out others, in ‘consultancy fees,’ and for ‘administrative support,’ videography and editing services. At the time, Flynn was a military adviser to the Trump campaign.”
Manafort’s contact in Ukraine under scrutiny – Politico: “U.S. and Ukrainian authorities have expressed interest in the activities of a Kiev-based operative with suspected ties to Russian intelligence who consulted regularly with Paul Manafort last year while Manafort was running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The operative, Konstantin Kilimnik, came under scrutiny from officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department partly because of at least two trips he took to the U.S. during the presidential campaign, according to three international political operatives familiar with the agencies’ interest in Kilimnik.”
Huntsman likely to be ambassador to Russia – AP: “President Donald Trump has offered former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman the position as U.S. ambassador to Russia, a high-profile and sensitive post amid investigations into the contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. Trump made the offer to Huntsman earlier this week, according to a White House official not authorized to discuss the move publicly until it is announced. Huntsman has indicated that he will accept the post, the official said Wednesday.”
A new Q poll says Americans support an investigation – A Quinnipiac University poll says that 66 percent of Americans support an “independent commission investigating potential links between some of Donald Trump’s campaign advisors and the Russian government.”
[Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says he’s ready to subpoena intel agencies over Trump’s accusations of Obama wiretapping.]
The Judge’s Ruling: Yes, the president can spy on you – Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains why the president has the authority to spy on his political opponents: “The president can order the National Security Agency to spy on anyone at any time for any reason, without a warrant. This is profoundly unconstitutional but absolutely lawful because it is expressly authorized by the FISA statute. All electronic surveillance today, whether ordered by the president or authorized by a court, is done remotely by accessing the computers of every telephone and computer service provider in the United States. The NSA has 24/7/365 access to all the mainframe computers of all the telephone and computer service providers in America.” More here.
Ivanka Trump’s landlord is looking for help from Uncle Sam – WSJ
Trump aides causing headaches for Treasury Dept. appointments – Bloomberg
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback in talks over UN spot – Kansas City Star
Trump to roll out promised $1 trillion infrastructure plan, requires states to start projects within 90 days of receiving funding – The Hill
Jonathan Chait explains why the GOP health plan is the diet version of ObamaCare – NY Magazine
CIA probe to focus on outside contractors to find WikiLeaks source – Fox News
Trump looks to cut HUD budget by 14 percent, about $6 billion – The Hill
Administration says illegal border crossings down by 40 percent – Fox News
Sort it out: David Wasserman explains what happened to purple America – FiveThiryEight
AUDIBLE: PARTY CRASHER
“I’m going to be the person who ruined drinking at the State House. They’ll love me forever.” – Rhode Island State Rep. Moira Walsh joking about the possibility of a check point outside the state house in Providence over her comments regarding the high amount of drinking by lawmakers.
NERD BRACKET: LAST CHANCE FOR THE FLOURISHING FOUR
Time is running out! Get your picks in for our March Madness of great American oratory before Friday at noon ET .Submit your winning choices for each of the two brackets listed below toHALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM The winner of the championship will be determined by which of the two finalists got the most votes in this round.
a) Abraham Lincoln: Gettysburg address (1863)
b) George Washington: Farewell address (1796)
a) Ronald Reagan: “The Boys of Pointe du Hoc” (1984)
b) Patrick Henry: “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” (1775)
[Ed. note: A sample entry would look like this: 1b, 2a]
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Really makes you sit back and absorb these words. I wonder how many people looked up those speeches and were surprised what the words actually were? I know I did.” – Robert K. Baker, Brownsville, Texas
[Ed. note: Mr. Baker, one of the impoverishments of modern American education is that students are no longer required to memorize some of these great speeches. Wrote learning is frowned upon now, but as a tool for encouraging young people to understand their culture and inheritance, it’s hard to beat.]
“President Lincoln’s decision to engulf the nation in bloody violence before prolonged negotiations ranks only with President [Woodrow] Wilson’s decision to enter WWI for the scope of the destruction brought down on America. Today we are committed to violent solutions to our problems as a nation and to contempt for those who differ from our opinions. Those two terrible moments of declaring war were decisive in describing the path that has led us here. I commend your love of Americana and your wise commentary on the substance of the truths that may, in time, lead to a brighter future.” – Bill Rhoades, Tierra Amarilla, N.M.
[Ed. note: I know that for some Americans, Lincoln is a villain. But that’s not the way I see it. I believe Lincoln sought to preserve the Union and would have even accepted the continuation of slavery as the price. Ours is not a confederation, but rather a republic. States are not free to come and go as they choose. The commitment of leaders in what would become the Confederate States of America to not just preserving but expanding slavery was so great that they refused to work through the system. They refused because they knew that their cause was ultimately doomed. One could only imagine the price they were demanding for returning to the Union peacefully. The real tragedy was that Lincoln, whose beneficent vision was laid out in his second inaugural address, was taken from the country before he had the chance to put in practice the forgiveness and reconciliation he sought.]
“I hear that the flexibility in the structure of the American Healthcare Act (aha!!!) is limited because it has to fit within the reconciliation rules that will allow for passage with 51 votes in the Senate. This is such a huge and important piece of our economy and society that it seems to me it would be worth screams from the Democrats to use the ‘nuclear option’ to be able to have the flexibility to write this law without being restricted by artificial rules under reconciliation.” – Bob Wyrick, Houston
[Ed. note: Even if Republicans decided to do the whole of TrumpCare with 51 votes in the Senate, it would still be a mistake. Washington often treats bipartisanship as a virtue unto itself, as if a plan was better or worse because politicians from both parties supported it. That’s foolish. A bad idea supported by a diverse group is still not a good idea. That having been said, on a matter as important as health care, it’s important to have some sort of consensus. Democrats use procedural tricks to jam their health insurance overhaul through. We have seen the results of that. Republicans need to be focused on uniting around a plan, yes, but also finding a way to sell it to the broader public or they will see their own approach ripped out and replaced when Democrats take their turn in the barrel.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
ISN’T THERE SOME KIND OF SAYING ABOUT THAT?
Miami Herald: “A Miami defense lawyer’s pants burst into flames Wednesday afternoon as he began his closing arguments in front of a jury — in an arson case. Stephen Gutierrez, who was arguing that his client’s car spontaneously combusted and was not intentionally set on fire, had been fiddling in his pocket as he was about to address jurors when smoke began billowing out his right pocket, witnesses told the Miami Herald. He rushed out of the Miami courtroom, leaving spectators stunned. After jurors were ushered out, Gutierrez returned unharmed, with a singed pocket, and insisted it wasn’t a staged defense demonstration gone wrong, observers said. Instead, Gutierrez blamed a faulty battery in an e-cigarette, witnesses told the Miami Herald.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The central issue is, I think Rand Paul is right. This is, in a sense, Obamacare lite. I’m willing to admit it. Paul Ryan, the others aren’t.” – Charles Krauthammer on Special Report with Bret Baier.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily “Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including “The Kelly File,” “Special Report with Bret Baier,” and “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.