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A Politics Update: What’s Going on in Congress and in the White House

A Politics Update: What’s Going on in Congress and in the White House

It certainly hasn't been a quiet start for the Trump administration.
The first 100 days of a new president's administration are always important and set the tone for the coming years before both parties start gearing up for election season. President Trump's first 50 have been extremely eventful with his supporters praising his determination to fulfill campaign promises, and critics from both sides of the political aisle assessing his first weeks in office as chaotic and disorganized.  Republican lawmakers, who hold majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, have taken this unique opportunity of Republican control in the three branches to introduce their replacement bill to the Affordable Care Act.  Here are the past few weeks in politics summarized.

Republicans Face Uphill Climb to Repeal and Replace Obamacare 

"Repeal and replace"  of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare, has been the mantra of Congressional Republicans since the election season. Having taken both the House and Senate in the 2016 election, they are now in the process of delivering on this promise with the American Health Care Act. This new bill keeps some popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including that parents can keep adult children on their insurance plans.  However, it will replace the health care mandate of the ACA and offer tax credits instead, as well as block grants for states to rearrange Medicaid as they see fit. The American Health Care Act bill was proposed in the House on March 6, and Speaker Paul Ryan has encountered a surprising amount of backlash from the more right-leaning members of his own party, who think the bill is not enough in the process for repealing Obamacare.  Math teacher Ms. Venne says that it interests her that Republicans are emphasizing that with the new bill, health care would be more readily available to those with insurance plans. To add to the troubles facing this bill, the Congressional Budget Office has just concluded the new bill will cost 24 million people their coverage by 2026. However, it will also reduce federal spending by $337 billion. Senior Brett Koolik believes the bill was "dead on arrival" due to some of the problems in the CBO report.   President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan insist this bill will improve health care in the United States as opposed to the Affordable Care Act. President Trump plans to speak to skeptical members of Congress in the coming days to convince them to support the American Health Care Act, and Republican leadership is expected to hurry the bill to a vote, despite concerns it will not pass the Senate.

President Trump's New Travel Ban Fails to Evade Lawsuits

After his first executive order barring travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries was met with massive demonstrations and was not upheld in court, President Trump signed a new order into law.  This order omits the special consideration given to religious minorities in these countries, as well as removing Iraq from the list of countries from which immigration is now temporarily halted. However, Pine Crest Junior Chase Finney didn't see a huge difference in the bans saying, "The new ban isn't all that different from the previous one."   The new ban stops travel for 90 days from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and blocks entry for refugees for 120 days.  Like its predecessor, it has provoked protests and several lawsuits. On Tuesday, March 7, the first such legal challenge was filed by the state of Hawaii, closely followed by Washington and Minnesota.  Though, several other states including Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and California are planning to challenge the order before it goes into effect.  The executive order was supposed to take effect on March 16, but Hawaii's lawsuit successfully blocked its implementation as a federal judge halted the order. The Justice Department has defended the ban and has released a brief explaining why it is legal, and the Trump administration plans on appealing this ruling soon.   

Possible Trump Administration Connections to Russia Discovered, Investigation Pending 

President Trump, his administration and campaign staff have faced increasing scrutiny over their ties to Russian government officials.   As a candidate, Trump repeatedly praised Russia's President Vladimir Putin.  Now as President, these ties to Russia have become a central criticism of his administration. In early February, Michael Flynn, the former National Security Adviser resigned his post over allegations that he had illegal conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump took office.  He failed to disclose these contacts to Vice President Mike Pence.  It has now also been discovered that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was previously going to head the investigation into Russian hacking, was also found to have had contacts with Russia during the campaign, and lied about it in a Senate confirmation hearing. He has recused himself from the impending investigation. President Trump has defended both men and accused government insiders of illegally leaking classified information. He also accused the media of falsifying information on this issue.  

President Trump Accuses Former President Obama of Wiretapping

President Trump's Twitter habits have often caused controversy during the campaign and into his presidency. In a series of early-morning tweets on March 4, the president accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower during the election campaign. He has provided no evidence for this accusation, leading to Democrats and some Republicans, such as Senator John McCain of Arizona, to denounce his attack on the former president. Many Republican Congressmen, however, said the accusation of wiretapping would be investigated along with the ongoing investigation of the Russian hacking, including Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who stated that Congress would look into surveillance on US citizens in its investigation.  A spokesperson for President Obama released a statement saying"Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false." 

Trump Drops Out of White House Correspondent's Dinner

In another tweet, President Trump announced he would not be attending the White House Correspondent's Dinner.  This dinner is traditionally a dinner of jokes in which the White House and the press corps celebrate freedom of the press. Traditionally, the president is a key speaker at this dinner and hosts the event to show respect for the press. President Trump's decision to not attend follows worsening relations with the press, whom he blames for the controversies and problems of his administration. This would be the first time in 36 years that the president does not attend this dinner, since President Ronald Reagan, who missed the meal  because he was recovering from an attempted assassination. Regardless, the dinner will take place on April 29. Sources: CNN, Politico, New York Times, Washington Post, Congressional Budget Office, The Atlantic Photo Source: Max Goldberg

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