As GOP Health Care Push Moves To Senate, White House Questions Value of CBO Analysis

President Donald Trump celebrates with House Speaker Paul Ryan in the White House Rose Garden Thursday after the House voted to pass the American Health Care Act.

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Evan Vucci/AP

After the GOP-controlled House passed a Republican-drafted health care bill Thursday without waiting for an analysis of the bill’s costs and impacts by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the White House is signaling that Washington’s official legislative scorekeeper could be its next political foil.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a spokeswoman for President Trump, told reporters Friday the White House feels “very confident in where the plan is, and moving it forward.”

“I think I know the gospel pretty well,” she also said, “and I’d say the CBO is not the gospel.”

Sanders’ comments came a day after Doug Elmendorf, who ran the CBO from 2009-2015 during the Obama administration, told Politico that the House’s decision to vote on the GOP health care bill before the CBO could score the latest version of the legislation was “a terrible mistake.”

“The members will have to explain why they supported something with a range of effects that people aren’t gonna like,” Elmendorf said. “At least if they waited for the estimate, they could make further changes to the bill that might respond to concerns. To go ahead with a vote before you know the effects of what you’re voting for is a terrible mistake.”

But Douglas Holtz-Eakin, another former CBO head who ran the agency from 2003-2005 in the George W. Bush administration, suggested that the changes to the bill weren’t substantial enough to change the CBO’s original analysis.

“I don’t view this as a particularly unusual event,” Holtz-Eakin told Politico. “They scored the base bill, and everyone knows what that looked like.”

The CBO’s analysis of the original GOP bill concluded that version of the legislation could leave as many as 24 million additional people without health insurance in the next decade while reducing the deficit by $337 billion during the same period.

After that original score, House Republicans changed the bill in an effort to win enough votes from both their most conservative and their moderate members in order to pass the bill without any support from House Democrats.

On Thursday, they narrowly passed their amended bill and Elmendorf argued that the changes were enough to justify waiting for another CBO analysis.

“For the House leadership to proceed to a vote without an estimate, they are essentially arguing that the bill is so much like the previous one they don’t need an estimate, and yet, it is so much different that many more people should vote for it,” Elmendorf also told Politico. “I don’t see how you can argue that combination of things at the same time with a straight face.”

But Sanders seemed to question the validity of any score the CBO might provide.

“They’ve been wrong before and they can certainly be wrong again,” she also said during Friday’s White House press briefing.

The decision by House Republicans to move forward to a vote without an updated analysis has placed that issue — along with the GOP’s push to overhaul health care legislation more generally — in the Senate’s hands. And Congress’ other chamber is making it clear it’s not in nearly the same rush the House was.

Among other things, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday the chamber will first await the CBO analysis before proceeding.

Indeed, the agency’s score of the bill passed in the House — especially its analysis of the bill’s costs and potential impact on the deficit — would seem to be necessary before the Senate parliamentarian can determine whether Senate Republicans can use reconciliation procedures and potentially pass health care legislation with just 51 votes.

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Olympic Swimmer Adolph Kiefer Dies At 98

Adolph Kiefer was a teenager in 1936 when he traveled to Berlin to compete in the Olympic Games. He went on to be a Navy Lieutenant, an inventor, and a businessman. He died at the age of 98 on Friday, May 5.

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Adolph Kiefer, the 100-meter backstroke champion at the 1936 Berlin Games, died Friday at the age of 98. He was America’s oldest living Olympic champion.

According to the U.S. Olympic Committee, Kiefer broke 23 records in all, including every backstroke record. But his grandson Robin Kiefer says, the swimmer considered his greatest achievement to be his work with the U.S. Navy during World War II. It was a time when many sailors were drowning after shipwrecks, and Kiefer helped develop a curriculum for teaching sailors to swim, as well as the “victory backstroke,” which is credited with saving thousands of lives.

“When he woke up in the morning, he was a swimmer, and when he went to bed he was a swimmer, and he dreamed about swimming and saving lives,” Robin Kiefer said.

Adolph Kiefer, winner of the 1936 Olympic gold medal for the men’s 100m backstroke, raises his arms before a medal ceremony during the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska, in June 2012.

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There was some doubt though, as to whether Adolph Kiefer and the other athletes would go to the Berlin Olympics at all. In a 2014 interview with his alma mater, the University of Texas, Kiefer explained that both the United States and England were considering a boycott of the German Olympics — “the Nazi Olympics.” In the end though, the U.S. team did go, and Kiefer met Hitler and shook his hand. He told the University of Texas in 2014, if he had known then what he knows now, “I would have thrown him in the pool. But how do you know?”

There were no Olympic Games held in 1940 or 1944 because of the second World War, so what might have been a longer Olympic career changed course. Kiefer went to college, and then joined the Navy, where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant. He married his wife Joyce, who would be his business partner and his partner in life for more than 73 years, until her death in 2015. His grandson says, the couple opened their backyard swimming pool in Northfield, Il, so that the neighborhood kids could learn to swim.

Together, Adolph and Joyce Kiefer built Kiefer Swim, a swimming equipment company that he is said to have joked sold “everything but the water.” They developed the nylon swimsuit, and the first non-turbulent racing lane, which helped to level the playing field by making it harder for swimmers to “ride the wake” of a swimmer in another lane.

“He didn’t look back. He was always looking to the next new thing,” said Bruce Wigo, the president of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Wigo says that later in life, Kiefer was focused on helping elderly people use the water for exercise.

Even after he was confined to a wheelchair due to neuropathy, Kiefer continued to swim everyday. Wigo said that Kiefer told him in the water, he felt “human” again. In 2014, at the age of 95, he was featured by the Chicago Tribune in an article and accompanying video. He told the camera, “The feeling of swimming, of being independent, the feeling of relaxing in the water, is the greatest feeling in the world. Everybody should experience it.”

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Fresh Air Weekend: Comic W. Kamau Bell; Kendrick Lamar's 'DAMN.'; The Art Of The Obit

W. Kamau Bell performs at Vulture Festival Comedy Night in New York City in 2014.

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Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

W. Kamau Bell’s ‘Awkward Thoughts’ On Racism And Black Comedy: Feeling out of place is a fact of life for Bell, who describes himself as a “black and proud … mama’s boy.” He celebrates his outsider status in the new memoir The Awkward Thoughtsof W. Kamau Bell.

Kendrick Lamar Extends His Vocal And Emotional Range On ‘DAMN.’:Emotions like lust and love serve as metaphors for social and political struggles on Lamar’s new album. Critic Ken Tucker says the music on DAMN. signals the artist’s bold refusal to back down.

For ‘New York Times’ Obit Writers, ‘Death Is Never Solicitous Of A Deadline’: Bruce Weber and Margalit Fox have written obituaries for thousands of people, ranging from heads of state to the inventor of the Etch-a-Sketch. They are featured in the new documentaryObit.

You can listen to the original interviews here:

W. Kamau Bell’s ‘Awkward Thoughts’ On Racism And Black Comedy

Kendrick Lamar Extends His Vocal And Emotional Range On ‘DAMN.’

For ‘New York Times’ Obit Writers, ‘Death Is Never Solicitous Of A Deadline’

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French Candidate Emmanuel Macron Says Campaign Has Been Hacked, Hours Before Election

Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign is pointing fingers at Russia in the 11th-hour hacking. Macron will face off with far-right candidate Marine Le Pen Sunday in the second round of the French presidential election, which is being closely watched around the world.

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Less than two days before the high stakes French presidential election Sunday, the campaign of Emmanuel Macron said it had been the target of a massive hack.

Wikileaks posted 9 gigabytes of Macron’s campaign data, which is said to include both real and fake documents. Fingers are being pointed at Russia, though the Kremlin denies involvement.

The eyes of the world have been on the French election, largely because of Macron’s opponent, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. Le Pen wants to pull France out of the European Union, a move that Vladimir Putin would applaud. She traveled to Moscow a few weeks ago and was photographed with Putin. As NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley has reported, Le Pen has called the sanctions on Russia “silly” and has promised to lift them.

France has an official blackout period the day before an election, which is intended to give voters time to reflect. The media and the campaigns are forbidden from talking about the election at all beginning Friday night at midnight, and going until the polls close in the evening on Sunday, May 7. The massive data dump came just moments before that blackout began, giving Macron’s campaign little time to respond.

Macron’s political movement En Marche! (Onwards!) did confirm the hack in a statement to Reuters: “The En Marche! Movement has been the victim of a massive and coordinated hack this evening which has given rise to the diffusion on social media of various internal information.”

Nicolas Tenzer, a specialist in cyber attacks and disinformation, told Eleanor Beardsley, “It seems that all this hacking was directed on Macron by Russia’s propaganda teams, and we all know that Wikileaks actively is working for Russia.”

This isn’t the first time Macron’s campaign has said it was the target of hacks. When the centrist candidate began to emerge as a frontrunner, his campaign began reporting that they were being targeted by the Kremlin with disinformation and hacking campaigns. At the time, the French government warned Russia against meddling in their election.

According to Reuters, the French presidential election commission is investigating the most recent data dump, saying in a statement they would meet Saturday to discuss it. But thanks in part to the media blackout, many voters that NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley spoke with Saturday said they hadn’t heard about the leak.

Still, as Beardsley told NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, “You see the sort of conspiracy theories this could feed.” Polls open at 8 o’clock Sunday morning, in the election that has garnered international attention for what it could mean for the EU and the role of Russia in geopolitics.

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